Episode 59 – Gay dad to be – When surrogacy did not work the first (or second) time

Intended Parents, Dan and Stu, did find a surrogate and began the journey with her and her family. Their surrogacy team went through the counselling and legal process, however due to a change in her family situation, the surrogate was no longer able to continue. Although it took a lot to put themselves back out there to look for another surrogate, Dan and Stu have learnt a lot about themselves and the process and want to share their story to help others.


This page is part of a series of surrogacy education episodes from Anna. On the main podcast page you will find recent episodes and links to other categories: surrogates, gay dads, straight mums and guest / theme.

Join Anna McKie in conversation with surrogates and parents who have navigated Australian altruistic surrogacy. Anna is a gestational surrogate, high school Math teacher and surrogacy educator working with Surrogacy Australia and running SASS (Surrogacy Australia’s Support Service). 

The other episodes of the podcast were recorded as part of our free, fortnightly webinar series. If you would like to attend one, check out our dates and registration links. The recordings can also be found on our YouTube channel so you can see the photos that are described in the recordings.
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Thanks for watching!

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 from my archives, recorded in September 2022, features Dan. Intended parents, IPs, Dan and Stu, who live in Sydney but are originally from Yorkshire, did find a surrogate and began the journey with her and her family. Their surrogacy team went through the counselling and legal process.

However, due to a change in her family situation, the surrogate was no longer able to continue. Dan talks about surrogating the surrogate and her family, the time investment in each other, holidays together, frequent messaging, and then the roller coaster of emotions when the surrogate and her family called it off. Although it took a lot to put themselves back out there to look for another surrogate, Dan and Stu have learned a lot about themselves and the process and want to share their story to help others.

At the time of editing this recording, June 2024, I was hoping to be able to bring you a more positive update. Dan and Stu did find another surrogate and were taking the time to surrogate, however just recently that surrogate and her family have decided that it’s not the right time in their lives to pursue surrogacy, so my friends Dan and Stu are back to square one again. I have permission from Dan to share that news and I hope this episode might be educational for other IPs.

This journey is certainly a marathon, not a sprint. But what makes it more complicated for IPs is that there are so many unknown variables. And even when you start dating a surrogate, there are no guarantees. I hope you enjoy this episode. We’re gonna hear from you now and to share your first journey, if you like. So take it through some of the photos that we’ve got here. Who have we got in this photo to start with? I’m the ginger one. And then she was the one in the heart.

Wonderful. And you’re both English? We’re both English, yeah. We’ve been in Australia for six years now. We got our citizenship last year, but this year. Congratulations. Yeah, thank you. And then in more recent years, you then started to, you know, plan to expand your family. So that involved needing an egg donor and a surrogate. So that set you on the search for that, didn’t it? Yeah. And then, so who have we got in this photo? In the middle, that’s our beautiful egg donor, Tamara. She doesn’t mind me sharing her name. We started our journey like…

in July 2020, like middle of Covid, I was like, I was off work, so I just worked for Qantas International by attendance, so I was like grounded, nothing to do, and I said to Stuart like, if we don’t do it now, we’ll never do it, so let’s just, let’s just start looking. So we hung back for a few, for a few, few months really, like you know, like going through the Facebook pages and things and stuff like that, then I finally put a post on Egg Donation Australia

Within a day Tamara replied. And then within two weeks we had like three FaceTime calls and stuff and everything was agreed. Wonderful. So that instant connection between both of you there. Oh yeah, she’s just a beautiful soul. She’s stuck with us all through lockdown and where it’s been cancelled and she can’t get over here. We’ve known her for about ever since. She’s like our best friend. Beautiful. And that’s what we want, right? That’s those genuine connections, people that you’ve got things in common with naturally that you want to…

and a friendship with the life. So, because you guys are Sydney, she’s Perth, is that right? Yeah, Perth, yeah. But she, well, she’s moved from Perth now. She lives like five hours from Perth. So when she came down for her eclectic, she had to drive five hours to Perth and then get a flight. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Wow, amazing. And so did it take a while till you actually had met her in person due to COVID? First time we met her was when she came for the…

Wow, so you managed to do all of that? Yeah, I mean obviously there’s, you know, these things, so… Yeah, yeah, yeah, lots of these things, but like, um, later on when we had our surrogate, like our specialist kept saying, look for another egg donor.

quicker. And I was like, well no, she’s been with us from the start. We’re very loyal people, she’s stuck with us, we’re thick and thin. We’re not going to just toss her aside because it’d be quicker for someone else, you know? And just because it would be quicker doesn’t mean it would work. No, no, no. And so you did the year collection this year? In May this year. Congratulations. So, and flew her over and made some lovely embryos? Yeah, so May this year,

2020. So it took a while. Yes, could have had a baby in that time. I know, yeah. Could have had a couple. Could have had two. Could have had two. That’s right. So then, so you were already chatting with the egg doughnut and at the same time sort of putting yourself into the surrogacy world and learning how that worked. And so then you got chatting to a surrogate at some point, I assume. Yeah, so obviously like IPs, you know, like the Facebook groups, Australian surrogacy community.

them kind of things. You put your posts up and you expect, you hope someone will reach out. And we had one person reach out and they didn’t really go anywhere.

And then on the 31st of December 2020, after all this, like me and Strum, we had the tickets for the Opera House. You know, like the fireworks? Yes. We just popped a bottle of champagne, waiting for us to taxi, and we got this text message from our previous story going, Oh, we’ve been looking at your posts for weeks and weeks and weeks, and every time you post something, we keep saying, shall we message them? And we’re like, are you joking? This is like the perfect timing.

Happy New Year! But she just had another baby and she was like, this is not going to be like anytime soon and I was like oh thank you for messaging. So we kept messaging until at the end of January I think and then it all went quiet. Right. But she just had a new baby so like I’m not going to like keep messaging her. Yeah like futz her. Fuzz her to help you make your family while she’s in bed. Yeah! So I just left.

But back to me mind I kept thinking, well she’s just had a baby so maybe she’ll mess it again. And then in April she messaged back going, have you found your surrogate yet? Oh are you still looking? And I was like, oh well, oh no, well we’re still looking but we haven’t found one. And then we finally met up in May, it was just me, Stu, our surrogate and her partner. They were looking like a lesbian couple.

Yes. We were supposed to meet for an hour in Brisbane. We arrived at 1pm. We left at half past 11 in the night. Oh! That’s a sign of a good connection, isn’t it? And it was just like bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. It was just amazing. Well, the surrogate was really shy and nervous, but the partner was amazing. And the partner and the student got on so well, which made it more… I just felt so comfortable.

And then with the surrogate in the park there, they were so new to it all, like they were on a surrogacy community, they were on a different website. Right. Because they didn’t know anything about surrogacy, so I do my thing where I try and put people off and I go, have you read about this? This might go wrong. Right. This might go wrong. And my friends kept going, why are you doing that? You want to go to surrogate? Or do you want to put her off? I was like, well if I put her off and she still has to do it, then she’s the right person.

shows that she’s thinking about all the hard things. Yeah. And then, so after the first meeting, that was in May, and then we met in June, and then we met in July, and in July we met their kids. Yeah. So sorry, they’re up in Brisbane? Is that right? In Brisbane, yeah. Yep. Literally like half an hour from our best friends. So we always said our best friends and then went to theirs and stuff. Cool. And when we first met the kids, the little girl, she was like, oh, Auntie Dan. I was like, oh, why am I Auntie? And he just took it, and it was all, ever since it was Auntie Dan and Uncle Stu.

They may not be in mind. Yeah, and then after that last, after the third meeting, lockdown happened. Yep. After that meeting, everything was kind of like kicking and rolling. We were starting, like, she went through ultrasound, Zoom calls with our specialists and things. And because she had like pre-eclampsia with her previous pregnancy, she went to like an extra specialist and…

It all just moved so quickly and then by September we signed counselling. Yeah right and so it was that second half of 2021 she essentially had offered then you know in all of those chats and said yes let’s do this so you’re going through the medical steps the counselling and the legals and ticking all the boxes. Yeah well it was funny because when she first messaged she like offered to be our surrogate and I was like well you don’t you don’t know how it works here kind of thing so I explained to her we need to date we need to meet up.

You need to like see how you like it and then you offer. You offer straight away.

You’re educating her on that. Yeah! Yeah, it just felt so smooth and like, you know when you meet people you just click straight away. And it sounds like it was and it sounds like it was genuine then, but then obviously stuff happened and that’s, you know, and it stopped at some point. So then, yeah, at what point taking us through the end of second half of last year and then… So yeah, we finished council in September, then we went straight to Legals and that was very smooth.

and we’d come to each other and when lockdown ended we’d planned a holiday to the Gold Coast. So we all went with like five days in the Gold Coast and it was amazing like they like they stayed in the hotel most of the time and they trusted us with their eldest daughter was fine. Dribbling to the beach and the pool and like it was just awesome. Is that what was this photo from that holiday? Yeah yeah so one at the beach that’s with their little girl and they were in the hotel and I was like they just trusted her with their little girl.

And so we’re good to talk about this, that you’re trusting us to have your baby in us. And so that’s often a good point to get to as a team, where there is that trust for us as a team. We got to the point where the dads could drive our car with car seats and take the kids to the park or the movies. And one of them was still toilet training at the time. So they had to be taking you into the toilet a lot. But yeah, and that was really important to us to see what they would be like. And it’s also seeing what you might be like as parents. So that’s some good little tips for people who came to us.

and we got back and she had an ice cream in her hand and a juice box and she went and then mum went well we don’t really give her ice cream and she’s like oh sugary drinks and we were like oh sorry. I can’t do that. I like it.

and all of those things to learn to do, isn’t it? Yeah. So that was like the last of the happy days really. So we got back on the, I think Monday or Tuesday and then met our friends in the Gold Coast as well, which was like the first time they’d met our friends.

and then on the wednesday we got a message saying we don’t think this is like this is going to happen for us yeah right they kept putting questions to us are we ready can we afford it oh do you think we should wait if we waited we have more money saved up and it’s like we’re we’re financially stable for everything kind of thing and it just made me question so it like it puts you into that fight or flight mode you’re like you’re trying to i start panicking going what’s happening here like yeah if you’re talking about money i started sending like students like

afford it what’s wrong? Yeah absolutely and that’s and talking money gets awkward but there’s so much that trust isn’t it that they have to trust you that you know they have a rough idea of your incomes and your jobs and it’s up to each team how much they share yeah and you were probably second guessing because you’re like I thought that trust was already established exactly yeah and have trust in us and so then that starts to unravel for you and puts the seed of doubt in your mind yeah well is this really just about the money or is this about something else? Yeah and I do

that whole trip but the partner wasn’t and when we left because we had a few drinks on that trip as well and the partner at the surrogate was like damn don’t worry like we are with you till the end we want to see you to have a kid because we love them and they love those and like it always sticks in my mind what she said yeah i feel like the whole frantic

panicking and I think he got to like 30 and I just said I’ve always said this xxx you know like name and do what’s right for you and your family if you don’t think this is right then obviously we’ll stop it but I’d like to know the reason as well and he just said they wanted to try for a new baby likely you told that me told me that in person and then but since then like kind of like they stopped messaging or stopped replying to messages which was

a relationship with someone for so long, it feels like these people that you were expecting to have your baby for you, you see them being in your life for like long haul forever kind of thing and like me and the surrogate message every day, all the time every day and for that they just stop. It just felt like, I don’t know, I felt like I lost like a parent or like a partner or like best friend you know, it was so like oh it’s awful. Yeah and that’s a great example of how both IPs and surrogates get invested in this and

that it’s shattering isn’t it for everyone? Yeah, I think that was more of a, it wasn’t like the fact that the journey ended it was just like the whole friendship ended because I think they felt upset because it had ended and they’d upset us so they couldn’t connect with us still I went to like seven stages of grief you know? Yes I think I’m finally like number seven now Oh god The depression, like proper hitting and like denial and

Oh yeah, it was awful. Wow. It’s kind of funny though, like, you know when I reach out to you saying, oh I’d like to do this webinar, like I messaged the surrogate and said, oh can I share the pictures? Yes. She said no, but she’s fair enough. And I finally got the actual answer to why it ended, and it’s because their relationship were falling apart. Oh, right. Okay. When you look at the seven stages of grief and like, acknowledgements and understanding, now I’m going through all these webinars, so if I hadn’t done these webinars I wouldn’t have got like…

sectors? Interesting because you wouldn’t have asked it for this photo and for that question so yeah but it’s nice to hear the whole truth isn’t it? Yeah as hard as it might be yeah taking you through all of that. If they tell you something and you don’t fully understand the reason, start questioning yourself thinking well like

What have we done wrong? What’s wrong with us? Did we say something wrong? Did we not treat their kids right? Or did we… I don’t know, like… Did we do something weird? Or what do we need to do differently then as IP the next time? Do we have to change something about ourselves? Yeah, and I think that’s what I needed. I needed that closure and I needed that… just like that answer. Yes, this photo before, this was a celebration at some point. What was this for this morning? This was when we just finished our legals. We always like to share calendars. So we knew when they had theirs

and we had ours after theirs, so they sent these gifts and a big bunch of flowers as well to arrive.

like just after when we finished our appointment and they always do that they always send a point like beautiful gifts like just after we’ve had like important like events kind of thing it’s so amazing. So yes they were a big part of your lives for a while there yeah and then some other holiday photos and then getting in practice for dance is that what who’s this little bubba? Yeah so that’s our best friend Rosie she just moved to the Gold Coast that’s our little baby Maisie she’s four now. Yes right.

Hopefully it’ll be your little kiddo in your arms one day. One day, one day, yeah.

In terms of the grief, I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned to you before that I actually was also dating IPs that called it off with me. Well, different to your story. And so I absolutely understand that soul searching that you do and the stages of grief. I remember looking that up too. And there’s the anger and then there’s the confusion and there’s all of those things and that ability to then pick yourself up. And so for me, yeah, the breakup was June or July. And it wasn’t until the following January that I after Christmas, I went, OK, I’m ready.

to do this again and really make me go, what am I looking for in IPs then? What do I want the same? What do I want different? What red flags? So have you done similar sorts of thinking and stuff in terms of what you want to do differently or what you’re looking for this time? I think for me, like with our relationship with our previous surrogate, it was always me and the surrogate like messaging all the time.

Facebook Messenger. And then when we met up, it was always the four of us. And it used to be like me and the surrogate and then Stu and the surrogate’s partner. And the surrogate’s partner was so supportive, like she was amazing. But like Stu never really had that connection with the surrogate. Ah, yes. Okay. And I remember when I watched one of your previous webinars with Madeleine saying you need to get all four of you to get, not just meet up, but like when you’re having these like FaceTimes and stuff, all four of you. And that’s the lesson I’ve learned to do that.

and another thing is when you have that trusty good feeling like it’s such a basic instinct but trust it if something doesn’t feel right don’t be afraid to go and say what’s happening why like what can I do it’s something not right you know and I think I felt that when we were in the goal course and I was scared to ask because we were so close to the borders being open and getting our eggs ready and you know. Is it hard though like finding a sari is rare right? Yeah.

You don’t want to compromise anything by going, I feel that there’s some tension between us, because what if that’s it and she walks away? Yeah. It must be scary to know how much to bring up and question. It’s terrifying. It’s absolutely terrifying. Like, that’s so many emotions about the whole journey. I mean, we talked off camera like…

how much it costs and stuff. So like, we don’t think about that. It’s just, it’s more the emotional side and how it affects you. Like, I know everyone goes through like mental issues, like mental anxiety and depression, like everyone goes through it a little bit in their lives. I thought I’d done with that in like my early 20s. Like I’ve been like quite stable since I’ve been 30. Maybe 30. But like it reversed me back to like how I used to feel when I was younger and I was like, what’s happening to me? And that you were able to recognise those patterns and the brain pattern.

going on. During that time then, did you either seek any counselling to talk it through or did you have some peers among the surrogacy world like surrogate Madeline or other people that you could share that journey with? So we have like a really small friendship group in Australia. It’s mainly comprised of like two Hewie friends who we’ve known for like 25 years and they’re amazing. Most of them are nurses and doctors and psychiatrists which is probably not great.

But they don’t know that this is the surrogacy world. They don’t know, like, they listen to our stories and like they try to understand. But unless you’re in that surrogacy world, you’ll never understand. So I found my best comfort was talking to other IPs. All I wanted to do was just vent, just get me frustration out. Yes. At IVF Australia, we’ve had a counsellor all through our journey. So I’ve talked to her as well. Oh, OK.

I think like three times and she did amazing. Yeah so as you say, having yes some friends outside of surrogacy who just know you and can confirm that you’re a great person but then also some people in the surrogacy world either other IPs or other surrogates that can just you can bend to and then sometimes perhaps some professional help as well so it sounds like yeah you’re advocating for a balance of all of those. Oh definitely yeah. And so then did you do like among the communities do a repost then at some point in time to go we’re ready? I did it, well I did it really.

I think he was, to be honest I think I just panicked you know because we got like his eggs and I was like oh god like I just want something to happen and I think I posted in like May or like June or something but like

in myself, I wasn’t ready. Right, yep. And it’s the thought of like, you know when you open yourself up to like a stranger, a strange couple, and you share your life story, and then you get, well, well, it doesn’t happen. I mean, the thought of actually like doing that again. And I said to like Stu, like, I don’t think I’ve got the energy right now to like to do that and like be like messaging every day. Like, it’s so hard. It’s a huge commitment, isn’t it? It’s a huge project to do together. It’s an extra part time job, really. Yeah.

anything I tell him to do, but he’s not active on the group, because he just doesn’t have time with work. So it’s all me, but I’ve really enjoyed it, I’ve just been scared to be…

myself out there. Yeah and I think this is really valuable for those listening tonight or to the recording to know that their fears are very similar to yours I would imagine. What other learnings and things have you got there for us Dan that you wanted to point out? One thing I would say is like I hope I haven’t come across as like badmouthing like my previous surrogate because I really want to do that. I don’t think you have a surrogate, I don’t think you have. But every time like I see her name or she pops up on like my Facebook all I ever feel is like gratitude and

Because we’re from the UK and we’re like, me and Sue are very broad Yorkshire. You can spot them a mile off if you see us. We never thought an Australian couple would choose us to be our surrogate. They gave us that shining light of hope and if we did that for them…

then it might happen again. Yes, and I think that’s absolutely great wisdom to part there, that you guys are amazing individuals, and it’s a confirmation that somebody did see it. They did see that light in you, and you did build up something good, but something changed in their life. Yeah, yeah. And that’s no reflection on you. And I remember the previous IPs, I was dating, somebody knew them and they knew me, and they said, Anna, you’re a great person, and these guys are great people, but just because you’re all great people doesn’t mean you make a great team. Yeah.

And it’s that reminder that we can be all awesome individually, but it still doesn’t mean there’ll be a connection. But it’s hard to go, you know, we might have to pick ourselves back up again and go through another six months of this and then something happens for medical reasons or whatever. So it’s that uncertainty in it, of sorry, because in Australia, of not knowing. So it can be exhausting. We’re 37 this year. I think like…

feel like our friendship group is set you know like we’ve had the same friends for like 20 years and it’s like when you’re trying to like meet a new surrogate it’s not just like it’s not a nine-month thing it’s a lifetime thing and it’s you’ve got to meet that people meet them people that are going to be in your life forever and like we have i have so many friends i have nothing in common with so like if we don’t watch the same tv show with each other i’m not bothered but i used to have the same core values with each other and sometimes that’s harder than watching the same

True right, because how do you find out someone’s core values until you spend time with them and hear how they respond to things? Yeah, and you and Maddie last time, was it Katrina Hale, the number of hours you spent with each other? It’s so important.

Yeah, so for those listening, we aim for trying to spend a hundred in-person hours together that didn’t count sleeping. So like if you went away for a weekend together with somebody that didn’t count that. And it had to be not surrogacy related. So it didn’t count as all the appointments for counseling and legals. And so it took us a year to hit the hundred, but we hit it before we tried our first embryo transfer. So, but we live in Adelaide together. So I mean, there’s a question for you. If you had your time again in a perfect, well not time again, moving forward in a perfect world, would you therefore prefer a local surrogate to you?

I think, no, it doesn’t, it really doesn’t bother me. I think her might be a bit of a stretch. But sometimes when you have an interstate, it means that you set aside weekends or blocks of time to be together. Yeah, that’s it, yeah. So that can be really beneficial too, because Madeleine, sorry, get there, her team had that. And so I know that you might then even long-term, once baby’s born, you might not see each other all the time. You might message and share photos. But then when you do catch up once or twice a year, you’re spending a weekend together or. Or it’s like long time together, yeah.

We actually had a, we had a story that reached out recently, lived in Perth, about five hours drive from Perth. Another five hours from Perth. I’m so glad to get to you.

And that you’ve got to weigh that up, is that best for her or you? Yeah, exactly, yeah. Yeah, so lots of these learnings. So sometimes a question I like to ask my co-hosts is, you know, something that you’ve learned about yourself in this journey. I’d imagine a lot of resilience, particularly from the grief that you’ve worked through. I think I’ve learned, like, how strong my relationship is with Stu. Like, I know that sounds kind of silly, but we never really had, like, deep, like…

conversations about how upset we were about stuff, especially that Stu would never have them with me. And because he’s not involved in the whole being online and stuff, he’s always just going along with what I’ve said. But when we found out that our journey had ended, he was just distraught. And there for you too. Yeah, yeah. He brought us close together.

That’s lovely. If there’s anything that you could go back and redo differently, is there any one thing in particular there? Probably like the, like getting Stu more involved in like the online texting earlier on. Building that connection as a team. Maybe like a three-way group chat. He might be busy at work and not be able to respond to it all, but he might be able to see the banter. Yeah, well, because we haven’t been in a four-way group chat, we’ve got me, Stu, like the three-way group chat.

partner. It was only like that was like planning trips and like getting together and then it was me and like our surrogate just one on one. Yes, yes, so that’s a good point. You need to involve everyone. So with the surrogate’s partner, the other IP, it really is a team effort there, isn’t it? So yeah, I think that’s that’s great advice to people. Yeah. When you’re on this journey, is expect like bumped in the road or like or something not to go right. And it doesn’t mean like it’s the end of the world. It took me a while to realise

trouble kind of thing. Yes. Like just expect a few bumps, like we’ve had a lot of bumps, but it’s never gonna be easy and like just don’t expect it to happen within a year, like expect the worst, you know, expect like four years, you know, just be for the long haul. I think that’s great advice because then if you’re expecting the long haul and it happens quicker, then that’s great and really manageable isn’t it? And just really celebrate like the big milestones, you know, like the

Celebrate them like a birthday party, you know, like we do. Like, so you can see like a legal celebration, like counselling celebration. When you get your embryo celebrated, you know, it’s a big thing, it’s a lot of money, and it’s a lot of time spent, so. And yeah, and you’ve got to celebrate all of those little things along the way, because you just don’t know where it’s all going to go. Yeah. Wonderful. Well, that’s really powerful, Dan. I think lots of great insight there, and lessons to be learned. So thank you for sharing that. Oh, thank you.

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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