Ever since I can remember, I’ve always tried to be a fixer. If someone I love has a problem, I’m instinctively on the look-out for a practical solution.
My best friend and I were simultaneously trying to conceive our first babies in 2011 – exciting times ahead, we thought, imagining our maternity leave together, enjoying mid-week play-dates… but it wasn’t to be. I pretty much fell pregnant straight away, she heart-breakingly did not. As the months turned into years, and I had a 2nd baby on the way, the guilt I felt was awful – I desperately wanted to DO something to help. I’d known my best friend my entire life, but found myself hiding my bump under over-sized coats and trying to ‘breathe-in’ when in each other’s company. It’s just how I felt.
After a great deal of consideration, I offered to help by suggesting I could be her surrogate if she needed me… and I truly meant it. Whilst I knew practically nothing about the subject I just felt certain it was something I could do. As it turned out, the stars aligned and my friend didn’t need my womb to borrow, she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. However, these feelings I had about wanting to achieve what was now a dream of mine were still there, so we joined Surrogacy UK (SUK) in June 2016.
My husband Aleks, was on board from the start, and he felt as invested as I did. SUK is an organisation which facilitates social meet ups and making connections with people on both sides of the fence in their surrogacy journey.
So…We met Kath and Neil in a pub garden in July 2016. Our two daughters (then aged 1 & 4), were happily playing whilst Aleks and I chatted away to Kath and Neil about anything and everything… but not babies! It was important to us all to find people that we had a genuine connection with, loads of common interests and banter (oh! The banter!) – and this was it!
Kath knew that she could no longer carry a baby after losing twins at 16 and 20 weeks and developing Asherman’s Syndrome. She also couldn’t understand how she could ask someone to grow a baby for her. It took me a long time to convince her that we were meeting in the middle and would embark on this adventure together in the hope of achieving both our dreams.
They had two 5-day blastocysts left in the freezer and after the first IVF transfer into my uterus in January 2017, we all waited impatiently for the results of the dreaded ‘two week wait’… but this one wasn’t to be. It hadn’t stuck. I was so disappointed as I hadn’t experienced this kind of rejection with my body before. Kath and Neil were totally gutted but weren’t surprised. It hadn’t worked. It had never worked.
As a team we had to pick ourselves back up ready to try again with the ‘last chance’ embryo – but by now our friendship was stronger than ever.
Four months later, after many more appointments at the fertility clinic, I slid a little gift box across the table whilst we were all having dinner. Kath opened it maybe thinking I’d bought her a fancy new pen or something (!) but it contained a positive pregnancy test! She shot out of her seat in disbelief and Neil burst into tears. Aleks was gobsmacked that I’d been able to keep the surprise result from him, and I was just beaming with joy… We had a chance.
2 weeks turned into 4, into 8, then 12 and all scans showed they had a healthy baby cooking in my ‘oven’. I absolutely had my head around it from the start. Even when I started to feel the baby kicking, I just knew I had an important job to do, to remain active and healthy, but I wasn’t developing an attachment like I certainly was with my own two daughters by this stage.
I’m lucky to have uncomplicated pregnancies and thankfully this one was no different. Every single person we encountered from the NHS midwifery staff was beyond helpful and supportive, and made every effort to include us all in each appointment, scan and the surrogacy birth plan. I feel very fortunate to live under the care of Portsmouth NHS trust who were exemplary in their care and forward thinking.
As the due date drew closer, I found myself smiling and yelling the shortened version of our story across the playground or in the street when more and more people would congratulate me and ask “what are you having”?… “Er, thanks, I’m just growing a baby for my friend” I once blurted out to the lollipop lady as I crossed the road!
My daughters who were two and five at the time fully understood the concept aswell – more than some adults in fact, and were so excited to meet Kath and Neil’s baby… guessing whether it will be a boy or girl?
A week before due date, heavy snow was forecast across the country, so Kath and Neil drove down from Kent to spend some time with us all (and be closer in case anything happened). My fears of having to call them at 3am to make the two hour journey never came, as on our 2nd snow day I went into labour and we all headed into hospital together.
This, it turned out was a practice run, as after spending 8 hours with contractions building it frustratingly all fizzled out by 10pm. Back home, I managed a full night’s sleep and we all headed back to the hospital the following day to do it all again! This time it was for real and we had a large private room complete with all the birthing gear. The senior midwife who had created our birth plan just happened to be on shift and was such an incredible support.
I was determined to use the Hypnobirthing techniques I’d seen from @thepositivebirthcompany on YouTube and it certainly helped keep everyone’s nerves at bay. With such a crowd watching I needed a clear plan of attack! I honestly can’t recommend Hypnobirthing enough…
For the final stages of labour, I was in the birthing pool, just as we’d hoped for and when the baby’s head was born, Kath was able to hop in the pool beside me. With one last push baby Margot, who was so desperately longed for, was born straight onto Kath’s chest and everyone let out a huge sigh of utter relief and a happiness that I can’t even put into words…
It’s hard for me to explain, but it really has been such a pleasure carrying Kath & Neil’s baby and ultimately achieve what we all set out to do… seeing them become parents is really one of the proudest moments of my life, and I have a lot to thank them for too in enabling me to achieve a huge dream of mine… one I couldn’t have done without the massive support of my husband (who’s been a total legend throughout), and also my family and friends around me.
Some people anticipated that my post-birth hormones might play tricks on me and make me feel sad about not bringing a baby home – but it’s been quite the opposite. I’ve actually been on cloud nine, so proud of myself, and chuffed to bits to see our friends become a family… Kath, Neil and Margot are, and will continue to be such an important part of our lives. I now feel ready to close this chapter, and am getting ready to embrace the next one…