s Sally Obermeder and her husband Marcus gazed at their longed- for second child for the first time, they couldn’t have been more elated. In five short years they had dealt with IVF, breast cancer, miscarriage and the loss of Marcus’s mum. So when baby Elyssa was born via a surrogate in December 2016, it seemed life had finally smiled on them.
Their eldest daughter, Annabelle, wasn’t as convinced. Having had her parents to herself for five years, she wasn’t impressed that a squawking, pooing, not very exciting baby was suddenly the centre of attention. Twenty months on, however, her little sister has grown on her, so much so that she’s ready for the family to grow again.
“She’s now asking for another baby,” says Obermeder, laughing as she grabs some rare free minutes to talk to Stellar between hosting afternoon television
and taking Annabelle, six, to swimming lessons. “I could’ve fallen over,” she continues. “I reminded her that when Elyssa was first here she didn’t like having a baby around. But she said Elyssa was now heaps of fun – and she’d like a brother as well.”
As to whether she’ll get her wish, “I wouldn’t say no, I really wouldn’t,” says Obermeder, who turns 45 this week. “When you’re in the midst of that first year you’re so exhausted that you can’t imagine having another one, but then that passes and you think, ‘I feel great.’ So the door is still ajar – I could definitely entertain it [ having another baby], but it’s not straightforward.”
Having been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer the day before Annabelle was born in 2011, Obermeder was told she couldn’t carry another baby because pregnancy could cause the cancer to return. With commercial surrogacy illegal in Australia, she and Marcus found an “altruistic surrogate” in America but the process didn’t go smoothly. Their surrogate, Rachel, fell pregnant with one of the Obermeder’s frozen embryos, but then miscarried at 11 weeks. When Elyssa was finally born, in the middle of a freezing Milwaukee winter, it was the joyous culmination of a two-year struggle.
Even now, Obermeder still cries whenever she speaks to Rachel. “I think she thinks I’m a lunatic but I’m just so grateful to her. Every time I tuck the girls in at night I can’t believe how fortunate we’ve been. I never thought I would live long enough to see Annabelle grow up, let alone have another baby.”
Obermeder recently dressed Elyssa in a cute pink and white bunny suit that Annabelle had also worn as a toddler. Her older daughter wanted to see a picture of herself in the suit, and when Obermeder dug it out she gasped at the sight of herself, post- chemo, with barely any hair. “It still takes my breath away,” she says pensively. “The further you get away from it, you start to forget – which you’re supposed to – but seeing those pictures, the rawness and the memories flooded back. Even