How one Scots couple’s surrogacy dream came true in lockdown

Aleena Grace Shaw was born six weeks ago, making a dream come true for one Falkirk couple as they completed their family through surrogacy after a 13-year, seven-month and one-day wait.
Georgina Leslie and six week old daughter Aleena ShawGeorgina Leslie and six week old daughter Aleena Shaw
Georgina Leslie and six week old daughter Aleena Shaw

Her arrival on 12 May marked the end of a long and emotional journey for parents Georgina Leslie and Stephen Shaw.

And what was already an unusual situation, with the surrogate mother living in Barnsley, was made more complicated by the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

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After Ms Leslie lost her second fallopian tube in 2006, meaning she could not become pregnant naturally, the couple remained determined to complete their family one day and never gave up.

Attempts at IVF were unsuccessful and they opted to go down the route of finding a surrogate mother to carry their child. Ms Leslie, 44, said: “I had lost the first tube in 1996 after giving birth to my daughter as there were cancer cells there. It was removed for my own safety.

“The second tube was removed again for my own safety and it started our infertility journey.

“We started saving up and we did a few rounds of IVF in Dundee, although unfortunately they resulted in failures. There was no explanation as to why I wasn’t falling pregnant.

“Just before my 40th birthday, they allowed me to have one more cycle of egg retrieval.

“Because I had turned 40 I was only allowed one more try at IVF, but that resulted in a miscarriage.”

The couple then discovered independent surrogacy groups. “It was through [an] independent group that we found our surrogate,” she said. “She was starting a journey for people we knew so we became friends three-plus years ago. She gave birth to a beautiful healthy boy, and then a year after he was born, we matched up.”

Ahead of the process, Ms Leslie and Mr Shaw travelled to Prague for her to have embryos collected that could be used for a surrogacy. The Webhelp employee said: “We had to go to Prague as I wasn’t allowed to do it in the UK because of my age. They collected six good quality embryos.

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“I did try IVF again once more myself, but it resulted in a miscarriage at eight weeks.

“Then last summer we asked if we could use Billie as our surrogate and we started the process.” With the woman who was carrying their child living in Barnsley, the couple was making regular visits south of the Border before lockdown.

“For every scan, we had to drive down to Barnsley,” Ms Leslie said. “But obviously when the lockdown hit it made things more difficult. It was very hard for us as we weren’t allowed to travel down for the scans, or be present at them.

“We had a section planned, so we knew our baby would be born on the 12th. But with lockdown we couldn’t get anywhere to stay as there were no hotels or other accommodation available.

“One of [head midwife] June Pollard’s colleagues at the hospital, her partner was letting his flat to NHS staff to stay in. He heard about our situation and he allowed us to stay in the flat for free ... we were allowed to go to Barnsley for the birth. June had given us a letter in case we were stopped by police.

“It was hard, because with the lockdown only one of us was allowed in for the birth.

“We agreed Stephen would be at the birth to see our baby being born.”

Aleena was born at 2:14pm on 12 May weighing 6lbs 5oz.

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