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When we were married, it solidified our relationship in the way that all wedding ceremonies do. Anybody who knew us well also knew about our hope to become dads.
Many of our friends and family began to assume the most obvious path for us to start a family was through adoption. As each year passed, and more of our friends continued getting pregnant and having babies, I started to feel my own innate desire to procreate. I began to feel a physical yearning in my gut and chest anytime a baby was nearby. As a man, it felt strange to admit being "baby crazy."
It wasn't until I witnessed my dear friend give birth to her daughter that I was able to truly acknowledge my own hopes of being connected to our child through the entire process of conception, pregnancy and birth. So we decided to look into surrogacy.
Here are some of the steps that we took to prepare for, and then start, our journey towards having a child through gestational surrogacy. If it's something you're considering, I hope you find it helpful. If it's something you're just curious about, this is your chance to skip future awkward conversations with other couples going this route.
The only successful surrogacy journeys we had ever heard of were about celebrities. Most of the other surrogacy narratives in the media seemed to focus on unethical or traumatizing experiences for both intended parents and surrogate mothers.
Surrogacy is definitely not the right path for everyone. One of the most important first steps for us was looking at the rewards and challenges of all of the options available: shared co-parenting, adoption, foster care or surrogacy.
We attended info sessions and consultations, read articles and blogs, and reached out to people who had personal experiences creating families through these different ways. During this process we realized how important it was for us to have the opportunity to monitor our child's prenatal care and medical history from Day 1. While it's not impossible for this to happen in an adoption journey, it is uncommon to have that level of participation in the birth of your child.
Good quality control, strong ethical practices, positive testimonials from others and solid LGBTQ competence were extremely important to us when selecting our clinic.
2. Selecting a surrogacy agency
Relationship is at the core of our value system. We knew pretty early on that we did not want to pursue an independent surrogacy journey because of the kind of support, legal representation, screening and relationship building opportunities that an agency can provide.
There are a variety of surrogacy agencies out there. It can be a daunting task to find the right fit but it was a critical part of the process for us. We wanted to make sure that we found an agency and fertility clinic that not only supported LGBTQ people but were truly informed and familiar with all of the unique challenges that we faced.
Some of the agencies that we looked into felt too small; they were aware of, but not competent in, LGBTQ issues. Other agencies felt too corporate and transactional. We were lucky to find All Families Surrogacy, who have a passion for working with LGBTQ communities and a belief that surrogacy should be accessible for all families.
3. Selecting a fertility clinic
Infertility and family planning can be such a private struggle it's hard know who to ask for support when choosing a fertility clinic. The fertility industry is also big business, and it can be very intimidating when interviewing potential clinics to work with.
If you are a charts and numbers kind of person, you might become overly focused on comparing the data and success rates. While looking at clinic report cards, it's important to remember all of the variables involved. They may have a high number of transfers that resulted in pregnancies but significantly lower numbers in live births.
Good quality control, strong ethical practices, positive testimonials from others and solid LGBTQ competence were extremely important to us when selecting our clinic. We also want to participate in the process, so choosing somewhere local made sense for us. We feel lucky to live in a city with resources like Oregon Reproductive Medicine, which is the clinic we ultimately decided to work with.
4. Deciding on known vs. unknown egg donor
We believe that every child has the right to know their origin story. Many of the egg donors working with clinics are very young and, understandably, are unsure how they will feel about contact with a future child. This is, and continues to be, a big part of our process.
There is much to be said about making the decision between known and unknown donors (we will be exploring this topic more in depth in a future post). But, in short, we are considering future contact and possible participation from our donor, her medical history, the cost and, most importantly, our child. We are leaning towards a known donor but have not committed to anyone yet.
A surrogacy journey is expensive.
5. Creating a savings plan and timeline
A surrogacy journey is expensive. We identified as many financial resources as possible. For some, this could mean selling your home, borrowing against a mutual fund or retirement plan, and using credit cards.
We rent our home, currently have a minimal retirement savings and carry hefty student loan debt. We are being very creative and constantly adjusting our timeline based on a variety of moving parts. It's a good thing Anthony loves spreadsheets. He created a realistic budget that will allow us to continue saving towards our goal. In addition to our own savings, we plan to take out a loan from friends and family, crowdfund and apply for financial assistance and grant support.
The yearning to have a genetic link to our baby, and to be a part of prenatal care and attachment bonding, isn't an exclusive desire for those with a Y chromosome. We believe that creating and building a family is one of the most important things we can do in this life. This desire is about contributing beyond ourselves in a meaningful way.
We hope sharing our process can inform others who are considering surrogacy.