By Sam Everingham
Sam Everingham, a gay dad to two girls via surrogacy, wouldn’t trade fatherhood for anything, but admits surrogacy is not for the faint-hearted.
I am often asked what should gay guys be thinking about before they make the leap into surrogacy as a means to family formation. It’s nearly seven years since my partner and I first embarked on this adventure and that was in India – no longer open to gay guys.
So I talked to a few Queensland dads who have recent surrogacy experience. Chris is a single dad to two children via Canada and Brisbane dad Jason Lilwall (pictured, above) also has two children with his partner via local, altruistic surrogacy.
Jason and his partner engaged with two different surrogates in Queensland. Their first surrogacy was really straightforward – their second was really tough.
The first point these guys made was don’t go down this path unless you are sure a child is what you want and you can create the environment your baby deserves.
Secondly, decide what sort of contact with your surrogate you are comfortable with during and after the pregnancy and state this up-front. If you don’t envisage a lot of contact, yet your potential surrogate expects daily phone calls and flowers delivered every week, you need to re-align expectations or find another match.
Once you have agreed to work together, take your time to develop a strong relationship before embryo transfer. This is far more difficult in non-English speaking countries, but vital if using an Australian surrogate and highly advantageous if engaging in Canada or the US.
Ensure you discuss every possible pregnancy and birth scenario so there are no ugly surprises along the way. What is your attitude to congenital disorders and abortion? Are they the same as your surrogate? Will your surrogate express breast milk for the first week or more? (This is up to your surrogate. Some don’t like to, and would rather take medication to ‘turn their milk off’. Others hate seeing it go to waste and are happy to express.)
All this requires a lot of personal questions. If you are engaging overseas, you’ll communicate much of this on paper and email. But if you are in Australia, phone and face-to-face discussion will play a key role.
Budgeting is also key. Typically, intended parents spend at least 50 percent more on surrogacy than their initial estimates. Failed embryo transfers, freezing embryos, having to change egg donors, travel costs all add significant amounts to costs.
Another gay Queensland couple I know implanted embryos in Nepal last year. When that failed, they tried again in Cambodia. Unsuccessful again, they have been drained of funds. Depressed and disheartened, they are looking at surrogacy at home.
You may need to have significant additional funds in reserve in case things don’t work out at first, or in case of complications such as premature delivery.
With regard to timeframes, conception and gestation do not have guaranteed success or timeframes. Mentally, be prepared to be not only patient, but resilient in the face of early disappointment. Being able to pick yourself up after bad news is vital to success.
Talk to others who have embarked on surrogacy to understand the processes and pitfalls. The annual conference, website and seminars run by Families Through Surrogacy are a great source of information. Online resources and groups for gay dads such as Gay Dads Australia are another.
The good news is, once you’ve decided, you will discover unexpected levels of encouragement along the way from a wide range of people. (It’s hard not to get excited about little children!) Harnessing the support offered by family and friends will be vital to your sanity, particularly if you are single. Remember, when it comes to fatherhood, people want you to succeed.
Sam Everingham is one of the organisers of the Families Through Surrogacy conference at the Hotel Pullman in Brisbane on June 4-5. Over 200 intended parents and surrogates will come together for the world’s largest surrogacy conference, with 50 speakers and panellists sharing their experience and expertise. For full details and tickets visit Families Through Surrogacy’s website.