My experience as a surrogate
Published on April 26, 2021
Rachel Westbury, joint owner of Nappy Endings surrogacy agency, shares her own surrogacy story with Pura.
There are many paths to parenthood. For couples who are unable to conceive naturally, for whatever reason, fertility treatment and adoption are now well-trodden routes.
But unethical practices in some countries, and sensationalist coverage in the media, has made surrogacy controversial in some quarters.
Parents and families come in all shapes and sizes. To help spread awareness on surrogacy, we have written a series of blogs on the subject. This is the first - we’d love to hear your thoughts.
What is surrogacy?
In a nutshell, surrogacy is when a woman carries a pregnancy and gives birth for the child’s intended parents. She can do this via traditional or gestational surrogacy.
In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother uses her own egg and is artificially inseminated using sperm from the intended father, or from a donor. While not as common as gestational surrogacy, traditional surrogacy is still an option for intended parents and prospective surrogates.
In gestational surrogacy, the child is not biologically related to the surrogate (or gestational carrier, as she is sometimes known). Instead, the embryo is created via in vitro fertilization (IVF), using the eggs and sperm of the intended parents or donors, and is then transferred to the surrogate.
Why would people opt for surrogacy?
Motives vary from medical problems, trauma, age and personal considerations.
Infertility is a common reason and, in recent years, surrogacy has gained more popularity in the LGBT+ community.
UK law on surrogacy
Surrogacy is legal in the UK, but it cannot be advertised or commercialised, so you cannot pay someone to be a surrogate. You cannot advertise your services as a surrogate either.
The woman who gives birth is the baby’s legal mother (whether she is biologically related to the child or not) and her spouse (where applicable) is the other legal parent until legal parenthood is transferred by parental order or adoption after the birth.
Rachel with her son
Rachel Westbury (45) from Loughton is a single mum. She has been a surrogate to four babies, after giving birth to her own son in 2005.
Having always been interested in surrogacy, she watched a documentary that explained how it worked, and then in 2011, decided to get in touch with an agency.
Within a year, she was pregnant with twins (a boy and a girl, born in 2012). This was followed by a baby girl (born in 2013), and a baby boy (in 2018).
“Surrogacy is something that has always intrigued me,” she says. “I had my son and ended up becoming a single parent. I knew that my own family was complete and I didn't want any more children for me.
“But I'd always been fascinated by pregnancy and the fertility world, and I knew that there are many people out there who desperately want children.
“As much as I moaned constantly throughout my pregnancy, I wanted to be able to do it again but I just knew that I didn't want any more children for me.”
Rachel says her first experience was positive.
“That was just a really amazing journey,” she explains. The process was smooth sailing, we were very lucky.
After being a traditional surrogate for the twins and a separate baby girl, her last journey involved gestational surrogacy,
“That opened my eyes up to a whole different world of fertility,” says Rachel.
“This was the main reason I opened Nappy Endings. I hadn’t realised what IVF entailed.
“Along my journeys I’ve suffered an ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, chemical pregnancies as well as the hard journey of three medicated embryo transfers.”
Rachel says this experience has enabled her to offer unique understanding and empathy to everyone involved in a surrogacy journey.
Rachel says she has maintained a good relationship with the parents she’s been a surrogate for but has always left the intended parents to decide if they want to stay in touch.
“Every dynamic is different but you do go through a lot together, it's a real emotional rollercoaster. It’s kind of like being a little family unit while you're on that journey together.”
Using her own experiences, Rachel prides herself on being able to match intended parents to their surrogates and offering 24-hour personal support to both parties throughout the course of their shared journey.
“Because surrogacy is based on trust in the UK, one of the things we get asked the most is ‘will the surrogate run off with the baby?’ This is something that never happens. Pure soap opera. I’ve never experienced anything close to this.
"'The most incredible moment for me, and all the surrogates know, is seeing the faces of Intended Parents the first time they meet their baby - it’s pure magic, and it’s the reason I do what I do.”
Rachel says that an agency can give both parties that extra sense of security.
“That’s what Nappy Endings is about,” she says. “It’s understanding what the surrogate and the intended parents are going through.”
Despite the highs and lows, Rachel would urge anyone thinking about being a surrogate not to be put off.
“Nothing can compete with that joy of handing over a baby to a couple who so desperately want one,” she adds. “You can't put it into words. I've got goosebumps thinking about it now.”
About Nappy Endings
Nappy Endings is a UK surrogacy and fertility support agency that assists with matching intended families with surrogates. They guide both sides throughout their entire journey and beyond, after babies have been born. To learn more click here
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Here's Why I Decided To Become A Surrogate Four Times
Rachel Westbury became so dedicated to being a surrogate that she's now founded an agency to help other couples.
BY RACHEL WESTBURY |
POSTED ON19 05 2021
I first looked into surrogacy 11 years ago, after seeing a documentary on TV about surrogacy - I knew pretty quickly this was something I would like to do to help people. Being a single mum to my son, my family was complete for me. However, I didn’t want my pregnancy journey to end and fertility and pregnancy had always fascinated me. I wanted to help all the people out there wanting a family but struggling to achieve that themselves.
I thought this was the perfect route to go down. After googling surrogacy at work, within a few hours I was signed up to an agency and emailed a whole stack of intended parents' profiles to look though. It made me slightly uncomfortable to choose. However, I was drawn to one particular couple and contracts were signed (this happened very quickly which is different today) and within a few days a time was arranged to meet with them. I went down the traditional route which means using my own eggs which is done by home insemination or a place where everyone feels comfortable.
Soon after this, the agency looking after my journey closed down, so we muddled through ourselves. On the third attempt I was really shocked to find out I was pregnant, this was the third month of trying.
After feeling really sick, which I had not experienced previously, and with no agency expertise and support, I took myself to a scan with a friend as I feared something was wrong. To my shock I found out I was having twins. Fortunately, the pregnancy went well and at 37 weeks I was induced and delivered a heathy baby boy and baby girl. It was the most amazing experience of my life - one I cannot put into words. Seeing the couples faces holding their babies for the first time is a moment I will never forget. Again, we muddled through the paperwork and the parental order was completed, however this started to sow the seed of me wanting to help others on their journeys - I knew I was hooked on surrogacy.
Within a year I had delivered another healthy girl at home, after which I decided to take a rest and look into how I could support others. My friend Ursula, who had watched and supported me through my journeys, kept encouraging me to have the confidence to start a non-profit agency helping others, as all I ever did was talk about my experiences.
Then I met another intended parent, this time it was a doctor in the fertility world looking for a gestational surrogate. Gestational surrogacy is when the surrogate carries the baby via Embryo transfer, so the baby will not be biologically linked to the surrogate. The embryos are created by a donor or are the intended parent’s own genetics depending on the situation.
This opened up a whole new unknown world of fertility to me. It gave me a huge empathy and a greater understanding of what people go through physically and emotionally to try to become parents.
After a series of tests, scans, counselling, background, and health checks I got accepted by the clinic and the journey began. The hormone injections the night before a scan, the nerves waiting on blood results and the cocktail of medication you take just to get you transfer ready is emotional roller coaster in itself.
After only experiencing smooth pregnancies up until this point, it came as a huge surprise when I found out that this time, the pregnancy was ectopic. I had internal bleeding and my tube was about to rupture and I was taken into emergency surgery to remove the growing pregnancy and right fallopian tube.
After a brief rest and coming to terms with what happened, we all felt ready to try again and sadly the second transfer failed. Finally on the third transfer and a long exhausting journey we got the amazing news that I was pregnant again with twins. Sadly at eight weeks I experienced vanishing twin syndrome, which I actually did not realise is a common thing to happen - not many people know about it as they would not usually have such early scans.
Rachel and her Son
©RACHEL AND HER SON
I went on to have an uncomplicated pregnancy with a baby boy - his delivery was not what I had experienced before, after a four-day induction it ended in emergency caesarean, resulting in us both contracting sepsis. After about a week the baby was healthy enough to go home and is now a healthy happy toddler. I experienced some complications and a long journey to recovery and when I became well enough, I went home.
All the experiences I went through, good, and bad, it led me to founding Nappy Endings with my friend Ursula.
I felt even though not all my journeys had been smooth I would take the difficult parts and use them to help people, and the good parts to inspire people.
There are many misconceptions surrounding surrogacy - the biggest one being “What if the surrogate runs off with the baby?” However, in all my years of being in the surrogacy world, I have never seen anything close to this happening.
I think the drama and misconceptions are fuelled by soap operas, the clue being in the name. For me Nappy Endings is my chance every day to continue doing what I love - supporting and helping others.
So much has changed since I began, with everyone being completely background checked medically, physically, and mentally before even joining the agency. We differ from many agencies by doing the introduction of surrogates and intended parents ourselves, as I feel it gives everyone a fair chance to meet their surrogate with no judgment on what their story is that led them to surrogacy.
I feel that everyone has the right to be a parent and I feel it is a privilege to be a part of everyone’s journey to parenthood. We are a small boutique agency who keep it simple, we are available 24/7 to support both parents and surrogates. I know first-hand that there can be bumps in the road and I fully understand the emotional roller-coaster ahead of both the intended parents and the surrogates, I also know that surrogacy is most amazing thing and only wish it was spoke about more.
Who knows whether I will carry another pregnancy myself - I will never say never, but I will continue helping others through Nappy Endings both in the UK and US for as long as I possibly can.
School nurse struggling with IVF is finally a mum after teacher asks to be surrogate
Sophie WheelerTuesday 27 Apr 2021 12:11 pm
Lisa Williams (right) gave birth to baby Quinn after agreeing to be a surrogate for Katherine Bateson (left) (Picture: SWNS)
A school nurse who missed out on five chances of having a baby finally fulfilled her dream of being a mum when a teacher friend agreed to be her surrogate.
Katherine Bateson, 41, endured four years of anguish in a desperate attempt to have a baby with her PE teacher husband Alan, 39.
The couple conceived naturally but Katherine had a miscarriage before four failed rounds of IVF.
They then decided to use a surrogate and matched with a woman but were heartbroken when she changed her mind.
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Katherine was comforted by Lisa Williams, 42, a PE teacher with Alan, who volunteered to be her surrogate.
Katherine’s eggs were fertilised using Alan’s sperm, the embryos implanted in Lisa’s womb and after a successful pregnancy, Lisa gave birth to 7lb 2oz baby Quinn.
Teacher friend Lisa Williams agreed to act as a surrogate for the couple (Picture: Lisa Williams / SWNS)
Katherine, from south-east London, said: ‘We had done four rounds of IVF and fallen pregnant naturally once and that was a miscarriage, and then from the four rounds of IVF we had another miscarriage and then one ectopic pregnancy.
‘But I have an autoimmune disorder and we tried every drug going, and then we had two embryos left and it was at that point that we did look at adoption, but thought with two embryos left it was worth trying with a surrogate rather than with me again.
‘We just didn’t know if it was something with my body that wasn’t working properly.
‘And my mental health was struggling so we decided I couldn’t do IVF any more.
‘I just found it so hard and quite traumatising, the whole process and everything that comes with it.
‘It’s like one moment you’re really excited and doing the egg transfer and the anticipation of the two-week wait, and then to get the news you’re pregnant and something goes wrong, it is physically and mentally draining.’
Katherine added: ‘We were really nervous about the whole surrogacy route as obviously it’s not that well known about and often you have to sort of navigate it all yourself.
‘I know it’s a lot you’re asking of someone to do, but it was just awful and devastating and to think we might have to wait another six or 12 months, it was just like our life was on hold.
‘I was actually in my office when I got the call and Lisa had just walked in and I told her what had happened and was just crying.
Katherine and Alan Bateson were delighted to welcome their son in March (Picture: Katherine Bateson / SWNS)
‘She then took me out for dinner and offered to become our surrogate and it just went from there.
‘Throughout the whole pregnancy we had a group chat together with our husbands and we would text and get over the first seven weeks, then the first months, and then when he was viable we started to allow ourselves to get excited.
‘It was just so nice to see the chat relaxing as the pregnancy went on.
‘For me, during the labour, it was like I was the man and I was there being a spare part as I couldn’t really do anything, and I did find it hard watching a friend go through that and had that sense of guilt and that we had asked too much.’
The couple live near Lisa, her accountant husband Richard, 47, and their three children, Grace, 12, Oliver, 15, and Zac, nine.
Lisa, who had her first child through IVF, said: ‘That was one of the linking factors to the whole story as we had gone through struggles ourselves.
Lisa has already has three children: Olivia, Oliver and Zac (Picture: Lisa Williams / SWNS)
‘But I have worked with Katherine’s husband for the last five years so I met her through him and we just struck up a friendship and got on really well, and I guess that’s when she opened up about their struggles.
‘I just remember her being absolutely devastated, it was like her whole world had collapsed when they phoned and told her the surrogate had fallen through — it was just horrible.
‘So that’s when I said I could do it, and went and spoke to my partner who thought it was a great idea.
‘People keep saying it’s such a lovely thing to do and I’m amazing, but I don’t quite grasp it.
‘I think I know I have done a really nice thing but don’t think I deserve all the heroics.
‘I just keep saying to everybody, I’m the incubator and the oven.
‘There was never any feelings of I’m giving up my child because he wasn’t my blood or any genetic connection.’
Rachel Westbury, spokesperson for surrogacy agency Nappy Endings, said: ‘It’s not always been the easiest journey for them all however they have an amazing relationship together and it’s been a privilege being a part of their journey.’
Everyone deserves to have a family
Such meaningful words from Rachel Westbury of Nappy Endings Surrogacy Agency.
Whatever your background; fertility problems, single, gay, transsexual. When the one thing you desire most in life is to build a family of your own, Rachel is there to support.
How does surrogacy work?
There are two paths for surrogacy; traditional surrogacy or gestational surrogacy.
With traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother donates her egg.
The sperm of the father is added via IUI.
IUI is where the sperm is injected into the uterus of the surrogate mother whilst she is ovulating, usually by a doctor at a fertility clinic.
With gestational surrogacy, is where the embryo from the egg of the mother and sperm of the father (or donor eggs or sperm) are implanted into the surrogate mother using IVF techniques. The surrogate mother carries the baby for the intended parents.
How to become a surrogate?
Rachel is always open for chats around surrogacy. It is her passion in life. Rachel has been a surrogate four times in the past eleven years.
Her passion to help so many more families led her to open up her own surrogacy agency.
Rachel is just a phone call or an email away if you would like to discuss options around becoming a surrogate.
Find her contacts details by visiting her website: https://www.nappyendings.com/contact
How do I find a surrogate?
Are you wondering how to find the right surrogate?
It’s important to you that your surrogate is a good match to you?
You would like to have a good relationship with your surrogate?
Nappy Endings put so much value and consideration on matching parents to be with their surrogate.
“We have been lucky to have been matched with a surrogate through Nappy Endings and are in the early stages of pregnancy. You don’t realise how much you feel a bond for your baby even though someone else is carrying it.”
Visit the Nappy Endings website to read testimonials from parents and surrogates. Organise your free phone consultation with Rachel to get to know her and her surrogacy agency better.
Your fertility journey really matters
The care and support you receive from Nappy Endings is second to none.
Rachel understands how much of an emotional rollercoaster it is during your fertility journey.
That’s why she provides a 24/7 contact service. She knows how it is to feel nervous before the day of a scan (for both the parents and the surrogate).
Having a calming and reassuring conversation just a phonecall away whenever you need it, is what sets Nappy Endings apart.
Is Nappy Endings Surrogacy Agency for me?
Nappy Endings have an agency in the UK and in the US. You will find a friendly, empathetic and compassionate service.
When asked about her services, Rachel said:
“Our aim is to complete families where the majority have been through a lot of heartache and devastation Offering a personal and compassionate and friendly service with our clients, we respect any specific needs and dietary requirements and religious needs are taken into account and are always met with we provide reassurance for what is and can be a very emotional journey.
We believe this journey should be affordable and a journey anybody can go on, therefore, our purpose is to focus on individual needs.”
Find out more about Rachel in my recent interview with her:
Published: April 19, 2021
Recurrent miscarriage survivor & mother of two. Qualified energy and shamanic healer with 20 years experience. I have made it my mission to support women with pregnancy struggles who are experiencing low self-esteem, ensuring an empowered and confident transformational journey into motherhood.
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