THE world's first 'triplings' - born to Kiwi dads but through different surrogate mothers - are trapped in a developing country on the other side of the world after a red-tape nightmare.
The gay Auckland couple are desperately trying to get their three newborn children home to New Zealand, and fear they have been scammed in the surrogacy deal which allowed the new lives to be born.
Triplings are born from separate surrogate mothers using the same sperm and egg donors. One of the Kiwi fathers was the sperm doner in this case. One surrogate mother gave birth to twins while another carried the third child.
But with the babies less than a month old, their parents are appealing for help saying costs have left them completely broke.
While an appeal page set up by a family member says the couple have already paid for flights back to New Zealand, it claimed "this procedure has cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars" and the couple are unable to finance a near-800km journey - and accommodate themselves - in order to obtain passports for the children and come home.
"We have spent every cent we have left to bring these 3 beautiful Kiwi babies into the world. We now need to get ourselves and the 3 babies out of this dangerous country and back to the safety of New Zealand," one of the fathers wrote in an online plea.
"Although I should be feeling blessed as a proud father, instead I feel ashamed, embarrassed, humiliated and humbled to be compelled to send out this post to my respected friends and colleagues.
"It's very hard to hold my head up in a situation where I fight for the underdog and now I need other people to support me."
The couple say international gay surrogacy is banned in all countries except the United States. But only US citizens can undertake the process, which costs about $450,000 a child.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade last night said it could not help the couple.
"Because it is an international surrogacy case, this is for the attention of the MSD [Ministry of Social Development]," a spokesman said.
MSD Director International Casework Paula Attrill said the agency was aware of the case.
"Their situation is typical of many international surrogacy cases. They can be highly complicated, involving other countries' laws and procedures and involve a high degree of uncertainty.
"We have provided what advice we can to this couple. MSD's main role will be in relation to the adoption process in New Zealand."
Ms Attrill said the case was subject to requirements of the Mexican Government. Any New Zealanders contemplating a surrogacy arrangement in an overseas country were strongly advised to seek legal advice before doing so.
The couple thanked their New Zealand-based lawyer for her help, and Child Youth and Family [CYF] workers who decided the couple were "fit and proper" parents.
That involved six hours of interviews, a vetting of medical and financial records and an inspection of their house and its surrounding compound.
"Despite all of the bad publicity that CYFS have received, [the couple] insist that there was absolutely no discrimination based upon them being gay and that their case workers were wonderful and caring people who were solely interested in the best outcomes for the world's first triplings."
- Herald on Sunday