A Child to Call My Own

A single parent in Mumbai talks about how his life changed when his son was born via surrogacy.

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai | Updated: September 4, 2016 12:28 am
surrogacy, surragacy ban, india surrogacy, india surrogacy bill, surrogacy row, surrogacy controversy, india news, latest news The surrogate mother, he says, calls to inquire about baby’s health, invariably excited about his growth. (Source: Illustration by Subrata Dhar)

Keshav Jayaraj* has not slept much since 10.22 am on July 1, the day his son was born through a surrogate. Sitting at a juice shop in Mumbai’s crowded Crawford Market, he is in a hurry to wrap up a meeting and head home to Malad, where his baby waits for him. A workaholic, Jayaraj has surprised himself by seldom going to work in the past two months.

“I will stay at home till Diwali. It isn’t an easy job being a single parent. But it’s wonderful,” he says. For Jayaraj, surrogacy is the greatest medical wonder. “Science made it possible for me to have my own biological child without marriage,” he says. “It is a boon for single parents, gays or lesbians. How can homosexuals ever hope to get their own child if not for surrogacy?” says Jayaraj, shaking his head in disappointment over the latest Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill cleared by Union Cabinet.

After he joined his father’s fireworks wholesale business in late 1990s, work consumed so much of Jayaraj’s time that the prospect of marriage always took a back seat. But five years ago, when his parents began to worry about the future, the 38-year-old decided he wanted a child. So, Jayaraj called up three adoption agencies, only to be told there are too many complications involved for a single man to adopt a child. “The Indian laws are not single-parent friendly. Two agencies simply refused to help,” he says.

Four years ago, upon his lawyer’s advice, Jayaraj opted for surrogacy. It took him a year to search for the ideal IVF clinic. After he ticked off Mumbai, Delhi and Gurgaon, he finally settled on Ahmedabad, where he visited five centres before finding one that was willing to cater to single parents. But the clinic made him wait for two years before agreeing to initiate the procedure for surrogacy. “They are not willing to do it if a single parent is just excited about having a child or has financial capacity to afford one. The doctor wanted to be sure that I was capable of handling the responsibility,” says Jayaraj, who underwent five counselling sessions with doctors and social workers. His parents were interviewed over the phone as well.

Jayaraj selected the first surrogate mother he was shown at the clinic — a 33-year-old Gujarati woman, with a seven-year-old daughter and whose husband who was happy to support her. The family belonged to the middle income group. “I realised it was not just for money that she was willing to carry my baby,” says Jayaraj, who visited Ahmedabad every month.

The due date was on July 8 but on the night before July 1, he was told a Caesarean section was required. Next day, Jayaraj stood outside the operation theatre for an hour. “I was not thinking whether it would be a boy or a girl. I just wanted the baby to be physically fit,” he says. Jayaraj named the boy after his grandfather.

For seven days, the surrogate mother fed the baby before Jayaraj was instructed to use baby formula. He had already read five books on parenting and browsed through innumerable websites on feeding and looking after new borns. “I have finally learnt to change diapers,” beams Jayaraj, who has employed a full-time nurse to help him. His younger brother and sister-in-law also keep dropping by to play with the baby.

The surrogate mother, he says, calls to inquire about baby’s health, invariably excited about his growth. “If surrogate mothers are looked after well, there is no need to ban commercial surrogacy,” says Jayaraj, “I would not have managed to persudade a family member to do it for me. She would realise it is also her baby whenever she would look at my child.”

The baby, now five kilos, is growing up healthy and resembles his father. “He is very fair. I think the broad forehead and complexion is from the birth mother,” says Jayaraj. “He’s brought my whole family closer.”

*Name has been changed on request.