What it is really like to go through a surrogate pregnancy.
What is the most special gift you could give to a family member? The gift of parenthood. In March of this year, Laura Turner did just that for her brother and his girlfriend when she gave birth to their baby after a surrogate pregnancy. Surrogacy is something that not many people talk about, so when Laura agreed to share her amazing story with us we felt very privileged to have insight in to such a personal process. It is clear that Laura is a natural mother, and super hero sister. Read her moving and inspiring account of surrogacy below.
In March this year, I gave birth to my fourth baby. But this time everything was different, I was a surrogate and the baby was my nephew.
I grew up in a large family - I had two brothers and lots of cousins. I always knew I wanted a big family so that my children could experience the kind of fun that I had when I was younger. My husband, on the other hand, wasn’t so keen and after our second daughter, we decided that was it, no more children.
There are only seventeen months between our daughters and for a long time, it was all about survival! It was pretty full on and I’d even come to accept that maybe two would be fine for me too. The reality of raising children as opposed to being a child was all too real.
Then one day, after a charity bike ride, my husband announced he wanted a third child. By this time our girls were five and six and life had just started to ease a little. I had been running my own business at the time for about two years but I had a good team and felt like I could do it. I didn’t take much convincing and pretty much nine months later, our son came along.
Pregnancy was a breeze - made all the easier because the girls were at school. I was still nervous about the birth but was determined to be positive and soon discovered hypnobirthing. I can honestly say, it changed my life.
I’ve never been one for group classes so decided to get a book, download the MP3 and teach myself. When I went into labour I was so confident that my body knew what to do that it all happened perfectly. It was quick, calm and totally in control. It was the most incredible experience. I couldn’t believe how elated I felt after giving birth and the following hours and days to come.
He turned out to be a dream baby and I was totally smug. I had done it. I’d had a third baby and he’d completely slotted into our lives as if he’d always been there.
It made me realise that this was something I was pretty good at. Three pregnancies, not one health issue and three natural births. I was so, so lucky.
Despite having two brothers, my children were my parents' only grandchildren and they still didn’t have any cousins. My youngest brother and his girlfriend were ready to have a baby and although they could conceive, she was not able to carry babies.
We felt like our family was so complete and having been such a textbook case with my pregnancies and giving birth, it felt like a no-brainer to offer myself to be the carrier.
There was just one thing. I really didn’t enjoy being pregnant but I also knew it was short term. A short-term inconvenience for a lifetime of happiness and I was determined that they would have a child and my children would have a cousin!
In December 2016, I made the offer and in January 2017 we started the process. One of my conditions was that we got it underway as soon as possible. They had completed their IVF the summer before and had frozen embryos ready to go.
Like any IVF process, I had the usual hormones that prepared my body to receive an embryo. The first was transferred in March and sadly I miscarried a few weeks later. A couple of months later we try again and this time success! We had weekly scans as very early on the embryo was showing signs of abnormalities. This was a really difficult time for us all. But as each week went past, and tests revealed everything was ok we started to relax a bit more.
I have to admit, a fourth pregnancy was tough. Mostly because I was running a business and also running after a one-year-old. The rest of the pregnancy carried on as usual - no extra checkups or appointments. It really didn’t feel any different to my other pregnancies. My daughters had seen me pregnant before and just thought it was something mummy did - they also understood this baby was going to their uncle and auntie. It was straightforward for them and I’m sure my little boy didn’t even notice!
My husband and I took great satisfaction in not having to prepare for a baby coming along. We could leave all that to my brother and his girlfriend. They live locally so we saw them a lot and the concept of having this baby and handing it over to them was absolutely the only thing on my mind.
This baby wasn’t mine - he was biologically theirs, so there was no part of me felt like I was ‘giving up’ or ‘giving away’ a baby.
He was never mine in the first place. I was growing him and then giving him back to them.
So in the middle of March when the snow came, my waters broke and I went into labour. I’d been religiously doing my hypnobirthing training and was confident that I could do it all again.
There was quite meticulous planning that went into the birth as of course there could have been any number of scenarios. But we always planned that they would be there for the birth and they were.
It went like clockwork and just like two of my own, my nephew was born in the water after a short labour and handed straight to his parents. I had done it and it was all over.
The days and weeks that followed were definitely harder than I had imagined. There wasn’t one part of me that wanted the baby or felt like he belonged to me. I was very happy being able to sleep through the night! My overwhelming feeling was loss. The loss of a very special situation and connection.
When you spend every moment with someone for nine whole months, feeling them move and getting to know them and then one day they’re not there it’s like a void. Not to mention postpartum hormones.
None of these feelings come close to the elation of giving them a family though. I see them all the time and I have so enjoyed the past few months watching them adapt to being a family and seeing my children being big cousins.
As time has passed and I’ve found an equilibrium I now feel like I’m back to myself again. It was a very special thing to have done and now it’s time to enjoy my family. And no, I won’t be having any more!
If Laura's story has affected you, or you are interested in learning more about the surrogacy process in the UK, visit surrogacyuk.org for more information and advice.