White Parents, Indian Baby

Bizarre and strange were the words that came to mind when I first started reading this article…

Wendy Duncan and her husband Brian are white. Nineteen months ago, the Lincolnshire housewife gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, Indian daughter. Freya, brown-skinned and dark-eyed, is not a medical miracle after a long and fruitless quest through IVF and adoption, but the product of a booming industry in India that is offering embryos for adoption.

Am I missing something? Why would you want to adopt an Indian embryo when there’s plenty of Indian children to adopt?

Embryo adoption was the culmination of an 18-year journey for the Duncans during which their attempts to become parents were frustrated by nature and bureaucracy. Being white and already having a mixed-race child (from Mrs DuncanÂ’s previous relationship) meant that they failed the criteria for a normal adoption.

Seriously? Having a mixed-race child limits your chances of adopting in the UK? That’s racist!

IVF was unsuccessful and expensive for a family relying on Mr DuncanÂ’s income as a lorry driver. The older Mrs Duncan got, the less the chance there was of any fertility treatment working. Their options were running out until they stumbled upon a website for the Bombay clinic. It was an easy choice.

Their choice has already garnered some criticism:

Social workers in India fear that poor women are being exploited for “rent-a-womb” services such as surrogacy, banned for commercial gain in countries such as Australia and China. British health professionals, meanwhile, fear a rise in multiple births and an added strain on the Health Service. In Britain, embryo implants are limited to two at a time but in India, where there is no law governing fertility aid, doctors can insert up to five.

Duncan, however, is undeterred:

Their experience was so successful that they are returning next week to the Bombay fertility clinic that produced Freya, to try for a second child. Mrs Duncan, 41, plans to undergo the same procedure, which involves the implantation of up to five fertilised embryos into her womb. If successful, she will return to England after a short holiday knowing she is pregnant and give birth to another Indian baby.

Finally, this comment in the discussion section made me chuckle:

Not a bad idea. All of Western World can have brown and smart computer techies.

Thoughts, anyone? In case you’re wondering, I don’t have a serious problem with it. However, I don’t know if I’d feel the same way if the Duncans were not from the UK — where brown people are much more visible — but from some small town in Iowa. Then I might have some issues.

85 thoughts on “White Parents, Indian Baby

  1. It would drive me crazy knowing I had a son/daughter out there and I had no contact with them.

    This guy tried.

  2. Re adopting from India…

    There seem to be many misconceptions to adopting from India. I’m very involved in a group of people here in the bay area who have adopted or are in the process of adopting from India….

    • Like all aspects of Indian life, there is a quota system in adoption. Yes, it is true that each baby in an Indian orphanage must be first “offered” to a desi couple in India, then a desi couple abroad, then a mixed desi/non-desi couple (my category), and then a firang couple. However, all of this said, if you are willing to proactive (willing to consider any orphanage with an international license) and be agressive (for example, call the orphanage every week), be willing to accept a baby with a darker skin (which many many indians are not willing to), not specify that you will only accept a baby boy, etc. etc. you will experience a much shorter wait period than 2 years. The more open you show yourself to be and the more assertive you are, the quicker you will get a referral. Age is one barrier that is pretty much impossible to get around in terms of India adoptions. Other than this, you can work thru any others.

    • It is true of pretty much any Western country not just the US, that to adopt from another country, you MUST be a citizen of the country you are currently residing in. For example, if you are British and living in the US, then you must start and complete the adoption in the UK.

    • Single women can adopt from India but single men cannot (totally idiotic rule but then when has India been logical about stuff). I know several white and desi-orgin women who have adopted singlely and one of them is on her 2nd adoption from India…again, they have not been hung up on the color of the skin of the baby or wanted a 3-month old infant only or a boy only.

    sp

  3. I think in terms of bonding and knowing and stuff it’s better to adopt an embryo than a baby

    Amrita, I have no doubt that what you’re saying is true (yes, having a baby grow inside you for nine months would definitely bond you and make you “aware” of its needs/presence)…. However, would you honestly say that if you adopted a child in addition to the one(s) you had given birth to, you wouldn’t feel as close to the adoptee? I guess anecdotes like yours just seem to perpetuate the idea that it’s “not as special” to adopt an infant as having your own. I just think if couples have a fertility problem, the idea of spending tens of thousands of dollars for IVF is a bunch of bollocks. Also, I think even a lot of men feel like they want “their own” biological progeny, rather than adopting… and for them it’s not about the physical bond of pregnancy, obviously. I guess I’m just curious about this because I don’t personally have this compelling URGE to have a child who must be the product of my own genetic material. Similarly, I don’t relate to Amitabh’s anxiety at the thought of potential offspring running around unbeknownst to him — I just don’t have that obsession with ownership of my chromosomes!!

  4. One more thing on adoption…

    Under the Hindu code, ONLY Hindus are permitted to adopt children in India. All others (Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, firangis, etc.) can assume guardianship in the Indian family courts. What this means as a foreigner or non-Hindu NRI is that one needs to file paperwork for an adoption in in your own country.

    I believe they are working to change this in India but no one knows when this will happen.

    sp

  5. We’ve discussed a related issue before, how India is becoming popular for surrogacy.

    Surrogacy, or the outsourcing of pregnancy, is probably the way things will go. There are plenty indians who already sell one of their kidneys just to survive, so finding desi women who are willing to rent out their wombs to westerners who either are unable to have children on their own, or do not want to go through the bother of pregnancy, should be easy and affordable.

    BTW, since desis are so in awe of light skin, why isn’t the reverse taking place? Why aren’t indian women lining up to get impregnated with donated or sold semen from white men? I am sure many a white tourist in India can be talked into donating his sperm, or selling it cheap, to help out indians in their desperate quest for fairness.

  6. be willing to accept a baby with a darker skin (which many many indians are not willing to), not specify that you will only accept a baby boy

    Sonya, People (re educated indian in usa) actually worry about this? Jeez.

  7. Amrita

    I think in terms of bonding and knowing and stuff it’s better to adopt an embryo than a baby

    I think this is totally hogwash. Even if you have had bio kids and adopted kids, and this was true to your personal experience, it would be true to you only. To extrapolate a universal truth from your own experience is silly to say the least.

    sp

  8. To extrapolate a universal truth from your own experience is silly to say the least.

    Lionel Shriver made a case for case-by-case examination of the mother-child bond convincingly.

  9. Neale

    Sonya, People (re educated indian in usa) actually worry about this? Jeez.

    I have found the NRI educated crowd in the US to be extremely parochial and narrow minded particularly in terms of skin color. I have had several inappropriate comments about my daughter which clearly indicate the value desis put on skin color. My daughter (who was adopted from India) is on the lighter side and is very very pretty (we get stopped in our downtown constantly by goras telling us or her how gorgeous she is). Couple of people have gone so far as to say that if they could find a child as pretty as my daughter, they would surely adopt! but, the sad thing is that they don’t realize all babies develop into gorgeous beings if you can see past their skin color, lack of hair, or health.

    sp

  10. how about childless indian couples in india adopting gora kids. something tells me that will NEVER happen.

    factoring in obvious power asymmetries is a not a chatterati strongpoint.

  11. “I have found the NRI educated crowd in the US to be extremely parochial and narrow minded particularly in terms of skin color.”

    Ditto what Sonya said; opposite reasons (darker skinned child). Often asked directly or indirectly whether we saw/chose our child before adopting.

    Sonya, thanks for taking the time to clarify the misconceptions. It’s nice to have another adoptive parent on here when these topics arise. You often say what I’m thinking before I have the opportunity to type.

    Preston, Indian women ARE selling their eggs, but embryo adoption is something different. When a couple undergoes ovarian stimulation to harvest eggs for IVF, oftentimes more viable embryos are produced in the lab than are implanted in the woman’s uterus. Some couples choose to freeze the extras for future IVF attempts, some choose to have the destroyed, and some choose to donate them for other infertile couples to use. The last of these is considered embryo adoption.

  12. Many couples want to give birth. We chose to give life. We adopted a six-month old from an orphanage in Kolkata. She was probably born on the streets of the City of Joy and turned in to the orphanage by a destitute birth mother with no ability to raise a child. Today this baby is a 14-year old Floridian – beautiful gal, a talented singer with a budding soprano voice, one of the most popular kids in school because of her genuine regard for other human beings, and much to the delight of us old fashioned desis, a straight A student.

    Who needs embryos!

  13. This lends further credence to the notion that Indians will take over the world by out-breeding all other races. Now that we’ve started commandeering the wombs of other races, we can’t be stopped!

    I don’t have a kid, nor am I trying to have one. I assume if there are legal barriers to adoption, then this is one really slick way around it. Imagine getting your uterus searched after flying back from India. hah!

  14. Wow, that’s terrific, Floridian! I always said that I’d adopt kids when I got older and more secure in life.

  15. Flordian,

    Great story.

    Who needs embryos!

    Lots of parents who have plenty of love to give :-) . The adoption process as you well know, is very difficult in most countries and often more expensive than the embryo option.

  16. doesn’t bother me … the can’t adopt cause they already had a mixed race child is weird one!! any thoughts on why that rule came into being?

    i would like to sell my eggs..but i dont have any. I gave them away last year for a ps3 and a 6pack of bud

  17. I am tempted to ask this question: So what will bubble will the child fill in on the standardized tests? White because she was born to white parents or “Asian” because she is really the product of an Indian?

  18. 55 – LOL! Nope, I think most desis want to get as light as they can within their own community, or maybe a closely related one, but mixing blood with firangs is still slightly frowned upon among all but the more liberal urban elites.

    Sonya, thanks for the details on adoption. You said age was one barrier, what’s the upper age limit? I plan to adopt and should get cracking I suppose.

  19. “Sonya, thanks for the details on adoption. You said age was one barrier, what’s the upper age limit?”

    Sonya, I would like to hear your answer, but if I may add my two cents. The upper age limit, as far as I can remember from our adoption process 14 years ago, is pegged to the age of the child you wish to adopt. If you want to adopt an infant, I believe 46 is the limit. If you want to adopt a teenager, the limit might be higher. It stands to reason, because what the authorities want to ensure is your future physical ability to raise the child until he or she becomes an adult.

    The adoption process, incidentally, does not confer special privileges to NRI’s wanting to adopt from India, even if they wanted to adopt a relative. You have to still contend with the laws of two countries – the US and India. I remember we had to take US citizenship rather than remain green card holders forever because US laws required us to be citizens to bring a foreign born baby into the country as an adopted child and then be able to file for US citizenship for the child. On the Indian side, there are laws governing the transportation of an Indian born child to a foreign country.

    As cumbersome as this process sounds, there are adoption agencies that facilitate the entire process, right down to coordinating with the Indian laws and Indian orphanages. Their fees were well under $10,000 beack in 1992.

    I was surprised at somebody’s comment regarding the difficulty faced by white parents wanting to adopt Indian babies. My recollection is that the laws were color and nationality neutral on the adoption issue.

  20. Floridian, IIRC the adoption agencies that charged fees were identified as part of the problem leading to trafficking when the scandal erupted a couple of years ago. Essentially, agencies in the south were buying babies off poor families because they could charge a fair amount (even if it’s not that much by US standards) to foreign adopting families for a “quick” adoption of a young baby. Not that I blame people for wanting to get through cumbersome bureaucratic procedures as quickly as possible so that they can start caring for their child, but that’s beside the point. I don’t know if the rogue agencies were in any way representative, but the alarm was raised, and there were lots of articles in Outlook and in the Hindu, I think, about the responsibility of the Indian state in this regard.

  21. Re; Kusala — i agree, i think it’s scary and a load of (@*$ to be selecting for traits in that fashion. i was more trying to show people the types of things that egg farms will do; all it reflects is that i had good SAT prep and got lucky on an IQ test. what it also reflects is that indian donors might be undercompensated because they don’t have some ‘paper qualification’s that i had driving the prices of my eggs up.

    i was frankly quite shocked at the type of information they requested, and even more suprised when i watched the price for my eggs increase with every question i answered.

    in regards to the ethical issues behind having a child out there that i didn’t know about… i did consider this. you might even say it’s like missing a limb! ironically, at the time i had just had a very bad accident and i had three orthopaedic surgeons recommending to amputate my leg, while one other surgeon was willing to try something experimental to save it. unfortunately, insurance doesn’t cover experimental procedures, and i couldn’t think of any other way to raise the $$$ (about $80k). in this case, it was deciding between losing a real limb and a hypothetical child. i’m not sure anyone would be able to make a rational decision in those circumstances.

    the nyt had an interesting article yesterday about sperm donors contacting their children after many years. it seems most of the issues are on the side of the child, who looks for their missing genetic parent.

  22. I also totally cannot understand why people would “adopt an embryo when thereÂ’s plenty of Indian children to adopt.”

    Sonia – thanks for touching upon all the hurdles surrounding adoption in India. I am currently living in Bangalore and have some friends here who are expats from Germany. This is a couple who had been trying desperately to have children through numerous failed IVF treatments both in Germany and here in India. Because of the trauma surrounding repeated failed attempts, they finally made the decision to look into adopting an Indian child, and MY GOD! There are so many rules surrounding this, and as foreign expats they were absolutely last on the todem pole for adopting a child. The other option posed to them was implantation of an Indian embryo – NOT an Indian woman’s egg inseminated by the male in the couple’s sperm.

    I heard a call for a doctor. I’m not a fertility specialist, but I’ll use my general medical knowledge to try and fill in the gaps… Apparently, as more and more Indian couples are trying to conceive using IVF, there are many frozen embryos which go unimplanted into the mother’s womb. The way the treatment works is that initially, the woman’s ovaries are stimulated with various hormonal meds. Eggs are harvested and inseminated with the male’s semen in vitro. Subsequently numerous embryos are created. Because of the high probablility of genetic abnormalities leading to embryo’s which are non-viable in the womb, usually several are implanted into the woman’s uterus. Others may be frozen for future attempts at implantation. Though if lucky, one embryo will successfully implant leading to pregnancy for the couple. Sometimes couples may decide to not proceed with implantation, or in the case of successful pregnancies, at times numerous embryos that weren’t implanted will be remaining. This has resulted in EMBRYOS which are “left behind.” Some couples will allow them to be donated for implantation in another woman’s womb. This appears to be the case in the couple this article discusses.

    Going back to the German couple I was talking about – well they gave IVF one last shot… and the wife is pregnant! The due date for the happy couple is in September…

  23. how about childless indian couples in india adopting gora kids. something tells me that will NEVER happen.

    Better yet – how about every Indian couple (living in India) adopting just one homeless, street or orphaned kid in India?

    That would solve alot of issues and help alot of kids.

    Mass propaganda should be spread for this.

  24.   Some here seem to be annoyed that demands of "quality" should be made on the good donors. That perhaps these manifestations of "quality" (SATS, etc.) are not to be taken seriously. I tend to agree, but then I imagine shopping....       
    And if you, dear shopper, were scanning the sperm donor selections, turning the pages of the catalog, and your eye had been caught by the fetching good looks of one on offer, wouldn't the addition of an engineering Ph.D., awards for community service, and a propensity for keeping his room neat, have more appeal than someone who....oh, fill in the blanks with whatever traits turn you off the most. You get the idea. After all, you're going to be living with the kid for a long time.
    

    Hard-boiled reality: egg & sperm banks are for-profit and customer driven, and it is their business to know heredity to the extent possible with the current science. The brain is just another organ after all. People can inherit personality traits, or else I am delusional. You’ve never seen a kid who is “just like” that dad he never knew, or that grandmother who died before the kid was born? OTOH, the kid could be an original, like nobody in the bio-family. It’s a roll of the dice, but it seems to me, the dice are loaded. SATs sure don’t measure one’s worth as a person, (much less iq) but one doesn’t really score high by “getting lucky” on them. Luck is not statistically significant on such tests. They do, however, push outrage buttons because they are held to tell more about someone than seems possible or fair. They measure speed of synapsis perhaps–the way one processes information, figures stuff out. If the person comes from a rather un-enhanced background, a high mark is more remarkable. However, in and of itself, a high SAT (or iq), does not guarantee success for an individual, nor do they guarantee good character traits. They don’t necessarily even make an interesting conversationalist, though they seem to help. Ideally, people choose the father or mother of their future children with at least some consideration of character and mentality. Most in the “West” choose based on fleeting physical attraction, but I digress. Adoption of already born kids, whose bio-parents are already a done deal, is a different issue, but one which offers some useful information. My brother and his wife have one son born to them, and several adopted kids. The bio-family of two of the adopted kids was abusive and was actually ordered by the state not to produce more kids, which of course they violated. Social services called my sister-in-law on an emergency basis, to take the newborn. Later they decided to adopt the baby’s older sister. So began my brother and sister-in-law’s second family. They are close and bonded, but the adopted kids have another whole dimension going on there. Three have learning problems, but my sister in law and brother are patient and encourage their strong points, so the kids are doing great. The two bio-siblings have a special bond, even when they are at odds. They have these wonderful parents who chose them, and who have devoted a major part of their lives and resources to them, but nobody is doing anybody a favor–it’s a labor of love and kismet, not condescension. These particular people are just meant to have a “complex” sort of family, and to be together. What is important to my brother and sister-in-law is that the kids grow up healthy, continue to be kind, decent people and use the brains they’ve got to their best advantage. The statistical probability is that, once they reach young adulthood, their behavior and choices will start to more closely resemble those of their bio-parents than those of their adopto-parents. In the end, it’s their lives and their choices. I think this is a case where nuture trumps nature. If not, their parents will love them anyway. After all, they’re their kids.

  25. Have the americans started adopting iraqi children yet? All those poor unloved iraqi children roaming the streets of baghdad. What is wrong with those Iraqis? Are they hopelessly depraved or what?

  26. sohwhat,

    “so I got a $5k premium just for being asian. Add in another $5k for going to an Ivy League school, another $1,000 for every 100 points over 1400 I got on the SAT, and another $1,000 or so for every IQ point over 130, and you can make some serious cash.”

    I really hope “Ivy league” wasn’t the exact terminology used in the terms of payment. I don’t understand how anyone in their right minds can place Brown anywhere near the realm of MIT, Caltech, Stanford, etc. Secondly, “$1,000 for every 100 points over 1400″ and “$1,000 or so for every IQ point over 130″ do not reconcile with each other very well. By those figures, a 1600 is worth only $2,000 whereas a 140 (which should be a piece of cake to earn for most 1600-ers) is worth $10,000. Are you sure you didn’t mean $1,000 for every 10 IQ points? I know quite a few people with 173+ IQs who would be thrilled at the prospects.

    Personally, I think attractiveness is underrated in clinics and by academics in general. The underrepresentation of the (naturally) beautiful among doctors and academes lends to a severe bias against attractiveness. Coupled with the prevalent fatigue-factor among the learned over having to witness beauty being overvalued in pop-culture, the bias is understandable. I still somehow feel that a tier-1 model is worth as much if not more than a tier-1 scientist. Unless we’re suddenly talking about male models, because male models are clearly inferior to scientists :)

  27. how about childless indian couples in india adopting gora kids. something tells me that will NEVER happen.

    I know of a desi family that adopted a white kid. Of course this is in the US.

  28. Amrita, I have no doubt that what you’re saying is true (yes, having a baby grow inside you for nine months would definitely bond you and make you “aware” of its needs/presence)…. However, would you honestly say that if you adopted a child in addition to the one(s) you had given birth to, you wouldn’t feel as close to the adoptee? I guess anecdotes like yours just seem to perpetuate the idea that it’s “not as special” to adopt an infant as having your own. I just think if couples have a fertility problem, the idea of spending tens of thousands of dollars for IVF is a bunch of bollocks. Also, I think even a lot of men feel like they want “their own” biological progeny, rather than adopting… and for them it’s not about the physical bond of pregnancy, obviously. I guess I’m just curious about this because I don’t personally have this compelling URGE to have a child who must be the product of my own genetic material. Similarly, I don’t relate to Amitabh’s anxiety at the thought of potential offspring running around unbeknownst to him — I just don’t have that obsession with ownership of my chromosomes!!

    hey,kusala, first you get that pregnancy is helpful for the bonding process, but then you get all worked up about a comparison with adoption, and even what you identify as the need to own one’s chromosomes– which last, BTW, is completely irrelevant when you bear an adopted embryo to term. Sure, you can bond without pregnancy, and love unreservedly without pregnancy– but I’m pretty sure from watching my great-aunt and my friends who have adopted babies and adopted teens that bonding is a different process at each stage of a embryo-baby-child’s development. You can have a lousy birth mother just as you can have a wonderful adopting mother– there are many mediating factors,.

    I think this is totally hogwash. Even if you have had bio kids and adopted kids, and this was true to your personal experience, it would be true to you only. To extrapolate a universal truth from your own experience is silly to say the least.

    I wasn’t extrapolating anything from my experience alone, Sonya, and no, I haven’t adopted kids to make a comparison– and in fact I wasn’t making one. That is entirely in your imagination! Like I said, chickens and other avian species are also known to create bonding and coordination among their brood through vocalizations while hatching eggs. Most researchers in this area of biology/behavior operate on the understanding that it’s more than likely that most species engage in prenatal mother-infant communication, since this is observed in birds as well as mammals, including humans and other apes and simian species. What I AM saying is that things go on during gestation that are helpful to the mother in learning about parenting– why not wait until you’ve been through the chemical changes of pregnancy before calling this hogwash.

  29. Why would you want to adopt an Indian embryo when there’s plenty of Indian children to adopt?

    Better neonatal care to prevent all sorts of early environmental insults (pathogens, to name one example) — not a small concern if the baby were born in South Asia.