Nearly one in five Australian couples venturing abroad choose Canada as their special place to create family (one in three if you only consider gay couples). Eleven couples I know are expecting babies via Canadian surrogacy over the coming five months. They are not alone. Intended parents from dozens of countries, including France, the UK, US and Spain have enjoyed the benefits of Canada.
It offers an altruistic surrogacy model which exists in harmony with surrogacy and donor support services that bring parents, surrogates and donors together. Canada is also popular because its altruistic laws are more in line with those of Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Foreigners are recognised as the legal parents under Canadian law and two dads can be names on the birth certificate. Even single males can be named as a sole parent.
Canada cannot offer as large a range of donors or surrogates as some other countries because they cannot be compensated beyond expenses. However there are Canadian agencies which can support surrogates through these intense journeys and IVF clinics such as Create which have particular expertise in this area of ‘third-party’ reproduction.
Ronny is in banking and his partner Paul is in event management. They chose to create family in Canada after 12 years together. Their good mates had thoroughly researched the options and opted for Canada after much discussion. Ronny & Paul relied on their mates’ advice (as we did when we engaged in overseas surrogacy ten years earlier).
They worked with CreATE IVF in Toronto and asked their clinic where they might source an egg donor. There are only a handful of egg donor providers in Canada and Paul explains that they might be sent a few donor profiles at a time. The problem is, these profiles are also sent to dozens of other couples. So ‘you can’t be too picky’ he admits.
A surprising source of sound advice on donor selection was their Canadian lawyer and well-known surrogacy advocate Cindy Wasser, who utilised surrogacy herself many years earlier. ‘Cindy was amazing’ Paul admits. ‘She advised us to look at donors’ medical history, and someone who was a blend of our looks. She was very helpful’.
Paul and Ronny honed in an one particular donor. Another couple got in first, but their journey was delayed, so their donor became available again.
Ultimately they were able to create nine good quality embryos, some using Ronny’s sperm and some using Pauls.
Their key advocate through the journey was Nir Keren from Babies Come True. ‘He was there for any questions and he was amazing’ Paul says.
The surrogate matching process in Canada is similar to Australia’s SASS program and the US in one aspect – both intended parents and the surrogate need to be comfortable moving forward after an initial Skype meeting and two week ‘dating’ period.
Paul reflects on the matching process. ‘We struggled for a bit ….. We registered in April and it took until Sept to be matched. We missed out on a few because we were a bit naïve. We wanted a surrogate near Toronto, near our embryos …. (but) when we broadened it out it was easier.
The surrogate they ultimately matched with, Chelsea, lived 3300km from their embryos, in Edmondton, Alberta. ‘She was absolutely wonderful – her sister was carrying for another couple. We felt like we were extended family’ says Paul.
Luckily their first embryo transfer was successful (in no more than a third of transfers is success achieved first go). This was all achieved without Paul and Ronny meeting Chelsea in person. Given the difficulties of distance, this did not happen until the birth.
Given there are likely to be many unable to meet a surrogate in person given covid-related travel restrictions, I ask Paul if a lack of face-to-face contact was a problem for Chelsea.
‘She didn’t mind that we weren’t there’ Paul explains.
When it came to the birth, Paul and Ronny arrived three weeks early and their son was a week late. In the birthing suite, Chelsea chose her mum to be her support person. I ask Paul if it was stressful being away from home and having to care for a newborn. Paul assures me that not only were Ronny’s parents there to support them, but he felt comfortable given his experience with nieces and nephews.
All in all, they were away from Australia seven weeks. And the hardest parts? ‘There was some stress at the end with the legals as some essential paperwork went missing’ Paul recalls. Otherwise it was a smooth journey. He just regrets they did not allocate some time to explore the beauty of Alberta prior to the birth.
You can hear more about Canadian surrogacy from Nir Keren from Babies Come True and a number of couples who engaged successfully in Canada at Growing Families Webinars on 20 or 21 June 2020. Go to https://www.growingfamilies.org/2020-conference-and-event-schedule/