The Tale of Phillipa Whitfield Pomeranz - The Grace Tales

The Tale of Phillipa Whitfield Pomeranz



The road to become a parent is not often straightforward, but rarely is it as winding, long and painful as it was for Philippa Whitfield Pomeranz...

Phillipa – whose nickname Pippy speaks much more to her infectiously positive demeanour – had a path to motherhood that many of us could never even begin to imagine. Following multiple miscarriages and over seven years of fertility treatments, Pippy and her husband Josh devastatingly lost their twin babies, Ellie and Parker – delivered via surrogacy – after less than an hour following their births.

But with the support of their family, friends, surrogate and medical team, they welcomed their third and fourth babies – the beautiful Hunter and Andie, who were four and a half months old at the time of this deliciously adorable photoshoot.   

Australian-born Pippy is based in Los Angeles, where she works as a producer, director and author, working on some of the world’s most engaging television shows. But the title of “mother” is certainly her proudest to date.

We spoke to the humble, open and inspiring Pippy about her journey to motherhood and why the best things in life never come easily.

Photography by Yumi Matsuo


Tell us about life with twins...

It’s crazy, but it’s all we know, and we don’t have a guide. I was looking at them the other day, going, “Wow, if I just had one, there would be a lot more I could do at this point!”


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career?

I started my career at the USC School of Cinematic Arts in LA, which was a long time ago now. I then got my break at E! Entertainment and started working as an associate producer and worked my way up to become a director.

I was in LA for 13 years, and I decided to pop back to Australia. I was thinking of opening the production company that I’d started in America in Sydney. I hadn’t been back for a while when I went into Spectrum Films. It was there that I met Josh Pomeranz, who’s now my husband. So basically, I fell in love with the landlord!

The rest is history. I opened my production company within Spectrum Films. It was a really great time, because I could bring back my knowledge of reality and lifestyle television (that I was producing and directing in the States). It was a couple of years after that when I created the show Fashion Bloggers, which was such an amazing time.


And you’re celebrating your 10-year wedding anniversary with your husband this year…


It hit me recently that we’d been together for 10 years, and we’d been trying for a baby for eight of those. It really did bring it home how long we tried to have a baby. But like most newlyweds, we didn’t want to start a family straight away. We just wanted to enjoy each other first. And I didn’t have that ticking clock. In the beginning, I felt like I had all the time in the world and my focus was on my career. I didn’t really think about it too much. Two years after we started trying – and also having suffered a miscarriage – I did start to wonder what was going on.


You went to get checked, and you were informed that you were healthy, and that Josh's sperm count was excellent. Three years later, you still weren't pregnant. What happened next?


There wasn’t an urgency, but I decided to go on Chinese herbs, as you do. I had a few false alarms, and then that’s when I was like, “Okay, hold on a minute. Something’s not right.” And that’s when I felt that clock, which started going, “Boom! Boom!”


During that time, did you think about it all the time? 


No. You know, that’s the problem. I was so busy in one sense, that I just shoved it to the side. It was not a priority. Because I’m such a positive person, I’d just assume it would happen in a couple of months. I really put my career first and thought about kids second. But it was in the back of my mind, continuing to creep in…


Why did you then make the decision to try IVF?


I spoke about it with my husband and we just decided that it was time to go and get checked out, and to maybe even get a little boost. I didn’t think this would be a journey for another six or seven years. If I did know that, I probably would have done things very differently. I would have focused on it more closely. But then we wouldn’t be here now… So who knows. But never in a million years did I think this would be my journey.


When you were going through IVF, you fell pregnant three times, but miscarried at around two months on each occasion. That must have been completely heartbreaking. How did you get through those times?

My biggest support was my hubby. He was my biggest cheerleader, and he still is. If I didn’t have his support, it would have been very different. He really wanted it because I wanted it. And he just held my hand the whole time, making sure that I still wanted to keep going.
 
My mum was also amazing, as was my mother-in-law, and a handful of girlfriends who were there for me. But honestly, it all just felt really out of control. Sometimes I couldn’t speak. Sometimes I could share. Sometimes it would just be silence. It’s cliché, but sometimes I would just want to sit and cry in the bathroom.
 
Then there were some really random, beautiful new girlfriends who showed up for me, which was totally unexpected but beautiful. These women who came forward and said to me, “Hey listen, I’ve been through this. I’ve got you.”


There is something so beautiful about the bond women experience when they're trying to fall pregnant...

That’s so true. My friends who were mothers wanted me to be a mum too so badly. Every time I had a miscarriage, they would be so upset for me as well. And now I really understand why. At the time, it was just so beautiful for me to have that support, even though I felt extremely lonely. 


Australians rank third among users of international surrogacy, because in Australia, it’s illegal to engage in commercial surrogacy. So you decided to go down the path of a suggorate in the US. How did that decision come about and what was the path like?


Well, when you’re told that there is nothing wrong with you but you’re not getting pregnant, you’ve been through all the miscarriages and you’re not getting any younger … It was our only option, really. We had healthy embryos, so it was really the next step in our process.
 
We went to an agency and we got matched. We also went through an attorney and did everything by the book. This is my biggest advice to people considering surrogacy – make sure you have the proper people in place.

So when we matched with a surrogate and we went to meet her and her husband, it was the weirdest blind date I’d ever been on. It was very strange, but very beautiful in the same way, because someone’s potentially about to make your dreams come true.

One thing people don’t talk about is how much you need to nurture the relationship with your surrogate. You have to make sure that they’re happy, and you’re getting along, and they’re eating right, and all that sort of stuff. There’s a lot of work that goes into that.

But then you don’t want to be too overbearing. I was sending bone broth down there. I mean, it was hilarious. But I also gave a little bit of space and learnt a lot the first-time round. 


When you say the first time around, you’re referring to your beautiful twins – Ellie and Parker. You sadly lost them at 22 weeks and six days due to an unproven infection. How do you process this sort of horrible loss?

I don’t. It’s really hard to put into words. The feeling that you are now becoming a mother finally, and then suddenly it’s taken away within five hours. Our surrogate birthed them, and Parker died in my arms. Ellie came after and was alive for 21 minutes. Parker was alive for 56. It took everything from me. I lost all my words for about six weeks. It was so dark, and so awful. And then there was just this moment that I thought, “I cannot have their legacy be this sadness.”
 
I just couldn’t let that happen, you know. I couldn’t. I couldn’t do it for Josh and me, for our relationship. I couldn’t do it for my heart. I couldn’t do it for them. I just had to figure out how to keep going. I hated feeling sad and I hated feeling out of control. The darkness. So I called the agency, and everyone was so kind and rallied around us.

My doctor said, “You still have four healthy embryos, and if you’re willing to do it, we’ll do everything we can to help you guys.” And so, I think it was really clear to me that we had to keep going, and I’ve got to say that Josh again supported the decision. He was really unsure about my heart and how I was going to cope if it didn’t work, but I was like, “I don’t know how I would cope if I don’t try.”

The agency found a surrogate, and she’s amazing. She was just so positive and had never been a surrogate before. And it was that sort of energy that I needed in my life. I think I really helped her, and she really helped me. We’re so close, still to this day.

As I’m talking to you, I’ve got Ellie and Parker – a watercolour of them – over the changing table. So they look at us every day. We say good morning to them every day.

It’s such a trip, right? If they hadn’t have given us this space, these little beans wouldn’t be here. My mind, it’s blown.


Were you nervous when your surrogate was pregnant with Hunter and Andie? 


Well, I couldn’t believe it. She didn’t get pregnant the first time, and that was the weekend of Mother’s Day last year. I went completely back to feeling hopeless. And then she was like, “I’m trying it, I’m going to do it next month. Let’s keep on going.”

It ended up being a maths game. We had four embryos to begin with, so we put two embryos in … And we found out we were pregnant with twins.
 
Joshy and I looked at each other and just burst into tears. We were like, “I don’t know how we’re feeling.” Because it was like, “Oh shit, here we go.”

Because it’s not easy; we’re not in control of any of this. But here we are.


What was the day like, that you met Hunter and Andie?


It was amazing. They came at 9:30pm. Hunter came first. And then Andie. They were tiny as they were 35 weeks, so a little early.
 
We had to spend a little time in the NICU, but they were here, they were alive, they were healthy. They were little, but by God, they were mighty. We were just like, “Ah!” Then we went to the bar, had a bottle of champagne, and came back to the NICU.

Honestly, it’s only just settling in that they’re here. I know it sounds weird; they’re four and a half months, now, but it’s honestly taken about three months to realise that they’re really here forever. I know that sounds weird, but I just look at them and think, “Oh my God, you’re actually here. It’s bananas.”


What would your advice be to women who are going through something similar? 


I just feel like we need to start sharing our stories, the good and the bad. I think that we need to create support and love around each other, because we never know what someone’s going through behind closed doors. I’d love for those doors to be burst wide open, so no one feels alone. I want to have my door open for anyone who wants to chat about this. We need to. The more I can open my mouth, and the more I acknowledge what I’ve gone through, the more I heal too.


Have you always been a strong woman?

I don’t think I’m a strong woman.


Yes you are!


Really? I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and trying to smile. I try to do the right thing. But thank you for that. It’s so easy to stop. But we can’t give up on our dreams. You know, it doesn’t matter if it’s your fertility journey, or any journey. So many times, we get told “no,” and if we stopped every time, we wouldn’t be anywhere, right?


So, Hunter and Andie have already been in Modern Family, which I love!


It’s hilarious. They play Haley Dunphy’s newborn twins – called Pixar and Coachella. So honestly, when they’re naughty around here, we’re like, “Pixar! Coachella!” Seriously.

It was so random. My neighbour was sitting on the stoop of our apartment, and he was reading a casting call, and he was like, “Oh my God, they’re looking for twins! Some show’s looking for twins!”

I’ve got all the windows open, I’ve got screaming babies, and I’m like, “Hey! I know someone who’s got newborn twins!” I must have been that delusional. I had no idea what show it was.

When they got cast and I found out it was for Modern Family, I was like, “Are you serious?”

When we went to set, I had no idea they’d actually be twins on the show. I thought it would just be a whole bunch of babies playing one baby!

It was fun. Andie was asleep the whole time but Hunter was a star. Literally, the lights came on and his eyes opened.

I didn’t cry in the hospital, but on set, I was just so overwhelmed that they were here. When I was looking through the monitors of Modern Family, I was bawling. I was so proud.

It’s so LA, isn’t it!? We were thinking that on their 21st birthdays, we could show the episode, and then, we could say, “This is how you came into life.” Because they came in from a surrogate, we could have a lot of fun with it!


What have been some of your greatest learnings from your journey into motherhood?

I’m so new to it. I have my training wheels on, my love. You should tell me.

But I think the biggest thing and the most confusing thing is that my pace is so off. You know, I used to be so efficient – I’d answer emails and go walk around and get a coffee. Everything’s a little slower now, and it takes a little longer.

I think maybe my biggest learning is that we take so much of what we learn from our mums. I’m gently teaching my babies and I didn’t realise how much my own mum would also mean to me.

I’m just so grateful that I get to experience that beautiful title of being a mum, you know? I’m really, really happy that I can add that to my bow.


What a journey...

It’s really been a journey, but, you know, I cannot believe that I can speak with such love and positivity after coming out of what I’ve gone through. But it’s all for a reason. And it’s just clearer than day now. We don’t have a lot of control. It gave me perspective and to see that I shouldn’t take anything for granted.


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