Extraordinary journeys to fatherhood

Meet and network with surrogates and intended parents.

There have been huge changes in the surrogacy options available to gay men in recent years. Once only available in certain US states, for a short period gay singles and couples were engaging in Thailand, India, Nepal, Cambodia and more recently Mexico for surrogacy. But Asian countries have closed their doors to foreign surrogacy, leading to renewed interest in the US and a surge in interest in Canada. Kenya, Russia and even Nicaragua  are starting to offer surrogacy to fill the void left when Asian nations closed. However a raft of complexities remain.

James Phillips was a single gay man when he decided to engage in cross-border surrogacy in late 2013. A regular traveller to Thailand, he went to great lengths to choose a Thai egg donor and surrogate who would agree to stay in contact. While James planned meticulously, things never quite went to plan. During the pregnancy attempts he fell in love, his surrogate conceived twins, and the Baby Gammy scandal caused his clinic to close its doors. The experience was nerve-wracking, emotionally intense, but ultimately filled with joy when boy & girl twins were delivered in January 2015 at 33 weeks. James has documented his journey in a recently published book Surrogacy – Our Family’s Journey.

David Gonzalez and his partner Dennis got off to a bad start with their surrogacy journey. Joining Surrogacy UK in 2012, they created an online profile and worked hard to engage with the surrogate community. David recalls how “the surrogates sit in the background and choose you” based on how you come across. A potential surrogate approached them, but she had no children of her own, David recalls. She also really wanted to be a mother which raised a few alarm bells. He and Dennis declined, though David admits: “You are quite desperate as an intended parent so you have that temptation of just trying it anyway.”

Then they met staff from Planet Hospital at an Alternative Parenting Show in London in 2013. The (now defunct) surrogacy agency pushed them to consider an egg donor and child via their Mexico surrogacy program. Pressured to sign up or risk losing their preferred egg donor (a common sales con in surrogacy), within months they had deposited thousands of pounds and their sperm samples with the Mexico clinic. Then delays with their donor started. They were strung along until mid-January in 2014, when they (and dozens of other hopeful parents) were informed that Planet Hospital had collapsed. They had lost their deposit and would need to start over. It was an experience which highlights the importance of due diligence in regards to agency stability.

They went on to have three children with an experienced UK surrogate via a process known as ‘straight’ surrogacy, using their surrogate’s eggs, yet even in the UK, it was a journey fraught with ups, downs, tragedy and joy.

David is one of a number of parents who have agreed to share what they learned and what they would do differently at Families Through Surrogacy’s fifth annual consumer conference on 10 March, at 155 Bishopsgate, London.

The event’s popularity lies in its honesty – putting parents and surrogates front and centre, sharing their real-life journeys. This year’s conference has a focus on best practice in UK & US surrogacy, exploring the complexities of surrogacy and how best to lay the groundwork for successful journeys. Sessions will address some of the tough questions about trust, logistics, sourcing donors, matching with surrogates and legal parentage. Topics not to miss include the nuts and bolts of surrogacy processes; an honest appraisal of which IVF techniques are evidence-based and which are not; parent and surrogate panels; and issues to consider in choosing an egg donor.

Tickets start from £45 including lunch, morning & afternoon tea, and are available from familiesthrusurrogacy.com/uk2018/





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