The UK is not set up for surrogacy, so we went to America where it is a different proposition - but more expensive

Despite huge legal fees, we had luck - On Monday 'we' will be 14 weeks pregnant and our baby will be born in the US in November

Thursday 07 May 2015 21:37 BST

Three years ago, my fiancé Lester and I decided that we wanted to start a family. When we made our momentous decision, we had already been together for five years. We talked about having kids quite early on, but somewhere along the line it got put into the “too-difficult-box”.

Then, in May 2011, a single Australian friend of ours told us a woman in India was three months pregnant with his twins. He persuaded us that we could make it happen if we really wanted to, and in 2012 we set wheels in motion.

It took some time to research what our options were, but it became clear after talking to UK lawyers that the most realistic routes were to undertake a surrogacy arrangement through an agency in the US, or to work with somebody in the UK whom we trusted implicitly. In both situations we were advised heavily to ensure it was a gestational surrogacy, meaning that we would use an egg donor and the surrogate would have no genetic link to the child.

Surrogacy in the UK has little legal protection – the rights are generally with the surrogate, even if she has no genetic link, and the advice we were given was that if we were going to go through with this in the UK we had to have absolute confidence in the person we were trusting to carry our baby.

Upon the birth of any baby, we would have to apply to the courts to recognise us as the parents. And as the high-profile court case this week has demonstrated – with a surrogate mother locked in legal dispute with the gay couple for whom she agreed to have a child – there are huge risks in any such arrangement.

We were very lucky, and a member of my fiancé’s family offered to help us. But the UK is not set up for surrogacy in so many different ways. We couldn’t put in place a legal agreement between us to protect all of us and declare what we were intending to do – the strongest thing we could do was write down an expression of intent. While some of the counselling and support was amazing, the fertility clinic we worked with was not used to trying to manage the communication between a surrogate and her partner and us – the dads to be. We found ourselves in endless arguments – with each other, with the clinic, with some part or other of the family. The process was unbelievably stressful.

We knew we wanted two kids but we were nervous about trying for twins because of the risks involved to both the babies and to the surrogate. Instead we decided to try for two separate singleton pregnancies, and so at the same time that we started the process in the UK we also began one in the US through an agency and with somebody we had never met.

That, as it transpired, was just as well. After three attempts to conceive a baby through our UK family surrogate, which all failed, we decided, reluctantly, to give up on that avenue for now. Each failed attempt was very hard on everybody, including our surrogate, and meanwhile she decided she might try for another child of her own. The door isn’t completely closed to us trying that route again, but I am not sure that anyone involved would relish a repeat of the heartache and stress.

In the US, it has been such a different proposition from the start. We have worked through an agency which paired us with a surrogate. Each of us came into the process having researched what we were doing and knowing where we stood. At each stage of the journey we have signed contracts, giving us comfort and protection. The fertility clinics have understood throughout the fact that we are as much a part of this as our fantastic surrogate. Through the process we have built a close relationship with our surrogate, and I think she will be part of our life forever.

The big downside of the US system, of course, is the cost. Whereas in the UK you can only pay a surrogate reasonable expenses, in the US, big legal fees are involved.

Surrogacy at the moment is under the spotlight and there are too many cases hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons. I suppose it is only to be expected as it is such a new concept in this country, but the lack of legal structure is making the situation worse. People are working together on a handshake and then hoping and praying that it is all for the best.

On Monday “we” will be 14 weeks pregnant. Our baby will be born in the US in November, all being well. We live in a small rural community and the warmth of the reaction from everybody has been unbelievable – a reaction which even a few years ago would have seemed impossible. I don’t think we are particularly groundbreaking. In a fast-moving world, we are a couple who have had a struggle for a couple of years to have a baby. And probably will spend the next 18 years, like every other parent, struggling to do the right thing for their child.

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