From Australia to Ontario: An International Surrogacy Story

Michael and Brendon are from Western Australia, where single people and same sex couples were banned from altruistic surrogacy agreements. According to the Surrogacy Act 2008, only those who are “…2 people of opposite sexes who are married or in a de facto relationship with each other” are eligible for surrogacy within Australia (Wikipedia). Due to these archaic restrictions, Michael and Brendon had to look internationally for a surrogacy option that was right or them. They found Canadian Fertility Consultants, and never looked back. Michael had a chance to share their story with us:

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

Being a same sex couple, we couldn’t make a baby on our own. At first, we looked at adoption but in Australia there are very few adoptions each year. Many couples essentially wait a lifetime to adopt a child. After that, we looked at fostering, but we didn’t like the policies of the fostering department because they keep the children in the system until they are 18 rather than allow them to become permanently fostered or adopted. We wanted to start a family, and we didn’t want to see the child taken from us as we would be heartbroken, so even though we would have loved to help a child who needed a home, those options weren’t what we were looking for.

That was when we started to consider surrogacy, but since we reside in Western Australia, same sex couples (and single men) are not allowed to pursue surrogacy in our home state, whereas single women can seek out a sperm donor and pursue surrogacy independently if they so choose. We started to look at the possibility of international surrogacy, which led to our discovery of Canadian Fertility Consulting.

How did you decide which agency to use?

We really wanted to work with a reputable agency like Canadian Fertility Consulting. We would have loved to have a surrogate here in Perth, where we could have gone over and helped with the housework, or looked after her kids if she needed a break, or even just given her a hug if she was having a bad day. But since it’s illegal for us to have a surrogate in our home state, and since we live so far away from Canada, there was no way we could do that.

We really wanted to work with an agency where we were able to call them if our surrogate was having a hard day and someone could reach out to support her. In the end, we didn’t need that, but we liked having the security of knowing that if we did, that was an option. If we had a surrogate someplace else in Australia, then we could have bought cheap plane tickets to see her during her journey and been there overnight. Since we needed to choose an international surrogate, taking a quick trip to visit just wasn’t an option so it was a big relief to know that Canadian Fertility Consulting offers such amazing surrogate support.

What was your egg donation experience like?

Our egg donation experience was awesome! We found a girl who not only looks like me and could pass as my sister, but she also had similar personality traits such as being better at math than English, and an interest in computer gaming and laser tag. Not only would our resulting child hopefully look similar but would have other similar traits as well. We met our egg donor before we went through with the donation, and we have since become quite close with her. She’s actually coming here to visit us in three weeks!

We found our donor through Egg Helpers, and it was a very good experience. We had a bit of a hiccup with the donor herself, as she had been travelling to Cuba which had a Zika warning and needed to be quarantined before she could donate to us. We were using a US clinic, which required her to be quarantined for six months, but in Canada she only needed to wait for three. She had decided that she wanted to donate for another couple after us, but because of the long wait time, she wanted to go ahead and donate for that couple first while she completed her quarantine. This really worried us, because what if she decided she was done with egg donation and didn’t want to donate to us anymore?

In the end, she did have a difficult experience at the Canadian clinic, so there was a chance that she wouldn’t go through with another donation. She was a bit nervous, but she had promised that she would donate to us too. Luckily, she had a great experience with our clinic in Las Vegas and they were aware of her previous issues, so everyone really looked after her. Leia was also wonderful in managing our concerns and making sure that not only was the egg donor looked after but so were we.

How did you select your surrogate? 

Our goal for both our egg donor and surrogate was to find people who would stay in our lives. We didn’t want an anonymous egg donor or a surrogate who didn’t want anything to do with us afterwards, because establishing a life-long relationship was really important to us. We wanted to remain friends, no only because they are doing such a huge thing for us, but also for the child’s metal welfare if they ever wanted to know how they came to be. If the child ever had any questions, those would be naturally answered if these women were still in our lives.

We liked most of the profiles that we saw, and we matched with one about two weeks into our search with Canadian Fertility Consulting. Unfortunately, I could sense there were some issues in her life at the time. CFC checked in with her and it seemed like everything was fine, but I could still sense there were issues. The support staff reached out to her again and confirmed my suspicions. She was going through a difficult time in her life involving a divorce, returning full-time to the workforce, and looking after her own three children. As hard as it was to shut down that relationship and begin again, I’m glad that I listened to my intuition because the timing just wasn’t right for her to be going through surrogacy. I still tell people to this day that they shouldn’t go forward if it doesn’t feel right. It actually took us another five months to find the right surrogate for us, but it was well worth the wait.

What’s your relationship like with your chosen surrogate?

It’s been fantastic! Her and her family have become a part of our family. We send them all presents for their birthdays and Christmas. We’ll be back to visit them soon in Canada, and we dream about the day when they will all come visit us in Perth. We talk at least once a week on video chat, and we both exchange pictures of our kids. They really have become like family to us. On our nursery wall we have a photo of our family that was taken in Canada, and one side of us is our egg donor and on the other side is our surrogate. It’s there to show the small village that it took to make our baby, and it’s there so that Logan will always know where he came from. There are no secrets, he can always look at those photos and see who helped in his creation.

Did you face any challenges as an International Couple?

Travel was a bit of a challenge. We got a call that our surrogate was having early labour pains one morning near her due date, so we changed our flights to leave at midnight, and it took us almost 50 hours to get to Canada. In the end it was only gall stones, and once they passed the contractions stopped. We were there a week early before the delivery and decided to stay, but the house we were renting wasn’t ready for us yet. We ended up staying with our egg donor’s mother, as she was travelling in Italy at the time and her room was available. Even after we had moved into our rental, her mother had us over for dinner every night that we were in Canada. She even showed up at our rental house with pies and cakes that she had baked, and took really great care of us. She was so moved by her daughter donating her eggs that she actually became a surrogate, and just gave birth to her surrogate baby this past December.

There was also the worry of having a new born baby and not having any family to help us with travelling back home. Brendan’s parents did fly over for the last ten days that we were in Canada so they could fly back with us and have two extra sets of hands. Since we had to fly for over 40 hours, we needed quite a few bottles to be prepared, and things like that. But since we were so close with our egg donor and surrogate and their families, it wasn’t so bad not having our family there as we were going through the birth.

Also, our surrogate is a mother of three kids, so we were able to ask her any questions she had. She actually came over to our rental and helped us with giving Logan his first bath. We also had an awesome midwife who helped us take care of him right after the birth. After a few days she was happy with how he was doing, so we took him over to her office for check-ups once a week to make sure things were still good. She has since stayed in touch with us too because she was interested in our story, as surrogacy was pretty new to her as well.

We just had so much support. I thought Australians were friendly, and then I came to Canada and was just blown away! Canadians are more accepting as well. I made it my mission to see if we would get rejected for what we were doing and told everyone we came across. Not one person was rude or judgemental towards us.

I’ve talked to other Intended Parents here in Australia who have used surrogates in other countries like the Ukraine, Thailand or India and their experiences were nowhere near as pleasant as ours in Canada. These other countries are just so different than the culture in Australia, so it’s a much smoother experience in Canada because of the similarities. I’m happy that we were able to afford a visit to Canada for the twenty-week scan, because it really helped us prepare for the delivery and put us at ease in terms of meeting our surrogate and viewing the hospital. We thought it would be really strange to just show up at the birth and say: “Hey, we’re your Intended Parents!”

Having that week together halfway through was wonderful, and it felt like getting together with old friends because we had been chatting together on Facebook and Skype for so long. Although we were meeting for the first time, it didn’t feel like it. That week in Canada was such a wonderful experience, almost as good as the birth itself.

What was the birth like? 

The birth was awesome. It’s funny because you hear about how there is all this muck and goo, and how most blokes say how horrible it looks. But I didn’t notice anything, it was just so awesome that I don’t understand how anyone could say this. The only thing I felt as a guy was that I couldn’t do anything to help. Our surrogate was in so much pain, and all I could do was offer her another cup of ice. I just felt kind of useless. But overall it was the best experience ever. I’m so happy we got to be there for it and he didn’t come early. 

It was a natural birth, but there was a bit of a scare at the start. They put the monitors on to check his heart rate and it was only registering at 82. I’d done my research beforehand so I knew it should have been at 160, and that 82 was really bad. Everyone was just staring at the monitor and no one was saying anything. I was wondering if everyone in the room knew how bad this was, but I didn’t want to say anything and worry my partner. All of a sudden, it jumped up to 160 and stayed like that through the end of the delivery. Much to our surrogate’s dismay, she wasn’t able to get in the bath like she wanted to, because she had to stay hooked up to the monitors. In the end, the midwife explained what she thought had happened, which was that the baby had grabbed a hold of the umbilical cord and squeezed it until he cut off his own circulation. When he came out, he was grabbing at everything, so she thinks he was stressed from all of the contractions and grabbed ahold of the umbilical cord to help feel secure.

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

Very different. A lot of our friends had babies before us, so we were used to being around them looking like zombies. We kind of knew what to expect, but not entirely. Before bringing the baby home, we didn’t realise all of the little things that were going to change. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve always wanted to be a dad and I never thought it was going to happen because I didn’t think it was ever going to be possible. Luckily, I’m also a bit older so it doesn’t affect my life in that way. For example, I’ve already done all of the travelling that I’ve wanted to do, so this was the next logical step.

How did surrogacy change your life? 

Not only has it changed our lives in terms of becoming dads, but we’re also very active in the local surrogacy community. We’ve been on the news, filmed for television, and we’re active in both the Australian surrogacy group and the Western Australian one too. We enjoy helping other people who are going through their journeys, especially those who are choosing Canadian surrogacy since we’re experienced in that area. We went through a lot on our own before we found support through these groups. Now we can help others through their journeys, which has brought a lot of awesome people into our lives. Many of those who are experiencing infertility have experienced a lot of pain surrounding this topic, but this mutual heartache makes them such amazing people. Most recently, we had a catch-up at our house and everyone was really happy to talk openly in a private space, and we love offering other people that level of support.

What was the best part of your surrogacy journey? 

As awesome as the birth was, my favourite time period was when we came over for the twenty-week scan. We met everyone that week: our egg donor, our lawyer Cindy, our surrogate. It was so amazing being in Canada and meeting all of these people who were coming together to help us create our family. The birth was fantastic, but it was also much more stressful with waiting for it to happen, wondering if we had prepared enough, and unsure of ourselves being ready to become parents. Whereas with the first trip to Canada, there was none of that stress and the reality of becoming parents still hadn’t settled in yet.

What would you say to other Intended Parents considering surrogacy? 

I would tell them to go for it! The classic line I always tell anyone who is new to our Intended Parent groups is to enjoy the ride! I hate rollercoasters, but that’s definitely what the surrogacy journey is like: full of ups and downs.

My other two pieces of advice are first, if you get an initial gut feeling that something isn’t right then don’t proceed. As much as it might hurt to pull the plug and start again, it will most likely be worth it. Secondly, just sit back and try to enjoy the experience. I stressed heaps and I got impatient, but in the end, everything worked out. It’s hard to see that in the moment, because this is such a huge undertaking and it’s easy for your emotions to get the better of you, especially when you are halfway across the world. But I think with the more success stories that are shared, the more relaxed Intended Parents are able to feel about the entire process.

So many of the topics affecting fertility are taboo, such as suffering miscarriages and undergoing IVF, so nobody really talks about it and it’s all very secretive. If only we talked about it more, people would understand how common much of this actually is. Once you start your own surrogacy journey, you will find such a wonderful community and so much support, and you’ll soon realise that you’re not alone.

Thank you Michael and Brendon for sharing your incredible surrogacy story with Canadian Fertility Consulting. For more information on LGBTQ rights in Western Australia, click here.