Can you tell us how you came to explore surrogacy as an option to start your family?
Ben and I were open to adoption or surrogacy and started looking at Barnardos but lent more towards surrogacy due to the uncertainty of long-term foster/adoption. We then began reading as much information about the laws in our state and also joined lots of Facebook community groups to determine if we would go down the path of international commercial surrogacy or domestic altruistic.
How did you find your surrogate?
We had a few false starts trying to match with a surrogate but met our surrogate Kath on a Facebook community group, we began chatting online and over the phone over a few months then we flew to Melbourne to meet in person. She then chose us on the spot at our first face to face meeting.
What were the major hurdles you encountered in your journey to parenthood, and how did you overcome them?
There were several challenges along the way, including financial, emotional and logistical issues. We didn’t have a lot of money and were quoted between 40k-80k for a successful birth via surrogacy in Australia. We attempted to access our superannuation as we qualified under one of the categories, however because the IVF treatment was for an egg donor and surrogate, the funds for the treatment needed to be for the person who is the account holder of the superannuation account. We then got multiple loans and credit cards to ensure we had enough funds to support our surrogate if there were any issues along the way.
Could you touch on the emotional aspects of your journey via surrogacy?
I would say the most upsetting issues were:
- - Being far away from our surrogate during the pregnancy of our second daughter due to COVID.
- - Not having access to Medicare rebates or superannuation which is available to heterosexual couples.
- - One of the hospital directors told Ben and I the day before we were due to have our second daughter that we were not the parents and could not be at the hospital during COVID. We eventually convinced them to let us both be at the birth for a couple of hours then only one of us could stay with our daughter.
- - Having to have post birth counselling for the parentage order to gain custody of our own children.
- - Waiting to be chosen by a surrogate as some people never get chosen, the unknown!
Were there unexpected costs or financial challenges to starting your family - and how did you navigate them?
Both of our daughters cost approximately 110K in total, probably closer to 150K with interest on all the loans and credit cards. We definitely got lucky with some savings as our egg donor was a friend of ours and both transfers worked first go with both girls. We had some unexpected costs around Covid and mandatory hotel quarantine.
What was the toughest or most confronting thing you encountered during the process?
While the whole process was difficult, I think the thing that Ben and I have in common and was essentially the thing that got us through is that we are both pretty resilient and fairly positive people. There were definitely stressful moments but at the end of the day all of the exciting parts of this process far outweighed the difficult ones and the process brought us even closer together.
If you could go back and do anything differently in your family-building journey, what would it be and why?
I would not change anything, except for COVID!
What needs to change around surrogacy laws in Australia to make this process easier and less expensive?
- - Streamlined process for parentage orders and registration orders for surrogacy
- - Removal of the need for home visits post both
- - Remove police checks
- - Remove post birth counselling, keep pre-birth counselling
- - Legalise surrogacy in all states, some states it is still illegal
- - Make it legal to advertise for surrogacy, allowing matching agencies to open up in Australia
- - Compensate surrogates as it is illegal to compensate surrogates in Australia.
- - Allow access to superannuation for surrogacy
- - Allow Medicare rebates for surrogacy
What was the process around how you and your partner got legal parentage?
To obtain parentage the following has to occur throughout the whole surrogacy process prior to the PO application: Pre-birth counselling, post birth counselling, police checks, engagement of two separate solicitors, drafted surrogacy contract, home visits, psychometric testing.
Between 28 days and 6 months post birth, we had to apply for parentage and were required to obtain and submit the following to the courts: Intended Parent (IP) affidavit, Surrogate affidavit, surrogate partner affidavit, IP solicitor affidavit, Surrogate solicitor affidavit, post-birth counsellor affidavit, pre-birth counsellor affidavit, Fertility Doctor affidavit, birth certificate, surrogacy contract, post-birth counsellor report, pre-birth counsellor report, Drs letter stating Ben and I don’t have a uterus, letter from both solicitors stating legal advice has to been provided to all parties, consent order and originating application.
Were the unexpected costs to this court process and time involved?
It is not very common for Intended Parents to do their contracts, Parentage Orders (PO) and Registration Orders (RO), however we received multiple quotes from solicitors to provide these services and the quotes ranged from $7500 to $17,000.
We were lucky (crazy) and met a lady at a conference who gave us some templates for the PO process and this helped with our first submission being successful. We didn’t realise that we then had to also apply for an interstate Registration Order to update the details with the Victorian BDM. I did lots of research and googled images of court documents and we taught ourselves how to submit the RO ourselves. This took me three submissions to the courts with our first daughter and two submissions with our second daughter, which I am sure frustrated the judge having to deal with me fumbling my way through. We did save a lot of money for the legals by doing this ourselves, but it was complicated and stressful and took a few years.
What advice would you give to others who are exploring surrogacy - what words of wisdom or encouragement would you share with them?
Don’t be overwhelmed by all the steps, there are so many people in the surrogacy community that are willing to help and just take each step in the process bit by bit. It can definitely happen for you, yes it might be more challenging for some people but its definitely possible, we didn’t have a lot of money and this was a big stress for us at the start but there are people that can help you cut costs and also offer advice and support.
We also went into this process wanting to make a family but ended up with lifelong friends with both our surrogate, her family and people from the surro community so just be open to anything.
What has been the best part of becoming a parent, and how has it changed your life and perspective?
Other than getting to create a family and creating new memories, it has taught me a lot about myself not just the things I want to work on but also that you can do anything if you really want it.
There is also nothing like the steep learning curve that occurs when experiencing life looking through the lens of a little person. Oh and parenthood has taught me to be more patient but this is still a work in progress!