Surrogate mothers

Surrogate mothers

MASERU – FOUR years ago, ‘Makumane was approached by one of her cousins to become a surrogate mother for a foreign couple that was desperate for a baby.
It began as a lucrative agreement. The couple would pay for all the expenses as well as other perks. On her part, ‘Makumane agreed not to bond with the child, whom she had to surrender to the couple.
Although she was handsomely paid, ‘Makumane now regrets the entire episode, not least because she feels a deep sense of loss after surrendering the child to the biological parents.

“I still can’t get her out of my mind,” ‘Makumane told thepost.
A surrogate mother is a woman who gets artificially inseminated with the father’s sperm and then carry the baby and deliver it to the father and his partner to raise, according to WebMD.com.
WebMD.com is a website that says it is run by medical doctors and health experts “across a broad range of specialty areas to ensure WebMD’s content is up to date, accurate, and helps you live a healthier life”.
According to the website, “a technique called “in vitro fertilization” (IVF) now makes it possible to gather eggs from the mother, fertilise them with sperm from the father, and place the embryo into the uterus of a gestational surrogate.”

The surrogate then carries the baby until birth. They don’t have any genetic ties to the child because it wasn’t their egg that was used, according to the website.
Narrating her experience, ‘Makumane said she was screened to determine her wellness and the IVF procedure took place in Ladybrand in South Africa.
She said from the onset, the couple agreed to take care of her until the baby was born and paid for checkups at private hospitals.
She said although she had agreed not to bond with the child, she got emotionally attached once the pregnancy started showing.
“It was sad to have to give her up before I could even breastfeed her. I really wished I could have kept her because my first born was a son and I had hoped for a girl,” said ‘Makumane.

“But I had to stick to the contract regardless of how hard it was. I am slowly healing from my decision and there is a social media group I use as my coping mechanism as we share our stories in there.”
Married, ‘Makumane still went ahead with the procedure even though her partner and family didn’t understand it.
However, they gave her the leeway to make the final decision.
“At first, my cousin was the only one very supportive and eventually my family understood although it took them time.”
She said the couple lived in Lesotho for a while but ‘Makumane had no idea how they met her cousin.

Also involved in the process was her cousin’s father, a police officer who assisted with the signing of the contract.
“I still don’t know whether it’s legal and I had doubts about the offer. At some point, I thought she was planning to traffic me but the involvement of my uncle calmed me down,” said ‘Makumane, who was a factory worker at the time of the deal.
She said although it is said surrogacy is not paid for, some couples are desperate for a child that they can pay handsomely for the service.
“The couple built me a seven-roomed house, bought me an Audi and gave me M50 000,” she said.

‘Makumane said she regrets handing over the baby as “she looked cute”. “I am slowly working on getting over her, eventually I will succeed.”
‘Makumane said being a surrogate was stressful as she “suffered” for other people to have a child.
“It was worse as people around me didn’t understand the whole thing except for my cousin.”
She said she last saw the baby on the day she gave birth.
“I don’t know anything about her whereabouts or how she is doing wherever she is. I wish to see how grown she is…even a mere picture of her would make me feel better,” said ‘Makumane.
She said it wasn’t easy after parting ways with her.

“I regretted a lot and I can encourage people who are emotionally weak not to do it because it took me a long time to accept that the child is gone. The good news is that I now have a daughter.”
“The torture worsened when I witnessed people experiencing post-natal depression, disabilities and mental health problems after giving birth.
“I kept wondering ‘what if something like that happened to me?’ What if I went through the same thing? Yet it was not even my baby I was carrying. I got even more confused and swore never to do it again.”
She swore never to repeat it ever again.
“It’s a traumatising experience.”

SHE health clinic gynaecologist Dr Lineo Mabusela-Letlala said surrogacy is illegal in Lesotho.
“We don’t have its services at all.”
She said surrogacy comes in different forms – gestational where the surrogate mother is implanted with an egg and sperm of the couple. For Artificial Insemination (IUI), the sperm is injected directly into the women’s uterus without any intimacy and traditional, where the surrogacy’s own egg is used.
“IUI can be done all the time but it is tricky. A person can decide not to surrender the child, she can elope and leave. It’s all about trust,” she added.
In the legal procedure of surrogacy, she said garments are not supposed to be mixed.

With IVF, she said both the sperm and egg are implanted to the surrogate.
She said a number of reasons can lead to surrogacy such as a woman removing her womb, medically or socially or avoiding pain.
Dr Mabusela-Letlala said surrogacy is not practised in many countries. It is available in South Africa but not at all the facilities.
“The laws governing it are very strict.’’
She said a lot of screening takes place before a person becomes a surrogate. This includes screening for mental issues and psychological issues to ensure that the surrogacy is fit enough and also to understand how well versed the couple is on the process.

“The moment a surrogacy’s egg is used, she will personally feel that the child is hers leading to conflict of interest and such a person can legally fight for the baby. The surrogate shouldn’t be known. It has to be donated garments or that of a couple.”
She added: “After birth, the surrogate is not supposed to breastfeed the child and doesn’t even meet with the child. There is not even a bonding moment.”

She said in some areas, a surrogate is given a chance to hold the baby.
“Legally, it shouldn’t be happening, she shouldn’t be emotionally attached. In some places, surrogates are trained for professionalism.”
She said the practices done locally were illegal and there is no compensation for a surrogate.
“It has been happening traditionally and it is wrong.”

‘Mapule Motsopa

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