Friday, October 2, 2015
Look at that gorgeous little face. Mr Z is 18months old already. How on earth did that happen!? Our family and his family went camping for a few days earlier in the week as it had been over a year since we'd had a chance to catch up. It was great to see how big he'd gotten, and for all the kids to play together.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
It was a year ago - a whole 365 days ago, that this chubby-cheeked little man entered the world and my caretaker role was swapped for an observer role. Zander is thriving in his home and it has been a delight to observe him develop and grow. Happy Birthday big boy!
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
In the last week or so the topic of surrogacy has exploded in the media here in Australia due to a horrifying story from Thailand. When the story broke last week it was claimed that an Australian couple had employed the services of a Thai surrogate to carry their twins, but that when one twin was born with Downs Syndrome, he was left behind while the healthy twin sister was taken home to Australia.
At the core - this very scenario invokes intense emotional reactions in pretty much everyone who hears about it. I think everyone with a reasonably developed sense of 'right and wrong' can see that there is something horribly wrong with what has happened. Then, as tends to happen with these stories, each day more and more details have emerged. It is claimed that the surrogate is only 21, and went into the surrogacy completely unaware of what was involved (she had no idea about IVF and embyro creating, and probably had no idea what an embryo transfer was going to be like). She has apparently stated that she agreed to be a surrogate so that she and her husband could pay off some debts. She is now caring for the baby boy as her own son, again stating that he is hers because he was in her tummy.
To me, as a fellow surrogate, these don't sound like the words of someone who had a full grasp of what she was getting into. I don't know her, and can only base my opinions on what I've seen her say herself (on heavily edited TV), and the limited knowledge I have of the commercial surrogacy process in Thailand... but my heart goes out to her. This is the crux of the anti-surrogacy arguement: weathly western couples taking advantage of under educated, naive and desperate women. This is when the system fails. This is when a third party 'agent' gets to line his/her pockets at the expense of other people's desperation and with complete disregard for the lives being created.
We live in 2014 for goodness sake! It really makes me wonder at the state of humanity that we are STILL exploiting women and children. And I also think this is where most people are getting confused in directing their horror and frustration at this story. It's easiest to throw up our arms and say 'surrogacy is morally corrupt', 'there should be a blanket ban worldwide' and that people seeking surrogates are 'horrible human beings'. But that isn't the case and it doesn't solve anything. That doesn't deal with the fundamental problems of infertility or the exploitation of women, it simply tarnishes everyone with the same soiled brush.
I honestly don't know what the answer is.
I have been contacted by a number of media outlets to state my opinion, but have declined out of respect for Zander's parent's and the privacy of his family. But it has certainly got me thinking about the process of surrogacy in Australia versus other countries around the world. At one point I probably would have pushed for surrogacy in Australia to become commercial like many other countries, as it seems like in Australia the surrogate is the one doing all the work and taking all the risk, but the only one NOT to benefit financially! But I think I've done a backflip on that opinion this week.
I don't know that there can be a system where a surrogate is paid for her 'services', that doesn't open itself up for exploitation? Would it then become those with means seeking out those without? Women may be coerced into becoming a surrogate by the prospect of a 'payout' when maybe they otherwise wouldn't have offered? I honestly don't believe this would be the situation everytime - there will always be women willing to be a surrogate regardless of financial gain (strange but true - they do exist!), but it does feel like a bit of a moral minefield. Money has a long history of corrupting otherwise innocent scenarios...
The way the Australian system works at present has the surrogate volunteering her service. She gets no financial benefit (and often times ends up out of pocket herself as Intended Parents can't possibly pay for every pregnancy-related cost as some are quite obscure!). She does what she does simply because she wants to help. Both parties undergo counselling to cover the full medical process as well as the social and psychological impact of the pregnancy/creating another human being - so there is no confusion as to what is going to happen. And the most important factor is that both parties are entering into the arrangement as equals. There is no 'employer/empolyee' roles to play, and therefore no feeling of ownership or power. If anything the IPs put themselves in a vulnerable position as the law in Australia states that the surrogate has full control of her pregnancy.
This process is by no means foolproof, and it doesn't always go to plan. People say one thing, then do another. People make promises that they may not be able to fulfill. Emotions run hot. Miscommunication happens. Hormones wreck havoc and lives can be put in jeopardy. And at the end of the process the surrogate is left with nothing but a few more stretch marks, and in the worst scenarios possible irreparable physical damage.
Despite this, without surrogacy, a sweet little boy would not exist.
There will always be couples seeking the assistance of a surrogate to help them have a child. Just as there will always be women willing to carry for another person. The discrepancy lies in the amount of couples needing a surrogate, versus the number of women willing to carry for no payment. Which is how commercial surrogacy becomes a booming business.
I think as a society we like someone else to tell us how to feel, and we like to view things dichotomously. It's easier for our brains if we can just categorise something as 'good' or 'bad'. It means we don't have to think about all of the variations inbetween because that requires way too much effort (and way too much empathy!).
Surrogacy, however, is not a black and white topic. It is complicated, and emotional, and important - oh so important. It quite literally involves life and death. And I think if nothing else it's a good thing that people are talking about it at the moment. What happens from here I do not know. But I only wish the best for the poor twins caught up in the current scandal.
Monday, June 23, 2014
Today was the court hearing to officially and legally transfer the parentage of Zander from my husband and I to his actual parents. None of us had any idea what to really expect never having found ourselves in a position where we were required to present at the Supreme and District Courts of Brisbane before... but we all survived!
We paid for an extra day of kindy for our own kids so they didn't have to tag along as well, but Zander's parents were told that it would look better if they had the boys with them on the day.
The whole proceedure was VERY formal. We had to wait to be told to sit. We had to wait to be asked a question before we could speak, and we had to say 'your honour' after every response. Mark and I attended un-represented, but Zander's parents had their lawyer there and he pretty muchly ran the show. He explained what documents had been submitted to the court, and how both parties involved had satisfied the requirements of the Surrogacy Act. The Judge then read through EVERY document.
We all just sat there in silence and waited. It took him nearly 30mins to do so. I found it hard to stop from fidgeting, so I must say I was pretty impressed by the behaviour of Zander and his brother. Zander pretty much just slept through the whole thing, only waking up at the end with a little cry for a bottle. And his 2yr old brother sat and read books and only attempted to run through the court room once or twice!
Then the Judge looked up from his reading and stated that he felt satisfied that this wasn't a commercial surrogacy situation and that it was in the best interests of the child to transfer parentage. He congratulated us all and reiterated that in his 16 years of experience as a judge he had seen just how important it was for children to know where they came from, and encouraged us to keep things open and honest with Zander (all of which we had explained we would do in the court-submitted paperwork anyways).
We gathered outside of the court room after it was over and we all immediately relaxed. The process was finished. Properly, legally finished! We took some photos, Zander needed a nappy change (pooing in court will be his claim to fame!) and then we all escaped the formality of the building and went to lunch to celebrate!
I honestly think the worst bit about the legal side of things was just not knowing what to expect. The reality of it was far less daunting then I'd imagined it would be. I also found it really surreal to see Zander again after a few months. He looked just the same as before, but had obviously grown and changed a fair bit at the same time. He is way more alert and gives away smiles to whoever happens to take his fancy, and is just such a happy, content little guy.
And so the Aussie Surrogacy Journey is officially finished. Obviously this doesn't mark the end of the relationship between our family and Zanders family at all, but it does feel like a significant and celebratory-worthy milestone!
Congratulations Mr Zander, you are now officially your parent's son!
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Zander will be 7wks old tomorrow, and is out of hospital and doing much better. Time is such a strange, relative thing. It simultaneously feels like an eternity since I was pregnant with him and worrying about having to give birth, yet just yesterday that he was pushing and shoving against my insides. I have plunged myself back into our family business after taking a bit of time off to recover, and have a dozen orders/projects that I'm trying to work on at the same time. This is all great, and very normal - but it means that I don't actually spend a great deal of my day thinking about surrogacy stuff anymore. It kind of feels like that was simply 'something I did', a part of my story, but not something that I'm living and breathing so much anymore.
I think when you're pregnant with your own child there's a tendancy to become totally absorbed with all things baby. I think the same thing happens when you're pregnant with a surrogate baby, only the absorption is with all things surrogacy and the exciting unknowns of the journey.
I remember the taxi ride home following the embryo transfer back in July last year, and wanting to tell the driver what had just happened. That I was quite possibly pregnant with someone elses child. It's a similar feeling on the flip side. I get about doing the daily errands, and at times I just want to tell people 'I was a surrogate. I gave birth 7wks ago. I gave a family a baby'. But I don't. Slipping a birth story into small talk with a cashier is not something I'm great at!
When there was a baby-bump it was obvious I was pregnant and I was able to choose how much information to disclose to curious strangers. Now I just have a slighty-flabbier-than-usual-belly, but there's nothing outwardly obvious to say 'I gave birth'. There's no newborn in a pram, or packets of nappies in the trolley... It's just my story. A piece of the puzzle that is my life, that is now a narrative told in past-tense. Its a curious thing really... how a life-changing, life-giving scenario becomes 'just a little something that I once did'!
I suppose I could look at it in a different light though... that I've simply passed the baton of this story onto Zander himself. This isn't my story anymore. This is his story. This is the start of his life and everything that he will become. I am the opening sentence in the novel of his life and it is up to him to write the rest.