Originally Published March 2, 2021
A sobering reality of queer parenthood is the substantial cost barrier. A surrogacy journey is a steep financial climb — averaging around $150,000+ for most queer men — throwing a hefty sucker punch to the tightest of wallets. This was certainly true at the outset for new dads Justin and Chris, two young professionals who knew if they wanted to afford the surrogacy price tag, they’d have to get creative.
The pair lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where Justin is a realtor and business owner, and Chris an IT security officer. They met when they were both 21 years old and have been married for just under five years. The pair always wanted kids, and when the time was right, they went straight to a well-known university hospital to speak with a fertility doctor about their options. “We were provided with a ton of information including some very scary pricing figures. Instead of leaving excited, we left completely defeated.” It seemed to be an impossible goal for the dads-to-be, and for a brief period of time following that meeting, they thought they would have to give up on their dream of having children altogether.
They returned home to discuss their doubts with family and were met with unbelievable support. Justin shared, “My sister, Tori, told us that she would not accept the notion of us not having children. She offered to go through the egg retrieval process and donate her eggs to us.” This proved to be a huge first step for the determined duo and gave them the zeal to continue. While the donated eggs did alleviate some of the cost barrier, the monetary constraints associated with finding and utilizing a surrogate remained hefty. Justin went on, “Financially, it was still tough, but things were clearly falling into place. My career was really taking off and the retrieval process was now within reach.”
They decided to move forward into the embryo process. “It was a huge bonding moment for our family — we were involved with everything," Justin said. "We even gave Tori her shots from time to time. Although things moving smoothly, there was still a lot of emotion involved.”
Justin noted that while his sister was happy and eager to participate, the exhausting process began to take its toll on the entire family. “We went through some rocky times, but it gave everyone a chance to really reflect and understand that this was the way our family was going to work together to make this happen.” According to the dads, these ups and downs gave everyone the peace of mind knowing all were on board 100 percent; the ultrasounds became more exciting and every doctor’s visit turned into a steppingstone toward the chubby swaddled baby at the end of the rainbow.
Retrieval day finally came. The physicians took 12 eggs from Tori which were then fertilized with Chris’ sperm. “We were told we had five embryos which made it through the genetic and chromosome testing," Justin said. "Those were stored in a cryostate.”
After completing this chapter of the process, the dads announced the exciting news in a Facebook post. Soon after, they were contacted by Justin’s cousin, Emily, who was interested in helping the two out somehow. “She explained to us that she had always thought about being a surrogate, which was fueled by the fact that she had a really tough time having children and could relate to the emotional pain of knowing that it might not happen.” Emily had been through the IUI process herself and already knew quite a bit about how it was going to work. “She selflessly offered to be our surrogate. We immediately said yes.”
The dads were ecstatic. It was a blur from that moment on as time flew by. Transfer day came around, and Chris and Justin chose to transfer one of the male embryos. Knowing that first-time transfer rates could be tenuous, the dads were on edge for next few weeks while they awaited results. “The first blood test yielded high numbers pointing to a positive transfer," Justin said. "The process was super smooth, we felt like everything was meant to be, it was amazing watching him grow and progress."
Emily’s pregnancy was non-eventful, they said, and the day of his birth — besides a minor scare ("he was a very stubborn baby and not sure whether he wanted to come out," Justin said) was the best day of the dads lives, they said.
Justin and Chris remain forever thankful for the unwavering support of their family and friends, without whom the entire dream could have been compromised. “The selfless acts of Tori and Emily allowed this process to be attainable.” It was indeed that selflessness which literally afforded the dads an opportunity at surrogacy, Justin said: “As mentioned before, the financial aspect of the surrogacy and retrieval process is the scariest thing ever. However, understanding that this was the most important goal in our lives we knew that if we kept working towards achieving our goal, we would make it happen.”
Despite the trials, tribulations, and near-panic attacks, the dads advise other hopeful queer parents to take the plunge. “Once you are sure of your willingness to commit to and unconditionally care for a child, then go for it!” There may be times when the process appears impossible, whether financially or otherwise, but there are myriad workarounds to a system that is anything but monolithic. According to Justin and Chris, while the price tag attached to their surrogacy dream was initially “defeating,” the cost afforded them so much more than just a child; their extended family grew tighter, their marriage deeper, and their outlook on life renewed into one much more rewarding than either of them could have ever imagined.
“Every morning, when little Elijah wakes up, he offers us the most genuine smile," Justin said. "That moment of each day reminds us of how blessed we are — It’s the best thing on this planet.”