A woman born without a womb has welcomed a miracle baby boy – thanks to a selfless surrogate who has become her ‘best friend’.
Kitty Cunningham, 32, was just 16 when she was diagnosed with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome (known as MRKH). The condition causes the internal vagina and uterus to be underdeveloped or absent.
The news left Kitty fearing she would never have a child of her own, but her dream to become a mum came true after meeting surrogate, Jemma Black, 34, a full-time mum.
Kitty and her husband, James, 31, a sales director, hit it off with Jemma – instantly becoming the best of friends – despite her being pregnant with another couples’ tot at the time.
Just three months after delivering her first surrogate baby, Jemma offered to help Kitty and James – falling pregnant with their biological baby via IVF in January 2020.
She gave birth to baby Jasper – who weighed a healthy 9lbs – at 3.43am on Sunday 4th October at her home in Birmingham, West Midlands, with his delighted parents by her side.
Kitty, an operations director, from Nottingham, East Midlands, said: “My husband said when he was 20 he would rather have me with no babies than babies with someone else.
“Now he’s got both – it’s just the most incredible feeling in the world.”
When doctors told Kitty the only way she would be able to have a biological child was through surrogacy, she was blindsided.
Kitty said: “It’s a very adult thing to be worrying about at that age.
“I was 16 and still hadn’t started my period so doctors did a bit more investigating and they told me I didn’t have a womb.
“Obviously it was a shock and it was confusing and scary.
“It’s probably the worst time to find something out like that when you are a teenager and you’re dealing with lots of hormones anyway.
“You are made to think about what it might be like not to have a family when that should be the last thing on your mind and you shouldn’t be worrying about it quite yet.
“You just sort of have to accept it, but you don’t think about the intimate details of how it all works, you just don’t look too much into it. I just parked it.”
But five years ago, after meeting her loving husband, James, the couple decided they wanted to have a baby and, after a full year of research, they decided to take the plunge and start looking for a surrogate in September 2018.
Kitty said: “You do think: ‘Why would somebody want to help us? Are we sad enough for someone to want to help us? Is there going to be a connection?’
“The process that we needed to go through and how that might feel became the major worry.
“Even for me – who had been told at the age of 16 about surrogacy – I couldn’t really tell you how it was going to work.
“It was only when I got involved in Surrogacy UK that a possible root to parenthood became clear.”
At a meet and greet event held by Surrogacy UK – an organisation which aims to bring intended parents and surrogates together ‘through friendship’ – they met Jemma in November 2018.
They struck up a conversation with Jemma – who was pregnant with another couples’ tot at the time.
The super surrogate already has three of her own children and has been a surrogate once before meeting Kitty and James.
The three of them hit it off and kept in touch and super surrogate Jemma offered to carry the grateful couple’s baby – 10 months after they met.
Kitty said: “We met Jemma at a social in November 2018, and she was 14 weeks pregnant with her first surrogate baby.
“But a natural friendship blossomed.
“Nobody had the intention from either side when we first got chatting, and that’s what’s nice about it. When she did offer, we were already friends.
“When we got the call, I probably, for the first time ever, felt hopeful. I’d never felt too hopeful before that it would happen.
“When we were getting married people were obsessed with saying that classic thing of ‘ooh when are you going to have babies?’ which was an awkward and upsetting conversation for me to have at the time.
“We got used to saying ‘I don’t have a womb and we’ll need to use a surrogate’ but it was always said quite emptily.
“It was a thing you could say to people so it sounded like you had a plan – but we didn’t really have a plan.
“When Jemma called, I thought this really might work.”
Six days after Kitty’s embryo which had been fertilised were James sperm, were transferred into Jemma’s womb she got a positive pregnancy test.
Kitty said: “I just actually couldn’t believe it.
“My husband was in absolute shock, I cried my eyes out and he just sat there and said: ‘I think I’m going to faint.’
“There was just so much joy and so much happiness.
“I was just really happy and really ready.”
Now best buds, Kitty and James supported Jemma the whole way through her pregnancy.
Kitty said: “Jemma had a massive craving for jalapenos, she couldn’t get enough of them.
“I bought her a massive jar of jalapenos, that was her thing this time around.
“Jemma suffered quite badly from morning sickness so we would go down on weekends and take her children out and go to the park or go for Sunday lunch.
“Other than the 20-week scan we have been to everything.
“We have seen Jemma and her family every couple of weeks, except during the middle of lockdown.
“But then I sent her a text every day – just like you would with any friend but she’s got your baby inside her as well.
“We were there every step of the way, Jemma never had to make any decisions about him without us being there.
They decided to have a water birth at Jemma’s home in Birmingham, West Midlands – and Kitty delivered her baby boy herself.
Kitty said: “I was quite nervous because the consultant at the hospital said Jasper had been measuring quite big on the growth scan, and recommended a c-section for Jemma.
“They said if a shoulder gets stuck and you’re at home we would have eight minutes to get to a hospital or he could be stillborn.
“We had to really trust Jemma that she had birthed big babies before and she knew what she was doing.
“I was quite anxious in the lead up because you’re completely trusting this other person with the most precious thing in your world.
“All I could think about was I’m about to become a mum but there was a hope at the end of it.
“It was actually all perfect and it was the most textbook calm birth that’s ever happened and it was amazing. I’m so pleased that we listened and trusted Jemma.
“I think that shows what a good team we are and how good our relationship is that we could trust her to do the right thing for Jasper and herself.
“I was in shock for the first 24 hours, we knew he was real, we had seen Jemma every two-and-a-half weeks – he was always real but to actually have a little baby is amazing.
“He looks exactly like me too – I wasn’t ready for that.
“You can’t prepare for that feeling when you’ve wanted for something for so long and it’s actually there – he’s a little diamond.
“James said he wasn’t ready for how much I was going to love him – I think he’d resigned himself to the fact we’d give surrogacy a go but we never thought it would actually be successful.
“He’s taken away 16 years of worry in six hours of labour – all the anguish, worry and negative feelings are just gone now and Jemma’s been responsible for making it happen.”
Kitty and James are absolutely smitten with Jasper – who is now one-month-old.
Kitty said: “Jasper’s been a really good baby so far.
“He’s happy and he’s letting me have a bit of sleep which is good and he’s growing like a monster, he’s 11lbs already so feeding really well.
“It’s just lovely, it’s everything I thought it would be and more.
“Being a little family unit now, it’s amazing that we’ve got this physical thing – half me and half James – when there was a time that we didn’t think it would be possible.
Surrogate Jemma added: “‘I love being pregnant, I do pregnancy really well, I find it quite easy and I love giving birth so for me for nine months of my life to change somebody else’s, that’s what I do it for.
“I met Kitty and James when I was about 15 weeks and I left that social thinking, what an amazing couple, whoever is going to get to make them parents is going to be really lucky.
“They were on my mind a lot and I thought they would be such an awesome couple to be in a team with.
“I bumped into them at lots of socials and we just became really good friends and I think it was when I got to around 35 weeks pregnant that I thought: ‘Oh gosh, I could really help them.’
“There is no doubt about it, it was them that made me want to help them so quickly because we had that natural connection – it made it really genuine.
“The birth was also so perfect. It was so relaxed and calm.
“James is very, very squeamish so I got black towels, black dressing gown – black everything – and Kitty got in the pool and he sat behind her and he watched the whole thing. I was so proud of him.
“Sometimes you meet people and they are just meant to be in your life.
“Now, even though Jasper is a month old we still talk all day long. My high will never go and that’s what makes it addictive and we really are best friends.”