MS. REBECCA SHEIR
So these days, not only is parenting changing, but so is how people are becoming parents. Jonathan Wilson brings us this story on couples facing fertility issues and how a certain option for conceiving a child may take them halfway around the world.
MR. JONATHAN WILSON
The second floor of Crystal Travis-McRae's townhome in Laurel, Md. is about as full of playtime paraphernalia as a room can get. Crayons, light sabers, Dora the Explorer dolls, it's all here. And it needs to be. McRae has a 4-year-old son, Mark, along with 2-year old twins, Alec and his sister, Elle.
MS. CRYSTAL TRAVIS-MCRAE
I love being a mom. I always wanted to be a mother. It's a lot more work than what I thought, but I really enjoy it and I'm glad that the kids are here. It's made a huge difference in this part, this journey of our lives.
But arriving at parenthood wasn't an easy journey for Crystal and her husband Colin. She is 50 and he is 52 and they only started trying after Crystal turned 40. A couple of miscarriages led them to the process of in vitro fertilization, or IVF.
I had been pregnant twice and then I started an IVF protocol and I didn't like the chemicals. So I decided that I don't want to do that since we have to use an egg donor anyway.
Colin and Crystal next explored adoption and even began taking their county's 27-week adoption class. But they soon discovered that Howard County had few infant children available. Then Crystal remembered an article a friend had sent her about surrogacy in India.
So I Googled one doctor, sent her an email and she replied. And I said, okay, well, we'll catch a plane and we'll see you in two weeks just to see if this is legit. So that's where we started.
There is little reliable data about international surrogacy and exactly how many couples are using surrogate mothers in other countries to carry their children. But the Council for Responsible Genetics says the market for surrogacy is exploding here in the U.S., with more than 5000 babies born this way between 2004 and 2008. But if surrogacy is a new area of growth in our country, it's a well-oiled, moneymaking machine in India, where many estimates say surrogacy generates $2.3 billion a year for the Indian economy. Crystal explains how the process worked for her.
An embryologist creates the embryos. So we had an egg donor, Colin's sperm, a surrogate. You can pick the egg donor that you want. Some people in the U.S. will bring an egg donor with them or will have eggs shipped or you can use an Indian egg donor. We used an Indian egg donor and my husband's sperm.
The process gave the McRaes what Crystal calls a tri-racial family. Crystal is black, Colin is white, and their children are half-Indian and half-white. Choosing this international route also ended up being a bargain.
It is a lot more expensive here. In this area, for a surrogate, it would be about $125,000. In India, for a singleton birth, you're going to pay about $30,000 to 35,000 for a singleton birth.
But the concept of international surrogacy isn't without controversy. Critics point out that the industry's growth in India has much to do with lax regulation and the absence of legal protection for surrogate mothers. Many also say the future of the industry points to large-scale baby farms in poor countries where women can be easily be lured into surrogacy by their $7,000 cut of the fees. Crystal and her husband Colin see it differently.
I feel like it's a win-win situation for the surrogate, as well as the intended parents. The surrogates, the amount money that they make, most will never make that kind of money again in their lifetime. If they make $7000, that's like hitting the lottery for them.
MR. COLIN MCRAE
When you give somebody the chance to buy a house who never had a chance to buy a house, it's not a high price to pay.
After Mark was born, Crystal and Colin decided he should have a playmate or two. They decided to use the same surrogate once more. They ended up with twins, Elle and Alec. Crystal has become something of an expert for Western couples looking into surrogacy in India. And after advising dozens of families on how to do what she did, she decided she'd like to get paid for her services. She now has a consulting business and travels back and forth quite a bit. Colin says surrogacy should be higher up on the list of options for many families.
I think the misunderstanding about it is that it is the bottom of the barrel, you've got to go through every other option before you get to that. I think that's just wrong and it should be one of the main options that people think about.
Though Crystal is often busy answering questions for other prospective parents nowadays, she still has questions about her own path to motherhood. She herself grew up as a foster child, never knowing her biological parents.
Sometimes even in the back of my mind now, I often wonder if I put it off because I was afraid that I would have children that turned out like my biological family members, who I didn't know, but know weren't in a good place.
As for her own children, Mark has already been back to India and understands that he was born there. Crystal says it will be the same for the twins.
And as a person who was adopted, I feel like you need to tell the children early on, even though our children were not adopted, but they do need to know how they got here.
And what a story they'll always have to tell. I'm Jonathan Wilson.
This story came to us via WAMU's Public Insight Network or PIN. It's a way for people to share their experiences with us and a way for us to reach out for input on stories we're working on. You can find more information about the Public Insight Network by visiting metroconnection.org/pin.
Time for a break now, but when we get back D.C. parents and teachers bringing the classroom into the home.
In order for those relationships to flourish, you need to know one another. The best way to get to know one another is to spend time talking.
That and more in a minute on "Metro Connection" here on WAMU 88.5.
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