After desperately trying to conceive themselves, enduring three lots of a type of IVF and being approved for adoption in Bulgaria, Joanne, 46, and her husband, 49, had almost given up on having a child.
But then they decided to go to India for a baby. There, unlike in the UK, it is legal to pay for a surrogate.
And now, having spent a total of £28,000 – they paid one woman in India for her eggs, which were fertilised with Chris’s sperm and another woman to act as a surrogate – they are the proud parents to two gorgeous bundles of joy, 7-month-old twins Andrew and Imogen.
But Is it right for poor women in India to be paid to donate their eggs and ‘rent out’ their wombs to have babies in return for payment? Recently another British couple Dominic and Octavia Orchard caused a storm when they told the Daily Mail newspaper how they were paying £20,000 for an Indian surrogate to have their child.
Reports claim Indian surrogates at the so called ‘baby factories’ or ‘baby farms’ live away from their families in grim dormitories. Some believe wealthy couples from the UK (and Australia and Canada) are taking advantage of the women who need the money.
The Orchards described the process as a ‘business arrangement’ with Octavia quoted in the Daily Mail as saying of her Indian surrogate, a woman she has never met: “Her womb is just the receptacle in which it is being carried… her function is to sustain the foetus we have created. Her blood is pumping around its body and she is feeding it through her placenta, but she is just a vessel.”
Certainly Joanne and Chris, an incredibly warm and compassionate couple, did not see their surrogate like this. In fact, they were disappointed that following the birth of their twins they did not meet their surrogate as they would have liked not only to personally thank her but to have had a photo of her with the children.
But it is true to say that commercial surrogacy in the Indian clinics that offer it is done in a very professional and business-like way. Couples are not expected to meet or bond with the surrogate carrying their children, who views it as a job; the money they can earn (around £4000) can be life changing. And the surrogates, who are often poor, do it so they can earn enough money to buy a house or educate their own offspring.
And another story in the Sunday Mirror gave the other side from the surrogate’s point of view. It quoted one Indian surrogate, currently carrying for a couple in South Africa, as saying: ““I have my family, my three beautiful children, I don’t want any more so I’m not getting attached to these babies.
“I am helping a woman fulfill her dreams while she is helping me provide a better life for my own children. It works both ways.”
Joanne and Chris have no regrets. Hampered by UK laws that ban commercial surrogacy in the UK their only option was to seek it abroad. They say they know their surrogate was given excellent medical care while she was pregnant with their twins and were impressed by the professionalism of the clinic they used.
Joanne says: “The pain of being told you will never become a mother is intense… surrogacy is almost always chosen as the last resort and for many surrogacy overseas is the only option.”
She has now launched a website to help others who want to embark on the journey they did. She also wants to raise enough money to help another couple afford it.
She admits: “Chris and I went on a rollercoaster journey. Not everyone will approve of what we did and even those desperate for a child might well decide it’s not for them. But I want to raise money to help at least one couple pay for a surrogacy attempt and hopefully to complete their family.”
Joanne went through sister site Featureworld to sell her delicate story. She says: I sold ‘our story’ as a way to kick start the fundraising process.”
To find out more about surrogacy in India and to make a donation, go to Joanne’s website – www.mumbaimummy.co.uk
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