In our latest guest post by Circle Surrogacy, we learn about some of the benefits gay men should come to expect when working with an agency

You've already made the big decision. You're ready to start your journey as a gay parent, and surrogacy and egg donation is the way you'd like to do it. Now, you have to decide if you want to find a surrogate and egg donor independently, or if you want to work with an agency. While both options have great benefits, this is a monumental decision and you'll want to be sure you're in good hands. Working with an agency can help reduce the stress and uncertainty in a surrogacy journey. The key is to find the right agency for you and your needs.

A surrogacy journey is like a detailed puzzle, the two most important pieces of which are trust and honesty. Trust and honesty are critical in this process and working with an established, flexible, and reputable agency make this process much less intimidating.

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Why A Single Gay Guy from Norway Pursued Surrogacy in the U.S. to Become the Dad He Always Wanted to Be

Bent-Einar, single gay dad living in Norway, became a dad to his little girl with the help of Circle Surrogacy.

Bent-Einar, who lives in Norway, had always wanted to be a father. He admits that as a single guy, the thought of starting a family alone was difficult, because what you'd always hear is that a child needs both a mother and a father.

But his desire to be a dad far outweighed the preconceived notions of what was considered "family", so he began his research on surrogacy. Thanks to Circle Surrogacy, he is the proud Dad to a beautiful daughter, who makes his life complete.

Here, Bent-Einar tells his story.

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One Surrogate's Experience Carrying Twins for Gay and HIV+ Intended Parents

Checking the "yes" box to serve as a surrogate in the Special Program for Assisted Reproduction (SPAR) program, she says, was one of the most rewarding decisions she's ever made

Photo credit: Cassandra Photo

In partnership with Circle Surrogacy. Written by a Circle surrogate who carried twins for an international gay couple in the SPAR program.

The word serendipity is such a magical word, and one that's rarely used. But so far, it's the best word I can think of to describe my surrogacy experience, carrying twins for a gay HIV positive couple in the SPAR program.

I came to surrogacy because I have been drawn to help others my whole life. Because of a medical condition, my sister is unable to have her own children. I witnessed first-hand the painful questions young women are asked all too often: "When are you going to have kids?" Hearing my sister reply, "I won't be" helped shape me into who I am today, and my decision to become a surrogate.

I was looking for something exceptional in my surrogacy, but I didn't know exactly what that was. When I applied to be a surrogate, I had never thought of all the different walks of life waiting and hoping for someone to come along and help create a family for them.

Saying "yes" to the Special Program for Assisted Reproduction (SPAR).

During the application process I was asked if I would consider carrying a baby for intended parents in SPAR. I initially checked off the "NO" box; originally, I wasn't interested in working with someone in the SPAR program who was HIV+. Honestly, I did not fully understand what I read about it, and it seemed complicated and frightening. Checking off "No" seemed easier. But I sat there for a moment, trying to open up my mind. I thought to myself, 'What's the harm in checking "Yes" and getting more information?' Becoming a surrogate was going to be the biggest learning experience of my life, and I wanted to be all in! I changed my answer to "Yes," which I now feel was serendipity.

Soon after submitting my application, I received my first intended parent profile almost immediately. I was so excited I could burst! There were names and faces behind all this paperwork—an international gay couple in the SPAR program. Wow!

Their pictures were happy and handsome. At first, I felt a little overwhelmed. For some reason I expected a cookie-cutter heterosexual couple from Iowa or another U.S. state. My husband and I discussed the couple's profile extensively.

I had so much going through my head. What if these intended parents got sick from HIV and were not able to take care of their babies? I wondered what their lives looked like day to day, what medications they were taking, and their overall health. Most of these questions came from my lack of knowledge of HIV, and the advancements that have been made over the past few decades. So I did more research.

My husband and I learned that men in the SPAR program must be actively treating their HIV. My IPs were just as "healthy" as anyone else I could carry for. We also spoke with Dr. Kiessling about the science behind the program, and how it has been made possible that a man can be a bio dad without passing on HIV to the carrier of the baby. Dr. Kiessling explained the process of making all of this possible and safe; she is an expert in her field and has devoted her life to this research and development. With that knowledge, I felt completely comfortable that I was not at risk.

When we Skyped with our intended parents, I never once thought about SPAR or HIV. These two men were intriguing. It came down to the fact that I felt that they should have the same right as anyone else to experience parenthood. Both my husband and I knew they were the right match for us. From then on, I can honestly say joining SPAR became a non-issue for me.

SPAR didn't define the dads, parenthood did.

During my journey, I only shared with my husband and a few close friends of mine that my intended parents were HIV positive. After I first met my intended parents, I really never thought about it. I did not want HIV to define them. I wanted to get to know them as soon-to-be dads. I wanted them to have a surrogacy experience just as anyone else would. This is the most exciting time of their lives and one of the most exciting times of mine! I did not feel like it was my business to share personal information about my IPs to others. No one else goes around introducing people as a medical diagnosis so why should they be treated that way? We just felt joy!

While I never focused on the fact that my IPs were HIV+, I felt more connected to them because they were in the SPAR program. I knew they didn't have the same number of gestational carrier match options that gay men who weren't part of the SPAR program had. It felt even more gratifying for me to be able to be the person who helped make their dreams come true.

Love is love.

I wholeheartedly believe that checking the "Yes" box was a defining moment in my life. I expanded my mind to something so pure and brand new. The concept, however, was one that was very familiar to me: Love is love, and everyone deserves to have their wildest dreams come true. These two men who walked into my life now have two flawless, healthy baby boys and will forever be a family.

I still keep in touch with the dads, and they send me photos and updates of the babies. Even though I carried their babies, I'm the one who is grateful that they came into our lives. I learned so much on my surrogacy journey, and grew as a person, and I have them to thank.

***

If you'd like more information on Circle's SPAR program, please visit our page on SPAR parenting






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Surrogacy Questions Asked by Gay Men, Answered by an Expert

We asked for your biggest questions regarding the surrogacy process, and then turned to Kirstin Marsoli and her team at Circle Surrogacy for the answers... Check them out below!

Once you decide to grow your family through surrogacy, the key to a successful surrogacy journey is to do your research, and get all of your questions answered.

That's why Gays with Kids reached out to you – their community – and asked you what questions you'd like answered about surrogacy. They turned to Circle Surrogacy, leaders in helping others build families through surrogacy and egg donation, for answers to your most burning questions.

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5 Questions Gay Men Should Ask Themselves Before Starting Surrogacy

Here are five questions gay men should make sure they have the answers to before starting a surrogacy journey

Photo credit: Melissa Bissell Photography

Babies are the best! And growing your family through surrogacy is an amazing experience for everyone involved. There is a tremendous amount of planning, a detailed process and a rollercoaster of emotions that go along with it.

Before you begin your surrogacy journey, here are 5 questions you should ask yourself – and have the answers to! – to help ensure the smoothest journey possible.

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7 Things Parents Wished They'd Known About Surrogacy Before Starting the Process

Circle Surrogacy asked parents through surrogacy what they wished they'd known about the process before beginning. Here's their (very honest) feedback

If you're considering surrogacy, chances are you've started your research: reviewing agencies, understanding costs, and even speaking to friends who have become parents through the surrogacy process.

No matter how much research you do, you will still encounter surprise moments along your journey. To help prepare yourself as much as possible for what's to come (as best you can!) Circle Surrogacy spoke with parents through their surrogacy program and asked them: "What do you wish someone had told you about surrogacy?"

Here are 7 (very honest) things parents through surrogacy wished someone told them about the process:

​#1. Put yourself out there emotionally.

As an intended parent, you determine your comfort level with the depth of relationship you have with your surrogate and egg donor. Martin shared with us, "I wish someone had told me the importance and positivity of having an open process, open donor and open surrogate relationships. These meetings are so beautiful and important to the kids." New dad Byron seconds that, "An open relationship with your egg donor and surrogate is extremely rewarding and amazing in times of celebration." However, he also adds, "But it can be tough in times of struggle managing and understanding 4 sets of emotions rather than just 2." Still, putting yourself out there is emotionally rewarding, and deepens your relationship with the women with whom you work.

#2. Focus on one thing at a time.

The old saying, "It's not a sprint, it's a marathon" should be turned on its head for surrogacy. Because while the surrogacy process is a marathon, thinking about it that way can feel very daunting. It helps to focus on the individual sprints and milestones, while keeping your eye on the finish line – your baby! Having smaller milestones to achieve and celebrate will help you stay in the moment and keep perspective. "Surrogacy seemed so unattainable at first," parent Siobhan told us, "but it is manageable by taking everything one step at a time."

#3. You Won't Feel Happy/Overjoyed/Excited Every Minute of Your Journey.

It's okay to have a range of emotions during your surrogacy journey. Of course you'll feel joy and excitement (you're having a baby!) However, the chances that you'll also feel frustrated, disappointed or anxious at certain times are pretty high. And guess what? That's okay. (Not only is it okay, it's NORMAL.) "Talk, talk and talk some more to your partner, good friend or agency support person," Siobhan shared with us. "Don't bottle up your emotions!" If you're feeling it, SHARE IT. Even if everyone might not like what you have to say. Remember: you're not alone on your journey!

#4. You may experience financial stress.

It's no secret that you've investing quite a bit financially on a surrogacy journey. "While we were told about financials, it took some time for us to fully understand how you as intended parents bear the ultimate financial responsibility for whatever happens during your process," Johan, a parent from Norway shares. "And if financial uncertainties stress you, you should prepare yourself for this. Some things might not go as you hoped or planned for…this could mean that your costs could be higher than those estimated." It's wise to build in a cushion into your costs for anything unexpected that might come your way.

#5. There is SO MUCH paperwork.

"I wish someone had told us about the crazy amount of paperwork and notarizations!" parent Stefan says. Surrogacy does require quite a bit of paperwork, however all of this paperwork is in place to protect you as intended parents, and establish the guidelines of your relationship and contract with your surrogate and egg donor, as well as ensure a smooth return home with your baby. Getting the paperwork in place upfront allows for a smooth journey and for you to be fully engaged emotionally at every step. Also? Your agency may reference this paperwork throughout your journey – be sure to keep it in a safe, handy place!

#6. Your journey will not be perfect.

Just like very few traditional pregnancies are perfect, surrogacy journeys are the same way. Your vision of how the journey will go may not happen the way you intended: Delayed egg retrievals. Flight cancellations. Additional transfers. For me, our journey was 5 years long, with 2 surrogates, and many disappointments along the way. Not exactly how I pictured us building our family. But we endured, and we had tremendous agency support from Circle. In the end, we have an amazing little boy, who made the five years leading up until that point literally disappear. Don't expect perfection, be flexible, and accept that you have very little control.

#7. Navigating the emotional waters of surrogacy is much easier with an experienced agency.

Larger agencies, such as Circle Surrogacy, have social work support and lawyers in-house who will support parents at each milestone. Plus, their team is made up of former surrogates, egg donors and intended parents – people who have been through the surrogacy process – who are happy to share their experiences and answer any questions.

Our advice: expect the unexpected and hold on tight for the best ride of your life! You WILL get there.

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3 Tips for Gay Men When Choosing an Egg Donor

Here are 3 tips for gay intended parents to keep in mind when choosing an egg donor

Written by Kristin Marsoli, Marketing Director with Gina-Marie Madow, Attorney and Matching Manager and Dory Ziperstein, Egg Donation Manager at Circle Surrogacy.

Once upon a time, there was a gay couple embarking on a surrogacy journey to build their family. When they started their search for an egg donor, they discovered that they each had different priorities when it came to who their ideal woman was.

The first intended father started his search with the women he felt were the most attractive to him. The second intended father began his search with women with the highest educational degrees.

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Keeping the Relationship With Your Surrogate Alive After A Baby

A special relationship between a surrogate and intended parents often forms during a pregnancy. But what happens once the baby arrives?

Written by Kristin Marsoli, Marketing Director at Circle Surrogacy, with new parents Byron and Matt, and surrogate Misty and her husband Blake.

Building your family through surrogacy gives you the opportunity to connect with people with whom you may not have met in your day-to-day life. When these families are connected, deep bonds can be created, and long-lasting relationships formed throughout the pregnancy. It's these deep bonds that carry you through to the birth of the baby and beyond.

New parents Byron and Matt, and their surrogate Misty and her husband Blake, share a bit about their surrogacy experience and the unique relationship that formed during the pregnancy and birth. They also discuss ways for keeping the relationship alive between the surrogate and intended parents.

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