Forging a bond, and sharing the joy

Feb 16, 2013

Here is a beautifully written story on the front page of Saturday's Daily Telegraph which chronicles an important chapter in our lives - the birth of our son Hamish.  We hope that by sharing our story that we have opened the public's narrow perception of surrogacy and wish that other lovely couples also out of luck will draw some inspiration from Hamish's story.  


IT'S not the role most mothers play in the arrival of their newborn baby.

When little Hamish Raftery came into the world he was handed straight to his mother, Kylie. But she wasn't lying in a hospital bed, exhausted from the efforts of labour. That's because another woman gave birth to him.

That other woman was Veronika Donavan, a gestational surrogate, who Mrs Raftery and husband Adrian now consider family after she gave them the ultimate gift - a healthy baby.

"She is like the sister I never had," Mrs Raftery said of the woman who until four years ago was a complete stranger.

Mrs Donavan's surrogacy was altruistic, meaning she did not receive any payment, because commercial surrogacy whether carried out here or overseas is illegal in NSW.

It is a fact that angers the Rafterys.

"The whole process cost more than $80,000 in doctor, psychologist and solicitor fees, yet the one person who gave so much was not allowed to get a cent," Mr Raftery said.

The safe arrival of Hamish was the joyous conclusion to a tumultuous journey that began in December 2008 when the Rafterys tragically lost baby daughter Sophie Cleo, who was stillborn at 32 weeks gestation.

Sophie's delivery damaged Mrs Raftery's uterus and left her unable to safely carry a baby without risking her life and that of her unborn child. But the couple did not give up hope of having their own genetic child and began the search for a surrogate. Mrs Raftery met the woman she now calls her son's "tummy mummy" in an online surrogacy forum in January 2009.

In a sad but beautiful twist Mrs Donavan, a 34-year-old mother of two, was drawn to the couple's plight as she had given birth to a healthy baby girl named Sophie just one month before the Rafterys lost their daughter.

It was more than two years after meeting online that the Rafterys and Mrs Donavan were in a position to go ahead with their surrogacy plans after receiving approval from an ethics committee in March 2011. By the end of that month Mrs Donavan had been implanted with an embryo the Rafterys had created via IVF more than a year earlier. Sadly, that baby miscarried at 6 1/2 weeks. But Mrs Donavan's resolve to help the Rafterys was not weakened by this early loss. "She said 'I'm going to continue until I give you a baby'."

And she did. It took two more attempts, but finally in the middle of October 2011 a third embryo was successfully implanted in Mrs Donavan.

It grew to become the much-awaited Hamish Donavan Raftery, born on July 19, 2012, and the spitting image of his big sister. The Rafterys' decision to give their son Donavan as a middle name was an easy one. "Veronika worked so hard to give us Hamish. She was always there when we needed her, she never let us down," Mr Raftery said.

"She and (her husband) Damien are an amazing couple. They had the gift to carry a baby, but they both agreed it wasn't a gift until it was given."

The bond between the two families grew during the pregnancy, with the Rafterys driving from their home in Sydney, at the foot of the Blue Mountains, to the Donavan's in Canberra at least 20 times. Mrs Raftery said she had no doubts Mrs Donavan would do her utmost to ensure the well-being of the baby growing inside her. "I never once questioned anything Veronika did," Mrs Raftery said. "She even refused to get her hair coloured until after he was born."

The Donavans are now living in Brunei. But, on a blog she kept about her experience, Mrs Donavan said although it took time to adjust to life post-surrogacy, she had no regrets.

"I am very, very happy that Sophie Cleo has a little brother now and that the new family gets to settle and live their lives in their own home," Mrs Donavan wrote.

The Rafterys hope their story will help other couples who are struggling after the loss of a baby.

"There is a term 'rainbow baby', which means after every storm there is a rainbow, and at the end of that rainbow is a pot of gold," Mr Raftery said. "Hamish is our pot of gold and we hope that our story might help other grieving parents realise that there is hope at the end of the rainbow for them too."


This article first appeared in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday 16 February 2013, pages 1,4-5.  For original published article please go here.


PS Expenses relating to surrogacy are not tax -deductible!!?

Tags: ChildrenFamily

Author: Letitia Rowlands


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