Kiwi dads speak out from Mexico - and show off their three little surrogate babies
Meet Lachlan, Kelly and Blake: the newborns who are about to find themselves at the centre of an international legal storm.
The "triplings" were born to surrogate mums in Mexico, in an arrangement with their Auckland parents, David and Nicky Beard, and an Argentinian egg donor.
The Beards have now decided to publicly identify themselves on Stuff, to raise awareness of their battle. They believe they were the last gay couple allowed to use international surrogates to give birth to their children, as Mexico tightens its IVF laws to bring them in line with most other nations.
David Beard, 41, the biological dad, is a prominent lawyer and the owner of Auckland law firm LegalStreet. His husband Nicky Leonard Beard, 32, is originally from Ireland. The couple issued a simple plea early on Tuesday morning: "David, Nicky, Lachlan, Blake and Kelly simply want to come home to their family."
One of their Irish friends set up a Givealittle fundraising page on Sunday, to coincide with the first publication of their story on Stuff and in the Sunday Star-Times.
Speaking openly early on Tuesday, David Beard shared his emotions at becoming a father.
"I cannot describe the feeling. It was beautiful. It was instant love and caring, like a lion with its cubs, I looked at them and could not believe that they had come from me.
"I looked at their eyes and their faces and I cried. I only cry when I am happy – which is weird in itself! They are beautiful, and no matter how smelly the nappies are, they are still beautiful."
The couple desperately wanted to get their children home from Villahermosa, where they said they were born among cockroaches and in other unhygienic hospital conditions. They were pleading for help from friends and family around the world but, most of all, from the New Zealand and Mexican governments.
The Mexican government has assured them they would be allowed to take the children out of the country, but the wheels were turning worryingly slowly.
The New Zealand government has told them, essentially, buyer beware. International surrogacy is a dangerous business, and there are legal risks involved.
The babies were carried by two different surrogates, producing a set of twins, Kelly and Blake born on March 5 and single child, Lachlan on March 1. But the couple say the Cancun adoption agency took off with all the money they had sent for medical and hospital bills, legal costs and care for the surrogates.
The couple has engaged prominent family lawyer Margaret Casey QC to help fight their case, but it has been an uphill battle with government agencies.
David Beard said even though he was a lawyer, the couple was finding the process extraordinarily challenging.
"If the combination of David Beard and Margaret Casey QC can suffer this kind of conduct then the whole nation should fear for other prospective surrogacy parents who, whether gay or straight, are desperate for children – because this level of desperation is what the international surrogacy agencies bank on."
Speaking from Mexico, David Beard said it took the couple four years to get to this point. They have forked out tens of thousands of dollars to have the babies – but say they were abandoned by the agency's surrogacy manager before the babies were born.
They were horrified when Lachlan, born prematurely, was delivered in a local hospital infested with cockroaches.
The newborn then required extra hospital care, to the tune of USD$79,000 (NZD$118,132) – leaving the couple in deep debt.
"The sad thing was that I had to sit outside Lachlan's neonatal ward, only catching glimpses through the pulled blind, but I sat there like a loyal dog. I can't put it into words," David said.
The North American surrogacy company used by the couple has said it had no involvement in the case other than to pay bills to the Cancun agency for them.
"In absolutely every instance, payments have been made on time, and in many cases early, as indicated in the agreement with their agency," the company said.
It said the Cancun agency was run by a female former employee - who disappeared, and whom the Beards had been unable to track down.
"In the last couple of months of the pregnancy, she began to show her true colours. She would disappear for days and weeks on end. This was an alarming surprise for us and extremely stressful," the couple said.
The Beards said she vanished entirely around February when she received the final payment from the escrow - leaving the fathers in the lurch when Lachlan was born prematurely.
They are now asking the public, friends and family to help fund raise to cover some of the costs, and to get home.
"Despite being stranded in Mexico this story does have an exceptionally happy ending," David Beard said. "[We] are the proud fathers of three beautiful babies, Lachlan, Blake and Kelly."
They had, he said, "achieved their dreams".
The couple were asking for Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse to intervene, so the three babies could have New Zealand passports issued immediately by the NZ Embassy in Mexico City – "rather than having to go through the expensive and lengthy process of obtaining Mexican passports for babies who have no biological connection to Mexico".
"Hopefully they will all arrive home to the safety of New Zealand as soon as possible."
The Ministry of Social Development's Paula Attrill said the New Zealand government was aware of the case and had provided advice to the Beards.
"Their situation is typical of many international surrogacy cases. They can be highly complicated, involving other countries' laws and procedures and involve a high degree of uncertainty," she said.
Attrill said any further assistance would be focused on the adoption process by the non-biological parent, once the children arrived in New Zealand.
International surrogacy by homosexual couples was only recently banned in Mexico, but the Beards said government officials assured them they would be able to take the children home because the surrogates were already pregnant.
The Beards were still confident that was the case – but they wanted to leave as soon as possible, hopefully within the next month.
- Sunday Star Times