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    Womb for Rent: Surrogate Mothers in India


    Hearst Maireclaire Photo of India Birthday Party

    It's lunchtime on Thursday, and the clinic's surrogate mothers crowd into a small room where the staff is throwing a party. Among them is 30-year-old Rubina Mondal, a former bank clerk with long, straight black hair, dressed in a red sari fringed with gold. In February, she gave birth to a healthy boy for a couple from California.

    Mondal heard about Patel's clinic on a TV show, and traveled to Anand from her home in the eastern city of Kolkata. Her reason was purely economic: Her 8-year-old son, Raj, has a hole in his heart, and working as a surrogate was the only likely solution to covering his expensive medical care. Patel matched Mondal with Karen, a 33-year-old who works for a mortgage lending company in Los Angeles.

    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."

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