Episode 19 – Josh – gay dad
Josh and husband Cam from Brisbane became parents to baby boy Colton in June 2023. Colton was carried and birthed by their surrogate Machelle who was previously a stranger. Machelle lives near Toowoomba so they’re 2 and a half hours apart, and the distance does feel enormous when their team experienced 2 miscarriages at 6 and 10 weeks, and then a scare when 26 weeks pregnant.
This episode was recorded in September 2023.
These podcasts were recorded as part of the free webinar series run by Surrogacy Australia. If you would like to attend one, head to this page for dates and registration links. The recording can also be found on our YouTube channel so you can see the photos that are described. Find more podcast episodes here.
The webinars are hosted by Anna McKie who is a gestational surrogate, high school Math teacher and surrogacy educator working with Surrogacy Australia and running SASS (Surrogacy Australia’s Support Service).
Are you an Intended Parent (IP) who is looking to find a surrogate, or a surrogate looking for Intended Parents? Join SASS.
Welcome to our podcast series with Surrogacy Australia. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen and in turn for helping us spread awareness and appreciation for surrogacy. I’m your host Anna McKie and these recordings are from a regular webinar series that I run. You can find upcoming dates on our website at surrogacyaustralia.org. During the one hour webinars I will walk you through the surrogacy process in Australia and you can type in questions for us to answer. My co-hosts have all done
and they alternate between surrogates, gay dads and straight mums. This episode, recorded in September 2023, features Josh. Josh and husband Cam from Brisbane became parents to baby boy Colton in June 2023. Colton was carried and birthed by their surrogate Machelle, who was previously a stranger. Machelle lives near Toowoomba, so they’re two and a half hours apart, and the distance does feel enormous when their team experience two miscarriages at six and ten weeks,
and then a scare when 26 weeks pregnant. In this episode, we talked about the strength of their team in terms of communication, having a surrogate who has previously carried for another couple in terms of the positive elements that that brings, but also the perceived pressure on the dads to make sure Machelle had a good journey when her first did not end well. You can hear Machelle talk about her first journey in a future podcast episode, or look it up on our YouTube channel if you can’t wait that long.
Their team is a great example of the intended parents, IPs, being in the hospital for the planned cesarean, but waiting until Machelle was in recovery to meet their son. And Josh talks in detail about the relationship built with Sam and Machelle’s children and how that will be maintained post-birth. I hope you enjoy the episode. We’ve got Josh joining us tonight and we’re gonna work our way through some beautiful photos that he shared with us of his team. So tell me, Josh, who’s in this photo and what was the occasion? Sorry.
This was when Machelle officially offered to be our surrogate. So you’ve got Sam in the Led Zeppelin shirt, that’s Machelle’s husband, and then Machelle, Cameron and myself on the end holding Machelle’s crocheted uterus that she made us. And then in front you’ve got Ray, her son, and Paige, their daughter. Beautiful. And so, and it’s said on that little plaque there…
know, offering to to share her uterus with you essentially. Yeah, yeah, there was a card and that plaque and then yeah, the little knitted uterus as well. That’s possibly a sign that surrogates are a little bit crazy that they do fun silly things like who sits home and knits a uterus or crochets. Right, right. It’s gotta be crazy to come on this journey with us. So, give us a bit of a time frame then. So her kids, I know from the photos coming up later, obviously aged. Do you remember how old they were when you met or, you know, your three months
When was it at the beginning when you first made contact? How many years ago was it? So we started, Machelle reached us out to us in March of 2021 through ASC on Facebook. She reached out to Cameron originally. And then we started a group chat between the three of us. Fast forward to June, 2023. So over two years from the official offer to having him in our arms, having Colton in our arms, yeah. I think that’s pretty spot on average, I would say. That’s a real line frame from that first message to birth. Yeah.
There we go. We’ll keep going through these beautiful photos here. And so a transfer day here. Did it work on the first transfer? So this is transfer number three. So our first transfer was in March of 2022. We made six weeks, I believe. And then that past miscarriage. I don’t know what that the terminology is for only six weeks. And then we did our second transfer.
The first embryo that was pulled out didn’t defrost properly. So that one wasn’t implanted at all. They managed to pull out a second one in time for us to be there. That one we made 10 weeks and again, didn’t make it. And then Colton was lucky number three. Sorry. The second one was June, 2022. And then this one Colton’s was October, 2022.
got a couple of questions on that then. How many embryos did you have in the freezer? And do that question first. Yep. So egg collection was November 2020 with a family friend of ours, Ali. We had 16 eggs collected by day five, we froze seven. Some great numbers here. Yeah. Which we didn’t prepare ourselves for. We didn’t have that information. Come day two, I think we dropped down to, I think it was like 11 and it kind of just hit us because
we didn’t have that information that, hey, you know, walking away with 50% embryos of what you started out with eggs is amazing numbers. We didn’t have that, like that hit us hard. And we’ll chat with Rachel, the nurse at Life, she’s awesome. Yeah, she sort of walked us through that and we’re like, okay, all right, no worries.
And then when we say it in the community, everybody’s like, that’s fantastic numbers. And we’re like, oh, okay, cool. So, yeah, so seven embryos we froze. But as you say, if you don’t know that’s information at the beginning, that can be so overwhelming how much to absorb, isn’t it? Yeah, yeah. And so that’s some quite significant things there. Some two early miscarriages to keep anybody in the team could have decided, do you know what? We can’t go through this pain and heartache. You guys as dads getting your hopes up every time. And Machelle is her body.
putting yourself on the line, that was, can you talk us through that briefly? It’s hard, like it’s loss of a potential child. Like that’s- You start to imagine- Taking it from that IP point of view, it was the loss of the start of us becoming dads. Like that was a step for us to becoming dads and it was a huge step back for us. It was a real kick in the guts. And then also picking yourself up and making sure making sure us are all good. And then also supporting Sam.
and Machelle and the kids as well. Yeah. Having to have those conversations and we learnt a bit. We learnt the second transfer. We really pulled back who we told outside of our team as well, because you need to go and untell everybody that was. Yeah. We sort of the first one we kind of announced on Facebook, Hey, we’re doing our transfer and everybody was aware of it. And then, you know, you’ve got to go and tell everybody that you’ve had a miscarriage. Nobody wants to do that.
So, yeah, so we started pulling back. It was just family and the close friends, but this transfer, we didn’t tell anybody at all. Nobody knew about Colton’s transfer. We just made the birth announcement.
when we got our blood results. Yes. And it’s that fine balance between needing some support from friends and family, but not having to explain it to everybody because that’s exhausting when you’re going through grief yourself. And I think that’s why we’re blowing our own trumpet here. Such an amazing team that we were able to support each other through something like that without a lot of outside support. It’s truly a friendship. Like since March 2021, we have spoken to Machelle.
every single day. There has not been one day that has gone by where we haven’t. Even if it’s a, hey, we’re all flat out today. Hope you have a good day. Like there’s been some form of communication every single day for that two and a half years. So I remember that. And when you say communication, it can be voice, but or text is like, it’s a combination. Yeah, I would say probably 90% of our communication is just through the Facebook messages, just texting. There’s been FaceTimes in there.
you know, with everything. If there’s a exciting conversation to have or a difficult conversation to have, um, we’re two and a half hours away from each other. It’s a bit, bit much to jump in a car and, you know, just drive down the road and have a chat in person. So those difficult conversations or really exciting conversations were, were had face to face over FaceTime. You’ve become friends together and it’s your modern family. Yeah. And then this photo here is baby shower.
So we got gender reveal first. So we played a game, Tic Tac Toe. The only person that knew about that was my best friend, Dakota. So she set up the game of Tic Tac Toe for us. So it was a surprise for everybody. Machelle, our parents, it was a surprise for everybody. So, and then the photo next to it, that’s at the baby shower. Beautiful. And you can see by the big excited expressions on your face is that it was a surprise, most definitely. Yes. Yeah, it was. And then we get…
to the day of birth. Yes. So it was a- These are some beautiful photos we’re gonna go through here. It was a planned caesarean, I believe. And so yeah, talk us through the birth and how that all went on the day. From what we remember of it. Yes. We traveled up to Toowoomba Wednesday or Thursday. It was about a week before the planned caesarean.
We got checked into our motel and those days we were just going out and seeing Machelle. Sam had to come to Brisbane for an appointment for Paige, their daughter, so we spent all day with Machelle and we had face masks and we did all that sort of stuff, watched a movie and just chilled out the three of us. That was really good. And then, so the Monday that he was born, six o’clock we all met at the hospital and she was first one to go in and she would have been going in at seven o’clock and…
we would have been on the ward and ready to go, ready to meet him at nine o’clock. At nine o’clock, we got a message from Machelle saying that she’s still waiting. There’s been an emergency. They pulled everybody out of her O.R. and she’s still waiting. Right. So then it was about 20 minutes later, we get the message. All right, I’m going in, see you soon. So then we found out that she was in recovery. She gave us a call and let us know she’s in recovery, he’s perfect, everything like that. We made our way up to the ward.
It was probably, I would say about an hour Machelle was in recovery for, before she was brought back to the ward. I think now in Toowoomba hospital, there’s a wear mark in the floor on the maternity ward where I was just pacing back and forth. So yeah, so we, our egg donor, Ali, she was there. Those photos are her work. She’s a, she’s a photographer. She did all of this for us. She hit us in the corner cause Machelle was coming around the corner where we were waiting. She.
pushed us into the corner so we couldn’t see and Machelle went into the room. They all got comfortable in the room and then Ali went into the room just before we did so she could set up on the other side of Machelle and then capture as we were coming in the room. These beautiful photos. There’s a question I’m sure some IPs might have brand new ones.
So clearly you were here in the hospital for the birth, but you weren’t actually in the room of the caesarean for the birth. Correct. And was that due to limited numbers allowed in there or as a team you decided you wanted to do it that way? As a team, yeah. So, both I guess. Only one support person was allowed in the operating room. Right from the start, before we even started the journey with Machelle, Cameron and I had discussed that and it was, we both meet him together and that’s it.
If we can’t meet him together, we wait until we meet him together. And then when we joined our team, it was just very clear that Machelle’s support person is Sam and Sam’s there. And so I think IPs often wonder, you know, oh, do we get to be at the birth? Absolutely. You are there on his birthday. And in some ways it’s nicer. I like these post-Caesarian photos because she’s sitting up, not lying down, so to speak, and she can, you know, watch you be dads without being surgically cut open. That was something Machelle was a little bit worried about. She wanted to.
She said, you know, do you and do you guys and Sam want to take turns and coming in while I’m in recovery? And my easy response to her was I’ve just trusted you to carry our baby for nine months. I think I can trust you with one more hour in recovering, being comfortable and coming back to the ward. That’s beautiful. And as it should be. And I think that’s a sign of a great team there. All those conversations that you’ve.
talked through together. So what was that like meeting your boy for the first time, eh? I’m not crying, you’re crying. What are you talking about? It was the saying, the world stops around you. That’s exactly what that moment felt. Everything around us stopped, dissipated as we just stared at him. That’s all we could do was just stare at him in disbelief that he was here, we were dads. Finally there, it’s all this planning as a team and him growing in Machelle
Then he’s in your arms, eh? Pretty powerful. And then we’ve got a couple of post-birth photos. Yeah, so this is the day we left Mater to come home. So we went back out seeing, so the actual one on the end, that’s Sam’s dad. Pretty cool dad. He lives on the property with them. So we were able to get a photo with him. And again, he’s dad. So, you know, he’s just as much as part of the family is what we are with their family. And that’s for people listening again, this is where a friendship can get to that you’re calling.
their dad, dad, and that these are friends. How long did you stay near her post-birth? Cause that’s often a common question. Six days. Yep. Yeah. It was around the big mark. It was, yeah. And then what was the timeframe until when you saw her next time? Three weeks, four weeks. Yep. Yep. Where we come out, we made a trip out and then they’ve had to make a couple of trips to Brisbane for different medical appointments. So we’ve caught up with each other there.
Yeah, I think it was four weeks. Yeah. And obviously communication in that time. Cause as you said, there’s never been a day gone by without messages. So messages, photos, FaceTime. Messages, photos, FaceTimes, who explosion photo, all those photos, all of them. That’s what we surrogates want to see. You go through the same things that we’ve been through as parents. And then you’re a few months post-birth now. And so we’ve got a photo here of the parentage order that you’ve had, and then a collage of whose family is all of this. That’s a bit of a mix.
So at the top you got my brother, my niece, my nephew. You got Cameron’s nieces holding Colton there. My nans, so you got great grandma there. That’s my mom and Michelle. So that was a really nice photo to have as well. And then you got dad, my sister, and then Cam’s mom there as well. So a nice variety of first time cousins and auntie. And yeah, it’s good to see. It is, the village coming together, that you don’t just…
Well, for the surrogate too, she gets to see so many of these people that she’s helped to make cousins and aunties and grandparents too. And then all together for the parentage order day, even with Machelle’s two kids, because they were part of the journey too, weren’t they? They were, they were. Yeah, the times that we’d go out, I don’t think all the time was spent with Machelle. I don’t think a lot of time was spent with Machelle when we were out at Toowoomba. To be honest, we’d be going down.
to the shop with the kids and grab lunch down the shop with the kids and bring it back, you know, playing all different board games and everything with the kids. So that was a great time to spend with the kids and building a relationship with the kids as well. We’ve got them on Kids Messenger and everything else, but having that face to face time and building that relationship with them was good. And how old are they now? Grade 7 and grade 8. So about 13 and 14.
Yes, yep, yep, both in high school. Yes, well on that, I think I’ve got another question about that one. You mentioned there then when you had trips out to Toowoomba, you were spending a lot of time with the surrogates children. Was that an important part to your team or it came naturally or something that you all valued together? Very important part to our team. Extended family for Cameron and I is a bit.
Distant, we don’t have a lot to do with our aunties and uncles. So that direct auntie uncle, you know, parents, siblings. So we’ve got aunties and uncles that aren’t aunties and uncles, but you’ve got that respect and relationship.
to them that you look up to them. And that was one thing that we really wanted with not only Sam and Machelle, but also with Paige and Ray, you know. They were already 12 and 13 and 14 before he’s even born. So they were already gonna be that fair bit older than him. Having them also as role models that he can look up to, aspire to be, go to for advice. Yeah, that was something that was really important to Cameron and I and building that relationship with them, making sure that they’re comfortable with us.
and comfortable to, you know, on those times that, hey, if they want to take him out for his first drink when he’s 18 or maybe before 18, who knows? We’ve got that trust, we’ve got that relationship with them that they can go and do that with him. So yeah. I think that’s a credit to your team that really valuing that the whole family that comes with the surrogate there. Maybe that’s a good opportunity to mention that Machelle had been a surrogate before and she’d had a journey.
And those of us in the community know it didn’t go so well, or certainly didn’t end well and have not maintained contact. So when you came into the community, that was something that you were aware of with Machelle. So did that create some pressure or how did you go about that as a team navigating that for you guys as IPs being with an experienced surrogate? So being with an experienced surrogate and keeping that as a broad statement, we found amazing.
You know, if there was questions that we had, we could go to Machelle. We go, if there was things that we missed out on appointments, Machelle would be able to fill us in. She’d, she’d been there before. We sort of had somebody by our side that we knew could also back us up as well. So it was good to have that. Having a surrogate that unfortunately has had not a positive experience previously. Cameron and I felt pressure and not from an external source, just, I guess, self pressure to ensure Machelle had.
had a good journey. Um, you know, we don’t want to be, we’re not those people. We would never do what happened to Machelle ourselves, but you know, we were conscious of even little hiccups that may trigger something from a previous journey. Um, there were little hiccups. There was a time the surrogacy card declined and that was a huge trigger for Sam and Machelle. We got through that as a team, but
having that pressure, yeah, to ensure that Machelle got her good journey, because God, she’s entitled to it. God, she deserves a good journey. And it’s a bit like, I suppose, surrogacy, you know, often says, it’s like a relationship. It’s a bit nearly as much as your life partner, but not quite. It’s, but it’s more than friends. So if you enter into a relationship with a person that’s come from an ex that’s had some level of trauma and not go so well, and now they’re with you, that that’s that sort of.
We just have to pave the way for us together, but I’m also very aware of your past and the weight of that. Was there some particular things that you guys did together to work through that or just lots of communication? Just communication, honestly. And, you know, that’s communication between just Cameron and I, you know, communication between Cameron, myself and a counselor. Counseling, counseling, counseling, counseling. If that…
One of the big things, communication and counseling. Yeah, that’s the biggest things. And then, you know, between the three or the four of us, including Sam in conversations, and then further counseling as a team, the whole team with, with Katrina, Katrina is amazing. I think there’s a new saying in the community that Alex and Carla introduced the other four and that is when in doubt, counsel it out. We’re using that, let’s, so that’s really valuable to hear that you did engage with some
counseling with people who are experienced in this surrogacy dynamic specifically to help you navigate through that. Yeah, Katrina had also helped Machelle at the end of her previous journey. Machelle didn’t have to go through that trauma and repeating it to a counselor again to help us understand. Katrina was already aware of what happened before and it’s a great middle ground really was, yeah. Yes, having a middle ground is helpful. So that was some of the things, I mean.
challenges for your team, but also things that you did really well. What are some other things that were unique to your team that were either challenges or things you’re really proud of that you did? Distance, even just two and a half hours. It’s a challenge. We had a 26 week pre-labor scare, got the phone call from Sam to say Machelle was on her way to hospital. Cameron and I were at work, tarts pounding out of our chests and the hospital was tossing up.
between so at Toowoomba Hospital, they can’t do anything prior 28 weeks, I believe they don’t have the equipment there. So it was we’re going to send it to Marta in Brisbane. We’re like, Okay, cool. We’re going to go home. We’re going to pack our bags. Marta’s half an hour for us. Awesome. We’ll wait when you say she’s in the ambulance. We’ll go we waited and we waited and we waited and then the hospital made the decision that no, she’s going to stay so then it’s now we’ve got two and a half hours drive.
to get up there to be with Machelle. Why didn’t we do this two and a half hours ago? So that was, you know, we couldn’t just drop everything and do that 15 minute drive to be with her. You know, part of that was the hospital being so undecisive in where she was going, what she was doing. You know, if we hadn’t known she was saying, we would have not even come home, we would have just gone straight up there. So that night we got up there, that night we went to the hospital, we spent time with her, everything was all good. We stayed the night, made sure she was still okay in the morning, took her home.
And then, and then we come back to breathe. So yeah, so definitely distance. It’s a real, yeah, it’s a hard thing to do when things go wrong. It’s yeah. Definitely. Yes. Cause you can’t just pick it up and be there in 20 minutes to help out. Yeah. But on that then any advice for teams that have distance when you were perhaps building up the friendship at the beginning, did you have a bit of a recipe or how often you were going to try and see each other in person or, and do you have a rough plan as a team now post-birth?
how often you might aim to see each other in person. Yeah, so pre-pregnancy, we were catching up once a month and that’s our plan post-birth. Pregnancy made that more frequent, different doctors appointments, hospital appointments, wanting to spend more time with Machelle, wanting to see baby grow, wanting to do all of that. So we feel that what we had pre-birth is the expectation.
and quite a good standard to continue post-birth. That’s great. That’s how we built the friendship. And you know, that friendship is what is going to be seen on the other side, post-birth, that friendship continuing. So, yeah, if we were putting in that effort to build the friendship, then we put in that effort to continue the friendship also. That’s beautiful. That’s start the way you mean to finish almost. Yeah, yeah. Hmm. In terms of when you did catch up in person, was it a combination of sometimes out near there, Toowoomba and sometimes…
with you in Brisbane? Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely a good mix. I think it’s their turn to come to us for Christmas. We did, we’ve done a Christmas there. They’ve come down for Christmas out at Redcliffe at the beach. No, it’s our turn to go there actually. Sorry, it’s our turn to go out there. So, yeah, so a good mix. We did the gender reveal in Toowoomba. We did the baby shower down here in Brisbane. Yeah, yeah, good little, good mix. And again, it’s that friendship of, you know, one not having to drive to the other one all the time.
keeping that friendship as well. Yes, which a true friendship is more 50-50, isn’t it? So although you come together for this intensity of this Surroship, then you ease back to being normal friends. Way back to the beginning, you mentioned that, so Machelle sort of found you from the community. Well, what advice would you give to people? How do you find a surrogate? What did you guys do to give yourselves the best chance of finding or being found?
Just us on Facebook. And I know it’s such an unhelpful comment to say that. I wish I could tell you what to do to get a surrogate, but you can’t be fake because it’s not gonna happen. It’s not gonna last. You know, you may have surrogates reach out to you because you’re this almighty amazing person on Facebook. But after some conversations, you know, Facebook messages, things will…
will come to light. So don’t be fake. Just be you like be a part of the community is the thing and being a part of the community is talking to everyone. What does that look like to be part of the community? Yeah, so don’t just talk to surrogates on Facebook. Don’t just interact with surrogates on Facebook. Talk to the other IPs. We’ve made three friendships. We met our neighbor five doors down through ASC. We
We went to a baby shower a couple of weeks ago of gay dads that we met through ASC. You know, reach out, talk to, support, ask for advice from IPs. Egg donors are a part of ASC as well. Interact with everybody in the community because you never know who’s watching. And what was your timeframe? I think you said maybe in March when Machelle reached out to you, how soon before that had you joined and how long were you sort of waiting? So our introduction post.
was September 2017. Oh, 2017. Smiley. So. Given that there was a bit of time where we weren’t so active. So that can explain that long period, I guess. But there was a wedding to plan and there was a house to build and. Had you had any false starts with other surrogates that reached out and started to build anything?
Yeah, not through ASC. We had a coworker of Cam’s reach out. We got two appointments with the fertility specialist and then it was advised for her own medical reasons not to continue. Yeah. We had conversations with other surrogates within the community, but that was not surrogating. That wasn’t, you know, anything like that. That was them offering advice, having different conversations with them that way.
And again, you never know what you say to them to what you say to different people. But hopefully that all was, you know, laying the foundations for just being the genuine awesome people that you were because you were just engaging with other people in the community. And then when Machelle perhaps was ready as a surrogate to go again and maybe asked among the community, like who are the good IPs or she’d perhaps already been watching and seeing that you were there.
then the timing was right. I believe she was sticky peaking, yes. Good to have a sticky peak. We’ll do that in life, don’t we? If we’re meeting- We do, we do. If we sort of do a reference check with a friend of a friend, so they know somebody there. Have you got any extra then parting advice about your own journey that you’d like to impart or advice to anybody at the beginning? Parting advice. This is your journey. Make it what you’re proud to one day tell the world is your journey. I like that.
That’s going to be my hook line for this episode. It’s true, isn’t it? And, and we can’t often come to this with a place of desperation for IPs and it’s hard to step back and go, hang on, this is a journey. I have to tell my child. You have to tell your family. Hey dads, we’re going to get asked, how did he come to you? How, how did this happen? We need to, you know, at the end of the day, be proud to tell our story in, in how we got here and.
And hold your head up high that the friendship that you developed and maintained with your surrogate and her family is one that you’re proud of and is still in your life. I think that’s a credit to you and your team, Josh and Cam and little Colton, that you’ve done a great job. You’ve had a great journey. I’m sure Machelle has ticked that box as well. Yes, it’s ticked, she’s done, she’s told us there’s no more. Chop is shut. So if there’s ever a sibling journey, you have to back again, finding another son. Back again, back again.
Thank you for listening to this episode. To see the beautiful images mentioned, head to our YouTube channel to watch the webinar recording there. If you’re looking for more support and potentially connecting with a surrogate or intended parents, head to our website, surrogacyaustralia.org, to check out the resources and to learn more about SASS. Please subscribe to this podcast if you found it valuable and share it with someone so they too can benefit from this conversation. Until next time, welcome to the village.
Looking to find a surrogate in Australia? Consider joining SASS.
Looking for an overview of surrogacy? Join us in a free, fortnightly Wednesday night webinar.
Looking to chat with other IPs and surrogates in a casual setting? Join us for a monthly Zoom catch up, one Friday of each month.