Womb for Rent: Surrogate Mothers in India
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
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."