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Womb for Rent: Surrogate Mothers in India

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Karen and her husband, Thomas, wanted children, but she had been diagnosed with a uterine tumor at age 16 and knew someone else would eventually have to carry the baby. Mondal conceived on the first try. Over the next eight months, Karen called every week from the States to hear news of her growing child. On top of the surrogacy fee, Karen paid for a spacious two-bedroom apartment in Anand for Mondal's family, hired a cleaner, and sent care packages containing cotton pajamas and panties for Mondal and toys for her two sons.

Five weeks before the baby was due, Karen flew to India and moved in with Mondal so they could go through the final weeks together. "Karen became like my sister," says Mondal. Patel delivered the baby boy, Brady, at the clinic.

Like Ordenes, Karen had tried to find a surrogate in the States. "Some of the women were nice, but we just didn't click," she explains. As a Buddhist, Karen thought she'd have an affinity with India's shared beliefs in fate and karma. She also connected with the warmth of Mondal and the clinic. "The people were honest and real," Karen says.

She bristles at those who suggest that she chose India because it was hassle-free. "Some people made it out like we went grocery shopping and came back with a baby," she says. "But being in India was tough — the heat, the mosquitoes, worrying about Rubina and the baby's health. You have to want a baby real bad to deal with this kind of arrangement."

Hearst Maireclaire Photo of India Baby

Karen e-mails Mondal photos of Brady every week, and she plans to bring her to the U.S. for her son's first birthday next year. "I want Brady to have a relationship with the woman who carried him for me," she says. Meanwhile, she has embarked on a second surrogacy. Najima Vohra's sister, Razia, is 10 weeks pregnant with a sibling for Brady.

Karen's story gives hope to Ordenes. Ten days after her arrival, she learns that the latest ultrasound has revealed eight healthy eggs — good news, seeing as more eggs mean a greater chance of producing viable embryos to implant in Vohra. Still, the odds are iffy: For a younger couple, the chances of a surrogate conceiving are 30 to 40 percent, but that drops to 15 to 20 percent for someone Ordenes's age.

As excited as she is about the prospect of Vohra's pregnancy, Ordenes isn't sure she can stick around for the embryo transfer — Patel has scheduled it for the following week. "I really want to stay to be with Najima," she says, "but I need to get home because I've arranged to have my basement renovated." She quickly realizes how that sounds and adds a qualifier. "Well, you know, good workmen are very hard to find. And the renovations are for the baby."

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