A former surrogate came out of retirement to carry a baby for a same sex couple.
Dawn Allen, 49, from Matlock, Derbyshire, offered to be a surrogate for Aled Hadyn Jones, 45, and Emile Doxey, 43, after meeting the couple in January 2019 and immediately hitting it off.
At the time Allen was working as a surrogate applications and agreement coordinator at Surrogacy UK, having relinquished her role as an active surrogate at the age of 43.
But having bonded with the couple over music and good food, the mum-of-two decided to reprise her surrogate role and had a son for them at the age of 48.
“I did wonder, ‘Can I do this again? Am I too old?’" she explains.
“A lot of clinics won’t take a surrogate over 45, though most women can do it at select clinics until they’re 55.”
Despite finding pregnancy more difficult this time around, Allen, who is mum to Sam, 28, and Alex, 15, and married to husband Matthew, 50, says any struggles were "worth it" to be able to watch Hadyn Jones and Doxey welcome a baby boy last year.
“Pregnancy this time was a lot harder," she says. "Being older during pregnancy does give risk factors and I had to have conversations with the hospital and midwives about my age and take blood thinners for months.
“But it was all worth it to watch two people I love become parents.
“The way I look at it, I’m pregnant for nine months. What’s nine months out of my life when you’re giving your friends a lifetime of happiness?”
Allen was first drawn to becoming a surrogate more than 20 years ago, having watched a documentary about the subject in the late 1990s.
"It really resonated with me," she says. "I thought, ‘I’m going to do that one day'.
“I met my husband in 2000. About a month into dating, I said to him I was going to be a surrogate. He looked at me like I was bonkers – but 22 years later we’re still together!”
But before Allen became a surrogate, she completed her family with two sons of her own.
“A year after having my youngest son, I started thinking about surrogacy again and came across Surrogacy UK," she says.
“It just felt right. Their ethos about friendship first between the surrogate and the intended parents and with keeping in contact, it all chimed with how I felt.”
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Allen's decision to become a surrogate was party fuelled after she suffered a miscarriage before having her youngest son.
"Just the thought of being told we couldn’t have the number of children we wanted was devastating,” she says.
“If I was ever in that situation of being unable to have a baby, I hoped somebody would help me out.
"So knowing I could potentially help someone else who wanted children made it almost a no brainer.”
Allen then joined Surrogacy UK, the UK’s leading not-for-profit surrogacy organisation, and had the honour of becoming a surrogate for its first same sex couple.
The couple's son, born using Allen as a surrogate and also using her egg, is now 10.
“It was so good I decided I wanted to do it again!”
While an attempt to help a second couple failed, Allen continued as a surrogate and gave birth to a little girl, now seven, for a third same sex couple in 2015.
But due to her age she gave up surrogacy after this and started her coordinating role for the surrogacy organisation.
It was through one of the organisation’s events for intended parents, surrogates and egg donors looking into surrogacy in 2019 that she first met Haydn Jones and Doxey.
“I remember seeing Aled across the room and thinking he looked terrified, so I went over and had a chat," she says.
Though the trio developed a friendship, Allen says she made it clear she wasn't going to be a surrogate again.
"We bonded over similar music tastes, liking to eat the same thing," she says. "We just built a connection.”
The couple registered with the organisation and began the search for a surrogate to carry their child, while their friendship with Allen continued to grow.
After supporting Allen's son, Alex, through a tough time at school, the teenager urged his mum to rethink being a surrogate for the couple.
So in secret Allen set about finding out if she could still be a surrogate in her late 40s.
Having found a clinic that would treat her, she asked the chairperson of Surrogacy UK to call the couple to share the surprise – a job she usually does herself.
“Aled was completely shocked but asked why I wasn’t calling," Allen explains. "When she told him it was me who wanted to be their surrogate, he just burst into tears!”
After working through the organisation’s minimum three month "getting to know each other" period, the trio signed the agreement in January 2020.
COVID delayed their treatment and three failed rounds of IVF followed.
Eventually, however, Allen fell pregnant early last year using a donor egg going on to deliver a son for the couple in November last year.
“Luca was born five weeks early and surprised us all," she says.
“It was snowing here in Derbyshire and I had to drive myself 40 minutes to the hospital, calling Aled and Emile on the way to tell them to get there.”
Despite his early arrival, Luca is now a happy and healthy seven-month-old.
The couple keep Allen up to date with all of his milestones and the group meet up regularly.
“I keep in touch with all of the intended parents I’ve helped and the children," she says.
“I am Auntie Dawn and I love being Auntie Dawn. I get to buy all the annoying, fun presents at Christmas and birthdays. I absolutely love it.”
Haydn Jones and Doxey say they are eternally grateful to Allen for helping them to welcome their son.
“When I think about what Dawn was willing to give up for us, it is the most incredible thing someone could do for someone else," Haydn Jones says. "She’ll always have a very special place in our heart and will always be Auntie Dawn to Luca.
“Fatherhood is the most phenomenal experience and everything everyone said it would be.
“I grew up thinking a family wouldn’t be an option for me," the new dad continues. "The hard bit about coming out was giving up the idea of having that complete family unit, for me and for my mum.
"I’d always assumed it wouldn’t happen."
Despite her incredible experience after coming out of retirement, Allen has no plans to be a surrogate again.
"But if Aled and Emile wanted to add to their family then I’d certainly consider it,” she adds.
“Modern medicine is amazing. Even if I went through the menopause, I could still be a surrogate.”
To share their incredible journey, the family will be featuring in a documentary You, Me And The Baby.
“By making our journey public, I hope that at the very least it can open up that ambition to women who might want to give the gift of life like Dawn did," Haydn Jones explains.
"I also want to show other same sex couples and couples who have written off completing their family unit that it is possible. We have our happy ending.”
Aled Haydn Jones – Ti, Fi a’r Babi (You, Me And The Baby) airs June 28th, 9pm on S4C, and immediately available on BBCiPlayer.
Additional reporting PA Real Life.