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Personal experience: I was a surrogate mother for children of celebrities, and I was amazed by many things

What it's like to carry a baby for a famous person, Shanna St. Clair knows firsthand, and each time it was a completely different experience, reports with the BBC.

Photo: IStock

An increasing number of celebrities are turning to the services of surrogate mothers and are openly talking about it. Naomi Campbell, Elon Musk and Kim Kardashian were recently joined by famous socialite Paris Hilton.

History of Shanna

All hero names have been changed.

On the subject: Idaho woman bled for 19 days after miscarriage, but doctors were afraid to help her because of abortion law

Shanna's phone rang. It was Katherine.

“Look, I wanted to tell you myself before you see this on the news. There was another surrogate mother, and she just gave birth to our child,” Katherine blurted out without even saying hello.

In surprise, Shanna sat up to keep from falling. She was in her first weeks of pregnancy. But, as it turned out, Katherine already has a child. So would she want Shanna to carry another one?

“It's good that you said it,” Shanna barely forced out. “Maybe we can talk after tomorrow’s checkup with the doctor?”

Katherine agreed, but did not call the next day.

Shanna discovered the world of surrogacy in a magazine article.

While her three children were playing on a farm in their native Pennsylvania, she went into reading and learned that there are "traditional surrogate mothers" whose eggs are artificially fertilized with donor sperm. And "gestational carriers" - carrying someone else's fertilized egg.

Shanna also explored the difference between “commercial surrogacy,” where a woman is paid to carry a child, and “altruistic surrogacy.”

The authors of the article supported surrogacy, arguing that even on a commercial basis, it is a gift for single parents, infertile couples and LGBT families who would like to have their own biological children.

And then Shanna had a thought.

She just turned 30, behind her shoulders three easy pregnancies. She and her husband were no longer planning children.

I could be a gestational carrier, the woman thought.

To join the surrogacy agency, Shanna and her husband filled out a bunch of forms. Passed medical and psychological examination. This was followed by “dozens” of meetings with lawyers. A few weeks later she received a phone call. Well-known spouses, Jennifer and Mark, saw her profile and wanted to meet in New York.

Shanna instantly bonded with them.

“They were kind people,” she recalls. “Spent time with us, wanted to know more about our lives.”

Jennifer and Mark paid for all related expenses: in vitro fertilization (IVF), hotels, fuel, food, and Shanna's maternity leave. For three years, the woman received $ 50 thousand.

After several attempts, Shanna became pregnant. When she gave birth, Jennifer and Mark held her hand, cried and thanked for the joy of being parents.

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And when a few months later Jennifer called and asked if she could introduce her to Katherine, Shanna agreed.

Katherine came from an aristocratic family. She tried in vain for years to become a mother, and when she learned about Jennifer's successful experience, she wanted to talk to Shanna.

Looking back, Shanna says the first phone call put her on guard. Katherine offered to refuse the services of the agency, and conclude a contract through her lawyers, the woman recalls.

“Then she said that since I had already worked with psychologists during pregnancy, I do not need to do it again,” Shenna says.

The contract stated that Shanna had three attempts at insemination.

The procedure usually begins with the so-called "cycling" - when the surrogate mother and the egg donor synchronize their periods with the help of daily hormone injections. Shanna and her husband personally met Katherine at the clinic, where the fertilized egg was placed in her uterus. Katherine was waiting for them. Shanna wanted to hug her, but Katherine pulled away. She was not very fond of such tenderness.

The first attempt to get pregnant failed. Ahead of her second attempt, Katherine invited Shanna and her husband to dinner, during which she talked about private jets and designer furniture. Shanna felt embarrassed in a fancy restaurant. They had nothing in common. Glamorous and beautifully dressed Katherine, and Shanna - in leggings and a hoodie. The next day Catherine brought a bottle of pills. Perhaps the first attempt failed because of Shanna's nervousness, as Katherine suggested and handed her a Valium pill.

"No thanks," Shanna replied.

But Katherine insisted, “What's the problem? One pill won't hurt you."

“I felt like I couldn't argue,” Shenna says.

She put the pill in her mouth and then spat it out when Katherine wasn't looking.

The second attempt to get pregnant also failed. There was one more left.

The next meeting was again at the clinic. Katherine mostly talked on the phone with her mother, discussing interior design in one of their homes. She didn't have much contact with Shanna.

Ten days later the good news came. The level of hCG, a hormone that produces fetal cells, indicated pregnancy.

“I was ecstatic,” Shanna recalls.

Katherine, on the other hand, showed no emotion. She said she doesn't want to get too hopeful as the previous surrogate's pregnancy ended in a miscarriage.

“I'm so sorry, I didn't know,” Shanna sympathized.

“It was her fault,” Katherine replied. “She spent 12 hours at the airport waiting for a flight to visit her sick father.”

Katherine's next comment stunned Shanna: “I told her not to travel, but she left anyway, and look what happened! Dead child."

Soon after, Katherine revealed that another surrogate mother had just given birth to her child. And she disappeared.

Shanna continued to visit the gynecologist, not knowing if Katherine needed this child.

Four weeks later, the hormone levels dropped again and she miscarried.

Shanna called Katherine, but she didn't pick up. Then Shanna sent her a message with the sad news.

A few hours later, Katherine unsubscribed: "I'll call you."

Several days passed, but Katherine still did not call on the phone. And Shanna texted her again: “Hello, I hope you and your baby are doing well. Do I need to return the rest of the money to you?”

“Shenna, our relationship is over,” Katherine replied. “I am amazed at your coldness in connection with the birth of my child. Give back the rest of the money."

More Shanna and Katherine did not communicate.

Publicity in Surrogacy

“Today, famous people are more open about surrogacy,” says Aria Simuel, director of Modernly, a VIP surrogacy agency in California. She and her partner have gone through this themselves and are well aware of all the complexities of this work.

“When a celebrity comes with business managers, assistants, head of security, it can scare the surrogate mother,” she says.

According to Aria, good agencies monitor client relationships: they care about the comfort of the surrogate mother, protecting her if necessary.

However, there were cases when women themselves crossed the border, she adds. For example, one invited her biological parents to host a reality show, and another asked her brother to help finance the film.

In contracts, such issues should be clearly spelled out, as Aria says.

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Four years after the experience with Katherine Shanney, they offered to work with another couple. They met and Shanna agreed. This time she gave birth to twins.

“I think I needed something good to wash away the humiliating experience with Katherine,” Shanna says. “I had two wonderful surrogacy experiences, and one terrible.”

Today, Shanna has her own barbershop. To the sound of a hair dryer, her clients discuss local and international gossip and often the conversation turns to family matters.

“This is an age-old theme. Some are trying to get pregnant, others have just given birth. Some have lost a child, others say fatherhood is not for them,” says Shenna.

“Surrogacy is not for everyone. But if people are happy with it, we should not condemn their choice,” she says.

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