Expert Advice

Men Having Babies Puts Surrogacy Within Reach

“We were heartbroken."

“We just figured it wasn't going to happen for us."

“We spent everything — all of our savings — over nine years."

“We took one look at the price tag and figured it wasn't within reach."

These are the statements of two couples — Jay and Victor, and Daniel and Ricardo — who, at one point or another, came close to giving up on their hopes to become fathers.

It's frustrations like these, which are unfortunately all too commonly heard from would-be gay fathers, that prompted a group of gay men to form Men Having Babies (MHB), a resource organization to help prospective gay dads navigate the often-troubled waters of surrogacy.

The organization started back in 2005 as a “peer support network for biological gay fathers and fathers-to-be," according to their website. Originally, they operated as a small program out of New York City's LGBT Community Center. In 2012, however, MHB morphed into a standalone non-profit organization, and has since expanded to offer workshops and seminars for gay men interested in becoming biological fathers in multiple cities across the U.S. and elsewhere, including San Francisco, Chicago New York, Tel Aviv and Brussels. (For details, check out their events schedule.)

While many other resource organizations exist to help LGBT parents, MHB is, to their knowledge, the only one focused on easing the considerable financial burden of surrogacy for prospective gay fathers, the average cost of which is roughly $120,000.

“There are a dozen or so foundations that provide financial assistance to infertile people," said Ron Poole-Dayan, the executive director and founding member of MHB. “But none offer to help gay men, even though many gay men need substantial third-party assistance in order to become parents."

Ron pointed out that as a category, gay men can face more obstacles in their quests to become parents than others. “These include biological, legal, and social constraints, as well as significantly higher financial costs."

One of the main aspects of the organization's mission, then, is to promote the affordability of surrogacy. It's a cause close to the hearts of all those involved with MHB. According to AJ Edge, the director of operation and finance for MHB, all of the organization's board members have previously gone through their own surrogacy processes.

“They know that surrogacy is not something that's open to just anyone," AJ said. “And that it can be overwhelming and daunting — so that's why GPAP was born."

AJ Edge

MHB created GPAP, the Gay Parenting Assistance Program, to assist prospective gay parents who cannot afford the full cost of becoming biological parents on their own. The program is split into two “stages." Those approved for Stage I become eligible for substantial discounts off the cost of surrogacy services from dozens of leading service providers. Stage II assistance, though more selective, is even more comprehensive — those accepted are provided with direct cash grants and free services to cover a considerable portion of the cost of surrogacy.

“In the last two years, more than 300 couples became eligible for substantial discounts off the cost of surrogacy services," said Ron Poole-Dayan. “And more than 40 couples have received direct financial assistance, including grants and free services. Ten babies have already been born to Stage II couples, and many more are on their way."

Without this type of assistance, the cost of surrogacy can be prohibitively expensive for many gay dads, or at least those who don't happen to have an extra $120,000 hiding under their mattresses.

This sticker price was enough to deter Jay Todd and Victor Gonzalez, a couple of 17 years, when they took their first steps towards becoming fathers five years ago.

“We thought you needed to be like Elton John to have kids through surrogacy," Jay joked. “It just seemed out of reach for most families — like such a fantasy."

So the couple decided to try adoption instead, a process that proved to be more emotionally fraught and expensive than they had expected. “We spent thousands of dollars," Jay said, “It was a very emotionally difficult time for everyone involved." The men came close to completing an adoption a few times — first with a child in Indiana, and a second time with a sibling group in Colombia — but neither worked out in the end.

The couple stresses that they have no regrets, and wish nothing but the best for the birth parents and their children. Still, the experience left them emotionally exhausted, and they decided to sideline their dream of becoming fathers. “We had to give up," Jay admitted. “We just figured it wasn't going to happen for us."

Then, the couple learned about GPAP, and were approved for Stage I assistance. “We got substantial discounts from Simply Surrogacy and CT Fertility," Jay said. “It probably saved us around $10,000."

MHB refers to the assistance they are able to provide through Stage I as their “journey booster"; it likely won't be enough to make or break your ability to afford surrogacy, but it's enough to make a significant difference in the lives of new dads.

This was certainly true for Jay and Victor, particularly when they discovered their surrogate was pregnant with their now 7-month-old twins, Elizabeth and Kainoa. “Having the extra bit of change lying around when the babies were born has been a lifesaver," Jay said. “We just have so much gratitude for everyone who was part of this journey."

Victor (left) and Jay


You hear the word “journey" a lot from gay fathers when they reference the process of starting their families with the help of a surrogate. This is not, unfortunately, hyperbole — the experience can be packed with as many twists and unexpected turns as a M. Night Shyamalan movie. That was certainly the case for Daniel and Ricardo Santiago, when they decided to start their family nearly nine years ago.

“We both wanted to be biological fathers," Daniel explained. “So we reached out to a surrogacy agency to ask for a brochure." They excitedly pored over the information when it arrived in the mail — that is, until they saw the price.

The two looked at their finances and realized they would need to save for five to 10 years before starting the process. “Waiting that long sounds awful when you so desperately want to begin your family right away like all your straight friends," Daniel said.

After attending a MHB Seminar in New York in 2013, however, they realized surrogacy might be closer within reach than they had realized. “We learned that some agencies were cheaper than we had thought, so we were like, screw it, let's take out a loan and do our best."

The couple took out $60,000 in loans, and applied $40,000 in savings as well to invest in their surrogacy journey. They didn't think twice about the considerable sums of money they were investing into the process. “We were just so excited when we signed up with an agency. We were like, 'We're going to have a baby in 9 months!'" Daniel said before adding, sarcastically, “Ha, right."

“It's funny, I remember listening to this guy at one of the MHB workshops talk about all of the bumps in the road he had hit in his surrogacy journey," Ricardo said, for his part. “I remember thinking, Oh that won't happen to us. But it did — we basically hit every bump imaginable."

Their first surrogate, for instance, discovered she had a cyst the size of a tennis ball. A second surrogate, after working with her for half a year, decided over six months into the process that she no longer wanted to proceed. Later on in their surrogacy journey, their egg donor tested positive for drugs.

Daniel and Ricardo had already applied and received Stage I assistance from GPAP (which they estimate saved them roughly $5,000) but were originally denied Stage II assistance. In retrospect, after multiple years and thousands of dollars spent trying to start their family, they say they now understand why.

“We were like, Oh, we really shouldn't have been eligible for Stage II back then,'" Daniel said. “We were able to make it happen on our own up to that point."

But now, the couple had blown through their savings and the loans they had taken out to finance their journey. “It got to the point where we would have been bankrupt had we continued without help," Ricardo said.

Throughout their complicated surrogacy process, the couple stayed in regular contact with the staff and board members of MHB. “They knew everything we had been through," Daniel explained, “and encouraged us to apply for Stage II again." This time, the family was accepted.

MHB has a comprehensive process for determining who among applicants is awarded Stage II assistance, AJ explained. “Our grant committee includes people from the adoption world, gay fathers, the financial world, a social worker, and others that we pull together to review redacted versions of profiles we create for each applicant," he said of their method. “And we absolutely take journey hardships into consideration."

The assistance granted to those approved for Stage II assistance can be considerable — funding up to 60-70% of a surrogacy journey. To finance these grants, MHB developed a unique, self-funding model. The organization sponsors six conferences annually – currently in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Brussels, and Tel Aviv – that provide prospective gay fathers with an abundance of information on the process of surrogacy. The money fundraised from these conferences — which are sponsored by fertility clinics and agencies — comprise the grants that MHB is able to provide as part of GPAP Stage II.

“We're taking money from the industry and putting it back into the industry," AJ said of this model, “all towards the goal of helping gay men on their surrogacy journeys."

The couple, for example, received pro bono assistance from their clinic, Fertility Specialists of Texas, which included the IVF procedure. The assistance the couple received, however, was much more than financial.

“They basically just helped us do it the way it should have been done from the beginning," Daniel said. “MHB worked with the clinic to come up with an exact figure and budget and we all stuck to it to a T."

Ricardo (left) and Daniel

Daniel and Ricardo, too, ended up with twins, Willow Leia and Grayson Luke, who were born on May 5 of this year. And though the two say they would likely have stopped at nothing in order to achieve their dream of starting their family, they wonder about the consequences had they not been approved for GPAP Stage II.

“Honestly, I don't think we would have children if we weren't approved," Daniel said. “I could have charged on credit cards, but who knows if it would have worked. We'd probably have ended up broke and divorced," he joked.

MHB, they say, had other plans for the couple. “And that plan was to stay with us until we had a baby in our hands."


“I still think it's not real."

“It just hasn't hit me yet."

“We're in heaven."

“It's everything we ever imagined, and more."

These, now, are the statements of four gay men who, with a little assistance, didn't have to give up on their dream of becoming fathers.

“We're still in such a daze," Ricardo said, of he and Daniel's finally being on the other end of a nine-year-long journey to become fathers. “But," he added with a laugh, “that also could be the lack of sleep."

Jay, for his part, says he is looking forward to Father's Day this year, something he and his husband Victor have looked forward to since they began their own process to become dads, five years ago. “We can't imagine not being fathers," he said. “And this will be our first Father's Day as dads! It's just…" he trailed off, at a loss for words. “It's perfect."

As for the future of MHB, AJ says he hopes to see the organization help many more gay men realize their dream of becoming biological fathers. But first, they are trying to get the word out about the GPAP program. “In some way it still feels like a secret," AJ said. “A lot of people don't know about GPAP."

He suspects that will change, though, as the idea of gay parents becomes more normalized, and more gay men decide to start families. “You know that saying, first comes love, then marriage, then the baby carriage," AJ said. “Well, we just got gay marriage! So now we just need to work on the baby part."

To learn more about the GPAP program, check out the eligibility requirements here. Also be sure to check out their upcoming conferences and workshops here.

Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Family Stories

This European Couple Became Dads Through a U.K.-Based Surrogacy Program

Janno, from Estonia, and Matthias, from Belgium, were accepted into the "Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy" Program.

Janno Talu, an accountant, and Matthias Nijs, an art gallery director, were born in different parts of Europe. Janno, 39, is from Estonia, and Matthias, 28, is from Belgium. Their paths crossed when the two moved to London, each from their different corners of the European Union.

Janno relocated to London earlier than Matthias, when he was 24, and his main reason for the move was his sexuality. "Although Estonia is considered one of the more progressive countries in Eastern Europe, when it comes to gay rights, it is still decades behind Western society in terms of tolerance," said Janno. "And things are not moving in the right direction." In 2016, same-sex civil union became legal, but the junior party in the current coalition government is seeking to repeal the same-sex partnership bill. "In addition," Janno continued, "they wish to include the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the country's constitution. Even today, there are people in Estonia who liken homosexuality to pedophilia, which is why I decided to start a new life in the UK, where I could finally be myself."

Keep reading...
Surrogacy for Gay Men

Interested in Surrogacy? Check Out These Bay Area Events This Weekend

If you're in the Bay Area this weekend, two major events are happening that will be of interest for dads-to-be and surrogacy advocates: the Men Having Babies San Francisco Conference, and the SF Advocacy and Research Forum for Surrogacy and LGBT Parenting (ARF)

If you're in San Francisco or the surrounding area, clear your calendar this weekend. Two events are happening simultaneously that are significant for dads-to-be AND surrogacy advocates: the Men Having Babies San Francisco Conference, and the SF Advocacy and Research Forum for Surrogacy and LGBT Parenting (ARF). For an outlines of both events, check out below.

Keep reading...
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Asks: Is Destroying an Embryo Similar to Abortion?

It's a question many LGBTQ parents using advanced fertility treatments will need to face — what to do with "left over" embryos.

Let me start off by saying that I have always been pro choice and support all laws that allow people to have full reproductive rights including safe and legal abortions. This is a complicated subject and not one that I ever thought I would really have to deal with on a personal level, especially being a gay man.

I remember a very heated discussion on abortion in my biology class back in university. I was young, idealistic and had very strong convictions about abortion. I was debating with a female classmate who was pro life. She felt there was no reason for an abortion ever, not even if raped by your own parent or sibling. I could not really understand her position, then or now. Don't get me wrong, I still don't agree with her, but now that I'm older and wiser, and also a parent, I have come to respect and accept opinions other than mine.

Keep reading...

Indiana Court Says Couples Using Sperm Donors​ Can Both Be Listed on Birth Certificate — But Ruling Excludes Male Couples

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the case, a major victory for LGBTQ parents — but the Attorney General may appeal to the Supreme Court.

On Friday, a US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling from a lower court that said that both parents in a same-sex relationship are entitled to be listed on the birth certificate — previously, the state of Indiana had required the non-biological parent within a same-sex relationship using assisted reproductive technologies to adopt their child after the birth in order to get her or his name listed on the birth certificate, a lengthy and expensive process not required of straight couples in the same situation.

It's a double standard LGBTQ parents have long been subjected to in many states across the country. So this represent a major win. As reported by CNN, this ruling "takes a lot of weight off" the shoulders of LGBTQ parents, said Karen Celestino-Horseman, a lawyer representing one of the couples in the case. "They've been living as families and wondering if this was going to tear them apart."

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals deliberated the case, according to CNN, for more than two and a half years, which is one of the longest in the court's history.

However, because all the plaintiffs in the case involved female same-sex couples using sperm donors, the ruling left open the similar question of parenting rights with respect to male couples. Indiana's Attorney General, moreover, may also appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

We'll be following the case closely and be sure to keep you up to date. For more on this recent decision, read CNN's article here.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

As a Gay Dad, What's the Impact of Letting My Son Perform Drag?

Michael Duncan was excited when his 10-year-old son asked if he could perform in drag for charity — but he also felt fear and anxiety.

As LGBT parents, we have all lived through some sort of trauma in our lives. For many it is the rejection of our family, being bullied, or abuse. We learn to be vigilant of our surroundings and often are very cautious of who we trust. As adults, we start to become watchful of how much we share and we look for "red flags" around every corner.

So, what effect does this have on our children? Does it unintentionally cause us to be more jaded with our interactions involving others? For some the answer may be a resounding "no." But as we look deeper into the situation, we often find that through survival our interactions with others have changed and we may not even realize exactly how much we are projecting on those around us.

Keep reading...
Diary of a Newly Out Gay Dad

A Gay Chiropractor Explains Why He Came Out to His Patients

After Cameron Call, a chiropractor, came out to his family this past year, he knew he had one more step to take — he had to come out to his patients

Fear is an interesting thing. It motivates when it shouldn't, shows at inconvenient times, and is the author of stories that do nothing but hold us back. I would argue though, too, that fear has some good qualities. I believe it helps us to feel. And I think it can be a great teacher as we learn to recognize and face it.

For years fear prevented me from embracing my truth and accepting a large part of who I am. I know I am not alone in that regard. But for so long my fear convinced me that I was. Fear is what kept me from ever telling my parents or anyone growing up that I am gay. Fear mingled with strong religious teachings, embraced at a young age, which led me to believe that I could cure myself of my attractions to the same gender. And fear is a part of what kept me in my marriage to a woman for over ten years.

Keep reading...
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Gains Clarity After a Health Scare

A recent health scare helped give Erik Alexander clarity.

Sometimes fear can cripple the mind and hinder ones judgement. Having children of my own, I have come to grips with accepting the things I cannot change and learned to take action when there is no other choice. When it comes to my own personal health, the future and well being of my family gives me all the clarity I need to make the right decision about any kind of health scare.

This episode is dedicated to all the parents out there that are going through or have gone through similar situations.

Keep reading...

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse