Womb for Rent: Surrogate Mothers in India
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
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."
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."