The story of a couple who dreamed of having a big family, and the woman who helped them turn their dream into reality
Nelli and Rafael
“When at our wedding people made toasts and wished us seven sons according to the Armenian tradition, I could not imagine that in a few years I would begin to perceive these words as a reproach, not a wish.”
Nellie and Raphael got married in 2007. Rafael’s parents were expecting an early delivery – they dreamed of a big family. But it took ten years.
“For the first two years we didn’t worry because we were young, we thought everything was still ahead. Of course, the pressure from outside was immense, everybody asked, at both appropriate and inappropriate times if we had any news. I already began to feel guilty because I had nothing to answer”, says Nelli.
Two years later, the couple went to the doctor’s office. It turned out that both of them are healthy. Doctors simply advised them to wait. They waited another seven years. A loving couple, who had previously been an example for their friends, turned out to be on the verge of divorce. Constant tension and the calls of their parents to divorce and for everyone to start a new life were already becoming unbearable:
“We never stopped loving each other. We were even ready to live with each other without children, but our parents were against it. They said that if you cannot have children together, get divorced, start another family, and everyone will have the opportunity to have a child. It’s terrible when every day of your life becomes a struggle – not only to have a child, but also for the preservation of the family”, says Nelli.
In their nine years of marriage, the couple resorted to artificial insemination three times. All three times to no avail. In Armenia, this procedure costs 1.2-1.6 million drams [about $2500-3300]. After each unsuccessful attempt, the pair began to save money for the next. Rafael worked in two places, and at night he drove a taxi. After the third failed attempt, the couple decided to stop.
According to a study conducted by the UN, in 2010 the average rate of infertility of couples in Armenia was 16.8 percent, in 2014 it was 14.9 percent. In 2017, the figure increased again to 16.8 percent. This means that every sixth couple in the country is faced with the problem of infertility.
Nellie and Raphael decided to adopt a child, but the parents were against it again: they wanted their own grandchildren. In 2016, Raphael heard on the radio an advertisement for a surrogate motherhood clinic. The next day he went there to find out all the details.
The Institute of Surrogate Motherhood is regulated in Armenia by the law “On Reproductive Health and Human Reproductive Rights”, which was adopted in 2002. Until 2012, the law allowed the surrogate mother to also act as an egg donor.
In 2012, the law was amended, and this possibility was excluded in order to avoid possible legislative gaps or claims of surrogate mothers regarding children.
Article 11 of the same law establishes that the surrogate mother does not have any rights to the child and does not bear any responsibility for him from the moment she transfers the child to the person or couple with whom the contract is concluded.
The clinic Rafael said that the services of a surrogate mother costs from 13 to 25 thousand dollars. The price includes everything from legal services to compensation for a surrogate mother. The cost is significantly reduced if the couple themselves find a surrogate mother. However, in this case, she must comply with all medical indications: she should be no more than 35 years old, this should not be her first birth, and she should not have any serious diseases. One woman can act as a surrogate mother no more than two times.
Nelli and Raphael saved money for two years, sold the car and returned to the clinic for their dream. They were offered two candidates for the role of a surrogate mother. After meeting with them, the couple chose Anna.
“Five years ago my husband had a business that did not work out. Under the pretext of solving financial problems and covering debts, he went to Europe to work, for the first four or five months he called, complained that he could not earn money. Then he said that he must enter into a fictitious marriage in order to obtain the right of residence. I was against it. But what could I do? We divorced. After I sent the documents, he began to call less and less, and then stopped altogether,” says Anna.
When she realized that there was no point in waiting for her husband to come back, her son was already five years old. It was necessary to repay debts and provide for him. A friend advised Anne to think about surrogate motherhood. She herself has now twice become a surrogate mother.
“I understood that it would not be easy, but my friend was encouraging, saying that nine months would pass so quickly I wouldn’t even notice. When I met Nelli and Rafael, I was very touched. Immediately I realized that these are good people, any child would dream of such parents. Getting to know them inspired me a little. I began to think that I would help these good people so much”, says Anna.
When the fertilization process was over, the doctors said that two embryos had taken.
Nellie and Raphael had not chosen this path, and this increased their expenses even more. They asked Anna to agree to endure the twins. And she did.
“During pregnancy, Nellie and Raphael were very attentive to me. Although I received 200,000 drams [about $400] every month and did not need anything, they often came in, brought groceries or gifts to my son. One day Nelli came to me and said: “I wanted strawberries all day long, I thought you would like some too,” says Anna.
After the birth of the children, Anna did not want to see them, only she learned that she had given birth to two girls. At the door of the maternity hospital, their parents were already looking forward to them.
“Although I do not regret that I took this on, it was unbearable to part with the children. And I understood that if I saw them, things would be doubly worse. Now the children are a year and a half old. I follow them on Nelli’s page on social media. They are beautiful.
“I’m sure they will grow up happy people. I am happy for Nelli and Rafael, and yet I often see the birth in a dream. On the day of the girls’ baptism, Nelli called and invited me, but I refused, because I understood that it would be better for everyone”, says Anna.
By Armenian law, the child is passed on to parents, and his birth is officially registered after a DNA test, which is passed by the surrogate mother, the newborn child, and the biological parent or parents.
Nelli and Rafael did not hide their decision from anyone. When the girls grow up, perhaps they will also be told how they were born. Nellie does not care that she did not carry her own children for nine months. She says she waited so long and so often visited Anna, that she feels as if she went through the pregnancy as well.
After the delivery, according to the contract, Anna received $13,000. This allowed her to finally pay off her husband’s debts. She was also able to afford to take a paid course on nail care and manicure and bought the necessary supplies for her new work. Now Anna herself provides for herself and her son.
She says she will not become a surrogate mother again.