Mother-of-two Bridget McLaughlin didn’t hesitate when her friends asked her to help them experience the joys of parenthood.
After having two children of her own with husband Brendon, Bridget (39) made the decision to become a surrogate for close friends, a couple who had been trying for many years to start a family.
It’s a difficult choice for any woman to make – to give birth to a baby you will never call your own. But Bridget says just knowing she has changed another family’s life forever makes the experience worth it.
“We had our two boys within 17 months,” Bridget says, referring to her sons Josh (11) and Liam (9). “When we decided to start our family, we got pregnant straight away. It seemed unfair that there were women out there who couldn’t have children when we seem to do so very easily.”
Bridget had many friends who struggled to have children. She donated eggs to one couple who couldn’t conceive, which then led to an even greater sacrifice – becoming a surrogate mother.
Her friends, who wish to remain anonymous, had been trying for years to have a baby.
“We thought they’d make great parents. They were good people and they had overcome many hurdles,” Bridget explains. “I heard they were looking for a surrogate. Brendon and I weren’t going to have any more children, so I offered to carry their baby.”
The thought of being pregnant with someone else’s child didn’t faze Bridget at all.
“It was only nine months out of my life, but for my friends it would be a lifetime of happiness.”
The process of becoming a surrogate took two years and included counselling sessions for both Bridget and Brendon – a compulsory requirement for gestational surrogates. There were also discussions with the parents to ensure Bridget would be bringing a baby into the world who would be cared for.
“I told my friends that there were things I wouldn’t do. I wouldn’t have an amniocentesis and I wouldn’t have an abortion,” Bridget tells. “I asked many questions, such as, ‘If there was something wrong with the baby, would you still want it?’ I didn’t want a kid knocking on my door 18 years from now asking why I gave them up.”
After Bridget and her friends had established a strong and trusting bond, Bridget began IVF.
“I got pregnant during the first treatment,” says Bridget. “That doesn’t always happen straight away, so we were very lucky.”
Even when she felt the baby kicking, Bridget says she never once felt a maternal connection to the life growing inside her.
“Right from the start, it was never my baby. Many people say, ‘I could never give away my baby.’ But it’s not mine. I’m just looking after him.”
Bridget had to be honest with her two children, telling them the baby inside her tummy was not their brother.
“We had a nickname for the child – Bob. The baby was overdue, and they would say to him, “C’mon, Bob, it’s time to come out. Our mum’s tired and your mum is waiting for you.”
When the baby finally arrived, Bridget was relieved to hand a beautiful boy over to his new parents.
“I was like, ‘Yay, it’s finished,’” she says. “The parents were over the moon. They cried and had huge smiles on their faces.”
Bridget says there is a misconception that surrogates are paid. Legally they cannot, although maternity and medical costs can be covered. Bridget simply did it to help out a friend.
“I feel lucky I had this opportunity. I didn’t want to be an old lady and look back with regret.”
Today, the two families are close and Bridget enjoys having a “nephew” in her life. She says deciding to be a surrogate is a life-changing decision for both parties and should not be entered into lightly.
“If you’re deciding to be a surrogate, then you will be giving someone hope, and that makes it worthwhile.”