When I interviewed Ric via Skype, it was truly wonderful to see baby Audrey smiling at me through the camera and it brought home how surrogacy can reward the priceless gift of a family for couples who for whatever reason are unable to have children themselves.
Ric, 37, is warm and personable and clearly absolutely adores one-year-old Audrey, who seems intent on sabotaging the call with her incessant crawling and exploring of everything within reach.
Ric and Craig have been together ‘forever’ in Ric’s words – forever being 15 years.
Craig is 39 and Scottish – has lived and worked in various different places including California mainly in mobile communications.
Ric was born in North London and has always – until recently – lived in cities both here and in America. His background is in advertising and digital media. The pair were introduced by a friend of Ric’s from Oxford. When they began their surrogacy journey they lived in London but now live just outside San Francisco.
When asked how the subject of having children first came up for them Ric said: “Funnily enough the issue of children came up on our very first date, as it was important to both of us that we’d become dads one day.”
One night – about eight years later – they discussed the possibility but still without a clear view on how to go about it. After Ric went to bed Craig went online with surrogacy somehow on his mind, and discovered Surrogacy UK.
As luck would have it there was a convention the following week so they just decided to go. Ric recalls that the law had only just changed to allow gay couples to adopt and the first gay couple were pregnant at that time. They went to the convention and started learning about the world of surrogacy.
Following the convention the couple moved into a ‘strange’ phase where they started to meet potential surrogates via a messaging board and at social events around the country.
He said: “We met a surrogate who we really liked and went quite a long way through the process with her until she suddenly became pregnant with her own baby – which wasn’t in her plans and clearly wasn’t in ours either, so we were back to square one.”
Surrogacy UK is a not-for-profit organisation. Its philosophy is friendship first – they have various guidelines including the provision that a couple need to know the surrogate for three months before anything can be done towards instigating the surrogacy process.
The ethos of the organisation is also that the children should always know where they came from and that the surrogate should – wherever possible – remain in touch with their surrogate children and their families. It has become a much bigger organisation than when Ric and Craig became involved and has now become a great campaigning organisation.
Surrogacy UK also have a guideline that the surrogate needs to have completed their family before they act as a surrogate.
Ric describes the surrogate community as being very close and supportive. There was a general feeling within the community that Ric and Craig were lovely and needed a surrogate – enter Lindsey.
Ric finds it amusing that Lindsey and the two of them could not have been more different in lots of ways – they are both city lovers, Lindsey is an island girl (she lives on the Isle of Wight), they have both travelled and worked in different parts of the world while Lindsey was raising a family of four kids – having had her first baby when she was just 20.
All in all they have lived very different lives. And yet when they met there was a real connection that has since grown into deep mutual respect and affection.
When asked about financial arrangements, Ric says the law is in theory quite clear – surrogates are allowed to be paid expenses, each couple determine along with their surrogate what they personally feel is appropriate in terms of legitimate expenses – e.g. covering costs for healthier food, and if they are giving up work because of the pregnancy then it is fine to compensate them accordingly.
Once the couple and the surrogate have agreed in principle to go ahead with the surrogacy then there is an agreement session to go through key issues such as what would you do in the event of pregnancy complications or a condition like Downs Syndrome.
As Lindsey didn’t want to use her own egg – Ric and Craig went to another surrogacy event to find an egg donor.
On the way home from this event Lindsey introduced Ric and Craig to her cousin, Sam – she offered to give them her eggs and they accepted, and her egg resulted in Louis.
The treatment to generate eggs was quite an ordeal and Sam reacted really quite poorly to the drugs. They ended up with only three or four viable eggs, with Craig’s sperm being used to fertilise the egg.
Amazingly, Lindsey became pregnant on the first try but the nine months was difficult with various medical issues.
When Lindsey’s waters broke two months early Ric recalls it all being very panicked. He and Craig charged down from London, in a terrible state. When they arrived at the hospital Lindsey took one look at them and said: “God you look awful”
Ten days later Louis was born. He is now four. Lindsey had two emotions after Louis was born: “This is the greatest thing I’ve ever done and thank God I can hand him over now when all the hard work starts.”
The closeness with Lindsey is the result of the ethos of the organisation – Ric jokes: “She is on our family Whatsapp group and gets photos of the kids every day whether she likes it or not!”
Because the pregnancy had been so tough for Lindsey the couple were amazed when she agreed to do it a second time.
Ric said: “We were like ‘are you sure? Don’t you remember how rough it was?’”
The first attempt for a second baby was very difficult for Lindsey as her body reacted even more extremely than before, and it resulted in a very early miscarriage. They then left things for a couple of months after which Lindsey said she would do it again but this time without the drugs. They went to a different Clinic in Southampton – called Wessex Fertility – to have the treatment closer to Lindsey’s home, to use a drug-free protocol, and to find an egg donor.
It was only when they had such a positive experience with this clinic that they realised how challenging their first experience had been at times. This time they found an anonymous egg donor.
Ric said: “It’s quite strange really – you are given a piece of paper with little more than the donor’s height and hair colour and asked to make this life-altering decision.” Ric’s sperm were used to fertilise the eggs.
When they were seven months pregnant with Audrey, Craig’s company was acquired and as part of the deal Craig was offered a position in San Francisco. In hindsight they both feel that it was a real wrench leaving behind all their support network, including all free childcare from their grandparents.
Ric has done both paternity leaves – it wasn’t the plan – but then the acquisition happened so he just did the second one as well.
When asked about the classic fear associated with surrogacy namely “what would have happened if she had changed her mind?” Ric was keen to make it clear that the relationship is based on trust, and the surrogate can also have the fear that the couple may change their mind, leaving her with the baby.
Ric believes that this is where the ethos of Surrogacy UK stood them all in really good stead – he says they felt that they knew Lindsey really well and completely trusted her when she said that she had really had enough of having her own children
Louis has a home-book called ‘The Story of Louis’. It explains how he came about – it shows pictures of ‘us before we had Louis’ and goes on to explain how they needed the help of very special women to have their babies – Ric says he loves it.
The story will be slightly different with Audrey due to the anonymous egg donor and they need to work out a way to make that special. But whatever wording they use the message is the same – in Ric’s words: “Look at all the people it took to make you – that’s how special you are!!”
Article author: Moira Smith