‘I can’t imagine my life without Dan and Tyson’: The surrogacy that led to a life-long friendship

‘I can’t imagine my life without Dan and Tyson’: The surrogacy that led to a life-long friendship
  • PublishedMarch 25, 2024

Beth Williams was so nervous on her way to meet Tyson and Daniel Culhane-Smith for the first time, she called one of her best friends for reassurance.

“I remember feeling like it was a first date because I was worried about what I should wear and all these silly things, because you want to put your best foot forward,” she tells ABC podcast Days Like These.

The trio had been exchanging messages in a Facebook group for people interested in altruistic surrogacy — and were now started to get to know each other better face to face.

“You can talk online and you can chat via text … but whether that conversation flows naturally when you don’t have that time to reflect on what you’re about to say is very, very different.”

Despite the nerves, the meeting went well — so much so that after the lunch ended, they went somewhere else to keep talking. It was like “continuing a conversation rather than starting a new one”, Beth says.

A bigger conversation continued into the next few months, and years, as Beth — a single parent of two — helped Tyson and Dan start a family as an altruistic surrogate.

What they hadn’t expected was to strike up an ongoing friendship.

It all began with a Facebook post in an Australian surrogacy group

Beth: I just sort of said, “I’m from Victoria. I’m a single parent. I’m looking at going to one of the catch-ups, but I’m a little bit nervous”, and there were quite a few responses to that.

I didn’t know that I was going to be able to do surrogacy. I was just kind of investigating and finding out if it was right for me, or if egg donation was right for me.

[Years ago], when I was sitting down nursing my son, I was reading [a magazine] and it just broke my heart a little bit to hear all these stories of people who couldn’t conceive naturally and who just needed a bit of a helping hand. I just thought: It’s this one little thing you can do that means they get to experience that family life.

But [in the Facebook group], I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up. I just wanted to find out what it was really all about.

Tyson and Dan: We talked about having kids very early on but weren’t in a position to have kids straight away.

We ended up joining the [Australian surrogacy] Facebook group. And then we started going to some of the catch-ups and speaking to people that had gone through it. We worked out that’s what we wanted for our journey, and that’s when we really started going down that path.

Daniel responded to Beth’s post, and she started talking to us from there. And then the more we started talking, the more we worked out that we had similar senses of humour and similar values.

Getting to know each other through dinners, conversations, and moving house

Beth: When we did meet in person, that’s when I kind of went: This is really genuine. And this is something I’d like to pursue.

I guess one of the best analogies I’ve heard is that it’s like being on a bus. If you’re going to be on a bus with someone for nine months, you want to make sure that you’re on the bus with the right people.

I wanted to get to know them for 100 hours before I made my offer, which worked out to be roughly around the six month mark. So I had a list of all the times we hung out. It all just slowly started to add up.

Tyson and Dan: We did things like played board games together, which was really nice. We had dinner together. We helped her move house.

Then we went from surrogate dating to exclusively solo dating, which was just dating, but not dating other [intended parents] and getting to know each other.

And we’d worked through a list of questions that you’re meant to talk through to make sure you’re all on the same page if you were to pursue surrogacy together.

After six months of getting to know each other, Beth goes to Dan and Tyson with a proposal

Beth: I decided that I wanted to do something totally cheesy and corny [to offer to Dan and Tyson].

I found the biggest box I could fit in my car. And then I got the two helium balloons. The pink and the blue.

“So my offer was: “Your bun, my oven?” on two cards, which I attached to the balloons.

Tyson and Dan: When we opened the box, the balloons came out. We were like, what’s going on? And then saw the messages underneath. It was amazing.

Woman and two men take a selfie during surrogacy proposal, they hold a pink and blue balloon and notes saying: Your bun, my oven
At first, Beth didn’t know if she was going to be able to do surrogacy. But when she met Dan and Tyson “that’s when I kind of went: This is really genuine. And this is something I’d like to pursue”.

A bump in the road: lockdown 2021

Beth: I work in the fitness industry, so we were shut down for quite a long time. My children weren’t in school, so I was then homeschooling.

I was unwell, but I couldn’t leave my house to go for a swim. I couldn’t sort of access things that normally would help me feel better.

I contracted Delta when I was 34 weeks pregnant.

It would have been scary even if I wasn’t pregnant. But knowing that I was carrying someone else’s child and waiting to get the ultrasound, make sure that it was still OK, to message the boys and say “Bubs is alright” was a lot.

There were moments where I thought: Did I bite off more than I could chew? Did I take on too much? Because it was really tough mentally. It was really tough emotionally.

A pregnant woman stands between two men who are resting their hands on her bump. They smile and stand in a plant-filled garden..
Lockdown made supporting Beth during pregnancy challenging at times, Dan and Tyson say.

Tyson and Dan: We’d always talked about helping with things around the house or cooked meals and hanging out with her and the boys more. But because we were in lockdown for a majority of the pregnancy, a lot of those things were really challenging.

So we were still providing food packages and dropping things off, and we were having lots of phone calls and Zoom chats and messages, but we weren’t able to have that relationship aspect that we were really wanting.

We just felt like there was more and more pressures being put on Beth that weren’t necessarily in our control and we weren’t able to alleviate any of those stresses for her. So we felt really helpless.

In the hospital, after a long labour, London is born

Two dads holding their baby daughter between them and, with eyes closed, lovingly kissing her on the head.
When London was born, Beth says: “I looked up at the guys and they were literally holding each other, and they were just like looking at this baby with just pure love and adoration in their eyes.”

Beth: They were standing there holding each other and it was just like, you know, white knuckle grip, holding each other’s hands and watching me and kind of wide-eyed deer-in-the headlights waiting for everything to happen.

And then she was born, and I looked up at the guys and they were literally holding each other, and they were just like looking at this baby with just pure love and adoration in their eyes.

One of those things that happens when you have a baby is that you meet this whole new person. And being able to say: “Hi and welcome to the world and I hope you have an amazing life and your dads love you so much.”

Tyson and Dan: We were trying to be really conscious not to rush the moment, because Beth needed that time to process [and] recover from what was a very long pregnancy and birth.

And then that moment where she got to hand her over to us was really special.

Family in more ways than one

Beth: It’s a mammoth journey. It’s a mammoth effort.

One of the most common comments I often get is: “Oh, I’d never do that.” I think there’s a level of judgement that comes with that because it’s not right for everyone. There are a lot of people who won’t understand why anyone would do this, because from the outside, it seems like you’re giving a lot for nothing in return because we’re altruistic.

It’s funny. I imagined this picture where I met these nice people, and I give them the baby, and I walk off into the sunset and my job is done.

But I’ve actually increased the size of my family as well. I can’t imagine my life without Dan and Tyson these days. They’re some of my best friends. They’re there for my kids, and they’re there for me.

Two dads celebrate their daughter's first birthday party; one holds the baby while the other cuts a pale pink cake.
Dan and Tyson love being parents to London who “is just the most amazing little thing”.

Tyson and Dan: We love being parents. London is just the most amazing little thing. She’s incredibly independent. She’s got such an amazing, outgoing personality.

We catch up with Beth regularly for dinners. They come here or we go out for dinner, and we play board games with the boys on school holidays.

We always have outings to the movies or to the indoor play centres. It really does feel like [an] extended family. 

SOURCE: ABCNEWS

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