Baby Ava tells the story of two parents’ struggle to conceive, beginning with Caroline’s life-threatening illness and covering their journey to a surrogacy clinic in India, the birth of their daughter by a surrogate mother, and their subsequent battle with the authorities to get an Irish passport for little Ava.
Any couple’s decision to have a baby is a momentous occasion, but for Caroline and Niall O’Flaherty, this decision brought them down a road of emotional and physical stress and heartache. As Caroline was unable to carry a baby to full term, the pair unsuccessfully explored IVF treatment and adoption, before finding a glimmer of hope through Dr Patel’s Infertility Clinic in India. To great celebration, they met the surrogate mother in August 2010 and following a successful embryo transfer, Ava was born in April 2011. However, when their heartache should have turned to joy, they met another battle…
On the basis that Ava was a surrogacy baby, the Irish Government refused to issue her a passport or emergency travel documents. The deficit of legislation governing surrogacy in Ireland, combined with the surrogate mother being considered the legal mother, left Caroline and Ava stranded in India in a legal limbo, with terrorism threats ripe in the wake of bin Laden’s death. TV crews from CNN and BBC World in Anand soon dubbed little Ava ‘the baby without a passport’ as Caroline was interviewed by numerous news shows, including a Japanese network. Back in Dublin, Niall and his legal team battled to bring Ava; they were met with numerous legal obstacles and negativity, and were even advised by one official to ‘look into good orphanages in India’. Ava finally received one of the first passports granted to an Irish surrogacy baby and made history by suing the Irish State at just three weeks old.
The issuing of Ava’s passport ultimately affected the status of surrogacy in Ireland: in February 2012, new guidelines were used by the Department of Justice to assist parents planning to have children via surrogate mothers abroad that allowed for the granting of travel documents. Caroline and Niall’s tale of surrogacy is brave and bitter-sweet, embracing the richness and diversity of Indian culture and the generosity of its people.