THE TIMES OF INDIA, Surrogate baby tours world before birth!
By Swati Deshpande
Feb 2, 2010
MUMBAI: She was all of five days old when she was first put on a plane, alone. She hopped continents, starting her journey at New York, and taking stops at Canada and Paris before taking off again for New Delhi, where she encountered her first run-in with the Indian Customs’ infamous hospitality. They detained her. It was barely a month after the 26/11 terror attacks, and she wasn’t allowed to leave the airport for five days for her final destination, Mumbai. When the officials finally let her go after receiving frantic calls, assurances and even emotional blackmail, they packed her in gently as precious baggage. ‘She’ was a five-day-old embryo created in 2007 and placed in a straw which was then sealed in a cryo-cylinder and couriered through Fedex.
The feisty little fighter came to life this January. Baby Daniela, as she was named by her ecstatic American parents, Ilona and Stan Slezinger, was born through a surrogate mother in Mumbai with help from IVF veterans Dr Hrishikesh Pai and Dr Nandita Palshetkar at Lilavati Hospital and Drs Sudhir Ajja and Yashodhara of SurrogacyIndia.
Daniela is the Slezingers’ first baby after 16 years of marriage. On Saturday, when TOI met the couple—Americans of Russian origin—43-year-old Ilona, at 4.1 feet, stood dwarfed by her 6.3-feet-tall 36-year-old husband Stan. The couple, who met and fell in love in New York where they had both landed after leaving Russia during the Gorbachev reign, were a picture of love as they held their 18-day-old soft pink bundle of joy. Stan, who spoke fluent English and works as an HR manager in a retail chain back home in Brooklyn, and Ilona, who’s a play group teacher, said their dream had finally come true. “I just wanted to hold her and not let her go,” the new mother said in Russian, as Stan, a “terrified first-time dad”, said, “It was a moment we relived in our mind over and over in the last year.”
The Slezingers tried in vitro fertilisation (IVF) twice in NY between 2005 and 2007 but failed both times. “That’s when the doctor hinted at other options,” said Stan. “But surrogacy is very expensive in the US. It could have cost us between $80,000 and $1,40,000. Soon we were doing research online and came across the Bhandup-based SurrogacyIndia. We found surrogacy is performed in India, the laws are favourable and infrastructure is in place. I was so impressed with the professional attitude and efficiency when I first exchanged mails with Dr Ajja that I knew this was where we would ship our frozen embryo.”
And so it was that in January 2009 that the delicate parcel was couriered through a specialised Canadian agency that handles cryogenic transfers. Daniela’s first flight cost her parents-to-be $1,500. “The whole surrogacy process does not come cheap. But it is worth every penny and more. There is no value you can put to what we now have,” said Stan as he gazed tenderly at his daughter who slept peacefully in his arms amid the afternoon chatter at a five-star coffee shop. Her tiny frame against her father’s big build was “normal”. “Ilona could not get pregnant due to genetic complications but we did not take a donor egg. Our embryo was the last of the batch created in 2007. We had a genetic test done on the embryo and were told they were clear. Some risks are always involved. But we were prepared.”
The Slezingers picked up their baby’s surrogate mother while in the US. “We loved her smile and that was it. She was a 22-year-old, a single mother of a four-year-old boy who got chosen. She and her family were shifted to a rental house near the agency and her diet, health and hygiene monitored by Dr Ajja and Yashodhara.”
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