Q sem­i­nar: CREATING FAMILIES

Q Magazine - - News -

CREATING FAMILIES VIA SURROGACY - A GIVE & TAKE Cass Lake’s gen­eros­ity in car­ry­ing a child for gay cou­ple Juan & Chris­tian in­spired them to do­nate their sperm and left-over em­bryos to oth­ers in need.

For Juan, now 36 years old, the man of his dreams had al­ways been some­one keen to bring up a fam­ily. It was a topic raised in his first week dat­ing Chris­tian. They quickly came to re­alise both shared the same dream - two chil­dren – one bi­o­log­i­cally con­nected to each. Now set­tled in Syd­ney, their jour­ney to reach this goal has taken them around the world sev­eral times.

Juan & Chris­tian had a boy born via a dif­fi­cult surrogacy process in Mex­ico in 2015. They had tried for two chil­dren, but only Juan's sperm had pro­duced em­bryos that (after many tries) led to a healthy baby boy, Anxo.

Back in Syd­ney after their Mex­ico ex­pe­ri­ence, they heard about the Aus­tralian Surrogacy Com­mu­nity- a large Face­book group where al­tru­is­tic sur­ro­gates and in­tended par­ents can ‘self-match'. The cou­ple joined, think­ing one day to lo­cate an Aus­tralian sur­ro­gate to per­haps carry that sec­ond child.

Post­ing an ir­re­sistible im­age of them­selves and Anxo, the close-knit sur­ro­gate com­mu­nity was soon abuzz with dis­cus­sion. Within two weeks Cass, a mother of three from the mid North NSW Coast had of­fered to carry their longed for sec­ond child. Given most look­ing at do­mes­tic surrogacy take years to find a sur­ro­gate, if they do at all, such good for­tune was ex­tra-or­di­nary.

“We weren't re­ally ready” Juan ad­mits, but it was too good an of­fer to turn down. What fol­lowed was a visit to the tiny vil­lage of Ti­nonee out­side Ta­ree to meet Cass and her fam­ily. She and her three chil­dren, now 10, 8 and 6 years made a short video for their new gay friends. Her el­dest boy did the com­men­tary, declar­ing they couldn't wait to help Juan and Chris­tian. The boys would chat with Cass via Mes­sen­ger for hours at a time as well as plen­ti­ful Skype calls.

But there was a catch - there was only so long Cass was pre­pared to put her life on hold to carry. She wanted the em­bryo trans­fer to oc­cur in March 2017, with the hope that if it worked, she would de­liver by Christ­mas.

By late Jan­uary 2017, while Juan & Chris­tian, their sur­ro­gate and her part­ner had com­pleted the le­gal and psy­cho­log­i­cal coun­selling, their plans to re-en­gage Anxo's South African egg donor had come un­stuck. The Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment was re­fus­ing to grant her a visa to travel.

For­tu­itously, late the year prior, they had met an­other Syd­ney gay cou­ple and their egg donor Am­ber at a kids' party. They had got to chat­ting and Am­ber had ul­ti­mately sug­gested that if needed, she would do­nate her own eggs. In early Fe­bru­ary they made con­tact again. Am­ber re­mained will­ing. How­ever the lo­gis­tics were com­plex.

They had al­ready com­mit­ted to a Bris­bane IVF clinic (as only this clinic ac­cepted South African egg donors), but Juan & Chris­tian were in Syd­ney, Am­ber in Mel­bourne and Cass four hours up the coast. Their IVF team needed to syn­chro­nise their donor and sur­ro­gate men­strual cy­cles. Luck was on their side and they suc­cess­fully created nine em­bryos.

Cass first em­bryo trans­fer took, but the next 20 weeks proved re­ally tough, with con­stant nau­sea and vom­it­ing. With Juan & Chris­tian both work­ing, they could only drive up to Ti­nonee on week­ends. The ham­let had no ac­cess to take-away restau­rants, so they couldn't even ar­range for meal de­liv­er­ies for Cass's fam­ily. In­stead Juan cooked and froze as many meals as they could fit in a huge esky and drove north, to take the meal prepa­ra­tion off Cass' hands for a few weeks.

On 5 De­cem­ber, Cass had an ex­tended 24 hour labour in Man­ning River Hospi­tal and lost three litres of blood in the process. As Juan held their new­born son, Cass was rushed into the­atre to stem the blood loss. While keen to com­plete an­other surrogacy jour­ney, Cass' doc­tors have ad­vised that an­other birth would be just too risky for her own health.

What ad­vice would Juan & Chris­tian give gay sin­gles and cou­ples con­sid­er­ing Aus­tralian surrogacy?

“You need to re­ally put your­self out there, be ap­pre­cia­tive of ev­ery sin­gle ef­fort made by mem­bers of the surrogacy com­mu­nity, be gen­uine, don't take peo­ple's kind­ness for granted - give back.”

What Juan & Chris­tian could give was sperm and em­bryos. So they joined an­other on­line group Sperm Dona­tion Aus­tralia, se­lect­ing five cou­ples in need of sperm – one in Tas­ma­nia, two in Syd­ney, one in each of Bris­bane and Mel­bourne.

As for em­bryos, they have eight still in Bris­bane and were keen to do­nate them. Their donor put them in touch with a Mel­bourne het­ero­sex­ual cou­ple to whom they are do­nat­ing four of these.

While em­bryo dona­tion re­mains a process heavy with red­tape and fur­ther coun­selling in the Aus­tralian con­text, Juan & Chris­tian re­main de­ter­mined to help.

Juan & his part­ner are just one of 34 Aus­tralian par­ents and sur­ro­gates who will share their ex­tra-or­di­nary jour­neys at Families Through Surrogacy's Fe­bru­ary sem­i­nar se­ries across six Aus­tralian cap­i­tal cities be­tween 10 -16 Fe­bru­ary 2018.

These aim to as­sist those con­sid­er­ing surrogacy with cru­cial de­ci­sions around coun­tries, agen­cies, IVF de­ci­sions and sur­ro­gate-par­ent re­la­tion­ships.

Full de­tails at http://www.fam­i­li­esthrusurro­gacy.com/feb­sem­i­nar/

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