Richard & Richard

Little Treasures - - FERTILITY -

“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

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