My husband Greg and I got married in 2013. It was the first year it was legal for same-sex couples to marry in France. We have been together for 18 years. We met in Paris, lived in Paris, then moved to London for six years. We returned to France in 2013 and began our journey to have a family.
I always wanted to have children. I always saw myself as a father. It was very important to me from a young age. I didn’t know at the time how I would do it because I knew I was gay. We have close friends who went through the surrogacy journey in 2011 in the US. They had a daughter and twins through a surrogate mother.
We considered every possibility: adoption, surrogacy, co-parenting. In 2011, we looked at adoption, but it was a no go for gay couples in France. We would have had to have lied to say we were single men who wanted to have children, and I didn’t want to have kids based on a lie.
Co-parenting was tricky too – we both wanted to raise our own children, so we thought it would be too complicated to then involve others. It was going to be challenging enough between us without adding someone else to it all.
Then we looked at surrogacy. At the time (2011), it was very new for Europe, and it’s still illegal in most European countries. Canada was just starting to legalise it, and mostly surrogacy options could only be found in Eastern Europe, Russia and India.
Depending on where you do it, there is a huge difference in price. But for us, it came down to where it was ethically practised. We weren’t prepared to go through the system in Eastern Europe and India, where we would have had to pose as a heterosexual couple or as single parents to be eligible. There were other issues, too – for example in some countries the surrogate also had to donate the egg.
The most important thing for us was that it was an open journey, that everyone participating in it had an active choice about being involved. And that it wasn’t solely based on financial need. We wanted our kids to know their surrogate parent and their biological egg donor. We wanted them to have a relationship with them if they chose to. That was the first and most vital part of the process, that we would do it ethically and openly.
We did our research and found an agency in the US. It’s one of the biggest around and it oversaw everything from creating our profile to helping us meet potential surrogate mothers and donors, and finding fertility clinics. There was so much paperwork, legal background checks, contracts to sign. But we all knew exactly where we were as a result. And this way we could ensure that all parties were protected. So finally, in 2015 we met our surrogate mother and soon after we found our egg donor.
My husband and I had our sperm samples frozen. Once multiple eggs had been retrieved from our donor, half of the eggs were fertilised by my husband’s sperm and the other half by mine. We took an embryo from my set and the other from my husband’s and transferred these to our surrogate. We then went on to freeze the remaining embryos. Nine months later, our eldest was born. I’m 99 per cent sure he was from my embryo as he really does look like me.
Three years later, we took the embryo with the highest rating from our frozen ones, and the one deemed by the doctors to have the highest success rate (one of mine), but it didn’t take. We had one final embryo left, one of my husband’s and it worked! And nine months later we have our youngest. It doesn’t matter, but it’s wonderful to see both of us in them.
Ultimately, it’s an incredible human adventure we’ve been on. We met our surrogate and her family. She is a happy mother of three children, she’s married and she’s a very lovely woman. She is a special needs paediatric nurse and always knew that she wanted to help people have children. She doesn’t need the money per se. She and her husband have jobs, they have a family home and they welcomed us into their lives. We go to see them every year and her sister is coming out to see us next month. We have got to know her parents, her cousins, sisters, uncles.
When she was three months pregnant, we went to visit her for two weeks and then kept in touch via FaceTime and social media. Before our eldest was born, we spent six weeks with her, we rented a house nearby and we really shared her life. We were there for the birth and it was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. Her family was there too – we shared this amazing moment together, all of us. And we did the whole thing all over again for our youngest.
It’s different with our egg donor. We talk to her, keep in touch and we know that our kids will look like her, but she isn’t part of our life, which is her choice.
Our eldest knows that he grew in his surrogate’s belly and he’s close to her. He understands that his baby brother also grew in her, but we don’t use the terms “mother” or “surrogate mother”. Ultimately, she chose us. There are always going to be more parents looking for surrogates than vice versa. And she is the one who carried our children, so fundamentally it was important that she was comfortable with us, and that we shared her values and beliefs. And we have been so lucky, we now have an extended family and these beautiful, happy boys.