Richard and Ronnie Shawyer-Clarke, who live together in Felden, England, have been together for 12 years, long enough that — like so many other parts of queer culture from the early oughts (looking at you blond highlights and crop tops) — the dating site the couple met on (Gaydar.com) has disappeared.
After spending some time chatting and getting to know one another, the couple started to date. As they say, the rest (just like the dating site they met on) is history, Richard said.
Early on in their relationship, the pair started to discuss their options for building a family together. "We both had an ambition to have a family and share our lives and love with children," Richard said. Towards that end, Richard and Ronnie first started to look into adoption as the path forward for them. They got decently far into the process — far enough that they had been approved for an adoption placement — when they realized that surrogacy may be the better option.
"We decided we wanted the biological link to our children, so we went the surrogacy route," Richard said.
The pair first looked into surrogacy options close to home in the U.K. — however, the couple quickly learned that compensation above fair and reasonable expenses for a surrogate are illegal in the country, and surrogacy contracts are "unenforceable." This could have caused them legal headaches down the road. The United States, in contrast, is one of the few countries in the world with an established framework to conduct surrogacy legally and ethically.
As a result, "due to the UK law, we decided on US surrogacy despite the increased cost," Richard said. The couple spent some time interviewing several surrogacy agencies in the United States before deciding to book a ticket to visit Simple Surrogacy, an agency based in Dallas, Texas, in person. Though an in person visit is not required before contracting with an agency, "we decided to fly to the US to meet with Simple Surrogacy as we wanted to build a close and trusting relationship with our agency," said Richard.
At that first meeting, Richard and Ronnie decided to move forward with the agency, and conducted all the necessary work for IVF on that very first visit. "We also used Simple for egg donation and chose our egg donor that way," Richard said.
Next step was to search for a surrogate, a process that occurred relatively quickly for the couple. "Simple matched us to Laura and David," said Richard, referring to his gestational carrier and her husband. The foursome quickly hit it off, discovering they shared professions in aviation together — Richard, a pilot, and Laura and David as air traffic controllers.
Thanks to their mutual interest in the friendly skies, "we had a lovely ice breaker," said Richard — and their surrogacy journey together would soon take flight.
Though again not a requirement for international intended parents to fly in to meet a gestational carrier before signing paperwork together, to Richard and Ronnie, it was an important step in the process. "We had a Skype conversation again and decided the time was right to head back to the States to meet with them," said Richard. "From our side it showed a lot of commitment to the process, but we also wanted to get to know them, and for them to feel part of the family."
The foursome spent what they referred to as a "lovely couple of days" getting to know one another and spending some time at the beach. "This trip also let Laura and David chat about issues they could foresee in the contract process which were ironed out in a really easy manner," Richard said. "It made the whole process with the lawyers much more human than business."
Soon after this meeting, the IVF transfer took place. The couple flew Laura and David to the UK for the important 12-week scan — which confirmed twin heartbeats! — and took the opportunity to get to know the couple even better. "This allowed Laura and David to see where we live, and also see London whilst we were able to spend quality time with them," Richard said.
The twins were born six weeks premature — and several days before Richard and Ronnie were scheduled to arrive in the United States for the birth. "So it was all hands on deck," Richard said. The couple flew to the United States as quickly as possible — fortunately, despite being born prematurely, the twins Grace and Oliver were both happy and healthy, and didn't require much additional hospital time.
Though the Richard and Ronnie never doubted their journey towards fatherhood, they did say the reality hit them quickly after leaving the hospital with two child seats in tow. But it's a journey they've been excited to be on every day since.
As for others interested in pursuing fatherhood via surrogacy, the couple recommends taking the time to build a relationship with your gestational carrier and her family, as they did — Laura and David are "part of the family" now, the couple said.
And as for last words of advice, Richard provided a suggestion fitting for a pilot. "Have an extra holiday before the baby arrives!" he said.