Episode 20 – Leanne – surrogate
Leanne, a single mother of 3, birthed as a surrogate in July 2020 for two Intended Fathers who live in NSW. They were initially strangers, built a Surroship, navigated COVID, and welcomed a little girl into the world. Unfortunately the Surroship dissolved post birth. Leanne is proud of being a surrogate and how she and her children helped to create a family. They are now planning a new journey with two Intended Fathers who live in Melbourne.
Leanne has been one of our Sydney Mentors within our SASS program and at the time of this podcast release, she is pregnant for the new Dads and due to give birth in early 2024.
This episode was recorded in January 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!
Surrogacy Australia’s podcast series. I’m your host Anna McKie. Thank you for sharing your time to listen to this episode. These recordings are from the regular one-hour free webinars that I run which I invite you to attend if you haven’t already. They take you through how surrogacy works in Australia, including how to find a surrogate or intended parents, there are opportunities to ask questions and you hear from a co-host each time about their own journey.
This episode, recorded in January 2023, features Leanne. Leanne, a single mother of three, birthed as a surrogate in July 2020 for two intended fathers who live in New South Wales. They were initially strangers, built a surrey ship, navigated COVID and welcomed a little girl into the world. Unfortunately, the surrey ship dissolved post-birth. Leanne is proud of being a surrogate and how she and her children helped to create a family. They are now planning a new journey with two intended fathers who live in Melbourne.
Leanne has been one of our Sydney Mentors within our SASS program, and at the time of this podcast’s release, she is pregnant for the new dads and due to give birth in early 2024. I’m sure you will enjoy this episode as much as I enjoyed speaking with Leanne, who’s become a dear friend of mine over the years. She is able to articulately reflect on her first journey and take those learnings into journey number two. As she says of her new IPs, we function like a family unit.
Leanne encourages those at the beginning of a journey to have conversations with people who have gone before you. And she answers an attendees question about how do you build a connection as a surrogacy team if you don’t live close by? I hope you enjoy this episode. We’re gonna be joined by Leanne and we’re gonna hear about her first journey and then taking us into her second journey. So let’s go back to the beginning Leanne. So you met your IPs.
that you carried for the first time. Tell us a little bit about how you met them and how that journey went. Give us a bit of an overview. Yeah, so I met them at…
the growing families conference in June in 2018. They actually thought that I was an IM and we shared a table at one of the breaks and we had a bit of a conversation. So because they thought I was an IM, they were very open and honest and very easy to talk to. So, because obviously they weren’t trying to make a great first impression. A few months later, actually it was probably a few weeks later, I saw that they’d posted
community that they’d been to the conference. I’m like, oh, I met you guys. I might just reach out and see how you found the conference. And yeah, so I sent them a message, asked them how they found it and did they learn a lot? And the conversations actually just started from there. At that point in time, I wasn’t looking for IPs. My relationship with my kid’s father had ended.
in the March and that conference was in the June. So I was really focusing on my kids and getting my life back on track. And so yeah, hadn’t, I wasn’t actively looking for IPs. I just wanted to make some friends in the community. And, and that’s what we did. We spent, we spent six months building a friendship and they started to talk about actively looking for a surrogate, really putting themselves out there. And in that moment I thought, well, I don’t want anyone else to do it. I wanted to support them.
Yeah. And so I offered to be there surrogate probably after about six months of talking. We actually weren’t even having surrogacy conversations, it was just friendship building for that six months. Wow. And then so I offered to surrogate and to be there surrogate. So we had conversations around what it would look like, what our expectations were for each other. Hindsight’s a beautiful thing. I think our conversations
probably weren’t as in depth as they needed to be. And also everyone always says that communication is key. A strong surrogacy relationship is all about communication, communicating with each other. But I think it goes a step further and it has to be open and honest communication and not just communication, not just talking for the sake of talking or talking about a topic that you think is important. It’s about being honest and making sure that.
you know, what you’re committing to, you can actually deliver. So under promise and over delivery is always a good motto to live by. Yeah. So we, we probably spent another six months actively kind of having surrogacy conversations while we were starting the process of legals. And, and we actually did our first transfer about.
10 months after I offered to be their, so we actually took our time, we didn’t rush into it. The first transfer didn’t work, so the embryo didn’t stick, was an unmedicated cycle. So then the second cycle they decided, the fertility specialist suggested that we have a, that I have a shot of progesterone at transfer. So still classed as an unmedicated cycle. Yeah, that’s what I did. Yeah.
We went in on this in the, this was the November for our second transfer. And when we got in there, we learned that they’d defrosted the embryo and it hadn’t done what it should have done, but they were able to pick it up early that it wasn’t defrosting properly. So they defrosted another one and we were able to still go ahead with it.
embryo transfer, but it had cost them, that was their third embryo that we were transferring. So it added a lot of pressure because there was only one left. When it wasn’t pressure that they put on, it was pressure I put on myself. Like, gosh, if this one doesn’t work, there’s only one left. What if it’s me? And is it sorry that you want this to happen for your friends and it’s in your body, so you want it to work? That’s right. Yeah. So that was November 2019. We had that second transfer and it was successful transfer. So yeah, it was.
Leading into Christmas when we had our, I think it was two weeks before Christmas, when we had the six week scan to show the little jelly bean and the heartbeat pumping away there, everything was, was amazing. So that’s kind of when there was a bit of a shift in expectations maybe. And it wasn’t long after COVID hit. So we were already navigating changes within our relationship to then be hit with COVID and.
not seeing each other as much then, obviously with… Yeah. Can you give an example of little things in hindsight, you look back and go, hmm, you’re starting to be a bit different? Yeah, so that…
That Christmas, they went away for five weeks to Hong Kong for, like they would travel every Christmas for as single IPs. It’s a bit hard to be passionate about Christmas when you don’t get to share it with children. So I completely understood their desire to want to travel and enjoy potentially their last kid free Christmas. And yeah, so they went away.
to Hong Kong for five weeks. And in that time, I had a friend of mine offer to, he had actually had plans to travel to Fiji with his then partner, they separated, right before he was due to go. So he asked if I would go with him and just kind of be a support friend in that process. So this offer came on the 24th of December and we left on the 5th of January, so it was pretty cool. Wow.
But gosh, I’m glad I got that Fiji holiday in before COVID really hit Australia. Yes. Good point. Yeah. So in that time, like it was okay for them to take a five week holiday, but then there was huge concerns about the risk that I was putting the child in because of, you know, potentially contracting Zika virus, which had not been in Fiji since 2017. So there were little things like that. That was like, you know, what’s the real issue here? Is it really that, you know, I’m going to take a holiday overseas or is it that.
I hadn’t had a conversation with you about it because, you know, it was all very rushed. So there was potentially a control issue or lack of control issue. I was going to say controlling. Yeah. But then with the, with COVID hitting the, the inability to control the situation just compounded. And so that it just kind of got harder and harder to maintain a close relationship. Yeah. Yes. Long story short, we basically arrived at time.
birth in a very negative place as a team to the point where I didn’t feel emotionally supported by my IPs. Um, and so I had to make a really tough choice because with COVID, the hospital would only allow me to have one person in the room with me and I was booked in for an elective C-section having had three emergency C-sections with my own children. Because it was in the theater, there was only one person allowed.
And they had already decided between them who was going to be in the room without even consulting me. And so I then had to have not only the tough conversation to say, well, my choice is that I don’t want either one of you there, but.
to also say it’s actually not, you don’t get to choose who’s going to be in the room. And so that was a pretty tough conversation to have and they did take that quite personally, I think. But at the end of the day… Can I just add in there, just for people who are new, that things to consider often if a surrogate has a partner and if there’s only one person allowed in the room, she would probably take her partner because they’re often the person making medical decisions if they needed to if something happened.
while you’re in theatre, of course. And so, yeah, sometimes surrogates have to choose. They’d actually prefer not just one to be in there. They’d actually like, and surrogate Amanda, I know this is what she did.
They want to be really present during the handover moment. And so often some surrogates with a caesarean might do it in recovery and the parents wait until that point after the C-section and she’s all tidied up and checked and sitting up and that sort of stuff ready for handover. So that is a choice that surrogates can make. So for if there’s IPs tonight listening, that’s something to be aware of that don’t make assumptions about what could happen and because this is a, it’s some surgery that you’re going in for and things can happen. And so.
you can pick your support person. Yeah, like it’s a woman’s most vulnerable state. Like I’m naked on the table, cut open from side to side. I want someone in that room that’s actually there for me, that will support me, that will make me feel calm and not stressed because our relationship isn’t amazing at that point in time. So it was something that…
I struggled with coming to terms with for quite a few weeks in the lead up to it. So then, you know, having to have that conversation, it really just kind of came to a head when the hospital finally confirmed that that we could only have one person, because obviously we would.
working really hard to negotiate that we have two people in there because I’m not the parent and therefore the parents should be there for the birth. But yeah, when the hospital came back and said, no, it’s a hard no, we’re not going to allow two people in there. It then came down to the fact that for me, my payment was all about that moment where I got to see them both meet their child for the first time. And if one of them was in the room with me, I wasn’t going to get that. So it was going to be, you know, that.
The one that was in the room was likely to take photos and send it to the other one so that they could be included in it. And I wouldn’t see their reaction. So it was, in that moment, it was selfish for me, but it was what I needed to, after such a difficult pregnancy, or the pregnancy itself wasn’t difficult, but the roller coaster that we were on was quite difficult. And so, yeah, I wanted to make sure that I had that.
that moment, that one moment where they got to see their child and in the end I got that and that was my payment. Did you get it? You got it. Yeah. And so I felt amazing. But I did, in the end I chose to take a friend into the theatre with me. She also just happened to be a fellow surrogate and she also just happened to be a doula. Yes. Just by coincidence. It was very, I was very lucky to have her there. She made it calm.
didn’t feel like a cold medical room. The whole room was filled with love and awe and support. And my obstetrician had arranged for her mentor to come and assist with the C-section. And so who…
my friend, because she was in, she’s in the birthing community, she knew who he was and she was like a smitten school girl next to this guy and it was so beautiful to watch. She was just in love with him and it was just lovely and he was just so excited to be part of this as well. So everyone in the room was just really happy to be part of the whole surrogacy
Just as amazing. Like when I was first wheeled onto the ward, they came up to me and they said, how do you want to do this? When do you want the dads brought in? So they gave me a minute to just kind of settle into the room and I had my friend there with me and she helped me settle. We had, you know, probably about five or 10 minutes before I then asked her to leave. And then from there.
I got the nurses to bring the boys in and I got to see that moment, that magical moment where they met their daughter for the first time. And yeah, there were tears from all of us. From all of us, yes. Well, it’s something you should be proud of. It’s an amazing thing that you have done, you and your family, and it’s something not many people do. And yes, and nothing can take away from that moment. And I know through our chats over the years, that’s what you’ve held on to. Yeah.
The relationship might have dissolved, but it doesn’t take away from the gift of life that you created there. That’s right. There’s an amazing little girl out there walking around because of something that I did and that’s pretty…
special, not everyone can say that. So that’s kind of what I, that’s my takeaway from it. And I’m very proud of how my kids and I maintained our, our, like ourselves through that whole process. You know, we were, we were honest to ourselves. We, you know, fought for what was important for us and pushed through when things weren’t amazing. I think the hardest part for me was after working through the whole relationship breakdown, the hardest part for me was forgiving
lives that would just disappear, walk away from them so easily. So that was a big one for me to work through. And I took a lot of learnings from that one, moving into another experience. But yeah, it was, um, that was probably the hardest part of the whole thing was to learn to forgive myself that, you know, I picked these people who didn’t seem very grateful, I’m sure they are, but their, you know, their actions didn’t kind of make me feel like.
I was appreciated or what I’d done was appreciated. But yeah, it was. And that your kids got to know them and they were sort of uncles for a while and then they disappeared out of their life. And that’s really hard to explain to kids. There’s a grief there, isn’t it? Absolutely. And you had to support your kids through their grief and your own. Yes. And that’s huge. And surrogacy is complex, isn’t it? Absolutely. And we’re now like, she’s two and a half and they still ask about her and they still talk about her. And you know, it’s…
It’s hard and I’ve got to have the conversations with them that, you know, we can’t force people to be our friends. We have to accept that, you know, people have free will and their choice is that they don’t want to be in our life. And to be honest, I’m quite happy with where we’re at now. I’ve come to terms with not having them or Surrobub in my life. You know, I still, I have a little journal and every time I think about her, I write something in there specifically about her. I don’t write anything about her parents. It’s all about her and you know,
what I’m thinking. So the other day, Christmas it was, it’s like, I thought about you today and you know, you’re probably walking around or even running. I’m sure you’re having great times. There’s little thoughts about what I think she might be doing at this point in her life. And also every year I buy her a birthday card and I write her a nice message and I don’t send it. I’ve got them. I just, I’m just collecting them. So if she ever comes looking for me, I can show, I’d like I can hand them to her in person then and show that we cared and we loved her even if she wasn’t in our life. Yeah.
Oh, that’s beautiful, Leanne. And just I’m sure for the people listening, it’s a lot. Just to clarify, so there’s no contact at the moment and then it dropped off pretty fast post birth? It dropped off really fast post parentage order counselling. And then it pretty much ceased probably about six months post birth. One of them did reach out to me again last year.
And so we met and had a conversation and the result of that was that he had agreed to send some photos occasionally because I’ve not had any photos, which, you know, he has done on two occasions since then. So that’s been nice that little, I guess, insight into her life and how, how well she’s doing because she, she looks adorable. Of course she’s two and a half years old. I’m sure she’s a terror like all two and a half year olds are. But yeah, yeah, she looks like her dad too. So I can, I can definitely see.
between them and it’s really nice to have those photos. But it is reliant on him sending them. So the last one I got was her birthday, which was July last year. So it’s now seven months later and there’s not been anything since. So was it a one-off? I don’t know, but yeah, we’ll see. We’ll wait and see next birthday perhaps. That’s right. Despite all of that, again, for those listening.
Leanne, surrogates are often a crazy bunch and there’s probably a sense of wanting to do it again, maybe learning from what happened there, but also having a more positive end in some ways. So I’m just going to take people back to the photos that we had there. And so we can see the photos there. So you’ve got your kids there and then this is the lady that you talked about that came in to your caesarian section with you. Yes. And that’s, and then we come to the, to the moving on. And so you.
you decided to go again and I did and so you’d been around the community for a while these two lovely gentlemen had been around the community for a while too and they’d had a large portion of a first journey that didn’t work out as well so they there was caution on their end too. Tell us a bit more about that then that just briefly sort of where that’s up to and how that’s learnt what you’ve learned from that I mean where do I start
There was a lot of self-reflection that went on between the last relationship ending and even considering starting a new chapter. So these guys, so obviously during COVID, there were lots of Zoom sessions happening. These guys ran a couple of trivia nights throughout that lockdown period as well. And I would always come to them and I would, you know, afterwards we’d hang out and we’d chat. And I mean, there were quite a few times when they would finish at three or four o’clock in the morning.
And it wasn’t just us there, there were quite a few other people there as well. It always just kind of ended up being the three of us at the very tail end. And at some point they reached out, just kind of said thank you to me for sharing my learnings and always being.
vulnerable, I guess, to what people might perceive as being, you know, it is my truth. It’s not necessarily that my old IP’s truth. Obviously, everyone experiences situations differently, but I’ve shared my truth openly and honestly. And so, yeah, they reached out to me to just kind of say thank you for that. No expectation, no, I’m sorry, no expectation of me to reply, just to, it was just them acknowledging that.
In one particular night, I’d shared a lot of my insights. And so I did reply to them and ever since then, we just kind of started chatting and they were just getting back into the world of surrogacy after their, their team had kind of gone their separate ways. And so they weren’t quite.
actively looking for a surrogate at that point in time either. It was just friendships that they were looking to connect with and deal with their grief of the relationship ending. And so we chatted for a couple of months and I just thought, I really like these guys are my kind of people. Like I just wanted to meet them. So I flew down to Melbourne and I actually spent the weekend at their house because I said to them, you know, if we’re going to be friends, let’s just go all in and see what this looks like. Great.
So yeah, so we just jumped right in and I spent the weekend there. We did a blind baking activity where they were blindfolded and I had to tell them the steps of the process to bake a pie. We made the pastry from scratch. Wow. Yeah, like it was a huge effort and it was probably the most I’ve laughed in my entire adult life. I just, it was so much fun.
But yeah, and just from then, like we’ve just started to create this really strong friendship. And then they started to have conversations about actively looking for a surrogate again. And I had that feeling again, like, if someone’s going to do it, I really want to do it. And because
of my last experience, I’m like, well, I’m not going to do this again. So I actually booked a session with Katrina and had a conversation with her. I said, you know, for the first time I’m feeling like I want to go again, but I want to make sure that I’m doing it for all the right reasons. I don’t want to do it just for a better outcome, although that would be nice. I don’t want that to be my motivating factor. So, you know, had a full session with Katrina and then right at the end, she’s like, just close your eyes.
I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to answer it honestly with the first thing that comes to your mind. And her question was, why do you want to go again? And my response was just automatically because I can. And so it was like, okay, I guess that’s probably my motivation. I just want to help people. And so we’ve had lots of conversations about what we call our doomsday event. So if it doesn’t go well, how do we maintain contact between?
them and the kids and the kids and their child as well as, you know, and I said, you know, I’m happy to look at photos that they send the kids so that I still get that visibility that I need. But it was more for me around maintaining a relationship with the kids if our relationship disintegrates. Because I definitely learned the last time that that was not what I wanted to happen again. So, you know, I set the kids up with Messenger Kids accounts and they’ve added.
the boys and the kids will call them. They’ll be in the middle of their work day and the kids will call them and they’ll answer every time. Every time they’ll pick up the phone and they’ll have a conversation with them. They’re totally invested in the kids, which I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not, but. You’re a modern family, really, in the making here. We really are. So I went down there just before Christmas last year and we actually caught up with Amanda Meehan and Sarah Jefford for lunch. And afterwards Amanda made a comment that, you know,
because we had the kids there as well. So, and those two just kind of really stepped up and juggled the kids so that I could have some time with the girls. And Amanda made the comment that, you know, we function like a family unit.
And that was such a rewarding comment because we’ve put in so much work around, you know, those really tough conversations. I used all the red flags that I had in my last experience as conversation pieces. And I made sure that, you know, all of the topics that were important to me were, were covered, which then encouraged them to expand and talk about all of the topics that were important to them. We’ve created this, you know, amazing spreadsheet. We keep minutes of every single conversation that we have. We.
We set aside time. So we have set times where all we do is talk about surrogacy. And then every other time is just our friendship time. And if any topic of surrogacy comes up in that, like, you know, we know it’s got to be revisited.
in our actual surrogacy time. Nothing will be agreed and discussed in that moment, but it will be all discussed in our surrogacy time. Because there was actually one night we had the boys were up here visiting and we were sitting around indulging in a couple of wines. And we had a conversation about how long I would be holding the baby for post birth before handed over. And so one of them was like, oh, you know, happy to do, we’re going to have this baby for the rest of our lives. You take as much time as you need.
Well, hang on. I don’t know that I’m okay with that. I think we need to revisit this. So it was a conversation that was had and it was just out of context and he didn’t fully understand because he was intoxicated, but where we were going with it, but it was a conversation piece that was recognized in that moment that this is not a conversation for now. It has to be contributed to as part of our specific surrogacy chats. And we did that because separating that
conversation meant that when the surrogacy is over, we just stop having those meetings. Like, you know, we’ll have them all through the pregnancy. We’ll still have our surrogacy catch up to the pregnancy where we will revisit things that we’ve already talked about just to make sure that we’re all still on board with what’s agreed to. Because, you know, the conversations that we’re having with me now, when I’m rational, doesn’t mean it’s going to, you know, I might not want the same things once I’m pregnant. And
there could be a shift. And so then having to be okay with revisiting what we’ve already talked about and agreed to with someone who’s potentially irrational because she’s super hormonal, it has to be something that we’re all open to. It can’t just be- We talked about it once, let’s never talk about it again. That’s right, yeah. Sorry, I’m totally waffling. I feel like I’m gonna make you- That’s fine. I think so, we’ll just share that last photo. And these are great photos of catch-ups and stuff. So it looks and sounds like each of you are taking all of the learnings
from each of your first journeys and going, okay, how can we improve on this? And you’ve got things in place as a team so that the kids aren’t hurt type of thing, and so that they’ll stay in their lives of it’s not going to happen this time round though, you know, like you are, you are embedded there by the looks of things and, and yeah, that comment that Amanda said about functioning like a family would that I remember, you know, that was a point of getting to with my IPs where they could
discipline my kids or like we’d be out at the playground and Brendan could say no Ewan, no, that’s too high come down or is it that sort of stuff that you mean that they could direct your kids? Yeah, yeah, it was more around them directing and because we met at, you know, a restaurant for for lunch So keeping them entertained was challenging when they were very excited and you know They’d also fed them soft drink before we got there. So it was totally their fault That they were high pass so, you know, they deserved it. No
But yeah, they just really stepped up and helped engage with the kids and keep them, you know
in their chairs mostly, so they weren’t running around the restaurant, but just telling them what was okay and what wasn’t okay and the real directions around behaviour and things like that. But they actually, so last year in June I was on a panel for growing families and so it was my weekend with the kids and I was on the panel. So the boys flew up and they spent the day with the kids and they took them to Luna Park. Now this is something that I’m not even brave enough to do.
as their mother. But you know they took them, they fed them Fanta and ice cream and fairy floss and they all had an amazing time. They mentioned that the sugar high and then the sugar crash was very obvious. They’re not going to learn until they give it a try. So but yeah they all had a great day and you know and they still wanted to come back for more so I feel like that was probably a good thing.
a good lesson for me to let things go as a parent and let other people help. Definitely. And I think that’s a great point to get to as a surrogacy team. And that’s what we got to where the dads could, because our kids were a bit younger at the time than yours are now, but, you know, drive our car with the car seats and take them to a playground or the movies or mini golf. And I still comfortable with them. And Ewan was toilet training at the time. And so, you know, every half an hour, you know, asking if he needs to go to the toilet and feeling comfortable with that, getting to that.
point where you’re comfortable to let other people take your kids out and they are comfortable to do it and let them. I think that’s a really good test you should get to before pregnancy. Yeah, well, I mean…
So the last, my last experience was, um, you know, that, that they would take them to the park and my kids would misbehave. And then I’d get the phone call. I’d come and deal with the kid, come and help us because the kids aren’t behaving kind of conversations. And yeah, so there wasn’t any rest for me. So every time, you know, they tried to give me a break, it didn’t actually go to plan. So to be able to have them have the kids the whole day. And I.
I had expected to only be on the panel and then, you know, sneak out not long after. I didn’t leave till six o’clock that night because I catching up with everyone. It was so awesome to see everyone. Uh, and they were just like, no, stay, go out for the dinner and stuff afterwards. Like, oh no, I can’t do that. But yeah, same until like six o’clock at night, because it was just so good to see everyone and there was lots of.
people who wanted to come and have a chat to me as well about my experiences and learnings and lots of Sydney people that I’d met through the Zooms and the lockdown meetings that we would have as well. So it was nice to put faces and names in person. So that was really good. Yeah. And that’s a great advocate for sometimes these seminars, conferences, and also attending catch-up. So is there any advice that you would have then for either brand new surrogates or brand new IPs at the beginning? What wisdom you’d pass on? Don’t rush.
I would say for me… Is there a number on that?
Is there a month? Now it’s like, what does not rush look like? It means I thought I knew everything, you know, going into it. I thought I’d done my re my research. You know, I thought that I was having the conversations that I needed to be having. And it turned out that I wasn’t. So I think it’s really important to make sure that one, you’ve built a relationship where you can have open and honest conversations where you’ve actually got some space to be raw and vulnerable and real with each other. I think it’s got to be.
with people that you can’t imagine not having in your life after you’ve met them. They’ve got to be people that you’d be friends with forever and not just be with someone that needs a surrogate. And so that then the only thing you have in common is surrogacy because once that’s over, there’s not really anything left to build on from that. It’s got to be with people that you have similar values or morals with or hobbies or something that you can do outside of surrogacy to help build that.
that relationship. And yeah, I think it’s, it’s really important to have conversations with people who have gone before you and learn from their experiences. Listen openly with what they’re telling you and not listen for the sake of listening. Really taking on and considering their advice because there are a lot of people who, who went before me that offered me a lot of advice that I had a closed ear to because I knew what I was doing.
So yeah, that was probably my biggest learning from right at the start was to actually pay attention to what people are telling you because they’re not talking at you because they want to hear the sound of their own voice. They want you to have a better experience that they did or have just as good an experience as they did. So, you know, people, we get invested in other people’s journeys, you know, especially people that we connect with. So there’s a number of surrogates and IPs that I’ve connected with personally. And I get really invested in their, in their journey. So I want to make sure that they do well.
And so what I share my experience is to support them through that. Yeah. We care about the community. You get to know and make friends. I wouldn’t have picked that of you to have said that you were given advice that you didn’t listen to. I can’t think of that, but you feel it then fair enough. I was totally stubborn at the start, but I had actually just had a egg donation experience probably 12 months before joining the community and that had gone.
not great as well. So I was already feeling like I had a lot of counselling after that one too because I just couldn’t understand why um like why it went the way that it went but at the end of the day there were multiple reasons that it did. I had kind of figured I’d learnt from that and then I didn’t need anyone to tell me what to do but clearly I did. Okay yeah lots of hard hindsight hey for everything. That’s right. So we’ve got a couple of questions typed in here and so one of them asks
How does one learn about IVF when they’ve never gone through it before? And is there paid parental leave for surrogates? Probably the last one there is the easier part to answer. Yes, there is paid parental leave for surrogates. There is also for the primary care IP that stays home. So it’s the one double dipping that happens in surrogacy provided you meet the work tests, both the surrogate and one of the IPs is entitled to it. And if your workplace has maternity paternity leave too, you get both. So take all the leave. As a surrogate, I would advise you take a couple of months off, three.
More if you can, because there’s a once in a lifetime chance to have this leave and not have a baby to look after. How do you learn about IVF if you’ve never gone through it before? I guess, because I’ve been an egg donor three times. I guess I learned by talking to other people, other people that have done it, either your friends who have done IVF or among talking to other surrogates or coming to these Zoom sessions and asking about how do the injections work or what does an embryo transfer look and feel like and stuff.
You got any extra advice on that one, Leanne? No, I think that’s really good advice there to have the conversations. It’s gonna be different for everyone. Dosage of meds that they’re gonna put you on will be different to the dosage of meds that they put someone else on. So like you were saying, Anna, we both had unmedicated cycles, but you look at some surrogates who have the full plethora of meds injected into them in the lead up to transfers. And yeah, so I think it kind of, it’s gonna be different for everyone. So just have the conversations with everyone in the community,
at your first appointment with the fertility specialist, they will have a conversation with you around the process and what will happen. And they’ll potentially could even talk to you about how they would want to do it as well. So you can start asking questions around, what can I expect? How many medications do you think I’ll need to take and things like that. So. Yeah, that’s good advice too. Once you’re in with a clinic, they’re professionals and they love supporting surrogacy teams usually and surrogates are rare creatures. So they’ve also got nurses,
that can chat to you outside of some of those doctor appointments as well. So there is, I guess it’s that learning from the wisdom of both the peers that have done it before you, but also from the clinics too. Good question. Here’s probably a good one for you then Leanne. Distance? I mean, I had some IPs I was chatting to as well, but sort of a lifetime ago now. So if you’re building a relationship as a surrogacy team.
How do you build that when you don’t live close by? Yeah, that’s a really good question. And I think it comes down to your commitment really to the team and to building that relationship. For us, we have a weekly date night where they will video call and we will have dinner together on video, or we will do pizza and movie night. So through Disney Plus, you can actually group watch something from different locations. So…
We will watch it together, we’ll have them set up on the laptop and we’ll watch the movie together. And they love it, like they muck around, they’ll pull like right things on little post-it notes and hold up to the camera.
to get the kids’ attention and the kids love it. That’s just a great big game for them. So yeah, so we do pizza and movie nights. We do, like I said, we’ll have dinner together where remotely we’ll just have random video calls. And like I said, the kids call them whenever they want. So there’s that investment as well. We chat every day, although probably in the last six months we’ve had a couple of days where we’ve not. And I’m like, I like that too. I get that it’s not, it doesn’t feel like we have to do it every day.
By chat, do you mean typing, messenger? Yeah. So, um, yeah, so just text messages through messenger mostly. Sometimes there’ll be a random phone call. No notice, like just pick up the phone and have that conversation in person instead of messaging it. Mostly. Yeah. It’s really just the, the, the in-person catch-up. So they’ve come up a fair bit. I get down to Melbourne a bit as well, because I’ve got family down there. So I time it so that, you know, I’ll spend an extra couple of days and we’ll spend it with them so that we’ve got that.
in-person catch-ups. I think, I don’t think we’ve gone more than six weeks without seeing each other in person, but yeah there is that constant weekly date and the weekly date actually that idea came from Amanda Meehan because she would have an in-person weekly date with her IPs as well. So yeah right at the start I messaged them like we should totally do this. Right, big commitment, but it shows that everyone’s committed then.
And it’s surrogacy is an investment of time, isn’t it? Yeah. And so you’ve got to be prepared both as a surrogate. Some surrogates might be listening to this guy. That’s a bit overwhelming. I don’t know if I want that. Well, maybe you don’t. And maybe it’s not for you then. It depends on what type of relationship, if you want to really build this foundation and fast track of friendship, this is the stuff you’ve got to do. You don’t have 20 year friendship to build on. You’ve got to build this in, isn’t it? So yeah, surrogacy we say is an investment of time. And so having constant stuff happen and can be small, but yeah, the date nights are.
That’s a great idea. Yeah. And some of the things that they’ve committed to, because I am a single parent being pregnant, I’m also 45 years old, so I’m not getting any younger. Being pregnant at 45, so even being pregnant at 43 was quite a challenge. So being pregnant at 45 is good. I’m expecting it to be a lot harder. I generally feel pretty good in the second trimester. Like you get past the morning sickness and you.
got the glow, you feel pretty good. And then I go downhill again around, you know, the third trimester when baby’s quite big and heavy and it’s hard to get the belly around. So what they’ve committed to is to fly up every second week. So one of them, they’ll alternate, will fly up and they’ll be here on the weeks when I’ve got the kids the whole time. Cause at the moment I have the kids for a full week, one week, and then the next week I have them for two nights. Yeah, so that’s, I can do the two nights.
I think I can manage that one. Yeah, so they’ve committed to flying up, especially when I’m with the morning sickness that I expect to have and just the lethargy that comes from growing in that first trimester when baby’s tripling in size every day, and the effort that it takes your body to nurture that. I’m expecting- They suck the life out of you, literally. And it’s even other physical things later in pregnancy, like changing the sheets on the beds for the kids.
you know, hanging out with sheets and towels and washing and stuff is just that stuff is exhausting. Lifting up shopping bags, I found exhausting too. Pushing the trolley with everything. Pushing the trolley. Like it’s… My dads did grocery shopping for the last five weeks. They’d come, come to our house, get the list in the bags, do it, bring it back, unpack it and go.
So there I hope that’s helped answer the person’s question about how to build relationships and the long distance stuff and then physical things that they can do. Another anonymous question here, guessing a surrogate here has young children under three years and saying they haven’t thought much into relationships with the IPs and our children. So I’m so pleased that this webinar tonight is helping you think about those things. How do you find starting friendships?
with your children involved. Mine were a bit younger. I think they were sort of two and four when they met the boys, two and a half, four and a half type of thing. I guess it’s that sort of thing. You just build it up over time. These are mom and dad’s friends and you don’t have to say at that point in time, we’re gonna carry a baby for them. You can over time, it’s however you wanna do that. And my kids know you need an egg and a seed to make a baby and a girl’s tummy to grow it.
They were two dads so they couldn’t grow a baby and stuff. I suppose you think about it, you’ve started friendships before, haven’t you? With other mum group friends or when your kid’s at childcare or something and you’ve connected with those parents there, you just slowly build it up over time. Is that sort of the similar advice you give Leanne there, how to bring people into your life? Yeah, I think just ease into it. Although I did have conversations with my kids before.
even engaging too much in the world of surrogacy. Like I, and they were young, like my youngest, at that six week scan, it was the day of my youngest daughter’s fourth birthday. So, you know, they were four, six and eight at the time that we were pregnant. And so they were, they were, they’re seven, nine and 11 now. So they’re a bit more independent. But yeah, so at the time I had the conversation with them around how, you know, there are some people in the world that aren’t lucky.
like us and who can’t have a baby on their own and they need someone to help them and would they be okay if we helped someone else have a baby? So I was already having those conversations with them. So it was just kind of natural. It was just something that they knew. It wasn’t like it came out of the blue. It wasn’t something that wasn’t…
part of their lives when from quite an early age, I was having these conversations with them anyway. And then, you know, once I joined the community and I met people and I wanted to, and I made the offer, you know, we started to incorporate them into our activities. So swimming lessons or sports days, or they’d be in attendance and be just like, oh, by the way, these are my friends kind of things. And a day at the park and you know, oh.
By the way, these are my friends. They just happened to be at the park walking their puppy or something like that. Like it could just be things like that, that an easy way to get the introductions happening anyway, and then start to spend more time together from there, like taking the kids to the pool or bike riding or whatever, whatever you’re into as a family, just incorporating your new friends into those activities. I think that’s good advice and, and the language to, you know, you work that out age specific, but then even having, if you talk to other surrogates.
about what they’ve done and you find other surrogates who were at similar points in their family life, particularly with their kids’ ages. You know, that’s again, the benefit of the community. Once you find people that are similar to you, you can learn from what they did too. Is there anything extra that you would like to add that you’ve been thinking, oh, I need to make sure I pop that one in? I don’t think I do. I think I’ve covered everything. I’ve got a little.
list of notes here that I’ve wanted to cover. I love your work. And I made sure that I incorporated everything into there. But I think the biggest one for me is that open, honest communication. Everyone talks about how communication is, you know, the key to a relationship, but it has to be open and honest communication. And really just not promising the world just because, you know, you want to surrogate, or as a surrogate, not promising the world that you might not even be able to deliver yourself. So, you know, you don’t know what you don’t know.
any surrogacy relationship that will be new that you haven’t thought to have a conversation about, and it’s about making sure that your team has created a safe space to have these, you know, to have some tough conversations and come out of it and still be a supportive and strong team. Like sometimes you’re not going to agree and that’s okay, but it’s all about making sure that your conflict resolution skills are up to date and that you can actually talk your way through.
problem so that once that speed bump has been passed, the relationship is still strong and you can still push through. Yes. And don’t just assume that you’re going to have a very smooth experience because no one does. It’s all about how we manage those speed bumps that really helps us have a great end result. Yes. So you actually do need some speed bumps or blind cooking together, blind baking, you know, and to realize how people manage intention or moving house or building IKEA furniture.
These sorts of things together. We’ve done all of that and we’ve sent it down. That’s just set a draw and painted and just, yeah, we’ve, we’ve I’ve tested the boys, that’s for sure. And we’re still, they still want me in their lives. So that’s a plus. Good. Well, I think we’ve got one last question here and saying, did you find sorry, pregnancy much different to your previous pregnancy? See your forever baby pregnancies. Is there more risk to gestational surrogacy versus traditional? I don’t think there’s.
more risk. My only thing I often say to surrogates is you’re older every time you get pregnant than you were with your own kids. So I was four years older than when I’d had my kids, so I was 37 or something. So of course pregnancy was harder. But I think we have to say like this HG, Hyperemesis Gravidarum, that some people get in very intense morning sickness. It’s unpredictable. Some surrogates had it in their normal.
pregnancies and then didn’t in sorry pregnancy and some get it. You don’t know what you’re going to get. But no, I don’t think there’s any research to suggest more risk. Anything to add in there, Leanne? I don’t think that there’s any research around more risk or not either. But I think for me, it was different, again, same manner I was older, two or three years older than my last pregnancy. But at the same time, because it’s not my child.
I probably took a lot better care of myself with that baby than I did with my own. In hindsight, I look back and I go, you know, probably ate some ham that day that I shouldn’t have eaten. But you know, with Surrobub, I didn’t do anything that I shouldn’t have done. I followed all of the rules because, you know, their child was in my care and they were trusting me to take care of her. And so it was really important to me that I do the best that I could. And so yeah, that’s probably probably the only difference for me was that I took a lot better care of myself.
during the pregnancy. I think that’s pretty common from what I hear from surrogates. They’re so invested in this, so they want to do the right thing and share the pregnancy. But we go into this, I think you just know if you can do it. In case the question was along the lines of, were you attached or whatever? Of course we were attached, but we knew it wasn’t a surprise when we got to birth.
And you’re telling your kids throughout the whole pregnancy, like, this is not our baby, we’re not bringing this baby home. So it’s just like this positive reinforcement through the whole pregnancy as well. You’re already, like, you are attached to that child, like you said, Anna, but at the end of the day, you know, it’s not your child. You know, even traditional surrogates have said the same thing, like even though they’ve got that genetic.
connection that they know it’s not their child. And we are totally, generally surrogates are totally done with creating any more children for themselves. So we are very keen to hand that baby over to parents and not hold onto it. And as long as you’ve got a good relationship with the parents, then they’re gonna be in your lives, especially for those first few weeks when you really need that slow transition.
to separate, you know, you’re gonna, they’re gonna be really supportive through that process and they’re gonna, you’re gonna get what you need to maintain your own mental health and wellbeing through that process. So yeah. And for your kids too, in case you’ve got young kids and you’re wondering, oh, how they gonna cope. Again, you talk to them about the babies can live in their house and they need to know who they are. And then your kids may want to see them more often than you sometimes. And so it’s about talking about.
how we’re going to visit each other and all of those things. So there’s a lot to consider in surrogacy here, but if you get it right, when we all, there are amazing parts along the way. Yes, that’s right. Wonderful. Even if you don’t get it right, there are still some amazing parts along the way. Just as I was saying that, I’m like, hang on Anna, backpedal a little bit there. That’s right. Even if it does fall apart after, there are still some amazing things. And I think we learn so much about ourselves as people and as mothers and as parents and as…
what we want in life and things. So we all get a lot out of this. Yes. Thank you for joining me. If you’d like to see the photos shared in this webinar presentation, head over to our YouTube channel to watch the webinar. You can head to surrogacyaustralia.org for more information about surrogacy. Also check out our Zoom monthly catch-up sessions, which are a great way to connect with others in the surrogacy community. Attending a Zoom is scary the first time, but there’s only ever one first time.
We have all been beginners at some stage. As we say, it takes a village to raise a child, and in the case of surrogacy, it takes a village to make a child. So welcome to the village.
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