A new personal blog series exploring the highs and lows that epitomise the conversations you have at brunch.
This is Part 15 of a series. For a recap of Part 1, click here.
The stress of the two pregnancy losses was taking a severe toll on our relationship. You need one to try to be strong for the other, and in our shared grief, we just couldn't. We were determined that after everything, this would not be the thing that broke us.
With both versions of our wedding cancelled twice, the two pregnancy losses and the two family deaths, we decided we needed a break. While some restrictions were still in place, overseas travel was back. We took a much-needed trip to Hawaii - basically, the honeymoon before the wedding. It helped us with resetting, confirming our love for each other, and figuring out how the f*ck we were going to move forward (it also confirmed how expensive Hawaii is - go to Bali instead).
As anyone who knows me would vouch for, in stress, I go into Full Planner Mode. You lost your passport and wallet? I'll make a list of everyone we need to call, photocopies needed, police reports, transfers required. You missed your flight? I've mapped out how to get there by land, rail and sea, let's go.
So with this, I threw my stress into options. After adoption and fostering were put in the 'later' basket, I began to research the world of surrogacy.
Anyone doing this will tell you - it's a club we're in that we never wanted to join.
For the uninitiated, surrogacy is when a woman volunteers to carry and deliver a baby that is not her own. I used to think it was gross until I actually understood how it works. It can be 'traditional' - her egg and the 'father's' sperm, or 'gestational' - someone else's egg and sperm (embryo) meaning she has no genetic relation whatsoever. Think of it as you and your husband make a cake, and cook it in your friend's oven.
The gestational is what I was researching. Our baby, still. But who would do this for someone?
In certain countries, like the USA, Colombia, Greece, Mexico, Cyprus, to name a few - it's much clearer. A woman can volunteer, is paid handsomely, there are contracts, and everyone is aware of what is happening.
In Australia, where we live, it is only legal to do 'altruistically' which means, you cannot be paid to be a surrogate. The surrogate mother (SM) should not be out of pocket - so you can pay medical bills, clothes, medicals etc - but no 'lump sum' for doing this. The argument against is around human trafficking, which I can respect. However, if consenting adults can do it all altruistically - which takes months of IVF, psychological screenings, legal screenings, presenting in front of a 'panel' to determine if you can go ahead - why shouldn't she be paid? In my view, everyone else makes money - the IVF clinic, the lawyers, the psychologists - everyone except the person actually doing this for someone else.
My point is, I became pretty obsessed. I made pages and pages of spreadsheets of countries, clinics, costs, timelines. I joined many Facebook groups for different countries like 'Australians doing surrogacy in Georgia' to find out more. I felt crazy, but at the same time, was learning so much I felt equipped to give a TED talk on the topic.
My partner was hesitant. He was extremely concerned about the welfare of the potential SM - we both had nightmares that she would be in some sort of Taken scenario. What we really wanted was either a) someone we knew or b) to do it in the USA, where we could communicate both in our native English, everything is above board, in a place we had travelled to and knew well.
Unfortunately, who would want to do a? We didn't ask, how could we? Most our friends and family had been in the middle of having children themselves. How do say, hey. Want to have IVF surgery, get fat, feel unwell for nine months, not drink or have soft cheese or sushi, talk time off work, have a baby - but then, give it to us? For free? (Enquire within).
And with b, costs for surrogacy in the US started at around $250K, which was obviously impossible. It felt impossible even without the zero.
So I kept researching, he stayed stressed and concerned about what was a foreign, weird and strange process. I dragged him to seminars and meet-ups, just wanting to 'fix' what was broken.
One group I joined was women offering to be surrogates. I should also stress - in Australia, it is illegal to advertise for a surrogate too. Most the women in this group were from African nations, or it all felt a bit scammy. But I saw one post that caught my eye - a woman from Perth, who said she had now had her children, but wanted to be pregnant and give the joy of parenthood to someone, or someones, who needed it.
I got in touch. She answered.
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