I had a baby for my brother

Sarah gave her brother and his wife the greatest gift of all

Sarah Bouchut, 34, Nelson, NZ

I find it hard to be around people with babies,’ my sister-in-law wept. ‘Sometimes it gets too much for me.’

I really felt Renee’s pain. She and my younger brother Sebastien had begun dating when they were both in their teens.

Renee and I soon became the best of friends and I was thrilled when they later married at age 24.

But sadly Renee has a genetic condition called Marfan syndrome – a connective tissue disorder which affects her heart.

‘I inherited Marfan syndrome from Dad and I could pass it onto any children I have too,’ she told me tearfully.

‘If I had a baby, I could die. It would place too much strain on my heart.’

‘I’m so sorry,’ I said, giving her a hug.

When I went on to meet Andy, 22, and welcome three boys – Jack, now 10, Charlie, eight, and Archie, six, into the world, Renee and Sebastien were a brilliant aunt and uncle to them.

But one day, Renee confessed how hard it was to see others with children of their own. I really felt for her.

It got me thinking, and when my youngest, Archie, started school last year, I had a suggestion.

‘What if I offered to be a surrogate for Renee and Sebastien?’ I said to Andy.

‘We love our kids so much and I’d like them to experience that too. What do you think?’

‘It’s an amazing thing to do,’ he replied. ‘I’ll support you.’

Sarah holding her niece, Fleur (Credit: Supplied)

So, soon after, I spoke to Renee and Sebastien.

‘We’ve been discussing me carrying a baby for you,’ I said. ‘We’d be happy to do it.’

‘What? That’s amazing!’ cried Renee, bursting into tears.

‘Are you sure?’ Sebastien asked, close to tears himself.

‘Yes, we really want to do this for you,’ I said.

‘You’re a good sister,’ Sebastien said, throwing his arms around me.

As we live in New Zealand, we needed to make an appointment with Fertility Associates in Christchurch to put our case forward.

We could apply for government funding to make our dreams come true. In spite of only seven surrogacies being funded a year, we were successful!

Next, I told my boys. ‘Renee can’t have a baby, so I’m having one for her,’ I explained.

‘Okay,’ they all said, but I knew it was a strange concept for them to grasp.

In the meantime Sebastien, Renee, Andy and I each had to see a counsellor and answer questions.

Our answers would be handed to the government-run ethics committee, which would then decide if the surrogacy could take place.

Sebastien and Renee holding Fleur (Credit: Supplied)

I was asked, ‘If you got cancer or became very ill while you were pregnant, what would you do? How is this pregnancy going to affect you? What are your motives? Do you feel pressured to do it? How will you feel handing over the baby?’

They were good questions and I answered them honestly.

‘What if it’s a girl? You have three boys and you’d love a girl wouldn’t you?’ they also asked.

‘I don’t want another child – boy or girl,’ I replied. ‘Our family is complete.’

We were thrilled when, three months later, we were approved.

Renee was given hormones for six weeks to build up her egg supply, while I was given hormones to do the opposite.

Then she had her eggs collected and fertilised with Sebastien’s sperm.

Nine embryos were created, which were then screened for Marfan syndrome. Three came up positive and three unknown.

Of the remaining three, two survived – and I was impregnated with one.

Ten days later, the doctor had good news.

‘You’re pregnant,’ he said. I was ecstatic – and Renee and Sebastien were over the moon.

‘I can’t believe we’re finally going to have a baby!’ cried Renee, hugging me.

Renee and Sebastien leaving the hospital with Fleur (Credit: Supplied)

The pregnancy went well and nine months later, I gave birth to a beautiful 4.5 kilo baby girl.

She was handed over to an emotional Sebastien and Renee.

Unfortunately I suffered some complications which needed urgent medical attention, but when I finally woke, I found a besotted Sebastien holding the baby.

‘This is Fleur,’ he said, placing her in my arms.

‘She’s gorgeous,’I smiled.

‘We can never thank you enough for what you’ve done,’ said Renee.

She and Sebastien took home their new bub and my life went back to normal – running, biking, and chasing after my handsome boys!

Today, Fleur is three months old. We live nearby and I love to cuddle her – but I never have qualms when I hand her back. Fleur is my niece, not my daughter.

She is Renee and Sebastien’s baby, not mine.

I have no regrets about being their surrogate.

It took a year and a half of my life, but they will have Fleur forever.

Renee Bouchut, 31, says…

I’ve always known having Marfan syndrome would make it difficult for me to have children.

Sebastien and I didn’t want to take the risk but I longed to be a mother.

When Sarah offered to be our surrogate, I cried tears of joy.

Holding Fleur for the first time was overwhelming.

Fleur will know that Auntie Sarah carried her but that she is our child. Sarah made us a family.

We can never, ever thank her enough.

Originally published in that’s life! issue 50 – December 2, 2014

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