I will never forget this moment on the 25th of April 2014, when my cell phone rang and my entire life was about to change. I was just returning from the gym and walking back to my desk, when I got a call from Surrogacy Cancun in Mexico. Alice couldn’t wait to share the good news with me that the second embryo transfer had been successful and that my surrogate was indeed pregnant. I still remember how happy, excited and euphoric I was in that moment. I just knew that a new chapter in my life was about to start and then I looked back at our journey so far.
I always wanted to have my own child; this was just something, which spoke to me. I was 25 years old when I watched a Television program about an English gay couple, who managed to become parents through surrogacy. This was at the end of the 90’s. I had already completed a training in a bank in the small town close to my parent’s farm in the North of Germany years ago and was considered as a high flying student in the University of Hanover at that time. But I wanted more from life. I wanted to get out. Living in the countryside wasn’t for me and my parents had finally accepted that I wouldn’t step into their footsteps and that I was determined to get out and make it big. I moved to London in 2001 and studied for my MBA later on; I had internships with Morgan Stanley in New York; I experienced my coming out far away from the home, which had never been a real one for me in the first place and I fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine and moved to New York City for good in 2009. I was living the life on the fast lane – worked hard, partied hard, until I got a reminder of what I had wished for my life a long time ago. I was on vacation in Europe and enjoyed the party scene in Barcelona to the fullest, when I spotted this gay couple playing with their children on the beach in Sitges and suddenly it was there, the wish to have my own child one day, too. And this wish was strong.
I was a single gay man, but this couldn’t keep me from starting my own research. I quickly found out about surrogacy in India and had my reservations from day one. When their laws eventually changed and agencies were only allowed to assist married straight couples gay couples and singles had no chance of becoming parents through surrogacy in that country anymore. I also didn’t like that the majority of the Indian surrogate mothers were spending their pregnancies in dormitory rooms on the premises of the clinics behind high walls and far away from their own families. Surrogacy was considered as something rather negative in the Indian culture, while I really wanted to start family life in a positive and relaxed environment. Therefore I continued with my search.
I started to show an interest in Mexico, which I knew from my previous visits to Cancun and Playa del Carmen very well. The agency Surrogacy Cancun caught my attention, which enjoyed an excellent reputation and was well known for assisting gay couples and single men with their wishes to start families. I learnt on the website of the company that the surrogate mothers were staying with their families during the entire pregnancies as in the Mexican culture surrogacy was understood as an honorable way to help others. I already knew back then that my potential surrogate couldn’t be married, as otherwise the name of her husband would have appeared as the name of the father of the baby on the birth certificate and not my own. I exchanged many emails with Surrogacy Cancun and had countless of questions. I had a very good feeling about Mark Semple, the owner and president of the company and his team and really enjoyed the way Surrogacy Cancun was dealing with surrogates, egg donors, the medical team and the lawyers.
I eventually flew to Cancun, Mexico for the semen donation on New Years Day 2014. I had also already chosen the egg donor and surrogate mother at that time after the agency had provided me with access to a database, which listed the details of these women. I had never met my surrogate before, but I was aware that she was 25 years old and mother of three children and I had no doubts that she would be able to look well after my unborn child during the entire pregnancy. My egg donor was a 30 years old South American woman living in Mexico, she was married and had one child on her own and already helped three other intended parents in the past. The reason why egg donor and surrogate are usually two different women is that the agency wants to make it easier for surrogate mothers to give up the babies straight after the birth as they are not their biological children.
But how did I experience the surrogacy myself? Surrogacy Cancun sent me regular reports and photos of the surrogate mother and it was a very emotional moment, when I saw a picture of the fetus. I nearly cried, when I had a look at the ultrasound video for the first time. I watched my baby moving and felt this incredible strong connection between us. But it was also very difficult to experience the surrogacy from a long distance and I did struggle a lot with uncertainty, which I described in detail in my new book “Fame, Baby & Inspiration” later on. A million questions went through my head at that time. How I would I cope with becoming a father from one to the next moment? Would I become a good father and what kind of life would I be able to offer my child later on? How intense would the first weeks and months be? I felt that I had already gone on some kind of personal journey. I knew that I wanted to become a different parent than my own parents. But I was also aware that I had to find my own way as a father.
And then there were so many legal and financial aspects, which created additional pressure. I ended up paying around USD 45,000 and regular payments of high amounts were due during the entire pregnancy. It sometimes felt like I was not having a salary anymore. Contracts between the agency, the surrogate mother and me had detailed our rights and commitments. The surrogate wasn’t allowed to consume alcohol or drugs during the pregnancy for example and I had to name a legal guardian, who would look after my baby, if anything happened to me during the pregnancy. I chose my good friend Andreas, who had married his partner in June 2014 and was living in New York City himself.
I was sure that my firstborn would be a baby boy. But I also decided against the pre gender selection, which would not only identify genetic defects but also the gender of the embryos before they got implanted into the surrogate. The risk, that this procedure could damage half of the five embryos was very high and therefore I made the decision for the baby and put my own wishes second place. When I found out that a baby girl was on the way it took me only a couple of seconds to get used to that idea. And then I was incredibly happy again. I eventually had a look at other people’s children and I wrote about becoming a father and my emotions and experiences in my new book and my publisher quickly expressed his interest in a third book about the first 180 days with a baby. I also organized two baby showers for my straight and gay friends in New York and was touched how supportive everybody turned out to be.
But while the New Yorkers had been incredibly supportive, it is fair to say that my parents were shocked, when they didn’t learn just about the baby news but also experienced my long overdue official and final coming out. I think sometimes that they had ignored the signs and facts for a long time, but as a future parent myself I realized that I couldn’t spare them the honest truth any longer and wanted to be open to them. Their initial reaction turned out to be very, very harsh and there was a time when I didn’t feel that I had a family anymore. It actually took them 5 months before they finally came around.
I didn’t hold that against them later on. Surrogacy is still illegal in Germany and they hadn’t known much about it. But I noticed a certain form of ignorance, when it came to opinions of many conservative people in my former home country. It seemed to be totally acceptable to become single parents after a separation or divorce but not by choice and people kept asking me questions like “Why don’t you adopt a child instead” or “Why aren’t you waiting for the right partner?” As for the partner, I always knew that I would become a single father one day, but I am still dating and hoping to find my man eventually. I am still open for that kind of love in my life. And as of the truth, I will always be honest to my daughter and explain to her in detail the circumstances and where and how she was born. I want her to be happy, confident and proud of herself.
The birth of my baby was originally expected for the 19th of December 2014. The doctor had planned a caesarian section, which made sense as she was expected to be a big baby. I hadn’t booked my flights yet, which turned out be a smart decision, when my surrogate decided to have a natural birth instead and the birth got rescheduled for the 27th of December. I will never forget the night when I said goodbye to my friends in New York City on Christmas Day. My sublet was already living in my studio and all the suitcases and boxes were packed. New York was my home and I didn’t know, when I would see everybody again. It made me sad when I left the city and flew to Mexico. But once I met my daughter on the next day for the very first time I realized that I wasn’t alone anymore.
And this was a pretty awesome feeling.
Derek Meyer`s autobiographical story “Fame, Baby & Inspiration” got published by Lulu in January 2015.
Author: Derek Meyer
Title: Baby, Fame & Inspiration