"DNA testing had to be done in Australia and the bureaucracy was just incredible."
Like most two-month-old babies, Luke sleeps a lot, waking only to blink at the world and feed. He does not yet know that according to the Australian High Commission in New Delhi, he is the first Australian baby to be born of an Indian surrogate mother.
His genetic parents Matthew and Rachel longed for a child, but after five years of IVF treatments, as well as hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, counselling, Chinese medicine, exploratory laparoscopy, hysteroscopy and other procedures, they finally accepted that conception was not going to happen.
Matthew and Rachel left India knowing their surrogate's pregnancy would be meticulously monitored.
Adoption within Australia is negligible, but inter-country adoption was an option. They completed the required education, passed intensive scrutiny by a social worker and received approval 18 months later, only to be told that they may need to wait up to five years. "It's a failed system," says Matthew. "For example, there are about 1000 orphanages in India, but Victoria deals with just five of them. The Attorney- General's department is currently reviewing the scheme for the second time. Everyone knows it doesn't work."
Having been proved unable to carry a child they qualified for surrogacy and began researching via the internet.
The business is thoroughly tried and tested in the United States and the only other countries offering it legally are India and Georgia. "We felt very good about India from several standpoints: education there is outstanding, the country has deep ethical and philosophical roots, people speak English and the economy is surging," says Matthew. "The best in India is as good, if not better than anything anywhere, especially the hospitals."
In March 2008 they visited India, first to go to a much publicised clinic in the village of Anand, where two attempts to implant embryos failed.
They then found another clinic in Mumbai and suddenly felt very comfortable. This was a sophisticated set-up catering mainly to Indians on IVF (one million Indian women are on programs) or using surrogates.
The foreign clientele is extremely small, but profitable.
Surrogates are not poverty stricken village women. They come from the lower-middle classes, are married with children and remain virtually anonymous to the parents.
Matthew and Rachel left India knowing their surrogate's pregnancy would be meticulously monitored. For her service the woman received around $10,000, the equivalent of five years' wages - enough to change her family's life and educate her children. She does not nurse the infant."
I was in Aldi buying nappies when I got the call telling me our baby had arrived three weeks early," says Rachel. "We left for India five days later and met him in the neo-natal clinic of a brand new hospital in Mumbai." Next came the paperwork necessary to bring baby Luke home to Australia."
DNA testing had to be done in Australia and the bureaucracy was just incredible.
Australia does not make this easy," says Rachel, as she cradles her sweet, sleeping son.
In my opinion, words like exploitation don't seem to apply. Who lost out here? It's not as if we're talking about designer clothes and handloomed rugs.
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