On June 22, surrogate mother Mandy Cameron (left) gave birth to Nova Scotia couple Christine Herman and Bill Freeman’s first son, Béla – who came into the world at just over 7 lbs – at the Stratford General Hospital. (Submitted photo)
Years ago, Mandy Cameron decided she would one day like to give the gift of life to a couple struggling to have kids, but wanted to make sure her own children were grown enough to understand what it meant to be a surrogate mother.On June 22, 2018, only weeks after joining Surrogacy in Canada Online, a service started by former Stratford resident Sally Rhoads-Heinrich that connects would-be surrogates to couples who can’t have kids the traditional way, Cameron, 35, matched with Christine Herman and Bill Freeman, a couple from Nova Scotia.“After I had my son, I just knew a bunch of different people – friends and family – who were struggling with infertility, but I wanted to wait until my kids were older so they could understand the process,” Cameron said. “And I actually kind of put it on the back burner, but then on Facebook I saw different things on surrogacy and Sally actually ended up reaching out to me because I posted in a group about wanting to be a surrogate.”After speaking with Rhoads-Heinrich – who herself had delivered twins at the Stratford General Hospital as a surrogate for a Maryland couple 20 years ago – and talking it over with husband Jeff Cameron and her kids, Mandy agreed to join Surrogacy in Canada Online to see if she could help a couple in need.“Support is one of the biggest things because it’s a big thing to go through,” Rhoads-Heinrich said. “It’s very hard to find a partner who’s also willing to be supportive of a surrogacy journey. We always say there’s lots of women who are willing to be surrogates, but not all men (or female partners) are willing to support their partner … so it’s very hard to find a surrogate plus a supportive spouse or partner.“We do get some single surrogates, but I have a lot of women who apply that, after they talk to their husband or partner, … can’t go forward because their partner can’t support it. … I think that’s the number-one reason that we have surrogates that don’t go forward.”According to Rhoads-Heinrich, only five to 10 women go through with the surrogacy of the nearly 100 who apply to her service each month,At nearly the same time Mandy Cameron joined Surrogacy in Canada Online, Herman and Freeman also turned to the online surrogacy service. They had tried unsuccessfully to have a child for two years and had lost a pregnancy conceived through in vitro fertilization, which left Herman’s uterus unfit to carry another pregnancy to term.
From left, Bill Freeman, Christine Herman, their new son Béla, surrogate Mandy Cameron, and her husband Jeff Cameron at the Camerons’ home in Milverton. (Submitted photo)
“When we joined there was a fresh batch of surrogates waiting. We had five profiles, and Mandy’s was the one that spoke to me the most,” Herman said. “She was the first person that got back to us, and we had a great conversation on the phone. … When we were speaking to her, my husband looked at me while we were on the phone and he mouthed, ‘Yup, she’s the one; I don’t want to talk to anybody else.’”A week later, Herman and Freeman flew to Ontario to meet with Mandy Cameron and her family, who, after having dinner and spending some time with the couple, decided Mandy Cameron would be their surrogate.From there, Herman and Freeman flew Mandy to Halifax in October for the transfer of the embryo. They then travelled to Milverton to visit the Camerons on their pig farm in March when she was pregnant before flying her back to Halifax in April for their baby shower. They returned to Stratford two weeks ago for the birth of their son Béla on June 22, exactly a year from the day they matched with their surrogate through Surrogacy in Canada Online.And while Herman and Freeman couldn’t be with her, Mandy said she chatted with the couple and shared updates and photos with them nearly every other day.During her pregnancy, Mandy also had support from Rhoads-Heinrich, a vast community of Canadian surrogates going through many of the same things she had gone through and, of course, her family, who were as committed to helping Herman and Freeman have a baby as she was.“I first signed up to help a couple have a family, have a baby,” Mandy said. “But I didn’t understand at the time how in depth the relationship would be and how many lives would be touched, both on my side and on their’s. We’ve been fortunate enough to meet a lot of their friends and family … and it was just so amazingly overwhelming to know how many people’s lives are touched because of the decision I made to help them.“You know, like grandparents becoming grandparents, and aunts becoming aunts. Honestly, I had no idea how much was going to be involved in all of this, and all in a positive way.”For more information on Surrogacy in Canada Online, visit surrogacy.ca or search Surrogacy in Canada Online on Facebook.firstname.lastname@example.org