This diary is reminiscences. Claire Kelly, 39, from Glenrothes, recalls her surrogacy journey and the day she gave up the baby she had been carrying for nine months.
His tiny pink face scrunches up against the world as he belts out his first cry. Exhausted and happy, I watch the nurse rub him clean with a fluffy white hospital towel and pop a regulation knitted, blue hat on his head.
Then the baby, who I have felt kicking and hiccupping inside my womb for the past nine months, is placed in his mother’s outstretched arms.
I may have carried him, but it’s time to give him back to his biological parents. It was my first experience of being a surrogate, but the joy I felt that day meant it wasn’t my last.
Two years earlier, I was sitting at home when a documentary about surrogacy came on the television.
I was three months pregnant with my second child at the time and my heart went out to the couples who talked about the devastation of not being able to have their own family.
I felt incredibly lucky that my husband Richard and I never had trouble conceiving. We already had a son Aiden, now 13, and I had fallen pregnant very quickly with Josh, who is now 10.
The next day I Googled surrogacy on the internet and came across an organization called Surrogacy UK.
I liked what I read. Their ethos was to promote surrogacy through friendship, hosting social events where couples and surrogates meet in a relaxed environment. I decided I wanted to go along to find out more.
When I raised it with Richard he was a bit taken aback but said it was my choice and he’d support me. So, when I was seven months pregnant, we went to our first surrogacy event in Carlisle.
It felt a bit like speed dating. The room was filled with couples and we heard some heartbreaking stories but we really clicked with one couple. They explained they had been trying for a baby for 12 years and had gone through nine failed attempts at IVF. I was amazed by their strength and knew straight away that I wanted to help them. Soon I was in the throes of looking after my newborn baby but the couple were never far from my thoughts and, six weeks after giving birth to Josh, I got back in touch with them through Surrogacy UK to offer my services.
A year later of getting to know each other, we embarked on IVF, using the couple’s eggs and sperm. After an anxious 12-day wait a pregnancy test came back positive. I will never forget calling to tell them they were finally going to be parents. They were both in tears. When I gave birth to their baby boy by caesarean section, they were by my side. He was the image of his dad. His mum was wearing a dressing gown so she could have the first skin-to-skin contact. The moment he was placed in his mum’s arms, I knew I’d done the right thing. Rich was looking after our two boys but he brought them along to the hospital to see me and meet the new baby. We’ve all become good friends and, three years later, I went on to have a sibling for the couple – another beautiful boy. We see each other all the time, going on play dates with the boys and for meals out. The boys I carried mean the world to me, but there are no emotional ties.
When I tell people I am a surrogate their first reaction is to say they would find it hard to give up the babies, but I tell them I see it more as handing them back. They were never mine in the first place. That’s exactly what I tell Aiden and Josh, too. When they started to question why mum had babies in her tummy that went away, I told them it’s because other ladies’ tummies are broken, so I am carrying a baby for them.
A few years ago, I went to another Surrogacy UK event and met another couple whose story touched me.
The woman had cervical cancer and had to have a hysterectomy when she was just 29. I had their baby boy by C-section last year – and it was just as amazing as the previous two surrogacies. He’s one now and lives in England, but we see each other about once a month. I thought about retiring from surrogacy, but I’ve decided if the couple want a sibling for their son I’m happy to carry that child before calling it a day.
Apart from the swelling and sickness, I love being pregnant but my body needs a rest. And I won’t be having any more of my own. My two boys are certainly a handful at times but, for me, family is everything. And being able to give that gift to another woman is the best feeling in the world.
Photo: Andrew Cawley
Based on The Sunday Post