Jessica Tran tells us what it was like to be an egg donor and surrogate for two of her best friends
Māmā of two shares her story of being a surrogate for good friends, and doing it the ‘traditional’ way.
Kia ora Jessica,
Thank you for taking the time to kōrero with us! First, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Oh dear… I always find this to be a very tricky question as I hate talking about myself, but I’ll try!
I’m Jess, 33 years old, workaholic mum to two beautiful daughters (4yr old and 5yr old) and biological mum to Eloise who’s turning 1 on 1st of November and who I was the surrogate for.
I moved from France to New Zealand back in 2015 for what was supposed to be a one year work contract and ended up settling in Auckland and have enjoyed this beautiful country since then!
Met an awesome lot of friends who are now family here, including the two dads I’ve been the surrogate for, and who turned out to be our daughters’ god fathers.
What attracted you to surrogacy?
To be honest… ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!
If someone told my younger self that I’d ever do this, I’d laugh and say that this person was out of their mind!
Believe it or not, birthing was in my top three biggest fears in life before I had children, I even remember joking about this with friends 10 years ago saying I’d need to find a surrogate (when surrogacy wasn’t a popular thing) because of how scared I was about giving birth.
After I had my two daughters, I found that it wasn’t such a scary thing. Not the most pleasant of course, but at least not scary anymore. This whole surrogacy story came out of nowhere and wasn’t planned at all.
When my friends began to look at starting a family, they started the adoption process and, as you can imagine, this is a long and bumpy process. They got a little stuck at one stage which was when Raph (one of the dads) randomly mentioned he was thinking of looking at surrogacy.
I just thought, nine months is nothing in a lifetime and suggested I could possibly consider it. We were out for dinner, and they didn’t think much of it but then the next day, we rediscussed it a bit more seriously and that’s how it all started!
That’s awesome! Can you tell us a bit about your experience?
As said above, it really started from a random discussion during a dinner out, when Raph was updating me on their adoption journey and mentioned the surrogacy option briefly. I just replied ‘I could consider this as I don’t care about things’. What you have to understand is that most people think it’s a BIG thing to do but to me, it just didn’t seem to be that big of a deal.
I compared myself to a fancy uber driver for their baby! We talked about it a bit more seriously in the following days and that’s where the process started. My only condition was for this to be done and over with by December 2021 as this was when borders were supposed to open again.
So, we’re back in June 2020, looking at booking the first appointment with the psychologists of the fertility clinic – as of course they have to check and confirm you are in a good and safe space mentally as you’re about to ‘give a child away’. Again, everyone is different and deals with things differently.
The first appointment was done for both couples and we were looking at having the second, and proceeding further. However, my husband and I found out we were pregnant accidentally (as the contraception was removed for surrogacy purposes). We knew we didn’t want more children and made the decision to stop this pregnancy – again personal choice. However, I got so sick this time around that this was just a cold reminder of how bad pregnancy could be and I got cold feet about being pregnant again. This was August 2020. Because of that, the surrogacy plans got put-on hold as I felt I couldn’t do it. Not emotionally but physically. It’s always funny how you just forget about all these details when you have a child but as this one wasn’t for me, I thought I couldn’t go through with it.
The dads to be were a bit disappointed of course but as good friends, they did understand it too. Time goes by and another dinner out brings the discussion back on the table and I ended up saying OK.
My husband who was on board straight away – as Jean (the other dad) happens to be one of his best mates too – said I’m OK with this surrogacy but “Jess becomes your wife too. Whatever crazy request she has, that’s on you guys!”
Now, as I was the egg donor and carrier, the process was a bit more thorough, we had to go through another step to get this approved as there’s more involvement from the biological mother. The process could have taken up to 18 months to be approved and as I told the guys I wanted to be ‘free’ by 2022, we decided to do it the ‘traditional way’.
Long story short, we tracked my cycle, one of the dads got his sperm checked, “cleared” and frozen but instead of going through a clinical IVF as this would take ages because of the donor + carrier thing, we ended up doing a DIY where the sperm would just be inserted using a syringe during ovulation day. It worked the second time around.
February 21 was a successful ovulation day and my pregnancy journey began! Three weeks in and it was already a bit of a whirlwind I was sick the whole first trimester.
The second trimester was alright.
And third was hell!
I felt stuck and wanted this baby out ASAP as she was moving a lot and taking all the space!
I was really well looked at during the whole pregnancy by a private clinic and also ended up requesting a planned C-section for this pregnancy (previous were natural births) as I just didn’t want to give birth the same way I had given birth to my own daughters (personal choice). I also thought this would be better emotionally, physically, and mentally given this wasn’t my child.
It was a real roller coaster until the end as hormones were really kicking in and I was just so ready to be set free finally. The day of the planned birth was a Friday, we got all prepped for theatre and five hours later, the surgeon came back and said there was no space available due to other emergencies, sorry, come back on Monday! You can imagine the emotions. The adoptive parents were looking forward to finally meeting their daughter and I was ready to have my body back!
The following Monday – we returned to hospital and looking back now, this couldn’t have been better.
Surgery went fantastically well, we had a great time chit chatting to the medical team during the process and I saw my friends become parents!
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That’s fantastic! What was it like once baby was born? Can you tell us a bit about your postpartum experience?
From the start, I said that I would only carry the child and that as soon as she’s out, she was going to be their full responsibility!
The birth experience was different as it was an elective C-section and again, I wouldn’t do it any differently. But it was tough, as physically much harder to recover from compared to a natural birth. But in this specific situation, and being a surrogacy, it was for sure the best option for me.
I did struggle a bit to get back on track as I always thought my body would recover easily but all these layers had been cut open.. that’s not a quick fix! Ten months have gone now, and I think I’m fully recovered.
Hormones were really strong after birth and despite taking the ‘blockers’ my milk came in, but it all got better after a week. The parents lived in our house for the first 12 days as they were going through a regular adoption process and didn’t get the placement from birth granted.
The simple fact that they had to adopt their own child (one of the dads was obviously the biological father) was absurd… the questions I got asked by the social worker were a bit odd too as again they treated this as a normal adoption and disregarded the fact that it was a planned surrogacy not me deciding to give up my child.
How much involvement did the biological parents have during your pregnancy? Did the live close by and come to appointments etc? What is your relationship like with the family now?
They were great. There anytime I needed as my husband was often away, and they of course looked after my daughters when needed and handled everything when I wasn’t able to. They live a kilometre away from us which makes things super easy as you can imagine and of course attended every single appointment when possible – there were restrictions in place at times due to COVID.
Before this pregnancy, and even know, we’ve always been close. As they live close by, we see each other each week if not every second day. They are very much in the girls’ life and the girls want to see their half-sister too and love her lots.
Would you do it again?
Nope! I’m glad I did this for them as they are my friends and I’m happy they are happy. But I don’t think I would have been able to do this for strangers at all. It was a great experience and lots of laughs along the way too – we’re obviously very close to them which is why it was so easy.
This is a modern family, my daughters will grow up with another half-sister and despite their young age, they know the whole story already.
Raph sometimes jokes about having the second one but I have officially retired 😊
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