Marie Kruger Interview

Some things in life are a little tough to go at alone – whether it’s starting a family or finding a steady income. These women share their stories…

‘She offered to be our surrogate and we couldn’t have been more grateful’

L awyer Marie Kruger, 37, lives in lephalale with her husband awie and twin six-month-old daughters annabel and nina, who were born via surrogacy by her cousin’s wife, Marelie. After our wedding in 2010, Awie and I started trying for a baby. But two years later, I still hadn’t fallen pregnant and we were worried something might be wrong. We saw a number of fertility specialists who suggested that we try artificial insemination and in vitro fertilisation. It was an exhausting and emotional process – I fell pregnant, then miscarried, three times. In January 2014 we made the trip to Johannesburg to see a new specialist, who could maybe give us answers.

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We tried another year of IVF, but when I kept miscarrying, the doctor did more tests, and discovered that I had one abnormal ovary and my uterus was not functioning normally. This meant it was unlikely that I would ever be able to carry a baby to term. If we wanted to start a family, we would have to look into other options. Our first choice was surrogacy, so we harvested my healthy eggs in July 2015. tHe JOurney We were placed on a waiting list to find a suitable surrogate for 14 months. During that time, a friend of ours offered to be our surrogate but unfortunately it didn’t work out. We’d been through so much, and each disappointment crushed our hopes of being parents even further. That was until January 2017. I was on a family holiday when Marelie – who is married to my cousin Gerhard – pulled me aside one morning, and said that after much discussion with her husband, she wanted to be our surrogate. I was really surprised and overwhelmed and didn’t even mention it to Awie as I didn’t want to give him false hope. But on the last day of the trip, Marelie said that she was serious and wanted to know the next steps. When I told Awie he was happy but also sceptical – after so much disappointment it was difficult to get too excited.

But Marelie and Gerhard stayed true to their word. We travelled between Limpopo and Pretoria, where they live, for the required legal consultations and doctors’ check-ups. Seven months later, the first embryo transfer was a success, and our journey to parenthood finally began. We were even more amazed to learn that we were expecting twins. By law, you aren’t allowed to pay a surrogate to carry your child, but we took care of all the medical expenses. Although everything seemed to be fine, we held our breath throughout the nine months – hoping there wouldn’t be any more disappointment. Marelie was amazing during the pregnancy – she watched what she ate and kept fit. On 27 February this year our daughters were born at 37 weeks, and it was the best day of my life. We could’ve waited to be matched with a surrogate and it would’ve most likely been a stranger, who I’m certain would not have loved our unborn children the way Marelie did.

Acting as a surrogate isn’t easy, especially as she has a husband and a young son. But without Marelie and her decision to do something so selfless, our family wouldn’t be complete. Marelie engelbrecht, 31, is a teacher and lives with her husband Gerhard and son Henri, two, in pretoria. I was pregnant with Henri when Marie broke the news to our family that they couldn’t conceive. I knew I wanted to be their surrogate, but Gerhard was obviously apprehensive. In 2016, when Henri was eight months old, Gerhard and I talked about helping them again. We were experiencing immense joy as parents and we both wanted that for Marie and Awie, too. From the beginning of the surrogacy process I mentally prepared myself that the babies were not mine. Whenever I felt a kick throughout the pregnancy I’d call Marie to share the news – my happiness came from her excitement. Henri was too young to understand what was really going on and when he did ask, I’d tell him that his cousins were in my tummy. My family were supportive, and while my students were confused at first, they didn’t ask too many awkward questions.

I don’t think I’d offer to be a surrogate for anyone else. It’s not something I set out to do, I just wanted to help my family. For now, I’m giving my body a chance to recover from the last pregnancy, but Gerhard and I would like to add to our family – I’m looking forward to watching our children grow up with their cousins.

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