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‘Every day I spend with my sassy little threenager is a miracle’: TV presenter Laura Boyd on becoming a mum against the odds

© Andrew CawleyLaura Boyd with her daughter Penelope
Laura Boyd with her daughter Penelope

Today will be Laura Boyd’s fourth Mother’s Day with her beautiful daughter Penelope by her side.

But the STV presenter and charity campaigner is clearly still pinching herself that she is a mum at all.

“She’s the wee girl I always dreamed of,” says Boyd, as she cuddles the precious toddler during a P.S. cover shoot. “She just makes me so happy. It sounds like a cliché but every day with her is a blessing and truly magical. There’s no doubt that motherhood is the absolute best job in the world.”

It’s been 14 years since Boyd, now 42, was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia, a cancer affecting the white cells in the blood. And just over four since she and husband Steven received the shattering news that it was too risky for them to try to start a family.

“Having children was always a possibility after my cancer diagnosis because biologically it’s possible,” she explains.

“I knew I always wanted to have kids so when I received the cancer diagnosis one of the first things I asked was, ‘Will I still be able to have children?’ and it was very much, ‘Yes, hopefully that should be the case. Put that to the back of your mind just now and let’s get it under control.’

“So that’s what we did. When we wanted to try for kids, I would have to come off my medication, which I did. Some people can come off the medication and be OK but for me the cancer flared back up.”

Laura Boyd at home with three-year-old daughter Penelope © Andrew Cawley
Laura Boyd at home with three-year-old daughter Penelope

The couple, from Glasgow, began looking at options like IVF. But when Boyd went to hospital for a routine appointment, doctors delivered the desperate news that the cancer was increasing too quickly.

“The doctors said I needed to go back on to my medication and stop trying,” she recalls. “Long story short, if I got pregnant, it could get to a stage where they would have to decide whether we save me or the baby. It was too risky. It completely floored me – and just felt like cancer was taking another thing away from my life.”

Boyd, a well-known face as entertainment reporter for STV News and What’s On Scotland, was left with no choice but to accept she may never become a mum but that’s when her sister-in-law stepped in to offer her a priceless gift.

Steven’s sister Jayne Ford-Anderson saw how desperate her sibling and his wife were to start a family so she volunteered to be their surrogate.

“We were all over the place wondering what we could do when Jayne came to us with the offer of a lifetime,” says Boyd.

“The suggestion came completely out of the blue. We hadn’t even considered surrogacy. Yet strangely it felt like the most natural thing.

“It wasn’t something we had to mull over for ages. I couldn’t believe she would do this for us but she really wanted to. It was an amazing gesture.”

The trio set out on a long road of IVF treatment together in an attempt to make a baby that biologically belonged to the couple, using Laura’s eggs and Steven’s sperm, with physiotherapist Jayne carrying their genetic offspring.

“It wasn’t an easy process by any means,” admits Boyd. “It was actually our last embryo, the last viable one, that took. I really thought this was never going to happen and that we were just going through the motions, just because it was there.

“A couple of weeks later we were due to have the phone call from Jayne. We’d had those calls before where it hadn’t worked out and I was expecting the same again. Suddenly Steven said, ‘Jayne’s coming up the drive.’ We opened the door and she was waving a test in her hand. It was positive. That was an incredible moment.”

Laura and Penelope with sister-in-law surrogate Jayne Ford-Anderson © Andrew Cawley
Laura and Penelope with sister-in-law surrogate Jayne Ford-Anderson

Over the coming months the couple joined Ford-Anderson for scans throughout the pregnancy and attended the birth of baby Penelope.

“It must have looked quite odd, the three of us turning up at hospital for appointments but we just navigated it like that,” Boyd explains.

“From the word go, Jayne was of the mindset that she was carrying her niece and kept us posted on everything, when the baby was kicking and all that.

“Because she was my sister I didn’t feel any anxiety at all. What probably sounds like a bizarre process was actually so natural.

“The funny thing was because I wasn’t the one who was pregnant, at my baby shower I was allowed to have a few drinks while poor Jayne had to politely refuse. So really, having a surrogate, I had the best of both worlds!”

She adds, laughing: “I’m sure the birth wasn’t very relaxing for Jayne but we had a great time. She was on the gas and air and we were passing round the sandwiches.

“The midwives were so interested in our story. When Penelope was about to come they let me help guide her out. That was just so special. I got to hold her immediately, then Steven and Jayne and (Jayne’s husband) Danny. It never felt awkward. It was just so natural.”

And now, three years on, being a mum has proved a natural transition for Boyd too.

“Penelope is just amazing, a little miracle,” she says. “She’s a bundle of absolute joy. We just have so much love for her.

“She’s still too young to understand her story. But I’m becoming more aware of it because she’s obsessed with babies and always wants to look back at pictures of her as a newborn. Of course, Auntie Jayne is in them all.

“Probably in a year or a couple of years we’re going to have to explain it all and that’s fine.

“We’re ready to tell her everything that happened…Mummy was too sick to carry her so Auntie Jayne did. And I think that will just be accepted.”

Boyd considers herself lucky that the surrogacy went smoothly but says it’s been a “long road” to get there.

“I’m sure it’s not always as straightforward as this. The legal stuff is difficult but on the whole it was an incredible experience.

“Penelope is just the icing on the cake. We couldn’t imagine life without her. Of course, we’re into the ‘threenager’ years…She’s full of sass, already into my lipstick and telling me what she wants to wear and what she’s not wearing!

“But that’s all part of parenting and her becoming her own little personality just makes us love her even more. As for another baby, I don’t know if I would do the surrogacy option again. I’m trialling being off drugs just now – not for that – but to give my body a bit of a break.

“My results are pretty steady. It’s something I would never say never to but it took us so long to get our little family, I don’t know if I could do that again.

“We were so lucky with Jayne and how it was that I think it would maybe be different with somebody else. But really Penelope completes us. She’s amazing and we just cannot imagine life without her.”

Ford-Anderson, 43, who has two boys of her own, Joshua, 10, and Luke, 7, enjoyed the surrogacy experience, describing it as a learning curve not only for herself and Boyd but for others too.

“The reactions were mixed as there seems to be a bit of fear and lack of understanding around surrogacy,” she says. “Some people said nothing – and that said it all really.

“Because I work with patients, I’m quite open. People would ask me about my pregnancy and I would be very honest about the fact that I was carrying my niece, and the baby was for my brother.

“I got lots of different comments. One woman said, ‘I could never give up my child, I can’t believe that you can do this’. And I said: ‘But it’s not my child. I couldn’t give up my child either, but this isn’t my child.’

“Some people would ask me how my brother and I could make a baby. And I would say, ‘We can’t make a baby because we are brother and sister!’ But it’s quite nice when people do ask, because then you can actually answer those questions.

“On the whole people were very positive and lovely about it. They would open up about the struggles that they were having or their daughters were having trying to become pregnant or people in the family that had experienced adoption or surrogacy or similar situations.

“The fact is surrogacy isn’t really talked about. People don’t realise the option of going down the IVF route means it doesn’t necessarily need to be them that goes through the IVF. It could be your egg but a family member could be your surrogate.

“I wish more family members would offer to do it because we’ve had such a positive experience.

“Danny and I were very assured and accepting of our motivations and reasons for offering to be a surrogate.

“We were at a place in our lives where we were completely fulfilled and happy, so we were really psychologically secure in what we were doing, the decisions that we were making.”

She adds: “I’m not one of those Mother Earth types who loves being pregnant. I understand the changes within your body, like the varicose veins, and you just have to give in to that.

“It’s not glamorous but because our children bring us so much joy, I would want that for anybody. I couldn’t take Laura’s cancer away but I could help her build the family that she and Steven wanted.”

Thankfully Penelope was third time lucky when it came to an easy birth.

“I had a difficult time with the boys,” she says, “but it was all pretty straightforward for Penelope which made it a lovely experience for us all.

“It was an eight-hour labour, there were no forceps, there was no massive drama like the other two. And the midwives we had were amazing. It couldn’t have worked out better if we tried.

“It was all worth it. I see how much love Laura and Steven and Penelope have for each other as a family and that makes me happy.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how your child gets here. Whether you birth your child or not, or whether your child has come to you through adoption or fostering, you will love that child with all your heart and it’s a love like no other.

“But hopefully hearing our story, people will realise it’s an option or it might encourage families to have that discussion and give people confidence to explore surrogacy and see if it’s right for their family.”

Mums’ step into the unknown

Pregnant Jayne and Laura in 2019
Pregnant Jayne and Laura in 2019

When Laura Boyd and sister-in-law Jayne Ford-Anderson embarked on their surrogacy journey they had little information or notion of what to expect.

Organisations like Surrogacy UK and Brilliant Beginnings can help but Boyd and Ford-Anderson did it hand in hand with the hospital. They did, however, have to research the legalities.

Ford-Anderson said: “Because the surrogate is the legal mother until the baby is born, I was protected by all the maternity rights that you would have having your own child.

“That’s what enabled me to do this. If I hadn’t been able to have time off work to go to clinic appointments, or if I wasn’t recognised as a legal mother, then there would have been financial implications. And that might take surrogacy out of reach of people who can’t afford it.

“Once I was able to inform my employer and I could find the documentation on the NHS website about surrogacy, there was no question. It was there in black and white.

“I even got maternity leave, which was really good for recovery – and spending a bit of time with the boys.

“When I was pregnant, they didn’t have their mum lifting them up or running around with them in the soft play. I was three stone overweight and huffing and puffing and not managing those things.

“So afterwards it was great to have that time with them and get myself back.”