The worldwide battle against the pandemic has the international surrogacy landscape fraught with complications. Travel restrictions have left couples unable to reach their own embryos and put a stop to ‘fly-in donors’, while health concerns have led to a shortage of surrogates globally.
However the demand for family-building options continues. The pandemic has led to a huge increase in patients choosing to ship sperm or embryos internationally rather than travel. Some have created embryos but been unable to find a surrogate locally. Others need help in bringing embryos created offshore back to the UK. The rules in this area are complex.
In the last year, here at Growing Families we have assisted with hundreds of requests for affordable shared shipping programs. This initiative has allowed our team to weed out the reliable from the truly exploitative courier partners.
As furloughed workers were forced to slow down and contemplate their life trajectories, the volume of enquiries about reputable providers of legal IVF, donor and surrogacy services has increased.
Family building via surrogacy and egg donation is too expensive and fraught with potential traps, too high a risk to rely on social media recommendations alone. Intended parents are also craving face-to-face connections with others who have walked in their shoes.
In response, Growing Families is returning to its face-to-face seminar format in London and Dublin this October after 15 months of webinars.
Gay dads will provide insights into their own journeys, the hurdles, how they overcame them, costs and managing expectations.
One of these is Belgian dad Steve Berson. His partner Oren is from Israel and they have been together since 2004. Having family is a critical part of Israeli culture, so Oren was always keen on having a child. They looked briefly at adoption but in Belgium, waiting times are typically around ten years. Having a genetic connection was also important to this couple.
Back in 2017 they chose Canada as this was a more affordable option. They liked the altruistic approach and the chance to build a close relationship with their surrogate and her family.
There were many moving parts to navigate – donor agency, surrogacy agency, IVF clinic and lawyers. They also learned that matching with a surrogate who was a stay-at-home mum helped keep the costs down as they would not be covering her loss of earnings.
However it soon became apparent that the first surrogate they were introduced to by their agency was not psychologically ready. She had just been through a divorce, her children were about to leave home, and she had moved to a new city without social supports. They had the wherewithal to say no. It was not long before they were re-matched.
For Steven and Oren it was stressful. The distance alone would have been enough but it was also hard not being in control of many things during the process. “My key tip is to be patient and put trust in your surrogate and agency,” says Steve.
Their son Jayden was born in March 2019 and they were able to travel home with a Canadian passport. Four months on, Jayden was recognised as a Belgian citizen.
Steve will talk at the London seminar on 2 October along with dads who have accessed surrogacy in the US. The parent panel is supplemented by expert speakers from around the globe. The events will also provide updates on options in newer unregulated destinations such as Cyprus, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Albania.
You can find out more here: www.growingfamilies.org/all-events/
Charity Growing Families is an information and referral hub for singles and couples hoping to build their family with the help of donor IVF and/or surrogacy.