Bangalore: A mother of three, 30-year-old Reshma Bano from Mysore has been staying away from home for the past four months but for a cause. She is pregnant with yet another baby but this time it is not her own. She is nesting somebody’s baby in her womb to pay her rent! For Bano, a surrogate mother, it was financial problems at home that forced her to leave her three children with her parents and then take this big step of bringing someone else’s child into the world.
Like Bano, hundreds of women come to Bangalore to rent their womb to support their broken families and give their children good education, food and shelter. Playing with her dupatta, two month pregnant Puspalatha claims she does not miss her two children aged 2 and 5. “I have to take care of this foetus in my womb to give my children a good life,” she mumbled without looking up.
Puspalatha’s husband is a bus conductor and has no ‘problem’ with his wife becoming a surrogate. To make ends meet, Pushpalatha took up the responsibility. “There were financial problems at home and I had to do this to protect our lives and children. There was no other way out and it is a respectable job,” she sighed.
Most surrogate mothers come from poverty-stricken families where their husbands have left them and they have no option but to opt for surrogacy. After the gestation period is complete, they pay debts, start new businesses and try to make a better future for their family.
However, the stigma attached to giving their wombs for hire puts these women on the defensive. With circumstances pushing them to the brink of prostitution or suicide, these women have found answers to their problems through surrogate motherhood for a good sum of money. Though wary at first, they plunged into it the moment they knew no sexual intercourse was involved.
In surrogate motherhood, an impregnated ovum is implanted in a willing woman’s womb through a medical procedure. The bonus is that they are helping out a couple who wants to have a baby but their own inherent weak womb prevents them.
“My husband knows what I am doing and he supports my decision. I am comfortable here. The recipient family is warm and when they visit me once every two-three months, they take good care of me,” smiled Bano. Though carrying a child in her womb, Bano has not been able to forget her own children. “I really miss my children. I talk to them once in a while but only on the phone,” she said, her gaze fixed on a crack on the wall.
28-year-old Chandramma was at a financial rock bottom status after she was widowed. The payment for providing a proxy womb will now help in clearing the burden of debts she inherited from her deceased husband. “I have two small children of my own. After my husband died, I had to pay all the loans he had taken when he was alive. It was a very difficult time. How would have I taken care of them alone?” said Chandrama who is six months pregnant now and stays at an institute housing surrogate mothers.
“Living with all the other surrogate mothers here makes me forget my problems. We are like a big family,” she said. With the money she gets after the baby is delivered, Chandrama wants to give her children a good life and pay off all her husband’s debts. “I just want all my problems to be solved. I have become a surrogate mother only for my children. I want to give them a good education and a happy life,” said the teary-eyed surrogate.
As soon as the child is born, it is taken away from the surrogate mother and handed over to the recipient family. Breast feeding is also not allowed. “A lot of new methods have come up to feed the child. In such cases, the child is fed artificially and not by the surrogate mother,” informed Chandrakanth, general manager of an institute that houses surrogate mothers during the pregnancy period, adding, “This is a very good alternative for women whose husbands have left them. We have saved so many women from committing suicide or taking other such drastic steps. After the delivery, they are paid well. It is like getting a new life.”
When asked how much money the women get at the end of the 10-month-period, he said, “We take a total of around Rs 5 lakh from the couple inclusive of everything. For 10 months, we take care of all the basic, medical and other needs of the mother and pay remuneration at the end.” He added that each surrogate mother gets around Rs 2.5 lakh for delivering the child but when the same was asked from the mothers, they refused to comment.
Chandrakanth said that still a lot of people are not aware of this procedure and often see it as something shameful. “A lot of people still think that sexual intercourse is involved in the procedure. Awareness needs to be spread among the public,” he said. Only married women with children can become surrogate mothers as it is the only way to confirm that they have healthy wombs.
Sometimes the recipient couple also asks for details like religion of the surrogate mother. “Some couples are very particular about religion of the mother. But such cases are rare,” Chandrakanth said. Some women even want to come back and hire out their wombs again so that another family can be complete.
With surrogacy being very expensive in other countries, people flock to India for it is not only cheaper but also free from procedural wrangles.