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Episode 34 – Talitha – surrogate

Talitha birthed as a surrogate on the Sunshine Coast on New Years Day 2023 for a couple who were previously friends. Talitha expressed milk for little Leo for 9 weeks, as well as direct feeding for the first 3 days until her milk came in. Their IPs, Sindia and Tom, are from Brisbane and Talitha and her husband, Barton, were friends with Dad Tom long before surrogacy.

This episode was recorded in December 2023.

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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). 

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Are you an Intended Parent (IP) who is looking to find a surrogate, or a surrogate looking for Intended Parents? Consider joining SASS.

TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE

00:14
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.

00:42
This episode, recorded in December 2023, features Talitha. Talitha birthed as a surrogate on the Sunshine Coast on New Year’s Day 2023 for a couple who were previously friends. Talitha expressed milk for little Leo for nine weeks, as well as direct feeding for the first three days until her milk came in. Their IPs, intended parents, Sindia and Tom, are from Brisbane, and Talitha and her husband, Barton, were friends with Dad Tom long before surrogacy.

01:11
In this episode we talked about how she already had a best friend in Tom and gained another best friend with Sindia. Extreme morning sickness up until about 18 weeks and was basically bedridden. Having a plan in place for the couple of weeks before and after birth so your IPs are around to help the surrogate and her children.

01:29
connecting with the community before birth so you can talk to other surrogates about your experience, the idea of hopes and hormones, the uncomfortable conversations around finances, and finishing with a great conversation about what commercial or compensated surrogacy could look like in Australia and why that would be a good path for us. I hope you enjoy this episode. So Talitha, take us from the beginning. Why did you wanna be a surrogate? To carry for the friends that you knew you’d had your own kids?

01:56
Take us to the beginning of how it all started for you. Yeah, okay. So originally my sister-in-law struggled to get pregnant for about 10 years and they were going through IVF and they were down to their last embryo. And I had a discussion with my husband at that point saying if this embryo failed or the transfer failed, then like, would you be open to me caring for them? And surprisingly my husband was like, yeah, no, as long as you’re comfortable with it, I come fine with that. Thankfully she got pregnant.

02:23
They now have two babies. Was very happy for them and just kind of got put to the wayside. And then found out through a mutual friend of ours that Tom and Cindy had attended a surrogacy picnic. And I knew that they had had some issues with getting pregnant at that point. And I was like, wait a second, why haven’t they asked me? Not realizing you can’t really, you know, go up to someone and say, can you be my surrogate? I just.

02:50
sent out a message to them, which they read the next morning. And we kind of chatted from this. And I think the process, I know you meant to sorry date, but Tom at that point, I’ve been friends with myself for probably about 12 years and my husband even longer from.

03:06
like primary school, so it was a bit of a easy decision for us. We definitely still had those one-on-one discussions with my husband, and I actually talked to my in-laws and my family and just made sure everyone would be, you know, supportive of the process. And we went from there, yeah. Well, on that.

03:23
Did you find your in-laws and family were positive or did they have concerns? I think overwhelmingly positive about it. I think that they just kind of trusted that I would make the right decision for myself and they were super supportive through the process as well. Like through morning sickness, et cetera. Like they definitely did have to take on more. I kind of preempted that, that there would need to be a part of supporting me. So which is why the discussions came up. Yeah, everyone was really positive and even talked to my kids about it and kids are…

03:52
super resilient. They’re like, okay. Yeah, actually my daughter pointed to me and she would have only been about four at that time and she was like, oh, when I get older, I’m going to have a kid, but you can have it for me. So I don’t think that’s going to happen. But I love that we’ve opened their minds to the different possibilities that could happen. I think it’s beautiful that, you know, family creation can go a whole bunch of different ways and teaching them from such a young

04:22
Do you happen to remember the timeframe? So you birthed right at the beginning of this year, very start of 2023, from that time of that sort of first offer conversation, do you remember the timeframe of how long it took? Yeah, sure. So we had our first real discussion where they came up, I had a big list of questions. So from that point, it would have been a year right on. It was around Christmas the year beforehand. So yeah, it was a pretty quick process for us actually. You know, I was kind of like, if we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do this now.

04:51
That’s a great example. Surrogates are determined women and they have a vision of what they wanna do. And so I’m assuming then in that obviously pregnancy is about nine months. So then in the other first three, you were engaging with the IVF clinic, doing the counseling and the legals and still having all those chats along the way. Would that be right in the first three months of last year? 100%. Yeah, we were just straight onto it. I was pretty keen to move quickly. So I’d just finished a degree and I was gonna put off going into that career. I didn’t wanna waste time there. And I was like, I’m not getting any younger.

05:21
just move forward. Naturally, like all IPs, I assume they were super excited to get started. We whizzed through the legal and the counseling and for the IV, the fertility specialists were also keen to get moving right away. They all are. Yeah, we were just really lucky. We fell pregnant on the first transfer. So I think that’s why things moved really quickly as well.

05:45
You already had a friendship beforehand, so you knew what contact looked like, like how frequently you were catching up prior to surrogacy, probably gave you an idea of what that might look like post-birth as to how often you might continue to see them. Yeah, sure, so Tom, I mentioned.

06:00
One of both my best friends and my husband’s best friends, which is why this was such an easy decision for both of us. He’s actually Godfather to my first, no, my second child. We already had quite a lot of contact and also just that trust there that they would support me through that. And his now wife, they’re recently married actually. She is a medical professional and works in like a mental health field. So I just knew I’d be super supported from her as well. Already had a best friend going into this, but coming out of this, I had another best friend.

06:30
and like a lifelong friend.

06:32
It’s so teary talking about it, like, sorry, actually. It’s like such a beautiful process, but yeah. That’s lovely. Oh, I’m so honored that we can be here to sort of reflect on that journey that you’ve done nearly a year. Yeah. Done now. It’s a lovely time. I’m going to go back to the beautiful photos then. And so is this photo a baby shower occasion? Yeah, so it’s Cindy’s baby shower that we drove down for. Yeah, it was lovely. They had all the males downstairs and all the girls upstairs doing all the baby shower things. It was lovely.

07:02
spiritual rituals and her friends are lovely and I even managed to get a few gifts myself which I wasn’t expecting. Yeah it was a really beautiful experience and I think everyone around Cindy I was just you know so happy for her to finally get this baby into her life so. Beautiful. Got some other photos here in a different order I think we’ve perhaps got a photo of an embryo transfer and then you covered in lots of cords so tell us parts of the pregnancy then how did that go? The

07:31
as my first two, which I didn’t really understand going into it because it’s different genetic material. You can’t judge that pregnancy off what you’ve had beforehand, so it could have gone be totally different which it was. I had a extreme morning sickness through nearly the whole pregnancy. I was basically bedridden up until about

07:51
18 weeks. Wow. Which is something for surrogates to definitely think about like with your job. If you can’t do your work, luckily I could work from home and my boss was super supportive. So the person I work for, it’s only a three person company. So I definitely needed to have my boss on board, which he totally was. But he definitely sacrificed quite a lot by not.

08:11
me not being physically in the office for so long. And we also had to through a few bleeds which we needed to go and check out. Luckily baby was all totally fine. Definitely big hiccup is a photo here with all the wires. That’s me in hospital with COVID. The IP dad was actually over working through Europe and brought home some amazing German COVID for me. Oh, lucky.

08:37
We didn’t really, no one even thought about him coming to visit me a day after he arrived back home. So definitely something to think of is limit those visits if they’ve been overseas. And I ended up getting quite sick through this because of a lot of the coughing. I was having bleeding as well, and I would have been about.

08:54
20 weeks pregnant, 23 weeks I was. I ended up in hospital because I was having some issues breathing. And if I wasn’t pregnant, I probably would have stayed home a bit longer because it wasn’t my baby. I was being really cautious and called an ambulance and got.

09:10
down there. And that has a big impact on your own immediate family, husband and daughters too, that your time away from them and scary and unknown and how you would each manage this if it was just your own keeper child versus being a surrogate baby and lots of other people involved in the decisions.

09:26
that it’s in your body, but it can be tricky sometimes, can’t it? Yeah. So autonomy is like really important going into this. The questions actually got raised by the psychologist at the beginning. And a lot of their questions are really helpful because things you’re not thinking about, like if you’re having an issue with the pregnancy, it’s the middle of the night, are you going to tell your IPs before you go in? Or are you going to tell them when they wake up? Like, obviously if it’s, you know, something really wrong with the baby, like, uh, you would probably tell them.

09:55
But there’s those kind of questions that we worked out beforehand. So I didn’t actually let them know I was in the hospital until I was, it was a little bit later because it was, I think it went in about five 30 ish in the morning. So I kind of, yeah, wait till they were awake because I didn’t think anything was too wrong, which it wasn’t. Thankfully, everything was totally fine, but there’s some great discussions to have and how you’re logistically going to do it. Like I have two young kids. If I need my partner to come to hospital with me, what’s going to happen with my kids? They…

10:24
My IPs lived an hour away, so they can’t really come up if it’s an emergency. So yeah, just how you’re going to communicate through those things is, it’s important to think about prior, especially if there’s like possibility of a miscarriage. And I’m assuming they would really want to know, or maybe they don’t want to know until something is certain. That’s just the discussions you need to have before going into this.

10:45
That’s really valuable to hear there. I guess then we get to birthing day. Yeah. Talk us through that day. Yeah, so birthing day, the one thing everyone’s focusing on the whole time, it’s D-Day, you know. We were kind of working out, he was gonna be due around New Year’s Day, potentially Christmas Day, because he was measuring quite big. We were trying to not out how we’re gonna organize this. They’re just over an hour away, like we didn’t really have a guest house, or a guest room for them to stay in at that time. So.

11:15
How are we going to manage this? Are they going to pay for accommodation on the Sunshine Coast during the Christmas period? That’s really expensive. And what if I don’t give birth then? So we’re just trying to not out and we didn’t really know what we were going to do until it was kind of upon us. So after Christmas, that week off there, we actually called them and were like, could you come and stay? He had a brother living not far from us.

11:38
Could you come up and stay on the coast so you can be around and help out a little bit more, especially with the kids? So, you know, it’s their Christmas holidays, they want to be doing things. I’m way too pregnant to be doing anything. And, you know, they came up and were just around making things a bit more fun for the kids and helping us out. They were making dinner every night. And that was really helpful for us. So it’s definitely something to consider for.

12:00
to your future team, like how you’re going to support those last few weeks, can they be around? I would highly recommend it. You’re probably going to want them there, especially if you’ve got younger kids. They were around, we had a little bit of a false start. I was having contractions that weren’t really establishing and I was still able to kind of talk through them on New Year’s Eve. You know, I had like three people just staring at me every time I’d have like a little one, just like, oh, which isn’t fun.

12:29
I was like, don’t look at me. That kind of petered off and I was like, guys, it’s not happening, let’s go home. Like go back to your place, let’s all just try and get some sleep. The next morning they were really keen for the midwife to come and check me out and I was okay with that. I was like, you’re okay if that’s gonna make you guys feel a little bit more secure that, you know, baby’s okay, that’s something I’m okay with. And so the midwife actually came to my house on early New Year’s day, which was great. I was in the midwifery group that they have on the Sunshine Coast. I had one.

12:59
midwife around and that’s really valuable. I actually got the IVF specialist to write a recommendation to get me through. So that’s something that was really valuable, especially with surrogacy, where it’s not that common and having the same midwife through, you’re not explaining everything every time. So she came around to my house, check me out. I was about four or five centimeters dilated already, which is great. She did a little stretch and sweep and about 15 minutes later, she left about 15 minutes later, it kicked off.

13:28
So, Barton had my partner just headed down to see his family for his mom’s birthday actually. I called him up. Well, Sindia called him up and said, yeah, you need to get back here, but you probably won’t make it. Meet us at the hospital. Yes. We had planned a hypno birth style birth. It was really beautiful. Tom and Barton set up the room. Sindia was my designated birth partner to use the brain system for anyone who knows hypnobirth

13:57
We decided that I was okay for Sindia to actually catch Leo and have that.

14:04
first initial hold. So that was something we liked for our team. I know not everyone that’s gonna work for. So she actually jumped in the bath as I was pushing out Leo and caught him herself, which was really beautiful. Is that your hand on her knee? So yeah, that’s her. That’s my hand on the knee. He’s still attached to me at that point. So placenta hadn’t come out yet. And you can’t really tell there, but they’re both just absolutely sobbing. One of the most beautiful moments of my life. So it’s nice. We’ve got that.

14:32
image. Beautiful photo. It’s so pretty. Did you guys know you were having a little boy? We did, yes. And what a head of hair he’s got there. Oh, he lost it all but now it’s even longer and fuller now so he was absolutely beautiful boy. Yeah, so they had from there, I had a bit of bleeding so they went and had their golden hour on their own and I had some colostrum also expressed for them to do the first feed which they…

14:58
really wanted to do that themselves. And while I was being looked after, they kind of had just a little bit of their own time together, which was really nice. Beautiful. Yeah. And then I think we’ve got some photos. So your girls came and met him? So they did, yeah, they came into the hospital. Tom and Cindy were really keen to be there for as long as possible. And I tried to convince them you won’t wanna be. And after one night, they were very keen to get out. Yeah, so my girls came the next morning.

15:25
were very, very excited to meet their little cousin, Leo. Yeah. Lovely photo. Yeah. So this is back at their house. So like I said, we weren’t really nutting out how we were gonna do it until kind of it came up. So Tom actually came up to me in the hospital.

15:40
And he was like swaddled up like a baby himself. He’s like, do you want to just go home? Like, we go to our house and like, let’s do it. So I actually went back to their house until my milk came in and Spartan went back home with the girls for two nights and then came down to kind of pick us up and this is a week later that we all went back down. So yeah, that was like, yeah, you just work out what’s going to work at the time. And you have to be flexible, especially with the school holidays.

16:08
to work out with kids and for mine it feel

16:11
at the very beginning of the October school holidays, my husband’s a teacher. Yeah, the guys, even though we’re in Adelaide, they got an Airbnb up near us for a week. So yes, they stayed, because it was a home birth too, stayed with us for one night. I stayed with them for one night. The mum-yook was in by about that point. So yes, that week that we were sort of together, only at like a couple of minute drive away, they could call me and say, he’s ready for a feed. And I’d be there. But yeah, it’s a beautiful time to spend together, wasn’t it? Yeah, yeah. Ideally, it would have been better if we were closer

16:41
a little bit more contact because that first week I was I wasn’t part of the online group so I didn’t have a whole lot of information about the fourth trimester and anything I was googling was really unhelpful so I would look up like fourth trimester for surrogate and then it’d be

16:57
like, oh, you might get empty arm syndrome. I’m like, oh, okay. So I’m typing in empty arm syndrome and it’s about stillbirths essentially. So that’s not something I was willing to read when I’m heavily pregnant. I was my third trimester. So I was like, oh, I don’t want to read that. So I just kind of went into it blindly knowing I was gonna have these hormonal drops, but not really knowing how to support it as a surrogate. I was then at that point trying to access the surrogate forums.

17:24
et cetera, but it was kind of too late. So that’s definitely as it like any potential surrogates, definitely get apart, be a part of the surrogacy or community or surrogates only community to try and get those tips. Uh, cause yeah, it was, it was so wild that three day at home crying, but I’m so happy, I’m so proud of myself and I’m still crying. And, uh, so having a little bit more access for that first week would have been more ideal, but you know, you do what you can do.

17:53
Yeah, good advice there, finding some other surrogate sisters that have been through what you’re going through so that they understand that roller coaster that it is. Oh yes, yeah. And then some cuddles here. Yeah, so this is both my daughter’s got to feed Leo, which they really loved, and we all got to feed him actually, which was nice. So yeah, wasn’t breastfeeding anymore by this point, just bringing down milk or little Leo, but yeah, very, very loved little one.

18:22
My husband’s always got his shirt off, but he’s not having skin to skin. He’s, he smokes cigarettes. So this is why he’s doing.

18:29
I did wonder that in the birth photo something yeah yeah why not team effort here yeah I think at first though when we connected on social media I thought he was the dad yeah I thought I was your husband then I assumed yeah there would be an easy mistake to make but um yeah we just didn’t want any of those yucky chemicals near the little parents so and you mentioned that you did a lot of the direct breastfeeding for the first few days so was everybody um comfortable with that and was

18:59
Yeah, definitely. So originally, actually, I wasn’t going to breastfeed or express at all. My milk comes in really hard and heavy and I wasn’t excited about going through that again. And you know, how did this magical pill you take and it stops your milk coming in. So that was what I was planning to do. But then my midwife actually told me even if you take the tablets, your milk still comes actually in and you’re going to have to express it out anyways.

19:25
So I was like, oh, well, if the milk’s there, then I may as well be giving it to him, right? Well, what’s really the point? And she also did mention the tablet that you can take to stop lactation actually really affects your hormones as well and going into it and already worried about my hormone imbalances, it was not something I wanted to do. And I was like, well, I may as well if it’s there. And so I brought it up with Sindia, just like, hey, this is what I found out and.

19:52
And this is what I’m, I’d be happy to do. Is that something you’re comfortable with?” And she jumped on it. She was so happy about it. She was like anything for the health of the baby. Obviously, bed is best, 100%. Whatever works for your team. For anything in surgery, whatever works for your team is best. She was, you know, from a medical background, she’s constantly researching everything and

20:14
really was interested in having breast milk for at least that first month. I directly fed for three days, same as you, to my milk came in and then started expressing from there and she also had other donor milk in case for that lag between getting enough milk out and yeah getting my milk for him so. To have IPs who are supportive of the journey for their child as well what could be best for them?

20:39
and that she’s open to donor milk as well. What’s some great conversations you had there as a team? Good work. Yeah, yeah. And I think really what’s really important is just willing to move the goal posts all the time during surrogacy. Like this isn’t something, well, most people is their first time being a surrogate, it’s their first time being IPs generally. So you don’t know what’s gonna come up until you’re in it. You know, what do you think might be?

21:02
what you want at the start might be totally different by the end. So just willing to have continually keep having those conversations is super important and you’re constantly getting new information the whole way through. You don’t have all the information to start as every medical professional you talk to has some new bit of information. So we were discussing it as a team and how it would change where, what we’re going to do, et cetera, especially when it comes around to inductions.

21:27
Et cetera. So something I didn’t realize is that all IVF babies I like to induce early for not really any solid reason. So we’ll kind of, yeah, tossing and turning with that the whole time. Taking into account as measurements, like that was something that was, you know, we were dealing with. So just willing to be flexible is super important. You know, surrogacy, like something always out of my head is hopes and hormones.

21:55
And those hopes and hormones are just going to create new conversations like constantly, because you don’t know what you’re going to think when you’re 38 weeks pregnant and very hormonal middle of summer and hot. And I’m like, let’s just induct when we can. Which he came two days before his induction date. So, as you say, you adjust as the pregnancy goes on and as you get new information. So, so yes. And now I think we’ve got some photos there of parentage order day and.

22:23
catching up as life goes on. Yeah, yeah. So parentage on a day, we got a little bit of advice from one of the psychologists, I believe it was, that said, like, make it a celebration, make it a bit of a deal. We went and stayed with them the night beforehand and none of us got much sleep that night, thanks to Leo. So we’re all pretty knackered.

22:41
By the time we got there, but we managed to go out and have a lovely breakfast and some mimosas and yeah, it was a really special day, which was very nice. Just them again, it was basically like, you know, there’s so many appointments with surrogacy, so many, what you think is going to be involved, double it. Especially for surrogates, the amount of blood tests could not have expected that. So if you don’t like blood tests.

23:04
Prepare yourself. Because often when we got pregnant, we didn’t need to have IVF to get pregnant. All the extra scans and all the extra tests that they really wanted to do, which is fine, I was happy to do that with them. And then meeting for the parentage orders, the affidavits, the psychologist appointments, and then the constant birth plans. There’s just so much work goes into it. So I think that’s why the parentage order is so exciting, because it’s the last one.

23:33
He’s still on my Medicaid card, I can’t manage to get him off that, but you know, that’s not hugely needed, but yeah, it’s a really important day and definitely celebrate it, do something fun. And yeah, the other photos, I was up in Noosa for Cyndia’s birthday, so we definitely still catch up when we can. Obviously they’re busy with that first year of a baby, our life is just going on after the surrogacy bubble, but yeah, we definitely try and catch up when we can.

24:02
And you know, my kids got really close to them through this process, to them being constantly in contact. So we definitely try and make it like at least that they can talk. Like my eldest daughter has kids messenger and has Cindy on there so they can chat themselves and they like FaceTime.

24:17
themselves, which is nice. They came and stayed here like a week ago. And I think like something you said before about like the currency for surrogates being that love and relationships, it’s all the things during surrogacy, trying to maintain the healthiness of that relationship is so important to protect that. And because, you know, I’ve read the relationships that have fallen apart, either like during or post, losing that relationship.

24:42
with your sorrow baby, it’s just like so heartbreaking. It’s not just the baby you get, it’s like you get them for life. Even though something like you said before, like I think it was about six months after, like I really don’t feel any physical connection to sorrow baby. I think like after the first like month, like it was just like, oh, you’re my friend’s kid. You know, but it will be a really special relationship, I think. Yes. And I look forward to.

25:06
Baker’s nearly getting to that age where he might say something like, I grew in your tummy. And just yet my kids refer to them as cousins to a tummy cousin, but you know, Baker will develop his own language there. That’s probably a nice segue into our first question here. Celeste says, thank you for sharing your lovely story. How do your now P’s, your IP’s parents address you? Are you an auntie?

25:28
How do you think Leo might address you? Yeah, I’m Aunty Till, and he’s only got one other auntie, but I say I have to be the favorite auntie. But I also know the other auntie because I’ve been friends with them all. So I already knew Tom’s family. But yeah, definitely Aunty Till. And I think you said before your girls see him as a cousin sort of idea? Yeah, yeah, they refer to him as like their cousin. And they don’t really call Tom Uncle Tom because I have a brother, Tom, already. So it gets a little bit confusing, but it’s Aunty Cindy. Yeah. I’m telling you, we were talking before.

25:57
about the mental load of surrogacy and you referred to how there’s so many appointments. What advice do you have for people in terms of that balancing act for the surrogate and the IPs and managing all of that? Yeah so going into it I work full-time, I have two young kids, you know, we’re on a household.

26:14
I already have a lot of responsibilities in my own life. So I was very clear from the get-go that I don’t want to be taking on a lot of that mental load and anything they can do to take that off would be super appreciated. So I was saying to you before, Cindy would actually call for scans and just pretend she was me is probably not very legal. Just sharing you all my details. I’m like, yeah, can I book a scan for this date? And she’d just be texting me on the side like this is date. Okay.

26:38
Yeah, that’s fine. Anything that IPs can do to kind of help with that, because you’re carrying the baby, it’s all kind of in your name. You are meant to be doing all of that appointments. And yeah, if that’s something that you’re not willing to take on, like be clear about that.

26:53
Yeah, that’s true, sharing that load there. Also in terms of that currency, in terms of that time, friendship and love, there’s another concept out there in the community of love languages. Is that something that your team were familiar with or talked about? Yeah, so that was one of the first questions Cynthia asked me actually. It was, what’s your love language? Because she wanted to be supported in that way. And our love languages are different. And we’re actually quite different people in the way that we parent and just in general, which wasn’t something I was worried about at all.

27:23
She’s that highly researched where I was a bit more of a free range parent and I’ve been around a lot of babies in my life over they kind of had hadn’t everything’s kind of new to them where I was a bit more, you know, relaxed when it would, you know, just kind of taking things as they come where they knew all about babies for the first year. And you know, that’s fine. It’s a baby they can parent it’s like with all parents everyone everyone parents differently. Yeah, so love languages, for example, hers is

27:51
quality time. So and mine was probably more sounds really bad saying this. I’m more like a gift in access to service love language. I’m just going to segue on that one. I’ve had one of the psychologists, Katrina Hale on, and we did a whole webinar podcast on love languages. And so no, gifts are not people that are

28:10
tokenistic. It’s actually something that shows thought that you’ve thought about the things that are meaning for my life. Yeah, yeah, I’m not expecting jewelry or anything like that. I don’t know, just like a bunch of flowers which they gave me for my birthday. Like they’re super appreciated, you know, just I don’t know.

28:25
I don’t know why it’s my love language is something my partner and I, we’ve got the same love language, so it works out great for us. But you know, appreciating each other’s love languages. We both, both teams really loved food. So we’d go out to restaurants whenever I’m down in Brisbane and, you know, they would always pay the bill. It was just like something they could do for us and was really appreciated. I think especially with my pregnancy being so hard, it was.

28:50
nice to feel appreciated and seen. And it can be really hard because, you know, they hadn’t been pregnant before, so they don’t really know what it’s like. But I wouldn’t want to burden them with, you know, every little thing that was being difficult for me, because I didn’t want to seem like I was like complaining about the pregnancy at all, you know, very aware that…

29:12
they want to be carrying their own baby. I think just being really empathetic towards one another is really important. And like you were saying before, when we were having a chat that if IPs are having any issues, they never put it at the surrogate, they go outside. It was the same kind of for me, like in one instance when I was stuck in bed, super sick, they wouldn’t have like a baby moon Europe summer vacation, you know, and I’m stuck in my bed. What about me?

29:40
I can’t move, feeling a little bit bitter, but I would never say that to them, you know, because of course they can have their baby moon. They’ve had a really difficult experience getting to this point, go celebrate, you know, you got your baby coming. I would never vent at them. I vent at my husband. And I think that’s really good for surrogates. It’s like, don’t throw everything back at them. Have a little bit of a filter and just like seeing things from their perspective. So you know, just those like off the cuff things like, oh, pregnancy sucks. Like, you know, don’t.

30:09
probably say that to your IPs because you know they’ve gone through a lot to get here. They’re going through a lot at that point too like they’re spending a lot of money, they’re giving you all of their time, it’s super intensive and just supporting one another for sure. I might do a little plug there that other places surrogates can vent to are other surrogates or

30:27
having ongoing counselling with one of the counsellors that perhaps you had earlier on that are experienced in these surrogacy emotions for everybody and having a vent to them and feeling, oh, that’s totally normal and having that weight taken off. One of the questions that Celeste asks is, did your IEPs attend all of your doctor’s appointments or did you have an agreement about that early on? I guess I’m considering that you’re an hour away. Did you have some agreement as to the significant scans or other appointments they would come to? Yeah, so they were…

30:56
very keen to go through the experience as much as they could. So they came to definitely all the scans. They were there for all of them. We had to fight a little bit to get them both into the room with us at some places, but we were just really firm and didn’t really give them an option for the coming in, so, and it was all fine.

31:15
Uh, there was a few of the midwife appointments that I was like, oh, it’s just a checkup. Like, you know, I would, for some of those, I would call in if they had questions, call in so they could listen to the heartbeat, but otherwise like we just chat. And also think that gives the surrogate a chance to ask those questions of the midwife that maybe they don’t want to ask in front of the IPs, like, you know, just how they kind of want, I don’t know, for example, um, it could be.

31:41
body aches and pains and pregnancy issues that happen in private areas that you don’t need your IPs to know about? 100% yes. And I found like the midwives were really keen to have chats with me one on one just to see how I’m going with everything too and like my own mental health and which is great that they do that. So yeah, I think it’s good if they do miss some of those not so exciting appointments, but otherwise they were there for 90%.

32:06
Excellent. Yeah, that’s what our team decided to do, that they would experience the full inconvenience of pregnancy and all of those appointments to get that too. And one bit of advice I think I’ve heard from

32:16
counselors or other teens is in the later stages of pregnancy, it could be really handy for the IPs to have either a separate session with a midwife or like half of the session on their own so they can ask their questions and learn about parenting, which you as a surrogate don’t need to learn about. So there’s two separate things that need to happen often in those appointments. Yeah, yeah, that’s good advice. Have you got any other?

32:37
bits of parting advice and wisdom you’d like to pass on or highs and lows from your journey? The only other thing I don’t think we’ve really touched on is finances. And I think it’s really the one thing that you’re going to find uncomfortable. It doesn’t matter if you knew them beforehand for how long, even if it’s your family. Talking about finances is never fun. There were plenty of times I’d write the message and close my eyes and just send it. Because it’s uncomfortable asking for money. Taking that out of the equation as much as you can, super valuable. Definitely having a debit card. But.

33:05
making sure there’s money on the debit card because there’s nothing worse than using it and it’s empty and you’re like oh sorry can you put some more in and you know you just don’t want to have that stress there for any ips watching or listening that yeah just just making sure that you’re on top of that taking out that stress as much as you can. Great advice there absolutely because as I’ve heard other surrogates say um talking about money is transactional.

33:28
And we don’t do surrogacy for the transaction element. We do it for love. And so it feels yucky to have to talk about money and those sorts of transaction things. And we’re independent women that can run our own households and budgets. It feels like asking for pocket money when you have to ask other adults for money. So yes.

33:44
Talking money is uncomfortable. So that’s, and having the debit card, that’s good advice then. We’re talking before about how you had done a law degree and talking about maybe the future direction you might go in and how you might like to support some changes that might happen in surrogacy. Are there changes that you would like to see in surrogacy in Australia then? Yeah, so this is a bit of a taboo subject, especially amongst surrogates. I do believe that commercial surrogacy will…

34:09
come to Australia at some point. I don’t think it’s a question of if, it’s a question of when, and I see that as a really positive thing. Why? I think a lot of surrogates think that they should be just doing this out of the goodness of their own hearts, but even if you’re being paid to be a surrogate, you’re still doing this out of the goodness of your own hearts. Going through this experience, it takes a lot out of your own life. For example,

34:31
I did a degree up until I did the surrogacy journey and at that point I was having a day off work to finish my degree with the idea that I would go back to five days a week once it was done. But then I got pregnant, super morning sick and I couldn’t do those five days. So I lost out on a day’s wage for it, you know, essentially nine months, well a year essentially. It is a massive sacrifice to go through this.

34:52
process. I don’t think it’s a huge ask to expect some kind of remuneration for your time and energy. And it’s not just your time, it’s your family’s time. I took so much away from my children and my partner because I couldn’t move for most of the pregnancy. My partner had to cook every night. I couldn’t do anything with my own kids, which was fine. It was like the best experience I’ve ever been through. Zero regrets whatsoever. But

35:17
it stops me wanting to be a surrogate again. If I could be remunerated to be a surrogate, I would probably go through the process again because it is a beautiful process. You are giving someone the gift of parenthood, which is so beautiful, but it does stop me. And I know the argument is that they could be exploitation, but I think in the current model, there’s still exploitation. There’s still IPs going promising the world surrogates, getting into pregnancy and then…

35:44
not following through on any of the promises they made and these surrogates are going through this process unsupported, which is really heartbreaking that they really don’t get anything out of this because they’re not getting that relationship at the end. And I know that some people would even be more comfortable when it comes to finances, talking about finances feels transactional. It would take all of that out of it because you have the finances there to cover everything. So you would feel more supported and safe in that situation. But also, you know, I’m not saying all,

36:13
surrogate should be paid, of course not. I think it should just be up to the team to determine what would suit them best moving forward. Is that some form of payment? Is it the compensation model where just more expenses can be covered? Like in Canada, I think that’s a great middle ground as well. So just, just having a little bit more room to do what’s best for your team.

36:35
I like that. And I agree with you, if anybody’s wondering my opinion, I like that idea of moving towards a compensated commercial model, but perhaps teams could pick. So we could be a country that does commercial surrogacy, but teams can choose to be altruistic if they want or somewhere in between. Yes, Canada having more generous expenses allowed without having to sort of question everything. It’s sort of assumed a large amount of things are going to be expected, costs along the way. Do you have a particular figure in mind then that

37:03
would be, feel like a good compensation? Not personally. And I know in America it comes down to if you’re like a first time surrogate or second time.

37:13
If you’re second time, you generally are paid more in America, but even in their circumstances, it depends on the team as well and who you’re going through as well. I think I’m not entirely sure, but I’m assuming the organizations that go through the agencies would have kind of set amounts. I’m not too sure. From my understanding, I think it’s either tax free or it’s after tax. It’s probably Aussie dollars, 50 to 60,000 after all the expenses are paid. Yeah.

37:36
The talk that I’ve heard among the community, a first step might be the more generous expenses, so not questioning everything and $10,000 amount on top of that as that sort of sweetener, if you like, to thank you for the wear and tear on your body and the things that can’t be put down to all of the expenses there. Yeah and there’s a lot of things that come like after the fourth semester that you aren’t covered, like you know you have the baby, that all kind of stops, but there’s a lot that still comes afterwards that you don’t expect. Clothing.

38:04
mentioned before, I obviously can’t wear my maternity clothing, but I’m not back to my old clothes, but none of that’s really covered. The clothes that are in between size. Yeah, the exercise, the medications to balance out your hormones again, some of them may be covered, but yeah, that’s something we didn’t really do. Not that I have any regrets at all on that. Financially, I felt very supported by my IPs. I think it’d be really beneficial for everyone. There would be more surrogates for IPs to be able to access.

38:31
They’re not going overseas and getting themselves in situations that are very difficult to get out of. For example, like Ukraine, all around the world, they’re having issues and keeping in Australia. So you can maintain those relationships if you want. I’ve heard of some IPs that are really uncomfortable about having to form a super close relationship with the surrogate. Then it’s not something that they’re comfortable with. So they don’t do it or they go overseas. It just gives more options for everyone, I think. Yes.

38:58
and to have people do it onshore here where we all speak the same language under our Medicare system. And our legal system. Yeah, our legal system, that’s right. And so that the child born from surrogacy has the ability to stay in contact, regardless of how much the adults stay in contact, but it just makes that communication easier so they’ve got access to their story. I think we’ve done a good job there. Just to sum it all together then, any last bits of advice for people? Is it surrogacy something you’d recommend? Would you do it again? Uh, yeah. Maybe. You’re glad you did it.

39:28
But you’re one of those. Surrogacy is when justifying it to people going like during the process, like, how would you do this? It’s just said to them in your lifetime, there’s only a handful of experiences that you dot point in during your life that you went through or you did. Surrogacy is hands down one of them. It was watching my friends become a parent was just, yeah.

39:50
Something you can, I’m getting goosebumps, yeah. Every time I think about it, I get goosebumps. It’s a beautiful experience, not for everyone. Do the legwork before you get into it. Have the uncomfortable discussions and keep persisting with your IPs as well. Definitely, yeah, keep putting yourself out there. Talk to your friends, talk to your family. Put it into your network, you’re looking for a surrogate because you’re more likely to find one within your network than meeting strangers, but it happens. Like, you did it. Beautiful.

40:18
That is a perfect summary there, wonderful. Thank you for joining me. On our YouTube channel, you will find many other episodes as well as the images mentioned in this webinar. If you’re looking for more resources, check out the show notes for this episode and consider joining us in one of our webinars so you can have your questions answered on the spot. Please subscribe to this podcast if you found it valuable and share it with someone so they too can benefit from this conversation. Until next time, welcome to the village.

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