For many intended parents in Europe, and many other parts of the world, building their families through surrogacy locally is not possible. Some of the reasons for this may be because of the regulations and legal implications surrounding gestational surrogacy in their country, the inaccessibility or shortage of women offering to be gestational surrogates and/or their sexual orientation prevent them from pursuing options close to home. For these reasons, and many others, intended parents from all over the world are seeking options abroad to reach their dreams of parenthood through surrogacy.

As options for international surrogacy are increasing, the USA continues to be one of the most safe and secure destinations for European intended parents to pursue surrogacy. The USA has some of the most well-established legal practices and protocols in place for surrogacy and intended parents can take comfort in the fact they will be in the hands of some of the most experienced professionals in the field. Therefore, although other countries may seem like a financially cheaper option, the USA continues to be an ideal option for many intended parents worldwide.

Today, we are speaking with intended parents, José and Renato, a same-sex couple from Portugal, who chose to pursue their dreams of parenthood through surrogacy in the USA. They open up about their journey to parenthood thus far and what the overall process of international surrogacy in the USA was like for them.

Jose and Renato, please tell us about yourselves. How did you meet and when did you decide you were ready to start looking into family building options?

We are both from in and around Lisbon, Portugal and were introduced to each other by a mutual friend over 3 years ago. It was an almost instant connection and we were living together within 4 months after meeting. José, having already had a child (Rafael) through adoption who lives with us every other weekend, warmed up to Renato very quickly and it was amazing to see how that bond grew so quickly and naturally. We would say that this was the beginning of us really starting to think about having children of our own, who we could raise together in our home that was already full of happiness and love. Having children was something we decided we really wanted to do and the first time we’ve talked about the subject in a more serious way was around December of 2017, on Renato’s birthday. This, we would say, was the very beginning of our amazing journey to follow.

What made you ultimately decide on the USA to pursue surrogacy? Did you consider any other destinations?

When we finally decided to have children of our own, there were two options for us – adoption or surrogacy. We considered the pros and the cons of both options and we discovered:

Adoption – we found that it would be a much cheaper option for us, however it would be a very long process, which may have taken us several years. This was frustrating for us as because in Portugal, although adoption is legal for gay couples, after much research, we discovered that gay couples were often placed at the end of the adoption lists. For us, as a gay couple, this meant potentially an even longer wait time and because of our ages, we did not want to have to wait years and years to reach out dreams of parenthood.

Surrogacy – when we researched surrogacy, we discovered that although this option could end up being more expensive in comparison, we liked the fact that we had more control over the situation and decision-making process. There were also so many more options that we could decide on to make sure it fit into our personal budget. This was the main deciding factor for us in pursuing surrogacy.

After lots of research, we concluded that there were only two countries that allowed gay males to have children born through surrogacy and equally to have both of our names on the child’s birth certificate – USA and Canada. Once we narrowed down our search to the USA and Canada, we weighed out the pros and cons for each. 

In Canada, surrogacy is legal however compensation is not. This option seemed ideal overall, but we found that the wait time to find a surrogate match was too long for us. We discovered it was because of a shortage of women wanting to pursue surrogacy for altruistic reasons only. Therefore, the USA was the remaining and most ideal option left, which ticked all of our boxes.

Did you decide on your clinic or agency first? How did you come to your decision on which agency and clinic you were going to use?

We chose our agency, Extraordinary Conceptions, first. Funnily enough, the way we found Extraordinary Conceptions was by chance. In the Portuguese media, it happens that periodically the topic of surrogacy is discussed, though, never in a positive way unfortunately. 

In January of 2018 we read an article in a Portuguese newspaper, about surrogacy in other countries and Extraordinary Conceptions (EC) was mentioned in the article. After reading, we sent an email to EC and that was when our journey with EC had started. Furthermore, as we are not English native speakers, we were so happy to learn that EC had staff that spoke in Portuguese! Our assigned coordinator was so amazing with us and the fact that she spoke Portuguese was so important to us. These reasons combined, marked our official decision to move forward with Extraordinary Conceptions.

When it came to select an IVF clinic, we had no idea where to start or what to look for in a clinic and needed help with this decision. We wanted to have twins and there were not many IVF clinics that were willing to transfer 2 embryos to a surrogate. We were so grateful that our coordinator at EC introduced us to California Fertility Partners who we eventually decided was the right choice for us as our IVF clinic. 

What was the matching process like for you and how did you end up selecting your surrogate?

The matching process was great overall. Just like finding an IVF clinic, we had no idea where to start or what to look for in a surrogate. The only thing we knew was that the US surrogate would be compensated, and we needed to look for a surrogate that would fall within our budget. 

We could not believe that after only one day, our agency had found us our perfect surrogate match! It happened in what felt like the blink of an eye. And from then on, the matching process continued to be very smooth. Initially our surrogate was not approved by our IVF doctor but after speaking to our IVF doctor and a re-review of our surrogate’s medical files was completed, she was thankfully approved to move forward.

Were there any difficulties along the way or bumps in the road?

Not many but we would say that the main difficulty we had along the way was the cost containment. In fact, we had to sell an apartment we owned in order to afford the overall costs. 

At the start of our journey, the egg donor selection process was long. We had to change egg donors four times, all for different reasons. It was no fault of anyone’s however we must say that if not for our agency, we may have given up. Thankfully they were always there pulling us up and we are forever grateful to our agency for not letting us give up on our dream.

As we are not English native speakers, the language barrier at some points of the process, made the legal aspects difficult to comprehend at times. On the positive side, after two years of so much communication in English, our written English and our ability to communicate in English has greatly improved! 

Lastly, the distance was hard to get used to but technology and the ability to speak over video has made it extremely easy to connect across the ocean and the land that keeps us apart from the process.

Did your surrogate get pregnant the first embryo transfer?

Yes, our surrogate got pregnant with the first embryo transfer! We transferred two embryos, and both took the first try – we were so lucky!! Our surrogate also let us know that she felt she was extremely well cared for by all the staff at our clinic and of course our IVF doctor, at California Fertility Partners – we were so happy for that. Unfortunately, due the time difference from California to Portugal, we couldn’t attend the embryo transfer ourselves but were relieved to know our surrogate was taken care of. 

How did your agency assist you through the surrogacy process and what was your experience like with Extraordinary Conceptions?

The assistance of our agency, throughout the entire surrogacy process was and continues to be unsurpassable! We couldn’t have asked for better support throughout this journey. The amazing team at Extraordinary Conceptions was always there advocating on our behalf and helping us every step of the way. Even when it seemed obstacles were in our path, they were always there. If we were to go back in time, we would not change a thing about our decision to go with Extraordinary Conceptions. We do not believe that there would be any other agency able to be as supportive and helpful as the staff at EC has been. We will never find words to be able to fully express our gratitude to all the staff at Extraordinary Conceptions for helping to make our dreams come true. ️

Did you have family and friend support throughout the process?

To be honest, not to start. In fact, we started this process completely on our own, with only one great friend who supported our decision and has been there for us throughout the journey – this is the same friend that had introduced us, 3 years ago. Further down the road in the process, some more relatives and other friends started showing us their support too, but that took some time.

When are your babies due? Do you have a birth plan in place?

The estimated due date for our babies is August 2nd 2020, but as we are expecting twins, it’s likely they will arrive before then. We haven’t given a birth plan too much thought to be honest, but we have decided that we will both be in the room for the delivery and our surrogate has also agreed and is happy with this plan. Although we can not wait to hold our babies in our arms when they arrive the most important thing is that they will arrive safe and healthy, and that our surrogate will also be healthy post delivery. 

What advice can you give to other international couples just starting out or currently going through the surrogacy process in North America?

We would tell other intended parents that the main thing to consider before pursuing their journey is to take care of their finances – going through surrogacy in North America can be quite an expensive process therefore making sure the intended parents budget for this process is important. Saying this, the process in the USA is also one in which you know you will be protected by the laws and practices currently in place and that you will be guided step by step by professionals with many years of experience in surrogacy. Throughout this process, we’ve always felt secure that in the USA our parental rights are guaranteed, which is very reassuring and for us, was more important than going through this process elsewhere, to possibly save money but where we may not have this same feeling of security and protection. 

Any final words for intended parents considering their family building options?

In Portugal where surrogacy is not legal, ‘international’ surrogacy was the only option for us when it came to family building. We want intended parents to know that they must be prepared for some disappointments and unexpected setbacks as no journey is perfect. 

Surrogacy is a long process and sometimes the stars are not going to align the way we wish they would. BUT every step forward is a huge achievement, and even though we are miles and miles apart from the ones and the places where the future of our family is growing, we could not be more grateful that we took this path to parenthood and our dreams of becoming parents will finally come true.

*Continue to Follow José and Renato’s journey on Instagram at @2future.dads.in.portugal*

If you have any questions about international surrogacy or your family building options, contact our UK & Europe Client Relations Consultant, Hilary at  hilary@extraconceptions.com.