Way back in 2005, when my husband and I talked about starting a family, we naively thought that we'd have a child within a year or two. We never considered that anything might go wrong, or that there would be any problems.
Despite falling pregnant relatively easily, I was not able to carry a pregnancy and we suffered several miscarriages, both natural and through IVF, including donor egg IVF. Eventually we discovered that I had an immune issue which caused my body to reject a pregnancy. Years of scans, blood tests, injections, inseminations, medical procedures, tablets, pessaries, hopes and wishes, all for nothing.
However, I was still determined that we would become parents somehow. We found out about the possibility of surrogacy through an internet search and looked at a couple of different organisations but thought Surrogacy UK (www.surrogacyuk.org) was a better fit for us. Surrogacy UK's ethos is 'friendship first', with the focus on meeting people and building up friendships. In the spring of 2013, we attended our first social event - an informal gathering for members to meet up, ask questions and make friends. Soon after, we became full members, which meant that our profile was made available to surrogates wishing to help couples.
We became friends with Caroline (Caz) in 2014, when she was already helping another couple, also our friends. Caz gave birth to her first surrogate baby in the autumn of 2014.
In spring 2015, Caz offered to help us as a straight surrogate (which meant that the baby would be conceived through home inseminations using Caz's eggs). We were thrilled that someone we already knew so well felt able to help us, and also that our baby would be linked, not only to Caz's daughter, but also to our friends' child.
In June 2016, we were thrilled to discover that Caz was pregnant! Despite our history of miscarriages, I felt strangely calm and confident, and with each passing week, and each scan, we got more and more excited. My parents came to the scan at 16 weeks when we discovered that we were having a little girl. Caz had spoken to the sonographer up front so that we would know the sex of the baby before she did. We posted our news on Facebook and were overwhelmed by the responses we got from people - even now, we get emotional reading all the messages of support from our friends.
Weeks went by and the bump grew and grew - with each week came more realisation that we were actually going to be parents at last. Caz was doing everything she could for our baby - she ate healthily and looked after herself and thankfully, had a straightforward and trouble-free pregnancy. Through Surrogacy UK, we all had a support network, which was invaluable as the weeks went by. We attended ante natal classes so we knew a little about changing nappies, feeding etc., but of course, everything else is learned 'on the job'!
Finally, in March this year, we welcomed our daughter. We were both there at the birth, trying to be of some use to Caz, but let's face it, she did all the hard work! We felt a little guilty that Caz was going through all the pain and we couldn't do anything to help.
I got to cut the cord and then my husband and I both had skin to skin contact. It was just such an amazing, emotional and slightly surreal experience for us. After all those years of pain and heartache, our dream had come true. We stayed in the hospital with the baby overnight, while Caz got to go home for a well-deserved rest. The hospital staff were amazing throughout - they were very sensitive to our needs and made us feel like baby's parents from the start. We got to take our baby home with us the following day, and then it really became real - we were parents! Now the fun would really begin...
Our daughter is absolutely perfect, and from the second she was born, she was absolutely 100% my daughter. She may not be biologically linked to me, but I am her mum. We are applying for a parental order and when that is granted, I will have full parental responsibility for A, and we will get a new birth certificate which will include my name as mother.
We have been very open with people about surrogacy and I am more than happy to answer questions. The majority of people seem positive - the only strange comments seem to come online from people saying that they could never 'give up their baby'. Obviously, surrogates do not see the baby as theirs, and they are 'looking after' the baby for the intended parents.
We still have regular contact with Caz and her family. We chat on Facebook a few times a week, and share photos of our baby. We try to meet up every few weeks, and we still attend the occasional social event if it's nearby. It's important for our child to be a part of the Surrogacy UK 'family' as when she is older, she will meet other children born through surrogacy. It's also nice for couples starting their journey to see babies born through surrogacy journeys, as it gives hope (it certainly did to us!).
When our daughter is old enough, we will explain to her that Caz carried her for us because Mummy wasn't able to. We will tell her about her 'surro siblings' and extended family through Caz, our friends, and through the other members of Surrogacy UK.
We can never ever thank Caz enough for what she's done. It's an amazing gift that she has given us, our families and friends, but we know that she also gets a lot of pleasure from helping others. We're lucky to have her as a friend, and lucky to have found Surrogacy UK and all the friends we've made. It's been a long, hard journey, but when I cuddle my daughter in my arms, it makes it all worthwhile.