Heated discussions on IVF, embryo freezing and surrogacy have dominated the local media for months, but one new family wanted to give an honest and intimate look at what the process of surrogacy was really like from start to finish. This is their story.
My husband and I are a couple living in Malta who has been through it all to have kids. The final stage on our long journey was to turn to surrogacy. Both of us were fertile, but did not have the natural means to have children, so we had to find an egg donor and a gestational surrogate to make our dream a reality.
Before getting into the details of the procedure, we are excited to announce that today we are blessed with a healthy child who brings much joy to our lives, as well as to our friends and families. All of us now get to experience the happiness a child so loved is able to give and receive back.
Admittedly, at the start of the process I had mixed feelings about surrogacy and the fear that we were ‘exploiting’ women was a genuine concern. Tabloid stories of surrogate mothers who have a sudden change of heart go viral and unfortunately become the basis for policymakers who argue that surrogacy is immoral and should be made illegal. But as with most things, a little research and a lot of understanding goes a long way.
Through the power of social media we found groups where would-be parents and surrogate mothers talk openly and honestly about their experiences. Slowly we began to realise there are women out there who love being pregnant but not necessarily want to be part of these children’s lives.
Some women even felt they their purpose in life was to give families who couldn’t the possibility of having a child.
At this point you’re probably dying to ask: “Why didn’t you just go for adoption? There are so many children who would love a home.” A fair question, but my reply will always be: “Why does no ask this question to a pregnant couple whose child is biologically theirs?”
The second, follow-up question also has an easy answer. Yes, these women who offer to be surrogates are often generously compensated, an arrangement which is important and regulated by very specific laws.
Choosing a surrogate is more than skimming through a MaltaPark page and picking at random. It’s a long process of selection, and even after you’ve made a decision on who you’d like as a surrogate, they have to want to carry a child for you. The decision must be mutual, and the whole process is managed by an overseas agency.
All these factors combined show how unfair it is to state that the women’s womb is being treated as a simple commodity. It’s also unfair to insinuate that the child will have a problematic up bring. If a couple is ready to face all sorts of obstacles to bring a child into this world, imagine how committed and able these parents are to ensure that the child is brought up in the most loving way possible.
“Our story started with two heavy disappointments.”
In our case, the surrogate mother to be is married to another woman, and that they together raise two pre-teen kids who are biologically related to the surrogate mother (Surro). This was going to be her first surrogacy experience and was happy to do it for a couple who could not have children naturally. The wife of the surrogate, as well as the children, were informed and supportive of her doing this.
Following our first online meeting organised through the agency, we ended the call and each had to decide whether we’d like to proceed with the journey together or not. After a painfully slow couple of days waiting to hear from the agency, we finally received the ‘yes’ we were hoping for.
Once the surrogate agrees, the legal and contractual obligations kick in in the form of a heavily worded contract. As the parents, we paid both our legal fees, and those of the surrogate… and the costs were exorbitant to say the least. Soon after the contract is drawn up the medical process starts. In our case the entire process took roughly 15 months before she became successfully pregnant.
Our story started with two heavy disappointments. After flying the surrogate overseas (together with her wife), booking accommodation for them and paying for all clinical expenses, lost wages and child care fees the first attempted implant was unsuccessful.
As soon as it was safe for her to try again we repeated the process, and the costs, but the second attempt was also an unsuccessful one. We were extremely disappointed, and the surrogate herself was also hurt, feeling like she had completely let us down.
At this point I was ready to call it a day. We had tried everything we could but it wasn’t working. Thankfully my husband is a hard-headed piece of work, and because we are lucky enough to have the financial means to do so, we gave it one final shot.
“If I knew exactly what we would be groing through, I would have probably refused to believe we were capable to handle it all.”
Perhaps there’s some truth to ‘third time lucky’, because on this final attempt one of the five healthy embryos transferred actually managed to develop. There are no words to describe the excitement we felt that our life-changing journey was about to begin.
During the pregnancy, we kept each other in the loop through Facebook and the slew of medical and personal bills that kept coming our way. It was a nerve-wrecking experience, especially for my husband who is a micro-manager, to not be physically present throughout it all, making sure she was eating the right food and not stressing herself too much.
On the other hand it was also a test of faith in humanity for us. The fact that the surrogate was a very calm and composed woman made life a little bit easier.
Her due date grew closer, and 10 days before she was expecting we landed in her country. Her life kept going as it always had; she went to work, took care of her kids, and visited the gynae, but this time with us in tow.
If waiting for a day felt like an age back in Malta, it now felt like each hour lasted even longer than that. The due date came and left, but the baby wasn’t ready to come out.
These new levels of anticipation went on for an entire extra week. After a whole day waiting for the induced birth to kick in, the hospital informed us that her water broke at 10:00pm. The whole thing was an experience we will never forget.
My husband cried and I stood there in pure bewilderment as we were asked to cut the umbilical chord. A miracle had just taken place right infront of our eyes.
At this point most families would be able to spend some quality time relaxing with and showering their child with love. But for us, things were a little more complicated. We had to be the ones to register the birth, transfer guardianship to us through a Court Order and make arrangements for the newborn’s passport so that we can travel back home. While hoping to be home two weeks after the birth, we were advised by the paediatrician to wait for four, allowing time for all vaccinations.
Arriving back in Malta with friends and family nervously waiting to greet our new child was the most overwhelming feeling I have ever felt in my entire life. Even writing this now is making my throat burn and my eyes well up. It felt like all the stress and anxiety which was bottling up inside of me had to to be released all at once.
If I knew exactly what we would be groing through, I would have probably refused to believe we were capable to handle it all. But this little and seemingly fragile child of ours gave us the strength that we never thought we had.
This little child of ours is growing by the day. Soon they will ask questions we’ll gladly answer. We are not afraid of how the child will look at us because they will know how loved they are.
Our child’s creation was done with the help of science, but he was born out of love.