Monday, April 29, 2013

[Australia - New Zealand] - We Speak to David from Fertility Connections About His Family and Organisation

Recently we spoke to David Formosa-Urquhart, the founder of Fertility Connections.  David with his partner are gay dads and have set up Fertility Connections.  We sat down and had a chat to David about being gay dads and Fertility Connections.

You are a gay male couple with children.  Tell us a bit more about how you became parents.  What was your journey like?

My partner Glen and I started our surrogacy journey in Aug 2007. We choose a clinic in Mumbai, India after researching agencies in both the US and India. In the beginning we had a romanticised view of surrogacy, we thought that it was as simple as flying to India, provide our semen samples, choose an egg donor, a surrogate each and then fly back home. After nine months hop back on a plane again to India for the birth of our babies. Unfortunately, it wasn't that simple for us.

We had two failed attempts and two miscarriages (a single and twins) before our first son was born in December 2010, another two failed attempts before our twins were born in October 2011. So that was a total of eight attempts, four were failed attempts, two positive pregnancies ended in miscarriage and two were obviously successful. We had two anonymous South African egg donors donate to us as well as one anonymous Indian egg donor who donated to us twice. We ended up having attempts with five different surrogates. We continue to stay in contact with our children's surrogates, we send photo albums twice a year and try and Skype regularly.

If you were able to start your surrogacy journey again, is there anything you would have done differently?

I'm not the sort of person that regrets anything in life, I do believe everything happens for a reason. However, I think I would have made a conscious decision to have used known egg donors instead of an anonymous egg donors. We were only offered anonymous donors and we thought that the donor profiles and photos would be enough information for our children. However as our kids grow, I can't help but to think what will happen if they ever wanted to find their donors in the future.

In the last 12 months you started the Fertility Connections website. Can you tell us a bit about why you started it and what services it offers.

I guess it was a series of events in my recent life that lead me to create the Fertility Connections website. When our twins were around 5 months old, I stumbled upon an ad on a baby forum from a couple who were searching for a sperm donor. Donating sperm was always something that I had thought about doing and I felt that it would be a great way of "paying forward" the gift that we had received. Without our amazing egg donors, we wouldn't have a family. So to cut a long story short, I ended up donating to that couple and another couple about 6 months later. Through doing so, I realised that there was a need for a well run website where intended parents could meet with known sperm donors, instead of using anonymous sperm donors from clinics. During this time, I also read a few comments from members of the Surrogacy Australia Facebook page complaining that there wasn't really anywhere for intended parents in Australia to meet potential surrogates. After hearing that, the seed was planted and I set out to create a website for people needing help creating a family within Australia or New Zealand. After months of legal advice, research and web designers, Fertility Connections Australia & New Zealand was born. Fertility Connections is a meeting place and support network for known sperm donors, egg donors, surrogates, intended parents and co-parents within Australia and New Zealand. Donors, surrogates and intended parents interested in surrogacy are able to register and use the website at no charge.

What has been the response like so far to the Fertility Connections service.  

Fertility Connections went "live" in late October 2012 and our numbers have now climbed to over 140 members. Interest is growing rapidly, especially now that members are spreading the word about how they found their donor or surrogate on the website. In the six months that the website has been running, I have heard back from two couples who have found their surrogate, two couples who have found an egg donor and several intended parents who have found a sperm donor with the help of the Fertility Connections website. I love hearing positive match stories, it inspires me to keep improving the website.

We have a great mix of members, I would say that there is probably equal amounts of both gay and straight members. We have gay male couples who are looking for either an egg donor, surrogate or both. I have found that many of our sperm donor members are gay guys. Some are single guys and some are gay dads who, like me, want to pay forward the gift that they have received.

The website's private members forum has proved to be a popular place for members to ask questions, tell their personal stories and for those members who are legally able to advertise for a surrogate to place an ad. Everyone is really supportive and willing to share their experiences. Two of our forum moderators are experienced surrogates, Allie has recently given birth to her surro baby and Amy is in the second trimester of her second surrogacy pregnancy. They have both brought so much to our online community and are passionate able promoting surrogacy within Australia and NZ. We also have experienced egg and sperm donor members who are willing to assist new donors as well as intended parents.

What would be your advice for gay singles and couples who are considering surrogacy here in Australia.

Obviously, I'd first recommend that they become a member of Fertility Connections. It is a totally free service, you have nothing to loose! There is a lot of information on the website for intended parents to read and better informed themselves about the potential of doing surrogacy here. I would also recommend that they speak to a lawyer who specialises in surrogacy law so that they understand exactly where they stand legally. We do have a "ask an expert" section within our forum where members can ask questions for a surrogacy lawyer to answer at no charge. There is also a list of lawyers who specialise in surrogacy/donor law within the members area of the website.

It is also important that people understand that doing surrogacy in Australia can take more time than commercial overseas surrogacy. One of the main reasons for this is that you, as the intended parent, need to find and screen the egg donor and surrogate yourself. The website does offer some help with this process, there are a list of questions and other helpful information for members to access once they think they have found a potential donor or surrogate. The relationship created between an intended parent, egg donor and surrogate can be a life long one if set up correctly from the start.

How do you see Fertility Connections developing?  

I hope that Fertility Connections can continue to help childless couples find the missing piece or pieces they need to create at family in their home countries, instead of having to travel overseas to do so. I feel that the website will eventually be transformed to allow members from all over the world to join and start their own little communities with. We already have some international donors who are willing to donate here altruistically. So I feel that this shift is already happening, it's only a matter of time before we take over the world!

To find our more, you can contact David at Fertility Connections here.

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