It was a conversation at a New Years’ Eve party two years ago that pushed Melbourne couple Trina and Trevor Dando towards having babies via surrogate.
“We met someone and she hadn’t had children and she said that was one of her biggest regrets in life,” Trevor tells Mamamia. “I think that’s what made Trina go and investigate surrogacy.”
At that point, the Dandos had already been trying to have children for eight years. They’d been through 10 cycles of IVF. Trina had gone through 22 egg transfers. She’d also had a donor egg implanted into her.
“I was pregnant three times and I lost three,” Trina says. “I think after the seventh cycle, I started to break up a bit. But you just have to deal with those things and fight for what you want.”
The Dandos had also looked at adoption, but they felt they couldn’t wait for as long as it might take for a child to become available. Trevor is in his 50s, and Trina in her late 40s.
Trina began investigating surrogacy. Cambodia, Thailand and India have all clamped down on commercial surrogacy recently, but the couple decided to look into the Ukrainian option.
“Surrogacy is a part of their legislation,” Trevor explains. “It’s quite out in the open.” He says under Ukraine law, the intended parents of a child are considered to be biological parents from the moment of conception.
Through an agency called Lotus Surrogacy, the Dandos began making plans. They flew to Kiev, where they met with the surrogate they had chosen, Tatiana.
“She’s great,” Trina says. “She’s about 10 years younger than I am. I’m an accountant, she’s an accountant, her husband’s an engineer, Trevor’s an engineer.”
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Trina says Tatiana wanted to be a surrogate for both “the gift of a child” and the compensation. A Ukrainian surrogate receives somewhere between $16,000 and $21,000.
“The amount of compensation that is exchanged between us can virtually buy them an apartment,” Trina explains.
“It’s about five years’ salary for them and it’s a great legacy we can give to her and her family,” Trevor adds.
Two embryos were implanted into Tatiana, in the hope of twins. Before long, the pregnancy was confirmed.
“We were nervously excited because we’d been in that position many times before,” Trevor remembers. “We were happy but we were preparing ourselves for failure as well.”
Apart from a small amount of spotting at 13 weeks, the pregnancy went smoothly. Back home in Australia, the Dandos watched ultrasound videos of their babies via email.
“The surrogate herself would send us funny photos, some with smiling faces on her belly, thanks to her lipstick,” Trevor adds.
Just before the twins were due, the Dandos flew over to be with Tatiana. Trina sat next to her for the birth. Bayli was born first, and then Kendal 10 minutes later. Both were born vaginally, even though Kendal was breech.
“Tatiana managed very well,” Trina says. “I think she surprised herself.”
In Ukrainian hospitals, fathers aren’t expected to be present for the delivery, so Trevor waited outside.
“I wrote the names of the girls out in the snow and took a photo,” he remembers.
After the delivery, the twins were passed over to Trina and Trevor.
“We both got to bond with the girls and look into each other’s eyes and say, ‘We created these!’” Trevor explains. “We took off our shirts and we sat there for two or three hours with the babies.”
Six weeks later, the Dandos flew home with their daughters.
Bayli and Kendal are now nine months old. Trevor has taken a year off to look after them, while Trina works part of the time from home.
“I love it,” Trevor says. “I really enjoy caring for them.”
The couple estimate they spent $80,000 to $100,000 on IVF in Australia and then $90,000 on the surrogacy, including the cost of overseas travel and accommodation.
“We were in a fortunate position to be able to do that,” Trevor says, “although we’re heavily mortgaged now.”Adds Trina, “You pay off a mortgage.”
Looking back, the Dandos wish they’d tried surrogacy sooner.
“I think, if we were to rewind the clock, if we’d known about surrogacy, after the third IVF attempt, we would have stopped and gone straight to surrogacy,” Trevor says.
The couple are planning to take Bayli and Kendal on a trip when they’re 10, so they can meet Tatiana.
“We’ve promised that we’ll do that,” Trevor explains. “We’ll catch up with the surrogate: ‘This is the lady who helped bring you into the world.’”
Trevor and Trina Dando will be speaking at Families Through Surrogacy’s national seminar series in February.