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 “.

Holly’s Story

Holly & Ash

Holly & Ash

At age 14 i was diagnosed with a severe mullerian anomaly with a unicornuate uterus and severe endometriosis. The endometriosis drowned my fallopian tubes and one ovary. What i was left with was half a uterus, one ovary that was not connected, one kidney and no cervix. At 14 years old this was devastating. At 18 I met Ash (23), he was beautifiul, kind and supportive. Like any normal couple our age we had a normal lifestyle, normal paying jobs and a house loan but there was just one thing missing, a child. 6 operations later the news I received was heart breaking ” I’m so sorry Holly, there is nothing more we can do” Surrogacy was our only option. I spent months resaeaching how to go about it and what to do. My gorgeous mum was the first person to offer, it was like a dream come true. Sadly Mum was diagnosed with hormone related cancer and was no longer able to carry our baby. Six months later a wonderful woman offered to carry my baby. The words estatic and overjoyed don’t even come close to what we were feeling! However those feeling didn’t last long when we were told that medicare wouldn’t cover us for IVF. We are looking at around $15,000 – $20,000. As a normal young couple this just seemed out of reach. Medicare cover everyone else for IVF but will not cover us. Not only do we have $15-20,000 for IVF but we also have another $20,000 + for other surrogacy involved costs. It is my understanding that when Medicare made this decision surrogacy was illegal, now that surrogace IS legal here in Australia the outdated laws need to change. So over all i feel discriminated against and think this is greatly unfair. Please change the law so that us and couples like us can be blessed with a family

Negative

For those not familiar with the pain of a negative result after an embryo transfer to a surrogate – you may wish to read this.

Our Surrogacy Story

So today we got the news that our first little embryo did not make it. Chloe is not pregnant; there will be no baby in 9 months.

This is going to be a self-pity post, so if you don’t want to hear it, close the post now. I make no apologies for this post. I said from the outset of my blog that this would be an honest diary of the process and my feelings. I don’t expect anyone’s sympathy from this post. I just want to record my feelings of right now and also make others aware of the shit we go through in this process.

I will also say up front, that it goes without saying, yes it’s not the end of the world, I’m not dying and I already have one beautiful girl. Yes I am blessed and I know it. Yes I am better off than…

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Monica’s Story

In early 2010 my husband and I decided we’d start trying for a family, we had been discussing it for a while. We had lived in the UK for 5 years and thought it was time go home, buy a house and start nesting for a potential baby. Fast forward a bit and It was late October and I was really frustrated that I wasn’t getting pregnant, wondering what I was doing wrong.

Monica & her husband

Monica & her husband

I started realizing that in back in July I had found a lump and totally ignored it, life had its heavy demands, but I proceeded to perform self-examination and there it was, I went to the GP got a full body examination and asked what he thought about the lump? He said don’t worry, if it’s still here in 4 months come back. Not happy with his opinion I went to a breast specialist, “Supposedly” the best in Vic. He read the mammogram and told me that my breasts were normal for a 26 year old and not to stress about the lump as it might just be a cyst. My mother and I weren’t convinced, as in 2006 I had a cyst removed from my breast and this one just didn’t feel the same. 3rd opinion here I come…

I saw another breast specialist; they call him “The Godfather”. I knew when I sat in his office that it wasn’t going to be a great day! He diagnosed me with hormone sensitive Breast Cancer, it’s basically to say that the cancer was stimulated by estrogen. OMG! I’m only 26, we are meant to be getting pregnant, I don’t want to be sick, I don’t want to die yet!

1 week later I was booked into have a partial mastectomy… followed by 4 rounds of chemo, 6 weeks of daily radiotherapy sessions, 1 year of Herceptin that was given intravenously and 5 years of Tamoxifen. My life had been turned upside down, my dreams were crushed and my heart is broken… My Oncologist told me that there is no way I can carry a pregnancy as that there was a extremely high chance that Tamoxifen would deform my baby and potentially harm myself if I got pregnant as it would raise my estrogen levels and therefore raise the risk of recurrence.

Our now surrogate offered to carry our baby, who I believe is an angel sent from above. Not everyone does this!
I feel hurt and angered at the fact that it’s not my fault I got sick and I can’t have a child the normal way, I don’t see why I should continue being punished financially and emotionally. To have one round of IVF it cost us $20,000 and by the time we finish we would have spent $50,000-$60,000. My husband and I are just humble average Australian tax payers. He works fulltime and then some and I work and study when possible. We would like a fair go and not have to feel like we are constantly being discriminated by the law because I was sick. We have never received any assistance despite always paying our taxes, I am appalled!

Like any couple going through the journey of IVF, all they want is a child, but the reality is that they receive a Medicare rebate helping them with the cost of IVF. We are requesting that you put yourself in our shoes and please give us the same rebate as any other couple, we are not asking for anything extra – just to be treated the same.

How much does Surrogacy cost?

So how much does surrogacy cost? Well this depends on a few things? But one thing is certain – it costs a lot!

To give you an understanding of what it costs I will include my own estimated expenses – plus the range other people have advised me. Please note that while some of the below costs are essential some may not be, each surrogacy arrangement is different.

Pre Surrogacy Counselling – $1500-$2000
Legal Advice both surrogate and intending parents – $2000-$5000
Review or draft surrogacy agreement – $1000-$8000
IVF Process (one cycle) – $10,000 – $18,000
Health Insurance for surrogate – $1000-$2500
Life and death insurance for surrogate – $500-$5,000
OB costs – $0 – $5000
Maternity clothes – $0 – $1000
Petrol & Parking – $0-$500
Intending mothers hospital fee – $0 – $5000
Loss of wages for surrogate and / or partner – $0 – $10,000
Post surrogacy counselling – $1000 – $1500
Post surrogacy legals both surrogate and intending parents – $8000 to $20,000

Other costs might be child care for surrogate, house cleaning for the surrogate just depends on what the parties agree to.

I should also say, intending parents are not rich, just people desperate to have children. Most people sell assets, borrow money, or withdraw from their mortgage.

I estimate my own surrogacy to cost between $50,000 to $60,000 and that may not even result in a child.

So a little help from Medicare would go along way.

The Complicated Surrogacy Process – step by step

Given we have so many supporters not familiar with surrogacy, we thought it might be worth while writing a post about the process. Surrogacy is a complicated process and an expensive one at that. So we thought you should know what we go through in order to have our babies.

Before I start here are some common surrogacy terms explained:

· Intending Parents (IPs): Couples looking for a surrogate or who have a surrogate
· Intending Mother (IM): The mother looking for a surrogate or who has a surrogate
· Intending Father (IF): The father looking for a surrogate or who has a surrogate
· Gestational Surrogate (GS): A surrogate who has no biological link to the baby she carries. Either the IPs sperm and eggs are used to make the embryo, donor eggs and sperm or a combination of both.
· Traditional Surrogate (TS): The surrogate uses her own egg but the Ifs sperm or donor sperm.

For surrogacy to be legal in australia it must be altruistic, meaning the surrogate must not be paid for carrying the baby except for her reasonable expenses.

Given this, the biggest hurdle for a couple requiring a surrogate is to find one! It is illegal for a couple to advertise for a surrogate and it is illegal for a surrogate to advertise their services. This makes it very difficult for IPs to find surrogates. A lot of surrogates are IPs sisters, female friends, even their mothers. But for IPs, like us, who don’t have this option, they have to rely on the kindness of strangers.

So how do you find a surrogate? Well thank god for the modern technology, the internet! There are several websites designed for IPs looking for a surrogate and surrogates looking for IPs to meet up. IPs and surrogates need to be careful what they write though as remember its illegal to advertise or make comments designed to encourage surrogates to come forward.
So many IPs post their stories and wait and hope that privately a surrogate will contact them. And that’s basically it. So as you can imagine this is a very difficult process and can take months, even years.

The law states that a surrogate must be over 25 years of age and have had at least one child – although it does say there may be exceptions – whatever they may be.

The law also says a couple must have a medical reason for requiring a surrogate. So contrary to popular belief, surrogacy is not used because the woman is too busy to be pregnant or too vain.

The law also requires IPs and the surrogate and the surrogate’s partner to attend counselling. The counsellor is required to ensure both couples fully understand the process and the issues that may arise during the process. The counsellor must then write a report saying they are comfortable that both couples understand the process.

Both couples are then required to obtain legal advice. This legal advice must include any issues that may arise out of the process. It also ensures both couples understand that the surrogate and the surrogates partner are legally the baby’s parents. This means that it is completely up to the surrogate to give up the child to the IPs. Basically if the surrogate decides to keep the child there is not a lot the IPs can do except to start a legal case.

But on the other hand, there is also the possibility that the IPs can change their mind and decide not to take the child. So the legal advice covers all this sort of stuff – ensures everyone knows of what could go wrong.

Once the legal advice is obtained an agreement must be drawn up between the couples. The law does not state what must be in this agreement – which is a strange thing. The only thing the law does say is that the agreement is not enforceable. Weird right? What’s the point of it then? Well who knows really? But I guess it is a good opportunity for both couples to put down in writing what they expect from the process.

Probably the main thing that’s in most agreements is what costs the IPs will cover. Whilst it is illegal for the IPs to pay the surrogate, the law states that the IPs must pay all reasonable expenses incurred by the surrogate. So reasonable expenses might include – legal and counselling fees, medical fees, parking, petrol, life insurance, death insurance, health insurance, maternity clothes, drugs, loss of wages, required child care etc etc. Basically anything the surrogate might have to pay for to get pregnant or whilst pregnant or recovering from giving birth the IPs must pay for. But what is deemed reasonable to one surrogate and IPs might be different to others.

Once all this is taken care of the IVF process starts. The IVF process is the same as any other IVF process, they take the IMs eggs (or donor eggs), take the IFs sperm (or donor sperm), put the two together and then hopefully create some embryos. One (or two in some cases) embryo is then transferred to the surrogate who will hopefully get pregnant. As you are aware Medicare does not assist in any of the costs related to the IVF process.

Of course the IVF process could take one go or it could take multiple times.

Once the surrogate is pregnant Medicare and the health funds come to the party. A surrogate is considered as any other pregnant woman. Basically it is not recognised as a surrogacy. Given this the surrogate has full control over the pregnancy and makes all decisions relating to the prenatal care. Generally though the surrogate and IPs work together on the process.
Once the surrogate has the baby, the surrogate will hopefully hand over the baby to the IPs. The IPs then must wait 28 days but no more than 6 months to apply for a parentage order. This basically changes the legal parents from the surrogate and her partner to the IPs. The birth certificate is changed to reflect this change. Both parties must consent to the parentage orders.

Prior to the parentage orders being granted, both couples must attend more counselling. The counsellor must ensure that both parties are ok with the process and the granting of the parentage orders are in the best interest of the child. And yep another report needs to be drawn up.

And that’s the end of the process! As you can see it is a long and stressful process for all involved.

Of course I have only just touched on the mechanics of it. Between all the steps a lot of bonding occurs between the surrogate, her partner and the IPs. I have not attempted to touch on the emotional part of it.

Anyway I hope this explains the process for everyone. Please feel free to ask me questions and for those experienced in the process, if I have missed anything let me know and I will update.

Janelle’s Story

In 2008 my husband and I experienced the heartache of miscarriage. My doctor told me that it was most likely due to fibroids and that I needed to consider surgery. We tried to fall pregnant again over the next 12 months without success. As it was, I didn’t know how I would handle a second miscarriage anyway so in 2009 I had the surgery to remove the fibroids but there were too many. My doctor told me he stopped counting after 100 and then had to stop removing them altogether as it would risk the viability of my uterus. Even after the surgery, there were still so many tiny fibroids that the walls of my uterus looked like rice bubbles. Since 2009 we have undergone more treatment to shrink the fibroids and six IVF cycles. Along the way, we have been able to create some beautiful little embyros but the bottom line is that I just don’t have a good enough uterus to keep them in.

After our last IVF cycle, my husband and I sat down and discussed our options. We considered stopping altogether and not having a family, but neither of us were willing to go that way. And so the other option was surrogacy. We weighed up the financial cost and what it is going to mean for us. At the end of the day we decided that the chance of having a beautiful baby in our arms was worth it and we couldn’t give up before we had tried everything. But the financial impact of surrogacy will affect us for the rest of our lives. It will mean that I will have to go back to work a lot sooner after the birth than I otherwise would want to. It means we won’t be able to afford to buy a home in the next few years. It means our baby won’t have everything we would like to give them, but they will have a loving, dedicated mother and father who want that child in their lives more than anything else in the world.

I am so blessed that surrogacy is an option for us and that we have a wonderful surrogate who I cannot thank enough. But it’s not an easy option. I’ve grieved the loss of not being able to carry a baby myself and we have had to make some serious financial decisions. But by removing the discrimination in the Medicare Legislation, my husband and I will be able to start our long hoped for family, like so many other Australians, without the additional crushing expense. It won’t lessen the emotional impact of not being able to carry your own child but it will mean that the child is born into a family not burdened with added debt, over and above the usual cost of bring a new life into the world.