The extraordinary way these sisters came to be in the world

Photo: supplied
Photo: supplied 

Little Lexie Lovett tenderly kisses her sleeping baby sister - it's a picture perfect sibling moment. But it will be years before the two girls understand the dogged determination, personal sacrifice and exceptional generosity it took to create their special kind of family.

Natalie Lovett was told she was at the end of the IVF road when she decided to take matters into her own hands. Having tried to conceive since the age of 39, firstly with a partner and then as a single woman, Natalie found herself at age 46 with only one option left; to source donor eggs and donor sperm in the US, and attempt to conceive that way.

Natalie conceived daughter Lexie, who was born in March 2014 and, in the hope of giving her a sibling, transferred one more embryo in July 2015, which was unsuccessful.

Natalie and her daughter Lexie.
Natalie and her daughter Lexie. Photo: supplied

Natalie had promised herself only two transfers would take place due to the cost involved and the precious time spent away from Lexie. Natalie was now in a highly unusual position; she had to let the clinic know what she wanted to do with the remaining embryos. All 24 of them. Destroying them wasn't an option for Natalie and it weighed heavily on her that her daughter would not have the family unit she had envisioned.

She decided to give Lexie a village of her very own. The embryos, all full biological siblings to Lexie, would be donated to people who were struggling with conceiving a first child. In return the recipient parents would need to agree that, if a child was born from the embryo donation, the family would commit to a "dibling" get together at least once a year.  

"With closed donors, lack of grandparents, no siblings, only one set of grandparents who were growing older, and her aunts and cousins living far away, I felt like I had set Lexie up for feelings of loss for the family she'd never have," Natalie told Essential Baby.

We documented Natalie's journey in September 2015. In April that year she had appeared on The Project stating she had 24 embryos she wanted to donate to people struggling with infertility. She was consequently inundated with requests from people all over the world China, US - about 600 in all - and set about the bittersweet process of elimination.

Her criteria were that they had to be from Australia, aged between 35 and 50, and hadn't yet had a child. They also had to be able to fund the process and attend the same clinic in San Diego.

"It was exhausting and incredibly sad," she recounted. "At night I'd sit up for hours reading the stories and go to sleep emotionally spent from the pain and the heartbreak, the sadness and disappointment. There are a lot of people out there really struggling, and no-one is helping them."

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Of course, the question on everyone's lips concerns how many siblings Lexie now has in the world.

It's a question that will be answered in her upcoming book, Lexie's Village - The Story of a New Kind of Family, due out in Augustbut Natalie did give us some details.

So far, all families have been chosen and 19 of the embryos have been transferred, with five more to go in the next two to three months. 

We also know that at least one of two known recipient pregnancies has been successful - Lexie now has a full genetic sister born in April 2016. In the mix of recipients are three single mums (by choice), two heterosexual couples and one same sex couple, in addition to different cultural backgrounds.

"I really wanted to diversify the village to reflect the world outside. I wanted my daughter and her diblings (donor siblings) to get a real perspective that there are different types of families," said Natalie. 

Being self-funded she's seeking help through a Kickstarter campaign. People can pledge $30 to pre-order a copy of the book, with other pledging options available.

"I've not had an income in 18 months," she said, having devoted all of her time and attention to the book, its sequel The Recipients' Stories, and her young daughter.

For more on the book, see the video below and make sure you pre-order a copy of this extraordinary story to find out how many children are now part of this family village.