“Womb for Rent” – The beginning of a surrogacy journey
Today’s blog is one of my favourite to date, because it’s featuring one of the most inspirational mothers I know, Michelle!
Michelle and I met years ago at a nightclub we were both working at, however we both ended up leaving the industry to start our young families and we’ve loved watching each others families grow with the help of social media since. In June 2016, Michelle announced that she was looking for Intended Parents (IP) in Perth to start her Gestational Surrogacy journey. When I saw Michelle’s post I was filled with so much pride for her! I cannot even begin to fathom how selfless and generous she must be to make such a decision! It was honestly something I’d never considered doing myself, and I’ve soon found out that I really didn’t know much about surrogacy at all.
Michelle and I both hope that this blog post can spread some awareness for surrogacy in Australia, and hopefully even find her Intended Parents! Thank you so much for giving your time to educate us all on a subject that means so much to you Michelle x
The struggles some couples go through are so heartbreaking that I can’t just stand by without helping someone.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
Hello! I’m Michelle, a 25 year old wife and mummy of two; Leilani (aged 3) and Isaac (18 months). My life now revolves around motherhood, pregnancy and birth and it’s been the most rewarding journey I’ve ever experienced. I’ve recently trained as a Doula and hope to be a surrogate this year so I am knees deep in baby making, birthing and raising!
How did your surrogacy journey begin?
I’ve always loved the idea of carrying a baby for another couple but never seriously thought about it until having my own babies. After having Isaac I truly felt my family was complete but I still yearned to go through another pregnancy and after talking about it to Trent (my husband) for so long I thought that I should actually do something about it. So I joined a handful of surrogacy facebook groups and finally put myself out there. As I learnt more about surrogacy in Australia I grew more passionate and haven’t looked back since! Motherhood has been the best thing to ever happen to me and I couldn’t imagine not being able to have my own children. The struggles some couples go through are so heartbreaking that I can’t just stand by without helping someone.
Surely you must have really enjoyed your own two pregnancies if you’re willing to do it for someone else?
I’ve been very lucky and have had two great pregnancies and two great births. My first pregnancy was in fact so breezy that I didn’t even know I was pregnant till 22 weeks!! I’ve figured that if my body can handle pregnancy and birth so well, why not share it with someone else.
Is there certain criteria you have to meet in order to be a surrogate?
In Australia it varies from state to state but most of them require you to be over 25, have at least one child of your own and preferably have completed your own family in case something happens during a surrogacy and you can’t have any more children. There is also a lengthy process of counseling to ensure a surrogate and the Intending Parents are in the right frame of mind and on the same page before committing to a surrogacy agreement.
Is there money involved?
In Australia it is illegal to be paid to be a surrogate. A surrogacy agreement must be completely altruistic. However the Intended Parents cover all of the medical expenses and anything pregnancy related (e.g. maternity clothes, etc) so the surrogate is not out of pocket. It is also illegal to pay to advertise yourself as a surrogate. Personally I think these laws are the reasons why many couples are turning to overseas surrogacy agreements. In WA it is also illegal to carry for a same sex couple which makes my blood boil. But that is a whole other issue!
Could you run us through the surrogate journey from start to finish? Who contacts who? Is there an agency or lawyers involved in the process? How involved are the Intended Parents during the pregnancy?
Surrogacy is a lifelong journey that takes a lot of time, patience and love. I am still looking for the perfect IP couple as my last agreement didn’t work out unfortunately, so this is my basic understanding of it all. I hope to experience these steps in the near future!
Finding a surrogate and IP match can be a real process in itself. Putting yourself out there (on forums, facebook pages or to family and friends) is the best start. Once you’re known as a hopeful surrogate, IP couples will usually contact you and you can go from there. It’s been so hard to turn away many couples who didn’t fit my “criteria”. I’ve been looking for an IP couple who live in Perth and do not have children of their own yet. Once you’ve found a couple you may be interested in, it is best to get to know them well before offering your womb. Many surrogates have told me it’s like dating again and can take months. This step should be taken very seriously as you will hopefully make lifelong friends and share a bond with your couple like nothing else.
When you have offered to be their surrogate you would then dive into the counseling process which usually takes around 3 months. The surrogate and her partner do separate counseling, then the IP couple do their own counseling and finally all four come together for the final counseling session. In this time it is made sure that everyone is on the same page about everything, from the pregnancy, birth to raising the child.
After you’ve been cleared from the counselor you will then go on to see lawyers and have contracts drawn up. This is the legal document again covering all the fine details about the agreement. Once that is done, depending on your state, you will go on to a patient review board that will again go over your agreement with each individual and give you the go ahead.
During this time, if they haven’t done so already, the IPs will start their IVF treatment. This step can take a few months if not done prior. After the egg collection and insemination the embryos go into quarantine. Once the quarantine period is over and you’ve been cleared by all counselors and lawyers you can set a date for the transfer (of the embryo into the surrogate). After the transfer there is a 2 week wait to see if the pregnancy has stuck. When the pregnancy has been confirmed it is full steam ahead!
The IP couple can be involved in the pregnancy and birth as much as agreed upon between both parties. From what I’ve read and heard, a relationship between a surrogate and an IP couple (in Australia) is like no other and they share each step together. Because surrogacy in Australia is altruistic and no money is involved the relationship must be built on trust and understanding. Hopefully the relationship is more of a partnership rather than a service. In my case, I hope to have a close relationship with my IPs and if they wish to be at all of the doctors appointments I’m more than happy for them to come. As for the birth, I definitely would not let them miss it! Hospitals usually do not have an issue with a surrogacy birth and having both partners welcome. For me, I hope for a home birth so that every one is able to be present, as well as a birth photographer and doula, without space being an issue.
Once the baby is born, they usually place the baby onto the surrogates chest to help with stimulating the baby and coping with the shock of birth. When things have calmed down a bit the surrogate can then hand the baby straight over to the Intended Mother or Father. Although this may not be the case. When there is a cesarean involved it usually handed straight to the IP couple. But it is usually right after birth when the baby is given to the IPs.
One very cool thing I’ve learnt is that an Intended Mother can take a supplement to help bring her own milk in so that she can breastfeed. Of course for my own situation I hope to pump as much as I can and donate to the IPs (if they wish to accept) as well as the NICU at King Edwards.
Do you worry that you will get attached to the baby?
This is the question I get asked the most. And to put it bluntly, no. I have chosen to be a gestational surrogate (so my egg is not used) therefore I will have no DNA connection to the baby. I will simply be the oven. Of course I will always have a connection with the baby but I hope for an Aunty – Niece/Nephew connection and not a motherly one. Going into the agreement knowing this will make it easier to separate those feelings. I have absolutely no intention of mothering any more children. I can’t wait to hand over the baby to my Intended Parents and watch them create their own parent – child bond.
Would you still be involved with the baby post birth, or is it strictly no contact?
After the birth the surrogate can be involved as much as the Intended Parents wish (this is all stated in the counseling and legal document phases). But usually the relationship is still close and the bond is like extended family members with regular updates about baby.
How does your husband feel about it?
He’s been so incredibly supportive that it’s made me so much more excited to start this process. Of course he has his worries just like any partner would but he knows it’s something I desperately want to do so he’s always got my back!
And how will you explain it to the kids? Will they be old enough to understand?
I’m very open with my kids about everything (whether they understand or not 😂) so this will be no exception. I’ve already explained to my daughter about birth and she knows babies come out vaginas so I hope she can be involved in this process too. I’ve started to tell her that I want to grow a baby for someone else but I don’t think it will click until it’s actually happening. I do hope she can be there for the birth too if the situation allows it. My son however is still a bit young to know what is going on. But I will definitely fill him in when he is old enough to understand. I don’t think you’ll ever be able to shut me up about surrogacy, even after my own surrogacy ends!
Last question! What is your coffee order?
Ideally a cappuccino with two sugars but these days it seems to be a cold cup of nescafé that I keep forgetting about! 😂
TO CONTACT MICHELLE:
If you wish to contact Michelle regarding surrogacy or anything Doula related, please shoot her a message directly to her doula Facebook page: