Saturday, 26 May 2012

The money and the goodbye

The premise of surrogacy is that one exchanges money for a service.  What price should one pay to the woman who births one's children?  How can one put a price on the life of their kid?  That is an impossible question, but one we must answer.

One of the reasons we opted for surrogacy in India was the impact the money could have on the life of the surrogate.  We are told that her fee compares to 8 years of her husbands potential earnings.  When we started this whole process, it was very important to us that our surrogate walk away feeling positive about the experience.  We felt a tremendous responsibility to the community in Anand, but more importantly to our future children to make sure that we did this right, with respect and dignity.  We found a way, through an acquaintance (now friend...more on her later), to provide gifts to Kailash throughout her pregnancy.  On trust alone, we sent a chunk of money to someone Matteo briefly met, on the promise that she would intermittently help us send desirable treats to our surrogate.  The first treats arrived to much excitement.  Dried fruits, biscuits, nuts, saris, and a gold chain.  Our surrogate was the talk of the house!   She was one of the lucky ones with a generous family sponsoring her pregnancy.

When we arrived in Anand, we went to see Kailash immediately after seeing Oliver and Camilla.  She was sore from her c-section and recovering in bed.  Her sister-in-law Daksha was with her and we  shared a few moments together.  Fairly soon after our arrival, Kailash started asking for food.  She wanted some nuts and dried fruit.  Then she wanted some papaya..every day.  We obliged.  Sending the runner out for nuts, searching all over town for the papaya.  These were simple delights that were easy for us to provide.   We started to see a pattern.  The day after buying 3kg of dried fruit and nuts, they mysteriously disappeared from Kailash's room.  We bought her whatever she wanted to eat, but we never actually saw her eat any of it.  Was she sending it home to her family?   She couldn't possibly have consumed all that food.

At 9pm one night, a knock on our hotel room door revealed Kailash and Daksha, stopping by for a quick visit.  We were a bit perplexed, the twins were still in NICU.  It was awkward to find them dropping by when we were already in bed.  We couldn't really communicate, so called our friend for some translation help.  We gave Kailash the gold jewelry that we bought for her and tried to talk as best we could.  Daksha offered to babysit if we needed help once the twins came  home.

A few days later, when we hired Moloa as our nanny, Daksha was furious.  She yelled at Moloa, feeling that she had stolen her job as nanny.  Even though she had never been a nanny, nor had any experience with premie's, she felt that she deserved the job.  Now we understood, we were the money train.  Daksha continued to show her displeasure with our choice of Moloa as nanny.  She berated her at every opportunity and looked miserable whenever we interacted.  We were hoping Daksha could facilitate the running of the breast-milk to the babies every 2 hours.  Instead, she proved difficult at every turn;  one day delivering, the next disappearing.  Finally she just said that she wanted us to pay her something for the service.  At that point I was done, we would make do without Daksha.

Another night, another knock on our door.  All the other families staying at the Rama can't understand what's happening, it's like a party in our room every day.  They don't get visitors, why do we have so many?  This time, Nirmala.  We have no idea who she is and why she is here.  She comes in, sits down and tells us that she runs the surrogate house where Kailash stayed when she was carrying our beautiful babies.  She tells us that Kailash ate the food she cooked.  She is not so subtly asking for some kind of financial recognition.  Everybody wants their cut.  I can't help but wonder who will show up tomorrow.  

At some point, I get mad.  How is it that everyone is continuously asking for something?  I don't want to give anything anymore..on principle alone.  But then my husband reminds me that these people have nothing.  This woman who carried our children is going back to her village to earn 20cents a day.  The poverty line in India is 28 rupees per day.  That's roughly 50 cents per day in USD.  I can make her happy by buying a papaya every day.  And who cares if she sends the $30 of dried fruit home to her family?  Her kids have never been able to indulge in such riches.  The point is to make her happy.  

There is an impossible divide between the Indian surrogate and the intended parents.  In our time here, we have seen both ends of the spectrum.  One American mother tries to bond with her surrogate, spending the last months of pregnancy here in India, treating her like family long after the children are born.  We see the husband continue to ask for money from this woman.  To us, it appears that the woman is willing a relationship to exist that doesn't.  She is naive.  On the other hand, we have seen most families make a small (sometimes meager) gift to the surrogate or their children.  They aren't so careful to make sure that the surrogate feels appreciated and they don't consider her feelings.  Their focus is on moving forward, past the surrogate days and onto their lives as new parents.   We carefully walk the line in the middle, ultimately knowing that Kailash feels positive about her experience and us.   In a few years, when we explain our actions to our children, they will be the ultimate judge.

We said goodbye to Kailash on Monday.  We gave her a cash donation that we felt would feel significant, as well as lots of photos of her with us and the babies.  We also gave her a small gift for Daksha, who was back in her village.  It was an emotional day.  We all cried.  There is no value on the gift she has given our family, no amount of money, neither dollars nor rupees that is appropriate.  It is priceless.    

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jenn, you and your husband are so generous on gifts and the daily papaya / fruits thing. :)

    Some IPs setup an education fund for the surrogate's kids and only the kids could have access the fund at certain age. So, this way, the surrogate's father wouldn't have access to the compensation/ risk gambling all the money.

    We may buy some A&F kids t-shirts for the surrogate's kids and try to give it to them when we arrive to fetch the baby.

    Did you notice that most of the babies born are consistently underweight? I have this impression from talking to some IPs that stayed in the RAMA Res. hotel.

    Not sure if there was any specific reasons or intention done (???). If I were a surrogate, I would of course want to be free up sooner, receive the reward and be able to stay with my kids after being separated (in the surrogate housing) for so many months.

    I was thinking to motivate my surrogate to carry to baby towards the 35 to 38/even 39 weeks and reward her with extra cash compensation.

    Do you think this idea will fly?