‘I’m not wor­ried about hand­ing over my sur­ro­gate baby’

Every week, a woman re­flects on moth­er­hood – whether she has chil­dren or not It’s seen as the ul­ti­mate self­less act, but for Jenna, the de­ci­sion to be a sur­ro­gate mother was a no-brainer…

Grazia (UK) - - Contents -

‘i’m not wor­ried about hand­ing over my sur­ro­gate baby’

for many peo­ple, be­ing a sur­ro­gate mother would be to­tally in­con­ceiv­able. But for me, ever since I had my first child three years ago, it’s some­thing that I’ve al­ways be­lieved I could do if there was good rea­son to. I gen­uinely en­joy be­ing preg­nant, I’m 29 so still fit and young, and the birth of both of my chil­dren felt man­age­able; or at least enough to con­sider do­ing it for some­body else.

And yet I wouldn’t have thought it would be my cousin Laura who I would help have a baby. I’m very close to her and I’ve known her part­ner Rhys since I was small – we were at nurs­ery, school and then col­lege to­gether. But, un­til last year, I had no idea they were strug­gling to con­ceive.

I was preg­nant with Flor­rie, my se­cond daugh­ter – who’s now 14 months – when Laura told me about their fer­til­ity prob­lems. They’d al­ready had sev­eral un­suc­cess­ful cy­cles of IVF, which had been heart­break­ing, and when the last cy­cle also failed, they re­solved to start look­ing at other op­tions. The topic of sur­ro­gacy came into fo­cus, and an­other fam­ily mem­ber told Laura to talk to me first. Our ten­ta­tive con­ver­sa­tions started from there.

I de­cided fairly quickly that if I could, I’d like to try and help them have a baby. But as I was preg­nant, we agreed to wait and see how we felt af­ter I’d had my child. We de­cided that if there’d been any com­pli­ca­tions dur­ing the birth, we would’ve shelved the idea al­to­gether.

Luck­ily, my daugh­ter’s birth was straight­for­ward and I re­cov­ered quickly. So just six months af­ter hav­ing her, we started fer­til­ity treat­ment for the sur­ro­gate preg­nancy. I was on ma­ter­nity leave and I fig­ured it made sense to do it while my body was still in the zone.

Any soul-search­ing I had sur­rounded the de­ci­sion to use my own egg. This would mean that ‘ bi­o­log­i­cally’ the baby would be Rhys’s and mine. De­spite be­ing on-board with me car­ry­ing an­other cou­ple’s baby, my hus­band Martin was un­der­stand­ably con­cerned.

But be­cause the is­sues lay with Laura’s eggs, the only al­ter­na­tive would have been find­ing a donor egg – some­thing that comes at ma­jor ex­pense. I knew I didn’t want any more ba­bies of my own and that our fam­ily was com­plete, which helped me make the de­ci­sion. And I was able to con­vince my hus­band that, in my head, I was think­ing about this only in prac­ti­cal terms – that I didn’t see a fu­ture baby as ‘mine’. Be­sides, I’m a big be­liever it’s not just ge­net­ics that make you a par­ent, and sur­ro­gacy is very much a means to an end.

Of­ten, when a sur­ro­gate con­ceives us­ing her own egg, they’ll do so by home in­sem­i­na­tion – the ‘turkey-baster’ method that gets a lot of air­time. That didn’t re­ally ap­peal to me and my hus­band wasn’t up for me do­ing that ei­ther, so we used the fer­til­ity clinic that had been treat­ing my cousin.

We had a med­i­cated cy­cle of IUI to im­prove our chances. Rhys’s sperm was placed into my womb around the time of ovu­la­tion af­ter I’d been in­ject­ing my­self with fer­til­ity drugs for a fort­night. The in­jec­tions were un­doubt­edly the worst part for me – and my heart went out to Laura who’d had to en­dure so many cy­cles of this. When I moaned and felt ul­tra-hor­monal, Martin re­minded me we were lucky this was our only brush with fer­til­ity treat­ment.

I got preg­nant straight away, but – eight months on – it’s not been to­tally with­out ap­pre­hen­sion. Over­whelm­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity is part and par­cel of every preg­nancy but with sur­ro­gacy, it’s am­pli­fied. Hand­ing over a healthy, much-wanted baby was now all down to me but, luck­ily, at the 12-week scan, ev­ery­thing looked good. Laura and Rhys were re­lieved, and thrilled – as was I.

Keep­ing them in­volved at every stage has felt nat­u­ral. Laura’s been at all the mid­wife ap­point­ments and scans – at 20 weeks we found out they’ll be hav­ing a baby girl, who they’ve named Alice. We bought a Dop­pler so they can hear the heart­beat and I video the bump mov­ing dur­ing the day and mes­sage it to them. Laura’s even had a baby shower and is pre­par­ing to breast­feed by tak­ing med­i­ca­tion that in­duces lac­ta­tion.

The baby is due in four weeks and amaz­ingly my three-year-old daugh­ter Aoife un­der­stands I’m just help­ing, and

the baby in my tummy is Aun­tie Laura’s. It’s the cu­rios­ity of strangers and ac­quain­tances that oc­ca­sion­ally throws me. My work col­leagues were shocked to see I was preg­nant again – I had to sit them down to ex­plain the sce­nario. It’s meant I’m the sub­ject of of­fice gos­sip for sure, but I’ve tried to just block it out. I’m en­ti­tled to full ma­ter­nity leave, but I’ll prob­a­bly only be off un­til Jan­uary – my com­pany cover statu­tory ma­ter­nity and Laura and Rhys will cover the short­fall in my pay.

The most com­mon ques­tion I get asked is how much money I’m be­ing paid. That’s ac­tu­ally il­le­gal in this coun­try and only my ex­penses can be re­im­bursed, but it’s also miss­ing the point. I like be­ing preg­nant and I’m giv­ing my cousin a baby. I don’t need any­thing else.

My mid­wife has been work­ing for 18 years, yet I’m her first sur­ro­gate, which feels spe­cial. We’re opt­ing for a wa­ter birth and Laura wants to have im­me­di­ate skin-to-skin with the baby, so she’ll prob­a­bly end up in the pool with me. I’ve told her it won’t be pretty, but she in­sists she’s not squea­mish.

I’m re­ally not wor­ried about be­ing en­gulfed by over­whelm­ing emo­tion when I hand over their baby. I just know it won’t hap­pen. Even though it’s an emo­tive act, be­ing a sur­ro­gate in­volves think­ing prac­ti­cally – right now, all I can think about is be­ing able to sleep, go­ing back to the gym and get­ting my body back.

I’m go­ing to step away and let Laura and Rhys en­joy the new­born bub­ble. They’re the par­ents and it’s not my place to mes­sage them con­stantly or drop by unan­nounced. They’ve waited so long for this and it’ll be their time to bond as a fam­ily. They know where I am if they need help or ad­vice and I’ll fol­low their lead. I’ll be Aun­tie Jenna, but Laura and Rhys will ex­plain ev­ery­thing to their daugh­ter in time. We all agree it’s bet­ter if she un­der­stands how she came about as early as pos­si­ble, so it’s not a shock when she’s older. Laura also be­lieves that it’s im­por­tant for oth­ers to know that life isn’t black and white and not every­one can have a baby at the drop of a hat.

I re­alise not every­one could do this, but for me it’s sim­ple, I’m giv­ing two peo­ple I love the best gift pos­si­ble. How can that be any­thing but pos­i­tive?

I’m go­ing to step away and let them en­joy the new­born bub­ble

Right: Jenna records her grow­ing bump for the ex­pec­tant par­ents. Be­low: with el­dest daugh­ter Aoife. Be­low left: with her cousin and mum-to-be Laura

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