Confidently prepare for a positive birth experience – Join The Birth Class

Episode 383


Sarah is the mother of four children and always loved being pregnant. After her fourth baby was born, she started looking into what the surrogacy journey could look like for her. Months later an instagram post from Ellie, a woman she’d met at a wedding, changed everything. They met for coffee and so began a life-changing journey. Once the legalities were in place, Ellie and Luke’s embryo was placed in Sarah via IUI and she carried baby Alfie to full term, birthed him in the bath and then handed him to his mum. This story is a must-listen and a testament to Sarah’s generosity of spirit and big, big heart. As for Ellie’s side of the story? It’s coming soon!

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“I fell pregnant straight away in all of my pregnancies and I had a very easy pregnancy with my first, Miles. I went into it with an open mind and really embraced the whole birth process as something that was natural but also something I couldn’t control. My best friend was my midwife and my labour was okay but the second stage was very long and I had a third degree tear which made the recovery really hard. Back then, before having more babies and educating myself, I was back into everything as soon as I got home and I didn’t rest like I should have and that really lengthened my recovery.

“I was in shock when I discovered I was pregnant for the second time but I just accepted it and I enjoyed being pregnant. I had a similar mindset but I had a better idea of what was going to happen to my body; I was more prepared for the physical experience of labour but I still felt underprepared compared to my fourth birth. I was always okay with getting through the contractions and coping with them but I never really knew what transition was and how it impacts your mind and body. After my third it really bothered me that I couldn’t control that shift; I needed to know why it happens. I did a hypnobirthing cause and it was so empowering to know what was happening and why it was happening. I was able to embrace it instead of fleeing the feeling of wanting it to end.

“I was labouring on New Years Eve with my fourth baby, Frida. Things ramped up after midnight and we headed to the hospital at about 2:30am. I laboured in the women’s assessment unit and the midwife checked me and I was fully dilated so they raced me upstairs. I wanted a water birth but I didn’t have time so I birthed her in the shower. I had this mindset where I just let everything happen to my body; I can tune in and it helps me make sense of the whole experience. I didn’t have that feeling of wanting it to stop; I just embraced it all.

“I started looking into surrogacy after I had Frida but nothing was serious. Ellie was in a bridal party that I photographed when I was pregnant with Frida and we connected. A year or so later I connected with her via my sister’s business, The Golden Month, and she had just lost Lennie. She soon after posted an instagram post about surrogacy and that’s when I reached out to her.

“She had Sonny at 25 weeks and then lost two little boys so she had come to terms with not being able to carry her babies but they didn’t feel finished as a family. She just said she was looking into surrogacy and that’s when I told her it was always something I’d thought about. We had coffee and it was a bit like dating. My husband took a bit to come around because he didn’t realise how serious I was but in the end he had no choice but to get on board.

“I was nervous before I met Ellie but as soon as we started talking it was so easy and effortless. There was nothing awkward or hard about it. She’d done quite a bit of research. As time went on we talked about pregnancy and my experiences. We both knew that we were keen but we both went home and spoke to our partners…but deep down we knew it was something we wanted to happen. We caught up a few more times before we started the official process.

“There is a checklist. They started doing their IVF part, the egg retrieval etc. My first thing to do was get a medical clearance and then blood tests and then I had to have an internal done at the IVF clinic. Then of course there was counselling and the legal documents.

“The lawyer that Elly used had been a surrogate twice and my lawyer was amazing so they were all really excited for us. The IVF journey was crazy and I was even resistant to use the progesterone pessaries and then I broke out in a huge rash. I started taking a prenatal vitamin and then two weeks before embryo transfer I had to use the pessaries and then I had to have a blood test on day 1 of my period and then every second day and then every day so they could track my hormone levels so they could put the embryo in during ovulation. Ellie was with me for the embryo transfer; it was like a dentist chair with my legs in stirrups and they tip you right back. They showed the little embryo under a microscope and then they put it in a tube and inserted it into your cervix and then that’s it. We went for coffee afterwards and it was just crazy.

“I knew I was pregnant; I felt a bit off and I did a home pregnancy test and it was positive which was really cool. We had really open communication the whole way. I thought I’d be really sick considering it wasn’t my genetic baby but I didn’t get too sick. The nausea definitely lasted longer but I wasn’t bed bound or vomiting. I did GP shared care with my other pregnancies so we went down that path which was easy.

“The whole time we were so fortunate that we were doing it together. Pregnancy had always been so straightforward for me but Ellie had so many challenges and she just trusted me and my decision making and I think that’s because I didn’t have any fear or anxiety. This whole thing was giving Ellie and Luke a birth and a baby that they couldn’t have themselves. I just told them it was their experience as much as it was mine. I just wanted to have a water birth; that was my only stipulation.

“I checked in with Ellie at 20 weeks and 25 weeks because I knew that had been a rough part for her in the past but she was so at ease that the baby was in my body. We chose to be induced at 38.5 weeks because logistically it was easier; we had so many babies and kids between us. It also gave Ellie the opportunity to prepare herself which was really important.

“They broke my waters in the morning and then there was four hours of me walking up and down stairs but then I opted for the syntocinon drip and it was on. I got a point that I knew Alfie would be born soon so I asked for the bath to be filled and that’s when everyone got really excited. I really used the hypnobirth breathing which I’d practised all through the pregnancy. I could really focus on what was happening to my uterus and I could even feel my cervix when it was fully dilated. I did one push and his head came out and on the second contraction his body came out. I was on all fours in the bath and it was pretty smooth. It was the shortest cord I’d ever had so I got out of the bath and sat on the bed and handed him to her. I couldn’t wait for that moment; I’d visualised it for the whole pregnancy and for her to have a healthy baby in her arms. It wasn’t strange at all.

“It was really nice to have everyone’s support and happiness. I had a managed third stage and the placenta came out really easily. Our plan was to go straight home but the surrogacy laws are quite archaic. Alfie is still legally considered my baby so we couldn’t leave the hospital without each other. He had to stay overnight as his blood sugars were a bit low so I stayed too and watched Netflix, it was a bit of a holiday.

“I hand expressed colostrum for Alfie and I still feed my two-year-old so that’s been a really smooth transition. Ellie had breastfed her son so she was able to do a few things to get her milk production going so she fed Alfie soon after birth.

“We discharged together and they dropped me home and it was just like: okay, bye! A week later I went over to see them and took my big girl, Macy, and she got to have a cuddle with him. I’m getting so looked after in my postpartum with meals and in-house treatments, it’s been really lovely.”

Topics Discussed

Breastfeeding, five babies, GP shared care, IUI, Public hospital, Spontaneous labour, Surrogacy

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