It took thousands of dollars, hundreds of miles traveled, and around six months for single dad Marco Caliari to be allowed back into the U.S. after his son was born abroad via surrogacy in early 2021.
Marco is a Brazilian native, living in Palm Springs, California. Being a foreigner in the U.S., Marco said he faced many difficulties with adoption, which had been his first choice for starting a family as a single man.
“For that reason, I ended up doing surrogacy,” Marco explained. “After divorcing my ex-husband in 2018, I didn’t want to wait any longer, and I started working on a solution to be a dad.”
When Marco was back home visiting Brazil, he spoke with his friends and family about how he wanted to become a dad with or without a partner. However, since only altruistic surrogates are allowed by Brazilian law, Marco never thought he’d find a surrogate there.
Then, one of Marco’s cousins made his dreams possible by offering to be his surrogate.
“It was a surprise for me, before that I had no real hope that it would happen,” Marco said.
After Marco’s cousin offered to be his gestational carrier, they started making plans together, choosing their clinic and signing the necessary contracts. Then, it was time to find an egg donor.
“The same donor had to be harvested twice, and the embryos were frozen until my cousin, the surrogate, was ready,” Marco explained. “We transferred two embryos, which Emiliano came from. He was born very healthy at 34 weeks.”
Since Marco lives in California, he went back to Brazil for Emiliano’s birth at the start of the year. Then, amid the pandemic, he started facing issues getting back into the country.
“It took six months to get back to the U.S. We arrived back here in June,” Marco said. “That was because the U.S. Embassy and consulates throughout South America were closing, as well as some counties [offices] were closed.”
After Emiliano was born, the pandemic continued to cause a litany of issues for people trying to travel, like Marco. Still in Brazil, Marco and Emi had to wait for their appointments with the U.S. consulate to get Emi’s birth certificate and passport. But the appointments kept being postponed.
“I was on the verge of losing my job. I was trying to get appointments in different countries,” Marco explained. “Me and my newborn son had to travel to La Paz in Bolivia and stay there for 20 days in order to get an appointment in the consulate, but the appointment was canceled at the last minute.”
Since he is the only parent and there is no mother, Marco said he also had troubles registering Emi as his son, which put a halt to their plans to come back to California.
“It took me three trips to the registration offices,” he said. “There is a resolution in the Supreme Court in Brazil that backs up this process, but it’s confusing, and the registration officers were not very informed. I had to be very insistent. I went to the consulate with my son for the original appointment and begged them to see me. I had to wait for a long time, but they eventually started the process.”
Although Marco was promised a quick resolution on Emi’s travel documents, he said he then had to cancel his flights home again because the consulate closed down without notice.
“I went there with my baby in my arms then and begged and cried,” he said. “I was finally given my baby boy’s passport to travel back.”
Now he and Emi are back home in California. Marco said he was able to keep his job and is working from home full-time while he cares for his baby.
But as a non-citizen single gay dad with a baby born via surrogacy, he said it has been a long, emotional, and expensive process getting back into the U.S.
“I'm not a US citizen, that was the whole problem cause I was never a priority to the authorities until I was an actual face that they could see. I wasn’t able to get any help,” Marco said. “At times I thought I wouldn’t make it back, and that I’d be losing my job, my house and my life as it was. I am glad that I was so tenacious and stubborn.”
So far, Marco said fatherhood has been “rewarding in a sense that cannot be explained,” and he hopes he can expand his family someday, with a partner and more kids.
“It’s made me feel complete as a human being,” he said of being a dad. “My biggest fear and frustration when I came out 25 years ago was that I thought I would never have a family and be a parent. To other single gay men who want kids, I say; be happy that we can do it now, be aware of the hardships, but never give up your dreams.”