As well as running conferences and webinars, International family building expert Sam Everingham has been working these past two years with a colleague on a book – Surrogacy Stories – which takes a deep dive into the family building journeys of twenty singles and couples from 11 nations. They include single men, single females, as well heterosexual and gay couples. Two are Irish couples.
Creating a family is a magical time for most, but for those reliant on the complexities of IVF, egg and sperm donation and surrogacy this process can involve years of struggle. It can be a pressure cooker mentally, physically and financially.
Each of the twenty chapters in Surrogacy Stories describes one family’s remarkable journey. Some of these are as recent as this year, others began back in 2010 when India, Thailand and Nepal were commonly attracting intended parents.
In the case of County Donegal couple Marie McPhilemy and her husband John, a genetic condition meant it was highly unlikely Marie would ever carry a child. Yet years later, not one but two of her sisters agreed to help her. While not everything worked out as planned, in 2012 Marie & John’s journey took them and sister Sharon to Prague for an attempt at embryo creation and transfer.
At that stage, apart from Marie’s own family she had confided only in two very close friends. Being able to share her fears without involving her family was invaluable. While waiting out the two weeks until Sharon could do a pregnancy test, Marie bit her nails down to the quick. The result showed a positive test, but within days it was clear there was no ongoing pregnancy.
John and Marie discussed how long they might keep going. Marie did not want to be forty and still trying for a baby. They agreed to put a limit on it. If after two IVF cycles there was still no pregnancy they would walk away content in knowing they had done their best.
For Kilkenny farmers Catherine & Keith Wheatley, endometriosis and the tragic late term loss of their first child led them to consider other options. After attending Growing Families events in 2017 and 2018, they decided on overseas surrogacy. At the last minute they were faced with having to switch to donor eggs. But the choice between donor eggs and having no children was clear to Catherine. Ultimately The Wheatley’s were fortunate to develop a lasting relationship with their surrogate, despite the language barriers.
The dilemmas and hurdles faced and ultimately overcome by these couples and the thousands like them who require donor IVF or surrogacy each year sheds a light on the remarkable resilience and determination of hopeful parents.