By Madeleine Morris
A newborn baby has been used as a bargaining chip between its biological parents and its surrogate mother after a surrogacy arrangement in north Queensland went sour.
When the baby was born last week there was no certainty over who would take home the child, with intended parents and surrogate in a standoff about expenses claimed by the surrogate that had not been paid.
The matter has now resolved, but observers say the case highlights how Australia’s surrogacy laws can leave all parties relying on goodwill, and emphasises the need for urgent law reform.
Speaking exclusively to 7.30, Alexa (whose last name cannot be used for legal reasons) explained how she felt used after her relationship with the intended parents of the child she carried broke down during the pregnancy.
“It started out for love … with me wanting to do something for them,” Alexa said.
“And then without support, without any gratitude or any thanks, it just got worse.”
Alexa is related to the intended parents and said she did not hesitate to become their surrogate after watching years of their failed attempts to have a child.
She said things started to go wrong in the first trimester, when the fertility clinic they attended put her on a very high dosage of progesterone to help maintain the pregnancy.
The high hormones made Alexa very nauseous, and on some days unable to get out of bed.
The clinic refused to lower her dose, so after seeking a second opinion, she lowered the dose herself, without telling the clinic.
She said on several occasions in the first trimester, the intended mother would ring her “hysterically crying telling me I was having a miscarriage”.
Alexa concedes lowering the progesterone dose probably heightened the intended mother’s anxiety.
The intended parents declined to be interviewed by 7.30.
Two parties had minimal pre-surrogacy counselling
The mandatory pre-surrogacy psychological assessment had already thrown up a number of red flags, including the intended mother’s anxiety and Alexa’s previous post-natal depression.
But both intended parents and Alexa were in a hurry, so after only three hours of counselling between all of them the IVF clinic went ahead and transferred the embryo, made from the intended parents’ egg and sperm.
Alexa’s lawyer, Stephen Page, has extensive experience in surrogacy arrangements.