A traditional surromama
17 July 13
Today I was privileged to meet with another homeschooling mother of five — although she only has four living with her. Her fifth child is living with his new parents in a town a couple of hours away, borne as an act of love by a woman who knew she could make fine babies and decided to offer that priceless gift to another couple.
Millicent started out by donating eggs. In Australia, parenting magazines feature advertising by desperate couples who would like to have a baby and need a donor to offer her eggs. A woman who donates eggs takes fertility drugs for a time by injecting herself in her stomach and then goes into a clinic to have her eggs harvested. Millicent says it’s an excellent way to enter the system, for it gives the donor the opportunity to really consider what it means have a living genetic child with whom there is no relationship.
Following her egg donation, Millicent started pursing an opportunity for gestational surrogacy — where another couple’s embryo is implanted in the surromama’s womb. While she was entering into this process — a long, drawn-out affair that involves counselling, medicals and lots of legal discussions — a good friend of Millicent’s was also in talks with a potential surromama. At about the same time, both Millicent and her friend’s surrogacy relationships fell through. It seemed natural for Millicent to suggest to her friend that she carry their baby.
Millicent’s friends had several frozen embryos from previous IVF attempts. All were thawed, but none were viable, and it looked like Millicent’s friend’s eggs couldn’t make a baby. Their only option was to seek an egg donor, and Millicent pointed out the obvious — she was an egg donor, she was a surromama … she could be a traditional surrogate.
In most states of Australia, traditional surrogacy — where the surromama’s egg is used with the intended father’s sperm — is prohibited. But Western Australia allows it under a complicated system of application and permission. When Millicent received the okay to be her friend’s surromama, she conceived their baby through artificial insemination. It took just two attempts to fall pregnant.
Millicent says that the hardest part of the surrogacy for her was managing the relationship with her friend. Her friend grieved for the pregnancy she was missing out on as she watched Millicent’s body blossom. Millicent says that she was already so determined that the baby was her friends’ that she never considered it to be her own — despite the child growing from her genetic material.
In birthing the baby, Millicent’s friends were on hand to catch the baby, immediately cuddle him with skin-to-skin contact and cut the cord after it stopped pulsating. Millicent had an opportunity to hold the baby later on, but she says it felt like she was holding someone else’s child, and she was happy to hand him back to his parents. Months on, Millicent is still pumping her breastmilk and couriering it to her friends’ address. She says that providing the breastmilk has meant she hasn’t finished her surrogacy journey yet, and this gives her the opportunity to help others at the same time. Millicent donates extra breastmilk to other recipients via Human Milk 4 Human Babies milk-sharing group.
Why does a woman such as Millicent pursue altruistic surrogacy? Motives can be many and varied, but it mostly boils down to one simple reason: because she can.
I saw a picture of Millicent with the couple and their baby — the couple have eyes only for their child while from outside the trio, Millicent beams at the camera. It’s a classic picture of a proud surromama, and I’m thrilled that I got to hear Millicent’s story while I was here!