Proud Parents – surrogate dads tell their story
Mark and Matt made headlines in January when they travelled to Thailand for the birth of their two children via commercial surrogacy. Five months down the track, they tell Blaze about their journey so far.
Being a same-sex parent has been and will continue to be a life changing and fulfilling journey for us. We’re absolutely thrilled to wake up each morning greeted by our two lively children, Estelle and Tate. It’s now been five months since the births of our children through commercial surrogacy in Thailand. There’s something amazing about the way they look at the world with their bright eyes and laugh and smile at almost everything. They’re happy and healthy, which is worth the world to us. The love and support shown to us by our families and community has been overwhelmingly positive. We love these two more than anything and could not be happier with where life has taken us.
We always intended to have children one day, and had considered the options available to us in South Australia. South Australia is one of the few Australian states where same-sex couples are not able to adopt, so we knew that our most likely options were surrogacy or fostering. With commercial surrogacy illegal in Australia we had to consider international options. While India has been a popular destination for commercial surrogacy in past years, changes to Indian surrogacy law around a year ago now prevents singles and same-sex couples from undertaking surrogacy there. The US is another option, but at over $100 000 for one pregnancy it wasn’t financially viable for us. So we looked into surrogacy in Thailand, which costs around $40 000, and has been growing in popularity for Australians since the changes in India.
We found a surrogacy agency online, and decided to try for two children. We went over to Bangkok in April to start the process, where we each fertilized some eggs of the same egg donor through IVF. Two Thai surrogates then carried the embryos that had been created. One embryo was genetically related to each of us dads, and both embryos to each other through the egg donor. We were incredibly lucky that both pregnancies were successful, and waited in Australia receiving regular updates. We flew back to Bangkok in January 2014 for the birth of our two beautiful babies Tate and Estelle.
Tate and Estelle were born on the same day less than an hour apart through scheduled caesareans. We weren’t allowed in the theatre, so we waited just outside. It was a surreal experience waiting for our babies to be wheeled out. And for the first three days they stayed in the hospital nursery and we were only allowed to visit, which was a strange start having to leave them overnight with the nurses. But after three days we took them back to our apartment in a taxi, and then it was real. We were finally home as a family. Or our temporary ‘home’ at least.
When you have babies born through surrogacy in Thailand you need to stay in Bangkok for one or two months after the birth to organise the paperwork. This involves lots of forms, interviews and DNA tests, with the ultimate goal to obtain Australian Citizenship by Descent, and then an Australian passport. This whole process is a bit stressful at times while learning to look after babies, and of course we wanted to get home. But to be honest there were also some advantages to being in a serviced apartment with room service!
Including the flights, accommodation and other costs involved with surrogacy, the total costs were about $100 000. We had to re-mortgage our house to afford this, but it was worth every cent.
We know there will still be some legal difficulties ahead. For example, under Thai law the surrogate is on the birth certificate as the mother, so there may be difficulties in future with paperwork that requires both parents’ permission such as passport renewals. However these are not a great concern when compared to the wonderful outcome of having our beautiful son and daughter.
Estelle and Tate at five months old have changed so much already! Life is pretty similar to any family with young children, we go through the same issues and events, and we go to our local parent group to compare notes with other parents. Although we’re the only males in our parent group, the other parents have been incredibly supportive. The current thing we’re going through is they’re just starting on solids, which should be an adventure in itself.
Throughout the process of starting our family an invaluable source of information has been the experience of others who have been through the same process. We found a lot of support through Facebook groups; for anyone else considering this type of journey, we’d suggest that’s where they start for information and support. We’ve also started a Facebook group ‘Gay Dads South Australia’ for existing and intending parents to help bring that community together.
[Top image] Mark and Matt with Tate and Estelle. Photo: supplied