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Our surrogacy journey

Dads Michael and Wes share their path to parenthood

Author Michael Johnson-Ellis
Categories   Family

The Edit

I’m Michael and I’m married to Wes. We met in June 2012 at Birmingham Pride no less, both single and not looking for a relationship. Pretty much from our first meeting I knew I’d met someone that was going to take my life in a direction I’d been waiting for. Four months later (I know, right!) we were engaged and in August 2014 we married in front of all our friends and family.

We’re dads to our two children, Talulah is four, and Duke is almost two. Wes also has a 16-year-old daughter named Katie, who is an amazing big sister to our children. 

I guess we’re a little different from most families, but one thing we have in common was the desire to create a family, the love we hold for our children and the dreams we strive to make happen for them. We’d do anything for them.  

Surrogacy in the UK

Our family was created via surrogacy, our preferred way from the beginning. We often get asked “why didn’t you just adopt?”, to which we politely respond “why didn’t you?”. Telling our story of how we became parents helps others understand the lengths the LGBTQ community often have to go to, whether that’s adoption, co-parenting, fostering, IVF, IUI or surrogacy. It’s important to say surrogacy isn’t reserved for the LGBTQ community. It’s also a route to parenthood for those struggling with infertility.

Surrogacy in the UK is perfectly legal, but commercial surrogacy is not – therefore UK surrogacy is altruistic. That means a surrogate is reimbursed “reasonable expenses” or carrying a pregnancy. There are strict laws around how surrogacy is carried out and there are several organisations in the UK who can help intended parents navigate their way through the options. Expect to pay a membership fee and be prepared to wait to become a member, as it can take up to 18 months to fully sign up.

You can opt to embark on an independent journey which involves working without any professional, structured support. These are free to access and are usually all online. We’d always recommend seeking legal advice, just so you understand the law.

There are two types of surrogacy, traditional or straight, which is when the surrogate uses her own eggs and therefore has a genetic link to the child, or gestational or host surrogacy, which involves IVF and donor eggs and/or sperm.

Getting closer and closer to our dream

After six months an egg donor was found. We were so excited – our journey was getting closer and our dreams were starting to materialise. Our surrogate began hormone treatment, our blood and semen analysis tests were completed, as was our counselling, which is a vital part of the process.  

Our egg donor’s cycle was being stimulated by medication and when her eggs were ready to be retrieved in the clinic, I was invited to fertilise them and provide my sample. That fact we were both in the clinic at the same time was crazy! Both anonymous to each other, we sat in different areas and our appointments were carefully timed.

We retrieved five eggs, my sperm was mixed with them and I was free to go home. The lab updated us on the progress each morning, which was both nerve-racking and exciting. We had fertilised five eggs in the lab and by day five of them being cultured, three were viable and excellent blastocysts which is a day five embryo. Next was transfer.

Congratulations, You’re Going to be Daddies!

One fresh embryo was transferred on February 13, 2016. What is meant to follow is two agonising weeks or the 2WW (two weeks wait). On day 10 our surrogate took a pregnancy test and messaged us asking if we could speak. We were concerned as she sounded urgent. We answered the call and she simply said, “Congratulations, you’re going to be Daddies!” We cried, hugged and cried some more. We were pregnant!

Surrogacy Laws

The current law in the UK originated from The Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985, which is desperately waiting for an overhaul. The laws state any woman who gives birth is classed as the child’s legal mother. If she is married, then her wife or husband is classed as its other parent so, despite not being biologically linked to the child, our surrogate and her husband are our child’s legal parents. Crazy, isn’t it? We would have to apply for a Parental Order, so once the child is six weeks old we submit our application to the court and go to court to change the legal parentage – straightforward enough, but so unnecessary. Thankfully there is overwhelming support to ensure this is changed in the new bill which is being drafted in 2022 hopefully.

Desire to Parent

I had always had a desire to have a biological child. The way in which I had to embark on that journey though was a little different. Being two men we needed two vital ingredients to complete our family, an egg donor and a surrogate. Therefore, we embarked on a gestational surrogacy journey.

The outlook was positive, but daunting. Finding all the relevant information was exhausting. It took months to compile and the materials often conflicted. We began an independent journey as all the not-for-profit surrogacy organisations either had their registration books closed or had one-to-two-year waitlists. In all, we spent around three years researching our options.

"I guess we’re a little different from most families, but one thing we have in common was the desire to create a family, the love we hold for our children and the dreams we strive to make happen for them."

Talulah’s birth was the best experience of my life. Our surrogate opted for a c-section for medical reasons. From the beginning, it was explained that for the procedure her husband would be with her in theatre and not us, due to a one-person rule. He would comfort her and ensure she was safe, calm and OK. It was obviously the right thing to do and we supported this. We would be in a side room on the maternity ward, where we agreed he would bring us our baby and break the news what the sex was. However, at the 11th hour, her husband ran into our side ward with no baby. “Is everything OK!?”, I panicked. Her husband said, “I’ve been told to come and get you, they don’t want you to miss the birth of your child!” We threw on a mismatch of scrubs and ran into theatre. 

We watched the entire operation and saw our daughter enter the world at 6am weighing a healthy 8lb. Tears streamed down all over our faces, it was the best day of our life together. Holding her and seeing her gaze into our eyes was incredible. The intensity of the bond was immediate. I’ve never experienced love and a feeling like it. I remember in the car driving back with her in the car seat just crying, totally overwhelmed that we’d finally created this beautiful tiny human. Surrogacy did this. 

The Sibling Journey 

Two and a half years later we began treatment again. We’d always spoken about a sibling journey with our surrogate and she was ready to begin treatment again. First, we needed to find an egg donor as our previous donor couldn’t donate again for us. The clinic found us a new donor this time matching my physical characteristics. 

Failed IVF

In June 2018 we had a failed transfer, which was heart-breaking. We hadn’t prepared ourselves for it not working. We’d just assumed we’d be lucky again and naively expected it to work. At this point, we had a little break to get our thoughts and emotions on track. Furthermore, we had to save for a new round of treatment. It hit us harder than we thought and we just needed to connect again, as fertility treatment is so consuming. 

Round Three

This time we took a different route as a friend offered to donate her eggs to us. She was also a fertility nurse and an ambassador for surrogacy too. We were beyond thrilled and started treatment again in December 2018. 

We had eight eggs retrieved this time and by day five had six blastocysts. We transferred a single embryo in mid-December and on December 31 our two-week wait was up and our incredible surrogate tested again for us We were pregnant! 

This time, our incredible, selfless surrogate was carrying Wes’ biological child - our son. Again, the pregnancy moved along without any major issues. We had a planned c-section booked so knew the date he’d be born. We had our care at the same hospital and since our last pregnancy the NHS Trust had re-written its surrogacy policy with our help. This meant intended parents are invited into theatre to witness the birth of their child. A proud moment and something other NHS Trusts have now implemented.

Here Comes the Son!

We entered the theatre, a brightly lit room ablaze with staff and technology. At 09:16, as if by magic, friendship, love and science our baby entered the world, crying, with more hair than me and Wes put together, and not looking happy with us all! Duke was born on August 20 2019, weighing 7.2 lbs. Again, I cried more happy tears. 

Supporting Others

Along our journey we blogged about our experience and have now dedicated our lives to helping other gay parents via our website and Instagram page, TwoDadsUK. Surrogacy became our life. We were asked to visit the Houses of Parliament in 2018 to provide evidence of our route to parenthood and offer ideas on how the law could be improved. We worked with the Law Commissioners and All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Surrogacy Law Reform and in October 2019 the Law Commissioners consultation period ended, with a view to suggest a bill for a new law to be implemented in the next few years. 

In February 2021, after three years in the making, we launched the UK’s latest not-for-profit organisation called My Surrogacy Journey supporting everyone (LGBTQ or heterosexual) on a surrogacy journey. 

All views and statements are those of My Surrogacy Journey and do not represent the position of Silver Cross, especially the section Surrogacy Law.

Author Michael Johnson-Ellis

Michael Johnson-Ellis and husband Wes spent over three years researching surrogacy before starting their own fertility treatment in 2015. Talulah and Duke were born with the help of their surrogate and two egg donors. Through education and training, campaigning for the Surrogacy Law Reform and sharing their own experiences, the couple launched TwoDads UK, which became the go-to organisation for intended fathers seeking support and information about safer surrogacy in the UK. In 2021, they launched the not-for- profit organisation My Surrogacy Journey offering emotional, practical and logistical support at every stage of the parenting journey. 

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