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A 4-Year Long Surrogacy Journey

By: Bret Shurford and Stephen Hanna | Published: October, 2022

Bret and Stephen (also known as The Broadway Husbands) met in 2007 after both individually making the decision to get sober and change their lives. “It was a beautiful thing to be getting sober and meeting someone after hitting such a profound rock bottom,” Bret says.

Both Broadway actors (and dancers), the couple’s creative passions took center stage for many years as they focused on their careers. With eight Broadway plays between them, Bret’s creative coaching business and Stephen teaching ballet, their active lifestyle required some adjustments once they began to consider adding “parents” to their resumés.

“After a few years of courting, we got engaged in 2009, then married in 2011,” Bret says. “We talked about having children – but the timing just never seemed to be right.” When they finally felt ready to become fathers, they began exploring their options and did lots of research to find the best pathway to parenthood for them. They eventually landed on surrogacy.

On their quest, Bret and Stephen discovered great organisations for hopeful dads like Gays With Kids, and during one of their events in New York City, they met Dr. Mark Leondires. “He really put us at ease about the process,” Bret says. “Plus, knowing his personal story, we just felt he was the right doctor for us.”

Once they decided to pursue egg donationin vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogacy, they took the leap and began working with Dr. Leondires and his team at Illume Fertility.

Their 4-Year Long Surrogacy Journey

“We took our journey very slowly,” says Bret. “It actually took us four years from embryo to baby!” With unexpected challenges like losing their first surrogate, the COVID-19 pandemic, a miscarriage, moving from New York City to Texas and other roadblocks, it took patience and perseverance for the couple to keep pushing forward.

Note: While there are a lot of factors that can affect your timeline (like the amount of time it takes to match with an egg donor and gestational carrier, how quickly pregnancy is achieved, and other important parts of the puzzle), most surrogacy journeys take around 15-24 months from start to finish.

“It’s pretty easy to overthink the egg donor selection,” Bret says. While the couple was initially determined to find an egg donor who closely matched their genetic makeup, they were surprised when they instantly connected with the first donor profile and story they looked at.

“It was something so much deeper than aesthetics,” Bret admits. “Choosing a surrogate was the more challenging part for us, because you spend much more time with them throughout the pregnancy.”

Navigating Disappointment

After choosing one gestational carrier (surrogate), Bret and Stephen were devastated when she ended up backing out on the couple right before signing the paperwork. “But then our friend Krystal volunterred to carry our baby for us, and she was a godsend,” Bret says. “We wanted her to feel taken care of supported along the path, and now we have a friend for life!”

Knowing the wonderful, lifelong relationship they’ve created with Krystle, Bret and Stephen are now so glad their first surrogacy arrangement didn’t work out. If they’ve learned one thing, Bret says, it’s to take things one day at a time and remember that each journey to parenthood is unique.

Because of the pandemic, Krystle had to travel from Florida up to Connecticut alone multiple times, with Bret and Stephen joining for their two embryo transfers via FaceTime. After their first embryo transfer, they were heartbroken to find out that the pregnancy wasn’t progressing as expected, and they ended up having a miscarriage.

For their second embryo transfer, Bret and Stephen had to join Krystle virtually (again), but this time, from an airport as they were boarding a flight! Needless to say, their surrogacy experience has been anything but typical.

What They Learned Along the Way

When it comes to finances, Bret says they were surprised to learn that the daunting price tag of surrogacy can be broken up into more manageable segments. One important thing they discovered? “You don’t have to come up with the money right away, you can do the process in pieces,” Bret says.

Another tool they recommend on this often challenging journey? Therapy! “We both have therapists,” Bret shares. “And Lisa Schuman of Illume Fertility and The Center for Family Building helped us A LOT!” The couple worked diligently with their therapists and team to find ways to care for their mental health throughout the process.

Over the four years leading up to meeting their baby boy, Maverick, Bret and Stephen experienced it all – including the COVID-19 pandemic. “All the unexpected twists and turns, including losing our original surrogate, having a miscarriage, working through disappointment and stress when the pandemic cancelled our appointments…it wasn’t easy.”

On Being LGBTQ+ Family Advocates

With their son now six months old, Bret and Stephen are learning to balance dad life and work life, and sharing their parenting journey as they go. They remain open and honest about their experience and love supporting other LGBTQ+ families on similar pathways. The couple routinely shares their day-to-day life on social media, advocates for LGBTQ+ family building, and shows what life with two dads really looks like – helping to normalise family diversity. 

So, what’s next for this happy family of three? “We would like to take another surrogacy journey again in the not too distant future,” Bret shares. In the meantime, the two new dads are soaking up lots of cuddles and playtime with their son, learning the ropes of fatherhood, and finding creative ways to balance work and parenting!

Listen in on Bret and Stephen’s Bizzimumzi podcast chat with Ashley here.

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