From One Mumma to Another: A Surrogacy Story

From One Mumma to Another: A Surrogacy Story

Tiny Hearts

Written by Shani Martin. Registered Nurse, Mum and surrogate. 

‘They say it takes a village’. A sentence that really calls home for me right now. For centuries, women have helped other women in times of child birth and raising children. Women are strong, women are powerful, women can grow and feed humans. It really is a superpower. So, just like centuries ago, it became my turn to help out another woman in my village.

It was a sunny afternoon sitting in Ocean Grove, where I was told their story. A story of a family who were so strong and brave through unimaginable heartache and infant loss and now left with the only option to have another baby through surrogacy. It was in the next moment that I had picked up my phone and slid into the DMs of this beautiful Mumma.

And in the very next moment, we were setting up colour-coded Google Doc spreadsheets, booking appointments and googling ‘Surrogacy in Australia’. My next thought was, “Better ask my husband if he’s okay with this?”. Knowing my very relaxed and calm husband, I knew he would be on board with this decision. Sure enough, his response was cooler than a cucumber, like I’d asked him if he’d like another cup of tea, “Yeah, of course, I’ll support you, whatever you need”. When we talk about surrogacy, it’s always so heavily focused on the positivity surrounding the surrogate herself, but the true heroes in this story are the partners, the family and the support behind the surrogate that make it all possible... Something I’ll come back to! 

“You have two girls, how would you feel if you birthed a boy?” - THE PROCESS

It wasn’t long before myself and the intended mother (the biological mother), took a deep dive into the mountains of information available online. We would find contradicting information which was often due to the confusion of different laws in different states. So, our first call was to our fantastic surrogacy lawyer, Sarah Jefford. Sarah kindly guided our journey, and we often refer to her and her website for the latest guidelines and processes.

Trying to get a nurse, a police officer and two other working parents together for appointments was proving to be a hard task! I would spend my lunch breaks at work sitting in the car talking to a psychologist or counsellor on Zoom. With 6 hours of mandatory counselling, 6 hours of psychology for each couple, then followed by group sessions, it was safe to say we were all therapied out and ready for extensive reports to be written about every detail and aspect of our lives. There were questions such as “You’ve had spinal surgery; why would you want to carry another pregnancy?”. “You’ve had HG in your previous pregnancies; are you prepared to go through this again?”. I guess all reasonable questions, but at the time, they seemed so insignificant to what I wanted to achieve.

What’s nine months? 9 months of sickness, nine months of aches and pains. Nine months is nothing in the very big picture of an entire lifetime.

After months of appointments and scheduling our husbands according to our colour-coded documents, we were ready to face the PRP. The patient review panel. Our court date was setWe showed up ready for the firing line of questions from a panel of 7 experts comprised of doctors, nurses, lawyers, psychologists and other professionals. After the longest 30 minutes of our lives, we were granted the ‘Approval of surrogacy’ certificate. It was such a milestone in our journey. This was it; we finally had our golden ticket.

“Will you feel weird handing over the baby?” - COMMON QUESTIONS 

Surrogacy is unfortunately so rare in Australia; in fact, there are only around 115 surrogacies approved each year nationwide. This is for a number of reasons. One being that it’s a financially demanding process for the intended parents. Another is that people often believe surrogacy is illegal in Australia. This isn’t the case. It is illegal to be paid for surrogacy services in Australia, meaning the surrogacy needs to be altruistic, with only medical costs and other associated costs deemed necessary to be covered by the intended parents. When I explained our situation to family, friends or strangers, I was expectedly met with numerous questions followed by varied emotions.

was often asked how my two young girls were coping and how understanding of the pregnancy they were. My six year old has been the most understanding. Always being my biggest cheerleader and proud to tell her little mates at school that her mum is pregnant and “she’s helping another family grow their baby”. During counselling, we discussed approaching the topic of surrogacy through children’s books. I would read to my daughters all about how a mummy kangaroo’s pouch was not working. I would ask, “Is this something mummy should do? Like the mummy kangaroo in the book, should I lend my pouch to another family so they can be as happy as we are?”. The question was always met with huge smiles and countless questions. I loved the innocence and the attitude my daughters had towards the topic. It was really important for us to remind them along the way that this baby I was growing was not their sister or brother but that the doctor had put their baby in my belly.

Often, the first question that people would ask was, “Will you feel weird handing over the baby?”. I guess I had hours and hours to prepare myself for what was to come. There wasn’t ever a moment that I felt this way. I was actually excited for this moment; it was my inspiration throughout the pregnancy- to see the family with their baby and “hand it over” was my motivation.

“Do you regret doing this?” - THE PREGNANCY 

Wow, do I have a newly learned respect for women going through IVF! I always knew from what I’d been told that it was a hard and demanding process, but it’s not until you experience it that you have a greater understanding of what women put their bodies through, often multiple times. It’s not only the physical demand of IVF but the emotional rollercoaster that you are taken on

Day 1 came around, and it was time to inject. Being a Nurse, I found the daily injections pretty straightforward and easy, although it wasn’t fun having to work through the side effects from the hormones, the pounding headaches, the painful bloating, the sore boobs, the list goes on. Transfer day came around, and like a flash of light, their beautiful little embryo was placed where we hoped it would belong for the next nine months. After endless blood tests, scans, and teeth grinding, we got the phone call. Mum first, then me... the embryo was here to stay. It was so rewarding. 

After the hard yards of IVF, this was what it was all for. How lucky that we only had to go through 1 round. My hat goes off, and my heart aches for the women who have to go through multiple rounds of this. I can’t imagine the emotional toll this must take. I really wish all women were as lucky. 

Each morning, I would wake up 15 minutes early for the gym so I could struggle through a banana or a light cracker snack just to have something in my tummy to throw up moments later. Yep, the HG (Hyperemesis Gravidarum) was back in full force. Often having to run out mid-burpee or deadlift to hug the toilet - I’d never been happier to be sick. I knew this little embryo was growing stronger and stronger by the day. Each day, I’d send a reassuring green sick emoji to baby’s mumma. Often, people asked if I regret being pregnant again because of the sickness... my answer was always the same, “Never! 9 months of sickness is a very small price to pay.”

I cared for this beautiful little growing bump like I did during my own pregnancies. I nourished my body with healthy foods, I exercised daily and most importantly I told this little bump how loved they were every day. I would hold my girls close to me, snuggling into my growing belly whilst singing gentle songs. I knew this baby wasn’t mine but it didn’t matterI still held such a love and place in my heart for this little person.

“Big deep breaths, girl”- THE REAL HEROES OF THE STORY 

The baby’s Mumma. This Mumma trusted me and gave me the honour of carrying her most precious gift. I often wondered how I’d feel if the shoe was on the other foot. How do you let go of all control and allow someone to carry your child? It’s a strength that resembles a superwoman. However, we were ‘acquaintances’ at the time of sliding into her DM’s. This chick has become so much more to me. We spent hours sitting together in waiting rooms. We sent multiple daily messages, which included pictures and videos of the growing bump. There were so many beautiful moments and happy tears for us along the way, watching this baby blossom on the TV screen during ultrasounds. We will forever have an unbreakable and unique relationship built on so much trust and love. My favourite memory is from the embryo transfer, when she whispered to me, “Big deep breaths, girl,” and I have never felt so much comfort and warmth from someone; it was everything I needed at that moment. It was the reminder that this was all for something so special. I also appreciated the shopping bags full of healthy snacks to keep my sugars stable with gestational diabetes.

My family and friends. I was never questioned as to why I wanted to do this. Much like my husband’s reaction, I was always met with such support and joy when I told them what was about to begin. For them, they weren’t gaining anything from this pregnancy. They were just along for the ride. I received daily messages, phone calls and check-ins to ask how I was. I never felt alone. It was in these moments that I was thankful for just how amazing and big my village is. My mum, dad, and in-laws always helped me with my own family, allowing me time to rest by helping me with school drop-offs and pick-ups and playing with the kids when I was too sick and couldn’t get off the couch.

And finally, my husband. I could not have been more supported or loved during the last few months. We have never been closer or more in love. Often pregnancy can be such a trying time for couples but I am so beyond lucky to say that my husband and I have worked together as a team through what has been an unusual circumstance for any relationship. I can’t count how many cups of tea or Zofran wafers he brought me in bed when I resembled an ill sloth. 

‘Lunatics’- THE BIRTH 

Retrospective note: This section took many attempts to write. My keyboard is a little damp from the happiest of tears re living this day and night. 

It was 7 am, and it was time for Dr Joe Sgroi to take a break from his push-ups and kick off our induction day. In the birthing suite were baby’s mum, baby’s dad, myself and my husband. We spent hours laughing and giggling over silly conversations and making jokes. The room was filled with so much love, happiness and excitement. In between contractions we would watch Chris Lilley’s show, Lunatics. My husband also thought it was a great idea to crack open some boiled eggs that he had pre-prepared at home mid-contraction. Let’s just say he was very swiftly sent out of the birth suite with his eggs in hand and tail between his legs.

It was a long day. The contractions were hard and strong. I felt like I was in another dimension with the pain but in these moments, I felt baby’s mumma with me, right there, next to my side, helping me through each contraction by just being present. My beautiful midwife, Pippa, also guiding me through each moment. Her simple touch on the base of my spine eased the overwhelming tightening. As time went on, it was getting closer and closer to the moment of meeting this new soul. The pain didn’t seem unbearable because I knew the moment was coming. This unbelievable build-up of the last 17 months was all blurred into this very moment.

Show time. Dr. Joe calmly walked into the room; there was so much respect and gentleness for our situation. The lights went down, everyone was in position, and the room went quietAfter 10 minutes of pushing, Dr. Joe delivered baby’s head. On the next contraction Dr. Joe stood back and let baby’s mumma take control. This was it. She reached down, put her hands under her baby’s arms and delivered her sweet little lady, Amelia. 

There it was. The moment. “My life flashed before my eyes”, I understood it for the first time. The past 17 months had just flashed before my eyes. I still haven’t quite found a word to describe the happiness and pure joy I felt at that momentWatching Amelia in her mummy’s arms for the first time - it was an overwhelming sense of relief that she was here. She was happy and healthy and finally exactly where she belongs. On her daddy’s bare chest, warm and safe. It was perfect. This is what it was all for. If I could bottle up this feeling and sell it, the world would be a happier place. 

We spent the next hour basking in what was a very special and unforgettable moment. I couldn’t take my eyes off the 3 of them. I fell in love with the feeling of seeing them together.

‘Cabbage in my bra’- AFTER BIRTH 

In Victoria, it can take months for the official parental orders to come into play. Something we learnt along the way from Sarah was that once baby is born, the birth certificate needs to be applied for under the birth parents’ names. After the parental orders are applied and approved, the biological parents are then able to apply for a new birth certificate listing them as the parents. An unusual process considering we had our ‘golden ticket’. I guess it’s a law like so many that has been left behind. Unless the topic is the flavour of the month, there is no review of the process.

My birth recovery was as textbook and as easy as it gets. I thank karma for this. I guess it helps that I wasn’t up all night demand feeding a new born. My body was able to rest and recover (well, as much as you can with a two year old and a six year old *makes another snack*).

My milk came in on day threeI could’ve fed a village. The girls were a bit confused! Understandably they assumed I was needing to feed a newborn. So I promptly ordered some cabbage to the house and for 48hrs smelt like a pot of cabbage soup. I hand expressed for comfort to remove any lumps or areas of warmth and after the 48hrs they got the message. At ease girls, at ease.

A message to Amelia’s parents: 

I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to say thank you enough for trusting me and blessing me with the opportunity to carry your sweet baby girl. I’ll forever hold a very warm place in my heart for your family and watching her grow in your guidance and love will be all the thanks I’ll ever need. We’ve told you guys so many times but it won’t ever be enough, we love you.

We did it. We did good. So good.

A Note from Tiny Hearts:
In loving memory of Leo, a beautiful child taken too soon, we have made a heartfelt donation to The Women's NICU.

 Birth photos by: Veronika Sanderson

Pregnancy Photos by: Chantelle Elise Photography

While Tiny Hearts tries to ensure that the content of this blog is accurate, adequate or complete, it does not represent or warrant its accuracy, adequacy or completeness. Tiny Hearts  is not responsible for any loss suffered as a result of or in relation to the use of its blog content... read more

While Tiny Hearts tries to ensure that the content of this blog is accurate, adequate or complete, it does not represent or warrant its accuracy, adequacy or completeness. Tiny Hearts  is not responsible for any loss suffered as a result of or in relation to the use of its blog content.

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