For one gay couple, it will take some luck — and a surrogate — to become fathers

by Katie DeRosa - Vancouver Sun Port Moody couple Aaron and Kyle Demes have been talking about being dads since their first date. They just need someone to help carry their child.

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Port Moody couple Aaron and Kyle Demes have been talking about being dads since their first date. They just need someone to help carry their child.

Katie DeRosa
Jun 17, 2023

Aaron, left, and Kyle Demes at their home in Port Moody on June 15. The married couple are searching for a surrogate so they can have a baby. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Aaron and Kyle Demes have been talking about being dads since their first date at the Yaletown Brewing Co. in 2018. Since then, all the milestones in the couple’s relationship have been building blocks to becoming parents: their mid-COVID-19 wedding in 2021, Aaron’s decision to take Kyle’s last name and their purchase of a home in the Port Moody suburbs.

Now, they just need an egg and someone to carry their child.

“They say it takes a village to raise a kid. It’ll take a village to create one,” said Aaron, a 33-year-old who works for TransLink.

Their hunt for a surrogate may not be easy.

A growing number of same sex couples are using surrogacy to have children but the number of women willing to be gestational surrogates is dropping, said Sally Rhoads-Heinrich.

After carrying twins for an American couple in 2000, the Ontario woman launched Surrogacy in Canada Online, an agency that introduces prospective parents to potential surrogates. A gestational surrogate doesn’t have any biological connection to the child and has the egg and sperm implanted into her uterus by in vitro fertilization.

It’s legal in Canada to use another person’s eggs, sperm or uterus to conceive a child, but it’s illegal to pay for it, according to the Assisted Human Reproduction Act passed in 2004. That’s why couples rely on the altruism of someone willing to carry a stranger’s child. It’s also illegal for an agency to match people with a surrogate, which is why Rhoads-Heinrich’s company facilitates introductions through a profile that’s not unlike online dating.

Couples pay a one-time, $8,000 membership fee in the hopes of matching with a surrogate.

“The matches are going down because there are not as many surrogates,” she said, estimating the number of surrogates using her service has dropped by 50 per cent. “There’s more intended parents than ever. But we just don’t have the surrogates to match everyone. So only the lucky ones are getting picked.”

One of the reasons could be that fewer women are choosing to be mothers.

“If you just go on Tik Tok or social media, you’ll see a real trend towards being child-free,” Rhoads-Heinrich said.

Fertility rates have been steadily declining since 2009, a trend intensified by COVID. Canada’s fertility rate decreased from 1.47 children per woman in 2019 to a record low of 1.4 children per woman in 2020, according to Statistics Canada.

Rhoads-Heinrich said that when she first starting the agency, about four per cent of intended parents were same sex couples. Now it’s about half. Her members also include heterosexual couples who are infertile or single people wanting to become parents.

Kyle, left, and Aaron Demes at their home in Port Moody on June 15. The married couple are searching for a surrogate so they can have a baby. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

In the U.S., where it’s legal to pay for surrogacy, couples can expect to spend between $100,00 and $170,000. That includes paying the surrogate compensation — usually around $50,000 — and expenses, agency fees, legal fees and medical costs.

Kyle and Aaron spoke to other same sex couples who paid either for eggs and sperm or a surrogate in another country and they were concerned about the possibility of exploitation.

“That is certainly something that’s been on our mind the whole time is, ‘When this (a woman’s body) is the commodity that people are exchanging finances for, who is really impacted by that and how?’ ” said Kyle, 36, who runs a consulting firm.

The couple opted against paying a surrogacy agency, which is why they’re sharing their story in the media.

“There’s something about the altruism in surrogacy, about finding somebody that you have a connection with who is willing to help you, I think really resonates for us,” Aaron said.

The couple has been told to budget $40,000-to-$60,000 to cover the surrogate’s expenses — which could include food, travel and lost wages — medical costs including IVF and legal fees to ensure they’re recognized as the child’s legal guardians.

Aaron has known about surrogacy since he was 11-years-old. In 2001, his mother, B.C. NDP cabinet minister Selina Robinson, was a surrogate for her friend, Terri Rypkema, who had lost one baby and was left infertile after a second pregnancy.

“I think my favourite part of the story is where I went to my teacher and said, ‘I just want to let you know my mom is pregnant. But it’s not my dad’s. And it’s not my mom’s either.’ And I had to explain surrogacy as an 11-year-old.”

That was during a time when doctors didn’t do surrogacies in B.C., so Robinson had to travel to Calgary to have the embryos implanted.

Census data doesn’t track the number of surrogate pregnancies in Canada but data collected by the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society and BORN Ontario show that surrogacy rates have been increasing over the last decade, with 563 gestational surrogates in 2021, compared with 364 in 2011. However, that data tracks the number of embryo implantations but not successful pregnancies or births.

Alana Cattapan, an assistant professor at Ontario’s University of Waterloo and Canada Research Chair in the Politics of Reproduction, said that based on the data she’s not seeing evidence to support Rhoads-Heinrich’s claim that fewer women are willing to be surrogates.

She and her colleagues are working on a study that included a survey of 174 people who have been surrogates in Canada. That survey, which is consistent with other studies that have been done in Canada, shows 30-to-40 per cent of surrogates in Canada are providing for intended parents who live abroad, likely in countries where surrogacy is illegal or where it’s more difficult for same sex couples to have children. Any form of surrogacy is illegal in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria and Taiwan.

Italy, under its new far-right government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, is making it more difficult for same sex couples to have a child through an international surrogate, ordering municipalities to stop certifying the children’s foreign birth certificates.

Aaron and Kyle said they’ve heard nothing but support for their desire to become dads.

“Everyone’s like, ‘You guys are gonna be great dads.’ And 15 years ago, that wouldn’t have been the case,” Kyle said. “We’ve made huge strides.”

Robinson, who already had two children when she carried Rypkema’s son, Evan, recalls people asking during her pregnancy how she can give up a child.

“I never felt like I was letting go of anything or giving anything up,” she said. “The gift for me was helping a friend. There’s a human being here because I helped make that happen.”

At the time, Robinson’s family was interviewed for a TV documentary series called The Things We Do For Love. She still chokes up at Aaron’s response when the reporter asked him how he felt about his mom carrying someone else’s child.

While playing Legos, he said: “Well, if everyone did something because they felt it was the right thing to do, the world would be a much better place.”

Aaron and Kyle Demes have set up an email in the hopes of finding a surrogate and an egg donor. People can contact them at

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