For this Father’s Day, we at Bébé Voyage want to share the following story of two dads’ arduous journey to fatherhood.
Things were finally looking up for Antoine and Baptiste, a Paris-based couple, after years of saving funds, researching, traveling back and forth to the U.S., navigating the complex world of international surrogacy, and enduring two failed pregnancy attempts. Their much-longed for baby is due in July and they were busy making plans to collect him. Then, Covid-19 upended all our lives, and they were left struggling once again. As French citizens living in Paris and with their baby being born in the U.S, they are not sure if they will be allowed to travel in time for his birth or, indeed, when they will be able to take him back home to France.
When the travel ban to the U.S. was imposed, restricting non-citizens and non-residents from entering the country, expectant parents, like Antoine and Baptiste, found themselves miles away from their unborn babies and unable to travel to meet them. This is a worldwide issue, not limited to the U.S. as more countries are implementing pandemic-related travel bans.
Although Antoine and Baptiste are now discussing their situation with embassies, consulates and lawyers, it’s still uncertain whether they will be able to make it to their son’s birth. “There are some uncertainties around that and we don’t even know if we can both be in the U.S.,”. Antoine explained. “There are many steps involved in getting the approval. One of the required documents is the pre-birth certificate. In Indiana, you can’t put two unmarried men as fathers, I’m the only one mentioned on the pre-birth certificate.’
Once a baby is born, Antoine and Baptiste would be able to travel to the U.S. more easily as the parents of children under 21 residing there are allowed to enter the country. However, even then their wait will not be over. With travel restrictions in place, they will have to quarantine for two weeks before being allowed to see the baby. Not only is their journey to fatherhood facing many challenges–financial, emotional, logistical–but they also risk missing out on some of those key initial bonding moments with their much-awaited child.
“We didn’t expect the Covid situation,” said Antoine. “We are trying to be there. We are applying for an exception with the U.S. Embassy, but it’s not so easy to obtain. For now, we have not yet received permission to travel there.”
To add to the long list of things they are going through, the couple will also have to find someone to care for the baby until they arrive in Indiana if they can’t make it for the birth. The way gestational surrogacy works in the U.S. means that the baby is conceived in vitro from an egg donor and the sperm from the elected fathers and then transferred to the surrogate. Therefore, the baby is not actually biologically related to the surrogate carrier, giving her no legal claim in some U.S. states over the baby. Most surrogate clinics will have contracts in place specifically to state that the surrogate mother is neither expected or legally required to take care of the baby once born.
As Antoine mentioned, “We need to find a solution as I think that in Indiana the surrogate cannot take care of the baby. We need to find someone who will take care of him. Hopefully the surrogacy agency can help with that.”
For the couple, the journey will not conclude when they finally manage to get to Indiana and meet their son. Coming home will not be easy either. With the baby being born in the U.S., he will automatically be an American citizen and will need an American passport to travel. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the passport office is temporarily closed and only issuing documents for life-and-death emergencies, which does not include surrogacy. The expectant parents will once again be stuck dealing with more unexpected bureaucracy and additional expenses as they wait for all their paperwork to be processed. Surrogacy in the U.S. is already expensive with most couples spending years saving for it. This just adds to the financial and psychological toll the couple is currently experiencing. Their only other possibility of avoiding a lengthy stay in the U.S. is for the French embassy to grant them an exception and issue emergency travel documents for them to fly home.
Antoine and Baptiste still don’t know when they will meet their son but remain optimistic that things will work out and that they will be there on time. “We are also talking with other French expectant parents who have successfully entered the U.S.,” says Antoine. “So we are a bit optimistic, but our situation is different.”
We wish Antoine and Baptiste every success on their journey to fatherhood!
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