This is a story I have wanted to tell for sometime. In fact it is a subject I have always been fascinated by and something I really admire. The reason this story is that much more special to me is because it belongs to a very dear friend and so I have seen it play out before my very eyes. I have borne witness to a journey so special, so exciting, so emotionally charged and one with the most magical ending. I have seen first hand, how one woman’s selflessness and courage has impacted the lives of others. How her decision to help another person, has ultimately provided two people with the most precious gift. One that they might otherwise, not have had. This is her surrogacy story.
Sitting down to talk to Liezel about her journey over breakfast, it dawns on both of us that there is not much more she can tell me that I don’t already know. Besides the finer details of things like doctor’s appointments and lawyer meetings, I already know what she has gone through, the joy it has brought and the impact her story will have. I have known her long enough to know that she has always been the kind of person that could endure something like this. She possesses a gentle strength few have and a kind spirit, which exudes from every fiber of her being. Which is why it came as no real surprise to me or many other people when she came out with her decision to carry another woman’s child.
She began talking about surrogacy when she was in her early twenties. Having grown up with three sisters, the conversations had come up. What if one of us are unable to carry a child? It was then that she decided, with little persuasion, that she would help one of her sisters if that ever became a problem. Already she had considered the possibility of would that would mean. Of what would be expected of herself both physically and emotionally. The weight of this issue was buried deep in her heart long before this very journey began. Long before she met the couple whose lives she would change.
She met the Intended Mother (IM) through a friend and it was then that she learnt HER story. Like many woman, the IM had endured the pain of not being able to carry a child. After many failed attempts at IVF they started to look into other options, surrogacy being the one that made most sense to them. And as providence would have it, Liezel entered their lives.
Like most things of this nature, the process is never easy sailing. It entailed a lot paper work and many many doctors’ visits. First stop, the fertility clinic where the professor checked her general health and whether she was in the right physical state to carry a baby. She had to meet with a surrogacy lawyer to sign heaps of paperwork and understand exactly what she was entering into. Those lawyers then presented it to a judge for approval and lastly she had to undergo psych evaluations.
From then on it was clinic visits where she was subjected to many injections, countless checks and finally the main procedure where the Intended Mother’s fertilized eggs were transferred into her womb. They had two heartbreaking failed attempts but on their last and final try, two healthy eggs were transferred. And like all the times before they waited with baited breath. All hopes on were on this, the last and final go.
I can remember the day I received the message from Liezel letting me know she was pregnant. I was sitting in my mom’s garden feeding my baby and I literally dropped his food with excitement. While scraping food off the patio tiles it hit me just how big a deal it was. For one, she would have the responsibility of growing and carrying a baby for 9 months. 9 months!!! Heck I could barely manage to carry my two without moaning the whole way through! But more than that, two people were gong to become a mom and dad. Did it get more exciting than that? Two people, who never thought they would be able to produce their own biological child, now had their very own baby forming in another woman’s womb.
Although it was still very early and everyone (especially the IM) felt they couldn’t get too excited, I remember feeling a joy that cannot be described. The kind I had experienced when I met both my boys for the first time. The kind of feeling that can never be put into words. Finally this woman who had dreamed of a child for 7 years would have that dream become a reality. In 9 months she would become a mother.
I saw Liezel at many different stages during her pregnancy and watched her tummy grow at the same rate as her excitement, a reassuring sign that the baby was growing and developing well. I always felt that she carried such a calm matter of fact approach to the situation. It was as if it was the most natural thing in the world for her. She held an air of pride and confidence without the smugness and was happy to share her story with those that asked. I would often hound her with questions (as I’m sure many others would too) and her response to these questions were always the same. She would answer them truthfully and almost casually, with no complicated twists or need for recognition. She was direct and to the point while still being able to show vulnerability and tenderness towards the baby she was carrying. While she was always quick to remind herself and others that it wasn’t her baby, she still felt a special connection throughout her pregnancy.
Like most pregnancies, she went through months of morning sickness (the kind that lasts all day), she had food cravings (and ate what the baby needed), she experienced severe heartburn (and considered buying shares with Gaviscon), she lost her gorgeous waist (and didn’t freak out), she forgot what it felt like to have a full nights sleep (and still made it to work) and by the end she could barely eat the acid reflux became so severe. But she didn’t complain once. Not once did she let it take away from the joy of what she was doing. With the end in sight, like a true hero, she soldiered on.
And then on the 19 September a beautiful little miracle was born. Alexia Liezel was welcomed into the world with both parents in the theatre, right beside the woman who had made it all possible. From all of these pictures you see, you can tell it was a moment neither of them will ever forget. This beautiful healthy baby placed in their arms for them to love. A dream come true. In one moment, they realized all their efforts had paid off. All the pain of not falling pregnant, the failed attempts at IVF, the admin and paperwork. Finally all these things were seen for what they were. The dot to-dot journey that led them to this beautiful little girl. This precious little life that they could call their own. These pictures tell a thousand stories.
Once the new parents had taken their baby girl home, Liezel spent two nights recovering in hospital. Her one request, which seemed a little strange given the circumstances, was that she be placed as far from the nursery as possible. Not because the sound of the babies upset her, because she wanted to sleep! So with each change over of nurses came a new gasp or look of horror when she asked them to close her door to block out the screaming. I had to laugh. All I could picture were the nurse’s skinnering to each other behind her closed door unable to make sense of this crazy lady in the MATERNITY ward who didn’t want to be disturbed by crying babies. I can imagine she got a little kick out of too. She may have passed the psych test but she is a little crazy like that.
And here we are almost a month later and as I sit and talk to her about her whole experience I ask her one last question having known what you do now and all that was required of you would you do it all over again? and without hesitation the words are off her tongue:Oh yes:I would do it all over again in a heartbeat! Nothing can compare to the joy of giving people the child they always dreamed of.
I think I would have to agree.