Surrogacy has given queer couples the opportunity to have a biological child, expanding ideas about the paths to parenthood.
'Some families' is a unique LBGTQ+ parenting podcast covering different stages of the parenting journey for queer families. In the episode, 'We're Both the Other Daddy', Stu Oakley, a publicity director and co-host of this podcast, interviewed Michael and Wes, a queer couple with three children: two through surrogacy and one, biologically Wes', from a previous relationship with a woman.
During the 33-minute episode, Michael and Wes engage the listener by sharing their own experiences, from choosing surrogacy for their fertility journey, to the hardships during the transfer of the embryo to the surrogate. They also cover the current state of policy around surrogacy in the UK.
It was very endearing to hear how, already on their first dates, they discussed their desire to have a child of their own. As they wanted to have a biological link to the child, they opted for surrogacy. However, as they discuss with the host, the process of surrogacy is not simple, and with the overwhelming information available, it's a lengthy process.
After exploring international possibilities as well as UK-based options, they turned to UK not-for-profit organisations to direct them. I was interested to hear that there are organisations who signpost information, and organise events where surrogates and intending parent can connect, hosting socials and offering matching services. However, the ratio between surrogates and would-be parents is not always balanced, making the journey of surrogate selection a complicated task. As such, they decided to follow an independent route, with the purpose of finding their ideal surrogate, egg and egg donor.
Michael and Wes compared finding a surrogate to dating. Once they matched with the potential surrogate, they spent around nine months getting to know her. This is an important process in ensuring that the expectations of the parties align. Then, a fertility centre provided the egg from an unknown egg donor and four months later, the egg was fertilised and transferred into the surrogate's uterus.
This lengthy process culminated in them having their first baby born by surrogacy in 2016. They expressed their excitement at having a successful pregnancy on the first attempt. However, fertility treatments are not always successful, and in a disheartening moment, in the process of trying for their second child with another surrogate, the couple tells us how the implantation was unsuccessful. They discuss how they were under-prepared for a failed attempt, affecting them emotionally and financially. It was also very interesting to hear how the feelings of guilt and responsibility were also experienced by the surrogate. Fertility and surrogacy are not an exact science, and this event demonstrates how it is necessary to prepare for the consequences of a potential failure, both the intended parents, and the surrogate.
After finding another egg donor and surrogate, Michael and Wes successfully had a second child by surrogacy. This time they used a known egg donor. This meant that, while the second child would be able to learn who their egg donor was from an early age, the first child will need to wait until they are eighteen years old to choose whether to discover the identity of their donor. As a parent, you want to treat your children equally, and so this creates a situation that is difficult to manage.
The podcast touched on the discussion around the Surrogacy Arrangements Act and how this is currently being reformed in the UK. This act is supposed to regulate the activities in connection with arrangements made with a surrogate. As I was not familiar with this act, I was surprised to hear that at birth, the surrogate is the legal mother, and even more shockingly, that the surrogate's husband is the legal father. It is only after six weeks when the intended parents can apply in court to obtain parental responsibilities.
After researching more information about this act, I noticed that it was created in 1985, back when regulations were not necessarily LGBTQ+ friendly. A new bill is currently being drafted that will propose reforms giving parental responsibilities to the intending parents at the time of the child's birth. This could have an important impact on queer families who opt for surrogacy as a path to parenthood, gaining some level of reassurance and making the process more straightforward without requiring a court application.
This podcast is a valuable source of information for queer families who are contemplating having a child by surrogacy. With a sense of truthfulness and humour, Michael and Wes' experiences captivate and engage the listener, who can learn about the ups and downs of surrogacy. Other topics could have been further explored, such as maintaining contact with the surrogate or the accessibility of surrogacy for queer couples.
The journey to parenthood can be especially challenging for LGBTQ+ families with a desire to have a biological link to their children. I hope that other queer families can learn from Michael and Wes' heart-warming story throughout surrogacy and, as the couple say, feel assured that the joy that the children bring every day is worth the struggle.