Surrogacy part 1: Let’s Start at the Beginning
For my very first blog post, I’m going to talk openly along with one of my closest friends, about our journey to me being hers and her husband’s surrogate for their biological baby.
Soph & I have been friends for nearly 20 years, and been through the highs and lows of teenage hormones, kissing too many boys, drinking whole bottles of vodka (with no hangovers!) and then living our best lives in our 20’s- travelling around New Zealand together, skydiving & drinking cocktails from teapots, then countless trips to Ibiza, always dancing, laughing and living life to the full.
Then our 30’s hit, and life suddenly got a bit more serious.
Here is our surrogacy story so far....
S: We have always wanted children and officially started trying for a baby 5 years ago after seeing as much of the world as we could. We got pregnant within 7 month and we were over the moon taking that first positive test! We told all our best friends and family the moment we found out by putting a photo of the positive test in their Christmas cards. There were lots of tears and excitement!
E: I knew I wanted children with James eventually, but I majorly put it off as I was so terrified about giving birth. James couldn’t wait to have kids and it was Sophie who ironically actually convinced me to start trying (much to James’ delight!). When they showed us their positive test, I thought maybe I could get through it if my bestie would be doing it too! I was on the phone to her when I bought my first pregnancy test in that December 2014 as even that terrified me!
S: Just after Christmas 2014 Em called me telling me she had some news and we would be expecting our babies a couple of weeks apart. Pretty much what you always dream about - sharing maternity leave with your bestie! That same day we went for an early scan as I had experienced some stomach pain. As soon as the nurse went quiet I knew something was wrong. We were rushed to a & e and I was diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy in my left tube at 7 weeks pregnant which can be life threatening if not treated immediately. This resulted in tube removal. It was incredibly scary and emotionally heartbreaking.
E: When Soph and Jack told us that they were going in for a scan and we didn’t hear from them for a few hours, I felt physically sick. When they confirmed the worst, I felt an element of guilt that my pregnancy was so far all fine. I held onto hope that they’d conceive again soon, but also selfishly felt scared that I’d be slightly ahead of her- I wanted her to go through giving birth first!
S: After a few months we started trying again and I was adamant this wasn’t the end of sharing our baby experience with Em. We managed to get pregnant naturally a few months later but this ended in an early miscarriage.
E: Time was edging further out and our dream of being on maternity leave together passed us by. Not that it really mattered anymore- we just wanted S&J to conceive again.
At around 32 weeks into my pregnancy I stumbled across hypnobirthing, which changed everything for me in more ways than I could have imagined at that point in time
Soph and another good friend organised the most beautiful baby shower for me, at her own home. She never flagged in her support for my journey
S: In September 2015 Ems little girl was born which was an incredibly happy occasion but also marked a tough time for Jack and I.
E- My baby girl was born at home in a pool. This was a 360 turnaround to my outlook on birth, thanks to hypnobirthing. I had no doubt S&J would love our little girl as if she was their family, and we asked them to be her legal guardians as it was really important to us that they knew how much they meant to us
S: Further tests showed I had a low egg reserve and the NHS advised us to go for private IVF immediately (as the waiting list was 2 years because we had conceived) and with one working tube we just didn’t have time to wait.
Over the course of 18 months we went through 4 rounds of IVF in 3 different clinics. Hundreds on injections, numerous scans, egg collections, chromosome testing, and 4 transfers. From these rounds we got pregnant from 3 out of 4 transfers. All ended in either early miscarriages or chemical pregnancies.
In September 2017 after another loss I had pretty much hit rock bottom emotionally and mentally. I couldn’t leave the house let alone go to work. My brain and body shut down. The grief of losing so many pregnancies really hit me and I wanted to be a mum more than ever before. I was surrounded by people who didn’t even have to think about it and they would get pregnant.
E: Watching your best friend go through the sheer torture of infertility is heartbreaking on so many levels. However, I didn’t actually feel guilt anymore- I was/am proud of my children and being a mum. I started feeling like I wanted to help in some way. I’m a quietly spiritual person and believe that I overcame my birth fears not just for my own children but perhaps to help Soph and Jack too.
S: Em forced me out of the house for a day and we went to see the local sunflowers. It was at this point she turned to me and said ‘I’ll carry your baby, I can’t see you go through this anymore and it’s 9 months of my life for the rest of yours’. At the time I was completely overwhelmed and thought she was amazing for even thinking about it, however I still wanted to carry my own child and wasn’t ready to give that up.
To make sure we knew she was serious we also received a letter from her and her husband James with their kind offering regarding surrogacy in writing. This is the point where I knew she was completely serious. I should also point out at this stage she was 6 months pregnant with her second child!
Ems son was born on New Year’s Eve 2017 and the first thing she said to me when we got the call was - ‘don’t worry it hasn’t put me off I still want to do it for you’.
E: Life definitely works in unexpected ways. Whilst expecting Theo I trained to be a hypnobirthing teacher and have set up my teaching business whilst on mat leave. I wanted to help other women, in the way it had helped me. But I believe it’s also allowed me to be very open and willing to help Soph and Jack bring their own baby into the world.
James is of course a very important part of me offering to carry S&J’s baby. I think him seeing Jack in so much emotional pain over the years has made it an easy decision for him too. We often say, “9 months of our lives for their whole life to change.” He’s 100% supportive of our decision, but has always listened to my concerns or double checked with me on numerous occasions before we sent the letter together
S: In 2018 I took a 9 month career break and we went travelling to Australia for a few months. I had 4 close friends all pregnant at the time and we both needed some space from the infertility bubble. It was on this trip we both decided that neither of us emotionally, mentally, financially and for myself physically could keep doing the same ivf routine and the most important thing was our end goal of having a baby. Jack was actually even more adamant he couldn’t watch me go through it anymore and without his full support it would have been much harder to make the decision. If it meant I gave up hope of carrying our child then so be it. If surrogacy could end our pain it was worth giving it a shot.
On the last day of our trip in LA I found out I was pregnant again but immediately starting having severe stomach pains. Once back in the UK it was confirmed this had sadly resulted in a further ectopic pregnancy in my right tube ending in my only remaining tube being removed. Final nail in coffin and more than any couple should really have to deal with.
We came home and sat down with our friends and discussed going ahead with our surrogacy plan and they were both so reassuring once again over this. My main concerns were how she would feel carrying and handing over a baby and how I would feel when that baby arrived, of which I am still unable to fully answer.
E: Whenever I tell people who don’t know S&J about our surrogacy plan, I often get asked how I’ll feel handing over their baby. I think if they had travelled this horrendous journey with the two people in the world who are meant to be parents more than anyone- then they’d know there would just be no question about it. I will be to their baby, what they are to mine and James’ babies.
Their family is the more interesting part of the story for me- Soph’s mum sent me the most emotional letter recently. I think as we regularly speak about it openly with S&J, it’s built into our lives already. But the thought of giving their parents a grandchild kind of blows my mind a bit
S: In July last year we underwent our final round of IVF to get embryos for transfer. We have since all had counselling, sorted our wills, all had screening blood tests and have our plan in place. We have 2 normal embryos of which we will be transferring 1 via surrogacy in 2019.
E: The formalities and tests are obviously completely necessary and important, but the process is a million miles away from regular conception. My eyes have been well and truly opened and I just know that S&J and anyone else undergoing IVF are complete warriors.
S: I think we all know there will be hurdles along the way but are focusing on the light at the end of a very long dark tunnel and I will be forever grateful, even if it doesn’t work, that she tried to help us 💗
E: I’m going to share our journey whenever it feels right for all of us to do so- actual appointment dates won’t be shared but I will talk about what happened in them afterwards. There isn’t enough information or support out there for women who would like to offer surrogacy in the UK, so maybe some of my blog posts will help someone out there.