CHENNAI: While Facebook explodes with selfies of mom-daughter duos celebrating Mother’s Day in style, P Jothi is all smiles as she cuts a birthday cake for a child she gave birth to, but has never seen. “I don’t even know if it’s a boy or a girl. But I do not want to ever see the child. That may make me yearn for the child. As long as the kid is happy wherever he or she is, I am happy,” she says.
Three of the four mothers don’t remember their kids’ birthdays, but 30-year-old Sumathi recounts the date clearly. “He or she would be five now,” she says.
The birthday celebrations, organised by G-Smart, Global Surrogate Mothers Advancing Rights Trust, a part of Indian Community Welfare Organisation, Chennai, brought together some of these mothers who’ve never got to be part of the lives of their children they gave birth to.
The women, who are from Vyasarpadi, were all in dire need of money, and were approached by the ‘agents’, who the women say, are usually aware of potential surrogacy candidates. With a sum of about Rs 2 lakh in hand, nine months in the hospital and a C-section where they were unconscious, they became surrogate mothers who have never seen the child even once.
The sight of the wealthy but childless mothers was what urged Jyothi to become a surrogate mother. “When I went to the hospital, it was to donate an egg as we were in difficult circumstances and we heard we would earn Rs 15,000. But when I was there, I spoke to a mother who told me about the torture she was going through because of not conceiving,” she said.
“In the beginning, I had great difficulty convincing my mother-in-law, and we finally even ended up moving away separately. She couldn’t grasp that I wouldn’t have to get into any physical relationship with the man,” she said. The stigma and gossip they faced during the phase, they say, was tough to handle. But today, it has become much more common, ‘Sarva Sadharanam’ as Sumathi puts it. “It is good work, so we are not ashamed of publicity any more. We are helping childless mothers,” she said.
To protect the rights of these mothers, G-Smart is trying to come up with some standards to be followed like the amount to be paid, care for the other children of the mother, insurance and counselling. “We are also trying to send a letter to the United Nations to have a Surrogate Mothers’ Day,” said A J Hariharan, the founder-chairman of G Smart. They are also trying to eliminate the ‘agents’ because in a few cases, women received Rs 50,000 less than the promised amount.