New Beginnings 

In this post I describe how I have finally finished my surrogacy journey.

Originally published 09/05/2019 

So it’s done – I have given birth and a new family has been made. But the story hasn’t completely ended for me. 

Being a surrogate is one of the hardest things I have ever done. It has also been extremely rewarding, joyous and exciting. 

Since the last time I wrote about this, I have been inundated with messages of support and love which I am very grateful for. 

I spent much of my time pregnant looking very big, with regular growth scans and measurements to make sure I wasn’t going to suffer too much! I also spent time with the parents in their house, and they accompanied me to as many scans and appointments as they could. This really helped them connect to their baby, which can be hard in a surrogacy situation. 

I also spent a lot of time with the Dads looking at the logistics of giving birth and hospital care. I opted to give birth in a nearby hospital which has an emergency area for C-sections and assisted delivery. This is where I gave birth to my son and I felt that it suited my needs best. 

Once this decision had been made, our agency, Brilliant Beginnings, did the legwork to speak to the senior midwife about what would be possible both with labour and post-natallly. I was very keen to have both parents near at the birth, preferably in the room directly after delivery, to carry out skin to skin and cut the cord. I wasn’t keen on them being in the room during the labour itself – it’s a messy and undignified affair – and they respected that. I also requested a separate room for the baby, no matter when he was born, so I would not have to provide him with any of his care. Why? you may ask. This is because I was (and still am) the legal parent of the baby up until the point of a parental order being appointed, which usually takes around 6 months with a judge and high court hearing. 

Some hospitals do not allow the baby (or babies) to be cared for by anyone other than the legal parents, or leave with anyone other than the legal birth mother, they do not allow anyone else to even carry the baby out, meaning many babies born from surrogacy are given to their parents in hospital car parks, which felt so wrong to me and very demeaning for the parents. 

The hospital were brilliant – they arranged for 2 private rooms post-natally, for the baby to be cared for by his parents and for him to leave with them rather than me. They would be able to attend the delivery room when I requested as well as my wife being with me for the entire delivery. 

We also drafted letters stating that all parental responsibility and decisions should be made by the Dads and not my wife and I – I signed around 15 of these and I have used most of them! They were invaluable for hospital discharge and other medical and legal issues. 

In the end neither parent was in the delivery room – I gave birth via an emergency C-section after an 8 hour induced labour. All the hopeful plans of cord cutting and skin to skin did not come to fruition, and the major op I was keen to avoid became a reality. But it is important to remember that there are no prizes for childbirth, and as long as the woman and baby (or babies) survive the experience relatively unscathed then you can consider yourself as doing well. 

Within minutes of my section I heard a cry; the baby was here – Tom had arrived! I opted to see his face when he was born, and I spent a surreal hour in the recovery room with my family and his, all together. Looking at his parents’ faces, suffused with love and awe was a real joy. 

I was very lucky to have my children, wife and my kids’ Dad visit me in hospital, and take me home the day after. My parents also spent time with me, Tom, his Dads and Granny before he was discharged. As the family had been staying nearby prior to the birth a friendship had blossomed between my family and theirs, which was a lovely and unexpected bonus. 

We saw Tom before he went home to London, and I was able to give him some gifts – the bola necklace that I wore for him to hear relaxing tinkling sounds is now used by both dads as a link from the womb, a letter for him to read when he grows up so he can understand my part in his life and the obligatory rainbow onesie! 

I opted to express milk for Tom, which was also of benefit to me – helping reduce my risk of ovarian cancer, aid postpartum healing and weight loss. I was determined to be out of maternity wear as soon as possible – for good reason. During pregnancy I was very large and obviously pregnant, however post birth I had no baby, and so I felt almost fraudulent to still be in maternity clothes. 

I found the first two weeks the hardest – in a fog of recovery, up every two hours to establish an expressing routine with my electric pump (which I nicknamed Robobaby), I also suffered with the flu and an infection. My hormones were at an all-time high and my whole family were feeling the loss of the situation – with me no longer being pregnant, but having nothing physical to show for it, bar a huge scar and masses of hormones. My children, having showered my bump with kisses, found the change quite challenging. They talked about Tom and repeatedly asked to see him; a difficult feat given we are hundreds of miles apart. We did our best with pictures and the odd Skype, but as he was here one day and gone the next it is a difficult adjustment for anyone, let alone a young child. 

All surrogates and their families suffer a void when the baby is born, and we dealt with it in much the same way as many others – we got a new kitten. He is very much our baby. Born just one month before Tom, his mother was pregnant at the same time as me, which I find comforting. He has been just the tonic our family needed. 

I pumped milk for 12 weeks, and sent most of the milk to Tom, but I was lucky enough to have a surplus to donate to the Scottish Milk Bank, who provide milk to premature babies in hospitals and out in the community. It felt good to help via the NHS system which supported me so well both during my pregnancy and postpartum. 

Throughout my pregnancy my work were very supportive and I had the same entitlements as any other pregnant person. I attended hospital appointments and scans as normal. I also had maternity leave, and although I opted for less time than those coping with a baby, I used my time wisely, recovering, pumping milk and reconnecting with my family by doing the school run and joining them on soft play equipment rather than sitting on the side. I also spent time at work, going to meetings and events every month, which really helped me feel more connected to my team and my role. 

The question I am asked most often is ‘How are you?’ with an accompanying head tilt. People have been very openly concerned about me, and with the postpartum recovery comes lack of sleep, possible postnatal depression, emotional and physical highs and lows. But add surrogacy onto this and there becomes another layer which for many people is one that they cannot envisage. They cannot conceive what it is like to carry a baby for another. 

So when they ask ‘How are you?’ I try to answer as best I can. I am generally fine, in good health and having made a full physical recovery. But emotionally I still do not know exactly how I feel. In some ways the last year feels almost unreal, like a dream. But when I glance down I see my scar and I am reminded of the reality. 

I do not miss Tom, and I know that our families will continue to be close. I do not regret the experience, but I would not repeat it. It was a physical and emotional challenge. But it was something that I felt compelled to do and I feel proud that I have achieved a goal. I also feel so happy for Tom and his family. 

I believe that the laws surrounding surrogacy are outdated and not in the interests of either the surrogate or the parents. A petition to change the law is available to sign here – 

If you are interested in surrogacy, I recommend Brilliant Beginnings, a not for profit surrogacy matching agency which I used. 

If you are interested in donating milk to premature babies, you can find your nearest milk bank via UKAMB. 

If you want to let your baby experience different sounds in the womb I recommend Bellybuds, which I used to play the Dad’s favourite music to Tom, and also recordings of their voices. I also recommend Bola necklaces, which originated in Mexico. 

This blog was originally posted on The WOW Network.
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