'…and naturally you realise you will not be entitled to maternity leave….'
Those words were said to me during my introduction session when I joined SurrogacyUK. Until that moment, I had no idea that I would not be included in something I have always considered to be a basic right that any parent would be entitled to.
I had been prepared for the fact that, despite my husband and I being the genetic parents, the child (or children in my case) born with the help of another woman were not considered to be mine for the first six months of their lives. Technically their surrogate mother would have to give her permission for vaccinations, hearing tests, and so on, until I got the parental order through - usually about six months after the birth.
I had been prepared for the fact that under the current law my right to bring my genetic children into the world could be overridden on a whim, should the lady giving birth to them decide I was not good enough to parent my children and choose to keep them. I had been prepared for the fact that the woman carrying my child could be left with children she did not want if, again on a whim, I decided that I really did not want these children after all. That the law would put me in a position of putting 'lies' down on the birth certificate - that the surrogate and her husband were the parents of my genetic children - well, I could take that in my stride.
It was a huge surprise to learn that I would be treated so differently on every front when I had already been made to feel so different – oh, how I craved an uneventful existence. I thought that I was lucky enough to be in a position to be able to have my children through surrogacy - it was a steep climb up a rock face and, as any mountain climber knows, extremely worth every ounce of blood, sweat and tears. That was before embarking on the amazing roller coaster journey of being a parent - so taken for granted by most people. I enjoyed (in retrospect) every tantrum, sleepless night, and complete feeling of powerlessness like they were precious jewels. My food encrusted clothing was worn proudly like a badge of honour - I felt proud to have joined that particular club.
Two weeks ago an announcement was made that was the culmination of a lot of hard work from a lot of people and the extreme courage of one woman. The Government was finally willing to grant parents of children born through surrogacy arrangements the same maternity rights as everyone else who becomes a parent through any other means. I was absolutely overcome with joy that no other mum or dad needed to go through the process of begging for the same rights as the other parents around them.
There are intended parents to surrogacy arrangements out there who have given up jobs they love to be with their vulnerable new born children. Others are pathetically grateful for any offering their employer extends to them. There is still a long way to go and a continued need to keep up the pressure to ensure that the Government proposals become a reality – but, for me, it seems a huge step in the right direction for this one aspect of surrogacy.
We still have a long way to go before we can resolve the other issues that still remain in surrogacy.