After seeing the heartbreak her brother David and partner of eight years Brendan had endured in their pursuit to become parents, Ashlee Mataele, 30, from Hinchinbrook, Sydney, decided to become their surrogate.
With adoption and surrogacy proving near impossible for same-sex couples, both in Australia and overseas, Ashlee felt compelled to step in and offer to be their “oven”.
“It was the right thing to do”
“Being a mum has brought me so much joy, I wanted the same happiness for David and Brendan,” Ashlee said.
“When I saw how much David and Brendan were struggling to become parents together, I knew I had to help … I spoke to my husband, John, about it at length and we both agreed it was the right thing to do.”
Using a donor egg and Brendan’s sperm, Ashlee fell pregnant on their first attempt and gave birth to Rylee McQuiggin in June.
Ashlee says she’s thrilled to have been able to give her brothers the baby they longed for, and has no issues with just being Rylee’s aunt.
David and Brendan with their ultrasound photos. Source: Jaded Images/Caters News.
“Some people think it’s weird, I think it’s an honour”
Ashlee, a full-time mum, says while growing up all she ever wanted to be was a mum, and she is certainly no stranger to parenthood. She’s the proud mama of Levi, four, and two-year-old twins, Faith and Harmony.
She says her love of motherhood made the decision to become a surrogate for her brother an easy one.
“People questioned if I’d be able to hand over a baby at the end, but that never once worried me. I was the baby’s aunty, not mum.”
Ashlee is already a proud mum of three. Source: Jaded Images/Caters News.
“The system was stacked against us”
David, who already had three kids Danni, 12, Chloe, 10 and Bradley, nine, from a previous relationship had known ever since he met Brendan that they wanted to become parents together.
They met while studying to become interpreters for the Deaf Society, NSW, and quickly became close, with Brendan loving the fact that David already had three children.
“I loved that I got to be a part of their lives as our relationship grew serious,” he said. “But there was always a part of me that wanted to have a baby of my own.”
Brendan recalls how when they started looking into surrogacy, they soon realised that the “system was stacked against them for being in a same-sex relationship.”
The birth of Rylee has brought together one big happy family. Source: Jaded Images/Caters News
Ashlee couldn’t bare their heartache
Unbeknownst to David and Brendan, Ashlee who was pregnant with the twins at the time, was witnessing their heartbreak they were going through with horror and had hatched up a plan to make their dreams come true.
“After our girls were born, I turned to John and said ‘It’s not right that they’re wonderful parents but they can’t have a baby together,’” Ashlee recalls. “I told him I wanted to offer to be their surrogate and he was amazingly supportive.”
“A few months later, after lots of discussions and research, I messaged David and Brendan and offered to ‘cook’ their baby for them.”
Needless to say, the overwhelmed couple took a few days to believe she was completely serious. They were floored by her generosity.
“It was not only completely genuine, but a way to ensure any baby I fathered, would have a link to David’s family,” said Brendan. “It was perfect and I was so thankful.”
The broody couple decided to advertise for an egg donor to fertilise with Brendan’s sperm. It only took them a few days to find a solid offer on an online forum from a woman named Corrinne Hocking.
Corrinne used to study at the place where Brendan and David met – and in their minds it felt like all the stars were aligning.
Ashlee was implanted with the first embryo in September 2015, and they discovered it had worked about two weeks later.
She got David’s kids to draw banners to break the good news.
Getting excited to meet Rylee. Source: Jaded Images/Caters News
The anticipation builds
For the next nine months, Brendan and David barely left Ashlee’s side. They attended every scan, doctor’s appointment – and even moved in around the corner just to be closer.
It was really important to her that they were there for everything, especially Brendan, as the baby was biologically his.
“We also told our kids that I was having a baby but it was their uncle Brendan and David,” Ashlee shares. “They were so excited and nicknamed my bump Baby Bubbles. The whole family were involved which made it extra special.’
Welcome to the world, Rylee! Source: Jaded Images/Caters News
When baby Rylee arrived into the world on June 4, 2016, weighing 4.28kgs, he was put straight into Brendan’s arms.
Ashlee said, “Though I was super excited to meet him, I thought it was far more important he bonded with his dads first.”
After Brendan cut the cord, nurses placed Rylee onto his bare chest.
It was only after he’d spent a good hour or so with both his dad’s that Ashlee then cradled him.
“Looking down at him, with my husband John by my side, I couldn’t believe he was finally here. I kept saying, ‘look what we’ve done.’”
“I was so pleased we had given such an incredible gift to two people who mean so much to me … to see and feel the love they had for Rylee from the moment he was born, I knew we’d done the right thing.”
Proud parents Brendan and David. Source: Jaded Images/Caters News
“Saying goodbye felt completely natural”
Brendan stayed at the hospital for three days while Ashlee recovered, taking care of Rylee, before heading home.
“Saying goodbye felt completely natural,” said Ashlee. “I was thrilled to have played such an important part in Rylee’s life, but I was ready to step into the role of his aunty and return to my normal life.”
“My kids were ready to have me back because I’d been unable to do a lot for the last few months of the pregnancy … (and) when they met Rylee, they loved him as well and Levi kept saying ‘you came out of my mummy’s tummy.’ It was so cute.”
Now Rylee is 16 weeks old and doing well with his doting dads and older siblings, and Ashlee is sharing her story to raise awareness about the gift of surrogacy.
“It’s still such a taboo and you often only hear about the tough stories, not the positive ones like ours,” she says. “I love the fact I get to tell people, I had my brother’s baby. It’s an incredible story.”
Quotes and images courtesy Caters. Words by Rebekah Scanlan.