Fulfilling a family’s dream: St. John’s mother, inspired by her own daughter’s egg donation, carries a baby for a Montreal couple

ST. JOHN’S, NL — Every Friday for the past few months, Lesley Rumsey of St. John’s has been posting a special message on Facebook.

It’s her weekly “Joy Day” update, where she details the progress of her pregnancy, outlining her number of weeks (currently 24), baby’s size (current comparison: an ear of corn) and how she feels (no, the heat didn’t bother her; she really enjoys it).

Among those eagerly awaiting Rumsey’s weekly updates are his family members, friends and the baby’s parents, who look forward to the day they will join Rumsey in the delivery room.

This is Rumsey’s third pregnancy in 20 years – her own daughters are 20 and 10. The baby girl she will give birth to in November is the daughter of Carl Mastrovito and Alexandre Béland of Montreal, a couple who had long wanted to start a family.

Expectant new dads consider themselves lucky to have been in contact with a surrogate, especially Rumsey.

“We decided to invest in a surrogacy trip instead of a big Italian gay wedding,” the engaged couple say with a laugh.

Together for five years, they take steps to start their family in February 2021 and begin to search for Canadian agencies specializing in egg donation and surrogacy. They hired Proud Fertility, finding it had a less business-oriented model than other agencies, and created two sets of embryos – one genetically related to each – with the help of a donor. of anonymous eggs.

After that, Mastrovito and Béland were put on a waiting list for a surrogate and told it might take a while.

“There’s one surrogate (in Canada) for every five sets of intended parents, whether they’re gay, straight or otherwise,” says Mastrovito. “Only 20% of Intended Parents Find Surrogates.”

“Natural” decision

Rumsey had previously considered surrogacy after seeing a family member struggle with infertility. But it was her eldest daughter Skylar’s decision to become an egg donor that prompted her to register with the agency.

“I certainly never thought of it as something I could do until I saw a video online of a woman who had donated eggs around the same age as me,” Skylar explains.

“I decided to search and found Proud Fertility. I created an account, and within days they contacted me.”

The decision to donate her eggs, she says, “felt quite natural” to her.

“Being a member of the LGBT community myself, if there’s anything I can do to help people who want to start a family, I’m happy to do it,” she added.

The egg donation process involved several steps, from medical examinations and psychological evaluations to self-administered hormone injections to stimulate the maturation of several eggs at once.

Skylar Rumsey of St. John’s, 20, prepares to give her hormone injections ahead of her egg donation procedure in Vancouver earlier this year.

Skylar has traveled to Vancouver twice – once alone for medical tests and once with her mother and sister for the actual donation process, which she describes as painless except for some cramping the next day. . She did not choose the anonymous route.

“You can decide if you want to be contacted by future children born from your donation, and I would be totally open to that,” Skylar says.

The agency will contact her if her eggs are selected by potential parents.

“She’s amazing,” Rumsey says of his eldest daughter’s donation.

“There was a connection”

While the family was in Vancouver for Skylar’s donation procedure, Rumsey spoke with agency director Nathan Chan about becoming a surrogate.

He sent her four videos of future parents with the goal that she choose one and that night, lying in bed, she watched them. Mastrovito and Béland were the No. 4 parents.

“I chose No. 4, then I asked the girls to watch them and they chose No. 4. I answered the officer and said, ‘It’s No. 4 “He said, ‘But do you want me to send you more before you decide?’ I was like, ‘No, I’m fine,'” she recalled.

“It was how genuine and kind they seemed. There was a connection. It’s just how you feel when you meet someone.”

Mastrovito and Béland were at home doing the dishes when they received a text from Chan letting them know that they had been chosen by a potential surrogate. He sent them his profile and the connection was immediate for them too. It was Rumsey’s personality and humor that drew them to her, they say.

“As soon as I found out she was from Newfoundland, I said to Alex, ‘It can’t get any better.'” – Carl Mastrovito

“I don’t want it to sound fabricated, because it’s true: there are a lot of profiles from the West and from Ontario, and very few are from the (Atlantic provinces). As soon as I found out she was from Newfoundland, I said to Alex, “It can’t get any better,” says Mastrovito.

“I have been there several times for work and have never seen such welcoming people. I told Alex it was like one in a million.

After weeks of preparation, similar to what Skylar went through, the embryo transfer took place at a Toronto clinic in January — with the dads in attendance via Facetime — and they came to St. John’s twice to see Rumsey. . They went with her in person to hear their baby’s heartbeat for the first time.

“I noticed that Lesley doesn’t check the monitors as much as she checks us and how we react,” Mastrovito says.

Rumsey explains that it’s because she wants to see the joy on their faces. It’s a joy she shares, and it’s completely different from what she experienced when she was pregnant with her own daughters.

“There is happiness and excitement with yours, but there is always a feeling of fear, as if your life is about to change. That way I can enjoy the pregnancy and see my children and my family to enjoy it, but also someone else’s extended family. The fear of ‘Oh shit, what did we do?’ goes to those parents,” Rumsey laughs.

“A Crazy Journey”

Mastrovito and Béland will be in the business room for the birth of their baby and are looking for an Airbnb or a furnished apartment in St. John’s to rent for a month or so when she arrives.

They prepared their daughter’s nursery and did the legal work necessary to bring her home, which was a frustrating process to say the least, with Quebec government departments seeming unsure of what to do in a situation. surrogacy and sometimes not understanding that Rumsey is the gestational carrier, not the mother. In Quebec, they say, a surrogate always retains a legal right to the child.

Fathers say they are acutely aware of how lucky they are to be able to have a family through surrogacy, and want governments to make it easier for people who want to have children but are unable to do so themselves. even to the services they need.

“Going through surrogacy is a luxury and it’s very sad,” says Béland.

“We keep hearing about population decline and no one is helping these couples who would actually be good parents. It’s not because they don’t have money to support the children. This is the amount of money they are asking for. We are very lucky.

In Canada, egg donation and surrogacy are altruistic, which means that Rumsey and Skylar are not paid for what they do, although they are reimbursed for their expenses. Both women say their main compensation is being able to give such a gift to others. Rumsey has already offered to carry Mastrovito and Beland’s second child.

The dads say they can’t wait to share their daughter’s story and connection to Newfoundland and Labrador. They had no idea when they started their surrogacy journey what it would be like; or whether their surrogate would stay in their life after the birth of their baby or not.

Now they know.

“There is so much emotion. It’s just been a crazy trip overall, and for us it’s gone so well that we keep pinching each other,” Mastrovito said, explaining how much it meant to him and his fiancé. to see the excitement and support of Rumsey’s family.

“It is impossible for us never to speak again.”

Rumsey and her daughter recommend both egg donation and surrogacy to anyone who has ever thought about it, urging them to go online and do some research.

“It’s been an amazing experience so far,” Rumsey says. “‘Surreal’ is the word we often use.”

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