We were fortunate to have a visit from Zander and his family yesterday afternoon. It was an impromtu, unexpected pop in (his family were down in Brisbane, and had a few spare hours), and it was lovely to see everyone again.
Zander is 21month old now - and VERY BUSY! He quite literally did not stop the whole time he was here. I don't think I'd quite forgotten what that age was like - but it was a bit of an eye-opener to experience it firsthand again. My goodness, toddlers are full on!
It blew my mind to think that this was the age my youngest child was at when I first decided to become a surrogate. I don't know what I was thinking!!? It did take my memories back to when I was fully immersed in all things surrogacy, and I found this old article I wrote for the Mamamia website shortly after Zander was born.
This article was so therapeutic for me to write, and even now it still brings a tear to my eye to read through it...
Last month I gave birth for the third time. Only this time, the baby wasn’t my husband’s. Nor was it mine. I gave birth to a gorgeous 9lb, 9oz baby boy with his parents standing by the hospital bed ready to hold him for the first time.
I screamed as he crowned, as my body forcibly pushed him from the only home he’d ever known out into the world. I looked down at his vernix covered face as he lay on my belly, and I could see his older brother in his gorgeous chubby cheeks. I had just helped complete another family.
I am a surrogate mother.
I decided in December of 2012 that I could be a surrogate. It was a combination of motivating factors – I knew the ache of infertility. My husband and I had been given next to no chance of ever conceiving naturally due to a host of serious medical issues we’d both faced in our teens. We were one of the lucky ones that beat the odds to have our children fairly easily though.
I also wanted to ‘give back’ and do something of substance in 2013, and I wanted to experience a pregnancy once more (my two children were born only 18 months apart and my second pregnancy seemed to have passed in the blink of an eye). My husband and I were 100 per cent sure that our family was complete, and those painful, sleepless nights with a newborn were all too fresh in my mind. I knew without a doubt that I could birth a surrogate baby and hand him to his parents.
Surrogacy within Australia is most definitely legal, but only if completed altruistically (unpaid), and only if the steps are followed as per the Australian Surrogacy Act. The baby is legally recognised as the child of the surrogate mother and her partner until a parentage order is applied for once the baby has been in the care of the his ‘Intending Parents’ (read ‘actual parents’) for 28 days straight. The process is scary and confronting when you’re at the beginning, with so many unknowns. But with a bit of hard work, a whole lot of trust and a touch of luck… we’re now at the other end. A family has a gorgeous baby boy who would otherwise have never existed.
I met the family I would come to help in this way completely by accident on Facebook while researching surrogacy at the start of 2013. We ‘clicked’ and decided to get together in person. It was seriously the most bizarre yet totally natural feeling lunch I’ve ever had. The conversation varied from the weather and traffic, to fertility, pregnancy, birth experiences and children all in the space of a few hours. I think we all just felt a very real and honest connection – we were all there with one goal in mind.
There are so many things that can go wrong when it comes to creating a new human being, and I think we all found it quite confronting to face these scenarios during the pre-surrogacy counselling sessions. We needed to be on the same page in terms of how many embryo transfers we would attempt, what would happen if a scan result showed something wrong with the baby, what would happen if the pregnancy was putting my life in jeopardy? We honestly got incredibly lucky though: the first embryo transfer resulted in a positive pregnancy test and a relatively straightforward, uneventful pregnancy. Baby was completely healthy, grew like a weed and kept me entertained with his near-constant internal acrobatics. Many surrogates are not this lucky, and end up on a heartbreaking journey of either cycle after cycle of negative pregnancy results or multiple miscarriages.
As the pregnancy progressed, I often wondered what this little baby boy would look like, as does any pregnant woman. His mum had undergone a complete hysterectomy/ovarian removal to save her life a few years earlier, so a third family was needed to help create this incredible baby through the use of donor eggs and his dad’s sperm.
When I looked down at his face as he lay on my belly following delivery, I could see so many people in him all at once, but most importantly for me – I couldn’t see myself. His cord was cut and my role was complete. There was no hesitation or possessiveness there for me at all. It was honestly like handing a friend back her baby.
All three of our families got together recently to celebrate the end of the surrogacy process, and the beginning of our lives with a new addition. It was such a beautifully relaxed afternoon as the baby snoozed and was passed from lap to lap.
I feel such a sense of pride and accomplishment to have been a part of this process, and so proud of my body for accepting him and nurturing him until he was ready to meet the world.
Surrogacy can be heartbreaking, but it can also be beautiful beyond words.
It may not be the right path for everyone, but for those who have no other options it literally means the difference between holding your child in your arms or not.