On May 1, Kara Erickson gave birth to a healthy baby girl and then handed her over to Josep Antonio Castelló Cañadas, a man she’d met only once before in Las Vegas.
In the fall of 2016, while at an industry trade show, Erickson, who co-owns Chilliwack’s Yellow Bird Birth, had a chance encounter with Nathan Chan, the managing director of Proud Fertility in Calgary. The two—who connected over their shared stillbirth and loss doula training—began talking about egg donation and surrogacy, which Chan’s firm specializes in, and Erickson said she felt like she could be of help.
“I’d always wanted to be a surrogate,” said 28-year-old Erickson in April, while rubbing her very pregnant belly. “But I never pursued it—it was more like if somebody I knew needed somebody to carry for them I could do it.”
But it wasn’t until Chan planted the thought did she consider doing it for a stranger.
A single mother to two boys already, Erickson knew she enjoyed pregnancy and that, based on past experiences, she wouldn’t develop any complications to worry about. “I knew I was a good candidate and a few months (after meeting Chan), I agreed that yes, I would love to become a surrogate.”
Because current Spanish laws prohibit any form of surrogacy within Spain, Josep Cañadas felt his only option to become a father was to seek an international surrogate.
“In Spain, I’m no couple, I’m single, so not possible, the surrogate,” said Cañadas in broken English. “In Canada, it’s possible for me.”
In October 2016, after a quick Google search and a few clicks, Cañadas found himself in contact with Chan, who agreed his company could be of service to Cañadas, who’s a single gay man. So after the exchange of some information, and agreeing to proceed, Cañadas received a copy of Erickson’s surrogate profile, which he really liked.
Just before Christmas 2016, Erickson and Cañadas both flew to Las Vegas so they could meet and discuss the business of making a baby for Cañadas.
“There’s a communication barrier,” explained Erickson. “So there was a lot of gesturing and Google Translate.” But that was enough. While discussing everything they wanted to achieve during the process, the two made a connection and Erickson agreed to be Cañadas’s surrogate after speaking to her family about it.
And although Canada’s surrogacy laws are more open than Spain’s, there are still many restrictions to overcome, such as the hurdle of being chosen—even in Canada, many surrogate agencies choose to only work with married couples—and the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, which permits surrogacy only if it’s altruistic.
Any compensation or reimbursement for surrogates outside of approved expenses directly related to the pregnancy is illegal. Which means although Erickson was paid for things like travel expenses, wage loss, and medical necessities, the use of her body for the development of another person’s child was totally free of charge: she did it simply because she could and it was a nice thing to do.
After their December 1016 visit in Las Vegas, Erickson began the process of getting ready to become a surrogate, which included all sorts of medical testing, losing 40 pounds, and taking medications that send most women on an unexpected hormonal rollercoaster.
But on August 16, 2017, it was all worth it when Erickson travelled back to Vegas and the five-day embryo that was transferred into her uterus and implanted.
Traditional surrogacy typically involves the surrogate’s egg being fertilized either by intrauterine insemination or in vetro fertilization, but in this case, Erickson had no biological connection to her surrogacy: the baby was conceived through the use of an egg donor and Cañadas’s sperm.
“This pregnancy was different (than my others),” said Erickson. “The conversations I’d have with her were different than what I had while pregnant (with my sons).” Instead of talking to her belly about wanting to meet or about dreams for the future, Erickson said she’d say things like, “Your daddy is so excited to meet you!”
This pregnancy was also different in that she was contractually bound to abide by the wishes of Cañadas. For example, while she had no intention of drinking or smoking during the pregnancy, she could have faced legal consequences had she done so.
Nevertheless, Erickson’s pregnancy continued without a hitch and was a success, and after labouring for 40 hours, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl: Cloe Castelló Cañadas.
“It was my day that I’m more happy than in my life,” said Cañadas. “It was my best day.”
“It was an incredibly rewarding experience,” Erickson added, said smiling at Cloe. “I’m just happy it all worked out.”
And although Cañadas will be returning to Spain with Cloe at the end of May, this isn’t the end for he and Erickson, as the two have made a lasting connection and plan on keeping in contact.
“Josep wants Cloe to know her birth story,” said Erickson. “We’re family now. I feel like she’s my niece and we’ll always have that.”