“Being a surrogate nearly killed me, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat”

 

Amelia Seymour, 26, has known she wanted to be an egg donor since she was 22.

She was so sure about this she’d tell boys about it on the first date – just to make sure they were on board.

“I was young. I had lots of eggs. I was the perfect candidate,” she tells Kidspot.

However, the reason she wanted to be a donor was to help those who had trouble conceiving. While her eggs did help one woman achieve this, donating eggs didn’t change the fact that couples still had to shell out thousands of dollars, undergo years of IVF, and weren’t guaranteed success.

If she was really serious about helping would-be parents, why not go one step further and carry the baby for them?

“It didn’t sit well with me that these people could be trying for years and years without getting anywhere,” she says. “I was raised with the idea that you do what you can to help other people. If I was in that situation, I’d want someone to do the same for me.”

Jumping loopholes

Once the idea was in her head, little could hold her back – even the fact that it’s illegal to be a surrogate in Australia if you are under the age of 25.

She found a couple online – Cyrus and Ameela – who had been trying for a baby via IVF for 13 years, and the three of them along with Amelia’s supportive partner, Shane, began hunting out legal loopholes that would allow them to go ahead with their surrogacy plan.

Amelia stuck to her conviction, despite it taking four years to get legal approval, implant the eggs successfully and finally fall pregnant with a baby girl.

By this time the four of them knew ‘the plan’ like the back of their hand:

1) Amelia was going to have an ongoing relationship with Cyrus, Ameela and their new baby.
2) The baby would be fed breast milk.
3) They weren’t going to have a c-section.

 

amelia-preg-27-LRAmelia and her supportive partner Shane. Image credit: Jerusha Sutton Photography

 

The plan goes out the window

Everything appeared to be going smoothly, until just 12 hours before Amelia went into labour. Prior to this, she was, “the pregnant person you hate.”

She’d only gained three kilos in the first 36 weeks, had never been sick, and kept working 100-hour weeks until she was only a few days away from giving birth.

Amelia ended up putting on a curiously large 25 kilos in the final week of her pregnancy, with everyone, including her, assuming it was because she’d been “eating crap”.

However her dream run ended when she woke up feeling “pretty average” early on Boxing Day morning 2015 – but she wasn’t in labour yet, so she went about her day.

She and Shane went to the movies that evening but the whole time she felt run down – like she was struggling through the tail end of a flu – and the baby felt like it was poking its foot into her ribs.

Later that evening she stayed up trying to express milk but by 11:30pm she was sitting on the bathroom floor feeling nauseous and headachey with a painful stitch in her side.

 

amelia-preg-35-LRA special surrogate family. Image credit: Jerusha Sutton Photography

 

From bad to worse

Shane had the sense to call their midwife, who advised they get her checked out. Because they were planning a home birth, Amelia decided she’d rather visit the midwife instead of the hospital.

But by the time they saw her, Amelia’s blood pressure was 175/100 and she’d started seeing black spots. The baby’s heartbeat wasn’t “crash hot” either.

“We rushed to the hospital,” she recalls. “Cyrus and Ameela were asleep so we couldn’t get onto them. The doctor was unavailable because they’d gone on holidays for Christmas. We had a backup obstetrician with us.”

“You’re having a c-section”

The first thing the back-up obstetrician did was to tell Amelia she was having a c-section.

She fought back. She pleaded with her midwife to fight for her, and the midwife diligently went and questioned this new decision.

Amelia recalls how the she reentered the room saying, “OK, you’re having a c-section. If you don’t have this baby in the next few hours, there won’t be you, and there won’t be a baby.”

Her body was rejecting the baby

Amelia wasn’t told anything further. She was taken into the operating theatre, she delivered healthy baby, Shireen, at 5am, and was back in the ward herself by 8am.

Everything had gone as smoothly as one could hope, but she was still feeling awful, and had to spend the next five days in ICU.

The next day she lost 15 kilos. The day after that, Amelia lost another 10. It had all been water her body was storing.

After the birth she was told she had HELLP Syndrome – a life-threatening pregnancy complication that isn’t completely understood, but considered to be a variant of pre-eclampsia.

She was told her body had ‘rejected’ the placenta inside of her own body, and subsequently the baby. Her organs had begun shutting down, meaning she needed the baby out of her body ASAP.

 

shireenbirth-40-LRWelcome to the world, little Shireen! Image credit: Jerusha Sutton Photography

 

She considers herself one of the lucky ones

It’s common for women to be diagnosed with HELLP at 23/24 weeks into their pregnancy. These women have no choice but to lose the baby. Around the world the mortality rate is considered to be as high as 25 per cent.

With this in mind, Amelia’s not so fazed about her birth not going to plan. She’s one of the lucky ones.

“We were just so happy it was done!” she tells Kidspot. “It sounds really traumatic, but I still had a good birth because we caught it early enough. We were both OK, we had a good medical care. I was able to supply breast milk.”

“I realise it doesn’t’ really matter how I gave birth. We have healthy me and a healthy baby – there was a period where that wasn’t a certainty.”

 

shireennewborn-54-LRCyrus and Ameera with new daughter Shireen. Image credit: Jerusha Sutton Photography

 

Surrogacy plans for the future

In terms of the “dreaded” surrogacy attachement, Amelia says she never felt like Shireen, the baby she carried for nine months, is in any way “hers”.

“Looking over at Cryus and Ameela holding her after the birth I thought ‘I’m done’ … I never had interest in holding her.”

With this knowledge of herself, Amelia says she be a surrogate again “in a heartbeat”, although she is getting married to Shane in January and he has made her promise that the next baby she has will be his.

She also has an increased risk of HELLP Syndrome in all future pregnancies, a fact that makes Amelia all the more aware of the things she still wants to do with her life before risking it again.

As she puts it, “I’m going to be selfish for a while.”

Have you been in a similar situation? Or maybe you have been or want to be a surrogate? If so, email us at: kidspot.editor@news.com.au