One Year As A Father: A Very Real Reflection On The Journey Of Surrogacy
Ryan's honest assessment of the surrogacy process? It sucks.
My husband and I were asked to join our former surrogacy agency for the Men Having Babies conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Equipped with our one-year old twins, we were given the opportunity to say a few words about our baby-making journey. My biggest takeaway from standing in front of a room full of potential gay dads was this: surrogacy fucking sucks.
There, I said it.
Surrogacy fucking sucks and I realized I would never, never, never want to go through the process again. I'm not speaking about our agency of choice; we have no horror stories or negative experiences. In the grand scheme of science-experiment-babies, I'd say ours went fairly smooth. But what sucks about surrogacy is the process itself — the year-long (or more) period of holding your breath, getting hopes up, waiting for a call, awkwardly shooting semen in a cup then passing it along to nurses you've never met, physical and psychological testing and, of course, the glorious financial strain to top it off. And the waiting... oh the waiting game! I still joke that hearing something cost ONLY $1000 was a relief! Never before had money felt so liquid. Surrogacy has to be the most impersonal way to make offspring — I mean, passing along a plastic cup of your man juice is one thing, but suddenly there's an endless lineup of people who now know a copious amount of random facts about your personal life. Like there could be a Trivial Pursuit category dedicated to me and my husband's finances, sex history and weird preferences.
Holding our babies in a room full of prospective, eager gay dads to be, I felt so unbelievably grateful. My husband spoke to the crowd, saying, "I remember being on your side of the room...". And it made me smile because, yeah, I remember so clearly what it's like to want our family to grow, to think about our future babies all the time, to see friends or strangers with children and think, why not us? Why was it so easy for you? Feeling envious of people who already had their family unit, who went to parks together, took vacations, baked cookies for movie-night, and, yes, even parents who were the designated class helper for school projects and activities. Because I totally want to be Class Dad and do stupid elementary school crafts and field trips.
I remember how certain we were about our decision to be dads, and how overwhelming the process of becoming parents felt. It seemed like every next step required an education, a learning curve, or another $5k. Who am I kidding — another $10k! The main questions that ran through my neurotic head were: How does the process actually work? How long does it really take? How much does it cost? How do I find the right agency?
Short answers: 1. A surrogacy agency will help you find an egg donor and surrogate. The agency will guide you through the process, stop freaking out and learn as you go! 2. If there are no hiccups and everything works as planned, assume the process will take one year from start to finish. 3. Surrogacy will generally cost over 100k and under 200k, depending on your agency, IVF clinic and a slew of other miscellaneous factors. So plan for an average realistic ballpark of 150k. 4. As for the right agency, I'll get to that – keep reading.
I look back now that I can hold our babies and someday very soon earn my crown as Class Dad — as PTA head-bitch-in-charge — I can look back at that time of surrogacy craziness with fondness. It brought my husband and I closer together, made us discuss serious life situations many couples never do before having children. Sure there were times it felt like our relationship strained a bit from the stress, but it made us incredibly equipped for fatherhood. We were beyond prepared for something that you really can't prepare for. And not just with baby shit like decorating the nursery, buying clothes or figuring out how the hell to swaddle a kid; but we were prepared as a couple to face whatever came our way. We had to work hard and put forth so much thought into having these babies, that once they actually came it felt like a relief. I'd even go so far as to say that the surrogacy process lessened the shock of actually being a new parent. Anyone who endures surrogacy or IVF treatment, gay dads or straight couples, have to be the most prepared parents on the planet. And beyond that, I believe we produce the most wanted babies.
Photo credit: Sonju Photography
What I found is there's no right way with surrogacy, just as there is no right way with parenting. There is just your way, and your way means what is right for you and your family. In the case of surrogacy, it is so important to remember that it can be hard, extremely challenging at times. And other times it is unbelievably beautiful and exciting. It's a damn rollercoaster. Like one of those flip-you-around-feet-in-the-air rollercoasters that you shouldn't eat a hot dog before riding. But surround yourself with a team you intuitively feel is best to support your family.
There are so many agencies, doctors, clinics, attorneys, you name it. You can do all the research, get countless recommendations and speak to every baby-making expert in the world. At the end of the day, what matters is that you follow your gut. We went with a small, boutique agency local to us in Florida. We liked the security of having them near, felt extremely comfortable talking to them, and always received personalized service. The owner of the company is passionate about working with same-sex families and had gone through surrogacy herself. She understood both the business and personal aspects, but most importantly she genuinely loves helping people on this journey. The prices are the prices and the agency was extremely upfront about cost. There is no "inexpensive" method to make a baby this way, unless you go for the do-it-yourself route, which is absolutely effective for some people! For my husband and I, we selected our agency because they simply felt right. A gut feeling we are happy to have followed.
Photo credit: Sonju Photography
There at the Men Having Babies conference, standing with our former agency, along with another gay couple who just started their surrogacy process, in front of a room full of men eagerly hoping to be dads, I held our son while my husband held our daughter. And I truly can't believe it has come full circle. I can't believe that what felt like a long, arduous process really flew by in the blink of an eye. That our twins are now one-year old — shit, that we've been dads for one year already — because it all seems like yesterday. It feels like I could be sitting in the audience with a big question mark over my head, not knowing what to do next or how it will ever happen. Just wanting my family to grow, wanting so badly to be a dad.
And then suddenly — you're gifted hindsight.
So, yes, the surrogacy process fucking sucks but, and this is a very crucial 'but', it is so worth it. Every sleepless night, anxious phone call, doctor appointment, awkward moment or uncomfortable question — it is so, so, so unbelievably worth it. And while the process of surrogacy fucking sucks, the reward of pursuing the journey is so amazing. Being a dad is so amazing. Being a co-dad with my husband is so amazing. Knowing that we did this together for our family is so amazing.
If you're like I was and are filled with doubts, fears, questions — just have faith it will work out how it's meant to work out. Trust the process, however grueling and fucking sucky it may feel at times. Because you learn as you go, find strength you never knew you had, and meet some awesome people along the way. Plus, the silver lining far outweighs the general suckiness. Promise!