Foreigners coming to India in search of surrogate mothers to give birth to their children are leaving the country with more than just a newborn. An increasing number of parents are also taking back a slice of Indian culture.
Italian-born Melbourne citizen Massimio Cerra, 41, bubbles with excitement while talking about his six-day-old son Antonio Jay. “I was there for the delivery, and I cried. I’ve never travelled to India, but now I will explore the country with Jay,” says Cerra, a single parent.
For Peter Douglas, a property developer from Adelaide, renting a womb was the perfect way to complete his family. Douglas, who bought up his first-born Daniel, now 25, after his marriage broke, wanted a second child.
He now has a five-day-old daughter. “My family is complete. Sophie Roma Douglas will grow up with a mural of the Taj Mahal on one wall and the Sydney Opera House on another,” he says, showing pictures of her nursery. Douglas is also taking Hindi lessons.
“I’m good with languages, but Hindi’s a bit tough. I’ve picked up some Hindi phrases and a lot of film DVDs and music CDs. Sophie and I will learn the language together,” Douglas says.
Rebecca and Michael Baker from Melbourne went to the extent of seeking a 5-year visa because they want to keep coming back to India with their newborn Kai Lannox and older son Josh, 14. Kai, only 12-days-old, had a “Hindu blessing ceremony” at the Iskon temple on Saturday.
Rebecca, who has been catching up on Bollywood films, adds, “We still need subtitles for films, but after a few more visits, I won’t need them,” she says.
“Cerra was told he would never be a father. Can you imagine how it would have felt to hold his own baby?” says Dr Shivani Sachdev Gaur, fertility specialist at ISIS Hospital in Kailash Colony. Gaur spent Friday morning doing four IVF treatments for couples from India, Congo, Australia and Spain.
“In India, surrogacy is legal, and the surrogate mother relinquishes all parental rights over the baby. Add to that the medical skills and the low prices — $26,000-$28,000 (R14-15 lakh) — for the treatment and I’m not surprised that India is emerging as a surrogacy hub,” she adds.
Meanwhile, new parents, like Cerra and Douglas, have been bonding over single-parenting. “In Australia, we are a little suspicious of a stranger’s motives, but here, everyone is a part of your experience,” says Douglas.