A tale of true friendship: Woman who volunteered to be a surrogate mother for her best friend gave her ‘the greatest gift'
15:08 GMT, 3 September 2012
As she watched her son Mason take his first few shaky steps, Elif Tuccaroglu was, like any other mother, brimming with pride.
But behind this everyday scene lies a remarkable story of selflessness – and the incredible devotion of her closest friend.
It began almost three years ago when, over a glass of wine, businesswoman Miss Tuccaroglu confided in Lily Smith that she was physically unable to have a child of her own.
One big family: Mason McRobb with his mother Elif and surrogate mother Lilly
Without a moment’s hesitation, Miss Smith, who already had two children, volunteered to be a surrogate mother for her.
The pair have been best friends for years and share almost everything, but Miss Tuccaroglu, 35, who was born without a womb, could hardly believe the stunning offer.
In 2010, a fertilised egg from Miss Tuccaroglu and her partner Gerry McRobb, 32, was implanted in Miss Smith’s womb. After an untroubled pregnancy, Mason was born in May last year.
The best friends celebrated the child’s first birthday this year and are closer than ever as he takes his first steps.
It is not all plain sailing, however, as under Scots law, Miss Smith is recognised as Mason’s legal mother on his birth certificate. As a result, they are now completing paperwork that will allow Miss Tuccaroglu to officially adopt her son.
In 2010, a fertilised egg from Miss Tuccaroglu and her partner Gerry McRobb, 32, was implanted in Miss Smiths womb. After an untroubled pregnancy, Mason was born in May last year
Ironically, no such obstacles face Oxfordshire mother Octavia Orchard, 34, and her husband Dominic, 35, who, as revealed in Saturday’s Scottish Daily Mail, hired the womb of an impoverished woman in an Indian ‘baby factory’ to have their second child.
Miss Tuccaroglu, from Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire, said: ‘Mason is the greatest gift I’ve ever had. I have no words to say how grateful I am to Lily.
‘I was upset at first when I found out I am not automatically Mason’s legal mother, which would have been the case in England because he has my DNA.
‘But I’m just getting on with it and can’t wait for the day when I can say Mason is legally mine. It’s going to be brilliant.’
Bets of friends: Elif was over the moon when Lilly offered to be a surrogate mother
Miss Tuccaroglu found out at the age of 18 that she could never bear her own children. She attended Aberdeen Fertility Centre and learned her only option was surrogacy. She and her partner had planned to join an agency to find a potential surrogate but found the costs were too high.
Miss Tuccaroglu added: ‘The hardest part is finding a surrogate. There is an agency but it can be a lengthy procedure and expensive.
‘It costs 1,500 just to join the agency. The whole thing would have cost thousands.
‘In America it’s even worse. The services of a surrogate cost tens of thousands of dollars because prospective parents have to cover the surrogate’s medical bills.’
The couple’s prayers were answered when, over a glass of wine, Miss Tuccaroglu told her story to her best friend of eight years. To her surprise Miss Smith, with the approval of her partner John Murray, 33, volunteered to be a surrogate.
‘When Lily said she’d carry Mason for me I thought she’d had one too many,’ Miss Tuccaroglu said. ‘I didn’t seriously think she would go through with it. But she did and look at the results.’
The pair had to go through a year of psychological analysis to check they were emotionally up to the challenge.
Miss Tuccaroglu added: ‘First the fertility centre had to make sure Lily and I were biologically compatible. Then we had to have lengthy psychological counselling to make sure we were mentally prepared and stable enough to go through with it. It can be tough if it doesn’t work out.
‘You have to be prepared for every scenario, like how you would feel if the child was born disabled. They discussed with us what would happen if the surrogate changed her mind, or wanted to keep the baby.
‘The professionals realised that wouldn’t be an issue with us, but with other people it could be.’
Mason was born weighing eight pounds 12 ounces by caesarean section at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital.
Miss Smith briefly hugged him after the birth before handing him to her friend.
All smiles: Mason was born weighing eight pounds 12 ounces by caesarean section at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital
Mr McRobb and Miss Smith are named as Mason’s parents on his birth certificate.
Despite the legal discrepancy the women are still best friends and are now working with lawyers to have Miss Tuccaroglu named as the baby’s mother, a process that could take until next year.
Miss Tuccaroglu said: ‘He’s such a good boy, so smiley and happy. We are so lucky.
‘I’d been worried I might not bond with him straight away because I hadn’t carried him but I loved him the moment I laid eyes on him.
‘Our families love Mason and fully supported our decision to go down the surrogacy route.
‘We are all over the moon with the way things have worked out,’ she added.
‘If Mason asks we will tell him Lily carried him, but I’m his mother and Gerry is his father. We have nothing to hide and everything to be proud of.
‘Lily is named as “mother” on Mason’s passport and I have to have a letter from Gerry, as his dad, for permission to take our baby on holiday.
‘I’ve been penalised for not having a womb, for not being able to carry my own child. I was upset at first but now we are happier than we ever imagined.’
Miss Smith, who already has two children, Tony, 12 and Lily, five, added: ‘Mason is very special and I love him dearly, but I never think of him as mine. I was the incubator for Elif and Gerry’s fertilised egg.
‘My own kids knew that I was just looking after him in my tummy until he was born.
‘I have no regrets. When I see Elif and Mason together I just feel glad for them.’