After nearly a decade together, Lucas de Faria and Jonathan Hobin decided to start a family of their own.
They had a fertility doctor and an egg donor, but as a gay couple, they were missing another key part of the equation: that key person who will give birth to their child.
"Our fertility doctor said, 'Once you're ready, tell everyone, because that's how you're going to find a surrogate," said Hobin.
In March, the couple turned to social media, posting a request on their local Facebook Buy Nothing group.
By the next morning, their inbox was overflowing with hopeful surrogates from around the world. The couple is now starting to sort through the applicants.
It's illegal to pay for a surrogate in Canada, so they're looking for a unique arrangement.
"I've always dreamed about having a child, but being gay from Brazil, I never thought it could happen. Now, it's very real," said de Faria.
Finding a surrogate in a pandemic
De Faria and Hobin first met online in 2012, and decided to meet in person in Finland, where de Faria was pursuing a nursing degree. Hobin lived in Ottawa, where he's a photographer and head of the Photographic Arts Centre, SPAO.
After weathering years of a long-distance relationship, the couple began building a life together in Ottawa in 2016.
"We were drawn to each other because we always wanted to have a family, but we weren't established enough to even think about it. Now that we are, it's in the middle of the pandemic," de Faria laughed.
"Every step of the way ... there have been barriers that we had to overcome. Now, we have that next challenge — starting our own family," added Hobin.
Finding a surrogate during COVID-19 is especially difficult because their egg donor has a limited window of time this summer for the process. The couple has learned that pregnancy is more likely to occur if the embryo is immediately implanted into the surrogate.
They're working quickly to find one who's available at the same time as their egg donor, taking into account travel limitations and other pandemic restrictions.
Hobin said he's touched by the response, and by the reasons people gave for wanting to become a surrogate.
One woman told the couple her son had recently come out as gay. She said she wanted to be a surrogate because she hoped someone would want to do the same for her son one day.
"It's been amazing to see that people care," said de Faria.
'I can't wait to meet our baby'
Hobin says the experience has instilled in him a sense of vulnerability he hasn't felt in a long time.
"It's one thing to be accepted for being gay, but another thing to be accepted as a gay parent," he said. "We're finally making progress on the thing most gay couples don't dare dream, because it opens yourself up to some of the most vulnerable parts of who you are."
De Faria said he's focused on a day he's always dreamed of.
"I can't wait to meet our baby. I think Jon is gonna be the most wonderful dad. It's gonna be the happiest day of my life."