From Shanghai to Sudbury: An International Surrogacy Story

Josh and Fan are an international intended couple from Shanghai that recently welcomed their baby Parker to the world. From start to finish, their entire journey took three years to complete. Despite their difficulties, both Josh and Fan feel incredibly blessed and are planning on doing another journey with the same surrogate through Canadian Fertility Consulting this spring. This is their story:

Why did you decide to pursue surrogacy to build your family? 

F: We both wanted to be dads, and we needed someone to help us with that. It’s an impossible task for two males.

J: We put out feelers on Facebook asking, “Anyone out there who would want to help us out?” We always knew that we both wanted kids, we got married five years ago and having a child was the next logical step for us. We had been married for a couple of year when we said to ourselves: “Let’s do it! Let’s make a family!”

Who supported you most in your decision to use a surrogate? 

J: The most? Let’s put it this way: not one single person was against it!

What was your egg donation experience like?

J: Actually, that was the only feedback we got from Facebook. A friend of ours had reached out and told us that she didn’t plan on having any children of her own, and was making these eggs every month anyway, so she offered them to us.

What qualities did you look for in a donor?

J: Honestly, in our particular case, as long as they were Caucasian that was the only requirement. We used Fan’s sperm for the first baby.

F: We want our children to be mixed, to represent who we are, so it made sense for me to pair with a Caucasian egg donor, and the next time around Josh will pair with an Asian egg donor.

What was your relationship like with your donor?

J: Not very close, and we wanted to keep it that way.

F: It was simply a favour from a very close friend that doesn’t have much of an effect on our relationship with that person. It’s a very separate thing from our friendship. We still talk, hangout, and share photos with her. It’s had a positive impact on our relationship and added an extra layer of complexity to it.

How did you select your surrogate? 

J: Ah! It was so magical! We had gone through having a surrogate already, and we had experienced two failed transfers. She was a good friend of ours who wanted to do this for us, but because of the two failed transfers it was really tough on her. We had gone the independent route, and she was a single mom, so it was really difficult on her. We were devastated when she said: “Look boys, I just need to get on with my life”, but that was when we turned to Canadian Fertility Consulting. By that point we had done our research into a few of the agencies that were in Canada, and CFC just really stuck out to us based on their reputation.

F: CFC was our first point of contact in Canada and we were instantly impressed by how professional they were. They were also so, so nice. We also believe that CFC has the best interest for the needs of the surrogate, which is something we really appreciate and respect.

J: When we first reached out to CFC it was a Monday, and our Case Specialist had a good feeling about a surrogate and introduced us on Wednesday, and by Friday we had matched. It only took five days from us first reaching out and saying that we had embryos ready to go, to then matching which was absolutely incredible. We fell in love with our surrogate and she fell in love with us – it was a total full circle moment.

What was your relationship with her like?

J: Oh gosh! We had an iMessage group and we called ourselves “Team Baby”. At the beginning, we did a lot of FaceTiming to get a feel for each other, and it slowed down a bit after a while, but we still sent daily pictures and messages. We developed a friendship with her where we both genuinely cared about each other and each other’s families.

Did you have expectations about your relationship with them? Did reality turn out similarly?

F: We know the surrogates who sign up with CFC are probably some of the nicest ladies on the face of the earth, because they are willing to spend this time, energy and effort to help another couple achieve their family dreams. For someone who is willing to do that, to sign up and provide this kind of help, is simply amazing.

J: We look at surrogates and think: “Wow, you are a really good human.”

F: Once the initial relationship with the surrogate is established, it was important for us to see if we could hangout, joke about the same things, and be open with one another. We also wanted to make sure she was in good health and taking care of herself.

J: Beyond that, we were really respectful. I’m Nova Scotian so I’m horrifically Canadian when it comes to being polite. Sometimes I felt guilty about things, but she would try so hard to schedule midwife appointment so we could be present. We’re living in Shanghai, so we’re thirteen hours ahead, but she would go out of her way to schedule these appointments so she could FaceTime us in. I’m not sure what other’s experiences are like with their surrogates, but for us, she genuinely loved us and wanted to do this for us. She wanted us to be included for every step of the way. Even when she had 2pm appointments, she would film it and have the midwife explain things to us. She messaged us and asked if we would want to record a story for the little guy so she could play it for him, and he could hear out voices.

F: Which we did!

J: Yah, we did! She just really wanted this for us, and we just love her. We were super involved throughout the entire process, and we went to visit her, her children and her partner. We even met her mother at one point. We knew that we wanted to be involved as much as possible, but we also knew that we wanted to be respectful.

Did you face any challenges as an International Couple?

F: Luckily, we both speak English so the communication aspect was fine for us. But the time difference between China and Canada was a huge annoyance. Also, because we live so far away, and since we didn’t have a c-section, figuring out when to go to Canada and welcome the birth of the baby was also quite tricky.

J: She was having Braxton Hicks contractions for about a month before the baby was due, and she was feeling really bad. She had a fever and was really dehydrated, and she told us: “Boys! This could be it!” We were freaking out because we hadn’t even packed! We both work at a school so we also were dealing with awkward timing with the school year and how our parental leave works. As an international couple, the earliest that we could get to Canada was within 24 hours. Knowing that felt terrible, and we actually left for Canada two days early just the make sure we would be there in time. We were there for a whole week before the baby was born.

F: Another tricky thing as an International Couple was getting the baby’s birth certificate, passport and visa all figured out. Since some countries don’t recognize same sex marriage it can be difficult to figure out whose names should be on the birth certificate. China is a special country, and I don’t know if a lot of other international couples face the same issues, but the legal issues were a big hurdle for us.

J: Yes, we have the best lawyer in the universe. I don’t know if you’re able to endorse anybody, but Shirley Levitan in Toronto is amazing! She helped us and held our hand through every single hiccup, and gosh were there hiccups! She was just a much of this process as anyone else.

F: Our best advice to international Intended Parents: get a lawyer, help the lawyer, work with the lawyer, because they are the ones who are going to make sure you’re able to bring your child home.

J: Every country and every province has different laws. Our original surrogate was in Nova Scotia and the laws there were completely different from our eventual surrogate in Ontario. Everywhere is just so different, so you really need a lawyer to help with those legal challenges.

What was the birth like? 

J: It was spectacular! We were actually the first international surrogacy couple to ever have a birth in that particular hospital. It was in Sudbury, Ontario, and they were literally writing policies as we were going through the whole birthing process. This actually turned out to be a good thing because there is an Australian couple that is having their surrogacy birth in Sudbury in a few weeks from now. They had to figure out how to deal with two dads, a surrogate, a doula, and a midwife. No one was rude or anything, they just weren’t used to this. They were used to following their pre-established policies, but we were in such a unique situation.  The birth itself was amazing, we were there for the whole day. She ended up being induced and they broke her water. We got to the hospital at about 8:30 am and the baby was born just after 9:10pm. Both of our moms were there, Fan’s mom came from China and my mom came from Nova Scotia. It was beautiful.

F: The whole birth was perfect. Josh even caught the baby!

What was it like taking the baby home, and how is home life?

J: We stayed in Sudbury for the whole month from December 5th to January 12th, 2018. Parker was born on December 12th, so we celebrated Christmas and New Years in Sudbury. It was quite special as we got to spend time with our surrogate. She came over for dinners, she did a beautiful Indigenous smudging ceremony before we all left, and we all got to spend quality time with each others families. Taking him home was of course shocking, because it went from “Yay! We’re going to be Dads!” to “Holy crap, we’re dads now!”. Having that time in Sudbury was amazing because we had that immediate family support. It was freezing there, so we only took him outside once. We rented an amazing Air BnB, and we’re so glad we did versus staying in a hotel because it felt more like home. It definitely helped us ease into that transition. The twelve hour fight back to China with a new born was also quite the experience.

F: Parker has already been on six air planes since he’s been born, he’s our world travelling baby.

How did surrogacy change your life? 

F: It made us parents, and it made our family so much closer than it already was. We feel so much love, it just made everything better. Everything. Apart from my sleep!

J: Having a baby was the one thing that we couldn’t do. Originally, when we first got together, we had to grieve that we might never be parents, and that if we wanted to do this, we couldn’t do it on our own. We needed help, and we had to make sure we were ready to let another person, a woman, into our life. It took two different women to help give us our dream and our miracle baby. Surrogacy changed our lives forever. I think Fan said it perfectly, it brought our family even more so together. We were already close, but now we’re even closer than we ever imagined.

What was the best part of your surrogacy journey? 

J: Personally, it was the birth of Parker and catching him. That was the most profound moment. It was everything. Being there with everyone, it was a freaking party in that hospital room. We had so many amazing people there, and we were all there for the same reason.

F: Beyond the birth, I think our whole stay in Sudbury was a big deal for me. Seeing everyone that showed up to the birth, seeing all of their faces and their part in our making dream coming true. The surrogate, her mother, the midwife, the nurse, the doula, just everyone was working so hard to make our dream become a reality. I felt so supported in that moment and loved the feeling of together-ness. After the Sudbury Star released its article about Parker’s birth, everyone in town was so friendly. When we visited the local stores and coffee shop, everyone would stop us to congratulate us. There was just so much love.

What would you say to other Intended Parents considering surrogacy?

J: The investment we made with Canadian Fertility Consulting was the best decision we made throughout this entire journey. Your team was there to not only support us, but to also support the surrogate throughout the whole process. CFC took care of all of the hard stuff, and all we had to focus on was building a relationship with our surrogate and making a baby, which is what surrogacy should be about. Surrogacy as a whole is not easy, but CFC took on that challenge. It took us three years to make our child, and I know that some parents have it way, way harder which is incredibly sad. I think the best choice that we made from start to finish was signing on with CFC and we’re so lucky and grateful that we did. It wasn’t a cheap decision, but it was the best investment that we’ve ever made because without CFC we wouldn’t have our son, plain and simple.

F: I would tell other Intended Parents that it can be easy, but there is a good chance that it might not be. Once you take the route of surrogacy, just know that when you finally get to hold your baby and he or she smiles at you for the first time and makes the coo sounds, everything will be worth it. You just need to get through it and it will all be worth it in the end. There will be sleepless night, misunderstanding, doubts, tears, and low numbers in your bank account, but it’s all worth it.

Thank you Josh and Fan for sharing your incredible surrogacy story with Canadian Fertility Consulting. All photos are courtesy of Emily at Lotus and Lamb Birth Photography.