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Book Review: Our Journey - One Couple's Guide to US Surrogacy

29 February 2016
Appeared in BioNews 842

Our Journey: One Couple's Guide to US Surrogacy

By Richard Westoby

Published by CreateSpace

ISBN-10: 1494456648, ISBN-13: 978-1494456641

Buy this book from Amazon UK

'Our Journey' is an honest and exhilarating account of one couple’s experience with US surrogacy, as well as a practical guide for those considering following in their footsteps. The book follows author Richard Westoby and his partner Steven, from the decision to start a family all the way to arriving home with twins and all the necessary paperwork in place. Westoby details the process, the challenges, the decisions and, of course, the cost of the journey, providing information he hopes will allow commissioning parents to have informed conversations with people in the surrogacy industry.

While laws, prices and procedures are always in flux, there are some messages in the book that will be relevant and important beyond the time of publication, or indeed the country where surrogacy is sought – do your research; make sure you are prepared for all possible outcomes; think and plan ahead; do not assume anything; budget realistically and still expect to go over; ask for help when you can; make sure communication runs smoothly; do more research. The book is short, easy to understand, thorough, light hearted, yet practical. It even has appendices in the back, detailing everything from costs to shopping lists to daily routines. For anyone looking into US surrogacy, this book is a paperback goldmine.

The book covers all the documents, signatures, contracts and copies the couple needed to the point where it sometimes gets plain dull. But the fact is that it needs to because, as the story goes on, those boring pieces of paper one by one become pivotal to getting the babies home. Westoby does a fantastic job of resisting the urge to run away with the excitement of becoming a family and covers such details with the attention they require.

It is important to note that Richard and Steven both had well-paid jobs and, being a gay couple, their resources were not drained by cycles of IVF treatment, as is the case for many couples who seek surrogacy after struggling with infertility. Money definitely helps. The couple had the luxury of being able to opt for the best service and hire lots of help, including a 24/7 nurse so they could have a more relaxed experience, not having to get up at night for feeding shifts. Many potential readers would not be able to afford such comforts or would not choose them even if they could. Questions at the end of each chapter help get readers thinking about such matters ahead of time.

Unfortunately, we never really get to read much about the discussions Westoby and his partner had when deciding these things. Instead, readers are left with phrases like 'it just wasn't what we really wanted'. Overall, there is little in the way of reflection throughout the book, with things like the decision to opt for twins, wishing there was closer monitoring of the donors and surrogates or even describing the surrogate as 'literally just the oven' being discussed only in the context of their practical relevance.

That said, there is definitely a lot of human kindness in 'Our Journey', again promoting basics that will work anywhere – be nice; be respectful; notice the hard-working nurses; bring donuts for the staff; go the extra mile for the woman helping you start a family, even if it goes beyond your contractual obligations.

What all of this boils down to is that 'Our Journey' is an account of one couple's way of doing surrogacy. And while it may not be the right thing for everyone, it is definitely a helpful read for making your own decisions. The book is also a powerful morale boost for anyone struggling to start a family. With all the research showing just how important persistence is for success in fertility treatment, this is no small matter. The arrival of the twins, first as blood-test markers, then as specks on scans and finally as actual real people, is a reminder that, no matter how many times things do not work out, you only have to get it right once. So, as much as this book is a practical guide, it is also a pretty good story about becoming a family: be nice, bring donuts, go the extra mile.

Buy Our Journey: One Couple's Guide to US Surrogacy from Amazon UK.

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