There are a number of ways for gay couples to become parents – whether you choose adoption, fostering or to conceive with the help of a surrogate.
For Neil and Andrew, and Scottish-Bavarian couple Scott and Sascha, surrogacy was the way forward.
Ahead of speaking at this weekend’s Family and Surrogacy Conference in London, they spoke to GSN about their excperiences.
Neil and Andrew
Nine years aog, Northern Irish couple Neil and Andrew met through a mutual friend.
Their surrogcacy story started five years ago, when they first made the decision to have children of their own.
‘We said from an early stage we talked about kids,’ Neil said.
At first they wanted to adopt or fester, Neil said. But gay people couldn’t adopt in Northern Ireland at the time, and the chances of adopt a baby were incredibly slim.
As the couple wanted the experience of raising their child from its very first days, and through the pregnancy, they decided to opt for surrogacy instead.
‘We were initially going to go abroad and do this,’ Neil said.
‘We were going to go to Thailand, but they stopped surrogacy, they banned it.’
Other countries followed suit, so the couple decided to stay in the UK.
The IVF process started this time last year – and the couple were lucky enough to have everything work out at the first time.
They initially were expecting twins, but something went wrong and their surrogate lost one of the babies at five weeks.
‘We lost one at about five weeks,’ Neil said.
‘But, you know, that was a little unfortunate. But we’re very lucky that we have our son.’
In November, their little son was born.
The biggest challenge, for them, was to find their surrogate, Neil said.
‘You can find a clinic, you can find an egg,’ he said.
Clinics help with finding an egg donor, too.
‘But there aren’t that many surrogates,’ he said.
‘But it’s not just finding a surrogate. There’s also the relationship as well. You all need to be comfortable. You might find a surrogate tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean you’ll hit it off.’
For gay couples, he said, there might also be the challenge of deciding who’ll be the biological father. Neil and Andrew, however, had settled that question long ago.
Not to mention the birth, which your surrogate might not want you to be there for, or if you have to travel far.
‘And if you can’t be there, you want to be at the hospital at least,’ Neil said.
‘Because it’s a big moment for everybody.’
Luckily for them, Neil and Andrew got on very well with their surrogate.
And although she lived in the UK, and quite far away, the surrogate was happy to have the couple attend doctors’ and hospital appointments.
They only missed those in the last couple of weeks, due to work committments – but only those.
As for their own families,
‘Our families knew that this is what we really wanted,’ Neil said.
‘We actually didn’t tell them.’
It wasn’t out of fear over the reaction, but rather to make sure everything was okay before they could tell their families.
Ever since, they have received incredible support.
‘Our families have been brilliant,’ Neil said.
‘They are really embracing him. They really appreciated how much we wanted to be parents.’
Neil said he and Andrew were ‘really lucky’ with their families.
And even on the streets, they haven’t had any problem – despite Northern Ireland sometimes being a little ‘backwards’, as Neil said.
‘We never experienced anything but good,’ he said.
‘And a really positive attitude towards us. We have been really luky.
‘I appreciate there will be people who not necessarily agree with that we are parents.’
But for Neil, the answer to that is clear: ‘Nobody has the right over another person to be a parent or not to be a parent.’
Scott and Sascha
Scott and his partner Sascha met 12 years ago, during a half-marathon in the German city of Munich.
A year later, Sascha moved to London, where Scott was already living. Last year, they couple tied the knot – they got married under UK law, and then celebrated their wedding with friends and family in Greece.
When they started thinking about starting their own family, they looked at both options.
‘I think both options are great. However, there is a lot of people in the UK who want to adopt,’ Scott said.
There are not enoug children for all of them, so the couple settled on surrogacy instead.
The couple decided to use a US surrogate, rather than for example Thailand.
‘These processes are risky and things can go wrong,’ Scott said.
‘And our view was [that] the US was where it’s tried and tested, and there is support.’
Everyone was familiar with the process of surrogacy, he said, rather than in other, more unregulated parts of the world.
Their surrogate was another major point for the US.
‘The people that we are involved with in the US were spectacular,’ Scott said.
’In terms of friendliness and genuineness and doing surrogacy for the right reasons.’
They got matched through an agency, ‘like a dating agency’.
Before going ahead with their decision, the couple got to meet their surrogate, as well as her husband and kids, to get to know each other.
‘It was a very warm and friendly process,’ Scott said.
The whole decision, from the first thought to welcoming their baby boy into the world took them about three years.
‘When you have a child, it’s quite a serious decision,’ Scott said.
‘You shouldn’t take that likely.’
The couple’s families are fully supportive of Scott’s and his husband’s decision – and of their surrogate as well.
‘What surprised us the most, which was quite beautiful, is how our families connected with our surrogate’s family through the process,’ he said.
In Facebook posts, the couple’s parents as well as their surrogate’s parents and grandparents would start conversations, Scott recounted.
‘Everyone was chatting,’ he said.
‘It was very, very nice. Very sweet.’
Even after their little boy was born, Scott and his husband are still very close with their surrogate.
They decided to stay in touch with her and her husband, so they can see the Charlie grow up.
On Saturday (11 March), the UK’s fourth annual conference in London will bring together intended parents, surrogates and surrogacy experts from the UK, USA, Canada, Ukraine and Asia to discuss best practice in surrogacy in the UK and globally.
The one-day event will explore what UK citizens are spending on surrogacy, how they are controlling costs, how arrangements work in practice, how to ease the emotional, medical and logistic stresses and the important legal requirements.
‘These events provide those considering surrogacy with first-hand accounts from surrogates and parents, to help them decide on both a way forward and reliable providers,’ says Everingham. ‘The conference is a once-yearly chance to learn about surrogacy, and about how to minimise the chance of things falling over.’
“1 in 7 couples in the UK, approximately 3.5 million people, experience difficulties conceiving. Events like this provide a valuable forum for those wanting to build a family through surrogacy,’ said Louisa Ghevaert, leading UK surrogacy, fertility and family law expert.
‘The law relating to surrogacy in the UK is outdated. Reform is needed to remove legal uncertainty for intended parents and surrogate born children. This together with the lack of international harmonisation of surrogacy law means intended parents need to ensure they fully understand the legal issues and pitfalls before they begin their journey to parenthood.’