By Laura Keil

When their son Marin was born, Arneau took him in his arms for skin-to-skin time and Axel cut the umbilical cord.

It was a moment the new dads never imagined would happen.

Arnaud Lemazurier and Axel Jourgeaud are French citizens currently living in Montreal. In France any type of surrogacy remains illegal, where in Canada, “altruistic” surrogacy arrangements are legal (only women’s expenses can be paid).

The couple got lucky. They were put in touch with Melanie Smith, a Valemount resident, who took on the extraordinary role of carrying their baby.

Jourgeaud says the moment when Marin was born was “The end of the first journey, and the beginning of a new one.”

“We want our son to know that he was born in a special journey, with people who love him truly before his coming in our world – much more than just before, but 2 years before!”

Jourgeaud says when they first met Smith they knew she was the one to carry their child (they used an egg donor and in vitro fertilization). From that moment on, they kept in touch despite the distance between Montreal and Valemount – exchanging phone calls, mail, and gifts and accompanying her to ultrasounds. The last two weeks were special, Jourgeaud says, a time they spent with Smith in Vancouver prior to the birth.

“These 2 weeks allowed us to see what kind of surrogate Melanie was: always happy, always helping, always thinking of our son in her belly.”

Jourgeaud says they wanted to create not just their own family but a “really true story and history” to tell their son one day when he asks questions like the following: “Who am I? How am I here? Why? With who? Do you really know the person who carried me for 9 months? Is she a nice person? What is her favorite color? What kind of food did she like during her pregnancy? Was she happy to do it? Was she happy to see me when I was born? What was her purpose? Her goal to do that? Could I meet her one day?”

The Delivery
Jourgeaud and Lemazurier were in the room with Smith during the delivery and Jourgeaud says they shared the tears, energy, giggles, pain and emotion.
“It was the scariest and the most beautiful day of our life,” Jourgeaud says. “It was so amazing to become parents, dad and dad, Papa and Papa.”

Smith says she was surprised to learn her midwife would be Kaz Hiroe from Valemount.

“It was amazing to have someone from home in the delivery room.”

“There was lots of crying as (Marin) entered the world,” she said. “Only a few seconds of crying though by baby. I could see the joy radiating from the dads.”

She said at the moment of birth she was “in a bit of a haze” but Lemazurier and Jourgeaud were “nothing but supportive and loving.”

“They never left my side and were great at getting or doing anything I needed. Like turning out the lights and keeping me cold.”

Smith does not have children of her own at home, but about ten years before she donated her eggs and has a biological son. It’s through the parents of her biological son, Ron and

Jacky, that she met Lemazurier and Jourgeaud. Smith stayed with Ron and Jacky during the weeks leading up to the birth, and the couple helped during the delivery, putting on music or taking photos and videos.

“They opened their home to us and we are forever glad they did. The five of us are more than just friends that met through uncommon circumstances. We are family.”

Advice for couples considering surrogacy
Jourgeaud and Lemazurier say for couples considering surrogacy, it’s important to be prepared to live an extraordinary journey.

“It’s not easy everyday, with bad days and good days, with doubts, with failures, with a lot of tears….

But be organized, never give up, try everything you need to, to be what you want to be: just parents.”

And the most important?

“Choose the right person who will carry your baby; this is the key.”

The three visited a lawyer from the very beginning, and before leaving Vancouver they signed the proper documents in order to get Marin’s birth certificate.

Smith says she is recovering.

“My recovery is going very well. Still being sure to take it easy and not push myself.”

Smith says there are no specific support set ups for surrogates, just the health nurse for any woman who gives birth.

The new family is back in Montreal, enjoying life like normal parents, Jourgeaud says. “Our son is in really good health and we continue to exchange with Melanie everyday.”

Smith plans to visit Marin and the dads in Montreal.