Liam Butler interviews Amira Mikhail author of Mission to Motherhood

Liam Butler

Liam has been reviewing books, movies and music for a bit of light relief since his student days.

A powerful story of Infertility, Surrogacy and the journey to becoming a parent. 


What are the ways can families and Social Workers etc can help on the mission to motherhood and what a the best tips for prospective parents you have learnt?

Whanau, Social workers and counsellors and may be involved in a couple of ways with prospective parents that need to look at alternative methods for fulfilling their goals of parenthood.  For those that require fertility treatment that includes the use of donated gametes, such as donor sperm or donor eggs, or for those seeking to have a baby via surrogate pregnancy, there is a requirement that they be approved by the Ethics Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology (ECART), a ministerial committee established under the Human Assisted Reproductive Technology (HART) Act that reviews applications from those who want or need to use assisted reproductive methods in order to have a baby.   

In our case, because I was unable to carry a pregnancy to term, we needed the assistance of a surrogate.  Before any surrogacy arrangement can be carried out in New Zealand, ethical approval for surrogacy must be granted by ECART and the application for ECART is managed by a fertility clinic.  Part of the ECART application involves counselling of both the Intended Parents and the surrogate and her family.  These counselling sessions are intended to help both parties understand the nature of their arrangement, issues that may arise and to answer questions and offer a safe place to discuss concerns.  Surrogacy arrangements leave both parties very vulnerable and emotions can run high once fertility treatment and (hopefully) pregnancy occurs.  It is important that the counsellor or social worker understand the issues that may arise (such as each party’s opinions regarding termination of the pregnancy and the expectations after the baby is born, etc) so that they can discuss these issues with the IPs and surrogate.  

There is no independent surrogacy legislation in New Zealand so it is covered by several pieces of legislation including the HART Act 2004, the Adoption Act 1955 and the Status of Children Amendment Act 2004.  Surrogacy arrangements are not enforceable by law.  Any child born in New Zealand is considered the legal child of the woman who gives birth to that child, no matter who provided the eggs or sperm.  This means that the IPs of a child born through surrogacy must legally adopt the child from the surrogate.  Adoptions and Home-for-Life are managed by Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for Vulnerable Children).  So, although we were entering into a surrogacy arrangement, we also had to complete an application for adoption to Child, Youth and Family (as it was called at the time), which included a visit to our home by a social worker, police and health checks and references.  A social worker came to our house to make sure that our home was suitable for an adopted child.  The granting of approval by CYF was necessary for our application to ECART.  The social worker is also involved after the baby is born, when it comes time for the IPs to adopt the baby from the surrogate.

Tips for Prospective Parents:

Stay hopeful and persevere: even when all seems hopeless and you feel like you’re running into brick walls at every turn, know that you are not alone and there are other options to try.

Know your options: You have this overwhelming desire to be a parent and nothing is going to stop you from getting there (that’s how I felt!).  Find out all of your options (IVF, egg / sperm donation, adoption / Home-for-Life / fostering, surrogacy). There are many ways to parenthood these days. Find your way.

Talk: There are SO MANY people going through what you are going through and the more you talk about your experiences, the less lonely you will feel and the more doors will open. Sometimes it’s hard to be open and candid about your fertility struggles, especially when it seems that everyone else around you is getting pregnant and having children, but there are also others that are struggling just like you and they may hold the information that will help you reach your goal. There’s nothing as therapeutic as shared experience.

Find great doctors that you trust: Don’t necessarily go with the first doctor that comes your way or to whom you’ve been referred. Make sure that you are completely comfortable with the treatments and opinions you are being given. Question them! If you aren’t happy, it’s totally in your rights to find someone else. And you should! This is your life, your body and your future. 

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