Intended Parents J and S from Wisconsin recently welcomed baby girl K to their family!  Here they share the story of their journey, what to expect during the process, and how their experiences with parenthood are shaping their lives.  This is great information and advice for any IPs who are looking into surrogacy as an option to build their family.  Happy reading!

Kara2First and foremost, how has parenthood been treating you?  Is it everything you dreamed it would be?

Parenthood is great! It is a dream come true, considering there was a long time in my life where I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to have kids (as a gay man). We really invested hard on parenting classes and books during the pregnancy, so it’s turning out to be more manageable than I originally expected. There’s still some difficult moments and long nights, but it’s still been a great experience. (I’d do it again!) We’re really good about maintaining our rotating sleep shift, where in the night one of us is “on call” while the other sleeps in the guest room uninterrupted, and then we switch. The full rotation lasts about 12 hours. We’ve had to cut several evening fun activities with our childless kids who don’t really understand how critical sleep is to a new parent, but everyone with kids has been super supportive and helpful as they know how difficult it can be. I know I’m genetically hard-wired to think this, but my baby is definitely the cutest and the best!!! With each new day and development, I get really excited to see the person she is growing into.

What made you decide to pursue surrogacy in the first place?

I have always wanted to have children. We also explored adoption, but unfortunately it was a much more complicated and potentially heartbreaking process than most people realize (especially for same-sex couples), and is also considerably expensive. We spoke with families that went on each route, and decided surrogacy was the one that fit our family situation best. While it is possibly the more expensive option, it provided the most control over our timetable.

What were your expectations before you began the process?

I feel the depiction of surrogacy on TV/movies is very misleading. The surrogates we see on TV (Glee, Friends, Fuller House) is far from a safe or realistic way to do the process. Most depictions of adopting, surrogacy, etc are horribly misrepresented on TV shows, and not many people understand how it all really works. Even now it can get frustrating at times explaining to people their false misconceptions. (ex: you can’t/really shouldn’t just “mix your sperm in a cup and use a turkey baster”, it’s not a good idea to use the surrogate’s egg, most of your friends probably aren’t qualified to be effective surrogates yet they casually say “they’d be willing to carry a baby for you”, and it’s probably not the best idea to use one of your friends/family for the process unless you are EXTREMELY confident in your relationship). I think the TV ideal of magically having one of your best friends carry a baby and then the laugh track plays over and over is what we’re exposed to. However I think the Surrogacy Center and the legal team we worked with did an excellent job of setting realistic expectations for us and how it really works. I completely agree with every screening requirement the Surrogacy Center implements.

Describe the matching process and how you felt when you first met your GC in person:

The matching process took a few months (I believe 4? It was confusing due to some rearrangement at the time). I think it was really important to be true to your values and if there’s a gut feeling that the match won’t work out from the form or meeting, not to be afraid to wait a little longer for the next one. We went with our second match, and she was absolutely wonderful. The meeting was a little awkward, as you’re both strangers and want to have a baby together. I’m sure I was a little extra nervous not to offend her in any way, so I feel like I was super sugar-coating my personality and straying from anything of potential controversy. However, she turned out to be one of the kindest and strongest women I have ever met, and I would love for our daughter to have a good relationship with her going forward. We are likely to meet up periodically and our child can call the GC her “birth mom”. We’re still working on a term that fits the birth mom’s other kids, as they’re not quite step siblings or cousins, but they have an interesting connection.

What was the most unexpected part of your journey?  Is there anything that surprised you?

I think we had expected to get to know our GC better before the actual transfer. There was one in-person meeting, and then off we were to the transfer the next time we met. I think we both felt it was a little strange we still barely knew each other but were willing to go through with making a baby together. It did all work out for us in the end! I am completely satisfied with how things worked out and our current relationship. I was also surprised that everything went so well and smoothly after we were matched (and quickly too). There were many times I think we would “forget” we were expecting during the pregnancy, especially since we didn’t have an active baby bump in our household to remind us. Even after the birth, I still had moments of “oh right, we had a baby!”

How did everything go on delivery day?  Please describe the emotions and feelings you experienced when the baby was born.

Delivery was a unique experience. It really shows the strength of women and how difficult it is to create new babies. Even after an epidural, labor seems like a very difficult and painful process, and there were many times when I thought “OMG, what did we do to this poor woman!” We did get through, and eventually we got to meet our slimy, crying, but beautiful baby, who pooped on me several times during the first skin to skin contact. I highly recommend everyone be present in the delivery room if possible, as it builds an appreciation for how difficult it is to create new humans. It took a while to really have that “click” in my head that we were parents (even after leaving the hospital), especially since we didn’t see most of the pregnancy. I remember pre-delivery day as the last day we’ve had a straight 8 hours of sleep! I really appreciate the few weeks we had after the birth where we were both on leave from work, and we got to spend dedicated time to getting to know each other as a family. Also, I feel a profound sense of respect and admiration for our GC. She’s amazing!

Please share any advice you would give to folks who are researching surrogacy to build their families:

General parenting advice: If you have the opportunity to babysit an infant for a few hours (less than 6 months preferred), do it. Make sure you are absolutely committed to doing this sort of thing, and it’s not something that will easily overwhelm you. We are blessed with the advantage of full family planning in this situation, and can back out easily in the early stages. I do know some people who try babysitting, and then decide to get dogs instead, which is totally fine!

Also, if there are any issues in your marriage, address them ASAP. I believe our baby adventure went so well because we were an extremely solid team as a couple. There’s really no room for any apprehension from your teamwork, as the lack of sleep and the difficulty of the process can be very stressful.

For surrogacy advice: Put in a lot of research into the process. This process is very time consuming (all the days off work and travel), requires some serious project management skills and organization, and there will be many times when you might feel like a human ATM (the agency, clinics, pharmacies, doctor appointments, lawyers, etc will all ask for a couple thousand dollars one after the other, with no tangible results at the time). There are some ups and downs, it is not too different from the process an infertile couple going through IVF would experience. I personally hate gambling, but that is part of the process. Seeking support with couples who have gone through IVF is appropriate and recommended. (easier to find than a couple that had a GC)  However, in the end you get to take home the cutest baby ever and you get to have a family!

Additional thoughts, comments, and observations about your journey and/or your experience with any of the folks you worked with along the way:

The surrogacy center did a great job at finding us an A+ gestational carrier! We are very pleased with how everything turned out. Clare and Delia are also very kind and great to work with. I highly recommend working with them!