Some thoughts

After speaking with Zoe Daniels on Radio National’s Life Matters program yesterday, I wanted to repeat a point that Zoe made and that I had hoped to mention myself.

Zoe very eloquently mentioned that we should not make presumptions on the thoughts and feelings of the Indian surrogates based on our own assumptions and situations. The stigma that surrounds the topic in Australia does not really resonate with them. Their culture and ways are so different to ours, it is perhaps naïve and prejudicial to impose our views of their experience on them and to assume that because we are comparatively wealthier then there must therefore be exploitation and coercion. Are American surrogates, who are also paid comparatively large amounts of money, therefore exploited too? We do not view this as exploitation because we see them as on an equal footing to us – but how demeaning and judgmental is that? Does it not in itself take away the autonomy and power that these women have and suggest that they are worse off than us? I am sure many Indian women are a lot happier within themselves than you or I. They are people who can make decisions and do not always need or want your pity.

From what I could see these women felt empowered and motivated to improve their position and their families. Without sounding naive and vain, how many of us do things for money? How many of us would seriously consider taking his path and becoming a surrogate for the equivalent of three years’ salary (indeed many do it for free…)? I would. Having a baby is not gratuitous or sordid. It brings joy and love and many of the surrogates do have some altruistic interest and do appreciate the enormity of what they are doing and the amazing gift that they can give. There is mutual benefit and financial benefit. The involvement of money does not always make something ‘wrong’ and there are additional, personal, reasons that people become surrogates. The scenes that we see and are ‘horrified’ by (perhaps of surrogates lazing about on beds in rows…) are commonplace in India and reflect differences in culture and lifestyle. It is so difficult to explain his in the right way. If it were me over there, I can honestly see that this choice would be preferable to many others and not as horrific as people might presume. I would not wish to be doing many of the other jobs that these women would otherwise be doing. I am not perfect and this is not a perfect world. You might argue that it doesn’t make it any better just because it is the best option from a long list of worse options, then you are being naive. Will you stop wearing clothes made by women and children in sweat houses around the world? Would you live in the conditions they would otherwise live in whilst steadfastly sticking to some moral high ground? You need to meet these women. They are happy, healthy and beautiful and do not generally understand what all the fuss is about.

I know I am at risk of huge criticism, but I believe when done conscientiously and sensitively, intending parents commissioning surrogates are not the soul-less, heartless, selfish people that others might take us for. Of course scrutiny and regulation are both important – and sometimes it is the unscrupulous practices of greedy clinics that ought to be the target – but it isn’t always like that and it isn’t always ‘bad’. Regulation and care for the surrogates is paramount – that was part of our own checklist and research.

There is no easy answer. Our surrogate was loved and appreciated and she knew that. Our child would have had an ongoing relationship with our surrogate and we would always have cared for her welfare and that of her family. Often there is a lot more going on behind the scenes than the media opinion or the knee-jerk opinions that this topic stirs in people.

What things do you do in your lives and in your attitudes or approaches that could be equally abhorrent to others? Discussion and debate are important in all areas of life which is one reason we agreed to be public in our journey – but there is a reciprocal duty and a duty to be reasonable and open-minded when you decide to criticise or judge.

Thank you.

D.D

Well this weekend was supposed to be the due date. I am sorry little one that you didn’t make it to our beautiful world.
Good night
Xx

Foreign Correspondent

For those who have followed our story and who might be interested, our surrogacy journey will soon be featured in the new series of ‘Foreign Correspondent’ in Australia on ABC – available to view online afterwards (worldwide) at:

http://www.abc.net.au/foreign/

<p We have been involved with the ABC for over a year and have had multiple contact/filming with them both at home and in Delhi and Mumbai.  I believe they will paint a black and white factual report.  It may not all be 'pretty' as areas of international surrogacy that require scrutiny are likely to be discussed, but this is a topic where scrutiny is essential.  We agreed to be involved knowing that they are a reputable documentary program and are unlike the commercialised/sensationalised/tabloid style shows that have a tendency to twist meaning or words and deliberately incite hype and controversy.

This has been a tough and emotional journey for us, and I appreciate the support we have received so far.  We have put ourselves on the line and know that this is a risk, but we have always felt comfortable with our actions and choices and that there is nothing to hide.  I hope the documentary will provide a greater understanding of the current status of domestic and international surrogacy and the journeys and choices people are making.

Thank you.

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Open reply

Something I needed to record, and here is the best place.  Just to get it off my chest and onto ‘paper’.

Why is it that when somebody is pregnant with their second or third child, nobody says to them: “Why can’t you just be happy with your first child??  Aren’t they enough?”  Of course nobody would say this; it would be preposterous!   When I was pregnant with my son, nobody said to me “but did you consider adoption?” Of course they didn’t!  Just as they wouldn’t say it to any other person having a child or considering it. It is an alternative, but it should not be seen as a less selfish option where surrogacy is concerned. People who happen to need surrogacy have just as much right to want their own baby (whether that is via an egg donor or not) as somebody who luckily doesn’t need surrogacy.  

Similarly, I fully understand people reminding me to be happy with my son and grateful with what I already have. But undertaking surrogacy does not means I am not grateful for what I have…. Of course I am grateful for him.  I love and cherish him with all my heart.  He is wonderful.  That’s exactly why I want another of him.  If you had my son, you would want two too.  Children are the most precious and beautiful thing you could ever experience.  I do not love my son less because I want another; indeed it is testament to how much I love him and how much love he gives back.  You have three children – were you not happy with your first one and then two when you decided you wanted more?

My son would have known boundless love – equal to what he knows now yet magnified – had he had a sibling to love, to be loved by and to share and explore his world with.  And to call ‘family.’  This is not about being ungrateful for what I have.

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Bedtimes are beautiful xx

This is Us

This is Us

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It seems funny to me now to look back and remember how I used to dread the night time when you were a baby.  Well,  until you were 3 (actually 4!!) really – you had such an active imagination, so much willpower and stubbornness, and so much vivacity that seemed to take on a life of its own at bedtimes.  You would wake many times, often with night terrors and you would scream and thrash about and there was no consoling you.  When we have stayed with other people, or had them stay with us, they would try to help – to distract you or calm you down, but they soon learnt there was nothing to do but let you ride it out until you ran out of steam.  Sometimes, in the middle of the night, it felt like the loneliest, hardest, most stressful job imaginable, and I could not imagine how things would ever improve!!  You hated to be on your own, yet being with us would not always help.  I remember nights where you would cry for 4 hours straight, willing yourself to go on regardless, and then exhaust yourself so much you would fall asleep on the floor beside my bed.  I remember sticking to our guns and sending you back to bed over and over; but you have a perseverance and stubbornness to beat anybody.  You could cry for longer than anybody else could listen to it, that’s for sure!  Sometimes you would creep in and bring blankets and pillows with you and set up your own bed on the floor.  Other times you have got up in the night and curled up in your beloved dogs’ bed.  Many many nights you ended up sleeping in with us because it ‘worked’, and we all needed sleep.  2am is not an easy time for parental consistency.  Actually, I liked you to be there, even though you wriggled, took up all the room and could never sleep ‘still’!   Why did I feel it was wrong, I am not sure?  You were asleep, warm and loved, even if you had got your own way.  You weren’t being ‘naughty’; you were asking for comfort and reassurance, or something – you had so much going on in your little head that you couldn’t vocalise.   For as long as I can remember now I have been singing you to sleep; you don’t like to go to sleep without this comfort, without my arm somehow around you.  I always wondered how long you would ask for this, that perhaps when you started school you might find it babyish or embarrassing.  Of course not.  There is school time, and there is home time, and you are never embarrassed by affection or gentle things.  You know what is true and good and what is right.

Now…now is very different.  We have worked our way towards beautiful bedtimes and night times.  You needed time to allow yourself to just relax, loosen up and sleep deeply.  Now, bedtimes are beautiful.  We talk, laugh, chat, sometimes cry.  We imagine, reminisce, dream and discuss.  We talk about what is worrying you, or making you happy; we talk about your day and your tomorrow. We talk to your imaginary bird friends ‘Birdie & Bill’ (played by my hands fluttering about) for whom you have built nests in the garden and seen many ‘chicks’ go off into the world. We read stories and listen to music.  Sometimes you like me to make up stories or silly songs.  You say beautiful things and I tell you I am the luckiest mummy alive.  Most of all we sing, and without fail you will drift off to sleep whilst I am singing one of your favourite lullabies.  This can be quick, or it can take a long time – but I don’t want to wish it away because one day you won’t want me there anymore. You sleep soundly all night and never disturb us anymore.  If you get up in the night you creep about and return to your room and shut the door.  I have found you asleep in your bed with the lights all on and your heater going, but you will never wake us.  In the morning you get up early and go about making or playing with something, building, creating, reading or drawing.  There is always something new and exciting that you want to show me when I get up.  You come and stand silently beside my bed, checking if i am awake and hoping I will open my eyes to see you.  Sometimes you will stroke my head and say “wakey wakey Sleeping Beauty” “Rise and Shine” or something else designed to make me melt with love for you.  It is alway a gentle night, followed by a gentle morning now.  It is much more ‘you’, although perhaps those first 4 years’ worth of nights reflect that complicated, turbulent side of you that makes you think so deeply, analyse everything and worry about things a 5 year old need not worry about. That same character that has also unsettled you at times when you feel anxious or panic about something that is seemingly mundane but is clearly a big issue to you. We always get through it of course, but it has to come from you. 

Having wished you to sleep well in your own bed for those first 4 years and never believing that day would come, magically it did come and now, sometimes, I miss you demanding to sleep with me.  To any parent who is experiencing these kinds of dramas – it will pass; things will change, and you will forget so much of what seemed to control your life at the time.  I used to have an angel during the day and a demon at night; but of course all along I knew he was an angel through and through.  It gets better!  

Good night and sweet dreams!

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Dreams

Ptolemy reminded me yesterday of the dream he had several months ago. He said “remember in the dream we found an Indian girl without parents wandering around looking for us? Remember she was Indian but she was also English AND Australian? Remember she wanted to be my sister?”

I remember the dream of course. Interesting that he brought it up again.

Just wanted to record this.

K

Progression

BED 1

BED 4

This photo is special to me because it was so serene and peaceful and represented everything I looked forward to before Ptolemy was born. I took the photo just days before all that peace was severely disrupted; whilst recovering all I wanted was to get back home to the peace of that nursery.

I sold the cot yesterday. This had been Ptolemy’s cot which then cleverly converted into his toddler bed. Now it is gone. This was one of the last things for him to finally grow out of; everything else was sold or given away before we began on the surrogacy quest as I knew we wouldn’t need any of it again. I had hoped we might need the cot again, but I don’t think it wise to keep hanging onto it forever. As Paul and I agreed, however, Sod’s law usually states that if you get rid of something you are more likely to need it down the line than if you held onto it! Most likely not the case here, of course. I don’t think I will get to take ‘that photo’ I wished to take. The sibling photo that means so much to the photographer and tells a story of pride, love, togetherness and unity.

And we had so many beautiful names. I could have used them all – they all meant so much to me.

So goodbye Persephone. And Elliot. Goodbye Stirling. Goodbye Olive, Harriet, Henrietta, Beatrice. I don’t think I will ever meet any of you now 😦

Go easy on anybody who has taken this path. It is always the last or only resort and is rarely undertaken lightly. It is not up to anybody how many children somebody else ‘should’ have. The people on this path are continually fighting off fears of ultimate failure to realise their dream; go easy on them.