6 May 2017

WITNESSES FROM AN AMERICAN WOMAN/THE SITUATION OF AN INDIAN WOMAN

WITNESSES FROM AN AMERICAN WOMAN

“We’re not rich people … but it’s one way our family can give back in a really big way.” – Rayven Perkins, 32, Austin, Texas, married, mother to a 10-year-old girl and 11-year-old boy
I have been a surrogate mother three times (twins in February 2007 and a little boy in June 2008), and I’m about to give birth this month to my fourth surrogate baby. The best part is knowing you did this for the right reasons when you deliver the baby and the parents finally see him or her. But there are a lot of sacrifices a surrogate makes. There are hormone shots that my husband had to help me take for three months, prior to the transfer and then almost through the first trimester. With varying state laws on surrogacy, you may have to stay in state. My husband had to turn down a promotion in another state, and I missed Christmas with my in-laws during my 3rd trimester with twins because my doctor said I couldn’t travel.

[As for handing the baby off] I knew instinctively that I’m not an attached type of person. I always viewed surrogacy as a long babysitting project. I’m going to give birth any day now and I’m excited that the parents will be there. It’s not sad for me at all. I have no regrets whatsoever – I’m just glad I was able to participate. We’re not rich people. We’ll never donate a wing of a hospital, but it’s one way our family can give back to our world in a really big way. Without our assistance, there would be four less children in the world. We are showing our own children how to be generous and how to sacrifice for others.

THE SITUATION OF AN INDIAN WOMAN

Kalpita bore three children in two surrogate pregnancies, but she has only one photograph to show for it. It hangs on the wall of the narrow room she shared with her husband and three teenage daughters. In the photograph, taken in 2009, she stands between two handsome men with Mediterranean complexions, her head just reaching their broad shoulders. She told me the men were brothers. They were probably a gay couple, but the women I interviewed never acknowledged that their clients might be gay. (Gay sex is illegal in India, and homosexuality is often not a visible part of community life.)

For these men, Kalpita had carried twin boys. She was paid 2.75 lakh rupees (£2,840), in 2009. It wasn’t nearly enough money, she said, for such dangerous work, “delivering two babies, putting our life in risk”. But Puranik, who arranged the pregnancy, set a fixed rate, and the clients spoke neither Hindi nor Marathi, the languages Kalpita knows. They had left no phone number. Kalpita did not know where they came from, or where they went. What the photograph failed to show was that, in this deal, Kalpita could not negotiate or speak for herself, even as her clients stood smiling by her side. “They did not ask us how much we had been given, or what happened,” said Kalpita. “They never asked.”

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