On a cattle property 20 kilometres north of Gympie, Rob Brunker and Jesse Zischke are happily adjusting to life as a family of three.
“We feel like a complete family. We have a beautiful, relaxed baby who we are besotted with and we simply couldn’t imagine our lives any different to what they are now,” said Mr Brunker.
The Queensland dads welcomed the arrival of baby Lachlan at Gold Coast Private Hospital in May, after meeting first-time surrogate Jane Miller in 2015.
The 40-year-old Gold Coast woman contacted the couple online, after being told about their dreams of parenthood by a mutual friend.
“We have been together for 16 years and always wanted to be dads, so when Jane contacted us and said she was considering surrogacy we were elated at the prospect of starting a family,” said Zischke.
“We had been searching for a surrogate for a few years. By the end of that first meeting with Jane, she said ‘let’s do it’.
“For intended parents, trying to find a surrogate in Australia is like trying to find a needle in a haystack on a very dark night. We feel very privileged and lucky.”
After completing mandatory counselling and undergoing fertility treatment in Brisbane using a donated egg, the trio enlisted the help of the Gold Coast Private maternity team to provide care during pregnancy and birth.
“As Jane lives in the region, we contacted Gold Coast Private Hospital. After meeting with maternity manager Judy Ross, and Grace Private obstetrician Tina Fleming, we were very confident that we would get the best possible care and support at Gold Coast Private, said Mr Brunker.
“Dr Fleming and the maternity team were amazing, positive and supportive. The team went above and beyond and to make Jane’s pregnancy and Lachlan’s birth the best experience possible. We were treated like any other parent.
“We had our own room next to Jane and were exceptionally well-fed. Our experience was perfect.”
For Ms Miller, the process of donation has been a long-term labour of love.
“I had donated eggs before, and it gave me so much satisfaction to see the joy I brought those families. Due to my age I could no longer be an egg donor, so that’s why I decided to explore surrogacy,” she said.
“The whole process was absolutely amazing. Dr Fleming was incredible and Rob and Jesse came to every single appointment with me. They were really supportive the whole way through.
“I struggled a lot when it was time for the boys and Lachlan to leave, but the maternity team was so compassionate and understanding. They offered for me to stay a few extra nights, and recruited a social worker and a fellow surrogate to provide additional support.”
She keeps in contact with four of the families she has donated eggs to, and treasures the special bond she has developed with the Brunker-Zischkes.
“We just really clicked and I could see they would be great dads,” she said.
“I was somewhat apprehensive as I have not had children of my own, and was not sure how I would feel after giving birth. However, it is the most amazing thing that I’ve ever done and I would not change a thing.”
It is a sentiment shared by Rob and Jesse. More than three months since Lachlan’s birth, they are enjoying every precious moment with their growing baby boy.
“He is sleeping well; he is the perfect baby and parenthood is absolutely magical,” said Mr Brunker.
“Words can’t express how much gratitude we have for Jane. It is the ultimate gift.
“There are not many people like Jane who are overwhelmingly positive, giving and selfless. We acknowledge how tough it would have been for her and she will always be a part of our lives.”