Nguyen Thi T. cradled her one-year-old grandchild and smiled.
"I've waited for her for over ten years," she said.
Her daughter-in-law suffers from a medical condition that left her unable to conceive.
Finally, a relative found them a woman who agreed to carry an egg from her daughter-in-law inseminated by her son’s sperm.
The family took the back baby less than a week after its birth and the surrogate agreed to sign a contract agreeing not to contact them or trying to get close to the child.
T. said that although the baby bears the family’s blood, the bond formed with the surrogate through the umbilical cord could cause problems.
They drew up the contract to sever their connection soon after the cord itself was cut.
Vietnam's profusion of black market surrogacy prompted the government to recently pass amendments that allow surrogacy between sisters or cousins, starting next year.
But lawyers and psychologists who will now play key roles in the process say they need clear and specific instructions on how to proceed, according to a Thoi Bao Kinh Te Saigon report.
The amended Family and Marriage Law passed last June requires surrogate mothers to submit to medical facilities chosen by the Health Ministry, which is considering the Central Ob-Gyn Hospital in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City’s leading counterpart Tu Du, and the Hue Central General Hospital.
Facilities with certified IVF (in-vitro fertilization) technology are likely to be added to the list.
Under the new law, women who seek the service must provide the hospital with authentic signed confirmation from four other parties.
Those include a certificate of sterility issued by a recognized IVF Center, a signed letter from a lawyer hired by the infertile couple, and a letter from a psychologist saying the surrogate and her husband, if any, have sought consultation, and, finally, a signed letter from a sociologist stating that the baby’s family is prepared for possible future troubles in their relationship with the child.
Nguyen Thi Tam, who holds a Master Degree in Psychology and is director of a psychological consultation training center, told a reporter she feels “confused and hesitant” about the law’s requirements.
“Psychologists can't be confident about signing off on the confirmation without exact guidance. What criteria do they require for us to sign off on this?” Tam asked.
This is an issue of human emotions and blood bonds. It’s holy and private and cannot be solely governed by law” -- Psychologist Nguyen Thi Tam
Tam said a psychologist will play “a very important role” in future surrogacy agreements.
She said they will have to advise both sides (the parents and the surrogate), ensure they are prepared for the process, investigate their personal situation, and examine the thinking that led them to their arrangement.
Questions like how much they understand their decision and how much they want it must be asked, she said.
The psychologist has to make sure that parents and their surrogate are aware of problems that can arise during the process.
But Tam still expressed doubt that even specific guidance can solve the problem.
“This is an issue of human emotions and blood bonds. It’s holy and private and cannot be solely governed by law,” Tam said.
Lawyer Truong Thi Hoa from the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association, meanwhile said people will try to circumvent the law.
Hoa said these consultations should ideally take time and ensure all parties understand their responsibilities and possible troubles, but plenty of parents will only arrange them expecting to get quick signatures.
He said lawyers and psychologists need to be trained in this new task.
“This is not a simple job. Many conflicts can be ignited within a family.”
Le Minh Tien, a social studies lecturer at HCMC Open University, said the amended law approved surrogacy for humanitarian purposes, so the humanitarian spirit must be maintained throughout the process.
But Tien described a scenario in which a woman gives birth and is forced to give up her baby right away as decidedly inhuman.
Regulations need to specify how long she can keep her baby before handing it over to blood parents, he said.
Then the family, including parents and the surrogate, have to live in a way that makes the child happy, he said.
“And what if the baby is born impaired? What will both sides do? What if an abortion is wanted?” Tien asked to demand more instructions.
At present, Vietnam only prohibits abortions motivated by gender selection.
The experts said parents and surrogates need to understand that they are signing a “special contract,” one that will hold them to certain responsibilities for the rest of their lives.