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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How my sister helped us start a family

When Clinton’s sister Rhiannon said she could be a surrogate so that he and his partner Callum could start their own family, the couple knew they were being offered a precious gift.

“Callum and I welcomed the arrival of our little daughter in December, and we’re keen to show the good side of surrogacy,” says Clinton. “There have been a lot of stories over the past 12 months that have shown it in a very negative light. But there are also some really uplifting and positive stories.”

The couple met in 2010 and knew they wanted to start a family one day, but it wasn’t until they had our civil ceremony in late 2012 that they felt ready.

“Once we looked into it, there was really only two options, either going overseas for International surrogacy or do it domestically.” Clinton explains. “We soon realised that its illegal in NSW to do an international surrogacy and while to date there had never been any prosecutions of parents that we knew of, it was a very important to us to not do anything even remotely illegal to have our family.

“We wanted to have the close contact that domestic surrogate and egg donor would bring to our child’s life. Allowing a clear and open channel for our child/children to where they come from was really important to us.”

Clinton’s sister Rhiannon kindly offered to be a surrogate for the couple. Clinton says she had already had three children of her own and felt her family was complete, so she was in a very good physical and mental state to offer this incredible gift.

But what are the legal rights and obligations involved in having a child through surrogacy?

“In a lot of ways, doing surrogacy domestically is a very step-by-step process, but it is also a very involved one,” says Clinton. “If you, your clinic and your lawyer follow the very clear Australian Surrogacy Act guidelines, then it makes it very clear on what you need to do and when you need to do it.

“What makes it complicated – as opposed to doing it internationally – is that you don’t have an agency taking the reins and controlling everything. You are on your own and self reliant on getting things done. So you need to be very on top of all the people involved. From your lawyer, to the IVF Clinic that you choose, to meeting and selecting your egg donor and surrogate and arranging your multiple counselling sessions, blood tests and ultrasounds.

“The pay off in our eyes was the intimate contact we had with all aspects of our journey. From getting to know our egg donor – the person that would provide the important DNA and character traits to our child/children – to being able to be present at every and all aspects of the pregnancy.”

Clinton and Callum’s lives have now changed hugely since their daughter Zara arrived a few months ago.

“Zara continues to surprise us and entertain us every day,” Clinton laughs. “I don’t know what we thought being a parent would be. Our siblings have children, so we had a little idea, but actually being a parent yourself is so different for each person.

“Your life changes dramatically,” he adds. “It’s like there’s this switch that turns on making you conscious and aware that there is another person more important than you, in need of your constant attention and love. But you just have this reserve of energy that never seems to run out. It might be the middle of the night and you’re sleep deprived, but something just happens when you hear those little cries. Its like an instant coffee hit.

“You learn to enjoy every day because if you blink, you have missed something. I think the thing we didn’t expect was how much the love for this little person grew. I guess we thought that she would be born and that would be it, we love her. But what we found was that the love just grew and grew. As she grows and develops you find new things to love.”