A couple have spoken of their joy after becoming parents to children conceived with the help of two lesbian surrogate mothers.
Tracy and Pete Akoun suffered repeated miscarriages and fell victim to a conwoman as they battled to fulfil their dream.
Disappointed but undeterred, the couple joined a Facebook group for surrogacy and met Tricia Hunt and Kate Fruin-Smith, two lesbians who each have their own partners and children and live in different parts of the UK.
The group came together to create Nyobi and Kenya who were born last summer exactly one month apart.
Ms Fruin-Smith and Mrs Hunt both agreed to become surrogates using their own eggs and Mr Akoun’s sperm.
Mrs Hunt received £750 a month in expenses while Ms Fruin-Smith received £550 a month.
Mrs Akoun, 47, from Portsmouth, accidentally fell pregnant with twins not long after meeting her husband but suffered a miscarriage.
She added: “I saw a programme on This Morning about surrogacy and Pete went away and researched it and asked how I felt about it.”
The couple created a profile on a surrogacy website but were duped by a conwoman into handing over £400.
They were overjoyed to meet Ms Fruin-Smith, but she suggested she only wanted to carry one baby. The couple wanted two children and so approached Mrs Hunt, who was willing to carry a second child.
Both women fell pregnant - using syringes and a Mooncup to carry the sperm - in Autumn 2015.
Mrs Akoun said: “We were absolutely ecstatic. I don’t think Pete took it on board at all. I think he was worried that something might go wrong.
“At the end of the day, you worry until that baby is in your arms. We took each day at a time.”
Nyobi was born to Mrs Hunt two weeks early on June 4, 2016, at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester.
Kenya was born to Ms Fruin-Smith a month later, on July 4, in South Yorkshire.
Under UK law, the surrogate is the child’s legal parent until the intended parents are granted a parental order six weeks after the birth.
Mrs Akoun said she never “thought for one minute” that either woman would not be able to give up the baby.
“The relationship is like family and we’re still in touch - we visit each other,” she added.
“Tricia only lives 20 minutes away, they come around for dinner and we go round to theirs every three or four months.
“I don’t have any jealousy or insecurity when they’re here. To both girls, I am their mum.
“They’ve only ever known me. I did skin to skin when Nyobi was born - the only smell she knew was from me.”
Mr Akoun, 26, who came to the UK from Nigeria in 2009, has also never doubted that the babies would be handed over.
The full-time dad said his daughters are delightful, adding: “They eat well, they sleep well, they play.
“Nyobi is now nine months and Kenya is eight months. When the time is right, we’ll tell them about how they were conceived.”
Mr Akoun was tested for sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) before entering into the surrogacy arrangement.
Mrs Akoun, who has an 18-year-old daughter, Breunne, from a previous relationship, said: “All you ever hear is the negative side of surrogacy. But for every negative story there are 40 or 50 positive ones.
“They are your children from the word go.”
Mrs Hunt, 36, a dog groomer from Chichester, has two sons, Joe, 13, and Bradley, six, from a previous heterosexual relationship.
She also has twin girls, Katie and Jessica, aged two, from her marriage to partner Cathy, 31. Cathy conceived the girls using donor sperm.
Mrs Hunt said: “We’d had help to conceive the girls and we thought we’d try and help somebody else out - it was our way of giving back.
“I wanted to give somebody else what I had.”
Mrs Hunt said there is “always an affection” for the surrogate baby and she would often chat to Nyobi while pregnant.
“But when you meet the intended mother and get to know the couple you’re going to work with, you get involved in their emotion,” she said.
“You see what they have been through, you see that emotion, it’s raw.
“You get invested and you’re desperate to get pregnant for them.
“I remember at the 20-week scan that Pete cried. It’s almost like a drug. I couldn’t wait for them to hold their baby.”
Ms Fruin-Smith, 37, from Rotherham, is in a civil partnership with Rebecca, 28, a stay-at-home mother.
She works in a children’s nursery and has four children from a previous heterosexual relationship; Daniel, 16, Heather, 15, Zoe, 11, and Thomas, nine.
She also has Lily, aged three, with Rebecca, who was conceived with donor sperm.
She said: “When I met Rebecca, we started looking into sperm donation.
“We decided that if we were going to accept help, we could help others. I spent about four or five years to think about it and look into the legalities of it all.”
Ms Fruin-Smith gave birth to a girl, now aged three, for another couple before agreeing to carry for Mr and Mrs Akoun.
She said: “I had no doubts whatsoever about handing the baby over.
“The child was conceived to never be my baby - all through the pregnancy it was their child. Tracy is a very emotional person so it was amazing to see her light up at the scans.
“It’s so rewarding to know you can make that much difference in somebody’s life.”
Sam Everingham, the father of two girls born through surrogacy and founder of Families Through Surrogacy, a not-for-profit organisation, said: “We are seeing a rise in couples trying to access surrogacy in the UK.”
Louisa Ghevaert, a surrogacy, fertility and family law expert, added: “”The law relating to surrogacy in the UK is outdated.
“Reform is needed to remove legal uncertainty for intended parents and surrogate-born children.”