pregnancy

'I was born without a uterus. So my best friend had a baby for me.'

I was born with a condition known as Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome (or MRKH for short), although I didn’t find out that I had it until I was 18, in 2007. Basically, for me this condition meant that I was born without a uterus. Without any of the other issues sometimes associated with MRKH it was the lack of a period that led my mum and I to chasing answers.

At the time I had a long term partner, Brodie, who is still by my side today. The years between then and now were hard, and emotional and full of ups and downs. But on the whole we had a happy life, with one big thing missing (the cliché can’t be avoided).

I know kids aren’t for everyone, but for me I’d always wanted a family, and having an amazing partner who I knew would be an amazing dad only made me want it more.

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Beck (left) with her best friend Lee (right). Image: Susan Lowick, @saltwaterblue.photography .

In the early years after my diagnosis I really mourned the loss of never ‘being’ pregnant. Of course, I was devastated about the possibility of never becoming a mother, but ultimately it was the physical presence of a pregnant woman’s stomach that would overwhelm me with grief.

As time went on, I let go of that loss, and my focus gradually shifted to the future that Brodie and I would be missing out on. A future with a family. Now my childhood memories of times with my family were ever so slightly tainted with the thought that I may never one day get to make those memories with my own child. Eventually, I could hardly remember a time when I truly believed that I would have a family.

MRKH is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing in that I knew I couldn’t carry a baby. The reason for our inability to conceive was 100 per cent finite, there were no ifs, buts or maybes. But it’s also a curse, because there is no opportunity for hope, at least hope of falling pregnant. The answer is no, your body will not carry a baby, so it’s hard to blissfully picture a future with a family. As much as I tried to imagine a baby in our future it usually ended with me in tears, head buried in a pillow.

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My best friend, Lee and I had been discussing our situation, and honestly we had no plan other than to hope for a miracle. Realistically, all that we could hope for was that when our friends had finished making their families, maybe someone would offer to be the miracle that helped create ours. And that is what I said to Lee.

The next part changed our lives forever.

Standing there, just the two of us with a cider in of our hands watching Brodie’s family dance the night away at a party, Lee offered to do it – to carry a baby for us. Just like that. No fanfare, no big proposal. Simply, “I’ll have a baby for you”. Minutes later, Lee's partner Pete joined the conversation and Lee announced “I’m going to have a baby” and Pete said, “about time!”

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Lee with Beck's daughter, Briar Lee. Image: Supplied.

Of course I cried. I kept asking if she was sure, and telling her she didn’t have to do this. My biggest concern was her children. They are such a close family unit and I knew that her kids needed to be on board or there was no way that Brodie and I could go ahead with doing this. We were essentially asking them all to share their mother and wife with us for nine months.

No one tells you how useless you feel as the bystander when someone is giving birth. I’ve seen the labour scenes in movies and I’ve heard people talk about their birth experiences, but we’re always focused on the person giving birth. I hadn’t prepared myself for the utter feeling of uselessness and helplessness that I would feel watching Lee go through the birth.

Lee’s strength didn’t surprise me. I know she’s made of tough stuff, but witnessing her and Pete’s relationship as she turned to him during labour was something else. He lives for her, and seeing her in pain like that must have been unbearable, yet he stood strong and calm the entire time. Brodie summed the final stages of labour up perfectly, “I can’t believe she knew she’d have to go through that and she was still willing to do it!”

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The midwife asked me if I wanted to help deliver the baby, so together with the student midwife, I pulled out this perfect little baby. A girl! Oh my god! When I realised she was a girl I erupted with tears. So much relief that she was out, that Lee was okay and at last our little "Peanut" was here! I lay her on Lee’s tummy while the cord stopped pulsing and then Brodie cut it. For once he wasn’t squeamish! I’ve never felt anything like the love I have for our little baby as she lay there, quietly resting on Lee’s tummy, as if she knew how much love was in the room for her.

We told Lee our name and she loved it. Briar Lee. I held her fresh little body against my skin and wished I could just hang on to that moment forever. Then Brodie held her and my heart was full. My family were together at last.

After Briar had been weighed and checked, I passed her to Lee. I just wanted to hold Lee so tight and hope that in that moment she could feel just how much love I have for her. This experience has connected us for life, and there is not another person that I would have wanted to do this with. When everyone left the room, it was just Lee, Briar and I. We didn’t get to our room until late and we were all exhausted, Lee especially. I lay down, feeling a bit like an imposter in a hospital bed when I hadn’t done the hard yards. I was holding Briar and looking over at Lee in complete awe. She was here. We were all here. This had happened, and she was perfect.

This September Briar will be two years old, meaning our surrogacy journey began just over three years ago. Some would say that our journey is over but surrogacy really is a bond for life. We've since moved home to the Mid North Coast and we're only minutes away from Lee and her family. Now we get to enjoy lazy Saturday afternoons all together on their back deck eating cheese and biscuits, and sharing a drink while we watch Briar run around the backyard. It's not all sunshine and lollipops, parts of our road to getting here were hard, and as we sail into the terrible twos I'm sure we'll have some trials of a different kind come our way. But everyday we feel beyond blessed to have gone through this together, and I know that Briar will never doubt how much she was wanted, or how loved she is.

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"I feel so proud of what I was able to do for Beck and Brodie and I enjoy talking about it when it comes up in conversation," says Lee. Image: Susan Lowick, @saltwaterblue.photography
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Lee picks up the story here...

Every day for the next week, Beck brought Briar to visit me. I enjoyed those cuddles so very much. When I held her I felt so much love, but it was different to the love I felt with my babies. In truth, it felt more like she was my grandchild. There was only one day that I felt really teary and asked her not to visit. It was three to four days post-birth which I knew from experience was a common time to experience the baby blues.

Brodie headed home on the Monday – almost a week after the birth – and Beck and Briar headed home on the Thursday. The night before they left, Beck and Briar came for dinner and I bathed our little Peanut. When I hold her and look at her it’s hard to imagine that she was ever in my tummy. She is such a little miracle and watching her with her mum and dad is just the best thing ever. If I had my time again, I would definitely do it. There are no regrets. It’s been such a rewarding experience to helping Beck and Brodie create their little family. A family that now, will forever be a part of ours.

After they returned to Gilgandra I had one more week at home before returning to work and luckily we moved into our shed that week. One of my good friends, Mary even spent her day off helping me move some more boxes into our shed.  Keeping busy was good for me because I was hormonal and teary for a few weeks post birth. In hindsight, I definitely went back to work too early. I wasn’t ready physically or emotionally. But I managed, and by the second week back I was returning to my old self.

I feel so proud of what I was able to do for Beck and Brodie and I enjoy talking about it when it comes up in conversation. I hope that if anyone is thinking about helping a friend, sister or cousin to start a family that by reading both sides of our story they can see that it is really possible. Miracles can happen and dreams do come true.

Our next project is a little different, we've been working of compiling both our personal diaries from our journey into a book which will hopefully give people some insight into the road of surrogacy from from both the perspective of a surrogate and an intended parent. You can keep up with our story and this project through our Instagram @projectpeanutaus.

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