Episode 40 – Meg – straight mum
Meg and her partner, Matt, became parents to their daughter (Imogen) in September 2022. Imogen was carried by their surrogate who was a former work colleague of Meg’s and they all live in Brisbane. Meg needed a surrogate after radiation therapy to her pelvis damaged her ovaries and uterus.
Meg gave SO many pearls of advice for navigating surrogacy, and one that is suitable for surrogacy relationships and in fact all of our friendships and relationships is “Don’t assume there’s a problem unless you’re told there’s a problem”.
This episode was recorded in December 2022.
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? Join SASS.
Thanks for watching!
Welcome to our podcast series with Surrogacy Australia. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen and in turn for helping us spread awareness and appreciation for surrogacy. I’m your host Anna McKie and these recordings are from a regular webinar series that I run. You can find upcoming dates on our website at surrogacyaustralia.org During the one hour webinars I will walk you through the surrogacy process in Australia and you can type in questions for us to answer.
My co-hosts have all done surrogacy in Australia, and they alternate between surrogates, gay dads, and straight mums. This episode, recorded in December 2022, features Meg. Meg and her partner Matt became parents to their daughter Imogen in September 2022. Imogen was carried by their surrogate, who was a former work colleague of Meg’s, and they all live in Brisbane. Meg needed a surrogate after radiation therapy to her pelvis damaged her ovaries and uterus.
Meg gave so many pearls of advice for navigating surrogacy and one that is suitable for surrogacy relationships and in fact all of our friendships and relationships that don’t assume there’s a problem unless you’re told there’s a problem. Meg also has the idea that the average woman doesn’t offer to carry children for people and that surrogates are usually women who swim against the tide, they don’t swim with the school. I find this a fascinating idea and one I’ve not considered but I think she’s on to something.
So which women become surrogates then? Perhaps it’s those who do alternative things in their life already, as most women don’t offer to be surrogates. Create some food for thought in terms of where do we find surrogates? Is there a place we can go to recruit more women to be surrogates? Not really, but I suppose those of us that do step forward to be surrogates, when you look deeper into our lives, maybe we do some alternative things or maybe we don’t go with the mainstream. I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I enjoyed having Meg on as co-host.
Where did it all start, Meg? Well, it probably all started in Nepal when I was hiking in the Himalayas and my left butt cheek started growing at an alarming rate. My partner was like, something’s going on here.
And when I got home in January, I quickly had an MRI and discovered that I had a very rare, almost one in a million tumor. And it was a fat cancer and it was in my gluteus maximus muscle. And I needed to have that radiated and I needed to have it removed. I had my whole left buttock removed as well, along with the musculature of my left buttock, which operates part of the left hip. So that’s in a nutshell. There wasn’t time for IVF for me, unfortunately, or else there was a good risk of me losing my leg.
did say that I could cut off my ovaries and stitch them into my abdomen. I’m not personally, but someone else would do that for me. And that would reduce their radiation exposure. And then I could try to harvest eggs later. And I wasn’t all that keen on harvesting my own eggs later, given that they had been radiated, I felt that.
I would prefer to go straight to egg donation and not have my child’s life start with 50% of his or her DNA radiated, but that wasn’t an option. I had to try it with my own eggs first. So then they had to take my ovaries after I had lost my bum and all sorts of things. Then I unstitched them from my abdomen. They’re all baked on, but long story. And then stitch them back into my pelvis where they could access them for IVF. I did four rounds of IVF egg collections.
only getting a couple each time in the last round, nothing. In that we ended up with a couple of embryos, one, two that looked very good and one that didn’t. We chose to test one of those embryos that looked very good under the doctor’s recommendation and it wasn’t viable. So we really didn’t know if we had much of a chance.
We knew that saragasy was most likely the best way forward for me. For a number of reasons, my uterus was burnt. And so we could attempt to put embryos into my uterus, but the chance of them implanting was low, but then if they did implant the chance of the uterus, not stretching enough to support a growing fetus was, yeah, it was a real problem. Um, where I was warned that they couldn’t quantify the risk, but they thought that there was a reasonable risk of stillbirth in the third trimester as well. And added to that, I also had no buttock on the left. So.
walking without glutes when pregnant would be incredibly challenging. And so we had a whole lot of reasons and, you know, I armed and armed for quite a while about what on earth I should do and the doctors recommended surrogacy for me. But they also recommended an egg donation because they weren’t confident that I had enough embryos. You know, only one of them that was untested looked any good at that point. And so a great friend of mine offered to do an egg donation round for me. And we got a couple more on ice from that.
to explore surrogacy. It’s probably not true actually, earlier than that, way earlier. If you rewind back to the crazy phase of me trying to work out, do I risk losing my leg versus do an IVF round now before, because it was a choice, you know, I could have delayed my most, my radiation and surgeries. My best friend in the whole wide world still to this day.
flew up from Melbourne to see me and she said, you know, just, just do the radiation. I’ll carry a baby for you if you need it. And, you know, she was at the time, like, that was just like a, wow, that’s amazing. I don’t commit to that, you know, no, no, no, no, but, but I want to, that’s, you know, just get to the other side of this and then we’ll look at that. And we talked about that along the way for quite a while, but when the time came to actually start IVF, she was starting to get a little bit, you know, nervous hearing about it. And I just got that sense that she wasn’t really at ease with it. And I talked to her.
about perhaps talking to a surrogacy counselor now at this point to see if it’s something that you actually feel that you can do and she didn’t end up booking that in and in that time there was COVID, she was living in Melbourne and her youngest son was diagnosed with terrible anaphylaxis and she has some real I think post-traumatic stress around that, around having her son go to hospital so many times, you know, risking his life and all of that culminated into her deciding that she couldn’t
knows that and I still get teary thinking about it but at no time did we ever blame her for that. We understood, we understood but it was soul-destroying as well. Because you sort of start all of your plans and you’re thinking about what this could look like. She’s in Melbourne, in Brisbane, how you could navigate that together and although you knew of course she has to put her family first and the enormity of it but still weighing all of that up and even when that news comes it’s hard and she would be sad and you guys too because you’re like where to now?
He was devastated by her own realization that she didn’t have, you know, the emotional capacity to proceed with it. I think it was just as hard on her to, to be honest. So yeah, that was really hard and we’d already started IVF. So I was very full of hormones and all that sort of stuff. And, but I’d already been investigating surrogacy with podcasts and things like that, so, cause I was trying to, you know, familiarize myself with it and send her some podcasts to listen to and.
So I knew that this community existed and I was already in an Australian surrogacy Facebook group, which was great. And having seen people who’d met strangers online and met them through, you know, meetups and stuff, I started to get my head around the fact that this could also be a way that I could have a family. I booked into a growing families conference in Brisbane last year and thought that by going there that we’d just learn a little bit more and we might meet a surrogate, but it wasn’t really something that we were even sure about at that point.
And the first person that we met was actually Anna. I don’t know that you know this, Anna, but I know. I’m thinking back now going we did, that’s right, I was at the Brisbane. You might remember Matt showed up on crutches because he’d broken his foot or something at 40. He has a lot of footy injuries, so I can’t remember which one it was. And I was using like a walking pole because I don’t stand for long periods and don’t sit for long periods and was quite sore at that point in time. I use it intermittently to walk. So the two of us just look like, you know.
We lived on in and we met some wonderful people. We learned a lot. We stuck around for the dinner. We met some of the people who to this day are my friends. Actually at that time, I’d had an email list with a couple of my girlfriends about going away for a weekend and we were listing possible dates. And I said, I can’t go that weekend because I’m going to the surrogacy conference. It was only a list of two women. I hadn’t put this out on my Facebook that we needed a surrogate, largely because it was a bit too raw having had my best friend say that she couldn’t do it. And I wanted to give her some time as well
with questions from our mutual friends about why she couldn’t do it and that sort of thing. So I hadn’t put anything up about it, but in this little e-list, three women, I’m just crazy lucky that one of those women is a friend of mine who I’d worked with for years, probably 10 years ago, but we worked together for about five years and we don’t see, didn’t see a lot of each other forever in our hearts, we’re good friends. She had actually considered being a surrogate for someone else.
years prior, who ended up going a commercial route overseas. But because in her mind, she’d already sort of thought about that as a possibility. She was quite quick to actually say to me at trivia, you know, a couple of weeks later, Hey, do you need a surrogate now? I thought, you know, you already had friend who was willing to do this for you. And I said, we sort of explained it. And she just said, I’m interested if you want to explore it. My heart was pretty guarded. Admittedly, I didn’t think this is it. I just thought, oh, once she starts exploring it, she’ll, she’ll realize this is a lot of bigger commitment.
Yeah. Look, it worked really well. And that was the one that ended up being your surrogate? She ended up being my surrogate. That actually ended up being a sprint, not a marathon. And that was something that we don’t recommend. And I still wouldn’t recommend to people to do it that way. But she was 45 years old, had a daughter doing, you know, in senior school.
had never traveled in her life because she fell pregnant with whoopsie babies earlier on at 21, sort of. And she was seeing the finish line of no longer having children to take care of. Her older kids are in their early 20s. And so she was just like, when this last one finishes school, I’m gonna depart and explore. She hadn’t been overseas, you know? So she had a really strict timeline and has always been someone with really good boundaries. And I’ve known her well. And so she was like, I’m happy to do this for you, but I need to be pregnant before March of 2022.
otherwise it’s a no-go, my uterus is not available. Right, so I’m just going to take you some time frame. So we met the 21 June conference we met, so you had found out your diagnosis in a Decemberish January of 20? No, no, oh goodness, no, December, January of that 2018-2019. Oh, early, right. So you had your friend that had offered, so that was sort of entertaining that idea and conversations in sort of early 2019, contemplating my cancer therapy and how to do things. It wasn’t a formal
it was a fairly, you know, let’s do, we’ll do this. So from then with your surrogate that did carry for you, I think we did mention her name in my social media post. So we could do that if you want to, but we’re respecting her privacy, which I’m sure we’ll talk about.
So then she came to you with an offer late in 2021, and she was kind of wanting to get pregnant by March. She came to me with an offer, I reckon around June, like very close to that actual conference, and was like, I’m going to explore it with you. Not a hard offer either. Don’t ever offer someone the first time you talk about surrogacy. Well, I would say on that, it’s okay for surrogate offers, but says, I’ll offer to talk about it. Yeah. I’d like to be your surrogate, but now let’s take a few months to see what that would look like. And I think that’s good advice for IPs too.
just offers straight up and doesn’t want to talk about it. That’s a red flag. She might just be new to the whole process or that could be, hang on, why you want to rush this?
Yeah, so that was pretty quick. She was sort of around June starting to talk to us about doing it. And then I was like, oh my goodness, and you want this baby, you know, you want an embryo in by December. I just felt like it wasn’t going to work. Just time-wise, she’s super optimist, like the best optimist you’ll ever meet. She just knew it was going to work. She just had faith that it was going to work. And it was a real theme throughout our whole CERVC journey was her faith. This was going to work and the first embryo transfer was going to work. And then it was a girl and she knew like it’s…
an atheist and she’s a Christian and it really made me really, so I can guess things and we’re still atheists and Christians about it but it’s just, it was beautiful how she just knew that this would work and I was the one going and I feel like a negative Nancy but oh no no no we won’t get in with the doctor in time, we won’t get in with the counselors in time and but I managed to pull some, not pull some strings but beg, borrow and steal time from people in the industry and send emails and not go with your first preference counselor and all sorts of things that which is
years ago and I knew I could trust her and I knew she certainly didn’t want a baby. No, no she was done with that. She needed it pretty much in writing. I showed her on my phone my messages with my sister who had agreed that she would raise the child if Matt and I weren’t around. That was her biggest apprehension was what happens if you choose not to take this child. And I think that’s great to have got new IPs.
Sometimes they fear that all the surrogate is going to want to keep it. No, no. Sometimes our biggest fear is that we’re going to be left with it. Yeah. You’re, you’re confirming that that your surrogate felt that too. You did. And she, and it went into our legal agreements, you know, that sort of thing. She wanted the names of the nominated people that would raise our child. Like it was very important to her, which is reassuring when you’re an IP, you hear a lot of negative comments. People not meaning to be negative, but expressing concerns for these arrangements because they probably see things in the media, you know, the one in a million things that goes wrong.
and you’re always here, oh what if a surrogate wants to keep your baby and rah rah rah and oh she shouldn’t be getting too attached and all this sort of stuff. You have to block that out because you have to trust your gut with this person. Even my own family would say things that I was just like nah la la la la, this is going to work and it did and it worked beautifully and we have a wonderful friendship and she has a lovely relationship.
with our daughter, Imi, look, it worked really well. There are always hiccups along the way, but nothing that we couldn’t navigate and it was an absolute blessing. Well, well done to your team. I think that’s an absolute credit to you all. And you had that friendship beforehand too, and work colleagues, so you just had those just years of trust. Well, I think it’s probably a good option there, a good timing to take people back to the birth photos then here.
of these moments. So we’ve got some photos here of you holding Imi for the first time and Matt too, talk us through these photos. Gosh, so much had just happened. I haven’t shared the photos of the actual birth. I have within the Australian Surrogacy Community Facebook group that’s private, but knowing that this will be shared with the broader public and they’re quite raw images and my friend is incredibly careful around social media.
doesn’t have her own social media accounts and doesn’t like her things too public, I’ve decided just to keep it. Pictures of us. Yeah, this was the moment that when Imogen was born, we had agreed, in fact it was really on my insistence that I wanted a handover, so I wanted my friend to hold her for the first time, to be the first person to hold her. She, in the counselling, didn’t seem to care too much either way. She was like, no, it’s fine, you can have it. But certainly during the pregnancy it became more apparent that she did want to do that, you know, and definitely in
because they’d just been through this big ordeal, labor is an ordeal, even though that part of it went quite well, I just felt like they needed to be reunited on the outside world. And so, Imi went onto her chest first. And then we actually, she stayed there a little bit longer than we expected because my surrogate was having trouble delivering the placenta. And so we felt that some breastfeeding might help her to deliver the placenta. So…
We just watched her in awe as this magic moment unfolded between the two of them. When she was ready, she handed Imogen to me and I cut the cord and then she, yeah, she handed Imogen to me and it was, yeah, I can’t explain it. It was just this huge sense of relief that this baby was healthy and that she was here and that she was, yeah, I just felt like a journey was finally completed. And it was incredible. And then seeing Matt.
hold her for the first time was probably even more special to me because he got his baby and he’s silently, he’s wanted this baby for a long time and tried not to put too much pressure on me because of my fertility issues but when his nephew was born Matt was just so madly in love with that little boy and I knew.
that he needed to be a parent. And it was important to me that I saw that happen as well in his life too, that his life didn’t go on hold because of my, all sorts of emotions around that for me. It was just, yeah. I think very common emotions in, in so many ways. It was beautiful. I cried just thinking about it. It was, it was a beautiful moment. And then after that, it was a little bit of a stressful moment because the placenta couldn’t be delivered. This was the thing that.
had really worried her throughout the whole thing. It was, she wasn’t worried about birth, it was the delivery of the placenta with her three children. She had trouble with that each time, and each time they can get a little bit, a little bit more adhesion, you know, a little bit harder. And she actually needed to go up to theatre. She wanted to go up to theatre in fact, to not be awake for that part, which was funny in itself. Her 16 year old daughter was in birth suite with us, and so here I was holding my baby, but also wanting to comfort her baby, you know, because… Her mum’s going to theatre. Her mum’s gone to theatre, that wasn’t planned.
And so I had this magic moment here, but at the same time then it became a little bit stressful to be honest Like I kind of see the birth in three parts You know, there was the labor then there was the delivery and then there was the the aftermath which was just a scary time for us It wasn’t like super super dangerous or anything, but everyone was sure it was gonna be okay But nothing was okay until we were together again agreed and it was your friend She was going off and she’s just you know birthed your baby and now
There might be an issue with her and you care about your friend but you’re in love with your new baby and it’s complex. It’s emotions, aren’t they? It was and then you know we couldn’t go up to it. When she came out of theatre we found out that she was fine and actually our mutual friend, the other person on that email list was her birth support person and I do think that’s nice for her to have a birth support person who is in the IPs as well. Like that was something that she wanted because she didn’t want to be worrying about our feelings all the time. She wanted someone that she could sort of…
dump on if she needed to without being so concerned about our feelings. And we love Katie and Katie was with me the whole time through my cancer as well. Came to a lot of my appointments and stuff. So she was the perfect person to have there. She sort of went upstairs to the theater to come back and, you know, relay messages and things like that. And then she told us that our friend was out of theater and was, was doing fine and recovering and we weren’t able to go up like it’s just numbers and COVID and things like that. And so that’s when I sent the baby up.
to her because I just knew that that’s what she would want and that was I just think that was important and the body and her mind absolutely so there was that moment there when Matt and I were walking back to the cars together to bring our luggage inside and just going oh my god oh my god oh my god she’s so cute oh my god oh my god oh i hope she’s okay i hope that they’re okay i hope everyone’s okay
It was just the strangest whirlwind of a day. Yes. And then we had two rooms side by side at the Marta Mothers Hospital in Brisbane and when we saw her and she was fine and she was just so in love with the baby as well and everything was fine. Yeah. That’s when the magic really happened, I think as well.
could enjoy that together. And then, you know, shortly after birth, I think then you did some newborn photos here? Yeah, we did. And of course, we invited our surrogate, which was, and I was so glad she came because she’s really an incredibly humble person and really doesn’t want much attention even around this, what she’s done for us. And that’s why I’m, you know, trying to share our story without disclosing too much about her. And she didn’t want birth photography. She was
She barely had many photos throughout the pregnancy, you know, um, but she came along to this and it was beautiful because yeah, we got some really nice pictures together and, and she wanted a photo of her and Imogen in Imogen’s little purple beanie that they put on her head the moment she was born. And so she’s got that and, but even, you know, when I said to her, which photos do you want printed? We’ll print any of them, whatever sizes you want for your home.
Just, she just chose one of Emmy, below, not, you know, like it’s, we’ve got this one of the three hands and, but yeah, she’s just, um, Yeah, it’s unique what each surrogate takes from it. This photo I love, well, you being a mum too, but then how do you capture, you know, a baby or a, and surrogacy together? Like the photo on the left, you wouldn’t necessarily know that you didn’t carry that baby. Suddenly a photo with three pairs of hands, anybody else looking at that photo would go, hang on, why are there three pairs of hands? And so I think,
Yeah, the simplicity of those photos is really beautiful. I’m glad that she was a part of that and you invited her to be along for that. And I think it’s important also just to chime in that we have these photos on our Apple TV. So they’re flicking through on our TV as a screensaver all the time, not just these photos but also other photos of our friends and family. But I want Imogen to grow up.
Seeing that and I’m so glad we got to capture that because my friend’s not big on photos, but it was so nice that she’s got that that will normalize it for her, that she was the product of three people’s work and three people’s love. And yeah, that’s great. And yes, that’s important for that happily ever after, isn’t it? That they have their story to tell. Tell people listening what was significant happening in this photo. So this was just after the parentage order was granted by the judge in November. It was a really nice day.
date and managed to sort of tee it up so that my good friend Mona, who lives in Melbourne and she’s a family lawyer, she could come up with her family for a holiday and then come and help to represent us at court as well. So it was just beautiful because she’d been part of our journey as well. And so our surrogate, her 16 year old daughter attended, Matt and I and Imi and Mona and we all went into court together. The judge had just come out of a pretty grueling hearing or inquiry that she was overseeing. So she was really happy.
to have a nice happy case in front of her. And it was pretty quick. I cried and the judge’s assistant cried and the judge told my friend how wonderful she is. And we came outside and had breakfast and this is where the photo was snapped. And we have other photos of course of us all as a team but I’ve just chosen not to publicly post in perpetuity on the internet. And I think you shared that with me because then you went out for dinner too with the surrogates, other children as well. Oh yeah.
Yeah, we did. So we teed up that night for her boys to also meet us for dinner and we went out to Southbank by the river and brought him in. It was just, it was really nice. Well, that’s a wonderful snapshot of your journey over the last couple of years there. It’s fascinating just summing it up like that, isn’t it? And now you’re thick in parenthood, three and a half month old running your life. Yeah, well and truly. She’s out for a walk right now. Otherwise you would hear her, but she’s got her stroller out for a walk. Excellent.
You know, as we can hear from Meg’s story there, that it was even just mentioning to friends and family, I was going to a surrogacy conference. You didn’t actually directly say to anybody, okay, now is anybody in this group could carry for me. But that’s sometimes enough to spark curiosity. And then I know from all the surrogates I talked to that have carried for people that they previously knew. Once they knew that about their friends, they are often squirreling away in the background, doing some of their research themselves and finding out how it works before they come to you.
and go, yes, I’d like to consider doing this. So yes, sometimes it is just spreading the word like you did there. Anonymous says, I was wondering if the only time a woman should consider being a surrogate is after she’s completed her own family. I’ll add in the official bit, but then Meg, I’d love to hear your thoughts on that too. Now, the law is, if a surrogate hasn’t had her own children, doesn’t matter where she lives in Australia, she can only carry for IPs who live in New South Wales, Queensland,
and South Australia because it goes by the laws of the state where the IPs live. Well, sometimes these laws are in place from IVF laws that got created in the 70s, but maybe they think it’s because a woman who’s already had children better understands what it’s like to hand over a child and therefore they want somebody who’s done that before to be a surrogate. But, and look, it’s not that common for women to do it if they haven’t had their own kids, maybe one in 51 and 100, it’s not that common.
As you heard about Meg and her surrogate, she just knew this was something she could do. Meg, in your experience, have you come across many people who have been a surrogate and haven’t had their own kids or any thoughts on that? I’ve met one, Amelia. She’s had a few children through surrogacy, none of which have been her own. Three, right? Three now, she’s not had any of her own. She was actually really young, somehow found a loophole and did it at about 21. And she’s really, she’s extraordinary, actually.
I’m not intimidated by her, but I think I’m just in awe of her. I don’t even like, yeah, I’m not myself a runner because I just think she’s really special. Yeah, I find her unique too. She’s really so intelligent too. And she’s crazy. Like she actually donated milk to me because we have been getting breast milk for Imogen and she was on the Human Milk for Human Babies Facebook group. She had some milk after she’d been a surrogate for someone and the intended parents didn’t want
breast milk, which I thought was unusual to be honest, because Leah certainly, she actually breastfed and also pumped then for about a month afterwards. But anyway, I was lucky enough to be the recipient of this milk that her bosoms were creating. And when I went to pick up from her, she was she messaged me saying, I’m just in the air at the moment. I’ll be down soon. And she sent a photo and she’s pilot.
Like actually flying a plane, like running a flight school or something. And like, I was like, wow, this is a… So I think the average woman does not offer to carry children for people. The average woman doesn’t. It takes someone who doesn’t swim with the school of fish.
And so you have to understand that and not have common expectations of your surrogate to fit into this mold of the average woman because average woman doesn’t do that. Yeah, I just think you’ve probably just got to think about that. But if somebody’s offering to have a child, carry a child for you and she hasn’t had children before, that’s not normal or average, but neither is surrogacy in the first place. So you really just need to get to know that person. And if you think that that person has the emotional capacity to do that and has thought it through.
then I probably would, I’d have the reservation, but I’d talk through the reservation and then I’d probably, I’d probably still go ahead with it to be honest. Like certainly, um, someone who’s yeah, like Amelia, I, you just know this is her thing. This is what she wants to do. She wants to, to be the change that she wants to see in the world. This is how she contributes to society. And yeah, she’s been very comfortable with it. I love that every time I do these webinars, I learned something new and been around six years. I’ve never thought of it like that, that Sarah gets
on their own swim against the tide in the things that they do. And the women that I’ve become friends with, we are all so different. The surrogates from such different walks of life, but you’re right. We sort of, you know, we rattled the cage a bit. We do things a little bit differently. We might do some things mainstream, but some things not. And I think even to be a surrogate, because we often get told, you know, when we are surrogate and we share our story with somebody, most women go, Oh, I could never do that. And you’re like, well, I wasn’t asking you to, I’m just telling him a story. Um, and you’re right. So.
So there is something a little bit different. Yeah, interesting take on that there. So I think we’ve answered that one I’ll just answer the next one briefly and say do you have to go through SASS to go through the process of surrogacy? Absolutely not. No, so SASS has only been around for four years now. So it’s still in its infancy I suppose but no you don’t have to if you’re looking for that support and guidance and looking to have somebody that you can ask questions to all along the way
then that’s what you’re up for. But then plenty of people like Meg and myself navigated surrogacy using the resources from within the Facebook groups and asking other people. But that is a large investment of time because you’ve got to learn a lot. Yeah, so if you just want it sort of delivered to you in the order of, okay, I need to know all this now at these points in time, then perhaps that’s a better option for you. But of course it’s a paid service. But of course there’s plenty of resources out there.
And we’ve done surrogacy without it. So it is there, but it’s an option for those who are looking for it. I’d probably add that if I were doing another surrogacy journey or if I just didn’t have this opportunity to land on my lap with the timeframes that I had and the situation that I had, that I probably would have joined SASS and been appreciative of it and Anna didn’t tell me to say that and Anna doesn’t know my opinion of SASS whatsoever, but I actually would have joined it even with my friend had she been open to it, but she was really not wanting to engage with the surrogacy community at all because like I said.
Don’t swim with a school like, you know, she’s just different that way. I just think having a structure to talk around and having the third party sometimes even in, you know, these relationships are so important that you want to get them right. And sometimes you want that third party to maybe give an opinion on something and you can talk around that rather than it being coming from you and your opinion. And I actually think it probably would have been something that I really would have benefited from to be honest. Thank you. That’s wonderful to hear. And.
from the teams that I know where I helped them during the pregnancy, sometimes like before, I’m doing a first, second, third trimester check-in. I’ll check in with each of them privately and say, is there anything you’d like me to mention or bring up? And then it’s sort of a, hey, team, you’re up to heading towards birth. Now, here are some of the other things that other teams have talked about or have done. And sometimes it’s just that general guidance, but sometimes it’s that, oh, I don’t know how to bring up this conversation. Oh, if SASS suddenly say, oh, this is what other teams have talked about. Then you can blame it on SASS.
then you don’t have to blame it on others. So it’s a bit like a counselor, but it’s sort of more a peer, people that have done the journey ahead of you. So you’re sort of gaining that wisdom from them, if you like. So anonymous says here, how long does it normally take to get through the legalities once you have a potential?
Um, IP or surrogate or a team there to get to the pregnancy stage. So Meg, for your team, from that moment that your surrogate said, yeah, I think I could do this chatting about it through to the first embryo transfer, which worked how many months was probably six months from chatting about it to embryo transfer that was really fast though. Um,
The legalities probably isn’t the part that slows you down the most. The lawyers tend to have more availability than the fertility specialist. You’re going to wait a couple of months to get in with fertility specialists to get approved and then, you know, then the fertility specialist might say, look, this stuff like in our case, my friend had a, um, like a long standing gastrointestinal complaint, the fertility specialist said, well, this could flare up in pregnancy, we need to make sure that this is going to be properly managed. So I need to see something from a gastroenterologist.
that states that this can be managed properly for you in pregnancy and that pregnancy won’t be an adverse experience for you. We then had to quickly find a gastroenterologist and all that sort of thing. So that can take longer to get in with the doctors. Getting in with the counsellors can take a lot longer as well. The lawyers were quite quick, probably from the time that we engaged the lawyers to the time that we had agreements done would have been three weeks or something. So we did that pretty quickly.
Mind you, I had help from Mona. So my friend Mona is, and she actually did egg donation stuff, but she wanted to learn how to do surrogacy. This was her first surrogacy journey. And she didn’t want to do that for people who would be unforgiving, you know, if she got something sort of wrong. And so she, we teamed up with, we had probably the most experienced surrogacy lawyer, one of them, Sarah Jefford, and then Mona, and they were able to communicate together. And Mona could learn from Sarah and that sort of thing. So.
We were lucky to have Mona’s help. Financially, it was better for us as well to have mates rates too, obviously. But Sarah was quite available within a couple of weeks and I think a lot of the time the lawyers aren’t the hard part. Okay, yeah, and that’s good to hear. And just for people pointing out, if you haven’t joined the dots there, Meg’s team are Brisbane, but they use two Melbourne lawyers. That’s fine. There’s quite a few lawyers that can do the agreements for people interstate. They know how the laws work in all those states. So that’s fine too.
My rough guide that I would tell people, if you’re meeting a surrogate for the first time in a new person, or even if you’re chatting with a friend that’s offered, I would allow six months for what we call, surro dating. So getting to know each other or just having those chats and then allow six months to get that paperwork done. It might not take six months as in, as Meg’s case, it might not take that long, but if in your mind you’re allowing six months for the counseling, legal, IVF clinic, extra doctors chats, then you won’t feel so stressed.
if it’s taking five months because you’ve already allowed that and hey, if it gets done in a couple. And so I think it’s a surrogacy journey is about often a two year journey. From beginning chats, you know, it may or may not work first embryo transfer. So a two year buffer that’s from when you meet the surrogate though. You know, if you’re looking for a brand new surrogate, how long till you meet one?
There’s no guarantee you ever will. So that’s really hard. Sorry. Right. So we’ve answered that question there. So that’s really good. Meg sort of summarizing it up there. You know, if you could go back in time and do anything differently, is there anything from your journey you would do differently? Yeah. Oh gosh. I’m sure there are. I probably wouldn’t go into it with an expectation that everything that you talk about at the counseling is exactly how things will play out.
Um, because you’re working with humans and humans change their minds on things. And I just think you’ve got to be pretty dynamic and be pretty flexible. You know, like it’s just one thing that came to mind was that we had someone tell us in advance, make sure that you have a separate chat for money to your normal chat.
know, like WhatsApp chat or whatever with your surrogate so that you can separate those things and that it’s not awkward and that things don’t get lost in the thread and make sure that you you know have an agreement on how you manage money and stuff like that. And we just said, look we don’t really want money to come between us at all and we really trust that everything that she needs, that she’ll, everything’s going to be fine and we’ll pay for it all and we wanted, we set up an account and we wanted to give her a card to our account. Should we agree on all of that? The separate chat never happened.
And she never activated her card. I sent her another card and she didn’t activate that either. And it actually was just that she didn’t feel comfortable having a card to our account and she wanted us to approve things or I’m not really sure, but, um, in the end, she had like basically a spreadsheet of costs and gave it to us. The end after the baby was born, like we paid for things as we went. And sometimes she’d ask if it was okay to do this or that, like we always paid for the medical things as we went, but
Yeah, there was definitely a bunch of things that she paid for along the way. And I was uneasy about it. Like I wanted to, I wanted to pay it. Not that I wanted to know exactly what it was or anything. I just felt uneasy that we weren’t meeting our expectations. And you didn’t want her to be out of pocket, even though she knew she was going to get it back later, you wanted it to be done as it happened. I couldn’t control that. Because in the end, I felt like I’d just be harassing her asking, come on, please. You know, I was giving her work to do to finish off her spreadsheet. It became bigger than Ben Her I think. And I just really say.
activate the card if you’re going to do it that way. But it never came, we never had an argument about money whatsoever. You know, when that spreadsheet comes in, you just boom, paid straight away. It’s just that I would rather not do it that way. And so if I had a second journey in the future, I would really try to not do it that way. But it worked out fine. So it didn’t really matter. It was just that there were some uneasy moments for me going, oh, this doesn’t feel right. I really need to be a, I don’t know. That was one thing. What else? I just think.
probably I’d go into it with everyone saying, no one’s a mind reader, no one is a mind reader on either side here. Please don’t assume that I know what you think and vice versa. In fact, it was more my surrogate that lives like that in everyday life. If it’s not said, it’s not felt, it’s not thought, it’s not, you know, so she’s actually really good with just like, oh, I’m not trying to be emotionally positive and guess what people are thinking, unless you tell me I won’t know. You know, she’s really good at that.
I’ve always been this person who thinks I’m really emotionally perceptive and I’m always the one guessing and oh what if I’ve offended or I haven’t heard from her in a couple of days is she okay and you know all these things and then she’ll be like yeah I’m okay I’m just busy I’m fine you know so I would go into it saying let’s just make this ground rule that no one’s a mind reader we can’t guess what’s going on unless you say it we’re not gonna know please say it always say it you know because otherwise I’ll lose sleep over something. That’s good advice there yeah.
And because, and then once you get a pregnant surrogate, they become hormonal and tired and, and, but perhaps not so much in your case, but, but that certainly happened to me. And I was second guessing all of the things that happened, but yeah, it’s great to have that ground rule there. While I read that question out, I’ve just remembered in our planning for this webinar, I think we had some messages about some advice a friend sent. Oh, I sent advice to a friend. You find that some advice. So just that. I sure would. Yes.
Some friends that I made through surrogacy, through the conference, were successful in establishing a surrogacy together and they’re pregnant and I sent them a message when I found out that they were pregnant. So here we go. Hello beautiful women. I went to the, this is completely unsolicited advice by the way so they didn’t need to take it as well as they did but I just felt this was good for them. Hello beautiful women. I went to the surrogacy seminar yesterday and thought of how far we’ve all come since we met there last year.
And I pick on the panel gave some really good and simple advice that I thought I’d pass on. People are complicated and the process is complicated. Except that you can’t control anything. Surrender to the process. And I said, I thought about what advice I’d give, but I wasn’t asked the question on the panel. And it would be, which is pretty much what I’ve said now. Don’t read into subtext operate as though there is no problem unless someone tells you that there is a problem.
Trust that you will be told and that you will tell each other if there is a problem. If both parties agree to this from the outset, it’ll give you it’ll free you from trying to guess slash interpret slash micromanage slash process or preempt other people’s thoughts and emotions. And so I hope that little nugget of wisdom is useful to you both. My sincerest best wishes. Well, I think you’ve kind of summed it up there. Don’t assume there’s a problem unless you’re told that there’s a problem.
And that’s probably good advice for life in any partnership and relationship and friendship too, isn’t it? But it’s just so much more so in surrogacy. I think it would be a mature way to handle a relationship if you’re dating someone now, like versus in your 20s, it’s like, they didn’t text me back. Why didn’t they text me back? He should know I’m upset or you know what I mean? These kind of things. That’s not healthy in relationships and you know when you cut the crap and you have these mature relationships in your 30s, late 30s, and you just like you click early and you know because
you don’t play games and I don’t think people, I don’t think there’s a world of surrogates out there playing games with their IPs and that’s not what I’m getting at but if you’re unhappy about something or you want something or you wish they would do something for you or vice versa, honestly you should have the kind of relationship where you say it and you talk about it. In our world there was nothing too much to ask but our surrogate again was very very, no no I don’t need much and she genuinely didn’t.
But I was questioning, does she actually want more? Does she need more from me? Does she, you know, undo it? Busy single mum with three kids. She was just being pregnant, getting on with it. She’s a very independent woman who knew what she was doing and knew she was capable. She’s fiercely capable of anything. And she did it for you. Amazing. She did. That’s good advice. We’ve got one more question here and I think we’ll finish up there. So somebody is saying, they’re thinking about becoming a surrogate for a family member. Should I go through the process of medicals before offering to become a surrogate? That’s a classic question
new surrogates at the beginning often wonder. You don’t have to. If you wanted to attend one of the surrogate webinars that I run, the information part at the beginning of that takes them through a very similar process to this, but it’s all those classic questions that a new surrogate might have and basically there’s no god in the world of surrogacy that says yes, you can be a surrogate or not. Basically, if you’re fit and healthy enough to carry another pregnancy, if you wanted to have another keeper child, then you’re probably fit and healthy enough to become a surrogate. Some surrogates go off and have a chat to their GP.
before offering to friends. SASS, you’re welcome to join SASS, even if you stay on or not, because we pay for that medical check for you. And we’ve got a form that you can print off and take with you to the GP so you know what it is you need to talk about. So that’s handy. I would advise, don’t pay and do an independent obstetrician check yet. Just start with the GP because sometimes the IVF clinic that you work with with your IPs…
they might require one and there’s no need to do it twice. So wait until you’re at that point and because they might have specific things that need to be asked. So your time is precious, don’t do it twice. But if you do want to have a chat, a GP chat and there’s a form on our website in the SASS section for surrogates, anybody’s welcome to download and take with them so that you know what to talk about. I hope that answers that question. Do you know from your two…
women that you were chatting with and the one that did become your surrogate, did they have any medical checks beforehand, Meg? No, we proceeded, we knew, we anticipated that would be needed and so we proceeded with her OBGYN, her regular one, meeting with her first and then I think we got a letter to my fertility specialist that we were going to use. But I’m glad we did, like we got the ball rolling and then we paid for that. I think the real thing is it costs a couple hundred bucks. And so…
No one wants surrogates to be out of pocket. It comes down to you. If you’re flush with cash, you like this, if this isn’t going to be too much, um, for you and you know, you’re right, then maybe you do it just because if you’re worried about breaking their hearts, like, you know, I’m going to offer, and then we go six months down the track and then we find out I’m not eligible. Like if you’ve got the money to do that, then, then it probably would be wise. Like I would appreciate it sort of thing. But not an expectation. Agreed. And that’s why we’ve built that step in at SASS.
for the IPs piece of mind. So then they know that the surrogates who are coming through with SASS have had a medical check and a conversation. So again, you’re welcome to join SASS. We pay for that part for you and you don’t even have to continue with SASS, but it’s given you that mentor buddy along the way. And so you’ve had a part of the program that will help you on your way. So I hope that helps, Anonymous. Okay, so we’ll sum it up there, but Meg, any last parting words of advice for anybody here tonight who’s at the beginning of their journey?
back yourselves to, you know, you don’t have to do what everyone else does. This is a strange, a strange world to step into, but it’s a really supportive one. Engage with Facebook if you can. Um, because I like, I’ve gotten so much out of that and, um, don’t give up on your dream. Don’t, don’t be overwhelmed by it being too hard. Um, it may or may not come about, but life is no good if you give up on your dreams. Perfect. That’s it. Keep that hope alive. Get active.
and connect with real people like somebody like yourself. I think I saw in the chat there somebody, it is Alex and Carlo, perhaps bumped into you at New Farm Park. Well, I’ve seen those guys actually because they came to the, I was on a panel just recently for growing families and then they stuck around and we had dinner and it was really nice to meet them. And then we saw them at New Farm Park and.
had a hold of the baby and yeah, it was nice, you know, and look, I just love, I’ve got a few friends who are surrogates, you know, past surrogates now who’ve definitely sort of retired their uteruses and that sort of thing and, and it’s, you don’t, don’t engage with the group just for, I might find this one person who’s going to help me, except that this is a community of pretty extraordinary people who think outside the normal box anyway and you just make great friendships just from, I like extraordinary people in my life.
You know, so you’ll make those friendships just by meeting other IPs and as well. Hmm. Just don’t just hone in on trying to find your one person. Oh, I could have had you run this webinar on your own. These are these are the awesome bits of advice for people. And that’s it. Come in and build the friendships. So, you know, you’ve met Alex and Carla now and they’ve met you. And there’s only ever one first catch up, isn’t there? So about, you know, people being brave and just if they say, yes, we’re having a dinner. Just go to it. Yes, it’s scary. But then the next time around, you already know some people.
And they’ll be IPs and surrogates and who can support you along the way. And sometimes they’re that third party too. So if you’ve got experienced surrogate friends that are not your surrogate, you know, having people to call on and ask questions to can be helpful along the way too. And maybe just one thing that you could do, because I just our last meetup was on Sunday as well and Queensland meetup. And it was I felt I felt a little bit sorry for some of the people because I felt like it was a park. It was a bit haphazard. There were kids everywhere.
And this was, you know, I was certainly talking to people that I already knew and wanted to see again and stuff. And I sort of thought, Oh no, there’s probably some people who are in the corners on the fringes here who don’t have a known person to connect with. If this was their first meetup, this one might be hard in terms of the context. But maybe if you could see other people that are going, um, just, you know, to the event, find some names that might be familiar that you’ve seen in the group. Maybe you can’t be friend to surrogate through the Facebook group because you can’t just add a friend, send a friend request to a surrogate, but maybe other
have had children like myself or who have, you know, known in that circle a little bit and just say, this is my first one, I’m a bit nervous. Do you mind if I stand with you? Like, it sounds like the cool kids on the bus. It’s not what it’s about, but I just sort of think, I actually felt a little bit guilty when I left, that I saw a couple there who was sitting down and they’d been sort of sitting in the same place the whole time and I thought, oh no, I didn’t, I wasn’t inclusive enough. I’ve invited them to dinner actually now, but you know, I wasn’t inclusive, like because people aren’t always thinking about you
would hate for you to go and then be like, oh gosh, that was overwhelming and I was ignored a little bit. Yep. So try and make that buddy. You ask for a buddy. So anyone will be your buddy. I’ll guarantee you’re not gonna be rejected. Yes. And then in four years, three years time, they’ll be the buddy. They’ll be offering to other people. Yeah, yeah, I’ll meet you. So yeah, that’s great advice. Pair up with somebody so that when you can meet a face that when you get there, so you’re not just standing on your own. And it’s a bit like- That was a bit like for other people.
It’s a bit like, well, the talk that I gave at the conference last year, it’s a bit like when you go to a workplace for the first time and you’re new there, it’s scary and overwhelming, but just start with some small talk and get chatting to people and then it’ll grow. And then suddenly by that next catch up, you’ll already know a couple more people. So that’s really good advice there. Yep. Make, make a buddy ahead of time and get brave. Be brave.
Thank you for listening to this episode. To see the beautiful images mentioned, head to our YouTube channel to watch the webinar recording. If you’re looking for more support and potentially connecting with a surrogate or intended parents, head to our website, surrogacyaustralia.org to check out the resources and to learn more about SASS. 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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