Sanjay Sood-Smith is the host of the weekly The Proud Parent Club podcast. He is also the co-founder of Tuk In, an Indian ready meal company. I spoke to Sanjay for GAY TIMES in 2020, when he was at Stonewall. Since then Sanjay has become a parent. It was great to catch up with him.

I began by asking Sanjay about his surrogacy journey.

“We started our surrogacy journey in February 2020, shortly after we returned from our honeymoon. This was just as coronavirus was starting to spread throughout the world and we considered postponing it. We decided to move ahead and kicked off the process using an agency in the USA. We decided that this was the best route for us as there is a more established legal infrastructure than we have in the UK, both for the surrogate and intended parents. It also meant that we would be able to move forward faster than we would have in England.”

Explain the timeline?

“Over the course of the next 18 months we grew a really close bond with Amber, the incredible woman who nurtured our daughter and brought her into the world, chatting over Zoom every weekend. We flew to America to create our embryos after matching with another amazing woman who donated her eggs to us. We fertilised half the eggs retrieved with my DNA and the other half with my husband’s and ended up with one viable embryo for one of us and six for the other. We transferred one embryo in February 2021 and couldn’t believe it when the transfer was successful and our baby started to grow. In October 2021, we travelled to South Carolina where Amber lives and spent time with her family and then got to be there for the birth of our daughter.”

The photos look beautiful – how is everything now? 

“Our daughter is coming up to her first birthday. The time has absolutely flown by and I can say without doubt it has been the most wonderful year of our lives. Being parents isn’t everyone’s vision for their life but it was ours and one we never thought would be a reality. It has been a dream come true watching Arya develop and grow and become her own little person.”

What were the greatest challenges you faced?

“The process of surrogacy can be really emotionally challenging, for intended parents, the surrogate and everyone’s families. The pandemic added an extra layer of complexity because where we would have planned to visit Amber a few times during the process it just wasn’t possible. When we went to make our embryos, we had to spend 14 days in Istanbul before flying to the USA due to the travel ban being in place. The biggest challenge was making sure we all had a sense of connection, but having our weekly calls really helped. We also got a couple of weeks before our daughter was born to spend with Amber and her family, which was really special.”

Can you tell us about your LGBTQ+ parenting podcast?

“Becoming LGBTQ+ parents isn’t a new thing. When I was a kid one of my best friends had two mums and there have always been all kinds of different families. However, it is becoming more and more common and LGBTQ+ people take lots of different routes to becoming parents. When we were going through our journey, I was actively seeking out the stories of other LGBTQ+ people who had become parents. Starting The Proud Parent Club podcast has allowed me to speak to incredible people and ask all the questions I wanted to know when I was going through the process, and share that knowledge with others and build a sense of community.”

I know you’ve had some fantastic guests on the podcast.

“Such interesting perspectives – from Nancy Kelley the CEO of Stonewall, to dads through adoption and surrogacy, a bi mum in the US military, lesbian and trans parents. Their stories are so different but there are lessons we can all take from them as people and as parents. Every episode brings new insight and refreshing perspectives so I’m really excited to keep growing it.”

What are your key pieces of advice for LGBTQ+ people considering surrogacy?

“Really think long and hard about your vision for your family and what the best way to achieve it is. There is no one route to becoming an LGBTQ+ parent and lots to consider when thinking about surrogacy, solo-parenting, adoption, IVF, co-parenting, fostering, intrauterine insemination in any number of other permutations. Secondly, do your research thoroughly. For example, with surrogacy there are so many ethical, legal, social, financial and emotional considerations that change depending on the country you do your journey in.  

Finally, if becoming a parent is the right path for you, good luck and enjoy! The journey can be challenging at times but it is so worth it.”

You can find Sanjay on social media @thetravellinggays and @sanjaysoodsmith.