My family: ‘My sister took year out of her life to help me have a baby’

Marie and Lucy McPhilemy are mother and daughter yet strangers in the eyes of the law

Marie and John McPhilemy with their daughter Lucy: ‘It will be a special day when the law changes.’

Marie and John McPhilemy with their daughter Lucy: ‘It will be a special day when the law changes.’

 

Marie McPhilemy is used to hearing she’s the spitting image of her daughter.

“We both have fair fair, and the same broad cheeks,” she says. “Though she has her father’s blue eyes as well.”

In the eyes of the law, however, they are strangers.

These are the consequences of failing to legislate for surrogacy and other interventions which are increasingly being used by parents to overcome problems of infertility.

When she was 16, doctors realised Marie’s womb hadn’t developed and advised her she would never be able to conceive naturally. “Even at that young age, my older sister Sharon said that, if the timing was right, she would carry a baby.”

When she got married in her 30s to John, she began looking seriously at the prospect of having a child by surrogacy.

“I’d discussed it was John, who was very relaxed and open to the idea. We sought legal advice and wanted to make sure what we were doing wasn’t illegal. But there was no law whatsoever around surrogacy.”

The plan was to fertilise her eggs with her husband’s sperm at an IVF clinic, while Marie’s sister would carry the embryo.

“I would love to have been able to carry my baby, but it wasn’t the case. I never visualised myself pregnant. I was emotionally prepared, as was my sister. It was a year she took out of her life to help me and my husband have a baby. It was an act of pure love.”

Lucy is now a year and a half old. She’s walking, talking and flourishing.

Despite the exhilaration of guiding her daughter through these milestones, there is the realisation that, legally, she is not Lucy’s mother.

“There is no law surrounding surrogacy, so the woman who gives birth is the legal mother - which is my sister; on the birth cert, she’s listed as the mother as well.”

Under planned legislation, Lucy’s birth cert may be amended to include Marie as the mother and parentage would be transferred to her. The laws are unlikely to be in place until 2016 at the earliest.

“They say motherhood is always certain, but in the case of surrogacy, it certainly isn’t. It will be a special day when the law changes.

“All children are special. For us, because of the way she came into the world, she’s extra special. To us, she’s a miracle.”

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