When Jess Brockie made the selfless decision to be a surrogate mother for one of her closest childhood friends, she knew she was in for an emotional ride. But tragically, she was in for a far more tumultuous journey than she could ever have imagined.
Mother-of-two Jess – the wife of All Whites star Jeremy Brockie – made the incredible, selfless decision to carry the first child of Bec (30) and Gareth Arena (30), as her friend Bec longed to be a mother, but was told she'd be unable to carry a child due to complications from having cystic fibrosis (CF).
"Poor Jeremy," Jess (30) reflects, speaking exclusively to New Zealand Woman's Weekly. "I hadn't even talked to him and I said, 'Oh, I could probably carry the baby if that's all you needed!' I was lucky to have had really easy pregnancies and I'd known Bec a lifetime – I knew she'd be a great mum."
But tragically, Bec's health took a sudden and unexpected turn, and she passed away, while Jess was just 20 weeks pregnant with her child.
Jess – who lives in Johannesburg while Jeremy (30) plays in South Africa's Premier Division football – was at the airport, ready to fly back to her hometown of Townsville, Australia to be with Bec when Gareth called her with the horrendous news.
"It was devastating," says Jess quietly. "That was a horrible trip home alone. There was nothing we could do."
Jess focused on keeping strong for those around her, and for the piece of Bec that was left in the world – managing to safely delivering a baby boy, Rixon James Arena on January 20. Gareth – who will now raise his son solo – was in the delivery room to meet his son and cut the umbilical cord. "Gareth is doing a phenomenal job as a first-time mum and dad," says Jess.
"It's really special to think there's a part of Bec still in the world."
To read the full, incredible story, grab the latest issue of New Zealand Woman's Weekly - out now!