Surrogate brings bundle of joy to gay Zulu couple

2016-05-12 14:18
Four-month-old Ndalo, dressed from head-to-toe in pink, sits with dad Sabelo. (Pictures: Mpho Raborife, News24)

Four-month-old Ndalo, dressed from head-to-toe in pink, sits with dad Sabelo. (Pictures: Mpho Raborife, News24)

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Johannesburg - Four-month-old Ndalo is dressed from head-to-toe in pink, her dad’s favourite colour. Ndalo, which means "creation" in Zulu, is the apple of her parents' eyes.

Sabelo and Sibusiso Gabuza, reportedly one of the first black gay couples in South Africa to use a surrogate, went on a long and difficult journey to fulfil their own and their family's desire for children.

While the staunchly traditional Zulu family of the couple promised to support them in their marriage, they wanted an undertaking that the pair would have children.

As we sit at a small café in the Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg, Sabelo tells News24 how, with help from one of their best girlfriends, they are now proud parents of the beautiful baby girl.

When the couple first found out that they could have a child without adopting or having sex with a woman, they jumped at the opportunity.

However, their conservative and traditional families were sceptical.

"Grannies were calling it 'ulamthuthu'. It is a Zulu name for a chicken that is artificially made. They would say 'sifuna ukubona if this child uzoba ulamthuthu (we want to see if this child is going to turn out like an unnatural chicken made in a factory)'. We want to see this child, maybe it will be like a doll or a machine with batteries," said Sabelo.

The couple struggled to understand why their families were so negative, since they had demanded that the couple provide them with biological grandchildren, despite the fact that they were gay.

Marriage problems

Sabelo and Sibusiso met at the Elandspark Technical College in Bedfordview, Johannesburg, where they were both studying. They dated for about eight months, before Sibusiso asked Sabelo to marry him.

"We come from KwaZulu-Natal, in the same area in Ladysmith and people there are so traditional.

"What is wrong is wrong to them. Even if you paint it pink, it can never be right," he says.

"When the family finally accepted me, I remember them saying, 'Okay we've accepted you in our family, but we want abazukulu (grandchildren)'. It broke me, because I knew it was impossible. How was it going to happen?"

The couple was at odds about how they were going to make this a reality without breaking their marriage vows.

"It was then where our marriage went on a downward spiral, because we then started blaming each other, like 'Why did I decide to be in a relationship with you because I am not able to give you what your family wants?'," Sabelo said.

Sabelo eventually suggested that Sibusiso find himself a girlfriend who he could get pregnant and the couple would make some kind of agreement with the woman.

That option was quickly squashed when the couple's lawyer told them it would be tantamount to human trafficking and that they could be arrested.

One afternoon, the couple vented to their friend Unathi Mthethwa about their woes. She told them she had been reading up on surrogacy and suggested they try it.

They did some research online and realised Mthethwa was right.

Searching for a surrogate

"We did not know how much this whole thing was going to cost. We were scared about the whole thing, but wanted to have a baby and we thought we were going to be the best parents ever," Sabelo says, with a contagious smile.

The couple considered the option and began booking appointments with doctors to learn more.

After meeting a few unwelcoming doctors, the couple eventually found one at the Brenthurst Life Clinic who explained the procedure.

Having a child through a surrogate requires that the couple first get an egg from a donor. They have to give the hospital a description of the kind of features they are looking for in the child. An egg is then selected to meet those requirements.

Sperm is then collected from both men and used to fertilise the egg, which is stored until a suitable surrogate mother is found. She then has the fertilised egg artificially inserted into her uterus.

The couple spent thousands of rands travelling across the country, interviewing potential surrogates.

Their excitement began to fade after they had met seven potential candidates who did not make the cut.

"It got frustrating and we started blaming each other. There were a lot of fights in our marriage," Sabelo says.

While complaining to his girlfriends one afternoon, one of them, Xolisile Shelembe told Sabelo to stop moaning and volunteered to be the surrogate.

"I couldn't believe it," says Sabelo.

After multiple tests, the couple was told Shelembe had passed her tests with flying colours and would be able to carry their child.

On December 4, Sabelo and Sibusiso, with the help of their friend, welcomed Ndalo into the world.

Curious strangers

During Ndalo's first trip to Ladysmith to meet the family, Sabelo recalls some of the negative remarks from relatives.

"It was like a wedding in the yard. Children were there, aunties were there, neighbours were there, people that would never come into the yard were there.

"And I remember, there was one granny who said 'unazo izandla? (does she have hands?). Even my brother asked me 'Sabelo, does it have eyes?' I answered so many questions, I got tired," he says.

While the process opened the couple up to further ridicule, it also opened them up to a curious society full of questions.

They are often approached by strangers on the street wanting to meet and hold Ndalo to see if she is "a normal baby", Sabelo says.

The couple spent close to R400 000 on the entire process, but they have no regrets.

"When I walked out of that hospital, I made a promise to myself that I'm going to give my daughter the best love ever. I know there's going to be a hell of a lot of negativity out there. People want to know how these two guys are going to raise this child, and I said: 'You know what, I'm going to prove to them, I'm going to give her the best of the best'."

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  good news  |  gay rights

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