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is a moving real-life account of one woman's struggle
with infertility and her journey through surrogacy to
have the family she desperately wanted.
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Surfing for surrogates
A couple desperately seek a
surrogate mother to have a child
by Jon Stock
October 7, 2003
Nikki and Bobby
Bains have tried everything to have a child. They
have undergone five expensive in vitro fertilisation
treatments, had their home exorcised of evil spirits, eaten
cloves, been visited by blind babajis, sprinkled Chinese
lemon-grass oil around their house, sought the advice of
astrologers, and converted to vegetarianism. All attempts,
so far, have been futile. After years of heartache, the Sikh
couple, who live in Ilford, near London, are now looking for
a surrogate mother in India to help them have the child they
so desperately want, preferably using Nikki's eggs and
Bobby's sperm, or, if that fails, using donated eggs.
and Bobby Bains (in pic) have spent the past year looking
for a surrogate mother in Britain and have not been bothered
whether that person is "pink, purple or green," so long as
Nikki's eggs are used.
Nikki, 38, and Bobby, 39, are second generation
British Asians. Their parents moved from Hoshiarpur in
Punjab to Britain in the 1960s. They have spent the past
year looking for a surrogate mother in Britain and have not
been bothered whether that person is "pink, purple or
green", so long as Nikki's eggs are used. If, however, there
is a problem with Nikki's eggs (which is a possibility),
they want the surrogate who will donate her own eggs to be
Indian and to share Nikki's fair skin and petite physique
(she is only 4ft 7in, and weighs 44kg). That either means a
British Asian or, more likely, someone living in India. "We
are desperate for a baby and have tried to find a surrogate
in this country, but have been repeatedly disappointed,"
says Nikki. "We are still searching, but we think we could
find someone in India."
In Britain, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority
(HFEA) has outlawed payments, but a surrogate is allowed to
be reimbursed for a minimum of £10,000 "expenses". However,
if a suitable surrogate is found on the subcontinent, where
the HFEA has no jurisdiction, they are willing to pay her
for carrying their child. It is a contentious issue, but
Bobby and Nikki confirmed to The Week that, after discussing
the individual's needs, they would be prepared to pay an
annual salary of about £3,000 from the start of treatment to
when the baby is handed over.
"We could give thousands to a Harley Street doctor and have
more fertility treatment that doesn't work, or we could give
thousands to an Indian woman and set her up for life," says
Bobby, an engineer in the leisure industry. "But we hope
that whoever comes forward is not just doing it for the
money. They must want in their hearts to help us."
To assist their search for someone suitable, Bobby has set
up a Web site, www.oneinsix.com, a reference to the
statistical chance of a couple experiencing fertility
problems. They have also placed advertisements in the Delhi
and Chandigarh editions of an Indian newspaper.
So far, they have had more than 2,000 replies. "People have
contacted us from all over India, places such as Hyderabad
and Ahmedabad," Bobby says. "And it hasn't just been about
the money. We've had mothers offer their services for free."
That hasn't always been the case during their search in
Britain. One potential British Asian started to quibble over
the expenses and it soon became clear she was only in it for
the money. "It started off well," recalls Nikki. "She was
very nice and we got on, but then she asked for more money
and we decided to back out."
At present, they are considering two possible surrogates in
Britain, one Asian and one white, but they are also
expanding their searches in India. Quite how Bobby and Nikki
have managed to maintain their morale over the past few
years is anyone's guess. "My wife is especially good with
babies and would make the perfect mum," says Bobby. "How she
has coped without one and kept a lid on her emotions is
fantastic." For Nikki, her fertility problems are the latest
in a long line of unlucky health compli-cations, including
eczema, allergies to strawberries and air conditioning, and
hay fever. Furthermore, she is skin-sensitive to tomatoes,
onions, pineapples, and has a bad reaction to antibiotics.
Unusually, and more seriously, she and Bobby are also both
celiacs, a predominantly western condition. Celiacs are
unable to digest gluten protein and are allergic to certain
foods, including wheat, barley and rye. "Foods we have to
avoid range from pizza, sausages, breads to Kit-Kats and all
stops in between," says Bobby. "Don't ask what we do eat!"
In Nikki's case, she was diagnosed very late in life, in
1997, two years after she got married. (It was Bobby,
diagnosed 25 years earlier, who asked her one day whether
she too might be a celiac.) Nikki had stopped growing when
she was 12 years old and, by continuing to eat wheat, her
body did not absorb nutrients.
has set up a Web site,
www.oneinsix.com a reference to the statistical
chance of a couple experiencing fertility problems.
Advertisements in the Delhi and Chandigarh editions of an
Indian paper have got them more than 2,000 replies.
She had also developed rickets, through lack of
vitamins, and suffered from bulimia (the food would just sit
in her stomach, undigested). As Bobby describes in graphic
detail on the Web site, her legs had to be straightened out,
a process which involved "removing large portions of both
her inner thigh bones, clamps, frames, plaster, crutches,
the lot. She lived in hospitals for periods of three months
at a time and the hollowed out areas of her thighs and scars
running the whole length, she just would not wear a bikini
on our honeymoon! Even now, she is unable to sit
cross-legged or hold them apart wide enough for any
The jokey reference to bikinis offers a clue to how this
couple have survived their ordeal. They clearly have a very
healthy sense of humour, something which shines through on
their upbeat and informative Web site (expenses for
surrogates are described as "packing and shipping" costs).
The publicity that their story has recently generated in
Britain, too, has kept them going. "It's given us a real
focus, and some renewed momentum," says Bobby.
The interest hasn't all been positive, however. Josephine
Quintavalle, of the campaign group Comment on Reproductive
Ethics, recently said: "There is always a sense of
exploitation with surrogacy, once you scratch beneath the
surface. It is understandable that people want to have
babies who match their ethnic origin, but how many Asian
babies are there who could be adopted?"
Bobby and Nikki were prepared for such criticisms when they
extended their search to India. What is harder to cope with
is the financial costs of trying to have children. Between
them, they earn approximately £37,000 a year (she works as a
personal assistant for a leading law firm), which is below
average for a couple working in London (the average single
person's salary in the capital is £32,000). Each course of
IVF treatment has cost them about £3,000Ña large amount for
anyone, but particularly for Nikki and Bobby. The "salary"
for a surrogate will be another big cost to bear. "We've had
to make a lot of sacrifices in our lives," says Nikki.
"We've cut right back on all treats such as holidays." It's
a sentiment echoed by Bobby. "Our priorities have changed.
We can no longer afford the time nor money to really enjoy
ourselves the way 'ordinary' couples do. Our standard of
living has really dropped. Tens of thousands [of pounds]
that could have been spent on home improvements and luxuries
are being channelled into this black hole of endless IVF
costs, with no guarantee of success."
But it is the emotional cost that will ultimately limit how
long they can keep trying for a child. They are not getting
any younger and they have set a target date of 2005 to have
a child. "We put on a brave smile whenever we visit
relatives," Bobby writes on the Web site.
"We play with their kids and pretend everything is all
right. And as the years go by, the gulf between us and
everybody else maybe developing into us retreating into our
shells or 'Look daddy, those are the people who can't have
babies' and red faces all around. We only hope our prayers
are answered and we will get there in the end."
Bobby and Nikki can
be emailed at
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