Sunday, October 03, 2004

Woman Has Been Pregnant for 20 Years

Mum pregnant for almost 20 years
From Lucy Laing in London
October 3, 2004

IT is a life's work. And life is what it is all about.
England's Jackie Smith has dedicated her adult years to either having her own babies or helping other women to have them.
She is a mother of six children, a surrogate mother of four and the donor of more than 50 eggs for IVF mothers.
She has been pregnant for most of the last 20 years and, at the age of 38, intends to continue with what has become almost a personal crusade.
While she has no intention of adding further to her own family, she is preparing to carry a fifth surrogate child, for a couple whose fertility has been blighted by cancer.
After that she is considering having a second child for a couple she has already helped once before. "I just love having babies,' she beamed.
"I've stopped with six of my own, but the joy of helping a childless couple fulfil their dream is unbelievable."
Mrs Smith, from Tilbury, Essex, had her first child, Kevin, 19 years ago soon after marrying her husband, also Kevin, an electrical engineer.
Just over a year later they had Caroline and thought that family life was complete.
"I was blissfully happy,' said Mrs Smith.
"But only three months after Caroline was born I started longing for another baby.
"I managed to persuade Kevin and Michael was born three years later in July 1990.
"When I held him in my arms I was just so thrilled.
"But only weeks later I fell pregnant again and miscarried, so that started me wanting another baby.
"Lorraine was born two years later and then I really did think that was it.
"I threw out all the cots, baby clothes and prams."
But when Lorraine was four months old, Mrs Smith read about an urgent need for egg donation."I had my wonderful four babies and I wanted to help others," she said.
"I donated more than 50 eggs over the next few years and I know they have created several successful pregnancies."
The Sunday Telegraph recently reported that hundreds of Australian couples had avoided laws banning paid surrogate parenting, by travelling to the US.
The couples used "designer baby" services which advertise potential surrogate mothers over the Internet.
Local couples unable to conceive or carry children are spending as much as $170,000 for babies born overseas.
Others are paying $40,000 for fertilised eggs that were implanted in their own bodies.
The would-be parents and egg donors are skirting Australian laws, which outlaw the buying of eggs and the paying of surrogate mothers, and are avoiding a five-year waiting lists for donor eggs - and risking being jailed for as long as 10 years for trading commercially in human eggs or embryos. Only reasonable expenses are allowed to be paid for a donor.
When Mrs Smith heard about surrogacy, she decided to go one step further.
"I wanted to be able to give someone else the chance to hold their own baby like I'd held mine," she said.
In 1996 she produced Gavin, her first surrogate child.
"The joy on the couple's faces when I handed him over was unbelievable,' she said.
"It's difficult carrying a child for all that time, then giving it away. But their happiness made it all worthwhile.'
Soon after, Mrs Smith was approached by a second couple, and gave birth to their son, Joseph.
They asked if she would carry a second baby for them, except that Mrs Smith discovered that she was pregnant with her own child, her fifth, a boy called Andrew.
She said: "I was thrilled. It was wonderful to hold him in my arms and know I didn't have to give him away."
Mrs Smith kept her promise to the couple and gave birth to their second child, Sophie, in June 2000.
The Smiths' last baby, James, was born three years ago.
"Kevin was determined that that was it," said Mrs Smith.
"He has been wonderfully supportive throughout, but we decided to finally stop at six."
Her heart, however, was touched by the plight of a childless couple, Lisa and Steven Ridgeway, who approached her for help in June 2002.
Thanks to Mrs Smith, they now have a daughter, Isabella, and she has promised to help them again once the small matter of carrying a baby for another couple is over.
She said: "I'm 38 now and I know I won't be able to be a surrogate for much longer.
"But I'm determined to keep helping for as long as I can."

The Sunday Telegraph