Terry Clayton and Steve Oxley had to travel halfway around the world to get their sons, but the journey was worth the effort
TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
Terry Clayton and Steve Oxley knew early on in their relationship that they wanted to be parents. And after a little research, they decided that commercial surrogacy was the best way to go.
Still, as Clayton notes, surrogacy wasn’t without its potential pitfalls.
“We were certainly concerned about the perils of commercial surrogacy. You hear these stories about the mother changing her mind at the last minute. And commercial surrogacy isn’t legal everywhere. It is legal in some states, but not others,” he said.
The couple, who lived in California at the time, also quickly found another drawback: cost. Although commercial surrogacy is legal in California, Clayton says, they discovered that going through a reputable agency would cost them about $100,000 to $125,000 for the full package of services.
“That just wasn’t affordable for us,” Clayton says.
But he and Oxley weren’t ready to give up on their dream. So they started researching the issue and quickly found online a large community of people who either already had children through commercial surrogacy or were in the process of having children that way.
Clayton travels frequently in his job as senior vice president of sales with a California-based furniture company. He was on a business trip early in 2009 when he found out, through that online community, that commercial surrogacy is a thriving business in India, where the service is available for about a quarter of what it would cost in California.
“I called Steve and said, ‘What do you think?’ And he was all for it,” Clayton recalls. “So I emailed a clinic I found in Mumbai. I chose them because of the price — about $26,000 not including the travel to India — and because they had a really nice website and they specifically marketed themselves to the LGBT community.”
And so the process began. Clayton and Oxley started by choosing an egg donor after studying profiles on the available donors, including their height, weight, medical history and religion. The profile on each included a “tiny head shot,” but no names. Donors, Clayton says, remain “completely anonymous.”
Clayton adds that in looking through the profiles, he and Oxley noticed that many of the women “looked unhappy.” So they decided to find one who “looked pleasant, happy” and who was relatively tall.
Clayton explains that while they chose the egg donor, the biological mother of their children, the clinic itself chose the surrogate, the woman who would carry the children. Having separate women as the egg donor and the surrogate, Clayton says, helps cut down the possibility of an emotional attachment between the women and the child.
The couple also had to decide which of them would be the biological father of their future child. For Oxley, that decision was an easy one.
“I have [siblings] who have children, so my parents already have grandchildren that they have biological ties to,” Oxley says. “But Terry is an only child. I thought it would be nice his parents to have grandchildren that they were connected to biologically.”
With that settled, Clayton began a series of tests that included “a lot of bloodwork,” an HIV test and an analysis of his sperm to ensure he was a good candidate for the procedures. Then about a month later, after paying the full fee up front, Clayton boarded a plane to India.
Oxley stayed home on that first trip to help contain costs, the men explain.
Physicians at the Mumbai clinic retrieved the eggs from the donor mother and the sperm from Clayton, and fertilized the eggs in vitro. The fertilized eggs were then implanted in the surrogate.
The surrogate, Clayton says, got pregnant on the first try, and he came home to California to wait. And then, one day shy of 12 weeks later, they got the bad news. The surrogate had miscarried.
Clayton wrote about the experience on the blog he had been maintaining about their efforts, and soon found out that other couples who had used the Mumbai clinic had been equally disappointed.
“I found two other couples online who were commiserating about that clinic, about how poor their communications were,” he says.
Oxley adds, “We got an email saying she [the surrogate] had miscarried. An email!”
And although the contract said they would receive a refund if the surrogate miscarried within the first 12 weeks, they ended up getting only about a third of their money back.
The men knew they still wanted to have a child, but the sadness of losing the first child made them delay. Eventually though, through an online contact in Australia, they heard about Dr. Shivani Sachdev Gour, a London-trained physician who had just recently opened Surrogacy Centre India in New Delhi.
“She put together a great package for us,” Clayton says, noting that the price this time was lower — only $23,000 — and that instead of having to pay the full price up front, they made payments as the process went along.
So again the couple went through the process of choosing a donor and again Clayton traveled to India. This time, Dr. Shivani took two sperm samples, separating the sperm into four vials and freezing three of them so Clayton wouldn’t have to make another trip if the first implantation effort failed.
This time the surrogate again got pregnant on the first try, but she miscarried at seven weeks. At this point, Clayton says, “We decided we needed to take a breather. We were racking up quite a bill, with all the travel and everything. And we decided to wait a bit before we tried again. We wanted to make sure we were ready, emotionally and financially.”
In the meantime, the couple had decided to move to Texas, where they would be closer to Clayton’s parents and where they could more easily afford a larger home for their soon-to-be-growing family.
When they decided to try again, they chose a third egg donor. Even though the woman’s profile information had been inadvertently left blank except for her photo, Clayton and Oxley knew she was the one they wanted.
“The second we saw her, we knew she was the one. She was 5-foot-5, the tallest of any we had seen, and she looked like an Indian version of my mother,” Clayton says.
The new procedure started out well. The donor produced 32 eggs and almost all fertilized. Four of the fertilized eggs were implanted, while the rest were frozen for possible future use.
Of the four implanted eggs, three took, and the surrogate was pregnant with triplets.
In the U.S., Clayton explains, surrogacy clinics are only allowed to implant two fertilized eggs at a time. In India, doctors can implant four to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy.
However, if more than two of the embryos are still viable at 11 weeks, doctors have to perform what is called a “selective reduction,” since surrogates are not supposed to carry more than two babies to term. That’s what happened in Clayton and Oxley’s case.
“It was awful, just awful,” Clayton says with tears in his eyes. “I can’t stand to think about it even now.”
From that point on, though, the surrogate had “basically the perfect pregnancy,” Clayton says. “If she complained that her toe hurt, they took her to the hospital. They took very, very good care of her.”
At the 36-week mark, Clayton and Oxley packed up and headed together to India. They were able to go with the surrogate for her last ultrasound appointment, and a c-section was scheduled for the next week.
“We had rented an apartment, but when they told us it would be the next week before the babies were born, we decided to go away for the weekend,” Clayton recalls. “It had been so stressful, and we just wanted to relax those last few days.”
But the babies had other plans. The daddies-to-be packed for their weekend trip then went to bed about 3 a.m. At about 6 a.m., Dr. Shivani sent a text to let them know the surrogate was in labor and about to deliver.
By the time they woke up, saw the text and made it to the hospital, their twin sons — Ajay and Jag — were about two hours old.
“Terry held Ajay first and I held Jag first,” Oxley says. “It’s interesting, to this day it seems each of us still has a special bond with the one we held first. We both love them equally, but there’s a bond there with the one we held first.”
The boys’ names, Clayton explains, are Hindu. Ajay means “invincible,” and Jag means “the universe.”
“We wanted them to have a connection to their mother’s heritage, even though we don’t even know her name. We are both Catholic, but we want them to be exposed to a variety of cultures. We want them to connect with their Hindu heritage, too.”
So they had their sons, at long, long last. But Clayton and Oxley still had more hoops to jump through to get their twins home. They spent a total of five weeks in India, paying “expediting fees” to get the babies’ birth certificates and the exit visas necessary to take the children out of India. The government also sent an investigator to interview the couple and the surrogate who delivered the twins before Clayton and Oxley could bring their sons home.
Finally, though, they made it, returning to their new North Dallas home in the first week of October.
Today, Jag and Ajay are just shy of their first birthday, and Oxley’s second-parent adoption of the twins was finalized at the first of June. Oxley, who worked in property management in California, stays home these days to be a full-time dad, while Clayton still has to travel often for work.
It’s hard to be away from his family so much, Clayton says. But he uses the phone and the Internet to be close to them, even when he isn’t physically present. And the grandparents on both sides of the family are thrilled with their new grandchildren as well.
On a recent Friday afternoon, Oxley’s mother was already at their home, and Clayton’s parents were on their way back, for the second weekend in a row.
But the change for Clayton and Oxley is profound.
“We have a family now. As the years go by, we won’t be just two old men growing older, we’ll have a family. We’ll have our children and our grandchildren,” Oxley says.
Clayton adds, “It took a while. We had to go through a lot more than straight couples. But we wanted children and now we have two beautiful sons.
“Everyone deserves to have a family,” he says with a proud smile, “even if it looks a little different.”
Commercial surrogacy and Texas law
Texas is one of the few states in the United States where commercial surrogacy is not illegal. But the Lone Star State does have some strict guidelines that have to be followed, according to CriminalDefenseLawyer.com:
• Texas does require that the surrogate mother be a resident of Texas in order for the surrogacy contract to be enforceable within the state.
• Texas also requires that the surrogacy contract be between the surrogate mother and a legally married couple. That means that same-sex couples and single individuals cannot legally enter into a surrogacy contract in Texas.
• The surrogate mother must be above the age of majority and must be considered legally competent to enter into contacts and to carry a child through to term based on a clean bill of health.
The legality of surrogacy in general and commercial surrogacy in particular varies widely from country to country, and even from state to state.
The information below comes from Infertility-Support.org.za:
• Surrogate mother: the woman who is pregnant with the child and intends to relinquish it after birth.
• Intended parent(s): the individual or couple who intends to rear the child after its birth.
• Gestational surrogacy: a situation in which a surrogate becomes pregnant via embryo transfer with a child of which she is not the biological mother. She may have made an arrangement to relinquish it to the biological parent or parents to raise or to a parent who is unrelated to the child.
• Altruistic surrogacy: a situation where the surrogate receives no financial reward for her pregnancy or the relinquishment of the child (although usually all expenses related to the pregnancy and birth are paid by the intended parents such as medical expenses, maternity clothing and other related expenses).
• Commercial surrogacy: a form of surrogacy in which a gestational carrier is paid to carry a child to maturity in her womb.
There is a default legal assumption in most countries that the woman giving birth to a child is that child’s legal mother. In some jurisdictions, the possibility of surrogacy has been allowed and the intended parents may be recognized as the legal parents from birth.
Many states now issue pre-birth orders through the courts placing the name(s) of the intended parent(s) on the birth certificate from the start.
In others, the possibility of surrogacy is either not recognized or is prohibited.
• Australia: In all states in Australia, the surrogate mother is deemed by the law to be the legal mother of the child as well, and any surrogacy agreement giving custody to others is void. In addition, in many states arranging commercial surrogacy is a criminal offense, although New South Wales has no legislation governing surrogacy at all.
• Canada: Commercial surrogacy arrangements were prohibited in 2004 by the Assisted Human Reproduction Act. Altruistic surrogacy remains legal.
• France: Commercial surrogacy arrangements are illegal in France.
• India: Commercial surrogacy has been legal in India since 2002. India is emerging as a leader in making commercial surrogacy a viable industry rather than a rare fertility treatment.
• Japan: In March 2008, the Science Council of Japan proposed a ban on surrogacy and said that doctors, agents and their clients should be punished for commercial surrogacy arrangements.
• United Kingdom: Commercial surrogacy arrangements are illegal in the United Kingdom.
• United States: Compensated surrogacy arrangements are illegal in Washington, Michigan, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and New York. Additionally, four states in the U.S. have held that such contracts, while not illegal, are unenforceable.
Compensated surrogacy is legal in Oregon, Texas, Arkansas and California.
California is widely recognized as one of the most friendly jurisdictions for parties desiring to enter into a surrogacy arrangements.
Texas requires the surrogate mother to be a resident of Texas.
Arkansas does not require surrogates to be residents. Intended parents and surrogates resident in any state of the United States can enter into a legal surrogacy arrangement in Arkansas. Provided that the child is born in Arkansas and that financial considerations are dispensed from Arkansas, the contract will be recognized by Arkansas courts and upheld.
Surrogacy Centre of India
Terry Clayton and Steve Oxley chose Dr. Shivani Sachdev-Gour’s Surrogacy Centre of India as the clinic through which to have their sons, Ajay and Jag.
According to the clinic’s website, Dr. Shivani, obtained her license and two degrees from Maharashtra Medical Council and Medical Council of India. She worked and trained in IVF for four years in the U.K., at both Hammersmith Hospital, London and the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Dr. Shivani says she started Surrogacy Centre India (SCI Healthcare) to assist individuals and couples from around the world to become parents.