A mum whose baby died in the womb at 37 weeks turned her tragedy into hope – by becoming a surrogate for another couple.
Natalie Newman suffered three miscarriages in all before having two children and completing her own dream family.
Then, inspired by a TV drama about a childless couple, she felt an urge to help others experience the joy of becoming parents.
And in November, she delivered beautiful baby boy Bobby, joyfully passing him over to parents Andy Kenny and Gareth Mole. Natalie said: “When I saw the look on their faces, the sheer joy, I realized I’d done an amazing thing.
“It meant the world to me to be able to do this for them, after what I’d been through myself.
“We’ve become such good friends, so to know they are now a family because of what I did is heartwarming to see.”
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Natalie, 35, and husband Jack longed for children, but she suffered an ectopic pregnancy that resulted in miscarriage when she was 18. She lost a second baby at the age of 26.
“Losing any child is devastating, but we never gave up, said Natalie.
Then her dreams came true, when she had been Alfie in 2015.
“Having Alfie was the most precious thing imaginable for us,” she added. “He’s such a sweet, loving boy – I had never felt so happy.”
Natalie, from Bath, Somerset, fell pregnant again in 2017.
It was a girl and Alfie helped picked her name – Sophie.
They were blissful days. Natalie recalled: “We were so happy, we painted her nursery pink and got everything ready for her arrival from her. Alfie was so excited to meet his little sister of him.
“The weekend I thought she might arrive, the same point that Alfie came along, I packed my bag, put the car seat in the car and made the pram ready.”
But heartbreak was to come as scans showed Sophie had stopped breathing.
Natalie said: “The midwife couldn’t find a heartbeat. That was 37 weeks, four days into the pregnancy, the exact point when I’d given birth to Alfie.
“Nothing prepares you for that moment, your future as a family ripped out of your hands. I was absolutely devastated. Scans showed the baby hadn’t suffered any distress. She simply stopped breathing and died.”
Natalie was induced and delivered Sophie on March 6, 2018 – a date she will never forget. She said: “Holding her in my hands, tears streaming down my face, I didn’t know how I could carry on, but I swore to Sophie she’d never be forgotten. I posted a photo on Facebook of a pink balloon and a pink rose.
“I explained what happened, that our baby girl had passed away. That rose became a symbol of Sophie and whenever we want to remind people about her, when we have a family gathering, or it’s her birthday, we get a pink rose.”
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The couple created a memory box with Sophie’s blanket and teddy, her hand and foot prints and a card from a nurse detailing the birth. Natalie added: “Alfie had been distracted and looking through that box helped him take this in.
“We closed the door on Sophie’s room and, over the coming weeks, grieved our girl. But we were determined not to give up on our dream of completing the family we’d dreamed of for so long.”
That dream became reality when Natalie found out she was pregnant just four months later. And baby Lily was born in March 2019.
Natalie said: “She weighed 5lbs 15oz, the same as Sophie had weighed, and I just hugged her so tight, thinking after so many years of heartache and pain, our dreams had finally been answered.
“Holding Lily in my arms, with Alfie and Jack beside me, I felt so completely blessed.”
Another life-changing event was to come – triggered when Natalie and Jack watched TV drama The Nest, starring Joanne Froggatt and Martin Compston as a couple who use a surrogate to carry their child.
“It detailed the pain and anguish couples experienced not being able to have children,” said Natalie.
“It made me think how wonderful it would be to help make that dream come true for someone else.”
She and Jack talked things through and decided it was right for the family.
Natalie said: “Jack gave me a massive hug and said he’d fully support me, he understood how this would help me heal after losing Sophie and the other two babies.”
Marketing manager Jack, 34, said: “After getting over the surprise, I really liked the idea. It’s such a lovely thing. Natalie is a very selfless, caring and naturally maternal person.
“She gets personal satisfaction from caring for others and always puts others before herself.”
After joining surrogacy group Missing Pieces on Facebook, Natalie met Andy, 39, an embroiderer from London, who had suffered two surrogacy miscarriages with her husband Gareth, 34, a professional dancer.
“Instinct told us they would make lovely parents. They were full of life and love, and I knew this felt right,” Natalie said.
She formed a firm friendship with Andy and, after several meetings, agreed to be a surrogate. Natalie said: “I told him all about Sophie, how I was doing this for her, and he completely got that.”
The embryo – from Andy’s sperm and an egg from Gareth’s sister Rebecca, a mum of two – was implanted in March last year.
Natalie’s friendship with Andy and Gareth blossomed. And at five months pregnant – and a healthy baby bump – she, Jack and Alfie attended the couple’s wedding in Bethnal Green, east London. Natalie said: “There were several references in the speeches to me and their baby. To be part of their lives and given so many compliments by their friends and family, they couldn’t have been more perfect.”
The pregnancy ran smoothly and little Bobby was born last November – after a rapid delivery. Natalie revealed: “My whole labor was 19 minutes, then a couple of pushes and he was out.
“Andy and Gareth had to run to the delivery room – it was like something out of a film. But they got there just as Bobby cried for the first time.
“I passed him over to Andy, who held him to his chest so they could have that initial skin-to-skin bonding. He was still attached to me by the umbilical cord, it was such a special moment. To me, it felt like holding a friend’s baby, then passing him back to his parents from him. He was with whom he was always supposed to be with.
“I couldn’t sleep that night because I was on top of the world.
“Now, when Alfie and I go and open Sophie’s memory box, we tell her about Bobby, about what we did.
“I know she’d be so proud. I just feel so incredibly blessed with my own family, but also having helped another couple create their own in her memory of her. Andy and Gareth send me updates and we have visited Bobby. We have a very special friendship. It took a lot of people to create Bobby – and now there is a lot of love to go around for him.”
Overjoyed Andy said: “Natalie is amazing, she gave us the most special thing anyone can give you.
“That moment in the delivery room was overwhelming. Our little baby was there and it was love at first sight.
“Meeting this little person we’d hoped and prayed for.
“I was expecting it all to be more medical, but with the five of us there, holding Bobby, it was actually very calm and special.
“He is five months old now and full of smiles and giggles. I can barely put it into words, what Natalie has done for us. We will be forever grateful.”