‘She said she’d be babysitting our embryo’

Surrogacy between friends can be life-changing. The people who have done it talk emotions, legal hurdles – and WhatsApp birthing groups

In a flat in north-east London, Abi is cradling her best friend’s baby. At 15 weeks old, the little boy is smiling up at her, testing out his first sounds. His mother, Rachel, prepares his bottle while Abi rocks him, showing all the love she would to any of her friends’ children. The only difference is that Abi gave birth to him.

Abi and Rachel, both 35, met on their first day at university in Birmingham in 2003 and rarely left one another’s side. At 16, Rachel had been diagnosed with MRKH, a congenital condition meaning her uterus was undeveloped. Although she produced eggs, she would never be able to carry children, something she kept to herself. “I’d tell people I didn’t want kids but deep down I was insanely jealous,” says Rachel, who works as an events producer in London. “I wanted them so badly but assumed I’d never have my own, so I learned to live with it.”

After meeting her boyfriend, Sam, at a warehouse party on the eve of 2014, she avoided the “family” chat for two years before confiding in him. “We continued our relationship knowing kids may or may not happen,” she says.

A weekend stay at Abi’s home, in November 2017, bringing together five friends, their partners and kids, presented an opportunity to open up to them, too. Abi, a mother to three boys, remembers: “My partner, Rich, was cooking a curry, the kids were asleep and we were sitting around the kitchen table. Everyone spilled something personal. When Rachel told us about her condition, I knew, in my gut, that I would help her to have a child.”

Rachel and Sam had explored IVF, surrogacy and adoption, but had dismissed using agencies, which can be vastly oversubscribed, with waits of up to two years to find a match. “It felt too impersonal; too life-changing somehow,” she says. Her younger sister had yet to start her own family; had she already had children, Rachel might have asked her to be a surrogate.

Abi and Rich, meanwhile, “spent Christmas contemplating what being a surrogate would mean for everyone. We had been so lucky, yet one of the people I love most hadn’t,” she says. “I hate this phrase but it was a no-brainer.”

She called Rachel in the new year and told her to sit down before offering to carry her baby. Rachel remembers: “She said it would be like ‘babysitting’ our embryo and that term stuck. She’d made up her mind, and that blew me away. I hadn’t told my friends expecting one of them to be the answer. When Abi offered, it felt, for the first time, as if having a child was a very real possibility.”

Source: www.theguardian.com

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