Surrogate mom who has delivered 7 babies for others 'would do it all over again'
Pregnancy 'not an easy job' but Winnipeg woman who gave birth to 6 twins and a baby boy says she loved it
Kristy Cartwright has given birth to three sets of twins and a baby boy, for four different families — and if she could do it all again, she would in a heartbeat.
This despite the fact that currently, the federal law does not allow surrogates to be paid for their services, although there's been a recent push to change that law.
"It would be great to be paid for surrogacy, but I would love to do it again anyway," said the Winnipeg mom, who also given birth to three children of her own. "Surrogacy is so amazing. You can help families have their kids. Like, they can't have them. And you can."
'It takes a toll' on body
Cartwright spoke to CBC about a side of fertility not often explored — the reasons women willingly carry a fetus to term, which they're not biologically related to, and for which they can't receive payment.
"It's a sacrifice to your body, it really is," Cartwright, 41, admits. "I've 'housed' 10 children and it takes a toll on your body, it certainly does."
But eight years ago, Cartwright decided she wanted to try it. Though she was done having children of her own, she'd loved being pregnant and she loved the idea of helping another family have their own children.
Through a Toronto agency, and after months of paperwork, interviews and medical appointments, a match was found between her and a couple from Montreal. Using in vitro fertilization, the couple's fertilized eggs were implanted in Cartwright.
Though she admits she was so nervous "it felt like a first date," once pregnant, her nerves were calmed — even when she learned she was carrying twins.
"That was hard. I'd never carried twins before," she said. "I was really tired."
But when the twins were born and she saw the look of joy on their biological mother's face, she knew that she would do it again.
"It was amazing," she said, adding the biological mother was in the operating room to cut their umbilical cords.
Over the course of seven years, Cartwright went on to deliver two more sets of twins to two other couples, and one baby boy for a single father.
Asked whether she ever felt the maternal attachment to the babies growing inside her, she was adamant: never.
"I've always known this is not my baby, it is not my child, it is their child," she says. "I've never lost track of that."
Push to change law
In each case, Cartwright was compensated for all pregnancy-related expenses, for everything from groceries to massage therapy to vitamins. All the details were carefully hammered out in written, legally binding contracts with each of the families she worked with.
She did not, however, receive additional fees for her efforts. That is against the law. In late May, though, Quebec Liberal MP Anthony Housefather tabled a private member's bill in the House of Commons calling for the decriminalization of payment for surrogacy, egg donation and sperm donation.
"I think it would be a very welcome thing for surrogates," Cartwright said. "Being pregnant is not an easy job."
Tanis Mauws would have loved to have paid her surrogate — also her cousin — fees above and beyond her expenses. That's because she and her husband, Sean Lancaster, are forever grateful to her for carrying their son, Keelan, to term.
"It was a miracle for us," says Mauws, who knew since she was 15 that she could not get pregnant. "We'll always be grateful."
But she doubts they could have afforded to go through with surrogacy if they'd been charged fees as well as the expenses.
Winnipeg lawyer Robynne Kazina handles surrogacy cases throughout North America and as far away as Australia. She cautions that additional fees could make surrogacy too expense for those who need it.
She does think, however, they shouldn't be against the law.
"I don't think criminalizing it makes sense but there needs to protections in place," Kazina says.
Meanwhile, Cartwright is preparing to return to work, after recovering from her latest delivery of twins. Her years of surrogacy, however, are over.
"The doctor will not clear me to do it again," she said. "My body can't do it anymore."
It's a medical decision that's bittersweet.
"I'm so sad that I can't do it again. I loved it way more than I thought I would," Cartwright said.
"It's just what it's about. You're just giving people their family that they've been dreaming about, and that's their dream come true."
With files from Information Radio