EVERY time Annie Peverelle feels a tumbling sensation inside her belly or sees a sharp elbow jut out beneath her skin, she feels a high like nothing she’s felt before.
Annie is four months pregnant but the baby moving around inside her is not hers.
Supplied Annie was desperate to know what pregnancy felt like without becoming a mum at the end
She is merely the surrogate and the baby – when it arrives this winter – will go to a couple living 83 miles away.
Remarkably, this will be Annie’s fourth time as a surrogate mother yet she has no children of her own.
Annie, 40, an administrator from Rugby is what is known as a “bumpaholic”, addicted not to drugs or alcohol, but to the feeling of being pregnant.
Annie was desperate to know what pregnancy felt like without becoming a mum at the end.
Supplied Annie, pictured with a couple she was able to help, says she loves being a surrogate
Keeping up with the Kardashians
Surrogacy is becoming increasingly common in the UK, partly due to the legalisation of same-sex marriage and the celebrity factor certainly plays a part too.
Elton John, Nicole Kidman, and Sarah Jessica Parker have all used surrogates to complete their families.
There’s even speculation this week that Skepta has enlisted a surrogate’s services after he cryptically posted a picture of a baby scan without revealing the identity of the mother.
Then, of course, there’s Kim Kardashian West who famously introduced her surrogate for her third child, Chicago, to members of her family.
Not only did this normalise the entire process but seeing svelte Kim K have her much longed-for third child without a hint of stretchmark or baby weight will no doubt have given other body-conscious women food for thought. She also spoke of her relief at not having to breastfeed.
And while there are no accurate figures due to the informal nature of surrogacy agreements, Surrogacy UK celebrated its 150th baby born this way in 2016 and the numbers continue to grow.
PA:Press Association Kim and Kanye had their third child, a daughter, with the help of a surrogate
Addicted to pregnancy
With an estimated 3.5 million couples in Britain who struggle with fertility and only 30 “official” surrogates active in Britain, there is far more demand for baby mamas than supply.
But there are still women out there who are addicted to having other people’s babies.
For Annie, most of the pleasure comes simply from helping others and knowing she is creating a family for a couple that can’t carry their own child.
Kim Kardashian introduces her surrogate La’Reina to her family on KUWTK nearly two months after she gave birth to baby Chicago
“I’d seen my sisters and friends go through pregnancy and witnessed that miracle from the outside but I desperately wanted to know how it felt without actually being a mother at the end of it,” she says.
“I used to talk about it in the office and it became a bit of a joke, but when someone mentioned surrogacy it sowed a seed in my brain and I started looking into it properly.
“I loved the idea of helping a couple to have a child when they couldn’t do it themselves. That was my end goal.”
Supplied Annie’s wedding was attended by all the parents and children she’s helped through surrogacy
‘I had no feelings for the baby’
Under British law commercial surrogacy is prohibited and surrogates can only charge expenses, so in the majority of cases, money is no incentive.
When Annie made the decision to join Surrogacy UK (SUK) in July 2011, she was single and excited about the idea of going to the organisation’s social events where prospective surrogates and “intended parents” meet up.
“I met my partner just before going to my first social and I told him immediately about my desire to be pregnant, but that being a mum wasn’t important to me,” says Annie.
“He was nine years older than me and had older children so thankfully he could see how much I wanted to do this and understood.”
Annie had her first baby as a surrogate – for a woman born without a womb – in February 2013.
“I just loved being pregnant,” says Annie. “I was really lucky and had no bad symptoms whatsoever but I just enjoyed feeling this baby growing inside me and at the same time growing my friendship with this couple.
“They came to every scan and were in touch most days to check in with me and I’d always video call them when my stomach was moving so they could share in the excitement.”
Annie’s family and friends were worried about how she’d feel when the baby was born, but Annie admits to feeling nothing.
“We’d agreed the baby would go straight to her parents after she was born and I watched them having that first skin to skin contact and felt the most amazing sense of pride,” she says.
“But I had no feelings towards the baby. I did have a cuddle with her afterwards but it just felt like I was cuddling my friend’s daughter.”
PA:Press Association Elton John’s two sons with David Furnish were born to a surrogate mother
The adrenaline rush of pregnancy
However, in the weeks after the birth, Annie did miss the feeling of being pregnant.
“I just like growing babies, and having something moving inside me,” she says.
Fertility counsellor and psychotherapist Charlene Jany says these feelings can be quite common among surrogates.
She says: “Some women can feel a thrill almost like an adrenaline rush when they are pregnant but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to go ahead and be a mother or have any more children.
“But they will still go through the ups and downs of pregnancy so a woman going into this for the first time needs to be aware of the emotional toll it might take on her and her family.”
Kim Kardashian talks about the challenges of surrogacy and her ‘inner struggle’ of not being able to get pregnant
Making babies to make friends
Annie went onto being a surrogate two more times; once for a couple where the woman had endometrial cancer (she is now carrying their sibling) and another time for a same sex couple.
“I’m going to do this pregnancy then a sibling for the same sex couple and then I’m done,” says Annie.
“Pregnancy does take a lot out of you and it’s a lot for my partner too – they are the unsung heroes of this story as they have to endure the pregnancies without any outcome.
“But we have made such strong friendships through this.
“My partner and I got married recently with just 20 people attending and nine of them – six adults and three children – were the friends and children we’ve created through surrogacy.”
Friendship and the community that surrogacy creates seems to be a big factor in deciding whether to become a surrogate.
Supplied Sarah was also desperate to see what pregnancy is like without becoming a mum at the end
‘I liked the feeling of him moving inside me’
A recent report by SUK revealed that most surrogates receive less than £15,000 in expenses (the average is £10,859), and wouldn’t want to be paid a fee even if it was legal to do so.
Many surrogates do it more than once and most maintain long-term contact with the intended parents and their children.
Sarah Holder veered towards surrogacy because of the experiences of her aunt.
“When I was 16, she struggled to have children and I remember it being so hard for her and that feeling of wanting to help people like her just stuck,” recalls Sarah, 26, a support worker from Birmingham, who gave birth to her first surrogate child 18 months ago.
Supplied Sarah signed up to Surrogacy UK and matched with a couple who couldn’t carry their own children
“At 22 I’d just split up with my boyfriend and it felt like the right time to explore surrogacy. I really wanted to experience pregnancy but wasn’t ready to have children of my own.”
Sarah signed up with Surrogacy UK and was matched with a couple who couldn’t carry their own children because the intended mother had cervical cancer and undergone a hysterectomy.
Sarah spent three months getting to know the couple before agreeing to become their surrogate and falling pregnant through IVF in April 2016.
“It wasn’t a great pregnancy and I had constant backache and was very tired all the time,” says Sarah.
“I didn’t feel attached to the baby at all throughout the pregnancy but I liked the feeling of him moving around inside me and I’d record the movements for my intended parents and they came to every scan.”
Supplied Sarah needed a C-section for the birth because the baby was in breech
Supplied Sarah has maintained a close friendship with the family she helped to create
The baby was breech so Sarah had a planned c-section and agreed the baby should go straight to his intended parents.
“I was happy just to look at him in their arms,” says Sarah.
“They were so happy. For them, it was a dream come true and that was enough for me. I didn’t feel anything for the baby. I didn’t have baby blues, I didn’t cry.
“I held him briefly on the first night and gave him a bottle and changed his nappy but it was quite unemotional.
“My milk came in for a week but then I went back to my pre-pregnancy shape and it was almost like the nine months had never happened.”
Supplied Sarah says she loved the feeling of being able to help someone else