We wanted to start a surrogacy program in 2018 in a country where the legislation surrounding surrogacy was the most advanced and favourable and where the practices were most experienced. After several exchanges with different agencies we chose a Californian agency which was one of the few to offer a guaranteed program of 99,000 USD, unlimited IVF, and an American surrogate.
We quickly sent the 30,000 USD agreed in our contract. The procedures with the agency’s clinic in Cancun, Mexico, were quickly put in place and 4 months later we had 3 viable embryos.
As the agency struggled to find a surrogate, we had to wait 3 more months for things to really start. During these 3 months, we got to know our surrogate and we quickly formed a strong bond with her.
We don’t understand why the Mexican doctor was hesitant but the first stimulation started and … failed. The second stimulation allows the transfer of a first embryo. All 3 of us (me, my partner and the surrogate) are filled with hope that things will happen! The endometrial preparation is difficult for the surrogate who admits to having cried when the waiter at her favorite restaurant told her that he had no more shrimp!
Unfortunately the beta test is negative. We are disappointed, accepting this kind of failure is quite difficult. Our surrogate is devastated, and with all the hormones, she can no longer control her tears! The doctor, now a different doctor, states she must rest for 15-days and take medication before she can start a new preparation. However, 1 month later the preparation did not start because the pill disrupted the her cycle.
It will now take 3 months for her to be ready again for a new embryo transfer. The day before the transfer, at the airport, our surrogate was hit by a car – a broken leg! Despite everything she is ready to travel for the transfer but the doctor refuses and advises to reschedule a new stimulation which results in a second transfer. The morning of the transfer, we receive an email from the clinic telling us that the agency has not paid the bills so the transfer may be canceled. This is followed by an angry exchange of threats between us, the agency and the clinic for the transfer to take place and by pure miracle, it does and 2 embryos are transferred.
While waiting for the results, the agency informs us that in the event of failure we will have to change clinics, because after recent events, the trust between the agency and the clinic is broken. This new transfer is once again a failure. While seeking explanations from the clinic, we were informed that the doctor informed the agency several times that our surrogate did not have the right medical profile for surrogacy. The disappointment is fierce again, but we go ahead and ask for a new IVF so as not to waste time.
The director of the agency informs us that we will have to change surrogate because after 2 failures it would be risky to make a third attempt. The delays are getting longer due to the change of clinic, surrogate, lawyer, we end up losing all confidence in our agency and on the advice of Hélène we ask Anthony, a French surrogacy expert in charge of surrogacy programs in Mexico, to help us and shadow our program.
Unable to provide us with an American surrogate, our agency offers us a Mexican surrogate who lives at the border and holds a permanent visa and who can give birth in the United States. Not having really any other choice to move forward, we accept. In view of the difference in culture, contact with the surrogate is prohibited. 4 months after our last failure (16 months have passed since we signed the contract), 3 new embryos are created, and one of them is transferred to the uterus of the surrogate.
At the end of January 2020 we experience our first victory, the embryo has implanted. In mid-February, during the first ultrasound, we are told that they are twins. The agency informs us that although this is rare, the embryo has split, creating identical twins. We exchange support videos with our surrogate through the agency.
At the beginning of April, under full COVID confinement in France, we announce the news to our families and friends. During the May ultrasound, an new announcement puzzles us: the foetuses are different genders. It is therefore impossible for them to come from the same embryo.
We ask the clinic what may have happened, they are firm, they only transferred one embryo. Where does the second come from? We ask our surrogate to be honest and tell us if it is possible that during the preparation she could have become pregnant naturally. She says it’s impossible, and asks her partner to take a blood test with her to prove it. The test concluded that there was a possible genetic link with her partner to the “male” embryo.
At that moment, the agency and the American lawyer broke their contract with us, encouraging us to have the birth in Mexico city to avoid costs and simplify the filiation with the real parents of each child. We and the surrogate are overwhelmed by these revelations. The agency which was supposed to keep accounts on our file refuses to reimburse a single cent, when 91,000 USD have already been paid to them.
At the end of June, our surrogate was no longer able to travel from her home to Mexico City, and due to COVID prevention measures, the American border was closed. We must therefore prepare for the birth in Tijuana. Thanks to Anthony, we managed to find a lawyer, clinic and doctors to supervise this pregnancy which has become medically and morally dangerous. During these 2 months, confidence in our surrogate is at its lowest as she fears that this adventure will turn out badly financially for her if one of the babies or both are really hers.
It is finally in an emergency, on August 26, 2020 that the babies are born. We arrive the next day in Tijuana. This trip, to say the least, takes us to the clinic where we discover these 2 babies. Our surrogate waited for our permission to see them. After seeing them, she is serene, she is convinced that the babies are ours. During this day all administrative documents are drawn up without difficulty.
After a week in the incubator and a DNA test confirming the impressions of our surrogate, we leave the clinic with our children. Mexico, Tijuana, which initially we had a negative view of, turns out to be extremely practical for many things of everyday life. Everyone we meet is ready to make our life easier. After a month, we managed, with the help of Anthony and the full cooperation of the surrogate, to obtain French birth certificates and travel documents from the consulate to return to France. Even a long and tiring journey couldn’t take the smiles of our faces when we present our new family to those around us. These little beings have not just made us parents, they have created, grandpas, grandmas, uncles, aunts and cousins.
We have experienced each failure, each doubt, as a rejection of our paternity. All the things we wanted for this project (places, legal framework, guarantees, insurance) had to be adapted, diverted. At every moment we asked ourselves, why?! But each adaptation has led us to caring people who have been the real protagonists in the success of this project. And it is this tortuous path that has led us to happiness. Giving life, including through surrogacy, remains a human process. To achieve this, the biggest parameter is not the place, the price or the structure, it is the people, the men and women who work for it. These are the people to choose well.
A huge thank you to Hélène for her support in this adventure.