After three failed attempts at IVF, former supermodel and now CEO of By Caprice products, Caprice Bourret’s hopes of having the children she so desperately wanted were fading fast when she made the difficult decision to pursue surrogacy.
But in an incredible turn of events, one month into her carrier’s pregnancy Caprice also fell pregnant and she now has two beautiful sons, Jax and Jett. She shares her amazing story with Fertility Road, advising couples in similarly tough circumstances to “never give up hope”.
Caprice is a woman trying to change negative connotations – it’s not a new stance. As a model, as a businesswoman and as a television personality she has done similar, but she would scarcely have believed you if two decades ago when she burst onto the fashion scene, you’d told her she would be pursuing such arguments with fertility the subject. But it’s an argument that deserves to be heard – her story is simple; it’s about supporting other women through infertility issues; in fact she has assisted nine ladies who now have beautiful, healthy children, who all nearly gave up after numerous unsuccessful attempts.
“I would have done anything. I would have moved to Alaska, I would have moved to Timbuktu.” Caprice may be well known in the UK for her extensive modelling career and highly successful By Caprice products business, but few people are aware of the struggle she went through to become a mother.
After three failed IVF attempts her hopes for children were fading fast until she and her partner Ty Comfort turned to gestational surrogacy, which yielded great results. One month after the successful implantation came the second miracle in Caprice’s fertility journey as she fell pregnant naturally. Wind forward and the native Californian now lives in London with her partner and two sons, who are now almost two: biological brothers born one month apart.
Like many women embarking on IVF, Caprice knows too well the stress and anxiety the process can cause. “It’s a tough road,” she says. “Emotionally, it’s very challenging and I think the worst part is those 10 days or two weeks waiting to see if the embryo took.”
For the 43-year-old, it appeared that her infertility issues were not down to the actual fertilisation of the egg but a uterine condition whereby the womb was apparently unable to support the fertilised embryo. “I went through three different attempts until the doctor said ‘Listen Cap, we’ve got a medical issue here and I can’t rectify it.’” At 40, she decided the only other viable option was to find a surrogate to carry her child to full term.
Despite her initial disappointment, it was of course IVF that made the surrogacy possible and Caprice is passionate about supporting other women going through the treatment. She extols the virtues of healthy eating and holistic techniques to support the process, stating: “I started really taking care of myself. Taking my vitamins, taking my folic acid and avoiding alcohol and caffeine, especially during the IVF, as this is a really important time to look after yourself.” She also found meditation to be helpful and is especially emphatic about using acupuncture to boost fertility, which appears to reduce stress, increase blood fl ow to reproductive organs and balance the endocrine system. In fact, a recent study from Tel Aviv University indicated that 65.5% of the group receiving acupuncture treatment were able to conceive compared to the 39.4% who did not receive the alternative treatment. “My acupuncture sessions cost me £35 each,” Caprice recalls. “IVF really takes its toll on your body physically and emotionally, so there’s a lot to consider and it’s good to look after yourself. I did absolutely everything.”
After deciding to take the route of gestational surrogacy, Caprice wasn’t about to leave anything to chance when it came to choosing the carrier of her child. “We wanted someone who was religious and had good morals, had their own children and was in a loving relationship,” she explains. “It would ideally be someone who was open to eating only organic foods during pregnancy and had never smoked, drank or taken drugs. We also wanted somebody who was happy… really happy and very nurturing, like your stereotypical mum. And you know what? We found her!” she smiles.
Naturally, it is vital when choosing a surrogate to find a woman who is able to cope with the emotional processes involved – something Caprice was very conscious of. “It was her first time being a surrogate but she had a great support system. Her kids were really excited about her doing it and emotionally she was and is a very solid lady.” The entrepreneur and her partner also decided to go through the process in Caprice’s homeland of America where there exist many agencies that assist in matching parents to surrogates; a vital element in making the process less daunting: “I found an agency that I really loved, they were quite nurturing and open. They sent us over a number of resumes and we shortlisted about four ladies who we met several times.”
Whilst gestational surrogacy is a viable option for many, there is an ambiguity about it from a legal standpoint. In the UK, the biological parents of the child have no legal rights until adoption papers are signed post-birth, meaning that in the event of the surrogate changing her mind she can legally keep the child, even if a contract has been signed and her expenses paid. “In the United States, not in all the states but some, the carrier could not just take off with our child, it is legally our child,” Caprice explains. Legal issues aside, there are extensive costs to consider with surrogacy and this was perhaps an easier option for Caprice than other women who may not be unable to finance the process. With all this in mind, she implores women to ensure they know what their rights are and avoid choosing a surrogate in a country that is unregulated. “Just don’t take that chance… you never know,” she warns.
No-one could have predicted what happened next in Caprice and Ty’s path to parenthood. One month into the pregnancy of her surrogate, Caprice herself fell pregnant naturally, to her amazement. “It was the most incredible news and we couldn’t believe it had happened. And from the very moment we found out, I loved being pregnant. I loved every single second of it and if my body could, I would have 10 more.” Inevitably this turn of events piqued press interest, despite the couple doing their best to keep the situation private. “A national newspaper came to us saying they were going to print the story and I said ‘well it’s not entirely true’ but they insisted,” says Caprice, “so after talking to my entire family we decided that we would share it because if the story is going to be printed it better be right. To us it’s such a great story anyway; it’s an inspirational story!” she laughs. “Yes, it is a very personal journey but I’m really happy to share it with people because we were so blessed, and I want people to have hope. I want people to know there are options out there and I want people to know that these options worked for me. I want them to remember too that Mother Nature can step in at any point and surprise us!”
After such a long wait the birth of their first son was especially moving for Caprice and Ty. “With my first child, I was eight months pregnant in the 40 hospital room holding my carrier’s hand and I saw my son come out. I cut the umbilical cord and it was the most… I can’t even put it into words! It was probably one of the happiest days of my life. The whole room broke down crying, and I just stripped off all my clothes, I didn’t care who was watching or who was in the room. I put my firstborn son to my chest and I didn’t let him go.”
One month later her second son was born by Caesarean section. A complication saw the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, hence the move away from a natural birth. Caprice says her only thought was “you know what, I’ve come this far, I’m not going to take any chances.”
Reflecting on her miraculous experience, Caprice is full of gratitude for her children. “This is one of those things in life where you get complacent and you forget to appreciate; you forget to thank the higher power of God or whatever you believe in, but when I had my two baby boys, from the day they were both born and to this very day, I thank God every single day. It sounds a bit cheesy but it’s so true. I went through so much and both were miracles, literally miracles.”
The couple decided not to reveal to the press which of their sons was born via the surrogate but Caprice says that she will tell the boys when the time is right. “When they’re old enough to understand, you better believe I’m going to be loud and proud about it. But they should be the first ones to know and it’s none of anyone else’s business – it’s irrelevant to the whole world because both of them are biologically mine.”
Ty and Caprice have also decided to maintain a strong, constant and positive relationship with the woman who carried their son, keeping up a regular correspondence and visiting her when they are in the States. “She’s such a lovely, lovely lady and she’s still a very big part of our life; whenever we go to see her my sons call her ‘aunty’.”
Understandably, Caprice feels incredibly blessed and is passionate about supporting other women who are struggling with infertility. She blames a lot of this struggle on the pressures we now face in the modern world, and the diffi cult balance between having children earlier and working hard to build a secure life for your family. “It’s such a natural thing for us ladies to want to have children and if we’re having a hard time doing it we’ve got to know about these options, especially in today’s world. We’re mumpreneurs, we’re working now and it’s very expensive out there! You need to be two-income families. Sometimes we don’t really get going in our careers until our mid-thirties and that’s when things start to get a little bit more diffi cult, but ultimately we work so hard so we can be responsible and give a proper upbringing to these children.”
During IVF treatment, Caprice believes the most important thing is to keep as well and calm as possible even though she freely admits it can be hard to stay positive. She insists too that, ultimately, the experience made her not only stronger as a woman but also served to strengthen the bond between her and Ty. “For my relationship I needed to stay positive. You can’t go down into that little rabbit hole and stay there because the longer you stay hidden away the harder it is to get out.”
Caprice believes everybody needs to talk more openly about fertility issues, not just couples who are trying to have children. She admits her experience was made all the more stressful because it felt like the whole world was watching, but is determined that her story inspires people and, ultimately, provides hope.
“We need to support each other! It is hard on us emotionally and we need to be open about this; we need to talk about this; we need to be proud of our stories and help those women going through it. The more people who speak about it, the more I think we’ll see success stories because these women need support. I needed support! I mean, I thought it was a taboo, I wasn’t telling anyone. I was telling my mum and Ty’s parents and that’s it!”
Away from fertility, Caprice has enjoyed and continues to forge an incredible career. She’s appeared on the cover of over 250 magazine covers including Vogue, Sports Illustrated and Esquire, she’s acted in films and onstage in London’s West End and has created a hugely successful business. But she confesses that motherhood is her most fulfi lling role and the only thing that makes her truly happy. It’s no wonder then that she has become a beacon of hope for those who are considering fertility treatment. “I would recommend anyone to go down the IVF route and when you are going through it, be open about it and supportive and loving towards other people.” She says there is still a long way to go in the process of destigmatising fertility treatment, and will keep supporting and talking and hoping to make a difference.
By being open about her personal experience and offering support, Caprice hopes she can lift the taboo regarding IVF and gestational surrogacy and make a significant and positive difference. She may just achieve that…