Book Review: The Sacred Thread Explores Indian Surrogacy
It's difficult to really understand how much of a miracle every pregnancy and childbirth is until you find yourself unable to experience either. The balance of hormones that has to take place at the right time and the teamwork of the ovaries, thyroid, fallopian tubes, etc. are truly amazing symphonies of biology. Conversely, the dysfunction of any one of those things, and the resulting disappointment can be quite cacophonous and confusing. I experienced it for several years, and dealt with it by researching, talking, and praying. Eventually, we were able to have two beautiful boys, with the help of two great doctors and God. Others turn inward. Adrienne Arieff, now the mother of twin three-year-olds, dealt with it by going to India, and taking part in the cacophonous but beautiful symphony of surrogacy.
In her recently released book The Sacred Thread, she recounts the experience of having three miscarriages, being told she couldn't carry a baby to term due to large uterine fibroids, and pondering the remaining options left to her and her husband Alex. Through his research, they found out about surrogacy in India. The number of infertility surrogacy clinics is growing there, as the country's laws are much stricter and clearer than others. Most clinics are specially built to create symbiotic relationships between women from other countries who can't carry their own children and Indian women who can carry another's baby to term. Surrogacy provides the Indian women the equivalent of ten to fifteen years salary, and the infertile women with the priceless gift of their own child.
This practice is not without critics, but for Adrienne and Alex, it was the right thing to do. Her tale, told in vivid first-person present tense, reads like a story right off the fiction shelves. Its "characters"—the doctor and nurses she met along the way, the surrogate Vaina and her husband, and the clinic driver Abhi—are all well-developed, varied, and endearing. The "setting"—the little town Anand, India—is described in high sensory detail, making it easy to imagine oneself there in all of its hot, humid, and cow-filled glory. And the "plot" is surprisingly engrossing: the bulk of it not being the uneventful pregnancy, but the IVF procedure leading up to it, the forming of the unique bond between Adrienne and Vaina during the pregnancy, and the unusual understanding that develops between Adrienne and Dr. Nayna Patel, the female doctor who leads the clinic. It also covers a little bit of the Arieff's adjustment to life after their twins are born, and Vaina's family's adjustment to life on the payment she received, which are necessary parts of the picture.
Adrienne also delves into the ethics of surrogacy, another necessary part of any portrayal of the practice. The aplomb with which she does so, while somewhat overshadowed by repetitive references to the salary a surrogate makes, is refreshing. When I asked Adrienne recently what compelled her to write the book, she said: "This started out as a journal for the girls. I wasn't motivated to turn it into a book until I started getting thousands of emails inquiring about the experience. I'm not trying to convert anyone. I just wanted to put something positive out there about surrogacy."Flickr.
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