Ask Me Anything! Digging deep into surrogacy & donor IVF journeys

Written by: Sam Everingham


23 FEBRUARY, 2023 –

Surrogacy arrangements necessitate a lot of moving parts. The carrier themselves, lawyers, IVF clinics, donors, surrogacy professionals, counsellors and, increasingly, specialist couriers. Not to mention, the confusing laws that only add to the uncertainty. Without careful planning and support there’s a lot that can go wrong. 

Growing Families are the organisation on a mission to unpack the ifs, ands and but’s. From local complexities to global travel, single dads, mums, LGBTQ+ parents and couples on a family-building journey, they’ve assisted over 3,000 families engage in cross-border donor and surrogacy arrangements since 2010. 

Today, Growing Families founder – and dad via surrogacy – Sam Everingham sets out just one amazing story. For more, plus a set of amazing live seminars covering local and international surrogacy and donor IVF, book tickets now for their Ask Me Anything expert panel and support events in London and Dublin.

Fertility Help
Surrogacy in Ukraine

Pedro & Maria’s story

Pedro grew up in Brazil but has lived in the UK since 1998. A civil servant, he and his wife tried for years to achieve a natural pregnancy. With no success they turned to the UK’s private IVF clinics for help. Even then, several IVF cycles produced no results.

By now Pedro was 47, his wife Maria was just a year younger. After eight years of trying, they refused to give up on their dream of having a family. Surrogacy and donor IVF appeared to be the next viable option.

Ukraine surrogacy arrangements, pre 2022

So in early 2021 Pedro attended a Growing Families Ask Me Anything  event, to hear from surrogacy experts from countries such as the USA, and Ukraine. They came to realise that there were many couples of a similar age (often older), struggling with the same issues.

By March, they had decided on Ukraine as the option best suited to their needs and had shortlisted three agencies. Some offered a fixed price ‘guarantee’ program, which allowed for unlimited embryo transfers using donor egg embryos until a live birth was achieved. After so much uncertainty and loss, this seemed an ideal option.

With borders re-opened to international travel, they flew to Kiev in April 2021. Pedro provided sperm, they chose a donor and after thorough pre-genetic screening, they were left with eight high-quality embryos.

The invasion of Ukraine

In early December that year they had been matched with a surrogate who lived 300 kilometres west of Kiev. Medical screening was completed and their first embryo transfer took place. Incredibly, that first transfer was successful. 

But by January, Russian troops were massing near Ukraine’s border and there were constant rumours of an invasion. The couple’s clinic coordinator dismissed the possibility – Russia had been a bully for years, but an invasion was not going to happen.

Pedro was unconvinced. He and Maria woke every morning for two months to check the BBC news reports. When Russia invaded on 24 February 2022, their clinic was uncontactable for weeks. Later they learned the clinic staff had fled and their remaining embryos had been shipped by road to Slovakia, for safe-keeping.

Clinics in chaos

With their surrogate unable to attend her scheduled pregnancy scans in Kiev, Pedro and Maria prayed the situation would resolve. But the war dragged on.

Like many surrogacy births during the war, their son was delivered prematurely – nearly three weeks early and immediately admitted to neonatal intensive care. It was August 2022.

Pedro then set out to make the long trip to Kiev alone, paying an international charity to take him by land from Warsaw, 470 miles to Kiev. His son’s hospital, like most public buildings, was fitted with an air-raid shelter and there was even a mobile app Pedro downloaded.

Pedro New Born Baby

Book tickets now for the Growing Families Ask Me Anything! expert panel and support events in London on 25 March, 2023. Our team will be live and on hand to answer any – yes, any – question, helping you kick-start your family-building plans. 

With rare insights from local and international experts, new parents and more, we’ll cover donor IVF and surrogacy in the USA, Canada, Argentina, Greece and Georgia. 

Growing Families is a global non-profit which provides education to assist intended parents achieve their dream of family safely and ethically.

This article was written by:

Sam Everingham

Sam Everingham is the founder of Growing Families. He has extensive global networks with surrogacy researchers, families, agencies, and reproductive specialists, and has been helping couples and singles with their family building journey for over a decade. He is a regular media commentator and has co-authored articles on surrogacy in several reputable journals.

Read more about Sam Everingham