For LGBT+ people, welcoming children into your family can be one of the most incredible – but challenging – journeys of life.
For Richard Scarlett and his husband Dario, from London, raising a family had been part of their dialogue for as long as they can remember.
They were adamant that they would one day have two children. Watching their friends having babies, their desire for a family grew stronger.
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy,” Richard admits, “so we prepared ourselves as much as we could.”
Richard is one of several parents and experts who will be taking part when Growing Families returns to its face-to-face seminar format in London and Dublin this October. There, singles and couples will be able to gain insights into the hurdles of the experience and how to overcome them, as well as learn more about costs and managing expectations.
In his journey, Richard took the lead with organising meetings, creating spreadsheets and doing the initial research.
He and his husband quickly ruled out adoption and decided on US surrogacy, given they wanted to start the process immediately rather than hope for a possible local match.
Those interested in surrogacy and/or egg donation must choose between domestic or international arrangements.
Under the current UK framework, the former requires great trust. When it comes to international pathways, it is helpful to understand the options and choose one that is right for you. Wherever you engage, costs can spiral and the process can be fraught with roadblocks. Relying on recommendations from friends of friends is not advisable; it pays to interview the professionals and seek references.
When it came to selecting an egg donor, Richard and Dario chose to focus on donors who were pre-screened by a US IVF clinic. Across two clinics, there were over 100 to review.
Richard and his son. (Supplied)
“We wanted to make sure that she was healthy, had a good family health history and was doing it for compelling reasons,” he explains. “We also preferred to choose a proven donor, as this removed some of the risk of IVF failure.
“We each made a shortlist and compared. Then we requested additional information. Our chosen donor seemed like a smart self-starter. We were both instantly taken by her profile and were able to see early childhood photos.”
Richard advises ensuring you also talk to the IVF specialist before you move forward.
When it came to selecting a surrogate, Richard and Dario wanted to build a strong bond, so they ensured they matched with a surrogate who wanted the same.
During their time in Idaho after the birth, the couple saw their surrogate most days.
“She was an invaluable support,” Richard recalls. “Her entire family rallied around and welcomed us. It was a truly humbling experience to have such love and support from people who were strangers just a year before.”
Their son was born in August 2018. While COVID-19 led to some delays in baby number two, Richard and Dario are now engaged on a second journey with a different surrogate and a different agency.
“Being so far away… you really start to feel the distance mid-pregnancy, and long to be closer,” Richard says.
“Another hard part is the uncertainty and the emotional ups and downs. We were literally stepping into the unknown and handing control over to biology. You do so much admin and form filling at the beginning, and then you have to just wait.
“It can be difficult to be completely helpless when waiting for screening results, waiting to see how many eggs were retrieved, and during the two-week implantation period to see if it all worked. There were many moments of anxiety, but these were obstacles we overcame.”
Richard and parents like him will be joined at Growing Families London seminar on 2 October by experts from the UK, US and Canada. There will also be updates on surrogacy options across Europe and in South America.
The charity Growing Families is an information and referral hub for singles and couples hoping to build their family with the help of donor IVF and/or surrogacy.
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