Sam Everingham, a gay dad via surrogacy, now spends most of his time educating intending parents about the ever-changing surrogacy options for family building
"I became involved in surrogacy education over eight years ago when my partner and I experienced the heartache of a premature twin birth than resulted in Zac’s still-birth. Ben survived only seven weeks in intensive care. We went on to have healthy daughters, but I swore I’d help educate others to navigate the important decisions they needed to make and avoid the risks.
Since then, I founded a charity (Surrogacy Australia) to support research and screening, and not for profit organisation Families Through Surrogacy. We have run conferences and seminars in six countries and 16 cities around the globe.
The events became so popular because no-one was addressing the lack of education surrounding cross-border surrogacy and there were no peer-to-peer events where surrogates and parents were sharing their own journeys.
The UK is lucky to have a healthy culture of altruistic surrogacy, supported by organisations like COTS, Surrogacy UK and Hope, and we are seeing more and more gay dads engaging at home. (Indeed some surrogates prefer carrying for gay guys, given they don’t have to deal with the grief heterosexual women might experience around infertility). However the ‘friendship first’ ethos and the significant time investment required means domestic surrogacy doesn’t suit everyone.
The long experience of some US states with surrogacy has become an attractive alternative and indeed there are now agencies such as BabyBloom devoted to finding cost-effective US family-building options for foreigners.
Udi and his partner Craig have been together for over five years. Udi was born in Israel and Craig in the UK and they live together in London now. The pair spent only a year talking about having a family before they embraced surrogacy as a pathway.
For the couple, engaging in US surrogacy provided them with assurance of legal parenthood as well as the ability to have embryos transferred from each of them in the same cycle (this is not available in the UK).
Their advisor found them a surrogacy agency to manage the process in Las Vegas and a surrogate in Oregon.
Udi admits that despite all the support, it wasn’t always an easy journey. They had to wait for their egg donor to complete a cycle with another couple, which was delayed. Then after they started the process with her she disappeared. They went back to square one, forced to look for another egg donor. Their first chosen surrogate, who they had a great connection with, didn’t pass the clinic medical screening, so they had to look for a new surrogate and a new agency. Udi warns that being far from the surrogate while their embryos were growing was stressful, particularly when they were informed that their child might have a heart condition and their surrogate had a possible infection. Being so far away, there was no support they could provide.
Nonetheless, the relationship they built with their surrogate and her family stayed strong. Their surrogate delivered boy/girl twins Abigail and Ethan in March 2018. They keep in regular contact with her via messages, Skype, Facebook and sending pics and video of the babies.
Within six weeks their infants had travel documents and they were able to return home to the UK.
Their advice to other gay guys considering surrogacy?
'Expect the unexpected. Find an agency who can manage the whole process, who is familiar with multiple providers, can explain the pros and cons of each option and is able to fit the process to your needs.'
1. 'Have patience.'
2. 'Don't commit to an IVF clinic until you have located your egg donor.'
3. 'If the egg donor is in the process with another couple, don’t wait for her as there are no guarantees that she will commit to another cycle.'
4. 'Don’t commit to one surrogacy agency unless you find the right surrogate.'
5. 'Have a contingency budget as there are always unexpected costs.'
6. 'The delivery can be emotional and overwhelming.'
7. 'Keep a positive attitude.'
Even with the best planning, IVF, pregnancy and childbirth are associated with multiple risks which can easily double your final costs. You can minimise these by engaging with reputable providers recommended by other parents.
Udi is one of four gay dads sharing their journeys to parenthood at FTS 2nd UK seminar series next month in Dublin, Edinburgh and London. The seminars will also include advice and short talks from surrogates, surrogacy professionals and legal experts. Details at http://www.familiesthrusurrogacy.com/uk-ireland-oct-seminar-series/