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'I don't know how I will ever repay Jen for carrying my twins'.

Byline: Mark Smith Health correspondent mark.smith@walesonline.co.uk

WHEN Elouise King and husband Paul underwent seven failed rounds of IVF treatment, they thought their dream of becoming parents was over.

In a last-ditch attempt to start a family, the couple joined a surrogacy website to try to find a selfless individual to carry their child for nine months.

After striking up an "incredible" friendship with a woman they met on the site's forum, the pair are now proud parents to beautiful twin boys.

Elouise said she'll never know how to repay the kindness of her surrogate Jen Taylor, who lives in Barry and already has three children of her own.

"Not many people in this world would give up nine months of their life to give someone else the chance to start a family," she said.

"Jen is just an amazing, amazing person. She was so strong, so together, and so determined and positive throughout the whole thing."

Elouise and Paul, both 37 and from Solihull in the West Midlands, said they were keen to have children straight after they got married but, following a miscarriage in 2013, her chances of getting pregnant again were dashed.

"The hospital advised me to undergo a D&C procedure, essentially the surgical removal of the foetus," she said.

"But something went wrong afterwards and left me in quite a lot of pain."

Doctors discovered that, due to the D&C, Elouise had been struck down with a rare condition called Asherman syndrome, which causes scarring of the cervix and uterus.

After seven rounds of failed IVF in 18 months - a period which Elouise described as "emotionally and physically draining" - the couple decided to try to find a suitable surrogate.

"We went to a surrogacy conference and we were blown away by the support network on offer," she said.

"We decided to join a forum on the Surrogacy UK website which lets you create an online diary and a profile of yourself with photographs. It can be seen by potential surrogates.

"We just wanted to be completely honest about who we were. There was no point in us pretending."

Within weeks of being on the site they started talking to Jen who, along with her partner Dan Broome, agreed to meet up with the pair halfway between Solihull and Barry, in Rosson-Wye.

"It was really nerve-racking. It was a cross between going for a blind date and an interview," Elouise said.

"We'd chatted a lot before we actually met so we'd already built up a bit of a friendship.

"We just really clicked. We have a similar sense of humour and similar interests - and we're both down to earth.

"On the drive home, me and Paul were speaking to each other and wondering whether she liked us or not.

"Thankfully she texted us saying that she really enjoyed meeting us - and it all progressed from there."

Elouise and Paul then made the trip to Barry to stay with Jen, Dan and their children. "It was lovely to experience their world and find out who they really were.

"We built up the foundations of our friendship for three months and eventually we had an 'agreement session' with someone from Surrogacy UK, where we went into detail about every single outcome of the pregnancy and birth."

Following initial blood tests, scans and another round of IVF, embryos created by Elouise were then implanted into Jen at a clinic in Birmingham. "Normally you go through IVF on your own but we did it together, which was really nice. We felt like partners in crime," she added.

"The first time we did it we had a positive pregnancy test so we were all overjoyed. But that all came crashing down when we later discovered it to be a 'chemical pregnancy' which only lasted a couple of days.

"I was devastated. I vowed to go through it one last time but I couldn't do it any more than that as I was a mess by that point."

Because it was their final attempt the doctors agreed to implant two embryos into Jen - and this time both were a success.

For the next nine months Elouise and Paul made fortnightly trips to south Wales to visit Jen and see scans of the twins in University Hospital Llandough and the University Hospital of Wales (UHW).

"It was wonderful. My miscarriage scan didn't show any heartbeat so to see two was incredible," said Elouise.

On June 27 last year Jen gave birth to Jude William, weighing 6lb 8oz, and Joshua Sebastian, weighing 6lb 2oz, at UHW.

And because the twins were breech they needed to be delivered via a planned C-section - a caesarean - which meant Elouise, Paul and Dan could be in the operating theatre with Jen.

"As a mum you don't really get to see your baby being born but I actually got to see them coming out," said Elouise.

"You do feel naturally removed from the pregnancy, as they're not growing inside you, but to see them being born was amazing.

"I was stroking Jen's head through it all. I couldn't believe there was a person lying on an operating table being cut open for me. I don't know how I'll ever repay her."

Mum-of-three Jen said helping Elouise and Paul become parents was one of the most wonderful things she'd ever experienced.

"It's one thing having your own baby but it's another knowing you're giving another couple the chance to start their own family," said Jen, 36.

"Obviously I didn't know how I was going to feel during the pregnancy or giving birth but there was no maternal twang there at all.

"They're Elouise and Paul's babies - I was just babysitting. I'm happy just to be Auntie Jen."

And, amazingly, Jen hasn't ruled out being a surrogate again in the near future.

"It felt like a huge honour to be trusted to carry their babies for nine months," she said.

Following the births of Jude and Joshua, who are now seven months old, Elouise praised her midwife Sarah Spencer who, she said, was a reassuring figure throughout.

Elouise added: "Sarah worked tirelessly to make sure everyone knew who we were, making treatment and transition between wards seamless.

"When Jude was taken to the neonatal unit she made sure we saw him without delay.

"Sarah arranged for us to have a separate room so that we could spend valuable time alone as a new family.

"She made sure our surrogate was able to recuperate in a different room in the emotional hours after labour, being sensitive to ensure she wasn't housed on an open maternity ward next to new mums.

"She also ensured family members did not miss out in visiting us during this special time. Sarah truly is our fairy godmother, ensuring our surrogacy experience was wonderful." Sarah, an employee of Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, has now been crowned "Emma's Diary Mums' Midwife of the Year 2018" for Wales.

CAPTION(S):

<B Jen Taylor, second from left, was a surrogate and gave birth to twin boys Joshua and Jude for Elouise King, from Solihull, and her husband Paul, second from right. Also in the picture is Jen's partner Dan Broome, right

From left: Jen Taylor and Elouise King; a scan of the twins; Jen is checked out by a midwife; Jen with the twins and their parents Elouise and Paul; babies Joshua and Jude sleep soundly
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 5, 2018
Words:1241
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