Single man fulfilled his dream of becoming a dad with a Colombian surrogate. Then, the borders closed

For LGBT+ couples and single people who want to build a family, surrogacy is an increasingly common option. But it can be a financially, emotionally and logistically difficult journey at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic.

Gay dad and leading voice on cross-border family building Sam Everingham provides an update on how this is changing as we look toward a post-COVID-19 landscape.

At the age of 49, Nick Wray has recently become a dad. An ex-girlfriend generously donated her eggs and Nick engaged in a Colombian surrogacy program to help fulfil his dream. His daughter Hannah was born on 3 August at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when Colombia’s borders were closed to all. Finding a way into Bogota, Colombia’s sprawling, high-altitude capital, was half the battle.

It was to be over ten harrowing weeks following Hannah’s birth before Nick was able to fly to be with his daughter. Thankfully, like many other babies stuck without parents for periods during COVID, a Colombian nanny came to the rescue. Then Nick had to learn to be a dad while navigating his way through the bureaucratic hurdles – citizenship and then a passport for Hannah to get him and his daughter home. Thankfully after two weeks of hotel quarantine on arrival, Nick and Hannah were home for Christmas 2020.

Nick at home with his daughter, Hannah.

Nick’s is just one of many stories. The COVID-19 crisis has added an extra layer of complexity – but surrogacy is still happening. Across the board, more patience is required. Some programs have nine to 12-month-long waiting lists – others have surrogates ready to engage. And the rules continue to change.

Some engage with a surrogate locally – whether a friend, family member or someone met online – but more often they engage with professionally screened surrogates and donors abroad, ensuring that the all-important medical care and psychological support can be tailored and delivered by experts from start to end.

Understanding laws abroad is important. Countries such as Canada and many US states have laws recognising two fathers as the legal parents and issuing birth certificates to match. In others, just one gay dad can be named along with the surrogate. Being recognised as legal parents in your home country is not automatic. In the UK it requires further legal paperwork.

Russia has recently banned single males and gay couples, while programs have emerged in Albania, Colombia and even Argentina. Amongst this landscape, is even more important to make wise decisions around where and when to commence.

Ensuring you are not taken advantage of by IVF clinics wanting to maximise revenue is also key. A gay dad told of how his IVF clinic forgot that he and he partner wanted to split the eggs from their first egg donor cycle. The oversight forced them to spend another US$25,000 on a second cycle.

Nick Wray is one of several recent dads who will share their extra-ordinary journeys to fatherhood at Growing Families’ 11 March evening webinar. He will be joined by dads with recent experience of Canadian and US surrogacy. Legal, IVF and surrogacy experts will add their practical advice for planning families in the COVID era. These webinars provide honest insight into the processes, hurdles, costs, latest developments and ultimate joys.

Growing Families is an information and referral hub for singles and couples hoping to build their family with the help of donor IVF and/or surrogacy.