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'Being a surrogate left me traumatised' Credit: Katherine Lam 

It was a  simple request. ‘Can my cousin be in the birth-plan meeting next week – as I want her with me during labour?’ I typed into WhatsApp in August 2018. Claire’s* reply was a shock. ‘I’m not comfortable with that.’ Then the accusations began: I’d been unreasonable asking her husband not to be in the birth room; I’d had everything my own way. Then the final blow: Claire told me that she – not me – would be the most vulnerable person in the birthing room. I could feel the panic rising. In just five weeks I was going to have Claire’s baby – something I’d embarked on with the simple motivation to do something worthwhile and good. How had it come to this?

My relationship with Claire began in 2015 – before we’d even met. For 18 months, I’d been hearing about her from my cousin Sophie*, who knew her through work. I’d heard how she and her husband Ian* were struggling to have a baby. They had the embryos, but no surrogate to carry them. I’m an empathetic person, someone who likes to try and solve other people’s problems. So, even though we’d never met, one day I heard myself saying to Sophie, ‘Tell them I’ll do it.’

三级成人视频At the time I was 31, single and working as a project manager. I had a daughter of my own, Alex*, then nine, but I knew I didn’t want any more children. I’d been interested in surrogacy for years, and had even offered twice to friends, but in the end they hadn’t needed me. This time it just felt right. Claire sent me a message that evening, asking why I wanted to be a surrogate. I explained that I was just keen to help. From that moment everything happened so fast.

Two weeks later, Claire and Ian walked into a café to meet me. Well-dressed and kindlooking they hugged me, then we talked for two hours – mainly about ourselves. When surrogacy eventually came up, we discussed their journey up till now and why I wanted to be a surrogate. But there was so much we didn’t even touch on. Who would be at the birth? How often would we meet? What would happen after the baby was born? It was all either skimmed over or completely ignored. We briefly discussed the financial side, which I found awkward, but neither even mentioned a ballpark figure. You can’t pay a surrogate in the UK, except for reasonable expenses.

Ten minutes after I left, my phone pinged. ‘We’d love you to be our surrogate, we can’t wait to begin.’ Looking back, it seems insane. I wouldn’t go on a blind date and agree to get married on the same day. Why on earth would I say, ‘I don’t know you, but I’ll have your child’? In truth, I’d decided before we’d even met. I was naive, with a romantic vision of surrogacy: the three of us as a team, best friends, going through every step together. That notion blinded me to the warning signs that were there from the start.

三级成人视频Claire sent me a sample surrogacy agreement she’d found on the internet, listing the kind of things I could be reimbursed for. I made a rough calculation: time off work, maternity clothes. It came to £11,000. But I felt we were friends, that we didn’t need a piece of paper, especially one that was legally unenforceable. I know now how crazy that sounds. When I told Claire the figure she said, ‘OK but I can’t do it if it’s any more.’ I felt a stab of worry – what if something cropped up? But I pushed it away. We’d figure it out. The only counselling we had were the obligatory sessions at the fertility clinic: I had one, they had one and we had one together. Topics came up that we’d never even discussed – what if I miscarried or the baby had a birth defect? Still, none of us gave it proper thought. ‘Good point,’ Ian said. ‘We’ll have to talk about that.’ But we never did. I spoke to Alex about it all.

三级成人视频Once she understood that the baby wouldn’t be her brother or sister, she was supportive. She said it was a nice thing for me to be doing. Meanwhile, I knew I would have the same maternity employment rights and protections as anyone else, so I didn’t worry.

三级成人视频Over the next 21 months we had four failed embryo transfers. It was emotionally draining, especially when the third transfer worked, but I miscarried at eight weeks. I felt like I’d let them down. Claire and Ian waited in another room while I had the scan, and when the nurse returned from telling them the news I was shocked when she said, ‘They don’t want to see you. Are you all right to go?’

We didn’t speak until Ian called five days later. He explained that they were upset and said they hoped I was OK. I was emotional, and a little disappointed in their response to the scan, but I tried to see it from their perspective. They’d lost the pregnancy they’d been dreaming of for so long. I knew how devastating it must have been. So I just focused on them, wanting so hard for it to work next time.

Finally, it did. But once I was actually pregnant, something shifted. There were no more weekly meetups, they just left me to it. They occasionally brought me ginger biscuits and tea to help with my morning sickness, but they never came over to help with anything. Each time my instinct shouted, ‘Something’s wrong,’ I pushed it away. ‘We’re all going to hug, laugh and cry at the end,’ I thought, clinging to my Hollywood vision. It would all be worth it.

The pregnancy was straightforward. I told my boss at 14 weeks, explaining that it was a surrogacy, and he was really supportive. In fact, I’d always explain to people that the baby wasn’t mine. Feeling her move felt lovely, but I didn’t experience the bond I’d had with Alex. I knew she wasn’t mine to keep. Being pregnant put my life on hold. I didn’t date (I felt it wasn’t appropriate), or pursue new job opportunities or promotions as I didn’t have the energy. But I was genuinely happy to do it. The 20-week scan was another turning point. When the nurse pulled my underwear down to my hip bones, showing my pubic hair, I felt totally exposed. She was also rude and abrupt – it felt like she was judging us. I realised for the first time how vulnerable I’d be during the birth. I barely knew these people. They were looking at the screen, excited, not even glancing at me. ‘I’m invisible to them,’ I thought. ‘I’m irrelevant.’

We hadn’t talked about baring parts of my body and it was obvious that we all felt awkward about what had just happened. The next day I messaged Claire, explaining that I’d feel uncomfortable with Ian in the birthing room. I didn’t spell out why, I just assumed she would understand. But she didn’t and that’s when things really started to unravel. Messages became shorter and more brusque in tone. At 26 weeks I hurt my hip and asked about a private physiotherapy appointment. ‘That will have to come out of your expenses,’ she replied.

We should have had regular face-to-face catch-ups, but apart from medical appointments, we only met up twice. One was at Claire’s baby shower, which I had to pay to attend. Then, five weeks before my due date, I realised we hadn’t properly discussed the birth. That’s when I messaged about having Sophie there, and Claire replied, outlining all the ways I was failing. She said that I was difficult and awkward, making unreasonable demands and wanting the final say.

三级成人视频Her message reduced me to tears. I remember thinking, ‘I can’t believe this is happening. Nothing I’m doing here is good enough.’ I even suggested that Sophie leave the room at the actual birth, so it was just us, but that was shot down. If she wasn’t allowed Ian, I wasn’t allowed Sophie. But when Claire messaged Sophie herself, telling her she wasn’t allowed to be there, my upset turned to anger. ‘I’m having this baby,’ I thought. ‘I need someone there for me.’

三级成人视频At 35 weeks, my stress levels were through the roof and I started my maternity leave a little early. Realising things had gone badly wrong they sent me an apology card – accepting Sophie could be there – with a medical test they wanted me to take. ‘Thanks for reaching out,’ I messaged. ‘I’m happy to move forward from this.’

Then I opened the test. Claire had filled in the form with herself as the patient. ‘Wow,’ I thought. ‘This is my body. She doesn’t even see that now.’ Still I tried to move past it. I changed the form so my details were on there and 10 days later, I let Claire know the results had come back positive. She asked me to share them with the midwife, but then did it herself. That upset me so much because it was like she didn’t see me as a real person with feelings, just as a thing in the way.

三级成人视频I realised that in order to protect my mental health, I had to do something drastic and requested that all communication went through Ian. I went into survival mode, blocking Claire’s number and Facebook. She didn’t react at all. It was as if it hadn’t happened. It wasn’t something I did lightly, but looking back now I believe it was the right thing to do. The situation became so stressful that I was barely sleeping. Some days it felt like I could hardly breathe. I was so distressed at my 40-week appointment that when they said I might go overdue, I asked for a caesarean. It was all getting too much and I just wanted it over.

In the end, I was induced two days after my due date and despite knowing when it was happening, neither Claire nor Ian made it to the hospital in time. My birth plan said if Claire wasn’t there the baby was to be put down rather than given to me. I wanted her to have the very first contact with her, to have that amazing experience. But it happened so fast no one read the birth plan. She was born and put on my chest. I didn’t feel that rush of love I’d felt with Alex. It was more curiosity to finally see her.

三级成人视频When Claire and Ian arrived 45 minutes later, they hugged me and it felt like a moment of connection again. As I was wheeled in to register the birth that afternoon – Claire had left the baby with Ian – I was still thinking, ‘She’s got her now, maybe it will be all right. She’ll say, “I’m really sorry, let’s work this out.”’ Then I saw the cold look on her face. It was like she hated me.

三级成人视频Once they’d sent the final expenses payment, that was it. They blocked me on social media, so I couldn’t see anything about the baby. The hurt was incredible. They’d got what they wanted and now I was cut off. They didn’t care about me at all. I really thought that we’d continue to have contact. Not as close friends, I didn’t want to live in their pockets, but to see her on Facebook, to chat on WhatsApp. But as with so many things, we hadn’t discussed it.

I went back to work six weeks after the birth. It was incredibly difficult. Not only did I have all the hormones rushing around still, but everyone wanted to talk to me about the baby. Most days I had to find a quiet office to hide in, so I could keep it together.

I was diagnosed with postnatal depression and PTSD and was in a very dark place. I had counselling in the hospital for six weeks and then found my own therapist. It helped a little, but 18 months later, I’m still traumatised. I’ve seen photos of the baby that friends have sent me and it physically hurts. She was never my child and I didn’t want to be her mother, but the joy I thought I’d feel at this amazing achievement isn’t there. I just feel used.

Thankfully, the surrogacy laws in this country are in the process of being reviewed, and it can’t come soon enough. At the moment, intended parents have to go through a court process to become the legal parents. The new recommendations say that parents will be the legal parents at birth if they and their surrogate have taken independent legal advice, have a written agreement, undertake implication counselling, and work with a regulated surrogacy organisation. This is a step in the right direction, but I think the changes should go further. A third-party mediator should be mandatory in every case to make sure things are decided properly, and that everyone has an independent advocate.

Instead, we just winged it, causing a cascade of misunderstandings and pain. If there had been a structure to follow – along with mandatory counselling before, during and after the birth – I’m sure our journey would have been happier and healthier. But despite the pain, I don’t regret being a surrogate. I helped bring this baby into the world and for that I will always feel proud. 

* All names have been changed

As told to Kate Graham

How to have a successful surrogacy 

Natalie Gamble is the co-owner of (the first firm to specialise in surrogacy law in the UK) and – a non-profit surrogacy agency

‘Surrogacy works incredibly well in the majority of cases. But it’s a long and emotional process,’ says Natalie. ‘Right now, UK law disincentivises setting things up in the best way. It means that surrogacy arrangements are unenforceable and unrecognised, and makes it a criminal offence for lawyers to negotiate terms for either surrogate or intended parents.

‘The Law Commissions of England and Wales, and Scotland recently published recommendations for change, and the public consultation on them closed last year. We have to wait until 2021 for the Law Commission to make its final recommendations, and send a draft bill to the Government. In the meantime, it’s vital for both surrogates and intended parents to take their time and explore all the implications.

三级成人视频‘Discuss financial arrangements, how you might feel about test results, or even a termination in a worst-case scenario. You want to make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of how you would all approach such a difficult decision.

三级成人视频‘Working with a non-profit surrogacy organisation is a good way to ensure access to support throughout the journey. ‘Be clear what your expectations are for each other throughout the process. For example, how much involvement will parents have in the pregnancy and scans? What will happen at the birth? If there is a breakdown in communication, it may be around those expectations not having been fulfilled. Take time to have these conversations, before you all get carried away with conceiving a baby.’

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