Birth Diaries: 'This Is What It's Like To Carry A Baby As A Surrogate'

"Surrogacy is a privilege – I wasn’t sad, I was proud."

In HuffPost Birth Diaries we hear the extraordinary stories of the everyday miracle of birth. This week, Annie Peverelle, 40, shares her story. If you’d like to share yours, email amy.packham@huffpost.com.

I don’t have any children of my own, but I’ve watched three couples fall in love with their babies in front of my eyes. People ask if I find it hard to grow a baby for nine months that isn’t mine. No, it isn’t hard – not even the first time, when I gave birth to Pip.

Pip was a long labour and I had her via forceps, with her mum Katy*, me, and my partner in the room. As planned, Pip was placed straight into her mother’s arms, which I was adamant about. I watched Katy as she locked eyes with her daughter – I gave birth in theatre and her partner wasn’t allowed in, so it was important to me that Pip met her dad as soon as possible. “Go take your daughter to meet her daddy,” I told her. She didn’t want to leave me, but I wanted the first people Pip had skin to skin with to be her parents, not me.

Annie with one of her surrogate children, while pregnant with her sibling.
Annie
Annie with one of her surrogate children, while pregnant with her sibling.

It wasn’t a conscious decision not to have children. They weren’t something I did or didn’t want, it’s just the way my life panned out. I was in a marriage which ended quickly and found myself moving home at 30. I remember chatting away one day saying I’d love to experience pregnancy, and that night I went home and Googled surrogacy. I always say to myself I’m thankful I clicked on the link for Surrogacy UK – if not, my life would’ve taken a very different path.

I actually met my current husband the night before I went to my first surrogacy “social” in 2011 (he already had two children who are now at university, so kids just weren’t on the cards for us). The surrogacy process was new to me: as the surrogate, you choose the intended parents and attend these socials held up and down the country to meet people. I met Pip’s parents at the very first one I went to.

Choosing the parents is the easy part. After you’re teamed, you have a three-month “get to know each other” period, where no insemination or treatment is allowed. It’s a bit like dating, to be honest. And then, at the end of that, if everyone is happy, you have an agreement session – looking over a big 20-page document together (which isn’t legally binding) to make sure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. It covers things like expenses, testing, attending appointments, scans, holidays during pregnancy – all of it.

Pip was conceived through IVF in May 2012. We sailed through everything and got on really well. We had nights out and evenings in. They came to every appointment with me, and considering they were in London and I was in the Midlands, that wasn’t always easy. We probably saw each other once a month socially, on top of all the scans. And as the birth approached, Pip’s parents moved to a rented cottage near me.

By this point, I’d gone 12 days over my due date and I had to be induced. We all arrived at hospital at the same time in the morning, full of nervous excitement – but by the evening nothing was happening. I sent them back to their cottage to eat and go to bed and, sod’s law, things started progressing as soon as they left and my waters went. They came straight back.

Unfortunately, because I’d been induced, it went on for a very, very long time – 24 hours in total, from that first twinge to actually giving birth. But they were there with me the whole way. And that’s exactly what I wanted. It was their baby, and it was really important for me for them to witness the whole birth.

Labour was exhausting. Hours and hours of contractions, progressing just 1cm every four hours. I was awake the whole time, until the midwife came in and said she thought I needed more pain relief. I had an epidural and managed to get a bit of rest. Katy and her partner would have done anything I asked of them if I needed their help, but there was nothing anyone could do in those hours. I don’t particularly like being touched – my midwife advised my partner to rub my back but I remember batting his hand away. They were all trying, they really were, but I didn’t want anything. I just wanted to be left alone.

When it got to pushing, Pip just didn’t want to budge. We were at standstill, so the doctors made the call to get me prepped for a C-section in theatre, just in case, but told me they’d attempt with forceps first. Normally you’re only allowed one person in theatre with you, but we had it in the birth plan that if it got to this, I’d be allowed my intended mother and my own partner, too.

Pip was born via forceps, so no C-section needed. I was wheeled into recovery soon after and had my cuddle. I wasn’t sad, I was proud. My husband had a cuddle, too – he was so humble about it. Surrogates’ partners are the unsung heroes in all this. They have to put up with their wife being pregnant, but don’t get the reward at the end. I sing about him as often as I can.

We stayed in the hospital for two nights – me and my partner, Pip and her parents. The hospital were amazing. We had two rooms opposite each other – I was in a single surgical room and they were in a family room. During that time, we were in and out of each other’s rooms, having cuddles with Pip, and enjoying our time all together.

They went back to the cottage after a few nights, and the day they headed back home to London, they bought Pip to meet my parents. I still see Pip – we probably see her about once every four months, and in between that we will still text and call at least once a month. I couldn’t be prouder to have carried her.

I had the privilege of watching a couple fall in love with their baby and that feeling – wow. That feeling is something you could bottle and sell for millions.

My birth advice?

Don’t expect to stick to a birth plan. My last three have been the opposite of that first birth, with no complications. You never know.

As told to Amy Packham.

*Some names changed