Couple Become Parents After Seven Years Of Trying Thanks To Surrogate Who Is Now Their Best Friend
A couple have become parents after seven years of trying - and it's all thanks to their surrogate who has since become their best friend.
John Michael, 37 and Natalie Holt, 40, have been desperate to become parents for years, but back in April 2017 they were told it was unlikely to happen naturally.
Instead, they started looking into surrogacy, and with the help of Surrogacy UK, met Ashlea North, 30 and her husband Lee, 35 in February 2019.
The two couples clicked straight away, going on a series of double dates and camping trips before officially becoming a surrogacy team.
Using Ashlea's egg and John's sperm - and a "slightly awkward" DIY insemination - Ashlea fell pregnant in October 2019.
And on 24th June this year, the team welcomed William John Michael, weighing 9lbs 1oz at Ashlea's home in Full Sutton, Yorkshire.
Ashlea had a home water birth - and the team are so close, Natalie even joined her in the birthing pool after William was born.
John, a chartered insurance broker, from Leeds, Yorkshire, said: "We can't imagine anyone better to have a baby with than Ashlea and Lee.
"We have become best friends.
"It's been a long and incredibly hard journey, but we're at the end of it now and couldn't be happier."
Meanwhile Natalie, a retired primary teacher, said: "I've been called 'mummy' by thousands of children who I've taught at school.
"I never thought I would get to the point where I would have my own child to call me that.
"It's still sinking in - we're so happy."
Natalie and John first started trying for a baby back in May 2013, but after 18 months without success, they were referred to Leeds Fertility Clinic, West Yorkshire, where they both underwent tests.
A blood test showed that Natalie wasn't producing enough follicles or eggs necessary for conception - and the couple were referred to the egg donor waiting list.
"At first we were so unsure about egg donation," John said.
"But there's a two year waiting list in the UK, so we joined and said we'd see what happened. The thought of having a child that wasn't biologically Natalie's was hard."
The couple looked into expensive London clinics, as well as treatment abroad in America, Czech Republic and Ukraine. They even travelled to Marbella, Spain and had IVF treatment using egg donors.
But after four unsuccessful attempts - totalling around £30,000 - the clinic suggested an operation to straighten Natalie's cervix.
"It seemed like a good idea," John said.
"But the surgery took way longer than they anticipated, and when Natalie came round she was ghost white and throwing up blood. That was the moment I realised enough is enough.
"We wanted a baby more than anything - but I wasn't prepared to lose Natalie, and she was putting herself through too much."
In 2018, Natalie and John started attending Surrogacy UK events. It cost £1,200 to join as intended parents and is free for surrogates.
But it was when John wrote a blog explaining the couple felt let down from various hospitals, Ashlea - already a mum-of-three to Phoebe, seven, Alivia, five and Elora, four - got in touch.
In September 2018, Natalie and John met Ashlea - who was already in a surrogacy team with another set of intended parents at the time.
They hit it off straight away and when Surrogacy UK got in touch in February 2019 to say Ashlea wanted to meet with them again, they were overwhelmed.
"We didn't expect it at all," John said.
"Ashlea had had to leave her previous surrogate team because they were unsure about having a child.
"So she contacted SUK and asked to get to know us - we were over the moon."
However, when they went to hospital to discuss the embryo being transferred into Ashlea's womb, they hit a brick wall.
Doctors were concerned that two of Ashlea's previous births had been by caesarean section and that her BMI might be too high for the surrogacy to be safe.
"I told them that it was my dream to be a surrogate, just as it was theirs to be parents, so I was going to do it whatever it took," Ashlea said.
"I offered to be a straight surrogate - which meant using my eggs to give them a child of their own."
This meant cutting clinics out of the process. The DIY procedure involved John depositing his semen to a sterile pot, which Natalie then kept warm with her hands, before Ashlea inserted it herself using a syringe.
Incredibly, it worked first time and Ashlea FaceTimed Natalie and John while they were in Marbella in August 2019 to deliver the news she was pregnant.
"In the whole seven years we had never once seen a positive pregnancy test," Natalie said. "I will never forget that moment."
Devastatingly, Ashlea miscarried within the first few weeks of pregnancy, but she fell pregnant again, with a positive pregnancy test in October 2019.
"Ashlea was amazing - she is an absolute warrior," John said. "It felt like a dream. She is a superhuman and handled the whole process beautifully - without any form of pain relief!"
Natalie described the birth as "magical", explaining: "I knew he was mine from the moment I held him - it was magical."
Meanwhile Ashlea said: "People ask me if it was hard giving him away, but I wasn't giving him away - I was giving him back to his parents."
Featured Image Credit: SWNS