A surrogacy search in Australia
How ‘twinning’ Facebook emojis connected a couple to their surrogate
When Mark and David began their surrogacy search, they had no idea something as simple as a Facebook comment could lead them to their dream of starting a family.
For many couples and individuals who find themselves in need of a surrogate, it can be a daunting endeavour from the start. There is often the common misconception that surrogacy is only possible overseas, but it is in fact achievable to find a surrogate domestically.
In Australia, surrogacy has to be done for altruistic reasons. This means that someone interested in becoming a surrogate must do so out of the goodness of their heart, since compensation for surrogacy is illegal in Australia. More on this here.
Although it might seem like an overwhelming undertaking, resources are available to Australians hoping to find a surrogate domestically.
“Not having any friends that had gone through surrogacy, we lent on advice from Surrogacy Australia, IVFAustralia and the amazing support from the online Facebook group called the Australian Surrogacy Community to guide us through a four year journey to find an egg donor and surrogate, who both lived only a couple of hours away in NSW,” says Mark.
So, how did it happen for Mark and David?
Finding an egg donor
As a same-sex couple, Mark and David required both an egg donor and surrogate in order to reach their goal of having a child that was genetically related to them. Wanting to take things one step at a time, Mark and David decided to first focus on finding an egg donor.
After many Google searches they discovered the Egg Donation Australia Facebook community, which they joined in 2016. Shortly after posting their story, a woman reached out and they spent a few months getting to know one another before she generously offered to donate her eggs.
Once the offer was made, Mark and David were referred to IVFAustralia for all parties involved to complete the compulsory counselling sessions prior to donation.
“After the counselling was completed, we were able to collect 30 eggs and we had decided to fertilise half of the embryos each. We were fortunate to end up with 10 embryos which we froze, roughly half fertilised from David and half mine,” says Mark.
The surrogacy search
Now one step closer to creating their family, Mark and David began the surrogacy search. They were pointed to the Australian Surrogacy Community Facebook group
Australia to help provide access and recommendations to lawyers, support, and education around surrogacy arrangements in Australia.
They spent a few years becoming active in the Australian Surrogacy Community group, including attending social catch ups with intending parents, as well as past, present, and searching surrogates. Mark explains, “we were given the advice that you need to be willing to put yourself out there; talk to people, connect and get to know potential surrogates, be honest and open to meeting people, share your experience and provide support for others going through it too.”
They also started attending national conferences organised by Surrogacy Australia, which brought in ART providers, different lawyers and counsellors to share information. After a few years of community engagement and constant searching, the amazing happened.
“Completely by chance on the Australian Surrogacy Community Facebook page, I was scrolling through and saw that someone had posted a ‘getting to know me’ post, which asked people to share the three emoji
is that they use the most and someone listed the same three as me,” says Mark.
Without knowing who that person was, Mark simply posted a comment back – “twinning”. This prompted the woman and her husband, Mark and David to begin getting to know one another through a group chat, and after visiting each others’ homes and meeting one another’s families, she made the incredible offer to become their surrogate.
Dr. Peter Illingworth at IVFAustralia provided Mark and David with all information required for next steps. He discussed the formal processes (links to IVFA website) needed under the legislation, the IVFAustralia and external counselling sessions, the ethics committee, and the need to get separate independent legal advice and formal pre-transfer counselling from an external provider.
“The ethics committee sounds daunting, but I remember Dr Illingworth saying ultimately from their perspective they just want to make sure we have ticked all the right boxes, and, as long as we’ve met all the requirements, it should be a fairly open and shut case. And he was right – in November 2019 we received approval from the committee.”
They then completed IVFA’s counselling sessions, plus three external counselling sessions: one with Mark and David, one with the surrogate and her husband, and one with the four of them all together.
The counselling sessions are invaluable in helping the group think through all potential situations, and include an informal psych assessment to see inherent personality traits. Some questions included:
- What is a reasonable expense to cover for the surrogate during the pregnancy?
- What does future contact look like?
- What are your expectations during the pregnancy?
The counselling process made them aware of the things they should be looking out for during the pregnancy and the ways they could offer support.
‘Doughnut’ in the oven
After the formalities were completed with the help of the supportive IVFAustralia team and Australian Surrogacy Community group, Mark and David received the happy news that their surrogate was pregnant.
“During the pregnancy our surrogate nicknamed the baby doughnut and one day, she surprised us with a pink doughnut which is how we found out we’re having a girl!
Our baby Mila was born at the end of 2019, and is a happy and healthy 6 month old. We count our blessings every day for the amazing people we met who helped us on our journey to bring her into the world.”
Adds Mark, “You don’t realise that there are such selfless people out there.”