A New Life in Bangkok

Thailand has a lot of stereotypical connotations, especially when it comes to the gay scene. Ladyboys and Thai ‘brides’ seem to be the joke most inferred when I said I was moving to Bangkok (which has its own sex joke sewn right into the name). To my surprise I found a lot of the rumours to be true with Lady Boys being the recognised third gender and Thai bride an honourable profession. What I didn’t expect to find was that Thailand was also a way for new love and new life to find its way into the world.

Joshua Morgan was visiting from the USA and when his Grindr profile said he was here to make a baby I just had to find out more.
Joshua and his partner were looking to have a baby and back in the States IVF was just not a feasible option as costs usually start at (start at) $150,000, none of which is covered by health insurance. Some of their friends had told them about trying another country with good medical facilities but could be as much as a third of the cost. Many married couples had had success in India, unfortunately, the Indian government suddenly and devastatingly changed their laws making it illegal for same-sex couples and singles to do IVF in January 2013.

“That was crushing for us,” explains Joshua, “We were in the middle of selling an investment property in order to free up the cash to proceed and couldn’t reverse the sale at the point we found out.”

Joshua spent the next year reviewing alternatives, including Thailand and wasn’t overly keen on any of them. He started to get depressed as there seemed little hope on the horizon. It was then that he was introduced through a colleague about a couple who had started a surrogate consulting business called “Becoming Parents International.” The Spain-based couple contacted them straight away via Skype and went through all Joshua and his partner’s concerns.
“He had an answer to all of our questions and a more detailed and coloured explanation of some of the cultural differences that impact doing this in Thailand versus what we had been expecting from India.  We instantly felt comfortable.  He was very forthright with the costs, and it was only slightly more than India.  Plus since my partner is Thai, this would allow for us to achieve the mixed baby we were hoping for by using a local Thai egg donor.”

Becoming Parents International answered concerns regarding the quality of medical care in Thailand, the living conditions of the surrogate and the success rate of the clinic all to Joshua and his partner’s liking, so they decided to move forward quickly.
“Considering we have been talking about this for 7 years, once we found “Becoming Parents”, everything moved fast.  We talked to them for the first time in March 2014 and just found out yesterday (15th June) that our surrogates’ first pregnancy test was positive.  They will test weekly for a month to make sure it’s not a false positive, but so far so good.” So once the ball got rolling there were a few things the couple needed to do before coming over to Bangkok; the first of which was coming into a little cup.

“Prior to scheduling everything in Bangkok I had to have a semen analysis done and get blood work completed.  Doing the semen analysis in San Francisco was an experience (as a gay man I was shoved into a room about the size of a closet with a leather chair covered by a white towel and a stack of straight porn magazines… I literally felt like I was being pushed back into the closet) but in a way at least it gave me a reference point for what to expect in Bangkok.”

Once in Thailand Joshua was well looked after and had a lot of support and follow up from the organisers. “Our primary contact has been in Spain and is very good at keeping us updated on the steps and processes via email.  In addition, we had an advocate in Bangkok who took me to the clinic and walked me through the process there.  The doctor called me after the fertilisation to let me know how things were going and I often get multiple emails that explain what’s going on and making sure I understand what to expect.”

However, it wasn’t smooth sailing all the way, with a lack of information leading up to the process being a major obstacle. The couple’s primary care doctor wouldn’t help them in ordering preparatory blood work and semen analysis and some of their friends weren’t especially supportive of the idea.

“We have experienced friends and colleagues tell us everything from “you are crazy” to “it isn’t meant to be”, to “good luck with your designer imposter baby”.  But overwhelming response has been supportive, and once we found “Becoming Parents Intl”, everything has been relatively smooth.  We had an issue with a missing chauffeur when I arrived in Bangkok at the airport due to curfew, but beyond a couple of lost in translation moments it has been pretty smooth.”

All in all the process still seems very hetero-centric according to Joshua, both in the US and Thailand. He was given heterosexual stimulation (straight porn for when he had to jerk off into a cup for the less eloquent amongst us) and was frequently asked about his wife.

“I was a bit surprised at the general casualness to the IVF clinic in Bangkok compared to the one in San Francisco where I had my semen analysis done.  Everything felt very top secret and private in the US, while in Bangkok you are surrounded by girls who are either eggs donors, prospective surrogates, or current surrogates.  They’re chatting with one another and on their phones and the place is packed with them so you feel a bit like you’re jerking off in the fitting room of a Forever 21 during the biggest sale of the season.”

Joshua was surprised at how well he was looked after in Bangkok as well as how well-informed they kept him. “I felt more taken care of in Bangkok than I expected, and the amount of information, the quickness if the information, and the apparent lack of a hierarchy is bizarre and amazing at the same time.  You meet with the doctor and speak to them whenever you want, it’s not a big waiting game, and they have delivered on every promise.”

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The IVF clinic even accepted credit card payment for the work they were doing, “I remember thinking it cool I was earning miles by trying to have a baby… Probably something only I find amusing.”

When I asked Joshua if there was anything he wished he had known before starting the process, his main regret was not learning more about Thailand options sooner.

“We had a long list of questions for Becoming Parents Intl about the legal system in Thailand, the procedural process, the differences in how things are done between here and India that I wish I had been able to ask someone as soon as I knew India was no longer an option.  I don’t know if we would have acted sooner or not.  The clinic in Bangkok is run by the same folks who have been working out of India, but the Thai business is just two years old now, so I don’t know that I would have wanted to be the first, but it would have given me peace of mind that I had a plan.”

So the next step is the same as every nervous couple trying for a baby, they wait. The first trimester is fraught with risks and complications so the couple is just doing their best to stay well-informed and try to remain calm. Joshua has even threatened to take up knitting to keep himself from going crazy. Once the initial stages of pregnancy are over, then maybe the couple can relax and get excited.

“Once we feel out of the woods and that it’s safe to start planning, we will do what every parent does, get one of the rooms in our house ready for a baby, pick out names, and tell friends and family… Beyond that, we are using this as an excuse after 10 years together to get married (now that it’s legal), and we have to plan a 3-4 week vacation to Bangkok for next spring when the baby is born.  Then, you will see all 6’1″ and 190 pounds of me turn into an oversized emotional puddle.”

We wish Joshua and his partner all the best with the new life they’re making.

Becoming Parents International also go by the name “Sensible Surrogacy”.

 

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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.