Take a wander through the message boards of the various online surrogacy support groups and it becomes clear there is mounting interest from a new — and countercultural — group of intended parents: single men.For the past few years, surrogates, agency owners and fertility lawyers have noticed the changing demographics of their clientele.“I work with a number of single intended fathers each year. There is an increase in single dads in my practice,” says Toronto fertility lawyer Sara Cohen. “I think it is men who want to be dads who just haven’t found their life partner and aren’t willing to wait any longer to be a parent.”There’s growing evidence that men across Canada — and around the world — are choosing single fatherhood via surrogacy.“I have many single men contact me about surrogacy,” says Sally Rhoads-Heinrich, owner of Surrogacy in Canada Online. “The majority is gay and, of the heterosexual ones, their reasons for pursuing surrogacy are usually because they couldn’t find the right partner.”The Star spoke with several single men seeking Canadian surrogates. All cited a primal desire to be a father, with reasons for needing a Canadian surrogate ranging from homophobia in their own country and infertility issues to not wanting to wait to be a parent until they found the right person.Their determination has seen them through such disappointments as multiple failed embryo transfers, egg donors who have backed out, and the struggle to make their story heard in the competition that engulfs available Canadian surrogates.Culturally, marriage and parenting are being regarded increasingly as two singular endeavours that don’t always dovetail. The departure from the traditional nuclear family has created an opening for single men to consider solo fatherhood. It’s a growing demographic. Statistics Canada data from 2011 shows single fathers growing at a rate 2.5 times the rate of single mothers.So far, there has been little academic study of single fathers and surrogacy services.A Star survey of nearly 50 surrogates found 41 per cent have been approached by a single father to carry a baby.These men’s stories are as poignant and varied as any couple seeking Canadian surrogates. Their voices have largely been ignored, but their insights about their journey to parenthood are becoming vital in the conversation about changing family dynamics.Harman Tattla, a gay 31-year-old registered nurse from Vancouver, was tired of waiting.“This is the time I had set in my life to start a family. I’m not waiting around for some guy in a relationship, waste a few years, get older and then be an old man trying to raise a newborn,” he said. “I have older parents. I never really got to know my grandparents and I really would like my kids to get to know their grandparents.”So, Tattla reached out on a Canadian surrogacy website service last year, seeking a woman willing to carry his child.“You have to sell yourself,” he says. “You’re competing with other intended parents. What makes me the better candidate than the next person?”His pitch included telling surrogates out there how much he wanted to be a parent, how he was supported by his family and how much he would love his child.“I thought I’d be a bottom-feeder,” Tattla says. “The last one to get picked is a single male, I thought. People would think, ‘How is he going to raise a child? On top of that, he’s a homosexual.’ ”But he did get selected by a 26-year-old single mom from Barrie.The woman, who asked not to be identified, is now five months pregnant with Tattla’s baby.“We just clicked,” she says. “I had a son. And I thought, ‘Why should a man not have the same ability?’ ”Tattla and the woman text every day and call or Skype every so often.She was single when she agreed to carry Tattla’s child, but now has a new boyfriend.“He’s been fantastic. It’s complicated when we go out and people think the baby is ours. I tell people it’s not his. They look funny and then I say it’s not mine, either.”Tattla knew he needed his parents to be on board to make this work, given the demands of his career and the need for emotional support.“I told them one day, hey, what do you think if I had a kid? They were like, ‘What do you mean? How? Do you have a girlfriend?’At first, they viewed surrogacy as a kind of science project, he says.“My mom and dad said: ‘Some lady would give you her baby?’ ” They didn’t grasp the concept of it right away. But they want to be grandparents really badly so they were super happy.”He involved them as much as possible, including choosing the egg and the surrogate.“Now, they’re even more excited than I am. Every day, they say, ‘How’s the surrogate? Where are we?’ ”The egg, which costs about $9,000, came from a Toronto woman Tattla has never met. He knows her family history, what she looks like and her likes and dislikes.“Sometimes, I think I’m nuts, but you have to grab life by the horns,” he says. “Life isn’t meant to be boring. And I’m trying to meet my life goals. It’s a bucket-list thing for me to be a father.”And this child may not be his last.“I want to see how the first year-and-a-half goes with baby. If I’m doing fine, I want to have another baby. That will definitely impact my lifestyle more. This is already half a family. It will give the child someone else to relate to.”For 35 years, James Li had dreams of being a father.But the 55-year-old doctor from Singapore knew his path to parenthood would be far from smooth.Li is gay and, in predominantly conservative Muslim Malaysia, that makes him a target for discrimination professionally and personally.The Star agreed to change his name to protect his identity.“Singapore is not favourable towards alternative family arrangement,” Li wrote in an email. Homosexuality “is still a criminal offence ... adoption is out, as Singapore generally does not allow single men to adopt children. So, my option is surrogacy.”After an exhaustive search through Thailand, India, the U.S. and Mexico’s surrogacy programs, Li turned to Canada, one of hundreds of single men around the world competing for the services of Canada’s in-demand surrogates.Li is reaching out to agencies and has put out a call online for surrogates who may want to take part in an independent journey, but he hasn’t found a match.Daniel Horowitz, an intended father in Portland, Ore., has spent four years trying to have a child.He has been through four egg donors, two failed transfers in 2016 and now he’s out of embryos, necessitating another retrieval and embryo creation in the new year.“The day I started the process I knew it would take a long time,” Horowitz says. “I feel completely capable of doing this as a single parent and, besides, women have been raising kids alone for a millennia. If they can do it, so can I.”Horowitz’s surrogate, 44-year-old Glorie Veenstra from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., is a first-time surrogate who underwent two surgeries before being eligible to carry his child.Although she didn’t intend to carry for a single parent, something about Horowitz’s profile stuck with her. “Times just change,” Veenstra said. “I’m one of those people that roots for the underdog and, to me, if there is anybody that’s going to have the most difficult time trying to have a baby it’s going to be a gay single man. I mean how much more difficult can you make it for yourself?”A 2011 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that, in the U.S., a quarter of child adoptions that year were by single parents — of which 13,331 were women and 1,415 were men.That was the highest number of single men who have adopted in a given year and, experts say, anecdotally, men’s interest in single parenthood is increasing.There are only a handful of countries that allow single men to adopt and those that allow homosexual men to do so are even fewer.Eyal Boden is a successful Israeli web and app designer at a U.K.-based company.He has a supportive family, a robust social life and an appetite to excel at work. But at 36, he can’t shake the feeling that he wants to be a father.It was this that led Boden, his MBA in hand, to London at age 29.“You have a window in time in your life where this is an option,” says Boden, who hoped the move would give him the salary boost to finance a surrogacy and afford to raise a child.Boden was initially matched with a surrogate from Peterborough, with an American clinic already reserved and paid for. But the pair parted ways.Now it’s back to square one.Boden says he had considered waiting for Mr. Right. It’s difficult to go through the ups and downs of surrogacy without having a partner during tough times.“I would love to do it as part of a couple, but I decided that after waiting and trying to make a couple like that work, that it doesn’t work for me yet,” Boden says. “At some point, you need to make a decision and say. ‘I’m strong enough to do this on my own and come what may.’ ”Armed with three embryos created in a Las Vegas clinic, Boden is hoping to be on his way to fatherhood soon.“I do wish to have two kids at some point. How you do it is your own journey,” Boden says. “Hopefully, I strike it lucky.”UPDATESHere are some updates on the three surrogacy teams the Star is following over a 10-month periodTeam SpainMichael Serwa and Jordi Piqueras, the Spanish intended fathers, along with Victoria, B.C., surrogate Chantelle McCallum, are impatiently waiting for the most hotly anticipated Christmas present of their lives — their daughter, Noa.Everything in their Barcelona home is ready: Noa’s nursery is finished, the house is stocked with baby supplies and there is an army of friends and family waiting to welcome the trio home.Although Noa isn’t set to make an appearance until a few days after the new year, her dads are making sure they are in Canada in plenty of time.They are set to arrive in Victoria on Boxing Day and will spend the last days of the pregnancy having holiday meals, shopping and doing a maternity shoot. Team U.S.A.Two and a half months after giving birth to baby Vivian on behalf of a gay Florida couple, Peterborough surrogate Trudy LaLone is feeling “fantastic.”Having completed the home renovations she worked on herself with an ever-expanding belly during her pregnancy, LaLone is moving into her new home with her four young children with the satisfaction of having given a couple the joy of parenthood for a second time.“I think I have yet again done another amazing act of kindness knowing that the guys, their family and friends are enjoying the many wonders of a new baby,” says the 32-year-old nurse. “The smiles, laughs, and all the firsts that are yet to come.”LaLone and her “clients” — Steve and Paul — became closer than most surrogate/couple teams. They are friends. They’ve travelled to one another’s homes and met one another’s families. The men have come to spend time in Ontario with her throughout the pregnancy and lived here for a few weeks in a rented home after the baby was born.The three continue to talk regularly, exchanging photos and videos.“I know the joy and love they are feeling with Vivian that it continues to fill my heart daily,” she says. “But also the hearts of my children and my family. The gift of life is one of the most amazing gifts a person could give another … A gift of love and kindness.”Team AustraliaOn Dec. 7, Kitchener surrogate Paula Capa laid back in a reclining chair with a patch of acupuncture needles dotting her forehead, eyes closed and headphones on. She is the picture of fertility in 2016, where the best of traditional medicine and cutting-edge technology meet to create a baby. After eight months of failed transfers and, for the last two months, rigorous medication protocols to prep her body for the transfer of two embryos for Australian intended parents, Caryn and David Crabb, Paula is ready for a victory dance.“Hey guys! I am SO READY for my transfer tomorrow at Repromed. It’s going to be great. Wish me luck and send sticky thoughts,” she messaged out to the surrogate support group.The requisite encouragement poured in from across Canada.Shortly after her acupuncture session Paula went for the hour-long implantation procedure and then entered the toughest phase of all: The wait.After several days, Paula began testing and the results were nothing short of disappointing — another failed transfer.The trio will now wait for the ‘official’ results from the clinic’s blood test before making a final pregnant or not ruling, then they will need to decide how to proceed.If Caryn and David wish to continue down the surrogacy road, they will need to find sperm and egg donors and create new embryos and they and Paula will have to decide whether or not to stick together.
TorontoStar, December 18, 2016