Simon and Graeme Berney-Edwards wanted to create their dream family, and they were willing to spend more than $32,000 in pursuit of that goal. And thanks to IVF, they were finally able to achieve what they’d wanted for so long. But as soon as their children were born, they marked an exciting first for British medical science. That’s because as well as being twins, the babies were technically half-siblings.
Meanwhile, Graeme’s own words sum up the story he and his husband share on the family blog Twinning at Parenthood in 2019. He wrote, “Once upon a time two handsome princes met, fell in love and moved to the big city. They embraced the big city life and enjoyed meals and drinks out, concerts and, of course, many, many trips to see musical theater.”
“Although both thoroughly enjoyed this life, something appeared to be missing,” Graeme continued. “It seemed that the dream of parenthood, which both had thought they would never be able to enjoy, could now be possible.” Indeed, IVF treatment, and the generosity of others, could help them get the family they desired.
IVF stands for in vitro fertilization. It means eggs and sperm are removed from the respective bodies and fertilized in a lab. After between two to six days, the fertilized egg – known as a zygote – is then placed into the uterus of a woman. After that, hopefully a successful pregnancy should take place.
Meanwhile, the first ever baby born via IVF was a girl called Louise Brown. She came into the world in July 1977, thanks to a procedure invented by Robert Edwards, Patrick Steptoe and Jean Purdy. Edwards lived to receive a 2010 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his contribution to the project. Indeed, Louise’s conception took place in Britain, where Simon and Graeme Berney-Edwards reside.
However, the treatment Simon and Graeme wanted wasn’t available in the U.K., so the two men embarked on a quest to a center in Los Angeles. The fertility treatment involved eggs from an anonymous donor being implanted into a surrogate mother. Meanwhile, the partners flew to the city to arrange everything.
Then came a thrilling twist in the tale. Simon told The Mirror in 2019, “We couldn’t decide on who would be the biological father. Graeme said it should be me, but I said that he had just as much right as I did. Then the clinic told us it could be both of us. They said that we could have half the embryos fertilized with my sperm and then half with Graeme’s sperm.”
Indeed, everything looked good. Then there came the business of finding the surrogate mother. Eventually they found her – a Canadian woman called Meg Stone, who was already a mother to two sons. Simon and Graeme arranged the next steps in their life around her. They got married and went on honeymoon to Canada, where they could meet Meg face-to-face.
“I saw Simon and Graeme’s profile on a surrogacy website and I thought they had lovely smiles,” Meg told the The Mirror. “I had recently split with my partner and I wasn’t ready for another baby, so I wanted to help someone.” And it’s that act of selflessness that changed the lives of Simon and Graeme.
And that first meeting between Meg, Graeme and Simon was a touching one. The latter continued, “We were nervous at first, but meeting Meg was like being reunited with a long-lost sister. She wrapped us both in a hug before introducing us to her adorable boys. We told her we were so grateful – she was changing our lives.”
Meanwhile, two embryos were implanted into Meg’s womb. Simon and Graeme then had a discussion about what would happen if only one embryo was viable. Simon continued, “We decided if it happened, we would just go back and have another go again, so that we would end up fathering one baby each.”
However, Graeme and Simon were in for a wonderful surprise. A few weeks after the implanting, Meg went for a scan as the fathers-to-be watched over the internet. Simon reminisced, “First of all we saw one heartbeat, and our stomachs clenched with nerves. Then we saw the other heartbeat. Graeme and I hugged each other. We were over the moon.”
Meanwhile, Graeme and Simon remained in a state of delight throughout most of the pregnancy. The latter continued, “We went to Canada for Meg’s 19-week scan. We put our hands on her bump and felt our babies kicking. It was a magical moment. For our Christmas present, she had arranged a lovely photoshoot with all of us together.”
“We got to meet her family too, which was lovely,” Simon added to The Mirror. “It was great to see her being a mum to her children. We knew that our babies were in the best possible hands.” Meanwhile, everything was fine until the pregnancy reached 31 weeks.
At that point, Meg suddenly started displaying signs of labor, even though it wasn’t time yet. Simon added, “We were panicking as she was five weeks early. We didn’t know if we would make it to the birth.” So the two men hastily packed some things and jumped on a flight to Canada.
Luckily, all was well and the labor was a false alarm – mother and babies were okay. Simon continued to The Mirror, “We were just so relieved that Meg and the babies were fine. We stayed out there and at 36 weeks, Meg went into labor. Graeme held her hand through it all while her mum and I stood at the other end.”
On his Twinning at Parenthood blog, Graeme described the births of both children. He wrote, “Alexandra Berney-Edwards joined the family at [4 p.m.] on 25 June, 2017. She had been head down and ready to go for quite some time. Despite a number of false alarms she remained fast until her 37-week date.”
“Calder decided to follow on [a few minutes later],” Graeme wrote of the younger child. “He was a breech baby and initially popped a foot out before changing his mind and scurrying back in. He was unceremoniously grabbed by the ankles and yanked out. The fact that Calder chose to join the world bum first should have been a clue as to what a cheeky little chap he would become.”
“When we held them the first time, we couldn’t believe that we were both daddies,” Simon recollected to The Mirror. “It was a long way to go and do this, but it was worth it to both be able to have fathered one of the twins each. Calder was the double of Graeme – and Alexandra the image of me.”
“When we brought them home for the first time, it was just incredible. They have gone from strength to strength and we have had wonderful support from TAMBA, the UK twins and multiple births foundation,” Simon continued. Now, Simon is actually a trustee of the organization, having been appointed in April 2018.
“Being members of TAMBA has been invaluable. We’ve lapped up all the advice, guidance and support on offer,” Simon said on the foundation’s website in 2019. “Then when I saw the advert for a trustee I knew immediately that’s how I could help them by bringing my digital work skills to the charity.”
As for Meg, the woman who made it all possible for Graeme and Simon, she told her own story in Best magazine in March 2019. She wrote, “It was March 2016 when I signed up online to become a surrogate in my home town of Ontario, Canada.”
Meg explained her reasons for doing so. She said, “My godparents had struggled to conceive, and I believed everyone should be able to have a family. My brother is gay, too, and I wouldn’t want anything to stand in his way of becoming a dad.” Her main motivation, she wrote, was “I wanted to help other people.”
“After months of researching, I finally signed up to be a surrogate,” Meg wrote. But she had done lots of thinking about what might happen in the end. She added, “If I did get pregnant, the baby wouldn’t be related to me. While I didn’t think I’d struggle handing the littl’un over, I did want to be part of its life – albeit from a distance.”
And it was that line of thinking that made Meg choose Graeme and Simon. She continued, “When I came across [their] profile, I knew they were the ones. They were smiley and had varied hobbies, so any children they had should enjoy full, happy lives. Plus, they wanted a lifelong friendship with their surrogate. That clinched it.”
Meanwhile, the two families grew closer as Meg’s pregnancy progressed. The latter told Best magazine, “My sons, Jeffrey and Max, were brilliant. One day I found Max sorting his toys into two piles. ‘What’s the second pile for?’ I asked. ‘For Simon and Graeme’s babies,’ he said thoughtfully.”
Meg recollected the moment of the birth, telling the magazine, “Graeme held my hand the whole time, while Simon watched the twins being born. Alexandra arrived first, weighing 6lb and 10oz. Seven minutes later, Calder was born at 7lb and 3oz. Simon and Graeme held them and had the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen. It was magical, knowing I’d made this moment happen.”
Meanwhile, Simon and Graeme stayed by Meg’s side in Canada for seven weeks after that. She told Best magazine, “[They] were so considerate of my feelings, even arranging a thank you party for me before flying home with their beautiful new son and daughter.” And upon getting home, both fathers did DNA tests.
Indeed, it turned out that Simon was the biological father of Alexandra and Graeme the biological father of Calder. And this was clear in the faces of the children, as well – they were twins, but not identical. Simon told The Mirror, “Calder was the double of Graeme – and Alexandra the image of me.”
Alexandra and Calder are reportedly the first of their kind in Britain – IVF twins with different fathers. However, similar things actually happen naturally every now and again. Indeed in 2005 a woman called Charlotte Hilbrandt Kallehauge gave birth to twins, but shortly realized they looked nothing alike. Two men were a possibility for the father and each twin bore a resemblance to one of them.
Eventually all the involved parties, having sorted everything out between them, got together and did a DNA test. Indeed, the twins really did have different dads. The possibility of that having happened was very low indeed, and yet that was what had taken place. Furthermore, there is science behind it.
Dr Virginia Beckett of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists spoke to The Mirror about the story in 2011. She said, “I have never come across a case like this. But if a woman is going to sleep with more than one partner at the same time it is perfectly feasible that if she has twins they could have different fathers.”
“In this case these twins were conceived at the same time even though the mother did not have sex with the fathers at the same time,” Virginia continued. “The sperm from the first man would have been in her fallopian tube, where it is effective for three to four days. Then she had sex with the second man and released two eggs. The eggs, which live for 24 hours, were fertilized by different sperm from the different men.”
Meanwhile, another similar case was reported from Vietnam in 2016. An unnamed man from Hòa Bình province had his twins DNA tested and discovered he was the biological father of only one of them. Indeed, professor Le Dinh Luong, president of the Vietnam Genetic Association, told the BBC that it was “an extremely rare case.”
“There are only less than ten known cases of twins with different fathers in the world. There might be other cases but the parents and/or the twins were not aware of it or didn’t want to announce it,” Le informed the BBC. It seems Alexandra and Calder will grow up belonging to a very exclusive club indeed.
But questions of science will probably be far from the twins’ mind as they grow up. On his blog, Graeme has described how they’re growing up and asserting their personalities. He wrote, “It took Alexandra approximately fifteen minutes to assert herself as head of the household – she has remained so since.”
“[Alexandra] very much knows her own mind and has no problem voicing her displeasure for the benefit of anyone who is careless enough to be within earshot,” Graeme continued. “She will make people work hard for a smile but it is worth it. Daddies can usually be found wrapped around her little finger – one on each hand!”
As for Calder, Graeme wrote, “He seems to accept that Alexandra is the boss and will happily take advantage of the times when she deploys full on attention seeking mode to take himself off exploring. Calder invariably earns himself a bruise or two on these exploits but is no nearer to learning his lesson.”
And the twins have a “tummy mommy” in Meg. She told Best, “Graeme and Simon are loving every minute of parenthood and they make great dads. We’re all still in touch once a week. They feel like brothers to me and are supporting me now as I go through my next surrogacy journey with another couple.”
Meanwhile, Meg was present at the first birthday for the twins, having flown in specially to see them. Simon told The Mirror, “When they are older we will tell them about the role Meg played. It was incredibly special having her there to celebrate the twins’ special day with us. We can’t thank her enough. She has enabled us both to become daddies. It’s a wonderful gift.”
And the reaction to the Simon-Graeme-Meg story has been very positive. The former explained to Gay Star News in January 2019, “We’ve been quite overwhelmed by the response. There have been so many lovely comments. It’s been nice when complete strangers have taken the time to get in touch to wish us well.”