Thibault and Anthony were just 20 and 19 years old respectively when they first met at medical school in 2005. They were each other's first love and first gay experience. For their fifth anniversary, they moved in with each other. In 2015, their tenth anniversary, they were married in front of friends and family at City Hall in Strasbourg, France, where they live. The ceremony was followed by a small and intimate garden party at Thibault's parents' house.
Thibault and Anthony's wedding, 2015
For these French gay dads-to-be, becoming fathers had always been part of their plan. Unfortunately, the options for gay men to become dads in France is limited. Although adoption for same-sex couples was legalized in 2013, the same time as gay marriage, many same-sex couples have difficulty adopting due to the majority of birth moms still choosing heterosexual parents over same-sex couples. Surrogacy is illegal in France, despite it being estimated in 2014 that 1000 surrogate children were living in France. And finding another couple or single woman to co-parent alongside can also be very difficult. (But it is not impossible; read one such story here.)
So Thibault and Anthony decided to explore options outside of France. Their first choice was surrogacy in America but obtaining any information on surrogacy whilst living in France was extremely difficult; even promoting surrogacy is prohibited! It wasn’t until they met other gay couples through a French organization called Association des Familles Homoparentales (ADFH) that they were able to find out more. Many of the same-sex couples had created their families through surrogacy and were happy to share their experiences.
Thibault and Anthony with Kaylena
They began their journey to fatherhood in 2013, meeting with Circle Surrogacy (an American surrogacy agency) in Paris. Thibault and Anthony chose Circle Surrogacy due to their high level of experience with the surrogacy process in the United States, and they had several French-speaking employees which the two dads-to-be found helpful. They spent the next year preparing, both financially and emotionally, and eventually signed with Circle Surrogacy a year later. They were matched with their surrogate, Kaylena, only two months later.
“It all happened very quickly," explained Thibault. "We were really excited about having a child with the help of a biological mother (with an open egg donation) as well as surrogate mother with whom we absolutely wanted to create a strong and long-lasting relationship."
Their son Charlie was born February 8, 2016.
Thibault and Anthony with Kaylena holding newborn Charlie
The first three weeks of Charlie's life were spent in San Francisco as the two new dads got a handle on being fathers. This was also the obligatory amount of time before they could travel with a newborn. A couple of friends and Thibault's brother and his wife made the trip to San Francisco to meet Charlie and to help the dads with their new adventure in fatherhood.
"It was three fantastic weeks, getting to know our son and at the same time being in a wonderful city!" exclaimed Thibault.
The difficulties of surrogacy abroad
Both dads would highly recommend U.S. surrogacy to other French gay men considering fatherhood, but they shared that one has to be patient as it can take some time. And not everything has been without complications.
"Here in France, it is difficult for children born through surrogacy to be recognized as French citizens. Also, for us to be recognized as Charlie's legal parents has been challenging," explained Thibault.
Thibault and Anthony are both acknowledged as Charlie’s parents on the U.S. birth certificate, but the French government won’t yet recognize their parental rights since surrogacy is prohibited. They continue to fight for Charlie so that he can have the same rights and same legal protection as every French child.
Another hurdle was how often they could visit the States to see their surrogate and accompany Kaylena to doctor appointments. Although Circle Surrogacy recommended visiting as often as possible, Thibault and Anthony were restricted by work commitments and were only able to visit once (during the second trimester), at which they were able to witness an ultrasound of the baby.
From the very beginning, Thibault and Anthony wanted to find both an egg donor and a gestational carrier who wanted to maintain contact with the family. They are excited to have found two women who also want to maintain an ongoing relationship. They share photos of Charlie with both women often, and they expect to visit them in the United States regularly and someday they hope their surrogate and egg donor will visit France.
Anthony with Charlie
Although Thibault and Anthony don’t know any other gay dad families in their hometown of Strasbourg – gay dads still aren’t as common as two moms in France – they haven’t run into any challenges. Compared to many areas within the United States, the two dads agree that France isn't as gay-friendly. However, they have never been directly targeted with homophobic prejudices within their community.
Their families take an active role in Charlie's life with Thibault's parents watching him every Wednesday, and Anthony's parents seeing their grandson as often as possible. Thibault's brother is Charlie's godfather, and Anthony's sister is his godmother.
"The birth of Charlie has made us realize how amazing life is! Charlie is the greatest gift of life, and we feel like we are the luckiest guys in this world!” If that isn’t joie de vivre, we don’t know what is!