'We had to carry on alone': Two dads advocating for same-sex parenting share their surrogacy journey

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"Surrogacy was always our preferred route to have a family" (Image: Supplied)
"Surrogacy was always our preferred route to have a family" (Image: Supplied)

UK-based couple Michael and Wes Johnson-Ellis met in 2015 at Birmingham Pride. They were engaged after five months of dating and got married in 2014.

Michael was a medical recruiter specialising in the fertility sector, while Wes was a major events specialist who worked on different projects globally.

Read: Local same-sex couple shares their IVF journey to motherhood

Starting the family

Michael says that surrogacy was always a preferred route for them to start their family.

"We spent almost three years researching it, both international and UK surrogacy and eventually decided on UK surrogacy," he explained, 

"It was a lot of hard work trawling the internet, networking, understanding the complexities around UK surrogacy and learning the various ways to build a family," says Michael.

The challenge for this couple was that when they began their journey with surrogacy, there were only three surrogacy organisations, and none of these could accept them as intended parents due to a shortage of surrogates.

"So, we had to carry on alone. We had no support; we researched the best clinics, surrogacy lawyers, and the best routes to find an egg donor and a surrogate. We met our surrogate in early 2015, and we took around four to six months getting to know her and her family," says Michael.

Finding information on alternative parenting solutions

The couple says it was very difficult, concerning, and confusing to find information on alternative parenting solutions.

"So many conflicting stories and out of date material meant we could not trust one source – hence why we did it all ourselves. We did not know anyone that had explored UK surrogacy," shared the couple.

Also read: Two experts weigh in on local treatment options for same sex couples trying to conceive

Becoming Talulah and Duke's parents

"After six months, the clinic found us a donor," Michael says, adding that they decided to use his sperm since Wes had already had a daughter at the time from his previous marriage. 

They managed to get three blastocysts (fertilised eggs), one of which was transferred, and nine months later, Talulah was born.

For Duke, Michael and Wes used the same surrogate mother.

But they say welcming a second child was more complicated because they were older and underprepared.

Also, Duke was nothing like Talulah.

"He did not sleep, fed constantly, and had lots of allergies which we did not discover until he was 20 months old. We were also three years older, and that is a lot in gay years!" Michael joked.

The biggest obstacles in their journey included "a lack of support," shared Michael.

He explained, "You do not know what you do not know". 

Being a same-sex couple, Michael says that it was no surprise that they faced some challenges with the birthing process of their children when the time came.

Must read: 'In the wrong body': Local reality show star Tholang Motsumi tells us about her transition experience

The birth of their organisations

After Talulah was born, Michael says that his career focus changed. He and Wes founded TwoDadsUK. Later on, they founded the Modern Family Show, which is an LGBTQ+ family building event and now recently they created their non-profit organisation My Surrogacy Journey.

Michael and Wes explained that My Surrogacy Journey was designed from a lived experience to help raise awareness of same-sex parenting.

My Surrogacy Journey offers emotional, practical, and logistical support to couples at every stage of the parenting journey.

Apart from the dedicated team of experts providing support to individuals virtually and in-person, My Surrogacy has also built an extensive library of educational content for surrogates and known egg donors embarking on this journey.

The library covers every single step of the process – IVF, medication for surrogates, birth plannings for the intended parents, surrogates, breastfeeding and bottle feeding. 

Michael and Wes will also be guest speakers at the forthcoming Fertility Show Africa from 9 October till 10 October to share their fertility journey with attendees worldwide. For more information, visit their website here.

Submitted to Parent24 by Fertility Show Africa.

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