The unadorned facts of Rhonda and Gerry Wile’s quest for a family cover a lot of ground on the subject of fertility. Rhonda, a nurse who had been abandoned by her first husband after a year of marriage, met and married Gerry, a firefighter who didn’t tell her he’d had a vasectomy.
Wanting children, the two spent a lot of money and time getting the vasectomy reversed. After Rhonda suffered a miscarriage, doctors discovered that she had two uteri — one of which functioned, but not well enough to carry a child to term.
The couple decided to try getting a surrogate to bear their child; because it’s so expensive in the United States, they went to Mumbai (surrogacy is booming in India) and signed up with Surrogacy India, where women are willing to be surrogates for a $5,000 fee.
Rhonda’s eggs turned out not to be able to produce a viable fetus, so they found an Indian woman who was willing to provide eggs.
After one was fertilized with Gerry’s sperm, the surrogate bore a healthy son. Two years later, the egg donor indicated she would be willing to make more eggs available so the Wiles’ son could have a sibling.
They agreed and, using sperm Gerry had already frozen on the previous trip to Mumbai, found a second surrogate to carry the baby. This surrogate conceived triplets; one of the fetuses did not survive, but twin girls did.
As Leslie Morgan Steiner writes in her new book, “The Baby Chase: How Surrogacy Is Transforming the American Family,” the Wiles were finally a family of five.
While telling their story, Steiner explores psychological, historical, medical and legal issues, Indian social strata and women’s status, and, over and over again, the expense of it all. And she makes a strong if controversial case on behalf of surrogacy.