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Image / Self / Parenthood

Surrogacy: ‘As soon as I lay a foot on Irish soil I become a legal stranger to my son’


By Amanda Cassidy
22nd Oct 2021
Surrogacy: ‘As soon as I lay a foot on Irish soil I become a legal stranger to my son’

Rosanna Davison is one of many parents speaking out against the strict laws in place for international surrogacy. It's after reports this week that the Irish Government is considering a deferral of part of the assisted human reproductive bill due to legal difficulties. Amanda Cassidy speaks to three Irish families about their experiences of surrogacy and how they've been impacted by the gap in our laws.

‘We waited for almost 18 years for our children,’ Mary Jones explains. ‘Surrogacy was our last chance’.

Mary and her husband tried for a baby for almost two decades. They also had IVF for several years in Spain and Ireland. They knew that if surrogacy didn’t work there were no more options left as they’d been refused adoption and fostering due to her husband’s age.

‘My last miscarriage was an eptopic pregnancy and I could no longer try IVF. But I was always driven by a need to be a mum. I’d have been devastated if it didn’t work out and I don’t know how I would have coped. Surrogacy is such an emotional journey – I didn’t realise how deeply it impacts until I was in it.  That’s why when I’m still not recognised as the girl’s mum, it really hits me.

‘We found an advertisement for surrogacy in the Ukraine and went for it.  We flew over and stayed in the clinic hotel and went through all of the paperwork. Then flew back a few days later.

Our first surrogate miscarried and then the second surrogate got pregnant with twins. We were kept in touch every few weeks via email scans etc. We had no contact with the surrogate. The girls arrived one month early and it didn’t seem real until we were on the plane.

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Lost

Once we picked up the girls from the hospital there was so many emotions we were suddenly parents. We had problems with the paperwork despite being checked by the clinic before we went out there was a document missing, Poonam Jair helped us get out of the country we felt lost to be honest.

The consultate in the Ukraine wasn’t helpful and sometimes they didn’t even have English speaking staff. The whole upset of the consultate and difficulty getting out of the country added to my sense that Ireland doesn’t accept me as the mother of my children. This is only added to by the court process.”

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The whole upset of the consultate and difficulty getting out of the country added to my sense that Ireland doesn’t accept me as the mother of my children

Delay

The court process Mary refers to is the legislation that has been delayed time and time again by the Irish Government on international surrogacy because of potential legal difficulties.  It plans to legislate for domestic surrogacy in the upcoming bill but deal with international surrogacy at a later date, something new mothers like Mary say is simply not good enough.

In fact, many Irish children born through surrogacy are now approaching 18 years of age. For some, it is already too late to have a legal relationship with both their parents.

In 2000, Micheál Martin, as Minister of Health and Children established the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction. Irish families have been waiting until then for what they call ‘adequate legislation’.

Vulnerable

Irish Families Through Surrogacy and Equality for Children says they’ve been repeatedly told for months that it is a top priority. But now, the group believes that if these recommendations are not followed, the lack of an appropriate legal ethical framework and regulation at present leaves hundreds of Irish children unprotected and vulnerable with no hope of a permanent legal relationship with both of their parents.

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Ireland, my home, does not recognise me as my son's mother, and as soon as I lay a foot on Irish soil I become a legal stranger to him. My joy has been diluted with fear

Lauragh and Oisin

I have to admit as terrified as I was, as devastated as I was that I would not safely bring my own child into the world, all I ever wanted was to be a mother and I was willing to do whatever it took.

Lauragh and her husband Oisín always planned on having children. “In my early 20s, it was mentioned that due to health reasons the sooner I did that the better.  I have type 1 diabetes, with multiple complex complications,” she tells IMAGE.ie

“In Holles street one day, the final specialist of the many that we saw, said simply said that pregnancy for me was not going to be  a viable option. I walked out and the air hit me. My legs came out from under me. I just said what are we going to do?”

Adoption was looking bleak for the couple, as Lauragh’s medical issues were vast.

‘Then Oisín turned to me and reassured me. He said, ‘Lauragh, I have a plan, please don’t worry’. He pulled up a screen on his phone of a surrogacy conference that was in November by Growing Families.

I have to admit as terrified as I was, and as devastated as I was that I would not safely bring my own child into the world, all I ever wanted was to be a mother and I was willing to do whatever it took.

So in December 2019, we travelled to the Ukraine. Now here we are pregnant with our sweet boy. I am so excited and elated, my dreams are coming true.  There is a little snag though, Ireland, my home, does not recognise me as my sons mother, and as soon as I lay a foot on Irish soil I become a legal stranger to him.

My joy is diluted with fear.

If my husband decided it to be so, I would never see my son again. There would be not one thing I could do about it.

What will happen if he needs medical treatment and his Daddy is not here?  What if I have to go to the doctor? What if, God forbid, something happens to us, will he get landed with a huge inheritance bill?

Lacuna

This are some of the questions running through my head. And it gets worse. What if my husband and I split up and it’s not been the two full years to get guardianship.

If my husband decided it to be so, I would never see my son again. There would be not one thing I could do about it.

Irish families through surrogacy are working very hard to change the legislation in Ireland surrounding AHR. The lacuna in current legislation needs to be filled.

We cannot go on like this, we need rights, our babies deserve to have both parents legally recognised. We need retrospective declaration of parentage and  recognition of international surrogacy arrangements The 2000 year old system that defines a mother is long gone. Let’s move forward.’

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I walked out and the air hit me and my legs came from under me. I just said what are we going to do?

Devastated

Now, former Miss World, Rosanna Davison who welcomed daughter Sophia via gestational surrogacy in Kiev,  has added her voice to the conversation.

Rosanna, who spoke out about her 14 miscarriages, fell pregnant with her twin sons last year. But, this week, taking to Instagram to talk about the issue, she says it should be the legal right of her three babies that she can protect them equally. She believes that deferral of this key part of the legislation would leave many children like Sophia and others legally vulnerable and unprotected.

‘I’m adding my voice to the hundreds of other voices supporting international surrogacy and retrospective pathways to parenthood so that no children are left out.It should be the legal right of my three babies that I can protect them equally.

Davidson, who appeared on the Late Late show recently to discuss her surrogacy journey said she felt compelled to speak out.

Stranger

“I wouldn’t be considered her mother on medical consent forms.”

“The heartbreaking reality is that I’m not legally recognised as Sophia’s mother like I am to my twins, yet I am her biological mother.  I can apply to be her legal guardian from age two to 18, but after that I’m a legal stranger to her.

Whilst I trust that doctors and caregivers will always put a child’s health & welfare first, it’s extremely worrying to know that I can’t consent to a vaccination or a blood test, and I wouldn’t be considered her mother on medical consent forms.

If Sophia’s legal parent Wes were to become incapacitated or worse, I would be her guardian but not viewed as her parent or mother. 

It’s beyond distressing to consider, but these are the thoughts that cause such anxiety for me and others. Sophia shouldn’t be treated differently to her brothers.”

 

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We cannot go on like this, we need rights, our babies deserve to have both parents legally recognised. We need retrospective declaration of parentage and  recognition of international surrogacy arrangements The 2000 year old system that defines a mother is long gone. Let's move forward.

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Michelle and Dermot Fahy’s journey

“We were married in 2015 and started trying for a child naturally. When this wasnt working, my GP recommended a course of clomid which had to be prescribed by a gynocologyst and referred me to the Coombe hospital.

The consultant found a cyst on my ovaries which she removed. She also did a test on my tubes and realised they were badly swollen, and one was blocked so she recommended IVF.

Fast forward five years and nine IVF transfers, we were still childless and decided to turn to surrogacy. We signed with our agency in Ukraine in early 2020, but Covid put a delay on the process. Finally in September 2020, we transfered embroys and became pregnant with twins through our surrogate.

Unfortunately at Christmas, we lost one of the twins, our little girl. But in May 2021, our little boy came rushing into the world, three weeks early. We named him Joey.

Joey is our dream come true. We are besotted with him still and count our blessings to finally have a child to call our own.  We are very aware that for many this is still a dream of theirs.

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Hurt

When we went to Ukraine their was never any issue with me signing documents as I was legally recognised as his mother but once we came home – I wasn’t. To many, this may seem insignificant, but to me it hurts that I cannot even approve a simple blood test like his heel prick test, and my husband is the person who has to sign all forms on Joey’s behalf.

Joey is an Irish citizen just like any other child of his age, and deserves the right to have me recognised as his mother. Irish Families through Surrogacy are working hard to have our voices heard and the bill changed to recognise our family structure.

It was hard enough, at times, to see another woman give birth to your baby, but that pain should end on the birth date.  Let’s hope this law changes for all futher intended mothers and parents.”

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It was hard enough, at times, to see another woman give birth to your baby, but that pain should end on the birth date

Emotional

For all those who are keen to move forward with surrogacy, Lauragh has this simple advice.

“Know what you want from your package and your agency. Ask other intended parents about their experience. Always interview more than one agency and go with your gut.

This is about what is comfortable for you. You relinquish all control you want an advocate in Ukraine with your best interests at heart. Prepare emotionally. Its really tough.

There are a lot of ups and downs, but it’s totally worth it…That, I promise you.”

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