“Baby cupboard” Fran’s story so far
“Wow! Really….? Why?!”
I hear that expression a lot when first telling people that I’m going to be a surrogate – and the reaction tends to be even stronger when they discover that I’m doing it for people that until last year I’d never met before! Although in our case, it turned out to be a pretty small world as despite the initial matching process being anonymous, and us living miles and miles apart, we discovered at our first face to face meeting that I had actually met one of the intended parents many, many years previously and even attended school with them!
I decided to look into becoming a surrogate after a friend struggled to have her own child, and whilst she has now managed to have her own child naturally – a beautiful, gorgeous little girl – it was so heart breaking at the time to see her going through miscarriages, some late term, and to see their hope and anticipation dim a little bit more each time something went wrong and they had to relive that loss each time. I suppose its funny how sometimes, having that unexpected influence in your life, and getting that insight into how painful a struggle it can be for people, can make you re-consider your own perspective and examine how far you might go to help your family, your friends or even a stranger. For me, seeing the pain they went through and feeling how impossible it all seemed to be really made me reflect on the difficult times my own parents must have experienced (I was adopted due to my mother’s problems conceiving). It made me think about how many other couples there must be out there who have all the love and happiness in the world to offer, but for a multitude of reasons, can’t carry a child themselves to complete their family. I know from personal experience that after having my own son, and seeing him grow into his own person and have his own friends and adventures, that my life would never have been complete without him – he’s like the walking talking version of my own inner child and I would always want everyone to have the chance to experience that for themselves. My particular favourite at the moment is Cassius’s sneezes, always twice like me, and always adorable!
As I had never met or spoken to anyone that had ever been a surrogate before, I deliberated for almost a year before I contacted fertility support groups for guidance and was directed to Brilliant Beginnings. This was a year of mulling it over in my mind, weighing up the impact on my own family, on my living arrangements and my work, really taking time to think about whether I could cope with the emotional side of things and the demands of a pregnancy. I also talked it over with some of my closest friends and family, gauging their reactions and thoughts before really pursuing it in earnest. Ultimately though, everyone was so supportive and positive, and when I spoke to my son and explained how I wanted to be a ‘baby cupboard’ for people who either don’t have a cupboard of their own or whose cupboard is broken, he really gave me so much encouragement and gave me the final push towards deciding “I definitely want to do this!”
Even though I was 100% positive I wanted to proceed, waiting to be matched with a couple was so nerve wracking and (to me anyway!) felt more than a little bit like going on a ridiculously important blind date! Will they like me? Will I like them? What if we don’t get on? What if we disagree on something really major? Having Brilliant Beginnings there to match us based on our preferences and beliefs was great as it took a lot of the ‘big stuff’ off the table. Their support of our initial conversation helped us get past the nerves a little bit and the initial slightly awkward small talk, and broke the ice – I mean, how do you begin that phone call? What are you meant to say to someone in that situation!? After having our first introductory chat as a teleconference call between me, Brilliant Beginnings and the intended parents, I then invited them to add me on Facebook. My whole life is on there so it made sense to give them a chance to get to know me better that way! It meant that I could also get to know them better as well, and we could have a sneak peek into each other lives and form a basis for our ‘getting to know each other’ calls/visits in the future. It worked really well and has also meant that we have an easy way to keep up to date with each other in between meetings, and for us to see what is going on in each others lives outside of the surrogacy stuff.
My biggest piece of advice to anyone considering becoming a surrogate is to take your time in making any decisions about how you want to proceed, and be really open and honest in all your conversations with everyone involved, whether that’s the agency helping you to meet your intended parents, the intended parents themselves, the medical staff supporting any treatment you need or even your friends, family or work colleagues – the more people that know, the better supported and comfortable you’ll be! I think Paul, Bryan and I were really lucky as we got on like a house on fire pretty much immediately, and have gone from strength to strength since then. A large part of that has been down to having really good communication and staying in regular contact, not just about surrogacy matters, but in our day to day lives – having each other on Facebook, texting and emailing each other regularly, visiting each other at home and building a real friendship rather than just a ‘surrogacy agreement’. For me, the way our journey has progressed so far has meant that whatever happens, whether the surrogacy is successful or not, Paul and Bryan are going to be friends for life. If we are successful (which I am so, so, so hopeful we will be!), then we have a really good foundation to build on and most importantly, we all know where we stand and what we are trying to achieve.
I’m very lucky in that my employers actually have a specific policy for surrogacy, and provide plenty of support and paid leave for treatments and travel etc which has been a huge help as it takes a lot of pressure away and means we can be flexible around clinic appointments and my flights over to London as I live in Jersey. So helpful in fact, that we are now ready to actually pass the point of no return and have the embryo implanted! As part of the preparation for this I have been given a scan by the clinic (to check everything is in good working order!), gone through the various counselling requirements and completed all the necessary blood tests etc. I started the fertility medication towards the end of 2015 and we are aiming to implant a single embryo hopefully this week! I am so unbelievably excited that we are finally coming to this moment, as it feels like we’ve been talking about it forever and the anticipation is just at fever pitch, but I’m also trying not to go too overboard as until we have a positive pregnancy test and a scan to show that it’s all taken ok and we are actually pregnant, I worry slightly that I’m going to jinx it!
Wish us luck!