One Couple's Fight to Update Surrogacy Policies in the U.K.
In March this year, we shared the story of Michael and Wes, their eldest daughter Katie (and wonderful big sister) and their newborn Talulah. Apart from the sore backs attributed to their age as new dads, Michael and Wes have loved every minute of it. (Watch Talulah's 1st year video below.)
We recently caught up with Michael and Wes as the dads start to make waves in the U.K. with their surrogacy advocacy. Michael is now involved with reviewing the first draft of the Department of Health's Surrogacy Guidance for Health Professionals, which will hopefully lead to updating the old NHS (U.K.'s public healthcare system) policy. And the family recently stared in a national documentary on surrogacy, as well as starring in a large U.K. supermarket Christmas commercial. We chatted with Michael so he could bring us up to speed on all the recent development's in his family's life.
GWK: What is your role in updating the NHS policy regarding surrogacy guidance for healthcare professionals, and how did that come about?
Michael: One afternoon I was at our fertility clinic having a final blood test as part of the sperm donation program I've been involved with, and I got talking to one of the nurses about surrogacy and U.K. laws, and how the NHS needs to update it's policies and advice to healthcare professionals due to how outdated it is. She then spoke to me about a lady called Francesa Steyn who is head of nursing at The Centre for Reproductive and Genetic Health in Central London. [Francesa] was writing new guidelines for the Department of Health advising and updating healthcare professionals when it came to surrogacy and IP's (Intended Parents). She gave me her details and I contacted her; amazingly she replied immediately and we began talking about our experience and how we changed policy in our hospital. Francesca was really keen to listen to our views from an IP's perspective, and asked if we could give our input to the policy as it was still being drafted. Obviously, we were delighted as this has been one of my goals since we embarked on this journey. It's still very much work in progress and there's a way to go, but it's progress, and it's great that there are people like Francesca out there also trying to make a difference. The document is being prepared to present to the Department of Health this winter.
GWK: Do you think the U.K.'s approach to same-sex surrogacy is changing? And if so, how so?
Michael: I think the U.K. is listening more. The fact the Department of Health will be implementing updated guidance is a start, and I know surrogacy agencies such as Brilliant Beginnings are campaigning harder than ever to open hearts and minds to surrogacy in the U.K. Also more and more retailers are using same-sex families in their commercials, normalizing our community. The U.K. press seem to be covering more positive stories, too, about fertility, surrogacy and same-sex families, all which I try to share as often as I can our social channels.
GWK: Please tell us about the U.K. documentary your family stared in as well as the upcoming Christmas commercial. Do you have links to the documentary that we can share?
Michael: We were approached by the Production company initially who had seen our Instagram page documenting our life as 'Two Dads' and they mentioned that Kieron Richardson (who is an openly gay U.K. TV actor staring in Channel 4's "Holy Oaks") was making a documentary for Channel 4 marking the 50th Anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in the U.K., and wanted to speak to us about surrogacy and our experiences. He and his husband were also due to become a daddy to twins, also via a surrogate and this documentary would also follow his journey. They wanted to speak to us about our birthing experience, and how the hospital accommodated us eventually and what advise could we give him. It was a real positive experience and the feedback and support people showed us has been overwhelming, again we wanted to wave that same-sex family flag, and normalize the whole experience really. We're two dads, so what? (Here's the link to the show.)
Off the back of the documentary we were asked to attend a casting in London as a U.K. retailer was looking for same sex families to appear in their Christmas TV commercial, so we went along, for a laugh, not thinking anything would happen. Talulah turned on the charm and flashed her gorgeous big blue eyes and they fell for her, like most people do! We were later selected and we filmed the commercial recently and we're told it will be airing in November.
(Watch for Michael and Wes with their youngest daughter Talulah at 0:21 in Sainsbury's Christmas ad, a nationwide supermarket chain.)
GWK: Tell us about your social pages, TwoDads.uk.
Michael: It is a Facebook page and Instagram account, and they are designed to tell and document our story, share advice, review products and help others in similar situations. The pages are still very embryonic at the moment, so whilst we work on building the fan base increasing our followers, we're happy to share pictures and news articles surrounding surrogacy updates and news in the U.K. and overseas. When we were doing our research into the minefield of U.K. surrogacy, a page like ours would of been useful, I've had a ton of couples reach out to us to ask for advice and share our story in order to assist them with their own IP journey, so that feels pretty amazing.
GWK: Any other exciting news you'd like to share?
Michael: We've always wanted more children, and our surrogate that gave birth to Talulah has now agreed to help us with our next chapter, we're looking to commence IVF in Dec/Jan, this time with Wes. We also have frozen embryos from our last round of IVF which we plan on using. Being two dads has been the best journey ever. It's made us stronger as a couple and the joy it's brought our families having a baby was more than we expected; we're loving the joy we're getting from our children and we want more, and always have. So, all being well this time next year, our four becomes a five.
**Answers have been edited for clarity.