Who are we, and why do we need surrogacy?

 

Age 35 : Survived cancer twice. Now in remission and wants a family. No children.
Age 36 : Severe fibrosis followed by multiple failed IVF cycles. Dr. confirmed that the patient would be unable to fall pregnant when she was 35. No children.
Age 31: Emergency hysterectomy aged 26 as a result of eclampsia/organ failure/hemorrhage during childbirth. One child aged 4.
Age 34: Severe post-partum hemorrhage and uterine inversion resulting in emergency hysterectomy at 34. Still 34 now with one six month old baby.
Age 38: Rare blood clotting disorder that causes deep vein thrombosis when pregnant. 3 failed pregnancies, each resulting in massive clotting with risk of stroke, heart attack, death. Began trying for children at 29. Recently recommended for surrogacy after another failed pregnancy and blood clotting episode. No children.
Age 40: Autoimmune disorder, antiphospholipid antibody syndrome. This caused the death of two of three boys (pregnancies). Now has a mechanical mitral valve after 2 open heart surgeries and is on warfarin which is counter-indicated for pregnancy. One child aged 4.
Age 34: Heart-double lung transplant recipient age 24 required due to developing pulmonary hypertension and right heart failure which resulted from a ventricle septal defect at birth. Risks of carrying a child include birth defects, very high risk of miscarriage, kidney failure, very pre-term delivery. No children.
Age 30: Cardiomyopathy (heart failure). Patient is healthy on drug therapy but cannot carry a child as she will have a heart attack or stroke and most certainly will die. Additionally the drugs are also not compatible with a developing baby. 21yrs old at age of diagnoses. Have been trying a number of options to have a baby for the past 4 years. No children.
Age 38. Heart transplant at age 26 due to a virus. No children but surrogate currently 9 weeks pregnant and all looking good for a birth due 26th November.
Age 35: Born without uterus. MRKH syndrome. Diagnosed at 17. No children.
Age 29: Hormone positive breast cancer at age of 26, had a mastectomy, did chemo, hercepton and radiotherapy. Cannot risk a pregnancy because of high chance of recurrence and on breast cancer medications that cause deformities when pregnant.
Age 35: Marfan Syndrome. Open heart surgery at 32 to replace aortic valve and entire ascending aorta. Life long warfarin therapy which is counter-indicated for pregnancy. Twin boys now aged 3 yrs born through surrogacy at age 35 on 4th and final attempt.
Age 27: Numerous clots. Clotting disorders- Antiphospholipid syndrome, prothrombin gene mutation g20210a and lupus. Age 16 when first diagnosed. No children.
Age 35: Emergency hysterectomy at 35 during childbirth. Have 10yo and 3yo sons. Did IVF for 6 years to have 2nd son (genetic condition means only 1 out of 8 eggs are viable). “Our daughter is in heaven”.
Age 30: Diagnosed with rare autoimmune disease (Takaysu’s Arteritis) at age 24. Waiting for open heart surgery and will be on medication that is counter-indicated for pregnancy. No children.
Age 32: MRKH Syndrome born without a uterus. Diagnosed at 17yrs. First gestational surrogacy attempt at 30yrs resulting in 1 child (now 22mths), lost her twin. Second attempt lost baby at 17wks.
Age 29: MRKH Syndrome diagnosed at 16 age. No children.
Age 42: MRKH Syndrome diagnosed at age 6. Not only not a full kidney but no uterus, no fallopian tubes, no cervix but thankfully has ovaries so did IVF last year & have 6 embryos ‘on ice’.
Age 27: Breast cancer, recurrence in lymph nodes when pregnant with son at 26 years old. The cancer was estrogen receptive, so doctors advised to not get pregnant again and that removal of the ovaries was a good idea to lower the estrogen to ensure no more recurrences. Full hysterectomy. One 8 month old child.

“Why don’t you just adopt?” – Questions asked of surrogacy patients

So often on the path to surrogacy, well-meaning people ask “Why don’t you just adopt?” This question, while well intentioned, shows a certain naivety about the process of adoption including the incredible challenges, costs and complexity.

Medicareless interviewed Arielle, a mother from surrogacy, who first looked into adoption carefully before going down the surrogacy path. Here is her story.

BUBS!

Arielle’s beautiful sons from surrogacy in India

What medical reason do you have for needing to look into adoption or surrogacy?

We started to try to fall pregnant in 2005 and expected the ‘happy accident’ to occur naturally. The years passed and we realised something was wrong so we saw a fertility specialist who announced that we were ‘infertile’ simply because after a year of trying, at my age (32), we should have been pregnant already.

Did you try to fall pregnant yourself? What happened?

We started the IVF journey not longer after this bombshell was dropped on us. And then we tried and tried again for the next 6 years. We were never given a reason for it not working, I just simply couldn’t get past the 2 week mark after each transfer. And with every attempt came the devastating realisation that we were not successful and that with time ticking away things would only get harder. I suffered so much pain and grief during this time. So much soul-destroying confusion and despondence. People kept telling me to be positive and keep trying. And somehow, after each round of IVF and the grief that followed, I always got back on the horse and tried again. Physically, psychologically, spiritually – I was crushed. Adoption was always in the back of my mind as a road we’d go down when the time was right, but as you are not ‘allowed’ to be undergoing IVF when applying for adoption, I needed to wait until I was ready to stop trying to have my own baby. This is in itself was a huge step to take – to let go of falling pregnant, experiencing motherhood in the ‘normal’ way, and seeing a child grow up that came from within me and looked like me.

When did you first think of looking at adopting?

It certainly wasn’t when people – who knew our pain – would flippantly remark “Why don’t you JUST adopt”! This started happening in the first year of our IVF journey and it was simply insulting. Even after 6 years of IVF I wasn’t quite ready to look into adoption. I still had some hope of carrying our child and -not even realising just how hard it would be -adoption still felt like a very hard ‘other’ road to travel.

What was it that attracted you to adoption?

After all that we’d been through in the better part of the last decade, we decided that adoption would be a better option than putting ourselves through more tortuous rounds of IVF. I thought logically that if we followed the steps given to us to adopt, did the courses, reading, interviews etc we’d end up with a child or children within a few years and finally have the family we yearned for. We also felt that it would be a wonderful thing to bring a needy child or sibling group into a loving family. We had so much love to give and so many years of parenting that had been preparing for – we felt so ready to adopt after 7 years of failing to start a family the natural or IVF way.

Describe the adoption process.

We first had to wait for the introductory seminars to proceed. That was the first chapter of waiting. So we decided – ok let’s adopt! And then found out it was 4 months until the first seminar was to be held. We waited patiently. We attended the seminar with open eyes, ears and hearts and met many other hopeful ‘intending parents’. The coordinators were very empathetic but warned us that the adoption route could be extremely challenging and that only a small percentage of people would get to the finish line, mainly because of the time and commitment it took to go through the process. We did not yet have an inkling that the challenges would mostly be due to the small number of children that are placed in Australian families (from overseas). We were advised to choose overseas adoption as Australian children are mostly fostered into known families. And we were only able to select one country to adopt from. We were told that this country may change it’s relationship with Australia at any point and close the adoption program. So to keep reading up on current laws and changes in case it affected our chosen country’s program.

We then proceeded with the interview process. This went on for a year and cost over $10K. We would rush out from work to meet with the social worker who would investigate everything about us and our lives and intentions for the adopted child. We were told to be prepared to move house, learn a new language, attend picnics with other adoption families, travel to and from the child’s country of origin and blend aspects of their culture with ours. We had to be prepared to be open with the child about their origins when the time was right. We understood why they asked of us these commitments…and we were more than willing to compromise in every way we could if it meant we could have a child of our own.

We also had to learn about an excruciating check-list of ailments, ‘defects’ and historical matters (such as incest, addiction, abuse) to let the program managers know that we were prepared to live an adopted child that could have any number of debilitating illnesses, deformities or social impairments. We were told that the less boxes ticked the less chance we’d have of being matched with a child, so we ticked them all.

Around that time we also had to give up notions of adopting a baby. At our age (38 by then) our best chances lay in putting our names down for older children (4+) who were more likely to have had a background of abuse or neglect. So we ticked away, hoping for a small miracle,  and hoping that we’d be matched with a relatively healthy, and if possible, happy child. Unfortunately, we knew the chances of this were very slight. Still, we forged ahead, knowing that we would cope with no matter what or who came our way. We were by that point simply desperate to hold and love a child as our own.

So when did you start looking into surrogacy?
We were towards the end of the adoption interview process which had taken about a year and was already very costly both financially and in terms of time. Friends we’d met through the adoption seminars had already been to an Indian Surrogacy Clinic (that I’d also seen featured on the ABC’s Insight program earlier in the year, when surrogacy was still a strange concept that ‘other people’ did but certainly not us!) and within a couple of months after returning home – they had announced they were pregnant with their surrogate. I had been to India 12 year’s prior on a soul searching adventure and had a great affinity with the country and people. And although we were still a little freaked out by the concept of surrogacy, we began to normalise it via the hundreds of questions we asked of our friends plus some online forums and groups I joined. As the adoption interviews neared the end we found out that our country of choice had a wait list of about 1-2 years to GET ON the actual wait list for child placements (being only 10 or so placements per year from this country!) And THEN the long 3-6+ year would begin. Not only that, but we were advised to keep checking online for changes in the country’s adoption program as it could close or change at any time and that could impact us immediately. This could mean starting over with another country/program and certainly after a few years with our getting into our mid-40s we’d have to reapply anyway. So given these parameters, at the best of situations, we would be around 45 by the time we had waited the 6 or so years to adopt.

Adoption was, in a nutshell, a host of uncertainty and painstaking waiting whilst enduring daily pangs of childless grief, while we watched our friends come home with a baby via surrogacy. We began to think about hopping on a plane to India and giving surrogacy a go – our final throw of the dice (as it’s been called recently in a Radio National story!)

As we waited for our social worker to go to the loo during our final adoption interview – just before she announced that we were (in the eyes of DOCS) deemed ‘fit’ to be parents’ (!!) – we looked at one another and said “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” – and with a nod and smile we both just said the hushed word INDIA. Within months we were there…the lead up to going was so hectic – juggling work, surrogacy research, finances (the surrogacy was only possible by digging deep into our mortgage savings), visa applications, checking out legal implications and always managing our heavy hearts. At this point and after so much failure we didn’t seriously think surrogacy would work for us. We just needed to tick the box in order to tell ourselves that we’d tried EVERYTHING to achieve our dream to start a family.

On the way to India we decided that this was really it – one trip, one try and then a new journey: hit 40 and create a new enriching life without children. How we’d do that was still a mystery to me, but I knew that I didn’t have any puff left in me after this final – and at the time strange and scary – attempt at starting our family.

How did surrogacy work out for you?

Potty!! 042

Finally, we have the family we’ve always dreamed of and feel especially lucky to have been blessed with twin boys Leo and Noah who are now 6.5 months and thriving. We feel proud of ourselves for having undertaken the surrogacy route especially with all the strangeness and fears that it presented to us. In the end, we realise that by taking matters into our own hands this way and taking a few risks fulfilled on our dream to have a family in a much shorter time than adoption would have. Much as we would have loved to embrace a child from another country with our love and create a family this way, the Australian programs just make it seem so out of reach and near impossible to succeed. Surrogacy didn’t give us any guarantees as an option but it did work for us. We’ll forever be grateful for our surrogate and everyone involved who helped us to make this happen.

What would you say to people that say “Just adopt” or “Why don’t you just adopt”

Do some reading! And don’t think that a grieving mother or father-in-waiting is prepared or even able to give up on having their own child so easily. I would say to those with children – imagine if someone took your children away. How would you feel? Would you ‘just adopt’? As this is what it felt like to me – that someone robbed us of having our own children. Adoption was always going to be an option, but the spiritual crisis presented by not being able to have your own child is never going to be repaired by the concept of adopting.

Dr Andrew Pesce: Medicareless petition will get the government to react

Dr Andrew Pesce, former head of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and Jillian Spears, a surrogacy patient, were interviewed by 4BC radio in Brisbane on Monday, 15th April. In the interview, Dr. Pesce agreed that the Medicareless petition to change Medicare laws would get the government to react. The aim of the petition it to provide equal treatment under the law for all IVF patients, including surrogacy.

“The AMA’s position has always been where a procedure is lawful, and it is clinically necessary, the AMA believes that the whole principle of Medicare is to make sure that clinically necessary and lawful services are made available to people that need them. So this would certainly fall into that category,” he said.

The AMA represents the interests of more than 27,000 medical practitioners from all specialties and locations across Australia.

andrew-pesce

Listen the entire interview here

Partial transcript below:
Why no rebate?
“I think it’s just a historical fact, there’s probably been a slow evolution of what technology has been available for people and surrogacy only came into clinical use probably some time after the rebates were set. Governments tend to have a policy that until they make a specific decision that until they are refundable through Medicare then they aren’t. That’s why a lot of new treatments often are outside Medicare rebates. And leaves us in what is quite an anomolous situation.

Wouldn’t surrogacy give some women a better option than IVF?

There is no doubt that for some women their only option is surrogacy……Now I have to say I wasn’t available to listen to your discussion with Jillian so I have absolutely no background to her medical illness and story.

Well basically due to illness, her, and her other friends, well, she lost her womb.

Well obviously, she can’t carry a baby so there is no option for her other than there being a surrogate to carry the embryo on her behalf if she was able to donate eggs to be fertilized with her partner’s semen. So for her it is the only option.

For various other people, normally most couples would try very, very hard and exhaust all possibilities of carrying their own babies themselves, and only consider surrogacy if it seems to be the only option left available to them.

It seems really expensive doesn’t it. I mean, the average cost of a legal surrogacy is around $60,000.

In which country are you talking?

Obviously here in Australia.

So, I am not involved in the fertility industry. I guess this is in addition to the normal IVF costs, I guess it is because you need to pay for the time and pain and other things associated with the other things of having another person having a baby on your behalf. Look, I am not sure how those costs have evolved, but it certainly does sound expensive.

As the former AMA president, would you see with this petition, that there’s potential that the government may react at last and that the government may do something about this and provide some kind of rebate?

Oh, yes, I think so. The AMA’s position has always been where a procedure is lawful, and it is clinically necessary, the AMA believes that the whole principle of Medicare is to make sure that clinically necessary and lawful services are made available to people that need them. So this would certainly fall into that category.

There are some other times when surrogacy might be requested where there isn’t a medical necessity for it. Let’s just say for argument’s sake there was a woman who was too busy in her career to take the time off to become pregnant and wanted someone else to carry her baby. I think some people might say there are some examples where we could think that we don’t that taxpayer dollars are necessarily best invested. But I think that most people would agree when it’s the only option available for a couple that are desperate to have children, I think most people would be comfortable with Medicare covering it.

Our Ms. Amazing has found us :) We have a surrogate!!!!!

One of the members of our community has some good news to share! She has just found a woman willing to carry a baby for her. That part of the struggle over, now she will be facing the IVF clinics, counselors, lawyers and more. Support her by following her journey, and say congratulations while you are over at her blog!

thesiblingprojectblog

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Words simply cannot describe the emotions running through my bones at the moment. I have never been so in awe of someone in my entire life. To offer the gift of life for someone else, and cherish and take care of that life until when we can take over is nothing but miraculous.

A very spiritual man from India recently gave me some advice. It was a time where I wondered if I should give up. It was a time where I wasn’t entirely sure I had enough left in the tank to continue on with such an emotional and difficult journey. With every high came twenty lows and with it the wonder of whether I could continue on this path. His wise words encouraged me on and it is the reason I am now where I am today.

“Never let the flame of hope go out. With hope in…

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Full circle

We encourage our readers to check out the blog ‘Our Surrogacy’ from one of our great supporters, who has chosen an overseas surrogacy option due to the inability to afford surrogacy in Australia, and the certainty that the law provides in a more experienced setting.

Our Surrogacy

Well it feels a little as though we have come full circle.  We are back to where we started from.  The test result on Tuesday (not Monday – we ended up having to wait an additional excruciating 24 hours…) was negative.   No baby or babies this year.

I have been through a range of feelings over the past few days.  Initially it was raw grief and despair.  It felt as though all the unfairness and sadness and loss was flooding back into my life and I couldn’t stop it.  I had wanted this so much and knew just how perfect it could have been for all of us.  My son was in bed fast asleep when we received the news; I was glad.  The last thing he had said before going to bed was that he had wanted to find out The Result.  In the morning I told him…

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