Episode 17 – Sarah – surrogate
Sarah birthed as a surrogate in Adelaide in March 2023 for a couple who were initially strangers and are now life long friends. She had a little boy, Alfie, for Elle and Luke and made a big brother for Sonny. Sarah met bridesmaid Elle while photographing a wedding while heavily pregnant and also has a son named Sonny.
This episode was recorded in August 2023.
These podcasts were recorded as part of the free webinar series run by Surrogacy Australia. If you would like to attend one, head to this page for dates and registration links. The recording can also be found on our YouTube channel so you can see the photos that are described. Find more podcast episodes here.
The webinars are hosted by Anna McKie who is a gestational surrogate, high school Math teacher and surrogacy educator working with Surrogacy Australia and running SASS (Surrogacy Australia’s Support Service).
Are you an Intended Parent (IP) who is looking to find a surrogate, or a surrogate looking for Intended Parents? Consider joining SASS.
Thanks for watching!
Welcome back, or if this is your first time, thank you so much for taking the time to listen to Surrogacy Australia’s podcast series with me, your host Anna McKie. My guest on this episode was a co-host on the regular webinar series that I run. Those one hour webinars are free and will take you through the surrogacy process in Australia. You will hear from a surrogate or parent and there are opportunities to type in your questions and we will try to answer them.
You can find upcoming dates on our website at surrogacyaustralia.org. This episode, recorded in August 2023, features Sarah. Sarah birthed as a surrogate in Adelaide in March 2023 for a couple who were initially strangers and are now lifelong friends. She had a little boy, Alfie, for parents Ellie and Luke, and made a big brother for Sunny. Sarah met bridesmaid Ellie while photographing a wedding while heavily pregnant and also has a son named Sunny. In this episode, we talked about
partners not being on board at the beginning of a journey, having intended parents, IPs, who anticipate what the surrogate might need as opposed to waiting to be asked, how Sarah’s connection was with her, Ellie, not the baby, and her advice, don’t be afraid to say whatever you think and make sure you talk about everything. I hope you enjoy this episode. Sarah’s joining us and we’re gonna hear about her surrogacy journey. So take us back to the beginning, Sarah. How did you meet?
Ellie, the mum that you eventually carried for, and why did you want to be a surrogate in the first place? Well, I guess I’ll start with, as you said, she was a bridesmaid in a wedding I shot. I remember seeing her and just thinking, wow, she’s such a beautiful Zen mum, and she had this little toddler called Sunny, and I also have a Sunny, and they were nine days apart. She was a teacher, and I also used to be a teacher, and I just thought, wow, we’ve got these similarities. And then 12 months passed, she popped up on my radar again through my sister’s business, who I was working for at the time.
And she just lost Lenny, gave birth to Lenny and he was only 21 weeks, so he didn’t survive. And I was asked to organize some food and a care package for her and I just thought, oh my gosh, I recognize her. She’s from this wedding I shot. And then after Frida was born, my fourth, I just had this thought like, I want to give birth again. I love birth. And I always joke to all my friends and family, if you don’t want to have your baby, I’ll do it for you. Yeah.
Me too, I remember saying it from high school. Yeah, and it was never something I invested time into, you know, looking into it or really took too seriously. I just, I would have done it, but I never really thought it would happen. So then I think it was a couple of months after Lenny was born, Ellie had put a post on Instagram.
just on her Instagram page, which I wasn’t following at the time. I didn’t, and it was just saying that they’ve come to Thames with that she can’t carry a baby and they’re going to look into Surrogacy and my sister’s green-shotted that post and send it to me. And I just straight away, I just knew it was going to happen. I said, I’m doing this, this is going to happen. And I don’t know how it’s just going to happen. And I just knew this overwhelming feeling of knowing that was going to, the outcome was going to be me having their baby. Yeah. Had no idea what to do or how to do it, but.
probably our story is different to most because it wasn’t really both of us, you know, parallel going on this journey, trying to find each other. It just kind of happened really quickly. The two things I want to say there is that you speak of it like I’ve heard many surrogates speak about it. It’s almost a calling.
You just first of all always thought you’d be one. And then when you, this, you know, post came up with Ellie, you just felt, you just knew something was really right about that. And I think listen to those signs. I think that’s, that’s some good advice there. So, but I think, you know, if three out of four teams, 75%, three out of four teams do already know each other beforehand. That’s how IPs find surrogates by putting the word out there and saying, we need somebody. And it was through your sister who was following her. That’s how they find each other. Your textbook case there.
Yeah, exactly. And that’s, I think she’s a big advocate for just putting it out there. That’s the first step is to just, cause you don’t know who’s out there that you know, that’s just waiting or have been thinking about it, but not told anyone. So yeah, that’s her big piece of advice too, is just to let everyone know that’s what you’re thinking about.
I had her on last night and if people like to get Ellie’s episode, you can listen to that on the YouTube recording or the podcast that I’ve now started. Yes, and so then you initiated the contact and started to sort of build up that friendship. Is that how it worked? It felt like when you start dating someone and you message them, I think you’re like, are they going to date? What if you wait days to hear it? That’s really funny because obviously we weren’t friends on Instagram, so it had to start.
for a week or more in her requests and I was panicking. And so I messaged the bride, the wedding I shot, and I was like, hey, can you please let Ellie know I’ve sent her a message? So then she checked that and she says as soon as she saw my message, she knew that it was going to lead to me saying, I want to be a surrogate. Yeah, so we just started texting and then we caught up. And yeah, it was such a weird thing. Like you’re just starting dating and you watch your phone and they reply and you get like heart flutters.
It’s so funny. It was cool. It was a really cool experience. I think there are some people listening who might be in the early stages of that dating and they can absolutely… Yeah, it’s so beautiful. I know exactly what you mean. It’s exciting and strange. Yeah, but if you feel that, I feel like that’s a really good sign of that’s the right person, you know, meant to be happening. Yeah, that’s good advice there. Yeah. And so then you spent some time getting to know each other. Did your sides of each of your families meet? And then you obviously met her husband and took some months…
to do this? So I’m not a marathon runner. I’m a sprinter. So I was like, okay, let’s get this done as quick as possible. Because I also turned 40 in March. So my big thing was like, I don’t want to give birth at 40.
Let’s get this done. I think that came down to Ellie, Luke trusting Ellie’s decision. And from my side, my partner was not really on board in the beginning, but he knew that I was going to do it anyway. And if it meant that we would separate, then it was that important to me. I was just going to do it. And we just kind of got the checklist of what to do first. So I went to my GP, she saw that I was booked into Feral for obstetrician and she said to me, oh my gosh, I was going to refer you to a psychiatrist thinking you were crazy.
going to have more babies through IVF. No, no, no, sorry, obviously, don’t worry. I just said, you know, what’s the order of steps, I guess, or the process. So I just really went through that as quick as possible. I mean, sometimes you have to wait months for an appointment, which happened. I’m a very impatient person as well. So I was like, let’s just, you know, let’s just do this. And everything else can fall in, into line in between sort of thing. So.
That’s great. Yeah. But you did the counseling and legals and did all the IVF clinic checks and got all the boxes ticked. So you shared some of these lovely photos with us. Is one of these photos a picture of one of the scans that happened or an embryo transfer? That was the transfer. Yeah. So it was funny. This was the 23rd of June in 2020. And we went for a coffee afterwards. And I said, because then they obviously give you would expect due date. And the due date was the 13th of the 3rd, 23. And my birthday is the 23rd of the 3rd, 83, which and the…
13th of March is also Ellie’s dad’s birthday. And I said to her, I’ve just got this feeling of, this was prior to an embryo transfer. We hadn’t even, yeah, I think they’d gotten the news that they’ve had three successful embryos made and they’re ready to be transferred. So I think when I got that phone call, I said to her, I’ve just got this feeling about the number three. I feel like it’ll either be the third embryo that defrosted or something about the number three. These threes just kept coming up. So transfer of 23rd and then the due date.
the third, he ended up being born on the third of the third, 23, at 3.01pm. It’s just like, all of these crazy threes. And I just had this feeling from way before that there’d just be some magical thing happening with the number three. It was so crazy that I remember looking back at this photo going, oh, the transfer was on the 23rd, which is also my birthday. It’s just crazy. That’s great. Yeah, it’s cool. Doctor was just pointing out the little, he said it was a bullseye.
perfect spot. Yes, so fascinating when there’s all these other people in the room with you while you get pregnant and often your partner’s not there either. I said I’d never had so many people in the room when I got pregnant in previous again. Yeah, it’s beautiful. So just for timeline there, so he was born March, you got pregnant in the previous June and I think it worked first embryo transfer. Yeah. What was the timeframe from sending that first message? Do you remember what month that was prior to that June transfer? It was less than a year.
I think I’ve sent the message in August. Yeah. So maybe nine months of getting to know you and all. Yeah, I reckon nine months. Nine months prep, nine months prep. So we’ll keep going through these lovely photos here. So then lots of selfie photos we’ve got here in the mirror of you growing bump. And then who are these kitties playing together? Little Sunny on the left is Ellie’s little boy. And then Frida is the one standing up. So she would have been one and a half then. And then my Sunny is on the right hand side. We just call, I call them Yin and Yang because they’re completely opposite. Different colours.
different color hair, like they’re so different, but same nature. Do they play okay together? Yeah. It’s very cute. And I think that’s a great example for people listening that, you know, that’s what catch-ups can look like if, if the IPs already have a child and the surrogate has children, you know, catch-ups involve the kids too, quite often. Yeah. You’ve got to make sure that your, your IPs click with your kids and you click with theirs too, to a point as well. And then some more lovely bump photos. Did you, how was the pregnancy for you? Similar to your others or?
easier or harder? Well it was actually really hard this one. What made it hard? Well not that I was much older but I remember being pregnant with Rita I thought I could I don’t think my body could do this again just everything felt heavy and moving was harder and my first three were just really easy pretty much. Rita’s was a bit more difficult and then yeah this one was actually not I never said anything or complained I just get on with it but it was actually yeah pretty tough pregnancy I just felt like everything was just gonna fall out. Yes.
I think just having, you know, being my fifth baby, it was a lot my body probably. Yes. And I say that to surrogates that you’re older every time you get pregnant. So it’s always going to be harder, isn’t it? Oh, and then there was a little cute little video here. So that’s your freedom on your cover, is it? She always used to blow raspberries and just like kiss my belly, which is cute. Yes. So I just say I just take videos and pictures and send them to Ellie. So yeah.
way to keep them involved in the pregnancy. Yeah I just feel like the baby went chaos to like this harmony. My chaotic household. Yes and so this is how I’ve connected with you guys through social media and following Ellie on Instagram as well. So yes I know what you mean about different lifestyles that we all lead isn’t it? Yeah. In terms of your kids and your tummy and what language you used with them like or how did you explain just that the baby was going to go live in Ellie
So it was two Sunnys. We always called Sunny the other Sunny. So we’re gonna go see the other Sunny. So, um, Friedman was probably too young to really know. Like, shh, I would say, you know, this is the other Sunny’s baby, but then she’d forget in five seconds. And Sunny just didn’t really care. I, you know, he would ask sometimes and I’d tell him, but just had no interest. And the older kids were obviously understood everything.
super excited about it. So yeah. Oh that’s good. I didn’t really find any issues around that at all. That’s good and see sometimes potential surrogates have those sorts of fears or questions, how my kid’s going to go, but you’re just normalizing it there saying yeah and so barely getting full here. Yeah the one on the right is the night before we went to hospital.
That was um 38 I think. Yes I remember taking a photo of myself on the night of pregnancy or birth because it’s like this is the most pregnant I’m ever going to be again. Then we get to birthing day. Yeah. So tell us about the beads there, how and when were they created? That was an idea that Ellie’s friends had, they threw like they called it a baby sprinkle.
And it was just a little winery just with both, you know, because Ellie and I always talked about both of our sides coming together. You know, my friends have seen, they see and experience one side of things and Ellie’s will get the next side, you know, have never experienced the other side of it. So yeah, that was just a day for all of us to come together and for our mums to meet each other. And someone had had the idea of everyone bringing an old bead or something to make birthing beads so that Ellie could keep one and I could keep my arm, you know, during labor and obviously post-birth.
Yeah, and so my friend just brought this I don’t know if you can see it’s like a child’s rainbow Unicorn, but I didn’t have anything else. I just steal from my five-year-old And then I’ve I’ve heard a bit about the birth from Ellie’s episode but so it was a water birth But how did you feel the birth when was it?
kind of what you’d hoped for? Yeah, Anish, I don’t know if she mentioned the issue at the start with the mess up of times and the doctor that I had a bit of, I wasn’t too happy with how she dealt with things, but once we got left on it.
we got over that. Yeah, it was all great. It was actually the room I wanted to have a water, I’ve always wanted a water birth and never got one. And with Frieda, I was too quick and I came into the same room, room four, and they said, there’s no time. So I just went straight to the shower. So when I pictured me being a surrogate, it was always in that corner bar, that room that I didn’t get to use with Frieda. And we were put in the same room, which was amazing. And I got to birth in there finally. So yeah, it was all, it all went really well. So I would have preferred if I
My body could have done it without the drip, but I was just too impatient. I was like, nah, let’s get this done. Everyone’s got things to go back to. Big families. And so how was it for you? How was that handover moment? Was that what you’d dreamt about? Yeah, well, I mean, he, of all the babies that I’ve birthed, his cord was really short. So we’d spoken prior, so I would have loved to have just birthed and then handed him straight to Ellie. But his cord, the cord was so short, I think he reached it like.
here on me, but we had to get out the bar, go sit on the table, then I had to cut the cord, and then I could hand him over. But that was just, that was the one moment I was pictured all the time. Couldn’t wait to do that. So special. Yeah. You made her a mum again. I know. And just like, you know, just to have that normal, you know, that’s the normal birth for them. But they’ve had, you know, three really traumatic experiences with birth. So for me, it was kind of, besides the water birth, I wanted that, but.
everything else I’d left up to them because I wanted them to have experience that everyone else, you know, nearly everyone else gets to have and they just never had it. So yeah, left all the decision making to them. Yeah well it sounds like it was a good team in the making there. So Ellie, I know, induced lactation so she was able to bring into her body milk and she was able to to breastfeed their cow feed from birth. What did you do with your milk? Did you stop it coming in or do any express at all? What did you do? Well, Frieda was only…
I’m 18 months old, so two. No, she was over two. So I was like, it sounds creepy, but when she was sleeping, I’d like get her onto my boob again, because she, I think she stopped feeding at about 15 months. Because I just couldn’t express anything. It was just the pump wasn’t working for me and I really needed her to, you know, because my milk came in, I had been really hard sore boobs. So come on, Frida. And then she got on and then she was like, was loving it. So then I had, yeah, I could feed her and I had no issues with.
mastitis or have a pump or you know do any of that so like it kind of just I think maybe a few months ago I’ve just really stopped because she’s gotten over it and I just I think it just turned to dust my body was like enough I quit it just naturally happened. That’s great see sometimes having little kids is actually quite helpful. I know I was actually yeah I was excited for that yes she’ll be able to just get it out for me and yeah yeah beautiful and then just so then there’s
Luke and their son Sonny on the right and then you on the left there at a catch-up with little Alfie or growing up Alfie on your lap? Yeah, I know. It’s so weird. It’s so crazy. I don’t like when I see photos of him big now My brain just can’t really compute that I grew him. Yeah, very strange feeling. I know exactly what you mean I look at photos of them as a kid and I’m like, that’s not the baby that I but I’m connected to a different age Yeah, of that person. Yeah, so I feel like one. Sorry. Go ahead. I was just gonna say I’m sort of classic
Question surrogates ask like, you know, yeah, how do you feel? Did you, you know, in those months post-birth, did you miss him? Did you miss your friends? Did you have any adjustments that were tricky for you? Hmm. I feel like once the physical part of it was over, then my brain kind of disconnected everything because it’s really an unnatural human experience. There’s nothing else that can compare to, you know, growing someone else’s genetic baby and then not raising it. I feel like the mind has, has trouble processing that event.
So yeah, I feel like once the physical part of it was over, it sort of just became this weird thing that happened that I just can’t grasp really. Yeah. I think a lot of surrogates, once you’ve been through it, it’s like something not many people understand it unless other surrogates.
The psychologist Katrina Hale talks about this head heart hormones, how your head and your heart know what you’ve done, but your body’s like, I gave birth to a baby, but where is the baby? I don’t want the baby, but is it lost? I had a sadness in my body. My head and my heart were happy, but my body felt like just a bit lost for a while. Yeah, it was weird. And I remember during the whole time I was pregnant, I never felt like…
you know that connection you have with your baby that most mums have when they’re pregnant. I never felt that. I really hope next when he’s born. It wasn’t until I could see him as a baby with his parents that I was like, oh, then I’ve had this like warm feeling. Yeah, that it sort of made sense then what was happening. So the connection that you were having with the baby was more seeing him with his parents, not seeing him with you. Yeah. So it was from when I was pregnant, it was like clinical. It was just I was doing this task and there was no emotion. My emotion really was with Ellie, like my…
connection through the whole thing was with her. And then, yeah, I was born. Oh, there he is, my mom and dad. So, yeah, it was really nice. Yeah, and this last photo here, Ellie shared with me. The reason I love this photo is because of the expression on your face. To me, I mean, it might be something different, but to me, that sums up surrogate. You’re doing it for your friend. You’re looking at Ellie, watching her look at her child in your tummy. Yeah.
He’s looking at her child, but you’re looking at her. Do you remember any of those sorts? Were you thinking what I’m describing or something completely different? Yeah, totally. I would say to her, isn’t it so weird that your baby is inside me? And she’d say, yeah, it’s so weird like you have our baby in you. So we always used to talk about the strangeness, I guess, of what was happening. But yeah, just, yes, I’d try to get lots of videos of kicking movements and so that they see it a lot, I guess. See what was happening a lot. Yeah, we did talk about the…
the strange strangeness of it all. It is a strange, wonderful thing is surrogacy, isn’t it? It is, yeah. Renee also asks, going back to a part of your story that you mentioned before, how did your partner get on board then? You said that your partner wasn’t on board with surrogacy. Were there certain conversations, or was it meeting the IPs, or just time? Any advice? Well, I think he just knew that I wasn’t going to budge on my decision. So, you know, he had no choice really but to get on board.
I actually have an issue with partners having so much involvement. I think that, you know, it’s as a woman, my body, I should just, I shouldn’t have to get permission from, you know, a partner of, you know, what I want to do. And I get the whole reasoning behind it, but yeah, I just think I don’t particularly agree with that. But yeah, I think he was, I’m just stubborn and he knows that. And he probably just knew that I wasn’t going to, you know, not do this. So he just, you know, supported me in the end. I’m assuming he was involved in that mandatory counselling. Yeah, he had to do with that. Yeah.
So yeah, because I suppose I think, yeah, we went together and then I think he had a phone console and I had a phone console and we did like a zoom because we could never be in the one place at the one time was way too hard. Because they’ve already got a child as well. So lots to juggle. Yeah. And we’ve, you know, we have four full time students.
So it’s a bit crazy. Yes, and because he was with you by your side during the pregnancy. So that was some of the things being talked through, I’m assuming, in counseling and the implications of all of that. Speaking of the implications of it all, Jamie and Cody have asked a question saying that, so growing up, what kind of relationship do you think that your children will have with Surrobub Alfie? Well, that’s also something else we did speak about.
prior to all of this was expectations afterwards. And I was very clear on, you know, whatever, if we see each other every day, that’s fine. If we don’t see each other for six months, that’s also fine. I didn’t really put any, you know, expectations on must see him this, these many days a week, or, cause I just know that it’s not, not always realistic. And also I was really mindful of wanting them to just have that, you know, newborn experience that they’d never had. And I didn’t.
feel like I needed to see him either. So I was quite happy with just photos and you know, whatever came about. So the kids, we try and get together occasionally, but again, it’s so hard because we’re just in, we’re on two different paths and it’s just, everyone’s so busy. So when we catch up, we do and it’s good, but there’s no, yeah, I don’t have any like hopes or expectations of something in particular. So yeah, we’re just going with the flow. Yeah. So it’s not like your kids have been yearning to see him or to see that.
the mum and dad much. They’ve just sort of settled back into their life and having you as mum. Yeah, it was only Macy, my second. She was 12 when he was born. So she was really just wanting to see him as a newborn. So I gave her a day off school and went there. I think he was a week old or something. So yeah, she loved that. Just having cuddles and seeing him there. That was cute. That’s good. Yeah, I think that’s important to keep facilitating that as you all can fit that in.
Is there any parts of your journey then that were particularly challenging and that you, how you guys worked through it as a team or any sort of pointers and tips for people listening who might be at the beginning of their journey? We didn’t, I guess we didn’t really have any challenges. Besides the end of the pregnancy, there was a few issues with the scan. So I just wanted regular scans, which I was like, oh, okay. So that was, I guess, inconvenient, but it wasn’t really an issue. But no, we didn’t really have any challenges at all, I don’t feel.
So we were pretty lucky. Anything that you’d do differently then, or I’m trying to think what we talked about briefly beforehand when we were saying, any guidance? For IPs, I guess. Yeah, I don’t think I would do anything different as a surrogate. I guess, like as intended parents, maybe be, I don’t know, maybe just give things that you think they need rather than ask. Like, you know, do you need anything or would you like? Cause lots of people find, to me, like I don’t find it easy asking, even if it’s like cold vouchers or just like.
as you think, or takeaway vouchers, or just like here, use them, use them, if you don’t, gift them or give them back or whatever. Just, I guess just do things that you think would help. And like Ellie got cleaner, which was really good and helpful. So, and continued post-birth as well. So that was lovely. Yeah, well, just things like that. Just makes life easier, I guess. Yeah. I think that’s good advice. Try and anticipate what they might need and even pre-paying for vouchers. It’s not, you know, oh, let me know if you want some food. Cause then as surrogates, we’re always so- Yeah, we’re never gonna ask.
Yes, but we’ll spend, like we’ll use them. Yeah. So yeah, there was lots of times I just bought stuff that I needed and I was like, there’s no way I’m going to be like, excuse me. That’s just not me. So I guess, yeah, just sort of, yeah, think about, like even if you want to give the surrogate some massage vouchers and if she doesn’t use them, then she can either use them post-birth, they’ll give them back to the parents and they can, you know, have some post-partum massages. So it’s not going to go to waste, but.
No, I would say she could just cutting out that. I think she should keep it at some point. Like it doesn’t matter. Yeah, just yeah. Without just the awkwardness. She’s heard them. I mean, we’re not doing one every day, but you know, an occasion. Yeah, definitely. Yeah. So I guess just think about little things like that. Um, but yeah, there’s probably that’s about it really. I think also just don’t be afraid to say whatever you think. And like you think it might be too forward, just put it out there prior to all of this happening. So yeah, make sure you talk about everything. Yeah.
anything that is you’re like oh they’re annoying me a little bit on this or this sort of thing i’m not sure about you’ve got to lean into that don’t you’ve got to bring it up yeah Sarah did you have any of those um issues either with grandparents or concerns with other people about how they thought you were going to go no but it’s actually a question i get asked all the time was how you know how was handing of the baby was really hard like no have four kids like i don’t want more they know yeah not at all and i think i take my hat off to you who
been an egg donor and I just think I think it’s like next level when women are surrogates with their own eggs think that it’s really special. That’s amazing to me. Because I think that would that would be hard because it is you know, it is your genetics then is essentially your baby. So it would have been different. I imagine it was my egg. That’s probably the question I get asked. Yeah, yeah, that’s the question. Handing over the baby. Yeah.
Absolutely fine. I think as a surrogate, you know that you feel called to do it. You know, likewise, marathon running or climbing Mount Everest or extreme sport. People say to them, how could you do that? And the people that do that, they just go, I knew I could. And I see it as the same. This is something we know we could do. I’m not asking everybody else to do it. It’s something.
we know. Remember too that as a surrogate for those listening, you’ve been doing all this research and you’re now listening to other surrogates talk. Everybody else that you talk to has not done as much research as you or talk to other surrogates and heard about it. So you have to be patient when explaining to your parents, the surrogate’s parents about how that might all go down. Well, to sum us up Sarah, are there any last bits of parting advice that you want to give to people or learnings from your journey to share? Be patient I guess or impatient as I was, but I feel like if you’ve got a calling do it. I just think follow it because my
big thing for me was if I didn’t message her, if I didn’t do this, I would regret it forever. I just knew that it would be something that I could never let go of if I didn’t do it or didn’t try to do it. So yeah, I just think follow your gut as well. And you did it. You sent the message and you had a baby. For your friends. I did. You did it. Yay. Well done. We’re proud of you. You did a great job. Oh, thank you. Thank you for joining me.
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