I asked my sister if there was ever a wow moment. A moment when she finally understood how fantastic she was for giving this gift.
“No”, she said. “I’m pretty awesome already”.
My sister isn’t the first person you’d think of to have a heart big and strong enough to carry a child for someone else. Baking a baby, she calls it. Even though she’s a fantastic mother of two children, she also isn’t fussed about children who aren’t her own. It’s not really in her nature to be a goo goo gaga kind of woman. So when she called to tell me that she was considering surrogacy, my first thought was, really? You?
It turned out she was practically perfect as a surrogate. She understood the pull to have children, and empathised with people who had struggled to conceive. She wasn’t overly emotional about it, she just knew she loved her children beyond all reason and wanted to help people realise that dream too. In essence, it was ‘just because she could help’.
And help she did.
Searching ‘surrogacy’ online during a break at work, Lyndsay found the COTS agency and started her application. As she went through it, knowing she could still change her mind at any time, she found herself more and more determined to help a couple. She registered and was eventually given case files of couples who wanted to have children.
Joy and Dev had been trying for years to have a child of their own. Six failed IVF treatments and 1 miscarriage (6 weeks, twins) later; Joy was gearing up for attempt number 8, when she discovered she had breast cancer. To get rid of the aggressive cancer she had a mastectomy and with chemotherapy her success rate was 90%, but she refused treatment until she was sure of a baby. Joy and Dev signed with the agency, and a few days later their file landed on my sister’s doorstep.
Lyndsay was struck by the couple’s sheer tenacity, their refusal to give up and give in. These were the sort of people she really felt for; a loving, hard working family unit without the child they so craved. She wanted to give them some sort of hope after the pain, disappointment and tragedy they both fought through for so many years.
Joy, Dev and my sister arranged to meet and discuss their ideas and views on how to go forward. Lyndsay was very sure she only wanted to be a host surrogate, she didn’t want a child biologically hers to be raised by other people. She wanted the detachment straight away, the idea that this baby wasn’t hers, she was just holding it a while. This fitted with Joy and Dev’s plans perfectly; they both wanted a full biological link to their child.
Treatment began straight away. It had to, with Joy refusing chemo until her eggs had been collected and fertilised. Lyndsay, like the true star she is, got pregnant on the first attempt, enabling Joy to begin her treatment. Finally, all the talk of surrogacy became very real. Joy and Dev were going to be parents. Lyndsay was having their baby.
If you live in the UK, you may have seen the documentary ‘I’m Pregnant With Their Baby.’ Lyndsay, Joy and Dev were asked to document their journey for the BBC and in the end, they were considered the ‘success’ story of the 3 stories in the programme. Lyndsay went through the pregnancy always feeling that she was serving a purpose. She felt the pregnancy was different from her own pregnancies, having to take medication and injections daily to ensure her body kept hold of the baby even it knew wasn’t hers. She kept in close contact with Joy and Dev as they prepared for the ‘surrobub’, and Joy went through her own treatment.
On the August 11th 2010, the BBC cameras watched as my sister pushed Tom into the world in her bedroom. It had been decided that a home birth worked best for them all, intimate as it could be given the cameras! Lyndsay wanted Joy to have an instant connection to the baby and the best way of ensuring that was the case. They had a great team who knew to give the baby straight to his mother, instead of to Lyndsay. Dev waited outside and Joy stayed with her, holding her hand as she encouraged her and told her how amazing she was.
Of course, she was right. But Joy was amazing too. I’ve never asked how she felt in those moments, a life time of tragedy and fight finally leading to this moment. Even with the cameras present, Joy was a picture of calm, stroking my sister gently as she was moments away from holding the baby she needed after all that time. Her entire focus was on comforting my sister and the bond between surrogate and mother seemed never more intense or natural.
At my sister’s suggestion, Joy whipped off her shirt and held her new son to her skin the moment he was handed to her. As Lyndsay was taken care of, the first few moments of Tom’s life was spent with his parents. There was a quiet glance, a soft thank you. Then Lyndsay went into her children’s bedroom to sleep a while. When she woke up, she went downstairs to visit her friends and meet their new son.
Joy, Dev and Lyndsay have remained friends to this day. She took her children to Tom’s birthday party and celebrated his first year. When she sees him, she doesn’t think about the nine months of pregnancy, the doctor’s appointments or the medications. She only sees her friend’s son, an honorary nephew. He’s a lovely little boy.
She’s doing it again, this time for another couple. We all have our fingers and toes crossed that she’s baking up another baby, for parents that don’t have a child yet. She decided to do it again after months of thought, although she does intend her surrogacy career to be over once she hands her new friends their baby.
My sister is the most amazing person I know. Surrogacy is only for the strong, the people with a firm sense of self and an iron will. When you can decide you can become a surrogate you become the best sort of superhero.