Feature: Distant relations – How gay fathers relate to surrogate mothers
As the UK’s first Surrogacy Conference for parents approaches, Sam Everingham talks to two UK gay couples about how they selected and related to the surrogate mothers who carried their babies.
Michael Allton and his partner Adam have now settled back in the UK, having spent years living and working in Venice, Berlin and Hong Kong. For them, national boundaries are irrelevant. They engaged in surrogacy India, though not before two failed attempts in Thailand. In India, Michael explains: “There was a larger online community of intended parents with a lot more support and information.”
Here, parents are mostly guided by their agency’s recommendation as to a suitable surrogate.
Michael and Adam were assigned a widow for whom the money earned would allow her to properly educate her sons.
While they could well have flown to India to attend every ultrasound with their surrogate, the cost and time required made this impracticable. SCI, their surrgacy agency, made it clear Indian surrogates had no desire to form a long-term relationship. Because of this, Michael and his partner felt no strong urge to push to form a relationship. Their main concern says Michael, was “for a single healthy birth, and a complication-free pregnancy for the surrogate”.
The vagaries of distance meant Michael and Adam did not meet their surrogate until a few days prior to the birth.
“Which in hindsight seems crazy”, Michael admits. “The best we could do was offer her throughout the pregnancy messages of our concern for her wellbeing, … and our constant gratitude and respect.
“We met again after the birth and it was surprisingly relaxed. I was taken aback (and also somewhat relieved) at her casual easygoing nature.”
It was clear she wanted to return to her own life.
“For us it wasn’t a problem”, Michael admits, though he regrets the lack of information they have to share with their son Beau later in life.
“Our son will no doubt ask more questions about his birth mother and/or genetic mother. We just have a ‘profile photo’ of each with age, marital status, health, religion, diet etc. Our deep regret is that it does look a bit like a job application – it lacks a dignified humanity. And when our son asks questions about her, we have very little to tell him.”
Should Indian clinics facilitate greater levels of contact between surrogates and intended parents?
Michael would have liked this, but admits: “We would always have known that it was limited to the duration of the pregnancy and the time spent in India after the birth.”
Marcus Harbord and his partner Hugo have more experience than many with surrogacy. They have just had their second child through the US – each from a different surrogate. Marcus also founded GaySurrogacy in 2010 to assist others.
The pair relied on their agency’s advice when it came to matching them. They did experience one failed journey with a surrogate. Marcus reflects that they failed to identify many warning signs, “which in retrospect were obvious. So watch out for red flags and if you see them, believe them.”
One quality to look for in a surrogate, Marcus advises, is trustworthiness. “A bonus would be an experienced surrogate”, he says.
Being so far away, Marcus feels it is crucial to be sure your surrogate has emotional support close at hand. A good agency can assist with this.
So did Marcus, Hugo and their surrogate develop a significant relationship?
“We hung out quite a lot after the birth which really, ironically, was when we got to know [her] best.”
Yet like Michael and Adam in India, she also wanted to move on. Their contact is now limited to emails and the occasional Skype call. Both gay couples are just getting on with providing all the love and care that any child needs.
On the weekend of 8-9 March, Windsor will host the UK’s first surrogacy conference bringing together intended and current parents through surrogacy from the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe to discuss these and many other issues relevant to families for whom the question ‘Who’s Your Mummy?’ can be a complex one.
The Families Through Surrogacy website contains more information.
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