What you think about fertility benefits is probably wrong, with Snap

In this episode, Rahab Hammad, Senior Benefits Manager at Snap, talks about how her understanding of fertility benefits changed during her research process — and how much more support her company could offer than she first realized. You’ll also hear from a couple who went on two gestational carrier (GC) journeys, which were so complicated that they ultimately created their own agency to support others pursuing it.

Podcast Transcript

[00:00:00] Nancy: What do you think of when you hear me say fertility benefits? If you're like most people, you probably think about coverage for a woman going through IVF, or you might remember the egg freezing benefits that first became popular in Silicon Valley. But more and more people are starting to question those assumptions.

[00:00:24] In New York City, where I live, a lawyer for the city sued because while his insurance covered IVF for different sex couples or females, it didn't offer any comprehensive options for same-sex males. Stories like this show that in order to cover all employees who need support, fertility benefits need to include many more options than employers might initially think of.

[00:00:49] This is Baby Steps, a podcast from Carrot, Fertility about the intersection of work and fertility health. Today, we take a look at what it means to provide fertility benefits for [00:01:00] everyone. And we have two distinct stories to share with. One is from inside the HR office. And the other is a story about one of those lesser-known fertility journeys.

[00:01:11] My first guest is Rahab Hammad. Back in 2016, she took a job at Snap you know, the makers of Snapchat. And when she looked into fertility benefits, she saw the potential to expand options for employees and how doing so would support the whole company's mission. Here's Rahab.

[00:01:31] Rahab: My name is Rahab and I am Senior Benefits Manager at Snap.

[00:01:36] Nancy: Awesome.

[00:01:37] And how did you first get into HR and the benefits world?

[00:01:41] Rahab: I graduated from college with a degree in business. And my concentration was specifically on HR. I interned in the HR field and then I was approached by a company to focus on benefits. And so I jumped into and I thought, oh, this was really exciting.

[00:01:59] I really liked the [00:02:00] wellness space overall did some traveling and then moved to LA and start at Snap, had the opportunity to just come in and build benefits. Yeah.

[00:02:08] Nancy: Did you kind of start from zero building benefits? What was already in place when you joined?

[00:02:13] Rahab: Yeah, so when I joined Snap about six and a half years ago, we just, a small company is about 500 team members and we were on APO.

[00:02:23] So we didn't necessarily have benefits in place. And so I had the opportunity to come join our head of total rewards as the first benefits hire. And really just start from scratch, just building benefits and strategy and really what we wanted to represent for our team members.

[00:02:40] Nancy: When you were first getting started, were you aware of fertility benefits?

[00:02:44] Six years ago? I think they were lesser known than now. Some companies were in this space, but it was definitely less common.

[00:02:51] Rahab: It was definitely less common. It was known in the tech space and I've seen different conversations about a freezing and offering [00:03:00] it. And it had really a negative connotation when you hear about it in the tech space, because there was the idea of wanting to keep women in the workforce and that's why they were offering it.

[00:03:09] And so that was the perception that I had of it. But when it was me and our head of total rewards previously, we talked about family friendly benefits really early on. And focusing on how can we provide really supportive family, forming benefits, parental benefits. So that was always the focus for us. And so it was in discussion, but the perception, I think, in the space was not positive for often.

[00:03:33] Nancy: I think that some people still kind of have that perception specifically of egg freezing, like, oh, just keep working, you know, don't try to, to grow your family. So what kind of started to change your perception of what family-forming benefits could be?

[00:03:48] Rahab: My perception of what family farming benefits could be is really just providing the support and resource to, to team members, to be able to build a family and providing choice.

[00:03:59] If you're [00:04:00] focusing on just parental benefits and leave of absence, there's this whole sector where you need to focus on how do we help support you in building a family? And if you do want to hold off on it, that's totally fine. There needs to be more discussion on women's health and giving women the choice that if they want to freeze their eggs and for health reasons and for planning for the future, I think that's really important.

[00:04:29] We really wanted to stay on on that topic on how do we provide protective versus pampering benefits? How do we really focus on how to give you the resources to plan for having a family and making it possible for everyone?

[00:04:44] Nancy: I like what you said about

[00:04:45] protective versus pampering. Can you share a little more about what that means?

[00:04:50] Rahab: We really wanted to take the approach of offering protective versus pampering benefits because historically in the tech space, and even in other industries, [00:05:00] you're always providing these different benefits that are pampering and not necessarily providing this full support to employees and their families.

[00:05:08] And so when we came into the space of focusing on protective versus pampering, it's really how do we support you and your family? Every step of the way through our benefits orientation, our tagline is we've got your back. We want to support you every step of the way. And as Snap has continued to grow, we've evolved into going from, we still have your back, but we want to grow with you as you're building a family and as you're growing career-wise, and then as like your personally growing and forming families, we want to make sure that our benefits are protective and really providing that added value to take care of you and your family.

[00:05:44] So focusing on mental health, focusing on financial wellbeing, removing barriers of access to care that you typically find in the healthcare industry. That's really been the priority and the focus on improving overall wellbeing.

[00:05:59] Nancy: I [00:06:00] feel like when people first think about workplace perks. I mean, back in the olden days, when we went to offices, it was kind of like, oh, having seltzer or snack was that kind of like the pampering benefit versus something that, you know, really helps

[00:06:13] you meet your goals outside of work.

[00:06:15] Rahab: Yeah, absolutely. It's really the parks versus these benefits that make it make a difference that are memorable in, in your future, in your life, whether it's surrogacy and whether it's adoption, egg freezing, mental health support. There's a lot of different barriers that we find that we want to focus on.

[00:06:37] How do we tackle that to support you? And it's really, the benefits are not entirely, always about the employee. And when you think of perks and pampering, it's focused on how do I help improve this employee's life while they're in the office right now, providing them massages or providing them different things.

[00:06:53] But then they still go home. You have responsibilities and you have all these different things that are outside of work that affect your work [00:07:00] life. And so that's where the protective piece comes in is rather than focusing on the employee right now and providing them these specific perks. How do I focus on the employee and their families and improving overall wellbeing?

[00:07:16] Nancy: That's really acknowledging that, that people have obviously a whole life outside of work and finding ways to, to help them. That's great. So what was the process of, of starting to look into fertility benefits that would meet these

[00:07:28] goals?

[00:07:29] Rahab: It started really early on in the process. It was this long road ahead of, okay.

[00:07:35] Let's focus first on when we're coming to family forming, we want to make sure that there's access through surrogacy and adoption. And then the parental time off. And then we added fertility preservation towards the end, because we wanted to make sure that, Hey, we're not just throwing, go freeze your eggs right away.

[00:07:55] We want to help you form a family. And then if you choose not to, at this [00:08:00] moment, we want to provide that support as well. Financially. It was kind of this like evolution through experience on how to provide the support for employees. So we wanted to focus on providing resources have access to clinics and access to care and virtual support and having that discussion with a physician.

[00:08:18] And then there was the financial piece of it. We thought this would be really great to make it super easy and implementing into our health care benefit. And so we added the fertility preservation and that access directly through there, but we really realized through the years when we did that, it was super difficult to access in network clinics, out of network clinics.

[00:08:38] You really were having a much more difficult time going through the fertility preservation process because of the financial aspect and the barriers that are added into medical insurance.

[00:08:51] Nancy: So you're creating these benefits for employees and you want them to be able to access them, obviously, but then you start hearing from employees that it's [00:09:00] actually really hard to access these benefits.

[00:09:02] They're kind of getting lost in the red tape. Um,

[00:09:05] so what, what do you do next?

[00:09:07] Rahab: And so through those years, we. This is not a good experience. You can say, you're just offering fertility preservation and these different benefits and adding it through the healthcare system. But when you actually go through it, it's a horrible experience of navigating the RX prescription drugs versus the access.

[00:09:25] And so when we found Carrot, you pretty much remove that entire barrier of access to care. And we're like, this is exactly what we were trying to solve is we want employees that are looking to take this route for family forming, to be able to connect with a care coordinator, talk about the process and what it looks like.

[00:09:46] And then when they are ready, they'll have access to the direction of where to go for the clinics and then did getting directly reimbursed for it. So it just makes it a really seamless process. It's been really successful

[00:09:57] Nancy: I'm sure anyone who has tried to [00:10:00] find an in-network clinic has had that experience of you're going on the insurance website.

[00:10:05] It gives you like every clinic country to like, you know, zero in, on your area anyway, such a pain. But yeah, that, that's great. I'm glad to hear that that Carrot has provided such a, an easier and more straightforward experience for people. I know something else we talk about a lot is the diversity equity and inclusion piece.

[00:10:25] And I feel like that accessibility is part of that. How else do fertility benefits kind of fit into that DEI conversation?

[00:10:32] Rahab: It's really interesting because when you think about DEI efforts and fertility, you have to think about when we're asking employees to bring their full selves into the job, you're also saying I'm willing to support who you are.

[00:10:46] That means good mental health, PTO childcare, but there's often it's conversation. That's really put behind the curtain that many birthing parents face. And that's like the conversation of creating a family. And so it's not the opportunity to, to come into a [00:11:00] space and be able to say, I'm building a family.

[00:11:03] That's huge. And having that discussion and our healthcare system doesn't necessarily afford this as really a covered benefit. So when you come to a company where upfront you have this, you're really signaling to folks that we see you and we support you as well. The way that I see DEI is, is really creating the opportunity for everyone to succeed.

[00:11:25] Whether or not you use the benefit.

[00:11:27] Nancy: You've mentioned,

[00:11:28] um, you know, surrogacy journeys and adoption, which, you know, I've learned from working here at Carrot. There they're just so many steps involved in those journeys specifically. Have you learned a lot about all the different ways people form families through this process?

[00:11:42] Rahab: Absolutely. These surrogacy process is a really long process. And so is adoption when it can be a really difficult experience and really exciting experience with family forming when it comes to adoption and surrogacy. And so I think it's really important when you're providing this benefit, it's not [00:12:00] just about the financial aspect of it, of the direct reimbursement,

[00:12:03] there's also mental health support care coordination of where to go and how to handle it. There's a lot of legalities involved and you have to have an attorney and all these different fees and costs really pile up. I didn't realize how difficult the process can be, but it's also just a beautiful thing to offer the benefit and know that a same-sex couple is able to go through a surrogacy process and build a family.

[00:12:31] Nancy: Yeah. At Carrot when we talk about surrogacy or gestational carrier journeys. We say, I think it, it can start it over a hundred thousand dollars and that's assuming everything goes according to plan on the first try. So yeah, it's so impactful to, to support this. Do you have any favorite stories that you've heard from employees who've used

[00:12:51] the fertility benefits?

[00:12:53] Rahab: I do. Can I read you one? Actually?

[00:12:55] Nancy: Definitely.

[00:12:56] Okay. There was one team member that had [00:13:00] gone through the process. You said my husband and I had wanted kids for years. We had a failed attempt at surrogacy once before, and we couldn't afford to do it again. Insurance plans just don't cover reproductive benefits for same-sex couples.

[00:13:15] So we had to pay everything out of pocket. Then I heard about Snap's surrogacy benefit, and I will never forget that I have a daughter because of Snap. Snap helped me start a family and has been amazing at supporting us along the way. Snap's paternity leave program gave me the time to bond with my daughter and learn to be a parent.

[00:13:34] I really appreciate the SNOO benefit. Even an extra hour or two of sleep at night helps me manage my work and family life. So I thought that was incredible.

[00:13:44] Oh, I love that.

[00:13:45] Rahab: Yeah.

[00:13:46] Nancy: Rahab's story from an employee is a great example of what can happen when all employees have access to the resources they need to grow their families.

[00:13:55] I want to share more about what resources are involved in that particular path to [00:14:00] parenthood, because I think most people aren't familiar with it if they've never gone through the process themselves. The process is not only expensive, but also logistically and legally Wes that's something Mike and west, my next guests learned when they decided to grow their family through a gestational carrier journey.

[00:14:19] The process was so complicated that they were inspired to create an agency, to help others going through it. My Surrogacy Journey, one of Karen's partners in the UK. Just a quick note, before we hear from Mike and Wes, you'll hear us use the word surrogacy throughout the conversation. But surrogacy is also commonly referred to as gestational carrier services or GC services for the purposes of this interview we use them interchangeably. Okay. Let's meet Mike and Wes.

[00:14:51] Hey, Michael and

[00:14:52] Wes thanks so much for joining us.

[00:14:56] Wes: I

[00:14:57] Nancy: wanted

[00:14:57] Rahab: to start the

[00:14:58] Nancy: conversation just kind of as like a [00:15:00] warmup topic. How did you too?

[00:15:03] Michael: Where's an, I met in June, 2012. So it coming up to our 10 years this year and we met at Birmingham pride.

[00:15:12] I went with the view of having a good time with my friends to have lots of fun. I was single, had been single for six months and he wanted to kiss lots of boys. I wanted to go and have lots of fun with my friends, but I ended up meeting a certain man. The first bar I went into, the first man that I saw at the bar was was Wes, and I just was drawn to him.

[00:15:40] He looked quite cheeky. And when over to each other started chatting and that was the start of what we have today, it was a really bizarre day because Birmingham pride, if you've ever been to huge events, a huge pride. So there's how many people would you say Wes?

[00:15:56] Wes: 120,000?

[00:15:58] Michael: It's not small, but we [00:16:00] got separated in the crowd as we were leaving friends or went their own way.

[00:16:03] And we, we just got separated.

[00:16:05] Wes: Because I was drunk.

[00:16:07] Michael: Wes had a little bit too much to drink. So. At pride, you have a different outfit for the afternoon then you do for the morning. So, Wes had been in, got changed for the evening and I was about to go and get changed, going to my home, to our apartment

[00:16:23] Wes: Other way around.

[00:16:23] Michael: It was the other way around. And as I was going through the turnstile, the man that was coming through the turnstile was Wes. So we made sure we changed numbers cause we didn't have each of the numbers and that was history. And here we are today. Here we are today, two kids later and a wicked global surrogacy business.

[00:16:41] It's amazing.

[00:16:43] Nancy: Oh wow. That is a great, how you met story. I know that ultimately you did go on these two surrogacy journeys. Was that something that you had thought about before meeting Wes or vice versa?

[00:16:56] Michael: I had always wanted children. Both [00:17:00] me and Wes had been married previously to women and I desperately wanted a family and it just never happened.

[00:17:08] When I came out, I was still hopeful that it would happen, but didn't really have any role models in my life or other gay men that I looked up to that had children. So I thought it wasn't going to happen. And then I met Wes and we started having that conversation because where's has a child from a previous relationship. Wes had been a parent had been on a regular journey to build his family. And we had that conversation really early on. I remember speaking to him and saying, I want kids, I don't really want to invest all this time if you don't want to have a family. And he did. So that was a good job.

[00:17:43] Wes: Uh, you know, I was single and, you know, looking to explore being out and enjoying all of the things that come with that.

[00:17:51] But I wasn't particularly looking to create a family at that point, but I think it's when you meet someone who's really [00:18:00] passionate about being a dad. I was already a dad and I could say what that meant to him. And I was really happy to explore what those options look like. I wasn't really familiar with surrogacy at that time.

[00:18:12] And just really was happy to start exploring that. I suppose that's where the journey started.

[00:18:15] Really.

[00:18:16] Yeah. And that's when we started exploring it and doing our research into understanding, we obviously let our relationship mature a little bit, and then we began diving into the world of gestational surrogacy.

[00:18:29] And that for us was where it all began..

[00:18:31] Nancy: That's great. What did you find when you started the research project? Did it seem kind of overwhelming?

[00:18:36] Michael: It was so overwhelming. It was just a complete minefield of where to go. What country to go to, what agencies to choose, who to trust. There was just tons and tons of stories where surrogacy goes wrong and countries where surrogacy was exploitative or had been banned. And we obviously didn't want to be a part of any of that. So it was incredibly [00:19:00] overwhelming and really stressful. And we just thought it wouldn't happen because it just felt so out of reach of everything that we thought it would be.

[00:19:07] I think it's because all of the information was often conflict in how much information was credible. How could you trust some of the sources there wasn't really any organizations that, you know, catered for same-sex couples, wanting to explore family creation and helping them really understand that the nuts and bolts and the steps and the pathways that could help them achieve what they wanted to achieve.

[00:19:30] And we have a phrase that resonates a lot with people. You don't know what you don't know. So when you are completely green and fresh and excited, and particularly when you're in a same-sex relationship where surrogacy is one of your very few ways to family build, when you approach it and you arrive at it, you kind of are that excited that you sometimes overlook some of the details.

[00:19:55] And that's really easy for you to be led down a path, which isn't necessarily the best [00:20:00] option for you. We experienced that where, you know, intended parents can often be exploited or push down a route, which isn't necessarily benefiting them. There are a number of great organizations in the UK, but for us, none of them could work with us because they had a shortage of surrogates.

[00:20:17] So we were left to, to go down our surrogacy journey alone in the early days. And that's what we had to do

[00:20:24] Wes: And ultimately, we made mistakes. We made some real fundamental mistakes. And one of those fundamental mistakes was that we had a plan that our children would be biologically linked. That didn't quite work out how it was.

[00:20:36] And now our children aren't biological linked. It really doesn't matter to us now, but I think when you're at those early stages, finding your feet through surrogacy, biological link really matters at that point. And I think it's testament to how you need the support to help see through that at that early stages.

[00:20:55] Help to get the realization of what that means when you do and are a parent.

[00:20:59] Michael: And we [00:21:00] could have easily have prevented that mistake from happening if someone was guiding us. But no one was, you know, when we see our children together and playing, as they have been today, you kind of very quickly forget that it's not biology, that that makes and builds a family.

[00:21:15] But when you don't know what you don't know, the biology element is everything.

[00:21:20] Nancy: That makes sense. And even taking a step back, I think a lot of people aren't really familiar with these journeys in general. So you're talking about an egg donor. You know, we've heard there's really a common misconception that the gestational carrier or surrogate uses her own eggs, but usually it actually is an egg

[00:21:37] donor.

[00:21:38] Could you just kind of walk through some of the steps that were involved for you and are involved for,

[00:21:44] for other couples you work with?

[00:21:46] Michael: In the UK, we do have two types of surrogates that the people do, but for My Surrogacy Journey, we only specialize in gestational surrogacy. So as you just mentioned where the surrogate is not biologically to link to the [00:22:00] child.

[00:22:00] So in our case, or in our journeys case, we found the clinic that we want it to work with. We were not in a fortunate position where either our employees offered incredible benefits where we could access treatment. So we had to fund all of our treatments ourself. So we chose a clinic that wanted to work to that had proven capability in surrogacy and.

[00:22:25] Had experienced in working with LGBTQ people and had experience in third-party reproduction and surrogacy and we just got a good vibe from them. They were fun. They were kind, they were experienced their credentials all matched up and they belong to the biggest group in the UK. So once the clinic was chosen, we then began the process of our own fertility journey.

[00:22:49] But right from the beginning, we're always going to be using my gametes. So my sperm to produce a child for our first child. And we had a [00:23:00] conversation with the fertility clinic about what our donor characteristics would be. We picked a donor that would match Wes's characteristics as we were using my gametes.

[00:23:13] So we chose a donor that was blue eyed, fair skinned, and faired haired, tall. Cause Wes bless him has little legs. So we wanted a tall, a donor to give our child a bit of an advantage

[00:23:27] Wes: Wow you could have put that different.

[00:23:28] Michael: I know, I know. I'm sorry, but we wanted a slightly taller donor and they, they found us a donor after.

[00:23:34] Was it about five, six months.

[00:23:37] Wes: I

[00:23:37] think he was closer to eight and they always were realistic that I would criteria would probably mean that we had to wait a bit longer, but we were happy with that. And. If you look at our daughter

[00:23:47] now, firstly,

[00:23:48] Michael: she's incredibly tall. She's by far the tallest girl in our class, but she also really looks like where's and Wes and his other daughter, which is just beautiful.

[00:23:59] That's what you [00:24:00] wanted. But egg donation in the UK, slightly different than U S it's classed as non anonymous. So it's anonymous at point of donation and then it's donor released. So once our children turn 18, they then get to know who their donor is. So that was finding the donor. And then we began the treatment of creating embryos.

[00:24:20] And whilst all that was going on with we'd already met our surrogate. And we, we did what was called an independent journey. So we didn't use an agency or an organization because the setup in the UK is different from north America. And I think

[00:24:34] Wes: in some respects, I'm glad we did do that because I think it's kind of driven us.

[00:24:39] And brought us to where we are today because we realized that there were so many things where we didn't get it quite right, or we needed additional support, or we would have done it differently if we'd have known more, which ultimately led us down the path of where we are today. And it's about why we created My Surrogacy Journey.

[00:24:56] And it's all about trying to create an environment that [00:25:00] is designed to support people through their entire journey, which covers both the physical and emotional elements of the journey and make sure that they are as prepared as they can be to be parents

[00:25:12] Michael: and getting up to that stage then of going down our own independent journey.

[00:25:18] We, you know, we met the amazing Caroline who was our surrogate and carried both of our babies and she's a gestational surrogate. So by that term, she's not genetically linked. And we began a period of getting to know her and her husband and her children. Oh, a good 6, 7, 8 months before we began any fertility treatment.

[00:25:40] So surrogacy in the UK is built more on trust and relationship and friendship because of the law. Wouldn't that process had continued and we considered ourselves matched with Caroline and her husband, and the fun stuff started to happen and it was working closer and closer towards an embryo transfer. [00:26:00]

[00:26:00] Nancy: And how did you first connect with her?

[00:26:02] If you did the process independently,

[00:26:04] as opposed to working with an agency

[00:26:06] Michael: in the UK, there are a number of forums. There are closed Facebook groups. There's a couple of them that are very good. But again, when you don't know what you don't know, and you really want a family this way, you. You kind of see past some of the risks and the red flags, because you're so fixed on what the end goal looks like.

[00:26:27] And sometimes you, you make those mistakes of not looking in the right places. We were quite lucky though, in the forum that we were in and networking and chatting to other people, we only ever spoke to Caroline and we had a message from her. I know a message board in this forum and we agreed to meet for coffee and that's how we met.

[00:26:50] So, you know, you can go one of two ways. I've said you can choose an organization, preferably one that's recognized in the UK by the government and the HFEA. [00:27:00] Oh, you can do an independent journey and they're very different. One has a ton of support potentially, and the other is less so when it's more of a community, but we didn't have a choice.

[00:27:10] And we had to go down the independent route because of the current state of play with the shortage of surrogates. So that's what we did. And we've been absolutely blessed with an incredible surrogate. Someone who were massively grateful to obviously, and we have a relationship with Caroline now that is very different to the one that we thought we were going to have from being totally honest.

[00:27:31] And also

[00:27:32] Wes: I, what I would say is that as a same-sex couple, we're always going to have to explain to our children how we created our family, who helped us to do that. And what was really lovely is that. Tallulah, our first daughter was really active in the pregnancy of Duke our son, and that just really helped her to understand how she was created, how she came to be part of our family, but also be able to witness her brother coming into the world.

[00:27:58] It's quite funny actually, because [00:28:00] she thinks. All surrogate babies, are carried by Caroline because she's the surrogate, bless her..

[00:28:07] Wes's

[00:28:07] Michael: brother at our two nieces were born through surrogacy. So Tallulah thinks that Caroline also grew and looked after them because she thinks that Caroline's this ultimate like surrogate unicorn, that just keeps birthing children.

[00:28:23] She's just so cute that she, she thinks that this is what Caroline's job as being, which is just a adorable.

[00:28:30] Nancy: That is cute.. One theme we tend to come back to on this podcast is balancing the stresses and the challenges of family forming journeys with work. So what, what was that like for you to,

[00:28:40] Rahab: where were you working at the time?

[00:28:43] Wes: Yeah, it was

[00:28:43] Michael: tough. It was really, really

[00:28:44] Wes: hard. Uh, I mean, my employer, I was working a football club at the time and I was a contractor. I didn't get any entitlement as such,, but I was back to work in a couple of weeks straight after the birth. And I think they understood it, but it [00:29:00] was not an inconvenience, but it was something that I just didn't have the capability to do, whether it'd be fine for financial reasons, are they just wasn't

[00:29:09] Michael: going to work?

[00:29:10] And I echo everything that Wes said. It just said I was working in London and had a good job and, and was in a senior role. And I was the first person that wanted to take extended parental leave for the birth of my child. I was the only gay employee in the business that had ever had children. So when I asked for leave, it was met with a lot of surprise and, and bizarre comments about, well, that's not what men do and why you, why are you doing this?

[00:29:43] How's that? How are you going to fit back into the work when you've, you're coming back after nine months. And the pressure was there to go back to their normal because I was fearful that I would lose my job or my job will be different. So I only had six weeks off [00:30:00] work, Wes had two. And we were back doing full-time hours with a six week old baby, which was not ideal and put immense pressure on our marriage, on our family life on generally our new unit, because we stupidly.

[00:30:18] Was putting other people and circumstances forward. And we, we got little HR support. People didn't understand surrogacy every time you mentioned it, they Googled it. There was no confident support that certainly helped me. In fact, it was me educating them about the type of leave that I was legally entitled to.

[00:30:37] And I

[00:30:37] Wes: think our only savior for particularly for Tallulah is that she was an amazing baby and she slept really early on because I think if we'd have had Duke first. Still to this day does not sleep. I think it might have been a very different story. You know, Michael and I talk very openly about the pressure and the challenges that having a new born, particularly that doesn't sleep has on your [00:31:00] relationship and has on you.

[00:31:01] And I'll be, we'll be really honest here. Duke nearly broke us. That's one of the realities too. I think for our second child, we were better prepared, particularly from a leave point of view and probably a good

[00:31:13] Michael: job we have better. Yeah. Then the second one was nailed in terms of the process, but in terms of, we couldn't have two more different babies, if we would have tried, you know, we've got two very different little humans.

[00:31:27] Nancy: That's great

[00:31:28] that you two have had such diverse experiences and the two journeys were so different and just dealing with all of these different dynamics. I'm sure you really have a lot of super helpful advice for everyone that comes to you.

[00:31:40] Michael: I think for us having been on a a journey twice and not always going to plan and having very mixed support from our work.

[00:31:51] We've been able to construct and create an organization that approaches family building in firstly, a more inclusive way than, [00:32:00] than what we've experienced, but one that absolutely can demonstrate, support both professional, clinical and legal, because they're all the things that we like to bring in, in line with.

[00:32:11] With what we're trying to achieve when we support people on a pathway to parenthood. And that's exactly what we've set out to do. And that's what we deliver and that's to people in the UK and to those that want to do international journeys in north America as well.

[00:32:23] Wes: And people

[00:32:23] really like working with people who've been there and done it themselves.

[00:32:27] They have a lot of confidence in the fact that we've been there and done it. And that's what a lot of people really recognize in the type of support that they want from us.

[00:32:37] Nancy: I think that would maybe be a great time to just share a little bit about starting

[00:32:42] My Surrogacy Journey.

[00:32:43] Wes: Throughout all of our journey. We knew we wanted to support people better and it was getting more and more where we needed to put more of an infrastructure in place to help support people.

[00:32:51] But because we were just getting overrun with people who needed support and then lock down happened, and everything stopped. [00:33:00] And it's, it was just meant to be really because it just gave us that focus and that time to reflect on what we wanted to do, how we wanted to move forward and how we wanted to support people going forward.

[00:33:12] We decided then to create My Surrogacy Journey, formally create a membership community that was designed to help people every stage of their journey, but also more importantly was balanced. It was balanced between surrogates and egg donors, intended parents so that everyone got the level of support they needed.

[00:33:32] And no one was more important than the other. That's really important to us. We had so many stories where surrogate had all the power, or the IPs had all the power and it's just about trying to get the best outcome for everyone, making sure that everyone does have all of that support. And it's just, we created this environment that helped people understand how to get from A to B.

[00:33:54] I often speak to intended parents. And I've heard this more than once is that they said to me, I've learnt [00:34:00] more in the last hour than I've learned in the last three years. And they're just really grateful to get information from people who have been there and done it. Like I mentioned that. So creating my surrogacy journey was just a no brainer.

[00:34:13] And that's really got us to where we are today.

[00:34:17] Michael: And we'd built a board of these networks and relationships and friendships from all various sectors. And that's that essentially became our direct. That black book of all of those precious contacts that you could pass on to someone that really desperately needed them.

[00:34:34] But then to go on a safe journey to parent who had done that, seen an incredible journey. The last 14 months have been the busiest 14 months of my life. We've learned a lot. Passionate bunch of people that have all had some form of fertility or surrogacy interaction in their life. So everyone has some form of lived experience, which I think is really special and really helps with the [00:35:00] empathy.

[00:35:00] When we're talking to surrogates and egg donors and intended parents, whether you

[00:35:04] Wes: go through surrogacy or whether you use more traditional methods to create a family, no one prepares you to be a parent. No one prepared you at all, you know, and how do we prepare people to be a parent? How do we make sure that you have all of the skills?

[00:35:19] How do we make sure that you have all of the confidence? Because that's what a lot of this is about is having the confidence to make decisions, but having the education behind you, to make sure that you are making the right decisions

[00:35:29] Michael: for you and all of the, the roadmap, it's a two year membership. And along that two year period are seven steps, which takes you to parenthood.

[00:35:37] And all of our support is designed to kick in for everyone at the point where you don't realize you need it, but we've got you. We've caught you before. You've actually tripped.

[00:35:48] That's great.

[00:35:49] Nancy: And I, I know you mentioned that the first baby was just born today.

[00:35:54] Michael: Yes. Our first baby was born at seven minutes, past three in the [00:36:00] morning today to two incredible intended.

[00:36:03] Parents were just over the moon that their babies here in a safe and is, has been so desperately wanted. And then our family, which is just everything. That's why we did this.

[00:36:14] Wes: Yeah. It's such a milestone for us, Mike and I have such an emotional connection to this business. And with all of our intended parents, there are so many days when we cry, because it just connects with people and you can just see in their faces, when you have those meetings with them, how much they want to be able to create a family.

[00:36:33] And we feel this massive sense of responsibility, and we take that responsibility really serious.

[00:36:40] Nancy: Thanks so much for joining me, both of

[00:36:41] Michael: you. You're welcome. Thanks to for having us. Very

[00:36:44] Wes: welcome. Nancy was amazing to chat to you.

[00:36:50] Nancy: If you're looking for more information on how to provide inclusive fertility benefits, we added a few resources to the show notes, to learn more about My Surrogacy [00:37:00] Journey and listen to their own podcast. Check out mysurrogacyjourney.com

[00:37:08] and to learn more about carrot. Visit carrotfertility.com. Baby Steps is produced and edited by Eric Montgomery and Christopher Olin. To get notified when new episodes are released, subscribe to Baby Steps on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

[00:37:26] Thanks for listening.