‘It was worth it’: Touching reason surrogate quit retirement at 48 to carry a baby for Radio 1 boss

Derbyshire woman Dawn Allen, 49, offered to be a surrogate for Aled, 45, and Emile Doxey, 43, after they met in January 2019 and became friends

Dawn’s family, Aled and Emile celebrating her positive pregnancy test (Collect/PA Real Life)
Dawn’s family, Aled and Emile celebrating her positive pregnancy test (Collect/PA Real Life)

A former surrogate came out of retirement at the age of 48 to carry a baby for the head of Radio 1, Aled Haydn Jones, and his partner after instantly bonding at an event over “similar music tastes and liking to eat the same food.”

By the time Dawn Allen, 49, met Aled, 45, and his partner Emile Doxey, 43, in January 2019, she was working as a Surrogate Applications and Agreement Coordinator at Surrogacy UK.

Mother to Sam, 28, and Alex, 15, with her archivist’s assistant husband Matthew, 50, she relinquished her role as an active surrogate when she turned 43.

But when a strong friendship developed between her and the two men, Dawn of Matlock, Derbyshire, decided to reprise her surrogate role and had a son for them when she was 48, saying:  “I did wonder, ‘Can I do this again? Am I too old?’

“A lot of clinics won’t take a surrogate over 45, though most women can do it at select clinics until they’re 55.”

She added: “Pregnancy this time was a lot harder. Being older during pregnancy does give risk factors and I had to have conversations with the hospital and midwives about my age and take blood thinners for months.

“But it was all worth it to watch two people I love become parents.”

Dawn was first drawn to becoming a surrogate more than 20 years ago.

She said: “I watched a documentary about surrogacy in the late 1990s. It really resonated with me. I thought, ‘I’m going to do that one day.’

“I met my husband in 2000. About a month into dating, I said to him I was going to be a surrogate. He looked at me like I was bonkers – but 22 years later we’re still together!”

Dawn and baby Luca (Collect/PA Real Life)

Before Dawn became a surrogate, she completed her family with two sons of her own.

She said: “A year after having my youngest son, I started thinking about surrogacy again and came across Surrogacy UK.

“It just felt right. Their ethos about friendship first between the surrogate and the intended parents and with keeping in contact, it all chimed with how I felt.”

Dawn then joined Surrogacy UK, the UK’s leading not-for-profit surrogacy organisation, and had the honour of becoming a surrogate for its first same sex couple.

Their son, born using Dawn as a surrogate and using her egg, is now 10.

(L-R) Matthew, Alex, Dawn, Aled and Emile (Collect/PA Real Life)

She said: “It was so good I decided I wanted to do it again!”

An attempt to help a second couple sadly failed, but Dawn continued as a surrogate and gave birth to a little girl for a third same sex couple in 2015.

Dawn explained her reasons for wanting to be a surrogate, saying: “It was partly for selfish reasons.

“If I was ever in that situation of being unable to have a baby, I hoped somebody would help me out.”

She added: “Me and my husband had a miscarriage before we had our youngest son. Just the thought of being told we couldn’t have the number of children we wanted is devastating.”

(L-R) Aled, Emile, Dawn, Matthew and Alex (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “Knowing I could potentially help someone else who wanted children meant it was almost a no brainer.”

Due to her age, Dawn gave up surrogacy after having the girl, who is now seven, for a couple and started her coordinating role for Surrogacy UK.

It was through one of the organisation’s events for intended parents, surrogates and egg donors looking into surrogacy in 2019 that she first met Aled and Emile.

She said: “I remember seeing Aled across the room and thinking he looked terrified, so I went over and had a chat.

“Someone asked me afterwards if I knew who he was. They said, ‘He’s famous.’ I had no idea!”

Dawn with Aled and Emile (Collect/PA Real Life)

She continued: “We built a friendship and, to them, I was a representative of Surrogacy UK. I’d made it clear I wasn’t ever going to be a surrogate again.

“But we bonded over similar music tastes, liking to eat the same thing. We just built a connection.”

Aled and Emile eventually registered with the organisation and began the search for a surrogate to carry their child.

As they looked, their friendship with Dawn continued to grow and they supported her son, Alex, through a tough time at school.

Dawn said: “Aled and Emile came along to a social and just hung out with Alex all afternoon.”

I did wonder, 'Can I do this again? Am I too old?'

She added: “That evening as Alex went to bed, he told me I had to help them. That got the old cogs working.”

In secret, Dawn then set about finding out if she could still be a surrogate in her late 40s.

Finding a clinic that would treat her, Dawn asked the chairperson of Surrogacy UK to call Aled and Emile to share the surprise – a job she usually does herself.

Dawn said: “I have the amazing privilege of making contact with intended parents to let them know a surrogate or egg donor wants to help them. But in this instance, I had to ask our chairperson to make the call.

“Aled was completely shocked but asked why I wasn’t calling. When she told him it was me who wanted to be their surrogate, he just burst into tears!”

Dawn when pregnant (Collect/PA Real Life)

After working through the organisation’s minimum three month ‘getting to know each other’ period, the trio signed the agreement in January 2020.

Covid delayed their treatment and three failed rounds of IVF followed.

It was a difficult time for all involved, with Dawn saying: “When you go through trying to get pregnant and it doesn’t work, you’re there with the people you are trying to help.

“You’re going through that emotion with them and you do put a lot of expectation on yourself, even though the intended parents don’t do that.”

She continued: “You just want it to work so badly for them.”

Dawn when pregnant with Luca (Collect/PA Real Life)

Fortunately, Dawn eventually fell pregnant early last year using a donor egg.

She said: “Luca was born five weeks early in November 2021. He surprised us all.

“It was snowing here in Derbyshire and I had to drive myself 40 minutes to the hospital, calling Aled and Emile on the way to tell them to get there.”

Despite his early arrival, Luca is now a happy and healthy seven-month-old.

Dawn shares a photo album with Aled and Emile and is kept up to date with all of Luca’s milestones, with the group all meeting up regularly.

Aled, Emile and Dawn at a Surrogacy UK social in October 2019 (Collect/PA Real Life)

She said: “I keep in touch with all of the intended parents I’ve helped and the children.

“I am Auntie Dawn and I love being Auntie Dawn. I get to buy all the annoying, fun presents at Christmas and birthdays. I absolutely love it.”

“I look after and help support over 200 surrogates in my job. You’ve never met a stronger group of women. Surrogates know their own minds, are independent and strong-willed women who want to make a difference.”

Yet, despite her incredible experience when she came out of retirement, Dawn has no plans to be a surrogate again.

She laughed: “No, I won’t. Well, never say never.”

Aled and Dawn’s son Alex enjoying some time together (Collect/PA Real Life)

She continued: “If Aled and Emile wanted to add to their family then I’d certainly consider it.”

She added: “Modern medicine is amazing. Even if I went through the menopause, I could still be a surrogate.”

To share their incredible journey, Dawn, Aled and Emile will be featuring in a  documentary ‘You, me and our baby,’ that airs tomorrow on Welsh-language station S4C and on BBCiPlayer.

Reflecting on her experiences, Dawn said: “The way I look at it, I’m pregnant for nine months. What’s nine months out of my life when you’re giving your friends a lifetime of happiness?”

And Aled and Emile will be eternally grateful to Auntie Dawn for helping them to have their beloved son.

(L-R) Aled, Emile, Dawn, Alex and Matthew enjoying a meal (Collect/PA Real Life)

Aled said: “When I think about what Dawn was willing to give up for us, it is the most incredible thing someone could do for someone else. She’ll always have a very special place in our heart and will always be Auntie Dawn to Luca.

Fatherhood is the most phenomenal experience and everything everyone said it would be.

“I grew up thinking a family wouldn’t be an option for me. The hard bit about coming out was giving up the idea of having that complete family unit, for me and for my mum. I’d always assumed it wouldn’t happen.

“By making our journey public, I hope that at the very least it can open up that ambition to women who might want to give the gift of life like Dawn did. I also want to show other same sex couples and couples who have written off completing their family unit that it is possible. We have our happy ending.”

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