When we met 11 years ago, neither of us would have thought that a decade later, we would be running between diaper changes, burping and tummy time! Becoming parents did not seem like a reality, although it was something that we had in the back in our minds and have always longed for.
Our Surrogacy Journey
For months, expectant first-time parent’s try and imagine the moment they hear their child’s first cry (or yell!) while going through all the emotions of pregnancy. But nothing can prepare you for that actual moment, for us, a moment that we thought never would be possible.
Seeing our best friends become dads through surrogacy just a couple of months earlier, made us look into the possibility of starting our family journey. It took several weeks of research, phone calls and a leap of faith to contact our fertility clinic and start the process.
South Africa has one of the most advanced surrogacy laws and is strictly regulated by the High Court under the Children’s Act. There are several parties involved, including fertility specialists, IVF coordinators, lawyers, financial brokers, and psychiatrists. The court order also confirms the intended parents as legal parents of the child born through surrogacy from the moment of birth. Previously, once a child was born through surrogacy, an adoption process would have had to be put into place by the intended parents to become the legal parents.
Our journey to parenthood started in April 2018 when we “met” Anne*, our prospective surrogate. There was an immediate connection between the three of us and it felt as if we knew each other for years. From the outside it must have been such an interesting conversation; the three of us called it “speed dating”, but with a very different outcome. Anne has two children of her own, and over the following months, we celebrated their birthdays, academic achievements and listened to Anne torment over her daughter’s teenage phase!
For several weeks the three of us underwent medical check-ups, psychological evaluations and an incredible amount of legal advice and contracts. This was a very “clinical” and cold part of the process, but with an untallied amount of milkshakes, scones, and coffee we managed to get through it all. The only hurdle still in our way was our court hearing; and Murphey’s Law, was according to our lawyer his longest day in court telling us that the judge was most definitely taking a leisurely read through all the documents. If anything was questioned, we had to go back and possibly delay the process with a couple of months. Finally, as the court adjourned for the day we received the good news that everything was approved.
Anne and the egg donor started with their respective IVF treatments during June 2018. This process is highly coordinated and timed to the tee. After the successful egg fertilization, we endured two heart-breaking transfer failures during the following months with no success of a pregnancy. The most difficult was each time seeing an embryo being transferred, and having the agonising two-week wait before a pregnancy test was done. Couples undergoing IVF treatment call it PUPO, “pregnant until proven otherwise”, and for those couple of days, your world comes to a halt. Our hopes started failing during each transfer, we had come so far, but each time felt a little piece of us disappearing.
Then during the first week of December 2018, we received the good news, a positive pregnancy! We could finally break the news to our family and friends, who up till then knew nothing about what we were busy going through. We can’t say that it was fireworks of excitement at first, as they had a lot of questions and uncertainties about the process, but with each scan image, they became more and more excited.
We could not wait for the monthly check-ups and scans and flew up to Pretoria each time to support Anne. We had a choice of how much we wanted to be involved during the pregnancy, but from our initial meeting, we assured her that we would be there all the way and support her throughout. During one of her visits to Cape Town, Jonathan had to even administer her injections while staying with us! Before our first visit to the gynaecologist, we were extremely nervous about how we would have been received. We understood that the possibility of the three of us arriving at any appointment would create some awkwardness, but we were met with the complete opposite reaction. The support and care we received from medical and administrative staff throughout was mind-blowing.
Trust and respect played a tremendous part during the months of pregnancy. Because we did not have a ‘pregnant women’ in our home, it was difficult at first for us to comprehend the emotions of having a child. We lived by each week’s update on his development and how Anne was experiencing the pregnancy. Because of this, we read so much about fertility and pregnancy we even surprise our doctors about all our knowledge! Early on in the pregnancy, we decided on preparing our nursery, a room where we could gather our thoughts and excitement while waiting on our little one.
After months of anticipation, we received a call to say “it was time”; Anne’s water broke a week earlier than the planned caesarean! We had an hour to book a flight, get to the airport and board the last flight to Johannesburg. A nerve-racking flight, and drive to the hospital gave us 15 minutes spare before we heard his first cry that would change our lives forever.
As soon as William was born he was brought to us for some wonderful moments of skin-to-skin; our minds flooded with emotions and the age-old question; “ ok what do we do now?!” We waited for Anne in the recovery room to make sure she was ok. She soon was wheeled out of the theatre, a moment we will never forget – only months ago a stranger, now given birth to our son, brimming with smiles and glowing with pride seeing us with William.
After three nights we were discharged from the comforts and of the hospital, which was a bittersweet moment as we had to say goodbye to Anne. She had become part of our family and it was an incredible personal journey that the three of us embarked on. Anne endured months of medication, injections and the discomforts of pregnancy. Not once did she ever complain, taking each challenge with the hope that we would soon have our own family. It was a mutual understanding that we did not have to have any contact after the birth, but she has become so part of our family, that we look forward to the contact we will continue to have with her and her children.
But we had to go our separate ways, her home to her family and us home to begin our journey with ours, and so after a slight hiccup – we couldn’t fit the car seat – that was resolved by watching a YouTube video in the parking lot, we were on our way.
Now that we are home, settling in and finding our feet, we learnt that no book can prepare you for this journey. The excitement (and sometimes uncertainty) is from the unknown, and the incredible support that we have received from people; some we have not even met. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it took a couple of people throughout the country to realise our dream and a whole lot more to encourage us all the way!
The Journey Forward
When we started considering surrogacy, we discovered that there was very little information available, especially in South Africa. If we did find any, it was very vague and did not always give you all the “hidden” information and costs that we needed to consider. We were very fortunate to have met and worked with an incredible team of people who guided us through every step of the process. If it weren’t for our surrogate, who supported us with so much love and compassion, we would not have had this story to tell. We want to share our positive experience with intended parents and surrogates and provide them with all the information and guidance through the whole process.
*Not real name to protect the identity
Jonathan and Arthur met eleven years ago and have been married for three. Jonathan is a Communication Specialist and Arthur a university lecturer. As new parents, they want to share everything from pregnancy to prams from a dads’ point of view. If not busy changing diapers they spend time in the kitchen, on their bikes or exploring the world. Follow their journey on Instagram @2dadslad.