Jacqueline, Jonathan Kaplan's surrogate. Featured

Jacqueline Davies loves being pregnant and was keen to be pregnant again after her own two kids.

Jacqueline is married and have two of her own children. Julia was 11, and Chelsea 5 when Jacqueline gave birth to Kaleb - a baby that she carried as a surrogate for his father, Jonathan Kaplan.

We asked her a few question about surrogacy, the emotional impact it had on her and her family and how to prepare yourself to give away a baby you carried for nine months.

What made you decide to become a surrogate?

"I absolutely loved being pregnant with both of my girls. I fell pregnant very quickly with both of them, and besides some fairly severe morning sickness with Julia, I had really easy pregnancies. No major hormonal swings, I felt good and looked good the whole way through. I was keen to be pregnant again, but Gareth and I had both decided that our family was complete. Then I heard from my mom about a friend of hers who's daughter was looking for a surrogate, and I thought I would be an ideal candidate. We went through three rounds of IVF but unfortunately no pregnancy resulted. After that I decided that as I was still keen to help someone become a parent, I approached an agency. They matched me up with Jonathan Kaplan."

How did you prepare yourself emotionally?

"From the beginning I never thought of it as 'my baby'. I focused on the positive aspects, like the joy I would be giving to someone else in creating a family, and the time I would be spending at home with my own family when on maternity leave. And because I was not wanting another baby, I never wished that I could keep him. I was quite happy to hand him over at the end."

How did your husband feel and handle the situation?

"Gareth is really laid back and easy-going. He's happy to go along with any scheme of mine as long as it makes me happy! Also, he really enjoyed me being pregnant. He was fully on-board and supportive."

How did you prepare your children for what was going to happen?

"We told them that Jonathan really wanted to be a daddy but he had no mommy to have a baby with. So the doctor was going to make a baby and put it inside me, and I would grow the baby for him. We were honest from the beginning, but obviously told them different 'an age-appropriate-versions' of what was going to happen. The psychologist that I spoke to before we started the process advised me to just be natural and talk about it as if it were a normal part of our family story, not like it was anything weird or unusual. So that's what we did. They knew from the start that it was not going to be a brother or sister for them, it was always Jonathan's baby."

What was your family and friend’s opinion about surrogacy?

"Mostly positive and supportive. Many people said they admired what I was doing, and a lot told me that they could never do something like that! There were a few reservations from one or two who said they were worried about the toll it may take on me, either emotionally or physically. I appreciated the concerns as much as the positive comments, as they all came from a place of love."

Was this pregnancy different from your other pregnancies and how?

"Physically it was not very different. I had some morning sickness in the first trimester, but after that it was great. The way I felt about it was very different though. Because he was not mine I found that I was far less distracted, and didn't focus so much on the baby, so I didn't have any "preggy brain" like I did with my first two pregnancies. I was able to get on with my life with very little distraction! I also didn't have to spend any time getting ready, no room to decorate or mountains of stuff to buy. It was wonderful!"

In short, what are the steps from wanting to be a surrogate to actually becoming one?

"Unless you know of someone needing a surrogate, the first step would be to approach an agency. Once they've matched you with a family you'll have a medical check-up and a psychological evaluation. Then a legal contract will be drawn up which has to go through the courts and a judge will approve it. If necessary, donors will be found and then you'll start the IVF process."

What agency did you use?

"Nurture."

Tell us a little more about the legal part - contracts, cost, maternity leave, does the family, (in this case Jonathan) go with you for your check-ups?

"The legal contract is usually drawn up by a lawyer. It protects the surrogate from any financial liability, and the commissioning parent/s from being defrauded or taken advantage of. All costs are covered by the commissioning parent/s, but the details of what that means are worked out and agreed upon case by case. Usually it means all medical bills not covered by medical aid, travel costs, some maternity clothing, and even medical aid and life insurance payments. A guardian for the baby is also named in the contract in case something happens to the commissioning parent/s during the pregnancy. Jonathan did come with me to all of the scans and doctor's appointments, sometimes with my husband too. Obviously that's not a requirement, and will be decided on individually."

How does it work just after you gave birth to Kaleb? Do you get to hold him or do they immediately take him away? When did Jonathan hold see/hold Kaleb for the first time?

"I was required to have a caesarian, so Jonathan and my husband were both in the operating theater with me. Kaleb was handed to Jonathan as soon as he was born. I got to hold him later that afternoon back in my hospital room."

-  How did you feel just after giving birth to Kaleb, what was going through your head, how did it feel different from giving birth to your own children?

"I was happy for Jonathan and that it was all over. It was quite nice to be able to focus on myself and not have to worry about a brand new baby when I'd just had major abdominal surgery. I was so happy when I had my own babies, but I was just as happy that this one was not mine. Also I had some complications after the birth, my spinal column had been punctured when the spinal anaesthetic was administered, and my spinal fluid was leaking out. It resulted in an excruciating headache, and I had to have a procedure to fix it which then required me to lie prostrate for 24 hours. That would have been difficult to deal with while I was caring for a newborn, so I was glad I didn't have that responsibility."

What advice do you have for other women that consider being a surrogate?

"If you think you can do it, go for it. I think most women are quite clear in their own minds whether they would be able to do it or not. There are so many loving people that would love to have a baby, but need help doing it. It is such a precious gift to give someone who will be forever grateful. I would just advise to be careful of your motivation. This is not a way to make money, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons."

You still have contact with Jonathan and Kaleb, will you advise other surrogates to do the same and have contact with the baby and the family afterwards?

"I would advise other surrogates to allow the relationship to develop and not make a decision too quickly. There are no rules, it will depend on the individuals involved and how they feel about keeping in touch."

 

 

 

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