After losing a child during pregnancy, an Ontario mother turns to Facebook to find a surrogate

Summer Barton, 27, said losing her baby at 37 weeks was the worst day of her life.

By December 2021, Barton of Denfield, Ontario had developed a severe form of preeclampsia and her daughter, Darla, did not survive. It wasn’t completely unexpected – Barton had also struggled with her first pregnancy.

That’s why the couple are now looking for a surrogate to carry their next child, and they’ve launched an appeal on Facebook, a trend that’s becoming increasingly popular, according to a fertility consultant.

“I’ve known all my life that I wanted a big family and we have a little boy here on earth and he’s the greatest blessing ever,” said Barton, who lives on a farm in southwest Ontario with 10,000 hogs. “We know we want a brother for him. We want more kids.”

In Canada, surrogate mothers are gestational carriers, which means that their DNA is never part of the baby they are carrying.

Statistics Canada data shows that approximately one in six couples in Canada experience infertility – a figure that has doubled since the 1980s. Infertility combined with an increase in the number of same-sex couples starting families means that the demand for surrogate mothers has exploded.

According to Surrogacy in Canada Online, there are approximately 400 surrogacy arrangements nationwide each year.

“I’m super grateful”

After researching surrogacy options, Barton posted a lengthy speech on Facebook.

“Doctors told me it’s the way my body makes placentas that makes it extremely likely that I’ll have problems in a future pregnancy,” she wrote. “The thought terrifies us after what happened to our baby girl, so for our safety and that of the future baby, we decided it would be safer for someone else to carry her for us.”

WATCH | An Ottawa couple turns to the Facebook group Buy Nothing to find a surrogate:

Ottawa couple turn to Facebook group Buy Nothing to find a surrogate

Lucas de Faria and Jonathan Hobin turned to a creative outlet looking for a surrogate to help them start their family – their local Facebook group Buy Nothing. They say they were inundated with offers of help and messages of support.

Hundreds of people shared Barton’s post, dozens responded and ten people asked serious questions, Barton said.

“I know social media sucks sometimes, but for things like that, it’s so awesome,” Barton said. “You put yourself out there. And I’ve had an overwhelming number of people reaching out to me, so I’m super grateful.”

Barton and her partner decided to search for a surrogate without the help of an agency because “I thought I could handle the legwork that the surrogacy journey would entail,” she said. Barton is looking for a surrogate who wants to give birth in the hospital and would let Barton come to appointments.

Using a substitute is not cheap.

Barton estimates she will need $100,000 to pay for all associated costs, including medication, the in vitro fertilization procedure and coverage for any sick leave. The list is long.

However, this does not include payment for the surrogate mother. It is illegal in Canada.

Last February, 36-year-old Kassandra Pritchard of London, Ontario delivered a baby to Sven Martin (left) and James Jackson (right) of Australia. She is now 20 weeks pregnant with their second. (Submitted by Kassandra Pritchard)

Social media searches are popular

“Social media can be a great tool for finding a surrogate,” said Kassandra Pritchard, 36, of London, Ont., who is currently carrying a second baby for a couple in Australia.

She is also a single mother of three and said she decided to be a surrogate because “why not?” Although she worked with Vancouver-based Anu Fertility and Consulting for her surrogacy, Pritchard said social media videos are quickly gaining traction.

An example of a TikTok user looking for a substitute:

Pritchard gave birth to her first baby for Sven Martin and James Jackson in February 2021.

“Before the baby was born, they flew more than six weeks ahead,” she said. The couple stayed for a month after the birth, before returning home with their new baby boy.

“To see them become parents for the first time, that was my goal: to see the expression on their face when their baby was born,” she said. “That’s what made me start over.”

“They’re so excited. They’ve already booked flights for September,” she said. “They’re already looking at Airbnbs. They plan to stay for about eight weeks and obviously they’re bringing their first baby with them.

“It will be super exciting.”

As for Barton, through her Facebook post, she met her first potential surrogate Monday night. It went well, she says, but because it’s a huge commitment, she said she’s keeping her options open at this point.

LISTEN | Turn to social networks to find a surrogate mother:

London morning8:05Turn to social media to find a surrogate mother

Denfield’s Summer Barton tells London Morning host Rebecca Zandbergen why she’s using social media to find a surrogate to carry her baby.

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