BUNDABERG mother-of-two Melissah Smith knows the joys of being a parent, but she knows many others will never get that chance.
That is why when she gives birth to a baby girl on Thursday, she will hand her over to a New South Wales husband and wife who are unable to conceive their own child.
Mrs Smith is a surrogate, a woman who has given up more than a year of her life to go through testing, psychiatric assessments, nine months of pregnancy and finally birth, all so two strangers can have a family.
"My auntie could never have kids and did IVF in the 80s, but she still never fell pregnant, so it was something I always wanted to do," she said.
Mrs Smith first came into contact with the intended parents last year after leaving her name with a law firm in Brisbane. Months later, after plenty of tests and consideration, she became pregnant using the couple's egg and sperm.
"I had never met them before all this started, but now we speak nearly every day," she said.
"The first time I met them, it was like I already knew them - I think we were meant to meet each other."
Mrs Smith, who has two boys aged 11 and six, said under the Surrogacy Act, she could at any time choose to keep the child.
"Even though it's all their DNA and they have spent tens of thousands of dollars, I could just turn around and say, 'I'm keeping this baby'," she said.
"I think that is so wrong."
Surrogacy is a relatively new concept in Australia, with Queensland only passing a Surrogacy Act in 2010.
It is illegal to pay for a woman to be a surrogate, but the intended parents can pay for out-of-pocket and medical expenses that arise as a result of the pregnancy.
Mrs Smith said she had encountered both positive and negative feedback from people about her choice to be a surrogate.
"Lots of people don't think it's right, but you have to take the good with the bad," she said.
The 30-year-old said she would always be in the child's life, with the parents planning not to keep the surrogacy a secret.
And even though the first baby is yet to be delivered, Mrs Smith said she was already planning to have a second child for the New South Wales couple.
Fellow Bundaberg mum Emma Barwick is also about to embark on the surrogacy journey.
"My intended parents have had 11 failed IVF attempts," Mrs Barwick said.
"They have spent $70,000 trying to have a baby."
Mrs Barwick said surrogacy was not a common topic of conversation.
"It's a very taboo subject," she said.
"Some people ask how I could give the baby away, but I've had my babies, it's not my DNA and if I had any inkling that I couldn't give the baby away, I wouldn't do it.
"These people have been married for 17 years and have been trying to have a baby for 12 years and it will be so amazing to do this for them - they just want to have a family."
More on surrogacy
For more information on surrogacy in Australia, head to surrogacyaustralia.org.
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