‘This woman will nurture our baby for nine months . . . we will be forever grateful’
One woman explains her choice to use a surrogate mother in the Ukraine
Families Through Surrogacy founder Sam Everingham and his partner, Phil Copland, with their two girls, Zoe and Ruby. Everingham founded his organisation after he experienced at first hand the lack of support for intended parents.
‘As soon as the child is born, you will have to have your solicitor on standby to make sure all of the relevant papers are ready to be signed,’ says solicitor Tracy Horan, who specialises in surrogacy law.
Marie* explains why she and her husband are planning to use a surrogate mother in Ukraine:
I was diagnosed with a chronic heart and lung condition a few years ago and, while the news in itself was devastating, I was also shattered by the fact that I would not be able to get pregnant. There is an estimated 30-50 per cent mortality rate for both mother and baby if I was to give birth.
I went from being a normal woman in my mid-20s, working full-time and doing a postgraduate degree by night with all sorts of dreams, to someone who would be fortunate to work part-time and likely require a lung transplant in the future.
From that moment, myself and my boyfriend (now my husband) knew we would go down the road of surrogacy, as adoption is effectively at a standstill in this country.
We had assumed that legislation would be in by now. After the Government chose to remove surrogacy from the Bill last year we decided we could not wait on politicians’ promises any longer. The time is right for us.
Obviously finances are a consideration and limit where we can go to do the surrogacy. The US is the most straightforward route but it is financially prohibitive – anywhere from €130,000-€170,000 due to the medical and insurance costs there.
As it is, we will probably need to remortgage our home to fund surrogacy in Ukraine.
Emotionally, I think we will struggle through the pregnancy and when we go over to Ukraine to bring our baby home. It’ll be difficult being sent scans and having Skype calls, looking at our surrogate’s bump without really feeling any sense of control or connection.
We have excellent legal advice here and an excellent lawyer in Ukraine so, should there be any hiccups, we will be reassured by the fact that they will be there to help us.
Ethically, we don’t really have any hesitations. We do not feel that women are exploited just to be wombs for rent.
As well as generous compensation, the surrogates receive lots of support and counselling and enter into the agreement of their own free will. That is a choice a woman should be allowed to make for herself, it’s her body.
We really admire anyone who is willing to do that for another couple. This woman will nurture our baby for nine months and we will be forever grateful.
Medically, we had some reservations but not enough to stop us. I am on a lot of medication and one is dangerous to foetuses so I think I will need to stop this while I take the IVF drugs to stimulate my eggs for egg retrieval.
Online, we have met lots of couples who have had babies through surrogacy and others who are in the middle of their journey.
We attended some surrogacy support meetings held by the National Infertility Support and Information Group too.
We have been very open with family and friends. They understand that this is what we need to do to complete our family.
As well as remortgaging our house, we will also have to factor in the cost of me not working for the first few months – I won’t get maternity leave – as well as legal costs. We will also need to travel to Ukraine three to four times and will need to stay there for five to six weeks around the time of the birth.
Ukraine is attractive as its surrogacy programmes start at approximately €33,000 and legislation is protective of the intended parents: we will be named on the Ukrainian birth certificate and there will be no mention of the surrogate mother.
The contracts are binding and the surrogate cannot change her mind.
The lack of legislation in Ireland is frustrating because surrogacy is happening – a lot – and is increasing.
As we will be using our own genetic material – my eggs and my husband’s sperm – we should be recognised as the sole parents of our child.
Even though we will be on a Ukrainian birth cert, I will never get to go on the Irish birth cert as my baby’s mother.
Another advantage of legislation would be that Irish couples could openly do the IVF, egg retrieval and freezing of embryos here.
Our biggest hope is that by next year we will be expecting our own child.
I’m scared about being on our own away from our families in a foreign country with a new baby waiting to get home. It’s not how I ever imagined spending my first few weeks of motherhood.
Name has been changed. Story as told to Sheila Wayman
Filling surrogacy support gap
Families Through Surrogacy, which is running the Dublin conference in March, was founded by Australian Sam Everingham after he experienced at first hand the lack of support for intended parents.
“My partner and I had a very tough road to parenthood through surrogacy in India, experiencing the loss of twin boys, Zac and Ben, when they were born premature at 28 weeks,” he says. “Ben survived just seven weeks in a New Delhi hospital; Zac was stillborn.”
On returning home to deal with this loss, it soon became clear there were no support networks or organisations equipped to assist and advise surrogates and intended parents alike. To fill this gap, Everingham set up Surrogacy Australia in 2011 and, two years later, founded Families Through Surrogacy, which he describes as “a non-profit, global, consumer- based organisation”.
Meanwhile, he and his partner, Phil Copland, “found the strength to continue our own journey and had two girls, Zoe and Ruby, via two separate surrogates in India”.
They are now both four and a half years old.
Families Through Surrogacy focuses, he explains, on providing up-to-date resources on surrogacy options around the globe – “no mean feat as this is an area in constant flux. We have seen India, Thailand and Nepal close their borders to foreigners seeking surrogacy in the recent past.”
As to what countries Irish intended parents should consider, he points out that certain US states such as California, Nevada and Oregon have long experience of surrogacy (30-plus years).
“This experience means surrogate screening, matching and care is second to none. However, the US system can be pricey,” he acknowledges.
“Canada is emerging as a somewhat more affordable, yet still reliable, option and in Europe, Ukraine has been offering legal, well-run surrogacy programmes to heterosexuals for 15 years.”
For more information see familiesthrusurrogacy.com