Episode 38 – Andrew – gay dad
Andrew and husband Sam from Canberra became parents to their daughter Paige in December 2020 and son Cole in February 2023. Bonnie, who lives on the Sunshine Coast and knew Sam from high school, was their Traditional surrogate, meaning it was her egg. The births were total opposites with Paige needing to be in the NICU for 7 weeks but Cole was a homebirth. They have been advocates for legalising Traditional surrogacy in the ACT to be legally recognised as their children’s parents.
This episode was recorded in January 2024.
To see the beautiful images described in this recording, watch it on our YouTube channel.
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 Surrogacy Australia’s podcast series. I’m your host Anna McKie and my aim is to raise the level of awareness of surrogacy through these conversations. This podcast is a recording from a webinar that I host and you can find more details about those and upcoming dates on our website at surrogacyaustralia.org. The webinars are free, go for an hour and we’ll take you through how surrogacy works in Australia. You can ask questions, typing them in anonymously if you prefer.
and you hear from a co-host who has navigated surrogacy in Australia, either a surrogate, a gay dad or a straight mum. This episode, recorded in January 2024, features Andrew. Andrew and husband Sam from Canberra became parents to their daughter Paige in December 2020 and son Cole in February 2023. Bonnie, who lives on the Sunshine Coast and knew Sam from high school, was their traditional surrogate, meaning it was her egg that was used.
The births were total opposites, with Paige needing to be in the NICU for seven weeks, but Cole was a home birth. They have been advocates for legalizing traditional surrogacy in the ACT to be legally recognized as their children’s parents. In this episode, we discuss navigating traditional surrogacy in the ACT when it wasn’t legal at the time, the logistics of planning for home inseminations, navigating a diagnosis during pregnancy of hydrops fatalis,
resulting in an emergency caesarean birth and many weeks in intensive care, and not knowing if Paige would live past her first birthday, polarizing that with Cole’s pregnancy when he went two and a half weeks past his due date and a home birth with two private midwives, navigating conflicting views when advised to birth Cole by the doctors but trusting your surrogate and her maternal instincts. It was a very interesting chat and it is a shining example of friends coming together to create a village.
to not only create their children, but that village to raise children together. I hope you enjoy this episode. So Andrew, you’re with us tonight and we’ve got two surrogacy journeys to talk about here. You obviously eventually found Bonnie, well, she was already through a connection and she eventually was your traditional surrogate, but that’s obviously not the first offer that you had. Take us back to the beginning of when you first investigated surrogacy and what-
bumps you had along the way to then eventually meeting Bonnie. Yeah, okay. I’ll try and be quick. It’s quite a long story. So I’ll just paraphrase the key points. So initially Sam and I looked at fostering children because we didn’t even know about surrogacy or think that that was even a possibility. At the time, this was probably about 12 years ago, same-sex male couples weren’t favored well for fostering. So that kind of put a
There was actually, I’m not sure if you remember, and there was a website, an app on a phone called Find a Baby, and it was basically about egg donors, sperm donors, surrogates, whatever. You just can’t, it was like a meetup app, which really planted the seeds in our minds that this could be possible. Long story short, so we ended up, first of all, dating a potential surrogate through that website.
which didn’t really go our way through sort of, I guess, she ended up getting pregnant naturally with a, she just recently got involved with a partner and they ended up getting pregnant. So that kind of didn’t come to pass. And then through the surrogacy Facebook page that you mentioned, we had met another really beautiful young lady who was sort of keen to be a surrogate. And we kind of went through the journey of counseling and things like that with her, but it,
turns out that she probably wasn’t in the right space. I think he kind of drew a point that, you know, it’s good in theory, I think, a lot of the time. And with best intentions, people approach you and say, oh, I’d definitely carry a baby for you. But I think the reality kicks in and it just seems a little bit overwhelming, which is totally like, we just appreciate even the notion that she considered being a surrogate for us was absolutely amazing. So anyway.
Throughout this process, Sam’s good friend from high school was obviously in and out of contact about the fertility. At the start, she was with her partner and she just had a baby of her own. So she wasn’t in a position to do that. And then eventually after Sam and I were deflated a few times and Sam kind of reached out and said, you know, like it looks like it’s not gonna happen. Well, then that’s when she came forward and said, yeah, hey, I’m here and ready to go. So, yeah.
Incredible. A side comment then, in the journeys that you were planning with the other two potential surrogates, at that point in time, were you looking for an egg donor or had an egg donor lined up? Or did you have a plan there? Yeah, that’s yeah, good question. Sorry, I forgot to mention that. So Sam’s sister who was in that photo, Maddie, she had offered kindly to be our egg donor. And we thought, wow, how amazing like genetically that’s as close to Sam and I that we could find and we’ll bless. But for medical reasons, she was unable, she went through the process, but it
she was ruled out eventually because, for medical reasons essentially, yeah. So in some ways you were back to square one, looking for an egg donor and a surrogate, and then Bonnie essentially offered to be both. At the time, is that what Bonnie’s offer was to be both? Was she aware that traditional surrogate made her the biological mother as well as a surrogate? Yeah, I mean, Bonnie is just incredible in every single way that I could possibly, I couldn’t do big enough appreciation about her,
she’s not really caught up in the medical dialogue. And so she was just like, I’ll have a baby for you. And she’d already had three children herself. And I think her sort of intrinsic beliefs and her values sort of led her to just being, well, I don’t wanna go through medically anyway. I wanna be part of it and I wanna just incredible stuff. So yeah, so whilst it wasn’t officially those terms, yes, it was that offer essentially.
So asking slightly out of context then, so Bonnie was eventually a traditional surrogate, which means I’m assuming you did the path of home inseminations. Yeah, that’s right. That’s logistically very challenging when you live in different states. Did she come to you or you came to her?
She came to us, I think, again, she’s just an amazing person on so many levels. But I think as well, what was driving that for her coming down was that she had spent some time in Canberra at school with Sam. So she had other friends and so it was, you know, kind of a bit of a coming back to her old stomping ground, I guess. So, and yeah, so we were just blessed as well. I mean, we absolutely would have been willing to go up to Newcastle to do that. But as it presented,
Covid was just happening as well. So it made it logistically an absolute nightmare. Bonnie’s a bit cheeky and was like, whatever I like. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Did it work first month of trying for each kid? It did with my husband. So the second birth with Cole, our son, the third month for me and Bonnie. Yeah, so pretty lucky as well. Yeah, fairly within three, so to speak. Right, yeah, exactly. Third time was the lucky number and that gave us a couple of months, I think, to refine the process.
just top and tail what we had been doing for the first couple of months previously. I will say this, for anybody that’s absolutely brand new to surrogacy, when we say traditional surrogacy, it’s not conceived the traditional way, just in case anybody’s wondering. It’s where they come together in the same home and the man makes his contribution, usually in a cup of some sort. And then usually it’s done with extracting, whether or not I keep this part in my recording or not, from the traditional surrogates, I know it’s usually then taken up in a syringe.
and the female being privately in a room inserts that into her or it’s in a soft menstrual cup and she might insert that. Was it something along those lines that you guys did? Pretty much, yeah, pretty much, yeah. We certainly traversed all of those outcomes because Sam and I are both donors, sperm donors, so we’ve done the whole gamut.
I will say though, it is unlikely that most IPs will find a traditional surrogate. Mind you, those that do probably more often come from people that you know beforehand. So you’ve already got that connection. I think most surrogates that go out of their way to do it for strangers are usually offering to be a donor or a surrogate would be my guess. So there’s some elements of Andrew’s story there that might not be similar to what future people go down, but there are still many other valuable learning lessons here. So then I guess we have to ask, so at the time.
Traditional surrogacy was not legal in the ACT. So you had this wonderful offer from Bonnie to be a surrogate, but also a traditional surrogate. And you’re like, oh dear, what are we going to do about that? How did the process go from that point? Did you seek legal advice? We did. And they all were like, fraught. So because they all come from a place of risk, which is fair enough, that’s their profession. Essentially, we were caught between a rock and a hard place because we did even engage some IVF clinics in Canberra. But because it was illegal.
that we were ruled out. So we were kind of isolated completely from so many different avenues that we would have, or levers that we would have been able to use in different circumstances. So the three of us all sat down and said, you know, we understand the ramifications of…
Well, maybe we didn’t, we thought we did at the time. We just thought our compass would be the child’s best interest and love. That’s kind of how we just navigated that minefield because golly, it was a minefield for sure. And so ultimately you went down that path with, yeah, as you say, the child’s best interest in mind. And so I suppose some people are wondering then what happened on that first birth certificate?
got named there. Yeah, so Bonnie is still, because the legislation hasn’t, well, I mean, it’s caught up now, but at the time it hadn’t and we just haven’t actually gone through it because it’s so recent in Canberra. Essentially, Bonnie is still on both of our children’s birth certificate as a mother. And Sam and I are the paternal fathers of, Sam is the paternal father of our son and I’m the paternal father of my daughter. So we’re on the birth certificates as well.
So it does mean that you have your child’s birth certificate, which is what you need for Medicare and childcare or enrolling in things. So you’ve got that piece of paper and then you’ve got, you maintain contact with your surrogate who’s also your egg donor. And as we say, that’s in the best interest of the child there. We believe so.
Absolutely. I’m going to go back to sharing these beautiful photos so that people can be reminded of this beautiful journey we’ve got going here and feel free to type in questions people at any point. This photo here as we said so that was Sam’s sister that was also had potentially offered to be a donor. Yep that’s right. And then going through the other photos here I sense there’s humour in your team and lots of good times. That’s absolutely right and I think
there’s always a joker in the mix. I think that’s for sure. Wonderful and beautiful pregnancy photo there in front of the Christmas tree. Was that pregnancy one or two? That was pregnancy two with Cole. Yeah. Then what was going on here? Is this a board game or a jigsaw puzzle? That’s a jigsaw puzzle. Like again, you know, this is probably going to sound a little bit over the top for a lot of people, but we believe that energetically, you know, just to spend as much time and
even, you know, this is going to sound a little bit left to feel, but even to the point where like the microbes on our skin combining and hanging out, it’s all got to be just beneficial, right? Like the more, the more we did that, apart from that, we just enjoyed hanging out with each other and it was a good time, it was a good excuse to get together and, and try and try and do some things and hang out. How often would you say that you were able to…
see each other in person during each of the journeys? I think probably half a dozen to a dozen times in like in terms of the pregnancies. I mean it’s different with our second one because we’ve stayed in contact. I mean Sam and Bonnie were friends regardless prior to so I guess she’s always, we’ve always caught up anyway and then with Cole our second, since having Paige, we caught up even more. It just kind of naturally flowed from there I guess. Well on that, so you’d had
your first child and then at some point in time, did Bonnie essentially offer to go again? Yeah, exactly. I mean, I really liked how you mentioned in your presentation, you know, about not asking a surrogate. It wasn’t our place to ask Bonnie and we wanted her to be completely ready or if she wasn’t ready, no problem. She’d already gifted us one child and we were happy to pull up stumps there. Having two was just an absolute blessing. So…
That was all initiated by Bonnie. There’s no way that we, we felt it was our right to put anyone in a difficult position or make anyone feel awkward or pressured or in any way negative about the experience. So we were kind of secretly hopeful, but then Bonnie was just amazing. So yeah, she reached out and said, it’s kind of now and never guys. I will ask on that question because I’m sure some IPs listening, you know, hope that to have two children, although the process for you in terms of counseling and legal was, was different.
You obviously as a team still talked about so many of the standard things. And as you’d mentioned to me off air, you had actually done the counseling process with a previous surrogate. So you were familiar with the types of conversations to be having with Bonnie. Had sibling project come up early on, because it certainly came up with my team as to the RUIPs that wanted two children. For example, I know my IPs only wanted the one, but and so it was the type of thing that Bonnie knew you would.
like to if it was there but it was just sort of left open let’s let’s have one kid first and see. Yeah exactly exactly that yeah. And then this beautiful photo here is this heading into Paige’s birth but this was the emergency caesarean though was it? That was the emergency caesarean and actually that that’s um that photo was is quite significant in our photo bank because it kind of all started from that moment we were just kind of thrusted into this emergency situation where we were all um
very underwhelmed. We were actually advised that we were told not to expect her to be alive at birth. The night before we did stuff like there was a thunderstorm. She was living in Newcastle, Bonnie was living in Newcastle at this point. And so there was this, she took us this beautiful look out, there was a thunderstorm. So we all danced in the rain and tried to summon anything in the world that could possibly swing us a favor. And we just hugged the night before all three of us collectively in the bedroom. We just…
hung out and we kind of cried and we went through it. And then that next morning was such a moment for us. It was just incredible, yeah. Was that a hard pregnancy then? Were there some warning signs that something was wrong along the way? And then she did have intensive care. May we ask what it was? Yeah, of course. Yeah, I’m happy to share. Because again, it defies the odds of the norm. So we were completely in the normal range. We had the NIPT at 10 weeks and then it all came back fine.
And then Bonnie came down because we had arranged, Bonnie was gonna have a hospital birth, the first birth round. I think she was being a bit sympathetic to us and our first time parenting, but the midwife picked up that she was sitting high. Paige, our daughter was sitting high in her stomach. It was actually my 40th birthday. We went away to Byron for our last kind of little hurrah before Paige was due. It was about 25 weeks. And we got a dreaded phone call from Bonnie saying that Paige had high drops for talus.
And that is for people who don’t know it basically means water baby. Um, so she was carrying, uh, uh, extraordinary amount of fluid all through her chest cavity. There was some in her brain. She had edema. Um, so it was looking really, really bad. And not that I would encourage anyone to do this, but if you ever took it to look up Hydrops fetalis, it’s awful. Um, and it’s got a very, very, very high fatality rate. And if not a high fatality rate, a high amount of babies that have ongoing medical conditions and, and pages.
neither of those. So we are just blessed on so many levels. But it was definitely a baptism of fire. I mean, Sam and I, we were kind of, you know, I was 40 at the time and I’d lived this self-involved gay life where it was just Sam and I that we had to worry about. And then we’re kind of like, you’re now in emergency every day kind of wondering if she was going to be alive when we turned up that morning, if we even left the hospital at all. Wow.
Yeah, that’s significant. And that’s one thing to discuss as a team beforehand, how do you feel about terminating a pregnancy if you find out at 10, 12 weeks through that Harmony test there’s an issue. But when you’re this far along in the gestation that it’s the viability for life is we have to birth this child now, we’re not terminating. And it’s like, okay, now we might be faced with either a child not living long or a lifetime of challenges, you just spin out. It was a lot. And then compounding that was,
Sam and I legally hadn’t gone through the, so the hospitals were asking us who we were, you know, how it all played out. And so we had to deal with a whole lot of red tape at John Hunter Hospital. They were great. I think they were just doing their job as per normal, but very risk averse.
Yeah, that added a whole lot of extra complications to the scenario when we were just kind of free-falling going, what are we doing? This is a lot. Wow. And so that little page was born and then we’ve got, I guess, some photos here of life going on, of continued catch-ups. So yeah, is there anything else you wanted to add from Paige’s birth or through to this point in time? No, no, I think that’s probably enough. Everyone’s probably overwhelmed with that.
Quite cathartic though, getting that story to recap. Yeah, no, we just stayed in regular touch and that in the middle of the young boy there sitting next to me is Phoenix, that’s Bonnie’s son. And I mean, we’re just a big tribe. Like we’ve just integrated now. We’ll often look after Phoenix and you know, Bon’s known as mum to our children. We always want that to be. We think they have a right to know who they are and we’re not in the business of withholding information or transparency with our children. So.
But then the other photo to the left is we’re up in Byron Bay having a catch-up and also we’d had a 12-week scan scheduled. So coincidentally Bonnie, being the amazing person that she is, had snuck away and got an NIPT test done the week prior. So the results we found out was that we’re having a boy and that he was healthy and it was a really lovely moment. Yeah. What a great photo to have of that joyful moment that when everybody finds that out. It’s really special.
Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. And then we come along to Cole’s birth, very different. Was this home birth down near your home or up near her home? Home birth at our house. Yeah. So we got two midwives. We didn’t qualify for the government funded home birth program because of Paige’s medical conditions. She was deemed too high risk. So we were knocked out of that. So we engaged two private midwives. Yeah, this was the result. They were incredible. It was so polarizing, right? Like…
from going through NICU through to having a birth. I might add, just to add a little spice to the mix because Cole was two and a half weeks overdue and Bonnie stayed the course. Our midwives were super nervous and all the medical professionals were saying, you know, this is super high risk given what had happened previously. And Bonnie was firm in her footings as I think her maternal instincts kicked in. And she said,
I 100% know that this is okay and I stay in the course to have a home birth. Wonderful. Wow. Polarizing. So yeah, whenever your friends in normal life talk to you about birth, you can relate to…
both sets of births really there, the hospitalised and the home birth there. Yeah, yeah. It’s so lovely for Paige to be there and be a part of it and to be able to look back at these photos as a family and to all be there. Oh, it’s amazing. We’ve got video footage of Paige dancing around the room, why Bon is in labour and it’s just beautiful, absolutely beautiful. That was really special for me too to have my kids here during the home birth too and, you know, in the middle of the night. It was a storm for us too, so here babies are often born in storms.
Right. And then life goes on. Last couple of photos here. Bonnie having some cuddles. Yeah, just, you know, just hanging out. Bonnie, Bonnie stayed with us for a couple weeks after the birth and she was with us for about, because she was overdue, she was with us for about six weeks leading up to the birth as well. And honestly, you would think that, I mean, it’s, it’s testing, right? Because hormones and people in your house anyway, and we did go through a few little hurdles, but by and large, like it just, it just brought us together even more, which was just incredible.
Yeah. We should talk about some of those hurdles then, but then just this last photo here is like really a photo of your modern family, Bonnie and her son and the four of you and the furry animals there too. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Again, we were blessed Bonnie had connected with another surrogate who came around, who was a professional photographer who came around to take those photos for us, which was, yeah, amazing. Beautiful. Well, there’s some beautiful photos there of your two journeys there to parenthood. So Andrew, were there some bumps along the way? Were there some hurdles that your
worth mentioning that we can pass on then to future teams listening. There were a few, but I think that the main one that really stands out in my mind was we were sort of already on edge because of the birth of Paige. So we were already sort of hyper vigilant about the birth. And I’m a bit of a hyper vigilant kind of guy anyway. So.
I was quite not stressed but aware of potential impacts and ramifications, I guess, even though every situation is so unique you can’t preempt anything anyway. You know, it was hard because I think even the midwives and the doctors were saying to us Bonnie was also anemic as well, which was kind of a challenge. Basically it was medical.
there was the challenge, the difference in Bonnie’s views versus our views and where we had to sort of come together and compromise a lot in order to be aligned, to make sure that we were still kind of humming along as a team rather than separate entities. And we were conscious, Sam and I, because there was two of us, one of Bonnie, she was in our house, we really wanted to make sure that she felt at equal seat at the table, that she wasn’t just the surrogate, you know, or by herself isolated because she was…
heavily pregnant herself and we really wanted to make sure that she felt that support as part of a team rather than we’re a couple and she’s on her own. I think that’s really valuable information that for that time you come together as this surroship. It’s no longer just you and your partner, you become many adults coming together to make decisions for this child. And so that’s a unique journey to go on together there, isn’t it? Yeah.
Yeah, totally. I mean, I take my hat off to anybody, especially surrogates who don’t know the IPs or vice versa, because how do you condense all of these intrinsic ethics and morale into one place? It’s hard enough to do it just in a conventional relationship, you know, where you’ve got a partner to see eye to eye about those sorts of key massive decisions, let alone a person who might be a stranger.
or a friend and it’s a whole different dynamic. Yes, and even with a friend, you can potentially still have very different views on things, can’t you? And I sense what you’re saying there is Bonnie is a little bit more carefree in terms of some of the views of the medical system and to some level I was too. And so finding that balance between what the IPs want and need or sometimes it’s just due to they’ve not done it before. And so they’re learning about
what are the options for pregnancy and birth? Making sure everybody has a voice and opinion is heard and then finding that compromise together. It sounds like you’re aware of it, but you guys did it well and worked through it, I’m sensing. Oh, look, I mean, as best as we could, right? Like we’re on this crazy journey, you know, I think until you go through something, you’re always a first timer. So you just kind of wing it, don’t you? Have you got an example then of a time where there was conflicting views on things and-
and how you resolved it? Yes, yeah, I do. I guess the one that came to mind was because she was overdue with Cole, the doctors were freaking out, right? Because of her previous history, she has anemia, like, you know, we’re coming, she’s at full term, overdue in fact, she’s got, she’s anemic, we’ve got history of complications, birth complications, like major birth complications. She had a history of, I think, hemorrhaging a little bit. So the doctors were
adamant to say essentially to Sam and I and Bonnie, with Bonnie in the room, but basically saying, you know, this is super high risk every day that the baby stays in there longer is potentially impacting its health and there are risks associated with that. So I’m sure you can appreciate and it’s so complex trying to the different layers and everyone’s got a different opinion from far right risk adverse to very, very, very extremely far left. You’ve never met anyone so far left in your life.
was such a staunch advocate. She’s such a staunch advocate of feminism, of mothering and capability of women, and which I love, you know, that’s part of the reason why we vibe so much where we’re all pretty extreme and in our views, we’re all pretty left. She definitely, you know, when you’ve got a team of medical experts who you presume, in fact, we refer to some of the best private practices in camera and that the…
The head sort of people were saying, this baby needs to come out tomorrow. You need to induce blah, blah, blah. And Bonnie was very staunchly and rightfully so saying, no, I’m not interested in doing that. It’s, it’s my body. Um, this might be your baby, but it’s our body. It’s my body. And so I think that was really tricky. You know, another one that comes to mind was Bonnie, she wasn’t comfortable with getting vaccinated blood if she needed a transfusion, if anything happened. So that was really.
really tricky to navigate as well. So, but anyway, I won’t go into that because, you know, that’s Bonnie’s story to tell. And I don’t want to paint a wrong picture because each to their own, as far as I’m concerned. And I think that’s really valuable learnings there for people listening is to take away for their own future teams that how do you feel about when a woman’s trusting in her body? Yes, it’s your baby, but it’s her body. And it’s the baby is legally belongs to her until that parentage order is made. And so she’s allowed to make decisions
But when you’re hearing medical advice and trusting her who’s been pregnant before and it’s in her body, it’s a really challenging time as a team to navigate. So we’ve all been through many things like that. But yeah, when at the beginning you’re just trying to find a surrogate, it’s sometimes hard to imagine all of these things that you’re going to have. I’d imagine the advice would therefore be trying to find a surrogate that you could have those conversations with, that you feel comfortable enough.
to challenge each other on. Yeah, any advice on that sort of thing in terms of how do IPs make sure that they’ve got the right surrogate for them? Look, I mean, that’s a really tough question, I think because there were so many things that pop up as I’m sure there are with everybody’s unique experiences that were so unique to our experience that you can only really deal with it on the fly because you couldn’t possibly preempt this stuff anyway. So as much as we could have canvassed our views and we had about termination and we were fairly aligned about many, many other things.
you know, by and large, we like we’re very aligned in our thinking. In fact, we are blessed, right? Like we, we I feel like she’s just part of our family now. It really tough. And my advice is, it all comes down to intention, right? Like, and that’s how we were able to distill a lot of the conversations and
take out the heat from a lot of the conversations or the emotion is about what are the intentions of me or Bonnie or Sam, you know, through this process. And it is the very best for the other person. We want the very best. We wanted Bonnie to be safe. We wanted our child to be safe. We wanted the experience to be lovely. And I think just navigating, if you’ve all got good intentions, it kind of just comes out in the wash naturally.
I’m not sure if that makes sense, but there were times where we were challenged on that, you know, a lot and I’ve done a lot of thinking since because our son’s 11 months old now, we’ve gone through two surrogacy journeys with Bonnie, we’ve all as a team had a lot to reflect individually and collectively and we’ve spoken with debriefed to each other about our experiences. I don’t know that you can.
prepare for three quarters of the stuff that comes in life, right? Anyway, so it’s kind of, you just take it as it comes. And if it just, if everyone’s got good intentions, I think it becomes very evident very quickly about intentions. Anyway.
That’s just like that. That’s really valuable to hear, because you can’t plan for every scenario that’s going to happen. So we come along to these webinars and listen to other people’s journeys. And you can take away and go, okay, let’s have a chat as a team. What would that look like if we got faced with it? But ultimately you can’t plan for everything. And what I’m hearing from you is it’s your intention. If everybody’s regularly checking in with each other and knowing where everybody’s heart’s in the right place and that we’re here for the surrogate’s health, the child’s health, and there might be some compromise along the way. I think…
that’s as good a guiding light as you’re ever gonna get. Yeah, and getting to know people well enough so that you are clear that you can see each person’s guiding light, I suppose, and that you are comfortable working together as a team there. That’s well summarized, I think. It’s such a fascinating complex thing to do, isn’t it? It’s a ride, wow, it’s such a ride. Yeah, yeah. Wouldn’t change it for anything though. Louise says,
Hi, Andrew. For example, like the vaccinated blood items, were there things you discussed and agreed previously, like pre-pregnancy, that shifted during pregnancy? And if so, how did you handle it? Yeah. Basically, was there anything agreed upon in terms of any medical tests or in terms of expectations of what things might happen during pregnancy that then the goalpost shifted in terms of what Bonnie asked for or needed?
and then how you handled that? Not significant shifts. Like there were a few little nuances along the way that I think we kind of, none of us preempted. So we all had to just adjust accordingly, right? That’s also the trick is if you go in with an open mind and an open heart, which hopefully you’ve dated your surrogate for long enough or that you get to see all the IPs, vice versa, that you get to see them in their entirety so you can actually gauge who they are as a person, if they’re aligned.
I don’t know. And just being prepared for change. I think that’s the only thing you can guarantee will happen. Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Yep. And following on from that, Joel asks, were there any hard non-negotiables that you and husband Sam had? No, I don’t think so.
before, so potentially medically or dietary, that you ended up having to give into? No, not hard non-negotiables, but there were very different views. Bonnie is, for example, a very strict vegetarian, and whilst I aspire to be vegetarian, that’s one day my ambition, and I’m pro-animal all the way. I’m a bit of a hypocrite for saying that because I still eat some of them, unfortunately. During the pregnancy with her anemia,
Long story, funny story though, she gave us permission. So basically the midwives were saying, you need to get some protein. And Bonnie was like, well, I’m not eating meat. Basically that’s a, I’m not changing who I am as a person for this. So, but she did give Sam and I license to sneak in protein into her smoothies that we made for her every morning while she was at our house. So we ended up loading it up with bone broth, guising it with a heap of spirulina.
And she didn’t actually know. And then we fessed up after the fact. And she just went, are you cheeky? But it was like, I’m glad I didn’t know. Uh, but no, no, non-hard negotiables, just very different views and realizing that as with everything, compromise was in order. For my team. Yes. I, well, I think babies suck the life out of you. So a lot of women do get low iron. And so I had to have an iron transfusion during that, which was something I hadn’t done before.
Perhaps I’ll just give one example, Joel, from my team. It was during the planning stages, before we were even pregnant, discussing gender reveal. I didn’t know the gender for my two that I birthed and so therefore I didn’t want to know with surrogate baby. I saw that as part of my gift, you know, being a high school teacher and realizing gender fluidity. It’s silly that we get so fixated on the gender of a child. But anyway, I suppose in my dream of being a surrogate, when I was first thinking about being a surrogate, I’d imagine this…
Lion King Simba moment where I would hand them the baby and in that moment I would announce it’s a boy or it’s a girl and that was part of my gift. I got to give them the boy or the girl and so in a catch-up dinner with another friend of mine something came up about gender reveal will you find out beforehand and I said no and Brendan was like oh well yeah yeah I’d like to and Matt wasn’t so worried I’m like but if if I don’t want to know the gender because it’s in my body you
no, no, I’ll just ask the scanning person when you’re out of the room. And I’m like, well, I won’t let you in the room then. And so it became this moment of, hang on, we feel quite differently about this. And so what I often say, our team does well and you can.
here, Brendan, he was on the webinar once. It’s on our YouTube channel. I haven’t converted it to a webinar yet. So if you want to look up Brendan’s story, you can hear lots of what he has to say. We did conflict very well as my team. We had lots of it, but it was about conflict resolution. So our strategy was you’ve realized you feel differently about something, come back to it in a week, make a time to come back and talk about it, have some time and then work out what you could do. And so it was actually me that I negotiated that
because this was really important to them to know. And it was actually other surrogates that helped me work out going, maybe this is part of them how they would bond with their child by knowing the gender ahead of time. And maybe there’s a way, Anna, for you to tell them the gender in a private way. So not a big gender reveal party, maybe just in a private setting. And that’s what we did. So yeah, so that was the compromise I, as a surrogate did. I could have stuck to my guns on that one and said, no, sorry, this is really important to me. But there were other things where they…
had they compromised on in terms of I did a lot of direct breastfeeding for the first three days. And so then initially I did more than I had said I was going to do. And at about 35 weeks of pregnancy, I changed the goalposts on that one and talked to my midwives about that what I felt maternally I would like to do there. So yeah, but they were flexible and fine. And we had the trust there.
Brad says, Oh, hang on, Anna, are you able to provide any rough figures on how much money we should have put aside before we start our journey? I’ve done some data gathering on average, it costs in Australia, $60,000 with a range of 30 to 90,000. Those at the lower end, most, because of course, most people go through IVF. It happened first, embryo transfer. You live in the same state as your surrogate and she didn’t have loss of wages and you didn’t have much travel. Andrew, do you have a rough average either combined for the two or each kid?
Um, I would say it was kind of in parallel to that, to that figure for both children. Yeah. We were so not obliged. We wanted to, and, and it was just the way that we could.
ensure that Bonnie was getting the best of care. Right, yeah. And it’s interesting, like, although the journey with Bonnie might’ve cost X amount, you had clearly already spent quite a lot on counseling and some of the legal work with previous surrogates. So just because it might not be the cost from one person, it could be across the whole journey there. But in terms of, although let’s say it might cost you 60,000, you don’t need to have 60,000 to start with. My rough recommendation might be 10 to 20,000 saved because remembering you’re still earning your wage.
all the time on that. And as a surrogate, I wanted to know they had a backup plan. Like if there was a fee or something that came up during my pregnancy and they needed $5,000 or $10,000, could their parents cover them if they needed that cash instantly to pay for something that I needed? And so that was part of my backup plan. Do you remember how much you had?
saved as a lump sum beforehand Andrew? No but we definitely were in the same boat so we if something untoward I mean gosh we were displaced in Newcastle for seven weeks so we had to have a fair bit of backup funds just to make sure because so we went into it with a fairly large contingency just ensured just to make sure that if anything did happen or went awry that we were okay. For those seven weeks when she was in intensive care
Were you staying with Bonnie or at an Airbnb? Yeah, so we were staying with Bonnie for that time. Yeah, and then we ended up getting airlifted down to Canberra Hospital from John Hunter Hospital. So we were able to get back for the last three weeks of her intensive care stay. Yeah. Right, yes. And not every surrogacy team is going to be that close where they can live with each other too. We respect that. So that saved accommodation costs because if you were paying accommodation costs for that, it would just mount up fast, wouldn’t it? It sure would. Yeah.
holiday period, costs of things go up, don’t they? Yeah, absolutely. Will, I feel like I could ask you questions all night, Andrew, because there’s so many interesting things about your journey. Are there any last minute bits of parting advice that you would like to give people listening or teachable moments from your journey that you’d like to mention? I don’t think so, to be honest. And I think you covered it all. I think it’s about trust and it’s about, as I said, intentions and good intentions. And…
I think first and foremost, the child’s needs upfront. I could go on and on about how important I think that is, but yeah, that’s essentially it. So in terms of maintaining contact in the future there, so that your child not only knows their story, but has access to their birth mother and the story, is that something that the language that you’re already telling Paige? Yeah, of course, yeah. When Bonnie comes down, Paige calls her mom. You know, Bonnie might go away for a weekend and we’ll look after Phoenix. And so that gives,
Cole and Paige’s brother. So it’s just, it’s the gift that keeps giving, right? The more connection that they get, the more community, the more village, the more love that they’re given is only gonna benefit them. And I think so many parents might have fears or concerns about the line in the sand around that. But at the end of the day, I think that comes from a place from them.
not for the child’s, you know what I mean? Sam and I are sperm donors. Sam’s sperm donor is my best friend and that is the most beautiful relationship in the world. And so we all get together and they all know each other as siblings and you know, who’s who or whatever. So we’re just super, super blessed. And I think if the child’s best interests come first and you can drop that insecurities, I donated to a couple.
which didn’t really go so well as, because I think they’re a little bit threatened by about the dynamic of what that looks like knowing me as a father, that sort of thing, which is a real shame, but ultimately it’s only my son that misses out, you know, he’s got a whole tribe here waiting for him to embrace him and love him and just build on that. So I think when people, for me, if maybe that is my parting word of advice is to drop the insecurities around that and to…
it’s about the children. And so if they can connect with siblings or aunties or uncles or distant relatives that who gives a shit who they are as long as they love the child, then it’s a win-win. I love what you’re saying there. So the people at the beginning might have some insecurities and be nervous about, oh my gosh, we are opening up an enormous village here if we’re doing this, but embrace it. Yeah, be a beautiful thing. And why not have more people loving your children?
Imagine if everybody grew up with a village of people that love them, the world would be so much better. Who says you only need just two parents to love you? Why can’t more adults love your child as much as you love them and then you love their children as well? Exactly, exactly. I think you’ve really given a context for a saying like that, love makes a family here. You’ve demonstrated two surrogacy journeys here and life going on.
what that can continue to look like as your village grows and it’s full of love. So it’s just full of love. Like Bonnie is the most beautiful person. She’s the most beautiful woman in my life. Like she’s just incredible. We just adore her and are forever grateful. I can hear it in your voice. You’re glowing for your team. So well done. A beautiful story, beautiful team, two beautiful children here. And I’m so what a wonderful webinar to start the year off. Thank you. Thanks for having me, Anna.
Thank you for sharing your time with me for this episode. If you’re finding these episodes helpful, please share them with friends. If you’d like to see the images mentioned, head to our YouTube channel for all of the recordings. If you’re looking for more individualized support, consider joining SASS, Surrogacy Australia’s support service, so you can be connected with a mentor and also with me to help guide you on a journey. You might think of me as your Siri for surrogacy. Until next time, welcome to the village.
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