A personal account of surrogacy in South Africa from two Dads. For more info please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, or view www.nurture.co.za
Interestingly enough both my partner and I entered our relationship with no expectations of becoming parents. I think part of being gay is that you sort of accept that you may never be a parent and as such part of our ‘coming out’ process included the mourning of the loss of parenthood. Instead we envisaged a life where we would live vicariously through our siblings and friends who had become parents. Being uncles and God-parents seemed to be what was in store for us.
Well, who says paradigms can’t shift? It was my sister who first planted the seed by saying ‘you two would make wonderful parents!’. Parents? Us? Why not? Books, films and various articles all paint an attractive picture of how easy it is to adopt. And so we began exploring the option of adoption. After all, here we are, both well educated, are successful in our careers and have a spacious house to share with a child. Having graduated from the University of Google with my PhD, my frame of reference said that it will be easy to find an adoption agency, we would be screened and voila – new parents within at least 3 months! Plan the baby shower, design a nursery and start screening potential nannies! Well, all of that went out of the window when we realised that there is very little information on adoption in this country, adoption agencies seem to be an urban myth and we were alarmed at the open prejudice by some organisations that will not work with same-sex couples. In addition, we felt that we did not want to explore an inter-racial adoption as the fact that the child would be raised by two dads was already, in our eyes, a unique situation. Eventually we sourced a wonderful social worker, who was willing to work us but after having gone through the screening process, home studies the waiting began. After a year of waiting, with no baby, I continued to research and came across an article about infertility featuring NURTURE who were an egg donation agency ( and at that time, had a surrogacy programme).
As I reflect on the events leading up to this, in retrospect it is amazing how the pieces of the puzzle all slotted in. I recall picking up the phone for the first time and contacted Kim. My heart was beating, my palms sweating and I held my breath when I asked the question if they would work with a same sex couple. I nearly collapsed when she nonchalantly said it was not an issue! And so we entered yet another paradigm shift, this time that we could possibly be the genetic parent to a child!
Again we entered this surrogacy-IVF process rather naively, as there is so little information out there about surrogacy and in particular about same-sex couples choosing this option to parenthood. Those that have been through the process are reluctant to share their experiences with others and you find that you proceed using your own initiative. Our surrogacy experience has been one of learning, sharing and filled with disappointments and excitement. It has indeed been a roller-coaster ride! Our advice to any intended parents would be to look for the lessons learnt with each hurdle, to stay focused on the what you are wanting to achieve and to trust your instincts! At times we became so caught up in the ‘wanting to be parents’ that we missed some of the warning signs, which had we listened to may have saved us some heart ache. This said, the highs of surrogacy for us have far outweighed any of the disappointments. Some advice that we would suggest that is given some thought is:
1. Choose your fertility clinic wisely and make sure that the IVF coordinator will have time to answer your questions and be there to answer your questions, without you feeling that you are imposing. We changed clinics and our second clinic is worlds apart from our first experience.
2. Have clear expectations with your surrogate about expectations before, during pregnancy and after the birth.
3. Find a lawyer and social worker that you can connect with as they play a vital role in the whole process.
4. Be organized ahead of time, although the Child Act has recently changed, expect some confusion at government departments when you register the birth, apply for passport etc
5. Choose a gynaecologist and hospital that understands your unique needs. Again we were fortunate to find a doctor and a hospital, that although had never dealt with a same-sex surrogacy before, were keen to help! They made the birth of our daughter a wonderful experience for our whole family and we will forever be grateful to them for this!
6. Maintain a sense of humour!
As part of the process of surrogacy, you may have to consider selecting an egg-donor. This is such a personal aspect of the whole process. Both my partner and I looked at the profiles individually and on two occasions chose the same donor and our criteria for our selection was different. It is amazing to think that although we both looked at many profiles, we both ended up with the same choice. Our beautiful daughter resembles both of us in different ways and as she gets older, we have both found ourselves commenting on how she looks like the other! Our view on this is that the right donor is out there for you and something in the profile will attract you to her. Trust that intuition! If you are considering doing the process for a second time, plan ahead and try to secure the same donor so that the children will be biological siblings.
In terms of actual parenting it is surprising how often we are asked, “Who/where is the mummy?”. This question has so many implications for us. In terms of parenting, my partner was given 3 months ‘maternity’ leave so for practical purposes we consciously made a decision that he would be the one to stay in the hospital and to do all the things normally associated with a new mum. This does not in any way infer that I have not shared the role as parent. As in our relationship, we have not labelled or assign ourselves to specific roles, instead we chose to do those things that we feel comfortable and confident with. From the very beginning we had said that we need to be comfortable with ourselves and our relationship to answer such questions. Our philosophy is that we need to cultivate confidence from within our family unit in order to face the ‘outside world with its stereotypes’. When posed with this question, we have answered, “Her moms are angels and she has two dads!”. We will share information with people on the basis of what they need to know.
Another interesting concept is that we get the question, “How much did it all cost?”. Our decision is that we will not put a price on what it cost to have our child or children. So we normally chose not to answer this question from both a moral and personal perspective. It is strange to think that these are the two most common questions but I expect that people take comfort in contextualising our family set up for themselves. After all, we have been ahead of the characters from ‘ Brothers and Sisters’ so for many people the concept of surrogacy is still new.
How are we going to answer questions from our children? Again we had a lot of time to think about such things during our adoption screening. We had our surrogate and her family do a scrap book for our daughter, so that when the time comes, we can give it to her. This may help her process the steps we took to become parents. What we have decided is to explain things in an age appropriate manner – we have made no rules but are drawn to imagery that her mum is an angel and will deal with each situation in the best manner that we can. We expect some challenges along the way, it would be naive not to. Any parent will tell you same.
We have been so blessed on our journey towards becoming parents and we are reminded each day as we look at our daughter of the special people we have met along the way. From the team at Nurture, the other professionals and naturally the egg donor and our selfless surrogate for whom the words “Thank You” do not seem enough.
A final word of advice, do not enter this process thinking it is going to be a speedy process devoid of any emotion. Be realistic, don’t lose sight of the goal posts and take lessons from any of the set-backs you may encounter! As Kim said to us in the very beginning, “Fasten your seatbelt!”. Enjoy and the best of luck with the journey that lies ahead.
From D – proud father.