NEARLY all the gay dads I meet have pursued their dream against the odds.

Ten years ago, our main route into parenthood was co-parenting by choice or foster care. But given the growing desire for security of parentage, surrogacy has become increasingly popular – for single and partnered gay men.

Paul’s journey to parenthood reveals much about what many gay men encounter. He’d always wanted to be a dad and nine years ago aged 30, started looking seriously at the options.

A genetic link wasn’t important to Paul – besides, he didn’t want to hand down his own biological baggage to a child. Paul wanted to make a difference to a kid’s life and overseas adoption seemed a chance to give a loving home to one of thousands in need.

But for a gay couple it was an impossible route – even in the few countries which accepted same-sex couples, heterosexuals were prioritised. Paul and his partner Tony turned to domestic adoption, but again there was no clear pathway.

Strangely, surrogacy seemed to be the easiest option. One of Paul’s best friends Sarah offered to donate her eggs, but Tony didn’t like the idea of engaging a donor they knew.  

I first met them in 2014, and the pair had already spent many months researching Thai surrogacy. When that option closed, Paul was devastated – ‘I felt like I’d lost a child’ he tells me. The pair looked at Canada, but by now Paul had returned to Sarah’s offer of eggs. This time Tony accepted the idea.

Meanwhile, in the Australian online forums they had met a young mum, Suzan, in the mining town of Port Hedland. She and her partner Max were  prepared to carry for them.

Despite being an 8.5 hour flight via Perth, they knew this might be their only chance. Then, with embryo creation just eight weeks away, Paul and his partner’s relationship collapsed. Single now, Paul remained committed – he would go it alone.

By November 2015 Sarah and Suzan had agreed to continue with Paul as a single dad-to-be. He could hardly believe it when Suzan fell pregnant in May 2016. They waited until the second trimester before telling anyone. Back in the UK, Paul’s impending parenthood was an awkward topic – his parents didn’t think their son was up to the task.

Six months on Paul was flying solo to the Pilbara to be there for the birth. But the hospital was short-staffed and Suzan’s labour was prolonged due to complications. It was an intense experience for all three of them, but after 22 hours, little Isaac made his grand entrance

When I meet Paul & Isaac back in Sydney at a Rainbow Families catch-up, Paul is the proudest dad in the world. By now his best friend’s mum had flown from the UK to help out. It’s a well-known adage in the LGBT community, but family certainly comes in many guises.

Nine other gay dads will share their own journeys to parenthood – via Australia, US, Canada and Asia – at Families Through Surrogacy’s annual conference on 3-4 June in Melbourne. Some of their surrogates will share their perspective, as well as expert doctors, lawyers, psychologists and agencies. Amidst the talks, food and socialising, singles and couples will be making the most vital decisions of their lives – how to build a family. Weekend passes start from $120 per person.

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