June 13, 2019 3:10 pm
Updated: June 17, 2019 12:32 pm

Surrogacy delivery leaves Alberta family feeling like they weren’t parents

WATCH ABOVE: An Alberta family is speaking out about their troubling experience with surrogacy. All was going well until delivery day. Kim Smith has more on what happened.

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An Alberta family is speaking out about their troubling experience with their surrogacy delivery in hopes that their story doesn’t repeat itself.

Sara said she and her husband Kurt had a great relationship with their British Columbia-based surrogate. However, the day of the planned Cesarean-section at Victoria General Hospital in early May didn’t go as they has hoped.

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“You’re so grateful for the whole process, but at the same time, you wish it could have gone differently,” she said.

Leading up to the birth, Sara and Kurt’s lawyer sent a letter to the hospital outlining the agreed-upon contract between the surrogate and the intended parents.

They also met with a hospital social worker to discuss their options. As per hospital policy, only one support person was allowed in the operating room, but Sara said they were told there was a chance she or her husband would be allowed in.

READ MORE: Alberta man becomes single dad by choice after 8-year surrogacy journey

“It was decided in advance that if only one person was allowed that it would be her husband, which I was totally OK with,” Sara said.

“I thought that maybe the baby should have a support person, so I was around, hovering, hoping that I would be told, ‘Gown up. You’re going to go in,’ but I was prepared that wouldn’t happen.”

Sara said she, her husband and four-year-old son were waiting in the labour and delivery area until they were told they had to move, which left the intended family waiting in the hallway.

“I was happy to sit in the labour and delivery waiting area until a nurse in a red sweater came and said: ‘You’ve got to go. You’re not part of it,'” Sara said.

“I felt like I wasn’t the mom. Like I wasn’t even in Canada. I was really shocked actually because our previous experience with our other son has been awesome.”

The Alberta family found a spot to sit in the hallway by the elevator, but what was most concerning for them is that it took two-and-a-half hours after the birth for them to meet the newest member of their family.

As her baby was being born via surrogacy at Victoria General Hospital, Sara waited near a set of elevators for news.

Supplied to Global News

“I have no idea what my newborn son was doing in that two-and-a-half hours. I have secondhand information and I have pictures and I requested the hospital records, the OR records, but I don’t know,” Sara said.

Sara said she was later told by her surrogate that she was asked whether she wanted to breastfeed and do skin-to-skin with the baby.

“I was there. I could have done that stuff,” Sara said. “I can’t believe that he wasn’t considered a patient or to have a support person for a newborn, a minor child.”

“How do you not have a support person for both the surrogate and the child?”

READ MORE: New Canadian surrogate rules: What’s being proposed?

When they were finally handed their baby, Sara said there was no space for them to rest and get acquainted as a new family of four.

“Once we got settled and I fed him his first feeding, I was like in survival mode — let’s find a place to be,” Sara said.

She said their options were the nursery area of the unit — but her four-year-old couldn’t be there because of the medical supplies — and a family waiting area. Sara said she found a storage area behind the waiting room where extra gurneys and chairs were being kept.

“I grabbed a thing of sanitizing wipes and I just went to that area (the storage area) and just started wiping everything down and making a room.”

Sara has filed a complaint with Island Health, the local health authority, and is expecting a response within 40 days.

In a statement, Island Health said it has a perinatal surrogacy protocol in place at Victoria General Hospital and that “in the case of the obstetric operating room, Island Health allows one person to accompany the mother during caesarian operations as a courtesy.”

“Once the baby has been delivered, the surrogate is provided with birth registration information. The surrogate completes the required documentation to allow the intended parents to visit and take the baby home following medical discharge.

“As you can appreciate, following a medical procedure such as a caesarian section, the surrogate requires recovery time before required documentation can be completed,” Island Health said in a statement.

Sara and Kurt adjusting to life as a family of four.

Global News

What options do intended parents have?

Fertility lawyer Sara Cohen, of Fertility Law Canada in Toronto, said she’s shocked to hear about what happened to the Alberta family.

“What happened in this hospital is almost their (the family’s) worst-case scenario. Being made to feel like this isn’t your child.

“It’s invalidating their experience and you don’t get that moment back,” Cohen said via Skype.

READ MORE: Canadian man who had twin girls via surrogate in Kenya granted visas to bring them home

Cohen said she’s never heard of a family having to wait more than two hours to meet their baby.

“If this baby is going to be born out of C-section, even if the parents are waiting outdoors, I’ve never heard of it taking two-and-a-half hours for the parents to meet their child,” Cohen said.

“What’s interesting is the laws in B.C. and Ontario are by far the most surrogacy friendly in the country.”

Cohen said it sounds like the Alberta family did all that they could to ensure the surrogacy delivery went smoothly.

“They did what they were suppose to do. They reached out to the hospital, they gave them a heads up,” Cohen said.

Cohen’s advice for other parents is to be as open as possible with the hospital and doctors in advance of the birth.

She said typically the hospital has a social worker for families to speak with to ensure there’s a plan for who will be in the room for the birth and who will get to hold the baby.


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