Finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with isn’t easy. And if you want children, the search can be even more difficult – with added time pressure.
In fact, some people are more desperate to have a baby than find a life partner, and this is why one woman decided to launch a matchmaking agency designed purely to match two people who want to have children.
The Stork was created by Fiona Thomas in 2014 after she realised many of her friends were single in their 30s, hadn’t met ‘the one’ yet and were close to missing their fertility window.
“I think if you can meet someone and fall in love and have the fairy tale then great – go for it,” Thomas told The Independent. “But for so many people this just does not happen.”
So she decided to try matching friends up to have babies together.
“I put a few people together, people that I knew personally and hey presto – it worked!” she says.
One of the couples she set up decided to be co-parents who weren’t romantically involved, and the other two ended up getting married.
These are the two options available to members of The Stork:
“The first service we offer is to find partners for people who want to form a romantic coupling, or a ‘forever partner’, and have children inside a more traditional framework,” Thomas says.
“The difference from a normal agency being that you know whoever you are introduced to actually seriously wants children, which removes the uncomfortable questions that women often ask very early on into the relationship.”
But what’s most unique about the Stork is the second option: matching solely to have a baby.
“The second element matches people who are happy to find someone they very much like and respect and whose values and ethics they likely share and are also genetically compatible with, but who would be happy to remain outside of a romantic relationship,” Thomas explains.
It’s considered a better option for some women than going down the sperm donor route, which can often feel lonely and sterile.
But all members have one thing in common: they want children, and all sooner rather than later.
There’s one other factor that unites Stork members though – they’ve all been vetted and can all stump up the £10,000 annual membership fee. Many of Thomas’ clients are high net-worth individuals, but she claims the agency isn’t elitist.
“Our members are educated and ambitious and want a service and access to a potential partner that sets us apart from the websites that offer a similar service, but for next to nothing cost-wise,” she says.
“We live in a free market so there are inevitably varying financial tiers to every element of life, it’s just that we have chosen to deal at a higher one.
“Making our fee accessible to all would mean we had no different members to the websites out there trying to offer similar opportunities.”
Thomas says you don’t have to be on a six-figure salary to join, you merely have to be successful in your field. However in order to be able to afford the membership fee, you’d have to be wealthy.
“The main criterion, once the member has shown they are able to afford the membership fee, is actually to be an interesting and decent human being,” she explains.
“I speak to a lot of young ladies in their mid-thirties who aren’t necessarily wealthy, but are all fun and intelligent but most importantly have something about them. We seek exceptional individuals but that’s by no means limited to personal wealth.”
Thomas says that the vetting process is meant to counter the rise of catfishing or people lying about their wealth on dating apps and websites.
“Many people are often reluctant to ask searching questions at the early stages of a relationship if they are suspicious of false information because as human beings we naturally rely on good faith as a method of judgment – and rightly so,” she explains.
“So we conduct the appropriate checks and undertake the verification that people would be rather uncomfortable doing themselves.”
If you want to join the agency, there are various stages to the application process, beginning with a chat over the phone. “We are selective – some people don’t proceed to the next stage for a number of reasons,” Thomas says.
The members complete a few questionnaires designed to gauge their values, principles and approaches to life, and they have the option of a DNA compatibility test, because “we reproduce more successfully with people who are most genetically different to ourselves.”
Most of The Stork’s members are women aged 32-44 and men aged 40-55. “All tend to be affluent or certainly with stable and good careers,” Thomas says. “They tend to be slightly or very unconventional, a little quirky, but sensible and pragmatic.”
But there are also people who are just tired of dating or feel they haven’t got the time to commit to finding the right person before they reach a certain age, but they really want children.
Once a couple have been matched, it’s up to them to meet up and go on “dates.” For the couples who choose to co-parent from the outset it’s still like any normal relationship in many senses, but, Thomas says, attraction in the physical and conventional sense is either absent or far less important.
“We urge members to consider that it is important for the child’s sake to have as much harmony as possible between both parents so compatibility and shared values really are a key consideration,” Thomas says. “Having children is a stressful business in itself so a good, solid relationship will make the process easier and more enjoyable.”
Critics of The Stork argue that it’s bringing children into a relationship that is essentially already a divorce, but Thomas doesn’t see it like this.
“For any child who has ever watched their parents go through a divorce I can assure them our co-parenting couples go through infinitely less heartbreak and conflict than they do, and more importantly the children don’t witness and suffer splitting parents because they were effectively ‘split’ in the first place, but get along very well,” she says.
“My response to any sanctimonious ‘smug married’ types who set out to denigrate or criticise what we do on the basis that children should only be born into a romantic coupling is that given over half of marriages fail (usually followed by an acrimonious divorce which is damaging to both the parents and the children), and a large proportion of married couples exist in a loveless or sexless state, added to which a further proportion exist in which one or both parents conduct extra-marital affairs, is simply to ask how is co-parenting any worse in comparison?
“Any financial considerations are clearly defined at the outset, so that’s one less thing to argue about for a start!”
However it’s not unheard of for two people who set out to be co-parents to ultimately fall in love and begin a romantic relationship.
Of course, as with traditional couples, some will have trouble conceiving and thus grow frustrated, however Thomas aims to stay out of this – by this point, her work is done.
Despite this, The Stork has successfully matched plenty of couples who are now co-parents.
One member – a titled gentleman – joined the agency and went on to have a son, thus preventing his male line from dying out. “Almost a thousand years of family history and his name would have come to an end had he not met a lovely young lady we introduced him to,” Thomas says.
Then there’s the woman whose partner died in Afghanistan a few months before his planned return and with whom she’d planned to start a family a few months afterwards. She felt she would never find love or happiness again, but now lives in the Dorset countryside with a man she met through The Stork.
“It’s wonderful to think we will meet someone, fall head over heels in love, have children and live happily ever after but the reality this that this is a very rare occurrence,” Thomas says. “The Stork provides the opportunity to achieve all of that, but in two halves and in a more unconventional order.
“Not every story ends in a fairy tale, but it’s heartwarming when people who have given up hope find happiness.”
Source The Independent