Earlier this year our friends E & A, a married male couple, became the fathers of two babies, born by gestational surrogate. A few months after the babies were born and things settled down for them a bit, we e-mailed and asked if we could bring them dinner and hear about their adventures in becoming dads, and also talk about our own burgeoning path to parenthood.
When we got off the elevator in E & A’s new building (they moved to have more room for the babies), we heard a baby crying and knew right away which apartment was theirs. We were delighted to meet the babies and catch up with our friends.
“It seems like the best path for us,” Matt said. “We’d love to do surrogacy, but I’m not sure that’s in the financial cards for us right now.”
During our many hours of online research, Matt and I had read that the cost of surrogacy in the United States can easily reach $100,000, and can be as much as $160,000. Also, because many states have different laws about surrogacy, things can get legally complex. At our meeting with an adoption agency, we were told adoption would cost $25,000-$30,000, and as a relatively young couple who’d also like to buy a house in the near future, it made sense for us to take a less expensive route that still ended with a baby.
But then, just a few days ago, Matt and I were lying around in the living room, poking around on our laptops.
“Hey, have you read about surrogacy in India?” Matt asked.
“I think I might have read something about it in the Times,” I said. “Why?”
“Do a Google search,” Matt said. “This might be something worth considering.”
And, indeed, it was.
Looking Into Gestational Surrogacy
To give some quick background, gestational surrogacy involves using a couple’s genetic material to create fertilized eggs, and then implanting the fertilized eggs in a surrogate’s womb. If one member of a couple is infertile, a donor egg or donor sperm is used. In our case, as a same-sex couple, we would use genetic material from one of us, and then use a donor egg. (Just to clarify, in gestational surrogacy, the woman who carries the baby–the surrogate–does not provide the egg. The surrogate is the carrier for the baby, but not its genetic parent.)
In India, since 2005, there has been something of a surrogacy baby boom. (There are hundreds, if not thousands, of articles about it online.) It’s been reported that surrogacy has become a billion-dollar industry in the country. There are many different viewpoints on gestational surrogacy, especially when it takes place in developing countries, but the fact remains that gestational surrogacy is entirely legal in India, as it is in many countries and states in the U.S.
Many of the articles on Indian gestational surrogacy also point out that the amount of money surrogates make from the arrangement often allows Indian surrogates to purchase housing for their families, as well as provide a paid education for their own genetic children.
Adoption vs. Surrogacy: Length & Cost of Process
As Matt and I began discussing adopting in the United States verses looking at surrogacy in India, our conversation came down to two important elements: the length and cost of the process.
We knew that adopting could take as little as a year, but could stretch out to multiple years, and would likely cost about $25,000-$30,000.
In researching Indian surrogacy, and communicating with a few Indian clinics, we learned that Indian surrogacy would also cost about $25,000-$30,000, a dramatic difference from the $100,000-$160,000 price tag for surrogacy in the United States.
Unlike U.S. adoption, surrogacy wouldn’t require a social worker to do a home study, and it wouldn’t require any of the other bureaucratic complexities of adoption. We wouldn’t have to advertise for expectant mothers who may be considering putting their baby up for adoption, and wait for a mother to select us.
Beyond that, we also know the precise length of the process: once we complete our paperwork with an Indian clinic, and make our initial visit, we would have a baby in nine months. (Sometimes surrogacy doesn’t take the first time, of course, and another round of in vetro fertilization is necessary. Still, you know how long you need to wait for your baby to arrive once the process is under way.)
“So, is this the route you want to go?” I asked Matt.
“I think so. You?”
I smiled. I nodded.
And, with that, Matt and I started the process of becoming parents, half-way around the world.