Australian Story: Lexie's Village
A sneak peek at Australian Story - find out how Natalie is making a village of siblings for her daughter AND helping other women at the same time.
Natalie Lovett has accepted that daughter Lexie will be her only child. But that hasn't stopped the devoted mum's efforts to create a tribe of full siblings for her daughter to share her life journey with.
"Firstly, it's all about Lexie and wanting my daughter to have contact with her siblings," Ms Lovett, from Sydney, said.
"Secondly, it's about helping other women and couples who are as desperate as I was to have a baby, but maybe aren't in the financial position I was in to keep going."
Ms Lovett's unique method of providing an extended family for her daughter involves embryo adoption and is as unconventional as her own journey to motherhood.
The Facebook executive, who will appear on ABC's Australian Story tonight, was 39 when she began trying to fall pregnant - first with a partner, then later as a single woman.
After many failed IVF attempts and a miscarriage in Australia, Ms Lovett was 46 when she travelled to the US in order to obtain donor eggs and sperm.
The process of embryo creation from the sperm and eggs was so successful that it not only led to the birth of now 18-month-old Lexie, it also left Ms Lovett with 25 more frozen embryos.
The San Diego clinic where her daughter was conceived called Ms Lovett earlier this year and asked what she would like to do with the embryos.
After years of battling to become a mother herself, Ms Lovett knew she couldn't destroy the precious embryos - so her plan for the most unique mother's group in the country began.
Ms Lovett decided to "adopt" the embryos out to other Australian women desperate to become mothers.
But in order to be chosen as a recipient for an embryo, the would-be parents have to sign a contract agreeing to stay in contact with each other via a private Facebook group, and to attend an annual reunion with all of Lexie's siblings.
"The embryos are full genetic siblings of Lexie, and it's important to me that they go to people who have the same mindset as me in terms of being honest with the children," she said.
"This is my way of guaranteeing that any children resulting from the adoption are told the truth from the very beginning. Honesty is important when it comes to destigmatising donor conception.
"I'm also ensuring Lexie will have the opportunity to get to know her brothers and sisters."
Ms Lovett doesn't receive payment of any type from the adoption of the embryos, and the women must be willing to travel to the US clinic where the embryos are stored then pay approximately $7000 in costs for the implantation to be carried out.
Adopting one of Ms Lovett's excess embryos means the women don't face the $40,000 bill needed if they were to source a donor egg and sperm themselves.
When Ms Lovett's offer was made public during an appearance on Network Ten's The Project in April she was inundated with applications from couples and single women.
"It's difficult deciding who are going to choose to help and who you cannot help," Ms Lovett said.
"At the moment I am focussing on women in their 40s who don't have any previous children.
"Many of these women have faced years of heartbreak in their attempts to have a baby."
It appears Ms Lovett's plan to create a supportive extended family for herself and Lexie is already paying off.
Of the three women who have been chosen to adopt embryos, two are already pregnant. The third woman had an unsuccessful implantation and will soon be heading back to the US for a second attempt.
Through the process Ms Lovett says all four women, including herself, have already created a unique bond and support each other via their Facebook group and get togethers.
"The Sydney women catch up regularly and we all offer support in our Facebook group," she said.
"One of them will say they are feeling sick due to morning sickness and the others will all be cheering them on."
Ms Lovett also recently travelled to San Diego in one last attempt to have a second baby herself. However the embryo implantation failed and the now 48-year-old has accepted she will only ever have one child herself.
"That was something that was difficult to come to terms with, but in a way it has been made easier knowing that Lexie children who are her siblings," she said.
Ms Lovett and the other families who have adopted the embryos understand that one day their children may want to know more about where they came from.
Both the egg and sperm donor used to create the embryos chose to remain anonymous and won't have contact with children resulting from the donation.
"I would have preferred if the donors were open to contact, but I didn't have much time and at that stage it was about maximising the chances of pregnancy," Ms Lovett said.
"I have put our names down on the register in the US, so if either donor ever changes their mind they can find me and find Lexie. I also encourage the other families to do the same."
In the meantime though, Ms Lovett hopes the connection Lexie has with her siblings will provide her with a sense of belonging.
Australian Story will feature Natalie Lovett and 'Lexie's Village' tonight at 8pm on the ABC.