Surrogate Mothers: Womb for Rent
By Abigail Haworth
Many Indian surrogates live in temporary apartments with their families in order to hide their pregnancies from the community.
Photo Credit: Stephanie Sinclair
As she sits in the empty doctor's office, a young Indian man wearing a red T-shirt and stonewashed jeans enters the room. Without a word, he proceeds to stick a needle in Ordenes's arm and fill a syringe with her blood. She looks up at him quizzically she has no idea who he is. After he leaves, she examines the livid red dot left behind on her skin for a second, then shrugs. "So anyway, the years disappeared, and now, as you can see, here I am in India."
The temperature at 9 a.m. the following morning is pushing a brain-melting 107 degrees. Najima Vohra, immaculately dressed in an electric-blue tunic-and-pants set, arrives at the clinic an hour early for her meeting with Ordenes so they can bond a bit more before the procedure begins. It's not the most intimate venue, but Vohra is uncomfortable being seen anywhere else like most women here, she plans to keep her surrogacy a secret. Vohra is slim, and her long hair is tied back with a plain rubber band. "I couldn't wait to get here," she says through a translator, sitting in a plastic chair in the lobby. "I've been so excited since Dr. Patel chose me to be a surrogate that I haven't been able to sleep."
Vohra says she's not ashamed of being a surrogate, but most locals are very traditional and don't understand. "They think it's dirty that immoral acts take place to get pregnant," she whispers, explaining their disbelief that she could conceive a child without having sex. "They'd shun my family if they knew." Vohra comes from a village 20 miles outside Anand, but she has temporarily moved to the town with her husband and two children, a 12-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son, to hide what she is doing. "We told our neighbors we were coming here for work, which is not strictly a lie."
Vohra has no job but helps her husband in his scrap-metal business, for which they earn 50 to 60 rupees ($1.20 to $1.45) a day. If her pregnancy is successful, the $5500 she receives will, as she puts it, "give my children a future."
Growing up, Vohra worked in the wheat fields; she had little education. After her parents married her off at 16, she moved with her husband into a one-room mud house that erodes every year during the monsoon season. She plans to divide her surrogacy windfall three ways: buying a brick house, investing in her husband's business, and paying for her children's education. "My daughter wants to be a teacher," she says. "I'll do anything to give her that opportunity.