My experience as a surrogatePublished on
Rachel Westbury, joint owner of Nappy Endings surrogacy agency, shares her own surrogacy story with Pura.
There are many paths to parenthood. For couples who are unable to conceive naturally, for whatever reason, fertility treatment and adoption are now well-trodden routes.
But unethical practices in some countries, and sensationalist coverage in the media, has made surrogacy controversial in some quarters.
Parents and families come in all shapes and sizes. To help spread awareness on surrogacy, we’ve written a series of blogs on the subject. This is the first - we’d love to hear your thoughts.
What is surrogacy?
In a nutshell, surrogacy is when a woman carries a pregnancy and gives birth for the child’s intended parents. She can do this via traditional or gestational surrogacy.
In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother uses her own egg and is artificially inseminated using sperm from the intended father, or from a donor. While not as common as gestational surrogacy, traditional surrogacy is still an option for intended parents and prospective surrogates.
In gestational surrogacy, the child is not biologically related to the surrogate (or gestational carrier, as she is sometimes known). Instead, the embryo is created via in vitro fertilization (IVF), using the eggs and sperm of the intended parents or donors, and is then transferred to the surrogate.
Why would people opt for surrogacy?
Motives vary from medical problems, trauma, age and personal considerations.
Infertility is a common reason and, in recent years, surrogacy has gained more popularity in the LGBT+ community.
UK law on surrogacy
Surrogacy is legal in the UK, but it cannot be advertised or commercialised, so you cannot pay someone to be a surrogate. You cannot advertise your services as a surrogate either.
The woman who gives birth is the baby’s legal mother (whether she is biologically related to the child or not) and her spouse (where applicable) is the other legal parent until legal parenthood is transferred by parental order or adoption after the birth.
Rachel with her son
Rachel Westbury (45) from Loughton is a single mum. She has been a surrogate to four babies, after giving birth to her own son in 2005.
Having always been interested in surrogacy, she watched a documentary that explained how it worked, and then in 2011, decided to get in touch with an agency.
Within a year, she was pregnant with twins (a boy and a girl, born in 2012). This was followed by a baby girl (born in 2013), and a baby boy (in 2018).
“Surrogacy is something that has always intrigued me,” she says. “I had my son and ended up becoming a single parent. I knew that my own family was complete and I didn't want any more children for me.
“But I'd always been fascinated by pregnancy and the fertility world, and I knew that there are many people out there who desperately want children.
“As much as I moaned constantly throughout my pregnancy, I wanted to be able to do it again but I just knew that I didn't want any more children for me.”
Rachel says her first experience was positive.
“That was just a really amazing journey,” she explains. The process was smooth sailing, we were very lucky.
After being a traditional surrogate for the twins and a separate baby girl, her last journey involved gestational surrogacy,
“That opened my eyes up to a whole different world of fertility,” says Rachel.
“This was the main reason I opened Nappy Endings. I hadn’t realised what IVF entailed.
“Along my journeys I’ve suffered an ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, chemical pregnancies as well as the hard journey of three medicated embryo transfers.”
Rachel says this experience has enabled her to offer unique understanding and empathy to everyone involved in a surrogacy journey.
Rachel says she has maintained a good relationship with the parents she’s been a surrogate for but has always left the intended parents to decide if they want to stay in touch.
“Every dynamic is different but you do go through a lot together, it's a real emotional rollercoaster. It’s kind of like being a little family unit while you're on that journey together.”
Using her own experiences, Rachel prides herself on being able to match intended parents to their surrogates and offering 24-hour personal support to both parties throughout the course of their shared journey.
“Because surrogacy is based on trust in the UK, one of the things we get asked the most is ‘will the surrogate run off with the baby?’ This is something that never happens. Pure soap opera. I’ve never experienced anything close to this.
"'The most incredible moment for me, and all the surrogates know, is seeing the faces of Intended Parents the first time they meet their baby - it’s pure magic, and it’s the reason I do what I do.”
Rachel says that an agency can give both parties that extra sense of security.
“That’s what Nappy Endings is about,” she says. “It’s understanding what the surrogate and the intended parents are going through.”
Despite the highs and lows, Rachel would urge anyone thinking about being a surrogate not to be put off.
“Nothing can compete with that joy of handing over a baby to a couple who so desperately want one,” she adds. “You can't put it into words. I've got goosebumps thinking about it now.”
About Nappy Endings
Nappy Endings is a UK surrogacy and fertility support agency that assists with matching intended families with surrogates. They guide both sides throughout their entire journey and beyond, after babies have been born. To learn more click here
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