"I had to ask myself if I could give up a baby." A mum-of-two on her surrogacy journey.

Sarah Jefford is the only lawyer in Australia practising exclusively in surrogacy and donor conception law. She is helping hundreds of Aussies to achieve their dreams to become parents, guiding them through a very complex and often emotional process. 

Her journey into this unique career has been personal: Sarah is a mum of two boys, but she is also an egg donor and surrogate. It was her experience with assisted fertility clinics when trying to have a family of her own with partner Troy that first introduced her to egg donation and surrogacy.

"For our first round of IVF, I had 18 eggs which is a good number," Sarah explains.

"Then from those eggs, we had 15 embryos and six failed embryo transfers which was very tough. On the seventh try however it worked, and that's Archie our now 12-year-old son. It was hard to get to that point, but we knew we were so lucky."

Watch: Kim Kardashian and her surrogate on KUWTK. Story continues below

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Sarah says that while on their IVF journey, they connected with other people who were struggling to have a baby.


"Because I knew I had lots of eggs, I thought that maybe after we had Archie, I might become an egg donor. But when Archie turned two, we turned our attention to having a second baby of our own. 

"We started saving up for some more IVF but in the meantime began trying to conceive naturally. One month later, we got a happy surprise with a positive pregnancy test!"

After Raf was born, Troy and Sarah soon decided that two children was challenging enough and that their family was complete. But Sarah's thoughts drifted to the other families still struggling to conceive.

"I was only 33 at the time and still fertile so I thought I would donate my eggs. Through research, I found people I could donate to, and it was as part of these groups that I heard other women talking about surrogacy. 

"At first it felt like a leap too far and I wasn't sure I could do it. I had loved being pregnant and had enjoyed easy, textbook pregnancies.

"But I had to ask myself, could I give up a baby given how much I love my own babies? I went through a lot of mind gymnastics to consider it. I asked my fertility doctor when donating my eggs but she brushed me off, so I went back to my online research and found some surrogacy communities on Facebook."

After much discussion with Troy, Sarah felt like becoming a surrogate was the right thing to do.


"It was the answer I was looking for: I really wanted to do pregnancy again, but I didn't want a third child at the end. Somebody else would do the parenting and I really wanted to give that chance to somebody else and say, 'This is for you'."

Sarah was introduced to a gay couple online through a Facebook group who had been looking for a new surrogate. They swapped messages and then met for coffee to see how they got on.

"Meeting the intended parents was a bit like going on a blind date! We chatted, and then they met Troy and my boys and we got to know each other. We had lots of conversations about important issues like whether I would drink while pregnant and my thoughts on vaccinations before we went ahead to the fertility clinic."

Listen to Mamamia's assisted fertility podcast Get Me Pregnant. Story continues below.  

In Australia, every state has different laws with surrogacy, but in Victoria the first steps were for Sarah to be medically cleared.

"Once I got the go ahead medically, we all had to have about 10 to 12 hours of counselling individually and together, as well as psychological assessments and police checks. Then we needed separate legal advice to ensure we were clear on our rights."

The main reasons for legal advice and counselling with surrogacy is to ensure that everyone is clear on what happens to the baby after birth, and to work through what happens if things don't go to plan.


"The issues to work through as part of the legal advice are things like the consequences of what if the surrogate decides she's not handing over the baby? What if the intended parents die or they change their mind? What happens if the doctor says, 'This baby's not well, you need to consider a termination'. Who makes the final decision? There is a lot to discuss from every angle." 

In her professional life as a surrogacy lawyer, these are the questions and issues that Sarah now talks through with her clients. Having gone through the process herself makes it so much easier to relate and empathise.

"It can be bleak as some of these questions are tough. But it's important to think about everyone's rights and what's in the child's best interests before going ahead."

As Sarah was not just the gestational surrogate, but also the egg donor, there were a few additional questions to consider, as she would be genetically related to the baby.

"When I had my boys, I knew I had to care for them and bond with them. As a surrogate, it was about bonding with the intended parents and helping them to become parents rather than bonding with the baby.

"I was very much attached to this idea that I would see the dads with their baby and that's the vision I had for her life and for the birth."

While it took a few attempts to conceive at the clinic, Sarah's pregnancy was once again straightforward. After two vaginal births with her sons, Sarah was hopeful it would be the same this time around, but frustratingly it wasn't smooth sailing.


"I had hoped for a water birth but ended up needing a c-section. Whilst in theatre, my partner Troy was there to support me and take photos, as well as the intended parents. By the time the baby was born, I had been in labour for 24 hours and was so tired. I heard her first cry, and I thought, 'My job is done.'  

"The intended parents were very open to me breastfeeding if that was what I wanted and so initially I breastfed her for about three weeks and was pumping milk when she wasn't with me. 

"But it got to a point where I thought, why am I expressing milk for a child that isn't mine? It wasn't doing my wellbeing any good, and I just knew I was ready to move on with my life. I watched the parents feed her some formula on one visit to our place and it was like my body understood it was time to stop."

Sarah with husband Troy and sons Archie and Raf. Image: Supplied.  Sarah says that her surrogacy journey was all-consuming and that the transition back to normal life was initially challenging. 


"We went from seeing the intended parents every day and then the baby to suddenly nothing. I had all this spare time again and so I decided to start a podcast to help other families and surrogates. I recorded 100 episodes, and that got me through the first 12 months of the baby's life which I think was the time it took me to fully transition from surrogate to being a friend or 'Aunty' Sarah."

Sarah says that while her surrogacy journey is over, she is still part of the now almost five-year-old's life.

"The first 12 months were a rollercoaster as we all established our roles and worked out where I fitted in. But we have a good relationship and see each other probably once or twice a month and for the big milestones like birthdays. 


"The intended parents have a photo of me pregnant at home and she knows I grew her, and we will continue the conversation as she gets older about our genetic connection. My kids understand the connection and they have a relationship much like cousins and they dote on her."

Sarah says that for anyone considering surrogacy or seeking a surrogate, there are many things to that need to happen from both a practical and emotional perspective.

"Most people find surrogates or intended parents through existing networks and friendships or like me through online groups and communities. You'll need to share your story to let people know your intentions, but you have to be careful as it is illegal to advertise for a surrogate in Australia. 

"I tell people that emotionally they need to consider their primary relationship, as a partner will need to be 100 per cent in on the journey. In our case, I told our intended parents that I wasn't up for having a baby 'at all costs' and at one point when I was getting distressed trying to conceive and Troy asked me to take a break, I knew I had to as it was putting pressure on our relationship and home life." 

After going through surrogacy and being a successful egg donor twice, Sarah is using her first-hand experiences to inform her career. There are many things she wants to change including a uniform law across all States and Territories and the surrogacy industry which she says has until now been "dominated by dudes."


"When I started my practice as a lawyer I had just become an egg donor and I looked around and saw that no one working in this space had lived experience like I did. 

"I went to a conference in 2016, which was completely dominated by agencies, particularly from overseas, who were selling surrogacy to intended parents. There were maybe only six or seven surrogates at that conference, and I thought why are we not talking to surrogates? 

"It can be exploitative, not just for the surrogates or the babies, but the intended parents who spend a lot of money and are vulnerable. 

"I've since had an event where we had 35 surrogates in the room and so we're changing the industry to help focus on the people who are really impacted... but there's still more work to be done."

Sarah has written a book, More Than Just a Baby: A Guide to Surrogacy for Intended Parents and Surrogates, which is the only guide to surrogacy in Australia.

To seek legal advice as a surrogate or intended parents visit Sarah's website.

Laura Jackel is Mamamia's Family Writer. For links to her articles and to see photos of her outfits and kids, follow her on Instagram and  TikTok.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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