At 08:47 on Wednesday 30th December, Gerry Bitten-O’Prey became a father for the first time. Nothing unusual there you might be thinking – but Gerry, a Safety, Health & Environment Advisor, is one of our first colleagues to become a father with his husband John through surrogacy, which is why his story is pretty special to us.
Having children is something John and I have always wanted. Being a same-sex couple, the traditional method obviously wasn’t an option, so we spoke at length about the options available to us. Surrogacy and adoption were the most obvious routes to go down, but it was Laura, John’s lifelong friend, that came to help us. She told us that if there was anyone she’d ever have a baby for, it would be us, and from then on, there was never any doubt that if we had a baby, Laura would be mum.
It was coming up to Christmas when Laura came over after work one evening, and asked if we’d still like her to carry a baby for us, which of course we did. The three of us sat down together, and we made our decision; we’d get Christmas out the way, get ourselves checked out from a health perspective, and then the trying would begin.
‘People always laugh when I tell them we got our fertility pack from Amazon, but they really do sell them!’
Because we got our fertility pack online, there wasn’t any need to involve a clinic; they have everything you need to do it at home. People always laugh when I tell them we got our fertility pack from Amazon, but they really do sell them!
Our first attempt was unsuccessful, but we tried again, and for a time it seemed that our second attempt wasn’t going to be successful either. Just as we were getting ready to try for a third time, Laura sent me a message at work with a picture of a pregnancy test - the result was positive, and she was three weeks pregnant! We were absolutely elated, and invited her over to dinner that night to celebrate. It was a life changing moment.
Planning for the future
Trust is so important when it comes to surrogacy. We had so many discussions about the pregnancy and what the future would look like, but of course there’s always the worry that, no matter how sure Laura was that she wouldn’t feel maternal, that could all change when the baby arrived. There was still time for Laura to change her mind, but we kept talking and made sure we were honest with each other.
We also agreed that we’d always be open about who Laura was in Mitchel’s life; we didn’t want him to grow up and realise that ‘cool Auntie Laura’ was actually his mum. We agreed to be open and honest about it from the start, because at the end of the day, Laura will always be Mitchel’s mum.
The new birds and the bees
Before we started our surrogacy journey, we thought surrogacy meant buying a baby from someone – which of course it absolutely isn’t! Carrying a baby for someone has been around for thousands of years, but what really surprised me was how little information there is out there. We wanted to make sure that we did everything exactly as we should, however when you wanted more information on something and you couldn’t find anything, it was really frustrating. We spent hours researching the rules, procedures and the actual process itself, but because of the complete lack of real-life information, everything we learnt came from legislation – not the easiest literature to read at the best of times!
Surrogacy is completely legal in the UK, but it’s governed by a number of laws to protect everyone involved. I thought you could advertise for a surrogate, but it turns out you can’t. Luckily for John and I, we’re happily married, as being married or in a long-term relationship is one of the stipulations as well.
No money is allowed to change hands, other than to cover pregnancy related expenses, and there can be no intimacy in the process either. In the end, John and I both donated our sperm, so it became a lottery as to whose would make it first!
Mitchel was born at 08:47am on Wednesday 30th December. When we held him for the first time, Laura turned to us and said ‘Don’t worry, I promise I haven’t changed my mind!’. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t playing on my mind, so to hear her say that was a huge relief.
Becoming a father was something I never thought I’d get to experience. Perhaps that’s a generational thing, but the possibilities for LGBT people are endless now; times are changing, and so are the laws. Regardless of your gender, or your race, or your sexuality, we can all enjoy equality, and the right to be a parent, regardless of your sexual orientation. It’s a historic time for all of us.
“The support I’ve received from RBS has been brilliant.”
The support I’ve received from RBS has been brilliant, especially from my line manager, Jerry Hill. He’s been supportive throughout the entire pregnancy, maternity appointments, birth and beyond; he’d see the support that he’s given as nothing exceptional, but I’d respectfully disagree. This was a new situation for him to manage – and possibly something he’ll never manage again.
RBS offered me Shared Parental Leave (SPL), which is a policy they have in place to support people like me, who want to care for a child during the first year following birth or adoption. When John and I first started talking about having children, the first thing I did was ask the RBS Maternity team what options were available to me. They told me that there was a policy to support employees through surrogacy and parental leave, and so knowing that there was support available to me was great. The first year of your child’s life is so important, so I feel really grateful to be able to spend it with Mitchel.
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