AFTER 17 years, 15 failed IVF attempts and the death of a premature baby, Merri Anderson refused to give up hope that one day she would become a mother.
That courage and unwavering faith will see Merri and partner Peter welcome not one but two little miracles into the world any day now - but not without a little bit of help.
Merri and Peter began their journey to parenthood many years ago and after trying for years to conceive naturally were forced to turn to IVF when they found out one of Merri's tubes was blocked.
That also proved to be a dead end street paved with heartache with four cancelled cycles and 10 unsuccessful cycles before the 11th go when they finally fell pregnant but lost their little girl after she was born premature and lived for just three hours.
"They said I could either adopt or try surrogacy, but the adoption agencies wouldn't approve us because of my lung problem and surrogacy was still illegal," Ms Anderson said.
Their options were dwindling but all that changed when surrogacy in Queensland became legal and by a stroke of luck, the Rockhampton pair was given an email address for Bundaberg woman Emma Barwick who had been considering becoming a surrogate for some time.
"We emailed back and forth for a few months getting to know each other," Mrs Barwick said.
"It was the most nerve-racking day meeting each other after six months," Ms Anderson said.
Mrs Barwick and her husband Paul have two children, Ella, 16, and Mason, 13, and said nine months was a small price to pay to make dreams come true.
"Nine months of my life will give them a lifetime of happiness," Mrs Barwick said.
When the four finally agreed to go ahead with the surrogacy, one attempt failed, the second resulted in a miscarriage and the third resulted in something none of them imagined in their wildest dreams - twins.
Mrs Barwick is due to give birth to twins, a boy and girl, any day now and says the whole process has forged an incredible bond between the two families.
"They will know that I was the birth mother," she said.
"We'll be aunty and uncle to the twins and see them all the time and they will be like cousins to Ella and Mason."
Mrs Anderson said she did not know what she would do without the incredible generosity of the whole Barwick family.
"She's my life saver," Mrs Anderson said. "I don't know how I was ever going to get through life without kids.
"I've wanted them since I was little and I never ever gave up and I knew one day I would be a mum somehow."
One day is now just around the corner with the twins due on March 27 but doctors have said if they haven't arrived by March 11, they will induce labour.
"She's been so patient the past 17 years but this last two weeks has been crazy for her," Mrs Barwick said of the mother-to-be.
"She's getting impatient."
Mrs Barwick said her
family, especially husband Paul, had been incredibly supportive but both exten
ded families had been sceptical when they first told them about the surrogacy plans.
"Both our families were a bit strange at first but they have all gotten used to it," Ms Anderson said. "My family was terrified that she would keep them even though they're biologically ours.
"It's very scary. I had to put all my trust in her."
The surrogacy has cost $100,000 but that's only a portion of what the pair have spent on IVF and related
expenses over the years.
TYPES OF SURROGACY
Gestational Surrogacy is when a surrogate mother carries a baby for an intended couple or individual. The gestational surrogate has no genetic relationship to the child that she is carrying. The intended mother goes through a traditional IVF cycle to create embryos using the sperm of the intended father or from a sperm donor that will then be transferred to the surrogate. This is the case in Emma and Merri's story.
Traditional Surrogacy is when the surrogate mother uses her own eggs to create the child that she is carrying for the intended parents or individual. Either the sperm of the intended father is used or donor sperm.
Surrogacy only became legal in Queensland in 2010.
- The birth mother is allowed to keep the child or children she gives birth to. This is true even in cases like Merri And Emma's where even though Merri and Peter provided both the egg and sperm, Emma is legally able to keep the children
Under the Surrogacy Act, you can:
- enter into a non-commercial surrogacy arrangement where no money changes hands
- pay or reimburse the birth mother's reasonable surrogacy costs
Under the Surrogacy Act, you cannot:
-enter into a commercial surrogacy arrangement where one party pays another
- advertise for any surrogacy arrangement-whether you're willing to be the birth mother or seeking someone to be a birth mother for you
- receive any fees for arranging a surrogacy
STEPS TO SURROGACY
According to the Queensland Fertility Group, the process of surrogacy involves the following steps.
- the intended parents (or individual) and birth mother attend a consultation with a fertility specialist.
- the birth mother and the intended parents may need independent obstetric and psychiatric assessments.
- for the intended parents, the birth mother and her partner, including any identified genetic issues.
- we ask for a certificate confirming both parties have been advised on their rights and obligations.
- if the intended parent is using her own eggs, they will be collected after an IVF treatment cycle and fertilised with her partners (or donor) sperm. The embryo will then be transferred into the birth mother.
- once pregnancy is confirmed, a counsellor will continue to discuss and confirm plans for delivery.
- the baby is deemed to be the child of the birth mother until the intended parents parentage order takes legal effect, under the Surrogacy Bill 2010.
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