Written by dads Wim and Dirk.
At first we didn't know about the surrogacy possibilities in the United States, so we prepared ourselves for adoption. We followed the mandatory adoption courses, as most gay couples in Belgium do when they want to have children. We started with the international adoption course but when most countries closed international adoption for gays we decided to give up international adoption and go for national adoption. While we were in the process of being evaluated (psychologically, financially, ...) we read an article in a newspaper about a gay couple that was expecting a child through surrogacy. We managed to contact them and they've told us their surrogacy journey.
Even though we had lots of doubts, we contacted their surrogacy agency CSP (www.creatingfamilies.com), set a date for our first Skype contact and gathered as much information as possible. As the adoption process was continuing we needed to make a choice and decided surrogacy was the right path for us. Mostly because national adoption was presented with lots of caveats like the uncertainty of the health of the child (drug addicts) and the possibility of unplanned contact with the birth mother, father or grandparents.
But since surrogacy is expensive, we still had our doubts about how trustworthy surrogacy agencies are. Luckily Wim's mother overheard a conversation at the local bakery about a heterosexual couple that was pregnant through surrogacy. They we're using the same surrogacy agency and assured us all expenses were acceptable (no excesses) and carefully reported. That's when we decided to stop the adoption process at once and start our surrogacy journey.
It was about one month after finishing all administration that we were chosen by our first surrogate mother, Sabrina. She had been working with a heterosexual couple, but they didn't get pregnant and decided to work with another surrogate. Nevertheless, we we're very happy to be chosen by Sabrina and couldn't wait to start working with her. In October 2012 we travelled to California to meet Sabrina and her husband in Laguna Beach. The meeting was arranged by our counselor who was also present. It seemed like time stopped when our counselor left to get Sabrina. But the moment she entered, we immediately felt what a warm person she is. We had a drink in the restaurant, went for a walk and had an enjoyable conversation the next few hours. We didn't have that connection with her husband though, who didn't seem to be interested.
During our trip to California we also had an appointment at the fertility center and the doctor made us feel comfortable. We both left a specimen of semen for the insemination.
Unfortunately, our first egg donor turned out to have chlamydia, so she couldn't donate at the time Sabrina was ready for the first attempt. We either had to wait 6 months and try again or choose another egg donor. We chose the latter to be able to do the first implantation 3 months later. The egg donor donated 14 eggs out of which 12 could be used. The doctor inseminated 6 eggs with each of our semen. When the DNA of all embryo's we're tested for abnormalities, it turned out all of Dirk's embryos were flawed but 3 Wim's embryos were good. We chose to use the strongest male embryo.
We had to wait about 2 weeks until the doctor would check if Sabrina was pregnant or not. Sabrina couldn't wait that long and tested herself at home. Of course, she couldn't hold the positive result to herself :-) A few days later the doctor confirmed the pregnancy. We were so very lucky our first attempt was successful!
Usually we had a Skype meeting once a week. Besides discussing personal topics, she kept us up-to-date on her doctor appointments and surrogacy group meetings. Funny fact: in Belgium it is custom to keep the name of the baby secret until the baby is born. That's why Sabrina always referred to the baby as B6, the embryo's designation (boy number 6).
After a few months we learned she was divorcing her husband. Besides the emotional aspect we had doubts about the financial strength of Sabrina but we were assured that wouldn't be a problem. More importantly, we had to look for insurance since she couldn't use the insurance of her husband, who wasn't working for the government, anymore. On the bright side, she was already involved in a new relation and we had a great contact with her new companion.
When Sabrina was 6 months pregnant we went to visit her again. She had an amazing surprise gift for us: a 3D ultrasound of our baby. Besides spending time with Sabrina and James, we also enjoyed the Californian sun.
About 3 weeks before the planned birth of our son, we received a phone call from our counselor in the middle of the night (Belgian time). Sabrina didn't feel well, went to the doctor and was diagnosed with sepsis. Our counselor told us Sabrina had to go in labor that day! We immediately realized we wouldn't make it for the delivery. Even though we booked our flight right away, we wouldn't arrive until 2 days later. In the meantime, Sabrina did take care of our son, Thomas.
When we finally arrived, we were exhausted but went to the hospital right away to hold our son. Finally, the moment we had been waiting for so long had arrived.
While waiting for all the paper works – birth certificate and passport – we stayed close to Sabrina. After a week we wanted to go to Santa Monica for the remaining days but on our way, we got a call of the hospital that Thomas was dehydrated, and it would be best to stay nearby, just in case. So, we stayed a little longer in the high desert region.
Luckily, all the paper works were quickly settled, and we were able to return to Belgium, with Thomas, 2 weeks after his birth.
On the airplane we got a lot of attention of the flight crew, because of our very little travel companion. We got even more attention at the airport in Belgium as all our family was waiting for our arrival.
Back in Belgium we stayed in touch with Sabrina, having Skype calls one a week. In the next months, our Skype contact diminished, and we gradually switched to liking each other Facebook post. It still is a fantastic way to stay up-to-date without intruding each other's life.
We always wanted 2 kids and we both wanted to be the biological father of one of them. Since all of Dirk's embryos weren't viable, we knew we had to work with an egg donor again. Be preference, that would be the same egg donor. At first, we didn't plan on starting a new surrogacy cycle for the next year (or two?). But when we were informed our egg donor wanted to go on a long trip to Europe, we decided to move quickly to ensure ourselves we could use same egg donor.
Because of the sepsis, Sabrina wasn't allowed to be our surrogate once again, so we had to work with another surrogate mother. Fortunately, we found a match in Sheila very soon. Our counselor had suggested us to Sheila as we would be a good match. She was a single mother with an 18-year old son, Jordan. Like Sabrina, she experienced a failed conception with a heterosexual couple, but our surrogacy agency ensured us the problem was not with her.
A few months after our first Skype contact later we travelled to L.A. with Thomas, to meet up with Sheila. This time we would meet in Newport Beach at the Marriot hotel. We invited Sabrina too, so they could meet each other as well. After our we met Sheila and her son Jordan, we had a lovely diner with Leila, Jordan, Sabrina & James. Even though neither one ever told us, we had the impression Leila and Sabrina didn't get along very well.
Just a few days later, we had an appointment at the fertility center to do a fresh cycle. Our egg donor would donate while Dirk would provide a fresh sample of semen. Kind of strange we weren't allowed to see each other, but we respected the anonymous nature of our contract.
This time only 6 eggs were donated, out of which 4 were good enough for fertilization. Since all embryos were flawed last time, our hope on having a at least one good embryo wasn't very high, and we were already thinking about our next moves in the worst-case scenario. Fortunately, 3 embryos turned out to be viable. The only little downside was there were no female embryos, so we couldn't have a girl as we would have preferred.
We didn't have any more setbacks as Leila got pregnant with the first attempt too. If everything goes that smooth, you almost consider it normal even though we did realize we were very lucky.
Compared to Sabrina, our relationship with Leila was more reserved and business-like, but as we're rational and direct ourselves, we didn't mind. We kept each other up-to-date with a weekly Skype call.
Between Christmas and New Year, when Leila was about 7 months pregnant, we – including Thomas – went to California to meet her in Palm Springs. Because of the holidays we didn't spend that much time together but we both appreciated the ability to see each other in person.
Just one month later, we got another phone call in the middle of the night. Our counselor told us Leila would give birth to our son that same day. Once again, we would be too late for the birth of our child. We arranged our flight right away, but we were only able to leave the next morning. It was strange being at work while our counselor – who was with Leila during birth – kept sending us WhatsApp updates on the birth. Getting a picture of your newborn son via WhatsApp just isn't the same as waiting in the hospital to see him. Luckily, we both aren't very emotional persons.
Two days later we were able to hold Matthias for the first time. In the meantime, Leila had cared for him, together with her parents.
We stayed close to Leila and the hospital the first week of our stay. As Matthias did have jaundice, we received a UV mat we had to wrap around Matthias. Some people must have thought we were aliens when we plugged in our glowing baby at a restaurant.
After a week we moved to Marina Del Rey to enjoy the beach until we had received all papers. This time we were able to return to Belgium 10 days after our arrival. We had a lovely final dinner with Leila and Jordan, but Leila did have a hard time saying good bye to Matthias. We almost felt guilty about having to keep your son. Luckily, her son was there to support her.
The welcoming party at the airport was once more heartwarming. Especially seeing Thomas again after so many days.
Facebook is still the best way to automatically keep each other up-to-date. Unfortunately, Leila doesn't want to use Facebook or Instagram, but we send an automated e-mail each time we post a picture. That way, she receives our updates and she usually responds with comments.