Richard & Richard
“WE HAD A DIY BABY WITH OUR SURROGATE”
Christchurch based Richard Rawstorn (right, in the photo) and husband, also Richard (left) met 12 years ago and were the first male gay couple to be married in New Zealand in 2013. They have a son, Riley, born July 2017. Richard Rawstorn tells us his story. “We had been together for four years when starting a family came up. Our options were to use a surrogate or to adopt. In New Zealand there are only about 20 babies a year available for adoption, and since New Zealand changed the law on gay marriage it has been much harder to adopt from overseas, so we decided to go down the surrogacy road. There are two types of surrogate; gestational, where a donor egg and sperm are implanted, and traditional, where you donate sperm and the surrogate uses her own egg. In both cases it’s illegal for the surrogate to charge, but you are obliged to cover their reasonable expenses. We tried gestational first, but it was hard to find a suitable surrogate as the criteria from the fertility clinics is quite narrow. Surrogates should be under 40 and mentally and physically fit and well to qualify. It’s also important to note that while IVF funding is open to some women in same sex relationships, there is no funding route applicable to gay men. After a few years of searching for a surrogate we joined the Eden IVF Surrogacy and Donor Facebook group. On that page we met Sam* who had a wife and two children and lived in the Central North Island. She was keen to help. I’m a nurse, so we decided to go down the ‘DIY’ route. I donated my sperm as I’m the oldest. I wanted my parents to be grandparents sooner rather than later. I gave Sam my donation and a syringe and she selfinseminated. It’s important to make sure that you can communicate openly. Sam said to us that as she was 38, did we want her to have an amniocentesis test? We said yes, but retrospectively that could have gone pearshaped. That test carries a risk of miscarriage, plus if the result hadn’t been good there would have been some difficult questions to consider. You should know your surrogate’s views on things like abortion before you start. Another area we discussed was breastfeeding. We all agreed Sam wouldn’t breast feed but would express at the start. Our son Riley was born on July 11th 2017. Sam wanted a C-section as she had a history of difficult birth and we respected that. It’s her body, and her health. It was also an emotional decision – she was going into hospital for an operation rather than to have a baby. We waited outside the theatre, and they brought our son Riley to me first. I was surprised as I’d expected him to be blonde like me but he had a thick head of dark brown hair! It was so amazing to see him and hold him after five years of battling to become dads. In New Zealand the law states the birth mother is the legal parent, so we had to file an interim adoption order before we could leave with Riley. That took 12 days and we had to stay in Rotorua for that time. We were also assigned a social worker and had to have visits every two months until the final adoption order is filed after six months. Bringing Riley back home to Rolleston was amazing. It made financial sense for me to take parental leave so I’ve taken a year, although I’m studying for a masters and have taken some casual shifts at the hospital. I’ve definitely had baby brain. The first shift I did I struggled to remember medical names and stumbled over my words! My experience working shifts was definitely a benefit for those sleepless nights. Like any other parent, you stumble through and make it work. We’ve kept in touch with our surrogate and send her pictures. She will come and see Riley at some stage. We did ask her if she would do it a second time, but she politely said no. She wants to focus on her own family which is fair enough. We would like a second though, so we are on the hunt for another surrogate. My advice to any couple starting out is to start now – this process takes a long time. Take all the help and advice you can get, and make sure you chose a surrogate you really get along with because you are sharing something pretty special.
“I’D EXPECTED RILEY TO BE BLONDE LIKE ME BUT HE HAD A THICK HEAD OF DARK BROWN HAIR! IT WAS SO AMAZING TO SEE HIM AND HOLD HIM AFTER FIVE YEARS OF BATTLING TO BECOME DADS.” — RICHARD RAWSTORN