Summer Barton, 27, said losing her baby at 37 weeks was the worst day of her life.
In December 2021, Barton of Denfield, Ont., had developed a severe form of preeclampsia and her daughter, Darla, did not survive. It wasn’t completely unexpected — Barton had struggled with her first pregnancy too.
It’s why the couple is now on the hunt for a gestational surrogate to carry their next child, and they’ve made an appeal on Facebook, a trend that is becoming more popular, according to one fertility consultant.
“I’ve known my whole life that I wanted a big family and we have one little boy here on earth and he is the biggest blessing ever,” said Barton who lives on a farm in southwestern Ontario with 10,000 pigs. “We know that we want a sibling for him. We want more kids.”
In Canada, surrogates are gestational carriers, meaning their DNA is never part of the baby they’re carrying.
The Statistics Canada data shows roughly one in six couples in Canada experience infertility — a figure that has doubled since the 1980s. Infertility combined with an increase in same-sex couples starting families means demand for surrogates has boomed.
According to the agency Surrogacy in Canada Online, there are an estimated 400 surrogacy arrangements nationally each year.
‘I’m super thankful’
After researching surrogacy options, Barton posted a lengthy pitch on Facebook.
“I’ve been told by doctors that it’s the way my body makes placentas that makes it extremely likely I would have issues in a future pregnancy,” she wrote. “That thought terrifies us after what happened to our little girl so for the safety of myself and future baby we’ve decided it would be safest for someone else to carry for us.”
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Hundreds of people have shared Barton’s post, dozens have responded, and ten people made serious inquiries, said Barton.
“I know social media sometimes sucks but for things like this, it’s so awesome,” said Barton. “You put yourself out there. And I’ve had an overwhelming amount of people reach out to me, so I’m super thankful.”
Barton and her partner decided to search for a surrogate without the help of an agency, because “I kind of thought I can handle the legwork that the surrogacy journey will entail,” she said. Barton is looking for a surrogate who wants a hospital birth and would let Barton come along to appointments.
Using a surrogate isn’t cheap.
Barton figures she’ll need $100,000 to afford all the associated costs including medications, the in vitro fertilization procedure, and covering any sick leave. The list is long.
It does not, however, include paying the surrogate. That’s illegal in Canada.
Social media searches popular
“Social media can be a great tool when looking for a surrogate,” said Kassandra Pritchard, 36, of London, Ont., who is currently carrying a second baby for a couple in Australia.
She’s also a single mother to three children of her own and said she decided to be a surrogate because “Why not?” Though she worked with Anu Fertility and Consulting, based in Vancouver, for her surrogacy, Pritchard said social media videos are quickly gaining traction.
An example of TikTok user looking for a surrogate:
Pritchard delivered her first baby for Sven Martin and James Jackson in February of 2021.
“Before the baby was born, they flew over six weeks in advance,” she said. The couple stayed for a month after the birth, before flying home with their new baby boy.
“They’re so excited. They’ve already booked flights over for September,” she said. “They are already looking at Airbnbs. They plan on staying for about eight weeks and they’re bringing their first baby over with them obviously.
“It’ll be super exciting.”
As for Barton, thanks to her Facebook post, she met her first potential surrogate on Monday night. It went well, she said, but because it’s a huge commitment, she said she’s keeping her options open at this point.
LISTEN | Turning to social media to find a surrogate:
London Morning8:05Turning to social media to find a surrogate