From baby steps to an enduring bond
Surrogacy journey a truly fulfilling experience for birth mom and newborn’s two dads
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In September 2019, Anroup Patti saw an Instagram post that would change her life, and the life of a married couple — Mat Arye, a software engineer, and Jeremy Tse, a financial analyst from New York.
Patti, a speech-language pathologist, was scrolling through Instagram when she saw a photo by local photographer Sunny Szpak-Holly. The woman in the photo was smiling, with a beautiful fall day as the backdrop. She held a letter board that read, “This stork will be delivering a special bundle for a deserving couple, May 4, 2020.”
The caption went into more detail about how the woman had decided to have a baby for another family.
“I had just had my daughter in April of 2019 and I was very intrigued. I thought it was fascinating and just became curious about what it all entailed,” Patti said of the photo, and the woman’s journey.
She reached out to Szpak-Holly, who is her family photographer and friend, and was put in touch with the woman in the photo. Not long after, Patti began to take baby steps into the process of becoming a surrogate herself.
“I’m going to say that it’s just the way the algorithms work, but all of a sudden on my social media I was getting… it was sort of like a survey, asking if I wanted to fill out a questionnaire about surrogacy.”
So, she did.
Patti, a mother and stepmom of four kids aged three to 17, was moved by her own experience. When she and her husband were trying for their youngest, the process took longer than they had wanted. She suffered a miscarriage and two early losses before having her daughter in 2019.
“I really wanted my children so badly. When I was looking at surrogacy and filling out the questionnaire I just kept thinking how difficult it felt for us to have our daughter, and how we were able to do it without any medical intervention really, and how there are so many couples that are unable to do that,” she explained.
Her husband was floored when she told him she was thinking about becoming a surrogate.
“He kept on saying ‘I can’t believe that you’re doing this’ in a good way,” she said. “It was really, really amazing that he was on board.”
Patti spoke to her stepdaughters who were also supportive. She was sent the profiles of three couples and was asked if she would be willing to carry a child for any of them. The family sat down together, and decided together.
“We watched all of the profiles and Mat and Jeremy’s was the last one,” she explained. “I think we were all on the fence when we watched the first two and then we saw Mat and Jeremy’s and we said ‘Yep, that’s them.’ We thought they were so grounded and so authentic, and we just sort of fell in love with them.”
Arye and Tse had been on a surrogacy journey for nearly four years. The couple, who live in Manhattan, have been together for 10 years and married for five. They have always wanted to be dads. They did a lot of research on adoption and surrogacy, and what would be the best way to add to their family. Ultimately, the pair landed on doing surrogacy in Canada, as Tse is Canadian.
“Starting from the beginning, it was just more research and understanding what the paths are towards building a surrogacy arrangement,” Tse explained, adding that the pair went to a conference in New York and learned of the different ways of structuring a surrogacy arrangement. The conference focused on the steps of doing it in an ethical way that protects all parties.
“What they recommend as an ethical path is to have a surrogate, to have an egg donor and then us, so this way it kind of creates a separation between the woman carrying the baby and the woman whose genetic materials are used, they’ve found that is one way that makes things quite straightforward in this arrangement,” Tse said.
“We have been extremely lucky; we have a good relationship with Anroup and her husband and her kids. We connected with her and her family in a really deep way.”– Mat Arye
The couple used a few different agencies to find an egg donor (a woman from Toronto) and surrogate, as well as a clinic that would perform the medical procedures. Because the laws on surrogacy in Canada are more restrictive than in the U.S., Tse described the agencies sort of like dating websites, where couples and surrogates and donors use profiles to find one another.
“We have been extremely lucky; we have a good relationship with Anroup and her husband and her kids. We connected with her and her family in a really deep way,” Arye said, noting that Patti made sure to include the couple in each appointment and milestone throughout her pregnancy.
“We can only say that were lucky,” added Tse. “I hope that everyone has the same experience that we have if they want to.”
Baby August was born two weeks early on June 11 at St. Boniface Hospital.
“It was a really good experience. They were very accommodating, very understanding of our very unique situation. We were always treated with respect, we were never doubted as to whether we should be there,” Tse said.
“It was wonderful,” echoed Arye.
The couple and baby August will remain in Winnipeg for at least another month, while they finalize paperwork, including amending August’s birth certificate.
“The one challenging aspect of getting a birth certificate for a baby born through surrogacy is that the province of Manitoba initially registers the baby with our surrogate as mother, so we have to go through a court order process to get both of our names on the birth certificate,” Tse said.
The plan is to go home to New York once the paperwork is done. Once they’re settled, they’d like to start meeting other surrogacy, same-sex, and queer families to grow their network and community so August will grow up being able to share his experience with others.
The families have become close friends and plan to remain in each other’s lives. When Arye and Tse set out to have a family, they did so with intention and in a way that would have everyone involved throughout their lives, and the Patti family shares the same sentiment.
“I just feel so privileged to be a part of their story and it seems very surreal being on the other side of it, watching them as a unit and a family,” Patti said. “It’s so beautiful seeing them and watching them come into parenthood.”
Columnist, Manager of Reader Bridge project
Shelley is a born and raised Winnipegger. She is a proud Indigenous woman with family ties to Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.