Well after several people suggesting I start a blog about my surrogacy journey, I have finally done one.
So perhaps I should start by telling you how we got to this point. So following is a bit of a summary of our journey that’s brought us to today.
In early January we received the fantastic news that we were expecting our second baby. This would make our due date October 2012.
Our first daughter Myla was born 18 March 2011 and was the apple of our eye. But we were keen to add another little one to our family.
Late January 2012 after a few blood tests we were told that the HCG levels were not progressing as they should be, and the most likely outcome would be a miscarriage. We were devastated, but knew that this was a normal part of life. Many of my girlfriends had had miscarriages so we were not too alarmed.
So we waited.
Perhaps a month later I had a heavy bleed and assumed I had miscarried. I didn’t even go to the doctor, as the doctor had previously told me there was no need to if things seemed ok. I felt fine it was just like having a period so I was not worried.
About a week later I woke up in terrible pain. I went straight to the doctor. He sent me for a scan. The person doing the scan said I had something in my uterus, which was consistent with being 5 weeks pregnant. They said it was too early to confirm whether the pregnancy was going well or not.
So I went for more blood tests. The doctor again said that the HCG levels were not progressing as they should be and that he did not believe that this pregnancy would be successful. He asked me to come back a week later.
So a week later I had more blood tests. This time the HCG levels had not moved at all. So the doctor referred me to my obstetrician, Dr Stephen Cook.
Dr Cook, ran a few scans and basically said that he was stumped, but thought that perhaps I had an ectopic pregnancy and recommended that I have a shot of methotrexate. This is a chemotherapy drug and designed to kill off foreign cells in the body. He said that if this did not work he would need to open me up to check out what was going on.
So a few days later I went to Oncology and had my shot of methotrexate. After a week I had more blood tests to check the HCG levels. There was no change, so Dr Cook recommended he open me up the following day.
When I awoke from my surgery, Dr Cook said that I did not have a live pregnancy, nor did I have an ectopic pregnancy. He said it was most likely that I was pregnant and had miscarried as he found some placenta in the uterus, which he removed. He also advised that he sent it away for testing.
The good news was that he said we were free to go home and start trying again for a baby.
15 March 2012
On the 15 March, Michael and I were doing a practice run of ladybird cupcakes for Myla’s 1st birthday party which was going to be on her birthday – 18 March.
Whilst we were right in the middle of making cup cakes, Dr Cook called.
He said to me, “are you at home with anyone”; I said “yes, Michael is here with me, we’re making cupcakes for Myla’s birthday party”.
He said, “good, perhaps you need to sit down, I have some bad news”.
He then proceeded to tell me that the test results had returned and I had a very rare form of cancer called placental site trophoblastic tumour (PSTT). He said it was basically cancer in the placenta. He said it was from my pregnancy with Myla and given the late detection, it had now spread to my uterus. Dr Cook explained that the cancer was giving off a low level of the pregnancy hormone – HCG, which is why the doctors had previously assumed I was pregnant.
Dr Cook said it was likely that I would require a hysterectomy but there was a possibility that I could have the cancer removed and my uterus reconstructed.
Dr Cook referred me to an Oncologist, Dr Nicklin.
I was in complete shock. I thought I was pregnant. I wasn’t pregnant. I could cope with that, we would try again. But now I was being told I had cancer and may require a hysterectomy. That meant no more children.
Michael helped reassure me. Dr Cook said there was a chance I could have my uterus reconstructed. Then we could try again. Maybe I just needed some chemotherapy. But chemotherapy would mean years before I could have another child.
But I thought, surely this won’t happen to me, surely it won’t be that bad. This kind of thing happens to other people, not me.
Then I was like – cupcakes. We need to finish the cupcakes. No matter what, its Myla’s first birthday party on Sunday and she needs cupcakes. So I may have been crying, but Michael and I finished those cupcakes.
That very afternoon Michael and I went to the hospital to start my next round of tests. I also made an appointment with the oncologist, Dr Nicklin. I could not get an appointment until 8 days later on 23 March 2012.
16-22 March 2012
It was a very long 8 days until the 23 March 2012. My friends were wonderful, so supportive, taking me to coffee, calling me, texting me, just supporting me. I really don’t know where I would be without their wonderful support that week. In case your reading this thank you so much Sharon K, Naomi, Kerrie, Kristie, Claire, Sharon G, Natalie, Brian, Avalon, Anita, Tania and everyone else who provided support.
Myla’s birthday party was on 18 March. We had a great day; Myla got spoilt rotten by all our friends and family. I wanted this to be a happy day. It was Myla’s day, and also perhaps the only first birthday party we would get to put on as parents. It was not a sad day, we were a happy family.
As the days went on, I kept swaying between, its going to be ok, it won’t be that bad – to oh my god, I’m going to have a hysterectomy, I will never have another child. It was one crazy roller coast ride of emotion that week.
23 March 2012
Our appointment with Dr Nicklin was at 9am – which I was so happy about. Get it out of the road.
Dr Nicklin did not beat around the bush. He showed us some pictures of my uterus and pointed out the cancer. He showed us how basically the cancer filled my uterus. He said that if he was to remove just the cancer, there was a good chance he would miss some and also that there would be nothing left of my uterus to rebuild and that it would be unlikely that I could carry a child with what would be left.
Dr Nicklin also explained that chemotherapy was not really an option. He explained that should the cancer spread outside my uterus that my life would be in real danger. He said the extent of the cancer would require at least 1 year of serious chemotherapy, which would likely require hospitalisation and that he doubted that I would survive the year.
Dr Nicklin said my only real option was a hysterectomy.
I cried there and then. It was worst-case scenario. It was that bad. I would never have another child. There was no quick fix.
Dr Nicklin then told me that I needed further tests to ensure the cancer had not spread. He said that PSST had a tendency to appear in the lungs and that this was a life threatening condition. He referred me to get this test done.
We booked in the hysterectomy date for 2 April 2012. Only 10 days away.
Before we left Dr Nicklin’s office, he told me he would be leaving my ovaries, so given I still had my eggs that I could find a surrogate to have a baby for us. This was the very first time I had ever heard of surrogacy in relation to me. Prior to this, surrogacy was something I associated with the movies, novels, rich people, not me. I quickly dismissed the idea of surrogacy and focused on accepting our family of three.
26 March 2012
The days leading up to the 26 March were probably the toughest. Now I was hoping that the cancer had not spread. I was praying it was just in my uterus, that a hysterectomy would be the end of it. Myla was 1 years of age. She was my baby and I could not leave her. I wanted to see my baby girl grow up. Whilst I was devastated that I could not give her a sibling, I was hopeful that I could keep her mother around to help take care of her.
I had the scans of my lungs done early that day. By the afternoon Dr Nicklin had the results and called me. My lungs were clear. I would survive. I would not have any more children but I would remain alive to see my baby grow up.
I was still devastated about the hysterectomy, but I felt blessed that my condition was not life threatening.
2 April 2012
The day of my operation was pretty tough for me. I knew that it was necessary for me to be alive, but I was sad that I would never have another child. I cried as they wheeled me into the operating theatre. Dr Nicklin held my hand.
The operation went fine. I stayed in hospital for 2 nights and 3 days. My first blood test after the operation came back negative for the HCG. I was now free of cancer. I required 12 further monthyly tests before I would be offically free of cancer, but Dr Nicklin said the chance of there bein any remaining cancer was next to nil.
April to August 2012
After I recovered from my surgery I became to think about what the doctor said about surrogacy. I started doing some research on the internet. The first thing I learned was it was going to cost a ridiculous amount of money. Probably around $50,000 and that was provided things went well. I just did not think it was something achievable for us.
I started researching into adoption. But Michael said that he would not consider adoption. Plus all the research I found said that adoption within Australia was near impossible and that overseas adoption also cost a bomb and that people were on waiting lists for years. So adoption was also not an adoption.
Even whilst I thought surrogacy was not achievable I kept researching the process. I talked to everyone I knew about the subject and what they thought. For the most part people thought I should go for it. Most people with a couple of kids said you will never regret having your kids, no matter how much money or effort you go to get them. I joined every online forum I could find.
I started to learn that there were numerous women out there just like me. Average families, not movie stars or wealthy people, just average families desperate to either start or complete their families. I chatted to women who had been surrogates before, women who had babies via surrogacy and women who were trying to find surrogates. I researched the process and the costs. I wanted to know as much as I possibly could.
I started thinking that surrogacy was an option for us. However to my surprise when I raised the idea with Michael he was completely against it. He did not like the idea of having to rely so heavily on someone else. He also could not get over the risks involved and was concerned that the bond with the baby would not be the same as the bond we have with Myla.
So I completely withdrew from all things surrogacy. I bought books about raising an only child. I sold all Myla’s baby things. I also had to remove myself from people having babies. It seemed all my friends and family were having babies. I just could not bring myself to touch their babies, or even talk about it. I felt guilty but I just couldn’t do it.
I started thinking about all the holidays we could take Myla on, having a smaller family meant less expenses, more money, cheaper holidays. So I started planning a holiday. With the very last bit of money we had in the bank we booked a holiday to Phuket, Thailand.
Before we left for Thailand, Michael started making the odd comment here and there about having another child. When he saw Myla watching or playing with other kids he would say, “it would be good for Myla to have a little brother” (always a brother!!!). Most times I would just ignore the comments. But the more and more he said it, I started thinking perhaps he’s serious.
So one night in September when we were watching TV and he made a comment about having another baby I said “do you want to do this?” and he said “yes” and hey presto we started looking for a surrogate.
September -October 2012
So the search began. Every spare moment I had, I spent joining online support groups, talking to others, going to meetings with others looking for surrogates or those who had been surrogates.
I spoke to a few women about the possibility of being our surrogate.
Talking to someone about the possibility of them carrying your baby is the weirdest thing. I like to compare it to going on a first date and asking the guy whether he wanted to marry in a church or garden, roses or lilies, 2 or 3 kids etc etc.
You have to discuss things like how many embryos are you prepared to have transferred, how many cycles are you prepared to commit to, will you commit to all testing as recommended by the doctors, will you consider termination in case the baby has a significant birth defect, where do you want to give birth, do you want a caesarean or natural birth, do you want contact with the child, etc etc. And you only just met the woman!!! But if you are not compatible in these areas, then there is no point even continuing the “dating” phase, as I like to call it.
Then there is all the rumours you hear about potential surrogates. Don’t talk to her she’s unstable, don’t talk to her she will ask for you for too much money. It’s so overwhelming. You need to find a woman you can trust with your life, because well ultimately you are going to have to trust her with your baby’s life for 9 months. Then you have to trust she will hand your baby to you when she gives birth to it. This is probably the biggest decision you will ever make in your life.
In Australia the surrogate and her partner are classed as the legal parents. So you have to trust that when the baby is born they will consent to parenting orders which will change the birth certificate to the intending parents.
I did speak to one woman quite a lot about her being our surrogate. She was fantastic, loved her. I thought this is it, we have found our surrogate. Unfortunately when it came down to it her partner would not support the idea of her being a surrogate for us.
Another woman I spoke to was pro life and did not believe in terminations in any situation. This was a strange one. I could not believe I was discussing the possibility of terminating the life of my baby, before there actually was a baby. It was the oddest thing. But here is the thing, you need to get all these details sorted prior to even trying to get pregnant. You do not want to find yourself in the situation where your baby has a major birth defect and the surrogate refuses to terminate. Now I am conscious of how awfully hypercritical this may sound, I want a baby, but not a baby with birth defects. I apologise how this sounds and I hope those reading this can understand.
I spoke to other women who sounded fabulous but weren’t prepared to do it for another year or so. And other women who just decided it was not for them when it came down to it.
A lot of my other surrogate community friends where by passing all this “dating” and where going overseas. India was where most people were going, but USA and Thailand were also popular. India is so popular with Australians as the parents are put on the birth certificate, meaning there is no risk of the surrogate refusing to give up the child as well as eliminating the need for an legal process to gain a parenting order once they are back in Australia.
Commercial surrogacy in Australia is illegal, but this does not stop many Australian couples desperate for children. Couples were coming back with their babies from India every week. My surrogacy forums were filled with happy endings of babies born in India.
I started researching the idea of finding a surrogate in India. It seemed easy. Find an agency, pay your deposit and in a few days they will have a surrogate ready to have your embryos transferred. No “dating”, no worries that they will keep your baby. In fact all the emotional red tape is removed. It is a complete business transaction.
One problem, every time I brought the idea up with Michael he gave a very stern no. He just could not wrap his idea around the idea of having a baby in India. He said that the idea of surrogacy was such a foreign concept to him as it was, that the very thought of Indian surrogacy was just something he could not even begin to consider.
So back to the drawing board.
I was a member of a local facebook mothers group in our local suburb. I had posted about my fight with cancer and then my thoughts on surrogacy. From time to time other mums would comment on my posts or message me privately expressing their interest. Most times I never heard from them again after one or two messages.
A woman named Chloe messaged me, saying she would consider being a surrogate. I met up with Chloe and sent her some information about surrogacy and suggested a few sites she might like to join to get more information and to find couple to be a surrogate for once she had made a decision to go ahead. At this stage I was not looking for a surrogate as I believed I already had found my surrogate, Chloe knew this.
I communicated with a Chloe a few times online after that meeting but nothing too in-depth. I was still in discussions with a woman who I thought would be our surrogate. Unfortunately her partner would not give her full support to the surrogacy. Despite this the surrogate still wanted to continue, however Michael and I came to the decision that this was not the ideal situation and that we wanted a surrogate who had the full support of her partner. It was a very difficult decisions, but we declined her offer to be our surrogate.
So I decided to contact Chloe to see if she might consider being a surrogate for us. We agreed to meet up to chat. Chloe was lovely. A young 27 year old stay at home mother to 3 girls. I left Chloe too talk it over with her husband and get back to me.
I did not hear from Chloe for about 4 weeks. I wanted to give her heaps of time to digest the information and speak with her husband. I also thought perhaps she had decided it was not for her. So one night I sent her a message asking what she thought about it. To my surprise she wrote back saying she wanted to do it and that he husband was supportive.
8 November 2012
Chloe and I met up and further discussed the possibility of her being a surrogate for us. She was really keen but wanted to be sure her husband was ok with it. So we decided to meet up with both our husbands.
10 November 2012
Chloe and her husband Matt came over to meet with Michael and I.
Michael and I were so nervous before they came. We tidied the house and made muffins for the meeting. We wanted everything to be just right. I had butterflies in my stomach the whole morning.
As soon as we met Matt and Chloe, we felt completely at ease with them. Whilst Chloe is quiet, Matt is the complete opposite, very talkative. Michael and I immediately liked him. He asked all the right questions and was completely supportive of Chloe being our surrogate.
I made sure Matt understood the process, but I was over the moon when he said that he had already goggled surrogacy and seemed to understand the process.
So amazingly they said they were keen to do this for us. I felt like I was going to cry. This couple, who did not know us, wanted to help us by carrying a baby for us. Wow! Who does this for someone? I was so touched by this generous offer.
When Chloe and Matt left, Michael and I were so happy. Michael was grinning ear to ear and I did a happy dance.
I couldn’t wait to start making some calls on Monday to start the process.
12 November 2012
About 9 am I got straight onto the fertility clinic to make an appointment. To my surprise they had a cancellation and offered us an appointment 2 days later.
I also contacted the counsellor (it is a requirement to have fertility counselling prior to commencing the surrogacy process). We made arrangements to have our counselling on 8 and 22 December 2012.
14 November 2012
Matt, Chloe, Michael and I all attended the fertility clinic for our first appointment.
It was a little weird being in the room, with basically complete strangers talking about private matters. Michael and Matt looked a little out of place, especially when the subject of Michael’s sperm quality came up.
The fertility nurse explained the IVF process to us and how I would need weeks of self-injections and the transfer of embryos to Chloe. She then explained how all four of us would require blood tests to check none of us were carrying diseases. Well Matt pipes up “I’m not good with blood tests” and Michaels says “yeah me neither, I feel like I’ll pass out”. Seriously guys – what Chloe and I have to go through and you boys are afraid of a little blood test??? Suck it up!
Apart from the blood tests, we were not able to start the process until we had our counselling and legals done.
We also had a bit of a chat and decided it was best to go through the private system to have the baby, to give us some options. So Michael and I took out private health insurance for Chloe. It meant that baby could not be born until at least 14 November 2013!!!
All 4 blood tests came back clear – we had passed the medical checks.
23 November 2012
One morning whilst I was on the train to work, I get a text from Matt “put on B105, there’s a story about surrogacy”. I text him back saying I am on the train, but was it a good story. Surprisingly I get a text saying it was him talking about surrogacy.
I was so touched. Not only was Matt fully supportive of Chloe being our surrogate but he was talking on the radio creating awareness about the process. I felt so supported and knew we had made the right choice with Matt and Chloe.
As soon as I could I jumped on the B105 website and downloaded the pod cast. The presenters had asked listeners if they would carry someone else’s baby and Matt had called up. He basically said when he met us and knew our story that the decision was easy to agree to help us.
On our local online mothers group facebook page, a mum had posted how she just heard this amazing man talk about how his wife was going to be a surrogate for a couple who could not have children and how she was so touched by the man’s call. I felt so proud of Matt and pleased that others had heard him on the radio and were just as touched by Matt and Chloe’s generous gift as Michael and I were.
8 December 2012
Narelle our fertility counsellor came out to house for our marathon counselling session. This involved a 2 hour session with Michael and I and then another 2 hour session for Chloe and Matt. It was a fairly intense session with Narelle asking lots of questions about the surrogacy process. Basically just ensuring we had considered every detail and every scenario that could possibly happen.
- How many embryos well you transfer to Chloe?
- How many cycles do you want to do?
- How will you handle miscarriages?
- In what circumstances would you consider termination?
- Have you considered all the expenses?
- Will you attend all medical appointments?
- Which OB will you use?
- Do you want to baby to have contact with Matt and Chloe?
- Will you accept breast milk from Chloe?
- When will tell the child it was born via surrogacy?
- What will you do if the child is disabled?
- What if Michael and I break up?
- What if Chloe and Matt don’t hand over the baby?
And a zillion other questions which I can’t quite recall right now.
We also had to complete personality type questionnaires. One questionnaire had 385 questions!!!!!!
After our session Narelle emailed me to say we all did great and she could not foresee any problems – yah, another hurdle passed!!!
13 December 2012
So that pretty much brings you up to the present.
Seems pretty surreal to think a few months ago Chloe and Matt were complete strangers to us. Now we are in this very intimate process with them. I look at them as angels, heroes, the most amazing people I know.
We are all in contact with each other on a regular basis via facebook, texts etc. We have had Chloe, Matt and their girls over for a BBQ to get to know each other better. Chloe and I regularly catch up with the kids and talk about surrogacy and the usual stuff two mums talk about.
I honestly don’t think Michael and I could have picked a better couple for surrogacy. They are very considerate about what this process means for us.
So stay tuned, I intend to update this blog with my feelings, thoughts and the process.
My intention is to keep a journal for myself, create awareness for others about the process and also provide information and hope to those considering surrogacy.
I should mention that not everyone we know is supportive of this process and I understand that. But many are extremely supportive and understand what this means to us.