Building our family through a surrogacy journey in the U.S. was probably the best decision we could have made.
We became fathers to two wonderful twins and grew our family with our surrogate, Ashley and her family. Although our twins were born right before the pandemic, which caused some struggle when returning to Switzerland, we had a perfect journey with Ashley and our agency.
Both of us had always dreamt about becoming fathers one day and building a family of our own. Three years ago, Yves and I decided to see what possibilities we could pursue as a same-sex couple in Switzerland. The only possibilities were adopting a child as a single person (as a gay couple, we were not allowed to adopt a child in Switzerland) or going through a surrogacy process abroad. Since we wanted to build a family as a couple, we were determined to inform ourselves on how and where surrogacy works.
We checked all the different countries in which surrogacy is an option and researched exactly how the process works. We concluded that the only way this process could be done in the most ethical and fair way for all involved parties would be in the U.S. or Canada. So, we decided to do our research in both countries. It was soon clear for us that we would need help to start such a big adventure, especially since we live in Europe and are so far away. Through Google, we found a site that detailed different ways of doing surrogacy in both countries. The site also compared different service providers such as agencies, fertility clinics, and law firm, which we found very helpful. With the help of this site, we decided to contact a couple of different agencies and talked to them. We had the best feeling about an agency in Minnesota, so that’s the one we ultimately went with.
When we told our family and friends that we were looking into surrogacy and wanted to become dads, everybody was unbelievably supportive and happy for us.
This encouraged us even more in our decision to take this path. So, we signed a contract with the Minnesota agency, IARC, and jumped right into this endeavor. We were extremely lucky with our agency. They did a really great job from the beginning in guiding us through this really complex and cumbersome process. And, knowing now how complex the legal stuff is, we are beyond grateful that we had such a great help. The agency told us that it would likely be a year to be matched with a surrogate, so we prepared everything else upfront so that when we did match, we would be ready to start the process. We first decided which fertility clinic we wanted to work with and whether to take an egg donor from the in-house database or from an external database. We started to review the first contracts, with many more to come.
One of the biggest tasks throughout our journey was to review all the legal stuff. Coming from Switzerland, it was especially difficult for us to understand surrogacy laws in the U.S., since we have totally different laws; this was probably the hardest part of our journey. The agency also requested we go through a psych assessment, submit a criminal background report and tax statement, and be medically checked for any genetic disorders. They really made sure that we met all the requirements to provide a healthy environment for children, which for us, felt a bit strange in the beginning but made us feel much more comfortable toward the matching phase with a surrogate. Their thoroughness made us confident that they would screen potential surrogate candidates the same way.
Six months after we signed the contract with our agency, we got a little Christmas present from them when they informed us that they might have a great match for us.
We were thrilled that it took only six months to be matched with a potential surrogate and could not wait to meet her. First, the agency allowed our potential surrogate to review our profile, and if she had a good feeling about us, we would receive her profile. When both parties decided to proceed, based on each other’s profiles, we were invited to video chat with her; it felt kind of like we were using Tinder. When we met Ashley, it was love at first sight; we cannot describe it differently. We connected immediately with Ashley and her wife, Sheria, and knew from the beginning that this would be a perfect match. Looking back now, we can say that meeting Ashley and her family was one of the most important encounters in our life. She made our biggest dream come true and we cannot be any happier.
It took us just a couple of weeks to set up the contract and kick-start our journey. From that point on, we were in contact with each other on a near-daily basis and talked about everything – the journey, our daily lives, and what we were planning next. Ashley soon started all the medical procedures and screening to be cleared as a surrogate. Another six months later, in the beginning of July, Ashley was ready for the BIG transfer. We were all beyond excited and could not wait for this day. Initially, we wanted to transfer only one embryo, but we did casually discuss the option of having twins. Ashley was kind of excited about the idea of carrying two babies, as she ha only experienced pregnancy with one baby thus far. Ultimately, she agreed to try to carry twins for us and we transferred one embryo from each of us. It was pretty sad for us that we were not physically able to be there with Ashley when she had the transfer, but her wife made sure we could be there at least virtually, via Skype. The transfer went pretty well.
A couple days later, we went on our babymoon to Indonesia to enjoy our last holiday without kids. We were very confident that it would work out just fine, since, up to that point, everything had gone as smoothly as it could have. On the second day in Indonesia, we Skyped with Ashley and she had a big surprise for us. She had taken a pregnancy test, before the official one at her OB. When she showed us the positive result, we both immediately started to cry and could not believe that she was truly pregnant with our babies. We kept in regular contact throughout the entire process with Ashley and got to know her and her family better and better. They became something like family for us, even though we had never met her in person yet. We attended every ultrasound screening via Skype to be as close as possible and kept close contact with Ashley. It was very important for us to participate as much as possible in Ashley’s experience and to be a part of the whole process as much as we could be from another country.
In Switzerland, we got ourselves ready to become parents. Looking back, it was kind of a surreal time for us. We knew we were about to become parents, but since the whole journey was virtual, we still could not really imagine ourselves with two babies. We moved into a bigger house to make space for a nursery, I changed my job to be gone less on business trips, and Yves arranged a new part-time job with his employer.
In 2019, close to Christmas, we booked our flights to the U.S., making sure to book flexible tickets. In January, we moved into our new house and prepared everything for our new life with twins. One week after we finished furnishing the nursery. Ashley texted us that she lost her mucous plug. At that moment we didn’t even know what a plug was and thought she should just get a new one. Well, now we know better. A couple of hours later, she told us to fly immediately to the U.S., seven weeks before the official due date. One could imagine how we felt at that moment. We got the news in the middle of the night in Switzerland, and we checked every single departing flight, but we were not able to fly the next day. So, we had to fly the day after. We packed everything in a hurry, informed our employers that we had to go, and were soon off to the U.S. That was likely the most stressful journey ever. We arrived late in the evening in Duluth at the hospital, where Ashley and Sheria waited at the entrance. Meeting and hugging each other was one of the most emotional encounters we have ever had. Holding our babies for the first time was such a magical and surreal moment for us. We still had a hard time comprehending that those tiny little babies were ours and that they were going to change our lives dramatically.
Since the babies were born seven weeks early, they both had to stay in the NICU for a couple of weeks to gain strength and grow. We had booked an Airbnb, but it was not free at the time, since we had arrived way too early. Ashley and Sheria did not hesitate for a second and invited us to stay at their house until our Airbnb was ready. After a couple of days, they suggested we stay with them until we flew back home. That it would take more than two months due to COVID-19 did not occur to any of us at that time.
Our daughter was released two weeks after birth and our son had to stay four weeks until he could come to our new home in Superior. Once both babies were home, we started to realize how our future would look from now on, and we were so glad that we could share this experience together with Ashley and her family. Everybody helped us find our new role as fathers and took part of this amazing journey with us.
When we had both babies, the final part of the surrogacy journey started. The next and last milestone in this endeavor was the court hearings, through which we received custody over the twins. With this, our surrogacy journey had come to an end and we were ready to fly back home and start our new lives as a family of four. On the one hand, we were so glad and happy that we finished this long journey, but on the other hand, we were sad to leave our new extended family in Superior, WI. The last phase of this journey had a perfect ending, and we could not have imagined a more beautiful and wonderful completion to this amazing experience.
After we came home to Switzerland, with some hassle due to the pandemic, we kept in contact with Ashley and her family. We send them videos and pictures of our kids and their milestones. If everything goes well, we will visit Ashley and her family next summer in Superior so that our kids can finally meet their Aunties.