Meet the mum-of-three who bore her best friend's baby

Leonie and Rebecca have shared a unique experience.
Leonie and Rebecca have shared a unique experience.

After Briar Lee Ashby was born in Manning Base Hospital, Taree she was placed into her excited mum's arms after her dad cut the umbilical cord.

There were tears and sighs of elation as Briar's parents, Rebecca and Brodie welcomed this much anticipated, treasured little girl into the world.

But, also sharing the joy on that September day back in 2017 was little Briar's surrogate mum, Leonie McKinnon and her husband Pete.

Rebecca (Beck) was born with MRKH, a disorder which affects the reproductive system preventing women from becoming pregnant.

Unable to carry a child, Beck and Brodie were unsure if they would ever become parents.

But that all changed after Leonie (Lee) offered to become the couple's surrogate after discussing her generous offer with Pete and the couple's then three teenage children, Hayley now (22), Trent (21) and Molly (17).

"It was a no-brainer for me," Lee said.

When I went into my first ultrasound I didn't feel anything; I had my head in a really good space.

Leonie McKinnon

"My husband and I were in a great place in our relationship and life in general, we had three healthy children and we didn't want any more of our own."

Although cautious in his support of Lee's gracious gesture, primarily because of her ongoing back problems caused through scoliosis, Pete gave his blessing.

"He's been so great," Lee said.

Lee explained she had never experienced any back pain with her previous pregnancies.

"I was quite excited; I loved being pregnant feeling a baby inside me, feeling it kicking. It is something I have treasured.

"I thought that if one of my sisters couldn't have a baby I could do it for them," Lee said.

While commercial surrogacy is illegal in Australia, a woman can carry a baby for someone else as long as she is not paid.

But, Lee was quick to add that becoming a surrogate was not for payment, but as a favour for her friends.

Before embarking on their journey the couples attended a number of mediation and medical sessions to ensure their suitability, while ever thoughtful Lee began to embrace a healthier lifestyle, losing weight and giving up some of her favourite treats.

"I wanted to be healthy because I was carrying a baby for someone else."

Four months after Lee celebrated her 42nd birthday she received one of Beck and Brodie's four embryos.

Just eight days later Lee confirmed her pregnancy to a very excited Beck and Brodie - and an equally delighted Pete and three children.

From the start of her journey Lee determined not to become attached to Peanut, the pet the foursome named Briar before her birth.

"When I went into my first ultrasound I didn't feel anything; I had my head in a really good space. If anything I thought of her as my grandchild."

And her parents have always been open with Briar about her origins.

The family's unique journey has been documented in the recently released A Little Ray of Sunshine - An Australian surrogacy story of love, hope and friendship.

"Whether you're looking to travel the surrogacy path yourself, navigating your own fertility issues, riding the highs and lows of parenthood, or simply someone who loves a happy ending, this story will fill your heart and soul with joy," freelance writer and editor, Leonie Canham said in her forward.