This is our absolute favourite kind of maths here at KIDDO – the kind that multiplies love and kindness with the absolute wonder of bringing life into this world; the sum of which all adds up to a happy, healthy family.
But what looks like a simple sum is actually a far more complicated equation when it comes to surrogacy in Australia, a process which is, as Brendan and Matt describe it, a marathon not a sprint.
It was a journey that involved two men, an egg donor and their surrogate, and we are thrilled to be able to share Brendan and Matt’s story about their experience of becoming new parents via the generous surrogacy of Anna, how the process worked, and what it has been like to become new dads!
Tell us about yourselves! How did you guys meet, how long have you been together?
We are Brendan and Matt, two new dads through surrogacy here in South Australia. We met online almost 8 years ago and live in the Western suburbs of Adelaide. Over the past 3 years we have been on a journey to start our own family and recently welcomed our beautiful son Baker to the world!
Can you tell us about your parenthood journey?
Brendan spoke openly about his desire to have a family when we first met, so it has always been something that we have been working towards, but until 2018 didn’t really know what our path to parenthood might look like.
Over the years we’d looked at adoption and fostering options, but were quite shocked, particularly with adoption, about the lengthy timeframes and limited avenues for same sex parents. This lead us to start researching more about surrogacy, both overseas and within Australia, to see whether this would be a more viable option for us as a couple.
Matt had also previously been a sperm donor for two of his close friends, and having such a close relationship with the children and their mums, really highlighted for us that a similar journey and relationship dynamic was something that we desired four ourselves and our child, and so eventually we decided that embarking on a surrogacy journey within Australia was the best fit for us as a couple and our values.
Talk to us about surrogacy! What’s the process like generally and how was your personal experience?
We could honestly write all day about surrogacy and our experience! The journey is unlike anything else we have ever experienced in our lives. It is the most beautiful, challenging, unique, unbelievable journey, that has completely changed us, in ways that we never expected.
Firstly, an Australian surrogacy journey is very different to an overseas experience. In Australia, surrogacy must be altruistic, which means that a surrogate cannot be paid to carry a child for her intended parent(s). Because of this, people like Brendan and I, rely on the incredibly selfless gift of someone offering to carry a child for us, to make our dream of having a family a reality.
In addition, we also needed an egg donor for our journey and were so very blessed to have a close friend make an offer to us, before we met our surrogate.
The biggest thing we learnt, very early, was that there is definitely no handbook for surrogacy in Australia. The initial phases for us included a lot of self-directed research and education (Google was our best friend!) and we attended quite a few local seminars with fertility clinics in South Australia to try to find out as much as we could! Unfortunately, we did find that the clinics didn’t really seem up to speed with surrogacy, especially for two men, and so we started to join a few online communities to soak up all of the shared knowledge and experiences of other surrogates and intended parents around Australia, who had either already completed their journey, or were actively working towards starting a family of their own.
This is when we stumbled across the ‘Australian Surrogacy Community’ on Facebook, a private group that really kickstarted our learning, and where we first met our surrogate Anna. We relied very heavily on the kindness and support of this online ‘village’, of others who were happy to share their own experiences, to help make our experience a little easier.
After chatting for a while online, Anna agreed to meet with us in person and we had a wonderful catch up at a local pub, having one of the most open, raw conversations you could imagine having, with a complete stranger! With the blessing of her husband, the three of us ‘surro-dated’ for almost 6 months (building relationships with Anna, her children and her hubby!) before she officially offered to carry a child for us. That incredible offer then started our journey of egg collections, counselling appointments, legal agreements, medical checks, failed embryo transfers, more counselling, a successful transfer and finally pregnancy!
What was Baker’s birth like? It must have blown your mind watching it all happen!
No words can explain how special Baker’s birth was (and the week that followed). Anna had previously had a home birth with her son, and early on had flagged with us that she would like to consider a home water birth for Baker.
As a team we joined the Northern Midwifery Group Practice, who we cannot speak of highly enough. The level of love, care and support we were given throughout the entire pregnancy, and for months post birth from the midwives, was extraordinary! Together we also completed a hypnobirthing course with the incredible Lauren from Intuitive Beginnings, which equipped us with different breathing techniques, guided meditations, exercises and stretches, that we could use during birth, as Anna’s birth partners, to support her as she bought life in to the world. It was really important to us that we played an active role in the birth (as much as we could) and we wanted to embrace every single moment of this once in a lifetime experience.
One thing that we are so glad that we did (Anna’s suggestion!) was have a photographer at the home for the birth. These photos and videos have allowed us to go back and relive every moment from that night, including the moments that you forget because you are so in the zone at the time. Anna has also found that this footage has been a big part of her healing process, which has been incredibly important.
When we look back on that night, from the moment that Anna hopped in the pool to the moment that Baker was born, was only 45 minutes! Watching her birth, so naturally and so quickly was unbelievable. Just thinking about it now – it still blows us away!
For the week post birth, we hired accommodation near Anna’s home, so that we were always nearby. We saw each other every single day (even having a sleepover one night!) and Anna breastfed for that week. Having that closeness and time alone together, to soak up those first days of Baker’s life earth side, is something that we will treasure forever, and that bonded us closer as a team and as friends.
What’s your relationship with Anna like and how would you like her to continue in your son’s life? Where does Anna fit into your family now?
We have a very close relationship with Anna and her family. It was important to us from the beginning that our egg donor and surrogate would have an active role in our lives and our child’s life moving forward. We always wanted them to be known to our child from birth and to have open and honest conversations when the time came, about the role that they both played to help us start a family.
We see ‘Aunty Anna’ regularly, especially because she expressed breast milk for Baker for the first 2 months of his life. Frozen milk deliveries (lovingly referred to as ‘boober’) were a regular occurrence, and when Anna would visit, if Baker was hungry, she would also breast feed. The intensity of our catch ups continued for a while post birth, to help support Anna with her transition as a surrogate, to provide Baker with feeds and to also ensure that Anna’s children felt supported during what was a massive change in their own lives.
We already have some friendship traditions that have started, including helping Anna and her family put up their Christmas tree and lights each year! We love seeing how excited her kids get decking out the house with all of the festive decorations, and that we now get to share in these moments together, and that Baker will grow up taking part in these traditions too.
Anna will forever be a close friend, who did something extraordinary for us! We can’t wait to share in many more Baker milestones with her over the years and for him to develop his own relationship with her as he gets older.
How are you finding fatherhood? How has life changed?
Fatherhood is amazing! We have definitely been blessed with such a beautiful little boy who brings joy to our lives every single day.
He does also bring a few sleepless nights, nappy blowouts, power chucks and lots of gas, but we wouldn’t have it any other way!
In such a short amount of time Baker has managed to shift our life focus, in the best possible direction. It’s amazing what having a baby will do to your view of the world and what is, and is not important.
What advice would you give to other families looking into surrogacy?
We would definitely say that surrogacy is a marathon, not a sprint!
If families are looking in to an Australian journey, it’s always good to remember, and be prepared for the fact that there is no guarantee that they will meet someone who is willing to be a surrogate for them. If they do meet someone, it could take many years to make that connection and start their journey.
We would also say, always be yourself and be kind to yourself along the way. It can be a very emotional process that has many different relationships that need to be nurtured and supported. Don’t be afraid to lean on the surrogacy community in Australia, it’s an incredibly passionate group of people who are always happy to support others by providing as much information and resources as they can.
What does Christmas look like for your family this year?
This year we have not had the opportunity to see Brendan’s family as they live in country NSW.
We have everything crossed that we will get to jump in the car and spend a few weeks with them (pending restrictions), to celebrate the birth of Baker, the best thing that has ever happened to us, during a year that threw some of the greatest challenges to the world!
Follow Matt and Brendan’s parenthood journey @the_real_dads_of_adelaide