By Rebecca Drew
MEET the British married men who never thought they would be able to have children but now have adorable and healthy twins thanks to the selfless act of their surrogate who suffered a heart-breaking miscarriage with their first baby and whose family is now an extension of their own.
State government employees, Stephen Glover (36) and Andrew Murray (53), who are originally from Manchester, UK, but now live in Brisbane, Australia, first met on a night out in their home city 16 years ago and have been together ever since. The couple were married in a partner ceremony in 2005 and had their civil partnership converted into a marriage in 2015. They never thought that becoming parents would be a possibility for them and it wasn’t until Stephen was working in a coffee shop and two of his regular customers announced they had just became fathers through surrogacy that the couple began to explore the possibility.
After five years of meticulous research and planning to ensure they were both financially and emotionally prepared to consider surrogacy, Stephen and Andrew signed up to agency, Simple Surrogacy in the United States. After reviewing several profiles, the couple were perfectly matched with their surrogate, Katy, who, following their first 40-minute Skype call Stephen and Andrew felt like they had known forever. Katy was a gestational surrogate, meaning the couple used an egg donor and their baby would have no genetic connection to her.
Stephen and Andrew first became pregnant with Katy after three cancelled cycles in April 2016, but Katy sadly miscarried at nine weeks due to a genetic abnormality – which devastated both families. After taking time to heal, they decided to try again and Katy became pregnant with twins.
“As far as children go, to be honest, I don’t think we ever really thought it was an option. At that point I certainly did not know what surrogacy was and adoption was something that never had crossed my mind,” said Stephen.
“To have children was something that we started to discuss approximately seven years ago. At the time I was an Assistant Manager of a coffee shop and two of my customers had just had a baby boy via surrogacy in California.
“As they were both same sex fathers, I was intrigued and talked to them about the process. This is where I first heard the term ‘surrogacy’ and the seed of possibility had been sowed.
“We signed retainers with our agency in April 2015 and after reviewing a few profiles we were matched with Katy in the July.
“Simple Surrogacy have a fantastic process whereby intended parents have to write a letter or submission to introduce themselves to their future surrogate. Our submission included personal photos, bios, personal expectations, the type of relationship we wanted with our surrogate.
“The profile is then sent to surrogates who then decide if they like us or not. Katy chose us as much as we chose her.
“I still remember that first Skype call with Katy – we were all as nervous as hell but we talked and laughed for over forty minutes. It felt as if we had known each other for years and I think we only had to wrap it up because we had to go to work and their dog Spencer was going crazy in the background.”
“We were overjoyed, nervous, anxious and terrified in equal measure when we found out we were going to become parents,” added Andrew.
“Sadly, in late May 2016 my father suddenly passed away and having just returned from the funeral in the UK came the terrible call from America that, after attending a routine ultrasound appointment at nine weeks three days the baby no longer had a heartbeat.
“We had heard our little girl’s heartbeat at seven weeks so the thought anything could go wrong just didn’t cross our minds. The possibility was never on our radar. The loss was due to a genetic abnormality, Turners Syndrome.
“Ourselves and our surrogate were devastated- Katy and Nathan took the loss as hard if not harder that we did. To be honest Stephen was in a state of shock and emotionally numb for a number of months.
“It was a difficult time but after taking time out for us all to emotionally heal we decided to try again and the rest is history. After what had happened with the first pregnancy we had a very nervous first three months.”
With their second pregnancy, Stephen and Andrew celebrated each weekly milestone and felt that they could start to relax after 24-weeks.
Their twins, Reilly and Phoenix were born in September this year at 36 weeks and four days.
“Second only to our wedding day, it was an amazing experience. To share something like that with Katy and her family was such an honour and privilege for us. That day all the sacrifices Katy and her family had made for us were rewarded,” said Stephen.
“It may seem like a cliché but when I saw each of my children born I swear I felt my heart grow. I knew everything we had gone through had led to that moment. The loss of our first little girl was soul destroying but I felt my heart heal that day.
“Our story really is a journey of hope. That really is the point I want to get across. With hope and love anything is possible. You can’t have a rainbow without rain.
“Our medical team at Baylor Scott & White were simply fantastic although the look on the nurses’ faces when three guys walked in to the operating theatre was simply priceless. Even though our medical team had been informed of the circumstances of course each individual nurse had not.”
Stephen and Andrew keep in contact with Katy on a daily basis and Katy’s children call their twins their cousins and both families feel like one big family now.
“What makes our story so special is the bond, the relationship we have with our surrogate. What Katy and her family have done for us is so selfless. Our American family shared every high and felt every low and disappointment,” added Stephen.
“I hand on heart do not know anybody else who would have done that for us. From being matched in July 2015 to the twins being born on September 7, 2017, Katy and her husband have made so many sacrifices for us, sometimes at the detriment of their own children. I don’t think there is a superlative that can describe how appreciative we are.
“We message every day and Skype every few weeks. For us it is important for us to maintain that close bond. Katy has seen me at my best, she has also seen me at my worst.
“In two years, circumstantially, we formed a personal bond that normally comes from friendships of over twice that time. I shared fears and insecurities with Katy that I have shared with only my husband before. We adore her and she is family now.”
Due to ill heath, Andrew and Stephen’s family at home are not able to travel to Australia to meet the twins but they have a trip planned back to the UK in May next year when the twins will be nine-months old.
The couple are planning on staying in Australia and dream of the day when the country passes marriage equality legislation so they can renew their vows and have their twins walk down the aisle with them.
“We have the most amazing reaction from strangers. We can’t go out to the supermarket without being stopped and congratulated. The reaction in Fort Worth, Texas were the twins were born was fantastic, everyone accepted us as a family unit, from the hospital to government officials to strangers, everyone has been so kind and accepting,” said Andrew.
“In Australia people are a bit more reserved as a same sex family, ones with two fathers, is still an unusual thing but again we have had no negative reaction.
“It’s comical sometimes to see people look at the twins, then Stevie and then myself. You can tell that they expect to see a mother. We just tell people who ask that the twins have two Dads who love them dearly and everyone accepts that the twins have two loving parents.”
Katy has been married to her husband Nathan for 10 years and they share two daughters, she decided to become a surrogate after working with women who had been surrogates themselves.
“I wanted to help a loving couple become a family and to share the experience and joy I felt seeing my children for the first time,” she said.
“Seeing their faces when their twins were born was the most amazing thing, they are wonderful guys and amazing parents.
“Their twins are so loved by them, we have become so close throughout our journey and I’m proud to call them our family now.
“Part of what made our journey so special was the close relationship we developed with our dads to be and the privilege to call them family. My husband adores that Stephen and Andrew refer to him as ‘uncle Nathan’.”
Stephen shared his advice to other couples who want to explore surrogacy.
“From experience, if you are considering surrogacy as a real possibility, expect a journey of high highs and low lows. You will be forced to dig deep and find resources, emotional and financial that you never knew you had,” he added.
“Sit down with your partner from the outset and discuss expectations. You will need to be there for each other more than you can to imagine. Andrew is my rock. I couldn’t have done this without him. He is quiet, but he is stronger than he will ever know.
“My advice is to plan, plan, plan and ask many questions as you need to. Don’t feel that you are being a nuisance by demanding the time of your team. If you are made to feel you are being a nuisance then they are the wrong team.
“The process is emotionally and financially demanding and the average length of a journey is approx. 18 months. It could be longer is you consider failed transfers, issues with cancelled cycles, delays in being matched with an egg donor or surrogate.
“Do your research. There are websites like menhavingbabies.org that now publish surrogacy agency and fertility centre customer reviews.
Stumbling across Richard Westoby’s book ‘Our Journey. One Couple’s Guide to US Surrogacy’ was also a game changer. It allowed me to focus on what needed to be done and plan out a timeline of sorts. For me it was my go to resource for so long. I carried it with me everywhere. As a bonus, he is a really good guy too.
“Approach the journey as you would if you were building a team that you were going to project manage. You need people you can depend upon and trust, people who will get the job done but will be honest with you when the going gets tough.
“Our Reproductive Endocrinologist, Dr Said Daneshmand and our agency, Simple Surrogacy both work tirelessly with the LQBTIQ community to make dreams of parenthood a reality”
Follow Stephen and Andrew’s family here: https://www.instagram.com/_gf_squared/