I am now back on home soil (5 days sooner than expected). I counted down the 48 sleeps since I left my family at Brisbane airport, and I can’t begin to describe how much missed them and how delighted I am to be back with them. I flew over 63,000 km (that is equal to circumnavigating the globe 1.5 times) and I walked over 350km (yes really, on my own 2 legs. I wore a Fitbit while I travelled to see how far my legs would take me). I spent 3 days in Indian hospitals, and my trip was cut short due to the virus I contracted while away. I am mostly recovered, but lost over 5 kg and am feeling pretty weak and tired as a result of how my trip ended.
I have spoken to incredible people, learned amazing things that will be of incalculable help with my work. I have also had the incredible opportunity to visit places that I would never have otherwise had a chance to see, and my brain has been filled with these wonderful sights and experiences. I have realised that I never hated history and geography lessons when I was at school and university, I just hated learning from books for the purpose of assessment. Learning from the world suits me far better and I feel that the past 7 weeks have afforded me a far better understanding not just of surrogacy, but also of the world as it is today, and also the events that have led us to where we are. I am humbled by what I have been given the chance to do.
I would like to repeat my thanks to the The Winston Churchill Trust and the Queensland Selection Committee for giving me this chance. I also wish to repeat my thanks to all of those who assisted in the preparation of my application, then the organisation of the trip. Thank you gain to Stephen Page, Steven Fleming and Kate Bourne for acting as my referees and to Dr Fiona Hawthorne for providing me with assistance and support in preparing my application.
I particularly need to thank my beautiful husband and family for letting me go for so long – and for coping so well without me. Special thanks to all of the friends who made sure they were well fed while I was gone!
Much, much, much gratitude to all of the individuals who shared their time and knowledge about surrogacy with me. As I have already mentioned, there was SO MUCH MORE gained by meeting people face to face, than by emails or phone/skype meetings. I actually can’t believe what a difference it made to the learnings that I acquired. There was no reason for any of these people to take time out of their busy schedules to make time to speak with me, but they did it anyway. Building these collegial connections has ended up being an enormous aspect of the Fellowship – a far greater aspect of the trip than I had anticipated.
I also need to thank a few individuals who gave up their time to speak with me by Skype, even prior to my departure. Richard Vaughan (Attorney in California) was extremely helpful in assisting me to understand the California legal structure that surrounds surrogacy. My discussion with Rich really helped me to form a structure around the subsequent conversations that I had once I hit the ground in the USA. He also helped me make a number of connections with people I met with during my Fellowship trip.
I also spoke with a number of surrogacy agencies in Ukraine, Georgia and Mexico. I particularly want to acknowledge Carlos Herrera, the Director of Mexico Surrogacy Foundation, who had arranged to assist me during my (eventually cancelled) visit to Villahermosa. Carlos gave me a significant amount of time over Skype to explain surrogacy in that region.
Thank you to my very patient clients at home who were understanding of me taking a break from clinical practice to undertake this project. I am very happy to report that some much wanted pregnancies were confirmed, and some long awaited babies were born during my absence. Congratulations to these happy new parents, and parents to be. Thank you also to the colleagues who “held the fort” while I was away.
And thank you for reading my little blog posts, it has been lovely to share my experiences while I have travelled. This process has really helped me to assemble my thoughts and will make it easier to finalise the report that I am required to prepared for the purposes of the Fellowship (and will eventually be uploaded to the Trust’s website).
I am looking forward to applying everything that I have learned and sharing my knowledge with my colleagues. I am excited by the potential to maintain the collegial relationships that were established in this trip, and do hope that some of the people I met with will one day be able to travel to Australia in a reciprocal fashion. My first task of the Fellowship has been to prepare a submission to the Australian Federal Inquiry into surrogacy. I have been writing my submission during my trip as the closing date for submissions is actually the date of my return to Australia. I genuinely believe that the Fellowship has provided me with a unique contribution to the Inquiry and I eagerly anticipate the findings when they are released later in the year.
The landscape of surrogacy treatment, both domestically and internationally, has changed enormously in the past few years and I do believe that further significant changes are just around the corner, both in Australia and overseas. I am hopeful that the future will make it easier for people to access services which allow them to create their families in a medically, legally and emotionally safe environment; one which is protective of the children who will be born from surrogates; and one which ensures that the women who choose to act as surrogates are protected. Maybe the endorphins from the trip are still rushing through my veins, but I have a good feeling.
Photo from home:
Noosa Main Beach (Queensland). Family takes all types