baby

"It has amplified our connection." My best friend had my baby.

Lauren and Nicole met over 20 years ago at university and became instant friends. The pair’s close friendship became more like family when Lauren gave Nicole the greatest gift of all - the chance to be a mum.

Nicole always thought that conceiving a baby would be a challenge because of her endometriosis. When she first fell in love with now husband Andrew, the conversation quickly turned to starting a family. 

"I met Andrew when I was 35 years old and we had some early chats about my wish for a baby," Nicole tells Mamamia.

"I basically had to say that if he wanted to be with me, we would need to get a move on!"

Watch: What is endometriosis? Post continues below.


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The couple consulted with a fertility specialist in 2014 and began what would eventually become a four-year journey with IVF.

"When I started IVF, I was still working in a demanding full-time job as a lawyer. I was very open about it with my manager and the team because I had to spend so much time out of the office at the clinic. 

"After 12 months into the IVF process and no pregnancy, I took three months of unpaid leave as I was feeling exhausted."

Nicole returned to work part-time but found it hard to balance the stress of her job with the continuing emotional and physical toll of IVF. She ultimately made the difficult choice to resign, as her desire for a family came first.

It was around the two-year mark of her journey with IVF that best friend Lauren first approached Nicole with her life-changing offer.

"Lauren sent me a text that said she had given it a lot of thought and that if I wanted, she would carry a baby for us as our surrogate. It was an absolute game changer, and it was amazing. I was incredibly emotional and it also just gave me a huge sense of relief."

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Listen to The Delivery Room: Host Jessie Stephens discusses all the different ways women give birth. Post continues below.

The two couples sat down in person for a full discussion about what it would mean and how it would actually work.

"We discussed every scenario and all the risks, and there was nothing that Lauren hadn’t already thought of. But at that point I wasn’t ready to stop IVF, and I wanted to keep trying for a successful pregnancy."

In 2016, Nicole and Andrew got married, which was a happy distraction from the demands of IVF.

"We had been putting the wedding off because of all the procedures but we finally organised it so we would have something positive to look forward to and celebrate. We also switched fertility doctors around that time, so we felt excited about a new start after the wedding."

But 12 months later, Nicole was mentally and emotionally struggling.

"I was not in a good way when Lauren stepped in and made the decision for me. She said, 'You’ve had enough, let me do this', and I knew she was right - something had to change. My mind and body had been through it and this was her way of looking after me with all the love she had."

The two women went to see Nicole’s fertility specialist and told him the plan. 

Lauren already had three boys and wanted no more children of her own. She had been lucky with her three pregnancies and was happy to be pregnant again as Nicole’s surrogate.

"At that stage I only had two frozen embryos left, and we had discussed the option of using an egg donor. I really wanted a genetic link to my child, but I knew my chances were limited. I would have loved my child no matter what."

Nicole, Lauren, and their families. Image: Supplied. 

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The embryo used for the first transfer to Lauren as the surrogate was from Nicole’s final egg collection. Its existence had been against the odds at every stage. 

"My final egg collection was horrendous. I had been on ovarian stimulating drugs for 25 days, a lot longer than a usual cycle to give me the very best chance, but when it came time for the egg collection, there was only one egg. 

"The medical staff were initially unsure if it would be of high enough quality - but it was. They were also unsure if it would fertilise or be normal - but it was. 

"At every step of the way, we were told it was against the odds and it was so amazing that with this very first embryo transfer - Lauren was pregnant!"

The pregnancy was very challenging for both Nicole and Lauren as they were living in different states. Nicole felt detached and conflicted about how often to be in touch with Lauren.

"On the one hand, I felt relieved that I wasn’t pregnant, but on the other it was tough not being part of the pregnancy. 

"Lauren had been pregnant three times previously, and she told me she wanted to 'do it her way'. It was a complex exercise in trust between us. I was also very aware of not being constantly in her face.

"I would visit Lauren monthly for medical appointments and I would stay at her house for a few days afterwards. She was working as a lawyer and I wanted to support her, the kids and their busy household as much as possible."

Towards the end of the pregnancy, the friends did a birthing course together and spoke at length about what would happen during the birth and immediately afterwards.

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"We both felt quite nervous about how it would play out and so the course really helped us to articulate our thoughts on our roles and what she needed from me for the birth. We really connected, and it brought us closer together."

The baby was due on Boxing Day in 2017 and the two couples spoke to the obstetrician about bringing the birth forward if all was well, and the doctor agreed.

"They booked Lauren in for an induction the week before Christmas. We arrived at the hospital in Canberra at 7am and it was relaxed but surreal, like she was there for a dental appointment! 

"The four of us were all taken to the birthing suite and things moved pretty quickly. It was beautiful but also excruciating and it broke me to think I was responsible for causing my best friend to be in so much pain. I got plenty of pointed looks from Lauren which the midwives informed me was quite normal!"

Nicole saw her daughter’s head crowning and as the delivery got closer, she was told to remove her clothes and get ready to hold her baby for the first time.

"Lauren's husband Lachlan cut the cord, and I sat next to Lauren as we took turns to have skin on skin time with my daughter. It was an unforgettable experience, and I was in awe of the precious gift my selfless and courageous friend had given me.

"I had a room with the baby next door to Lauren and the onus was on me as her mother to care for her immediately." 

After a night in hospital, Lauren went home to her family while Nicole stayed on for a few more days to make sure she established some feeding routines with the guidance of the midwives. 

Nicole with her baby daughter. Image: Supplied. 

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"We decided we would all stay together at Lauren's home for our first Christmas and that depending on how Lauren was feeling, we could just hang around for as long as she needed us to.  

"After a few weeks of getting to know my daughter and adapting to our new family dynamic, we returned to Melbourne and Lauren came to visit a few months later."

While COVID has kept them apart, the two families and best friends now share an incredible bond.

"We try to see each other for weekends away or holidays and while we always had a good relationship before the surrogacy, it has amplified our connection.

"Lauren calls my daughter her 'princess’ and my daughter knows she grew in Aunty Lauren’s tummy. My godsons, Lauren’s three boys, call her their little sister or cousin and they proudly tell their friends about how their mum carried her. It is very cute and the kids have this beautiful relationship!"

It has been over four years since Nicole’s daughter was born and it has changed her life in more ways than one. 

"Not only have I become a mother, but I have become one of Australia’s only specialists in surrogacy law and set up my business Russell Walker Surrogacy.

"I have found my true passion in both motherhood and work and after what Lauren has done for me, it feels like I am paying her kindness forward by supporting other families to achieve their dreams of becoming a parent."

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Feature Image: Supplied. 

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