In part 2 of her journey, Anna Buxton talks to us about choosing to have surrogacy in India.
What are the legal implications of surrogacy in the UK and why did you choose India?
In the UK it is legal to have a child through surrogacy, but, you can’t advertise for a surrogate and a surrogate can’t advertise to be a surrogate; also there can be no commercial brokering, ie a third party cannot provide a matching service for profit and thirdly, you cannot pay a surrogate a fee (over and above any expenses she will have incurred during pregnancy) to be a surrogate.
Also in the UK, a surrogacy agreement, or contract is unenforceable by UK law. And, at birth UK law treats your surrogate as the child’s legal mother; if she is married or in a civil partnership , her husband or partner, is your child’s other parent. If she is not married, your husband or partner, can be a legal parent.
The law is very complicated but who the biological parents are plays no part
Both the surrogate and intended parents can feel exposed. The result of these two issues is that in the UK there are many more intended parents than surrogates.
There are two main charities, Surrogacy UK and COTS, who help intended parents and surrogates meet, and Brilliant Beginnings, a non-for-profit organisation. These are three wonderful organisations who have helped many couples but the waiting times to find a surrogate can be very long.
A huge wait for a surrogate
When we started looking in the UK, we were told that we would wait between 18 months – 3 years to find a surrogate and then would need to spend 1 year to 18 months getting to know each other before we could go ahead with any arrangement. We didn’t have a friend or a family member we could ask and after everything we had been through, and I was 34 and being reminded by doctors of my ever increasing age, we decided to look at our options abroad.
Looking for an alternative abroad
The US is the most well established destination for surrogacy. Surrogacy in the US is regulated by state law, which means it differs state by state. Some states, such as California, have fully fledged surrogacy friendly laws offering an airtight legal framework.
Before a baby is born, the intended parents are named as the legal parents and the intended parents are named on the original birth certificate. Combined with the fact that agencies are allowed to match surrogates and intended parents, and that surrogates can be paid a fee, in addition to expenses, means there are many more surrogates within a more regulated environment.
Given all of this, the costs in the US are very high which meant that it was not an option for us.
Research in to India
India was a good option because surrogacy was legal, regulated and well established. However, I had read both positive and negative press about surrogacy in India. Ed and I agreed that no matter how much we wanted a family, that could never be at the expense of another woman’s well being. So we researched and researched. We spoke to lawyers and charities here in the UK, we found couples who had done it and we went to India and visited 10 clinics in three cities, as well as more charities and lawyers.
We found a doctor and a charity in Delhi that were doing amazing work in terms of supporting surrogates and their families, it was a holistic programme centered around bettering women’s lives. We returned home happy and excited about India and decided to go for it.
Can you tell us about your surrogacy experience in India, and ultimately, the arrival of your daughter, Isla?
We were matched with our surrogate Chaphala by an agency and doctor and were then introduced via Skype. Once we had all decided we were happy to move forward, and had finalised the legal requirements, we started the IVF stimulation process in the UK, and then flew out to India to have my eggs collected and the embryos created.
It was at this time that we first met Chaphala in person. I remember our first meeting, we were both so nervous! I was so worried that she wouldnt like us and she felt exactly the same. But as soon as we started talking about families, about her children and about our want to build a family, we chatted happily and it felt right.
The two week wait
We flew home after the transfer and all we could do was wait for the blood test two weeks later. For two long weeks, you can’t do anything but just wait and wonder if another woman thousands of miles away is pregnant with your baby. Then the call came…congratulations!
We recieved weekly updates from the doctor and Chaphala via email and every two weeks, Chaphala would have a scan and the results were again emailed. Because the communication was so regimented, I realise now with hindsight, that it made the pregnancy easier. I still worried every minute of every day but I knew that I just had to get through each week and wait for my updates. Thankfully, the pregnant was uneventful and at 38 weeks we fly to Delhi for Chaphala’s final scans, appointments and then of course to be there for the birth.
After Isla was born, we had to live in Delhi for six months while we waited for her UK passport. Delhi is not an easy place to live, let alone with your first baby, but we were finally a family.
In part three of Anna’s story, she talks us about heading to the states to give Isla a sibling,
Anna has given up her 20-year career in investment management to help others on their journey to parenthood. Working with San Diego Fertility Center, the clinic where her twins were conceived, Anna supports couples navigating surrogacy. For more information, you can reach Anna on Instagram @anna3buxton or email directly at firstname.lastname@example.org