When Rhyannon Morrigan and her husband Drew used an egg donor and surrogate to have their child at a clinic in Delhi, India, they knew the road would be long, but had no idea how rough. Their kids, John and Maizy Morrigan, were born at 32 weeks in India. Stuck in the paperwork limbo of international surrogacy , the Morrigans not only missed the birth but they had to wait nearly two weeks, receiving word of their infants’ health from across the globe.
John died at ten days due to a lack of oxygen. Morrigan heard of his death just as she was on her way to the airport in Seattle, ecstatic to finally be meeting her twins. Days later, she wrote on Facebook: “My son died. The fact that I have a daughter does not change this.”
When Morrigan finally met her surrogate—Mrs. S—the meeting was strained and awkward, full of unspoken emotion.
“The doctors kept beaming at us, almost desperately,” Morrigan said. “’Congratulations on your beautiful daughter’, they said. But my surrogate and I felt anything but celebratory.”Morrigan said the birth of her children was supposed to be the end of her story, but it has actually forced her to look at surrogacy and all its complexities more carefully. She wanted a story with a happy ending in an industry which has been recently marred by scandals and fraud. Instead, she’s left worrying whether her financial contribution to her surrogate will be enough.
“I left feeling very concerned for her because I get to come home to the U.S., and we have counseling services and a lot of privilege, and while I know that her economic life will be better, I’m not sure she’ll be able to handle this emotionally by herself. She was devastated. She is my son’s mother, too.”
Banned in many parts of the world, commercial surrogacy is available in roughly 14 states in the U.S.—but the cost is more than most parents can afford. According to NerdWallet financial analyst, Mike Anderson, surrogacy in the U.S. costs at least $60,000. For comparison, the median household income in America is just under $52,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.