What to do if the dream about the child remains unfulfilled? Can you give up a dream about children? Or do you prefer to outsmart destiny? Melanie opts for surrogacy in Ukraine.
It was the beginning of September, almost 30°С and the bright sun. However, Melanie had no eyes for the dreamy late summer weather in Ukraine. In the nearest future, probably the most important moment of her life awaits for her. Together with her husband she had traveled to the remote town with the unpronounceable name Kropyvnytskyi, almost 1700 kilometers away from home. Here was her baby, a biological child, delivered by a surrogate mother. In an unadorned small room with many cots was her own baby. The nurse pulled out one of the beds, saying “Here’s your son!”
Over a year ago, just before Christmas, it was not clear if Melanie would ever be a mother. Forty-two-year-old woman had four miscarriages. Abdominal pain, heavy bleeding, endless treatment, traumatic visits to the doctor, surgery appeared in her life again. For whose sake she had to experience hope, fear and sadness. Above all, there was a question ‘why can’t I have a child?’ The question left without an answer, together with the anger on her own body, doubts and many discussions about fateful destiny and moral values.
Melanie’s father could not understand why his daughter and son-in-law opted for surrogacy. He felt that one should accept the challenges that fate holds for everyone. “My dad found it wrong”, says Melanie. “But my world view is different. I did not want to accept that. I said “I will not leave this, there are still opportunities and I will try everything before I give up”.
After the medical marathon and many failed attempts with artificial insemination, the future parents became interested in adoption. However, adoption in Germany was out of the question due to their age, and there was almost no chance to adopt the baby abroad, and if so, then only a disabled or troublesome child. “It’s very cool when someone does that, but you must understand that you are ready for it.”
For Melanie, it was not that important to have a child with her genes. However, her husband wanted a biological child. It turned out, only surrogacy remained. In Germany it is forbidden, whereas in Ukraine, it is allowed in case a women can’t deliver a child on medical grounds. For example, there is Biotexcom, a reproductive medicine clinic. In autumn 2016, the couple landed in Kyiv, Ukraine. Melanie’s had a big chunk of cash needed for the first installment, which is due immediately in case of a contract signing. At the airport, the two were picked up for a free consultation.
There are different options for surrogate motherhood depending on the contract model, the costs are €30,000, €40,000 or €50,000. Price depends on whether a client agrees to pay the medical follow-up expenses, accommodation quality, whether a client needs 24-hours assistance and wants to influence the choice of the surrogate mother.
They chose, as they put it, a “package for the poor” for €30,000. The cost is divided into 5 installments: they pay €6,000 after signing the contract, then after the puncture, after the first three months of pregnancy, after the birth of a child and the discharge and the last €6,000 when they take a baby home. That sounds a bit like a child on order, which is delivered on time as a postal parcel with a Christmas present. This is absurd even for the expecting parents. “Sometimes you can only endure it with black humor,” says Melanie. “Sometimes we joked about it. For example, our car broke down and we said ‘It’s not a priority; we still have to pay for the baby’.
Could one use the body of another woman?
In addition, Melanie was troubled by the question of morality. In particular, the thought of whether it is okay to use another woman’s body to fulfill a long-cherished desire. “My conscience was not clear, because our surrogate mother felt bad during the first months of pregnancy”, Melanie says. “I had a feeling it was at least unethical. As well, I was very worried because I thought that something bad could happen to my baby. Well, besides that was a rare occasion when we could benefit from the economic difference between Ukraine and Germany. However, we understand those women go for it just in order to earn some money, because they actually lack money. It was very hard for me but my husband asked “Why don’t you let them make their own choice?”
“Our package that cost €30,000 didn’t allow us to choose a surrogate mother on our own. The clinic itself chose a surrogate in accordance with medical criteria. I still remember the woman in the first photo seemed wicked and sturdy. Then my husband said to me “Think positive! She’s like a protective shell and nothing wrong gonna happen to our baby!”
“Then we got another bad news. Our surrogate’s first attempt has failed. Once again we experienced anxieties and doubts. We had only one more attempt with our own eggs. If it doesn’t work out this time, we’ll have nothing to do but use the donor eggs.”
“Fortunately, our second try was perfect. Soon after the New Year we got a call telling us that our surrogate was pregnant”.
One week later they had the next visit to the clinic. It was a time of their first ultrasound and they had a chance to meet a surrogate mother which must give birth to their child.
They have been led to the room where Svetlana was lying behind the Spanish wall. The ultrasound images were transferred onto the flat screen, and there were chairs in front of the wall, as in a cinema.
“Then you realize for the first time, here it is, my child! I immediately began to cry”. It’s such a touching moment, although a little bit strange. Melanie brought gifts for Svetlana and her family. Svetlana is 33 years old, she is the mother of three children and she speaks neither German nor English. But that wasn’t absolutely necessary. When she came out from behind the wall, the two women at once embraced each other.
Meanwhile, life in Germany does go on. Melanie and her husband have much to do. After the news of a surrogate mother’s pregnancy and before the birth of a baby, the couple is still waiting for a holiday in Thailand. However, it’s quite a strange situation. Melanie was waiting for the child, not being pregnant. “I did not dare say it out loud, but sometimes I thought it’s kind of cool! Svetlana is pregnant, and I can do whatever I want – I can have fun or drink champagne. And at the same time, I was extremely grateful that I will have a son at last”.
“Accept our congratulations! Your child was born.”
The intended parents would certainly like to be present at the birth of the child, but this was not allowed by the clinic. Therefore, they could see the baby for the first time only after the surrogate mother was discharged from the hospital. “It was difficult for me. I thought the child should be on my chest as soon as possible in order to create a connection and a sense of unity between us”.
On September 5, they received happy news by e-mail: “Congratulations! Your child was born”. There were also three photos of the newborn attached to the letter. “Frankly, at first he didn’t seem to me very beautiful, besides, he had such a ridiculous hat. I got a weird feeling. But during the day everything changed completely. The maternal feelings appeared and I suddenly fell in love with him. It was absolutely clear to me, this was my baby!”
Seven long days have passed before the parents were finally allowed to hold their son. On Monday they were on a plane. In Ukraine, they immediately went to the clinic but before they see their child, they had to make the last payment. It was like hell – there were many women, future mothers, oocyte donors or surrogate mothers in the corridors.
After Melanie and her husband had paid for their desired child, they went back to Kropyvnytskyi, where her son had been born. Once again they had to stay and wait. Then was another meeting with the surrogate mother. She was not allowed to see the child herself. Svetlana said she had been a surrogate mother before. Those twins for an Italian couple have never seen her. Even now it bothers her. Every year in November, on the birthday of the twins, she thinks about them although they are 4 years old now. Melanie showed her a photo of the newborn and gave her a gift. Svetlana also brought something for the couple: a Ukrainian style embroidered blouse for Melanie and a vodka set for her husband.
After spending a whole day in the clinic, the big moment finally has come. Her baby was lying in a simple small room with many baby cots in. The nurse got one of the beds out and a new life has started for Melanie. “That was our first meeting. As soon as I held him, I burst into tears. That was fantastic”, she said.
The nurse handed them a bag with baby bottles, diapers and wet wipes. In a moment they became parents. They laid their son in a carry, packed their things and drove back to Kiev. “There you are in the train, your child is screaming his lungs out, and you have no idea what to do with all this,” says Melanie, “despite I took childcare courses”.
Son is considered a citizen of Germany.
After all obstacles are overcome, the two finally have become the happiest parents although it happened in Ukraine. They had to wait there for documents to be prepared for weeks. From a legal point of view, the German Embassy sees the situation as if Melanie’s husband had cheated on her and made another woman pregnant. It doesn’t matter to the officers whose egg cells were used, Melanie’s or egg donor’s. Her husband is the father of the child and can travel with his son to Germany; therefore the boy gets a German citizenship.
The surrogate mother gives her consent of relinquishment of parental rights. So, Melanie can later adopt the boy, because according to the German Law, she is not related to the child.
For a young mother, this was not important. All legal obstacles and difficulties did not matter to her. The main thing is that their most cherished dream came true. Although she did not carry and gave birth to her child, she does not find that the relationship with her son is different. “I do not think that one can love a child more than I do! I notice that all the feelings and reflexes that other mothers told me about are working for me as well. I also wake up as soon as my baby moves, it’s just a basic instinct, regardless of whether the child was in my belly or not”, says Melanie.
And what about moral aspect? “I did not meet anyone who would say: You’re crazy, it’s unnatural. Although probably no one would say that to me”.
Melanie did not conceal her plans, but she also did not talk about them. Her friends were, of course, surprised that it’s possible to suddenly become a mother without being pregnant before. Melanie can understand why surrogacy is criticized. “I feel that for many people having children is still something sacred that one can’t interfere. I do not mean sacred in the religious sense, it is more about something original, existential, natural relationship between mother and child”.
Melanie is infinitely grateful to Svetlana for her help. Young parents keep in touch with the surrogate mother, exchanging photos through Messenger. Svetlana would like to bring another child for Melanie and her husband. The young family really wants one more child, so soon they will go to Ukraine again.