Canadian Intended Parents Searching for a Gestational Surrogate
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Embryo Status: 8 frozen PGS Embryos
Occupations: Psychiatrist (Elie) / Chiropractor (Ngai)
Ngai and I met in 2016 at the LGBTQ volleyball league in Toronto. Elie had been playing in the league for a couple seasons at that point, and Ngai had just joined after playing in a different league. At the start of each new season, incoming players are randomly assigned to teams, in order to facilitate meeting new people and to help build a sense of community through sport. The league has several hundred players, yet somehow, by a stroke of luck, we found ourselves on the same team that night!
We immediately knew we had found someone special. Before we met, we had both spent many years searching for a significant other on Tinder, OKCupid, and others, without any success in meeting a like-minded, down-to-earth, genuinely nice guy. So the irony of having met through volleyball, organically, is a blessing that we are both grateful for.
We got to chatting and quickly realized that we both worked in healthcare—Ngai is a chiropractor and Elie is a psychiatrist—and we bonded over our shared experience of working in a field of healthcare that still carries a lot of stigma. (We sometimes joke that if we had skimmed each other’s profile online and seen what the other does professionally, we might never have gone on a date to begin with!). We recall exactly where we were standing when we first laid eyes on each other that first night, which topics of conversation we became engrossed in, and even what the other was wearing! We were smitten and both completely caught off guard. So while neither of us remember how our team performed that night, we both have the sense that we had won.
Elie: I come from a small but close-knit, loving, Jewish home. Weekends were filled with family time: Friday night (Sabbath) dinners at our house; Saturday sleepovers at my grandparent’s house; and Sunday brunch with cousins. My brother and I took music and swimming lessons, sang in our synagogue choir, and went to camp during the summers. I consider my mom to be my greatest inspiration. My parents separated when I was 9-ish years old, so my mom basically raised us on her own. She is fiery and tenacious, she values learning and lifelong self-improvement, and has dedicated her life to helping and teaching others. She pushed me to become who I am today, and my hope is to pass along those same values to our children.
Ngai: I grew up in a big family with 4 older siblings (3 sisters and 1 brother) and 18 first cousins. A lot of my childhood was spent with immediate family and cousins, so family values are very important to me. Some of my fondest memories are family dinners, parking the car at the side of the airport to watch the airplanes take off and land, barbecues in the park, and playing at the beach. As immigrants who didn’t speak English, my parents (and all immigrants!) inspire me so much. They gave everything up, came to Canada with very little and each worked two jobs to support our family so that we could live the Canadian dream. They taught us to be hardworking, tolerant, inclusive, loving, kind, warm people and I want to pass these values on to our children.
As a same-sex couple, we always knew that we would need the gift of an egg donor and surrogate in order to start our family. Our journey first began 5 years ago when we first walked into a fertility clinic for screening. Thankfully we both screened well, and from there we started looking for agencies and lawyers to help us with our journey.
We joined an agency that helped us find our first egg donor, but she had to back out before undergoing screening. This was the first of several setbacks we encountered along the way, but we persevered and re-matched with a new egg donor. She underwent a successful retrieval, resulting in 9 PGT embryos. Shortly afterwards, we were informed that our agency was closing down the surrogacy arm of the business, so we had to re-start the process of looking for an agency. It might sound trivial, but this was also a big setback for us after developing a relationship with our agency. Thankfully, we found a wonderful agency to take over and restore a sense of trust.
We were matched with a gestational carrier in March 2020, very shortly after COVID lockdowns began. Given how scary and uncertain the world was at that time, our surrogate decided she could no longer commit, since she had to focus on her two children and her job. We were obviously sad, but we completely understood how hard it must have been for her. Thankfully, our agency kept looking for a match, but despite their best efforts the search went on for so long. Nearly 2 years after we first matched with our egg donor, we were still searching for a surrogate, which felt like some of our darkest moments.
When it seemed there was no end in sight, Elie’s childhood friend offered to carry our baby, and we were overjoyed that our prayers had been answered! Our daughter, Maya, was born in October 2021, and our lives have forever been changed. After years of struggle, we were finally able to achieve a dream of ours. Unfortunately, Elie’s friend is not able to carry another baby for us, but we’ve created the most special bond with her and her family, and we continue to be an important part of each other's lives.
We’ve spent nearly a year searching for a surrogate to help us bring Maya’s sibling to life, without success. We so deeply want to grow our family, and yet we know that there continues to be many more IPs than surrogates. Still, we are optimists, and we keep hoping and praying that we find a surrogate to help us make this dream a reality.
Elie is a psychiatrist and works at a Cancer Center in Toronto. Ngai is a chiropractor, and he works at a Family Health Team in Toronto. We both value helping people in our own way, and we feel grateful to be able to do that as part of our jobs.
In our spare time... oh wait, what’s that?! (just kidding!!). We love going for walks, bicycling, playing volleyball. We like to cook and bake. Neither of us are marathoners, but we do like to be active. We met playing recreational volleyball, and while we haven’t played much during COVID, we do enjoy it! Elie really enjoys tennis, cycling, and relaxing with a glass of wine and a good book. Elie also really enjoys making music (piano, guitar, and singing). Ngai enjoys being at the beach, anywhere sandy and sunny and warm! We love going to farmer’s markets and day trips to wine country. We also enjoy traveling abroad, but we really want to travel more around Ontario and Canada. Before COVID we really enjoyed going to concerts, traveling, and trying cool restaurants... who knows, maybe we’ll get to do these again one day!
Ngai’s family has a dog, a yellow lab named Rex. He’s 12 years old, but still seems so young and vibrant. We try to visit as much as we can, and sometimes we dog-sit for him on the weekend (with everyone’s permission, lol!) which made COVID lockdowns a little bit easier. We would love to have a family dog one day too.
We know that surrogacy in Canada is altruistic, but we don’t want our surrogate to have to be out-of-pocket for any expenses related to the pregnancy. We will reimburse all of her costs and expenses. We want to make sure she feels well taken care of, so that she can focus on providing a loving, happy, and healthy home for our growing baby for 9 months.
We hope we’ll be able to support our surrogate emotionally as well, in whatever way she needs / whatever way we can.
We offered to drive our previous surrogate to her appointments, but she preferred to go on her own. In some ways, giving her that space was our way of supporting her! We would have loved to be present at the appointments, but COVID prevented that from happening, so we had to settle on Facetime or Zoom. We’re easy going, and whatever works best for our surrogate is perfect for us!
At the beginning stages of the relationship, it would be nice to be in contact by text every few days, and maybe a weekly phone call or video chat. As the days lead up to appointments, and around the time of embryo transfer, we might want/need to be in touch more than that. When there’s less action happening, maybe a quick check-in text every day or every few days and then a weekly phone call or video chat. We would probably take our surrogate’s lead on this... we never want her to feel like we’ve forgotten about her (cause believe me, we haven’t!!) but we also don’t want her to feel like it’s too much.
In terms of after the pregnancy, we would also follow our surrogate’s lead on this and try to do whatever feels right. For the first few days and weeks of our daughter’s life, we had been sending texts and pictures with our surrogate every few days. From there, it became weekly. Long-term, we think monthly would be nice, as well as special occasions. We invited our surrogate and her family to our daughter’s first lifecycle event, and it was so special to have her there! We want our children to know about their surrogates and to be proud of their birth stories, and having contact with surrogates after pregnancy is very important to that.
Elie & Ngai