Tiffany’s Story

Well low and behold I got pregnant the very first month I tried. I remember being totally shocked. All was going well until I reached 7 weeks and started to bleed. I remember going to the hospital, laying in the ultrasound clinic and hearing the words that would haunt me forever “There is no heartbeat.” I can still fell the emotional pain that I felt being wheeled to a ward past the maternity unit and seeing all the mothers with their newborns.

We were told to go home, wait a couple of months and try again. Well we tried and tried for 2 years and nothing happened. Eventually after clomid, injectables and iui we jumped on the IVF roundabout. Again I was shocked when I got pregnant the first time. On my birthday I found out that I was having twins. I thought that God was giving me back the baby I lost plus one.

When I was 21 weeks pregnant I went into spontaneous labour and my precious twins Jacob and David were stillborn. My heart was broken but I was even more determined to try again. After 3 more IVF cycles we got pregnant again. This time we made it to 23weeks and our daughter Aimee was born and lived for 2 hours. After Aimees birth I the doctors could not control the bleeding. I haemorrhaged and needed most of the blood in my body replaced. I ended up having to have an emergency hysterectomy.

I thought that my dreams of being a mum were over. I went home from the hospital with empty arms and an even emptier heart. I struggled for 3 year. Seeing counsellors and taking anti-depressants. I could not let go of the idea of being a mum. It almost cost me my marriage. My husband was devastated by the deaths of our children and could not stand the thought of being hurt again, whereas with me it was all I could think about. I spent day and night scanning the internet trying to find an answer to our heartbreak.

I found a website that hooked potential surrogates up with perspective parents. I started talking to a woman named Janice. She agreed to help us. We flew to the other side of the country to meet with her. When we got there she told us that she wanted $10, 000 to be a surrogate for us. Besides the fact that it is illegal we also felt that it was immoral. We worried that if we payed her now she would come back later asking for more money. We flew home even more deflated than before.

We went into counselling and tried to resign ourselves to being childless. I decided to go back to university and get a teaching degree. Life plodded along, our dogs were our kids and we travelled overseas and did all the things that people say you can’t enjoy when you have kids. The problem was we didn’t really enjoy them; there was still a hole in our hearts.

In 2011 two of my cousins approached me. One wanted to donate eggs and one wanted to carry a baby for us. I was so scared, too scared to get excited. Even when my cousin Yvette called me and said she was pregnant I did not cry or show much emotion. All I could think is she will decide to keep the baby; I’m going to get hurt again.

Since Yvette lived interstate we did not get to go to all the appointments. She sent us lots of pic and again it felt like we were looking at someone else’s child. During all this time our biggest worry sadly was money. It cost us every bit of our savings to have this child and we were wondering if we would be able to provide her with the life that she deserved.

Finally the day came Yvette was scheduled for a c section as our daughter was breech. I went into the theatre with her. My husband waited outside. They pulled this screaming pink little thing out of her and my heart melted, but still I did not feel like she was mine. All I could think was please God don’t let her change her mind, I can’t live through any more grief.” They cleaned our daughter up and handed her to me. It was like an out of body experience. I felt like I was going to faint.

When my husband held our daughter who we named Jasmine Grace for the first time he broke down. He tells me now that he knew from the second that she was put in his arms that she was ours. The fact that she looks just like him helps too.

The day that we left hospital was a day of mixed emotions. I was so happy yet I knew that my cousin was hurting so badly and there was nothing I could do to take her pain away.

The first few weeks at home are a blur now. I sort of felt like I was babysitting. I took about a month to really bond with Jasmine. It wasn’t until the legals were underway that I totally felt like her mum.

Jasmine is now a year old and she is my whole world. I would go through the last 15 years again in a heartbeat to get her. Thanks to Facebook my cousins can see her whenever they want and we have been to Adelaide to see them twice in the last year.
I’m not going to lie and say that our surrogacy journey has been easy. For one thing it looks like we will probably have to sell our house to pay off the debts we incurred during this process and the actual pregnancy was a rollercoaster of emotions, but if people ask me if I would do it again my answer is always the same “Hell yes “.

Are you crazy? Why are you doing this in Australia and not overseas?

So often amongst our community of people accessing surrogacy, we (the women doing altruistic Australian surrogacy) are asked ‘Why do you bother trying to do it here in Australia?’ and ‘Don’t you find it all too hard?’
The truth is, the Australian system really IS making it too hard for couples. Clearly we are in agreement that the law should protect the interests of the child as paramount, and we understand that is the objective of the laws. Yet what in practice is happening is that altruistic surrogacy in Australia is so unclear and challenging – that a money making industry has popped up to ‘assist’ women such as us.

IVF Clinics

Those people that ‘assist’ us are most often lawyers and IVF clinics. The IVF clinics, as you know from this blog, charge an incredible amount of money per attempt of IVF. Between 12 and 18,000 per cycle, with no access to Medicare.

Every clinic has a different approach to the cycle. Some of them will insist on absolutely crazy and detrimental protocols, like egg quarantining. Yes, a clinic can request you to quarantine your donor eggs even though eggs on their own DO NOT work in about 85% or more of cases. Who cares? The IVF clinics are not paid on your successful outcome. So it makes no difference to them if your outcome is successful or not.

Some clinics will have a good process in place to support surrogacy but still insist on a 6 month quarantine of embryos. So after years of struggling, you find you have to wait 6 months before you can even start. This is incredibly frustrating.

Ethics Committees

Then there are the ethics committees. The doctors that have to certify that you are truly eligible for surrogacy. I must say that being certified as infertile is not a pleasant experience. Conversely, I don’t know of too many women that would willingly give up being pregnant either, or who, by choice, would like for someone else to carry their baby. To nourish it and grow it for them. Generally speaking, this is quite a personal task, and one that people like to do themselves, so I don’t quite understand why there is an assumption that women would rush to do surrogacy unless they absolutely had to. Some of us wonder if we will ‘fail’ the ethics committee as we haven’t ‘failed’ enough times in our IVF attempts. It is deeply distressing and the guidelines are not clear, which only makes it more messy.

Then comes our favorite topic –

IVF and Medicare.

Kate, from the blog Our Surrogacy sums it up perfectly.

” A refusal of support to assist something so positive for no real reason other than that I can’t carry the baby myself (was like rubbing salt into the wound).  I have had a hysterectomy under hugely traumatic circumstances.  Otherwise I am a healthy, active, young person desperate to complete our family.  why should I have to pay triple or more what other people would pay for the exact same treatment simply because those other people are infertile in a different way?

When I started to look into it further I discovered that some clinics do give medicare rebates to people who have had a hysterectomy – what??!!   Even amongst the clinics and IVF world here in Australia there is inconsistency.

Kate on her wedding day

Technically I ought to have been entitled to medicare rebates as at the time I had no surrogacy arrangement in place and I could have had a cycle and frozen the embryos to either send overseas or use for surrogacy here later on.  When I called Medicare they agreed that technically, you should only not be entitled to the rebate where a surrogacy arrangement was in place.  But my clinic would not budge.  I would be up for $12,000 minimum for one cycle; no rebate.  I can’t blame them, they were doing things by the book and didn’t want to get into trouble.  But the injustice that other clinics would turn a blind eye and bill the cycle in a different way seemed too much on top of the basic injustice that medicare won’t cover surrogacy.

In comparison, me, my husband and son can all fly to India, stay for almost 3 weeks and get a full IVF cycle with transfer to surrogate for less than that.  Yes we will have the fee to the surrogate and other costs on top of that but so would there be additional costs doing it here.  So, rather than stay here, give business to the IVF clinics here, and perhaps be safer, unfortunately I feel as though my whole family is being forced overseas to pursue something that could have been achieved here had the rules, regulations and costs been a little more user-friendly and accessible.” Read more of her blog here.

Lawyers

To do altruistic surrogacy in Australia, you need to complete a pre-surrogacy contract and then apply for a parenting order post surrogacy. When I first started looking into surrogacy, I met some wonderfully kind lawyers. They seemed so nice. However, I have since found that they spend time making a connection with you as they want to charge around $15,000 – $20,000 for the process. That’s right. They seem so nice and lovely, but by any estimation, that is a lot of money. And if you worked that out on hours….well let’s examine this idea together?

If a top rated lawyer were to charge  $450 an hour then it would be 33 to 44 hours of work. These lawyers are family lawyers. Our local family lawyer charges $250 per hour. So, by that standard we would be looking at even more hours of work. Is this realistic? Honest? When the pre-surrogacy contract is not legally enforceable? When it’s largely a cut and paste of a template that they already have on-hand…can they possibly find themselves doing a week’s worth of work on this project? I have since found lawyers that will charge the reasonable rate of about $750 to $900 for a pre surrogacy arrangement and $5,000 for a post surrogacy arrangement. But I had to really look hard for them because the industry cogs are well in place.

As one lawyer laughingly (but not jokingly, there is a major difference) said to us recently, “$60,000, (his estimated cost of altruistic surrogacy in Australia) Well, anybody can get their hands on that nowdays!” I guess at that rate of pay, it would be a correct statement.

Does this make Australian Surrogacy truly altruistic?

My feeling is that altruistic surrogacy is altruistic for only one person – the lovely lady that offers to carry the baby for you. It seems strange that the woman doing the most vital of all jobs is always the one called on to be the most accountable in terms of financial gain, erstwhile a huge industry cogs its wheels around her, making money at every step. She cannot be given a holiday post birth to celebrate a job well done. She can’t be given more than $10,000 in expenses over the 9 months she is pregnant, including lost wages, or a red flag goes up. So how can a lawyer ask for 15 to 20 thousand? And an IVF clinic 12 to 18,000?

With the confusion and the grey-ness of the law, with the industry that preys on people that need surrogacy in Australia we can see why many opt to go overseas where the laws are clearer and the expenses are laid out clearly and contractually.

We have made a choice. And we want to change the system.

We choose to do altruistic surrogacy in Australia because it’s what is right for us, but we understand why those who opt for overseas options think we are a little crazy. However, maybe we are just the right kind of crazy to get these laws changed enough to make the system fairer for all? To make the system clearer and more honest? We choose to start with the Medicare law, as it’s the most obvious one that needs changing.

Changing the law to make it fairer is worth being a bit crazy about!