Can you tell us how you decided to start a family and the journey you took to get there, including the method you used (IVF, adoption, surrogacy, etc.)?
Our son was born through surrogacy after 4 years of planning, arranging, and trying to conceive via IVF with both an egg donor and a surrogate. Initially, we entertained overseas surrogacy as there was little information and possibility in Australia when we first began our research. Also, our original (and second) egg donors were based in the United States. Ultimately, we found both a surrogate and egg donor in Australia and explored our options domestically.
In your experience, does the LGBTQ+ community face unique challenges when starting a family?
Absolutely! Of course, these challenges vary based on the respective identities of the parent(s) or couple(s).
In addition to any potential challenges heterosexual or cisgender people may face, there is always a concern of prejudice or discrimination for LGBTQ people when accessing a health-related service. Further, there are a myriad of archaic, damaging and offensive stigmas perpetuated on LGBTQ people as to why they shouldn’t be parents.
As wonderful as the medical staff at our clinic were, there was still lots of confusion as to who the biological parents were, and what terms to use to refer to the people in our parties. It seems there is still a bit of education and awareness that needs to be made. No matter how innocent a mistake may be, the continued “mistakes” become incredibly irritating, especially when they can be easily avoided.
Under Australian law, same-sex couples are still not eligible for Medicare-rebates for any of the medical-related costs, which include items ranging from: general appointments for all parties, medication for egg donor and surrogate, egg-retrieval procedures, and embryo transfers. This means the price is much more expensive for LGBTQ people when compared to heterosexual couples, who do receive a Medicare-rebate. Of course, this may vary between the states and territories. However, it’s certainly something that needs to be amended at a federal level.
What were the major hurdles you encountered in your journey to parenthood, and how did you overcome them?
As two dads with a child born via surrogacy, we required both an egg donor and a surrogate.
It took nearly 4 years to finally birth Harrison.
Our initial egg donor was a relative, who was ultimately not a viable consideration. Our second egg donor was a friend, who went through a retrieval process and ultimately none of our embryos made it to a viable transfer.
In the meantime, our cousin offered to be our surrogate. Unbeknownst to us, she had been thinking about being a surrogate for quite some time. She was also unaware that we were hoping to start a family via surrogacy.
Ultimately, we found an egg donor interstate. She is now one of our closest friends.
After another egg retrieval and two unsuccessful embryo transfers, the pandemic made interstate travel very difficult. Eventually, we were able to do a third egg retrieval which produced five viable embryos. Our third embryo transfer did not take. It wasn’t until our fourth embryo transfer that we had a successful pregnancy.
Nine months later, our son was born at Christmas.
Could you touch on the emotional and practical aspects of your journey to becoming a parent, including the process and the eventual outcome?
Our process was very long, complicated and stressful. However, everyone involved was committed to the journey and making it happen.
What has been the best part of becoming a parent, and how has it changed your life and perspective?
The best part is hearing our son laugh and seeing him smile!
It’s certainly changed our lives for the better, even with all the stresses and ups and downs parenthood brings. It forces you to realise what matters most to you, for yourself, your family, and your own wellbeing.
How many children do you have, and did they come to you through the same process or different methods?
We are still a single child household, but we are hoping to change that.
Were there any unexpected costs or financial challenges to starting your family?
Having a child through surrogacy in Australia presents a lot of unexpected ongoing costs, in addition the general costs surrounding IVF.
There are additional costs for counselling and legal services, which are required for the intended parents, egg donors, and surrogates. All of this is, of course, paid by the intended parents.
In Australia, I find that the surrogate is always protected in the journey (and rightfully so!). However, intended parents are not “legally” protected. It’s a gripe I have with the system, as it overlooks so many components to the process.
If you could go back and do anything differently in your family-building journey, what would it be and why?
To be honest, I would have sought personal counselling sooner. No matter how much we can prepare ourselves for the twists and turns of the journey, it can be incredibly draining despite the eventual rewards.
What advice would you give to others in the LGBTQ+ community who are about to start their own families - what words of wisdom or encouragement would you share with them?
The advice I always give intended parents through surrogacy is to take each step and each component to the journey as one step at a time, and worry about what you need to do only as you need to worry about it. Seek advice and input, of course, but to try to not stress about things out of our control.
If your children are old enough to understand, how do they feel about being part of a rainbow family? If comfortable, could you share their perspectives?
Our son isn’t old enough to understand the difference between families just yet. He knows he loves his two daddies, and that some other children have mums. We certainly share stories with him about how he came into this world, and plan to be very open with him about it in the future.