Saturday, September 12, 2009

To meet the surrogate?

Meeting the surrogate is an intensely personal choice which sometimes brings out the clash between the intended parents emotional need to be involved in the pregnancy and the surrogate’s (and often her family’s) financial want for more money. Remember, the surrogate’s aren’t doing this for emotional fulfilment, they’re doing it for the financial reward. It’s labor that they are getting paid for.

There are three phases at which one can choose to meet the surrogate:
  • Before the surrogate is selected, as part of the surrogate selection process
  • After the surrogate is carrying the child, but before she has delivered
  • After the surrogate has delivered the baby
From an emotional perspective, the intended parents are often interested in understanding everything about their child, including the woman that will be carrying the child and everything about her and her family. Some areas of interest are related to the child, especially with regard to food and nutrition. Some are related to the family environment, especially with regard to safety. Others are more personal, with the surrogate even becoming like an aunt. If the clinic or agency you are working with is unproven or cannot reassure you about the surrogates living conditions, then there is more reason to consider meeting the surrogate and understanding her living conditions.

From a commercial perspective, the surrogate and her family are seeing an immense amount of money from this transaction, and are some will wonder if they can get more. After all, if the intended parents can afford the surrogacy costs surrogacy, can’t they provide the surrogate just a bit more money? A choice to make multiple international trips to visit the surrogate during the pregnancy is also an indication of wealth, and also an indication that maybe the surrogate can make more money.

Remember – Indian’s grow up in a culture with more bargaining and negotiation (and less fixed prices) than westerners are used to. In India, even overseas Indians who visit Mumbai get over-charged for taxi rides. And more similar to the Chinese culture than the American culture, a signed contract is more like the start of the negotiating process rather than the end of the negotiating process. So, you may get new requests during the surrogates pregnancy.

Cases we’ve seen and heard of include:
  • The surrogate and family that were still calling the intended parents two years after the childs birth requesting money for things like their childrens school fees.
  • The surrogate’s sister who called the intended parents in the hotel after the birth and requested an additional monetary payment for the surrogate.
  • The surrogate and her husband who threatened to abort one of the twins in a multiple pregnancy unless they were compensated more money (it’s unclear if the original contract already provided more funds)
We did meet our surrogate in the hospital after she had given birth as she was being discharged. She seemed very nice. We ran into her another day in the hospital and invited her to visit the baby in our hospital room. Because we both had appointments, several hours passed before she was able to visit our room. By then her brother and brother's wife had joined her, and her brother asked for more money so that she could have her own room (to build and extra room for their house). He also asked for more money for her post-pregnancy medication, although Rotunda pays for this for six weeks and the doctor told us she wouldn't need anything beyond routine vitamins. Admitedly, our surrogate seemed a bit embarassed about what her brother was doing, but in the more male dominated society, she may not have had much choice. We were considering giving her some extra money or a piece of jewelry, but it's always difficult to know if it would actually get delivered to her, so we chose not to. We were also considering seeing her again to take some pictures, let her see the baby again, and give her a piece of jewelry. But because of her brother's request, we were unsure if she would come alone and what other requests she might make. So we chose not to meet her again.

It is/was a commercial arrangement, and both parties fulfilled their obligations.

My recommendations:
  • If you want to meet the surrogate, do so after the baby is born and in your hands. This is the point at which the surrogate and her family have no negotiating leverage. While they still have the baby, they have negotiating leverage, should they choose to use it.
  • Do not get involved in any negotiations. Refer all requests to your agency and/or doctor.
  • Do not give the surrogate your contact information. If she and her family can’t contact you, she can’t make additional requests or demands.
  • Don’t appear to be rich. This will be difficult, because as a westerner, and by being able to pay for the surrogacy process, you already appear richer than anyone the surrogate may know. But if you invite the surrogate and her family to an expensive restaurant or make multiple plane trips to visit her during her pregnancy, you’ll appear even more rich. Which makes you a more inviting target.
  • If you do plan on meeting with your surrogate, coordinate closely with your clinic to understand what they might add to the above comments.
[This post was slightly edited and then also added to the Surrogacy India Guide.]
If you have a story, or know a story, please post it or link to it in the comments section.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Visiting the FRRO (to get the exit Visa)

The visit to the FRRO to get the exit Visa was reasonably straight forward since we did bring all the necessary paperwork. We brought Asha with us again since she knows where the FRRO is, where everything is in the offices, and even knew some options for what to do while waiting for the FRRO to finish paperwork (we chose to go to the Taj Majal Hotel and have a leisurely lunch).
There are several steps in the process at the FRRO. The FRRO opens at 10:00 and we got there at 10:15. Surprisingly, the queue was very short at the counter. The early birds had already been processed, and the late crowd hadn’t arrived. Many people did arrive after us.

When you are at the FRRO building, you go up to the third floor and register right outside the elevator. They’ll ask to see some of your paperwork, but not all of it, and then give you a chip. The chip has a counter number on it. That’s the person who will ultimately look at all your paperwork.

After you’ve gotten your chip, you need to fill out a Visa application on one of the terminals. So, go wait in line for an empty terminal. The automated application seems more geared toward Visa Extensions rather than a Visa for a newborn. As a result, I had to ask one of the ladies working there what to put into several of the blanks. She was helpful with this. Good news, the air conditioners were working, so it was quite comfortable. In the meantime, Asha (who is great with babies and trained as a nurse - you can reach her at ashamj70 at gmail dot com; +91 97657 45028) had changed the baby.

Once we had that printed out, we waited for our chip number to be called. It wasn’t too long – maybe 15 or 20 minutes. We then pulled out all paperwork requested by the lady.

Word of advice – bring copies of everything. There is a copier and a photographer, but waiting in line for each of them will further lengthen your stay. What we need to provide:

* Letter from consulate (they kept the original since it was addressed to them)
* Surrogacy Agreement
* Ticket (or print out of email confirmation) showing we were departing (for us the next day)
* Passport for both parents and Visa for both parents (so copy both passport page and visa pages)
* Copy of baby’s passport
* Letter from Clinic
* Letter from Hospital
* Two 2x2 photos of the baby (I tried to give them the 1x1 photos I thought they required, but they asked if I had larger photos and I gave them two 2x2 photos; don’t know if 1x1 photos would have worked)

The copier was broken, so we had to run down the street to make some copies. A half hour later the copy was miraculously fixed. Maybe it was just out of paper. Copies were 1 Rupee each. But the copier was slow, and there were frequently people waiting in line.

We’d heard that one couple needed to bring the doctor’s medical registration from their clinic, but we were not asked for that.

We got through with our counter lady and requisite copies by about 11:30. She asked us to come back at 3:00 PM to pick up the exit Visa. Asha asked if there was a way we could get it earlier, and the lady said no, which was fine because we didn't really need it earlier. We did not pay any chai pani to accelerate the process, and weren't asked for any. This one was 100% above board (the only one that isn't is the birth certificate).

Since we weren’t far from the Taj Hotel, we went there for Lunch. About US$18 for the buffet lunch in the cafe, which was quite good.

We came back about 3:00 PM and paid and picked up the Visa at the same time. The wait was about 30 minutes to pick up the Visa.

We were departing on a flight the following day. We got the Visa the same day, but the exit Visa was good for one day – the following day. If we had needed to change our flight arrangements, we would have needed to apply for another exit Visa.

Cost of the exit visa was US$80 in Rupees – about 4100 Rupees.

Our international flight was out of Mumbai. We’ve heard that if you are taking a domestic flight and flying out of Delhi, then you need to go to the Delhi FRRO, for example. Do check and confirm.