A gay couple's personal account of their journey through surrogacy from inception to the birth of their twins.
Please note that surrogacy in India is no longer an option for gay couples following a change of law. If you would like to share your story, we'd love to hear from you. Get in touch through the Contact Us page.
We are a gay couple, and had wanted a family for many years, but it seemed quite a remote possibility. For a start none of our close gay circle of friends had children, so there wasn't an easy source of advice close to hand. We started asking around, and eventually through friends of friends were introduced to singles and couples who had done surrogacy or adoption in the US, South Africa and India. We also chatted with a "surrogacy broker" online, who had contacts with agencies in about half a dozen countries. International surrogacy is only one route to parenthood among several, including co-parenting, UK surrogacy, donation, adoption etc. For us it was the preferred option, partly because we wanted full custody of children who were biologically ours, but UK adoption was something we also looked into in great detail.
The choice of which country to use was narrowed down by the fact that we had a limited budget, and wanted to be honest about our sexuality. For a combination of those reasons we ruled out some options like the US, Ukraine, and Georgia. For a start, we couldn't afford the USA. We also ruled out a couple of agencies where having spoken with them over the phone, the setup seemed extremely "dodgy". Once we focused our efforts on India the broker put us in touch with a clinic in Delhi. In turn, they introduced us to some families/clients who’d had successful pregnancies with them. Some straight, some gay. We visited a couple of them in their homes (including a trip to Perth in Australia!) and spent a lot of time on the Agency’s online forum. At that point we said goodbye to our broker, who took their fee direct from the Agency for the introduction. We were very lucky that these busy new parents found the time to chat with us, and were so open about their experiences. It made the decision of choosing this agency much easier. We've subsequently given our time to help others in the same way.
The pregnancy happened very fast. We had no doubts about wanting to be parents, our concerns were mostly about risks, logistics on the pregnancy and the bureaucracy. The agency was a busy one, with good links to donors and surrogates. Fertilisation was done in batches every 1-2 months. They were very upfront and said that if we put down a deposit to secure the surrogate and if the sperm donor could be in Delhi in six weeks time, we could attempt the first round of fertilisation. This of course was subject to some tests in the UK, such as fertility, HIV etc. Some of the tests we were able to do for free at the NHS sexual health clinic.
We let the clinic choose the surrogate, because the skills she would need (i.e. being responsible, honest, taking care of herself etc) were ones we judged the clinic could better assess than us. We chose the egg donor from an online catalogue. We only had very limited details of her genetic/family health background, but chose her because she was young, at university, and had successfully donated three times in the past. The clinic has a limit of only five donations ("cycles") per egg donor.
On arriving in Delhi we gave sperm samples over the period of a week. One was used “fresh” the other two frozen for later use. In the event, we were able to discard the frozen samples as the fresh batch got combined with the eggs, and two embryos were inserted. Both of which because foetuses. This was very lucky as getting pregnant first time with twins is rare. We met our surrogate, signed contracts, and chatted to other clients who were in Delhi to collect their children. One Australian gay couple had used two surrogates and ended up with two sets of twins – i.e. four baby boys. They hadn’t expected all four eggs to lead to successful pregnancies, and their story is an important reminder of how much of the process is due to chance. We’d only expected a singleton, but were delighted to end up with twins.
The pregnancy itself ran smoothly, and we received monthly scans, paying our fees in instalments as the pregnancy progressed. The agency kept in touch, and because there were successful births taking place every month it was reassuring to read stories online of other successful pregnancies, and realise that we would be parents very soon. The time dragged a bit to start with. We were very impatient to be dads partly because we were very anxious! But then towards the end it sped up, especially once we busied ourselves getting nursery ready, and started researching childcare and buying all the baby kit. Our twin boys were born at 37 weeks. We were present for the birth and got to hold them minutes after their arrival in the world. I can’t begin to describe how that felt! It was a straightforward birth, and our surrogate didn’t require any special medical treatment. We were relieved for her sake, and also financially, as we’d agreed to meet any medical costs incurred after the pregnancy related to the birth. Other couples were in Delhi whose children had arrived prematurely, and this was both expensive and stressful for them. Again, another reminder on how much of the process is due to chance. A surrogate birth is the same as any other in terms of the risks the mother and baby are exposed to.
Our boys were discharged from hospital 24 hours after the birth. We very quickly had to master the skills of feeding and nappy changing. We had rented an apartment in Delhi with a washing machine and kitchen, rather than stay in a hotel. It was a good decision. The washing machine was going several times a day and we needed space to wash and sterilise bottles. We also had a fast internet connection. It proved useful to have trashy internet movies and mini-series on in the background as we were awake constantly. The boys needed feeding and changing every 2-3 hours, and one of them had trouble feeding so took about an hour to finish his bottle. We also slept in shifts so one of us was always with them – they were so small and fragile weighing only 2.5 kilos each we were worried something might happen if we left them unattended! Delhi was chaotic, hot and dusty, although after a while we found some more pleasant places to hang out. The agency also introduced us socially to other clients who had also just become parents, and this was both fun and informative.
Getting the necessary paperwork to exit India and return to the UK was lengthy, although we had been warned in advance what to expect. The British High Commission website is very clear in this regard. The British paperwork (passport application) took us about 12 weeks. It is important to have an unmarried surrogate with good paperwork otherwise the process can take even longer. We also needed an Indian exit visa, and if you are willing to pay a local facilitator to assist in navigating the complexities of the Indian system, this can be done in several days. The surrogacy agency was really helpful in giving us all the certificates we needed for the both the Indian and UK end of the process.
We flew home with British Airways. They have special seats with the little baby basinets next to them (which are free but need reserving). The cabin crew treated us like royalty, and the boys were gently passed around the cabin as they slept. We stayed awake the whole ten hour flight. On getting back to our house in the UK we were very relieved that we’d left everything set up for our return, as we were so exhausted by the journey we barely had the energy to put the boys in their cots! It was a fantastic feeling to be home. And then, of course, the next stage of our adventure as parents was about to begin.