Expert Advice

What's It Like When You're NOT the Bio Dad to Your Baby

Lauren Mello of Circle Surrogacy breaks down some of the challenges facing the gay dad who will *not* become the biological parent.

If you're a gay couple considering surrogacy, one of the first decisions you'll need to make together is who is going to be the biological father. When it's time to create your embryos with your egg donor's eggs, you have a few choices when it comes to which dad will be providing his biology: one dad only can provide his biology, both dads can provide their biology and leave the fertilization to chance, or both dads can provide their biology and fertilize half of the embryos with each dad's sperm. Some gay dads choose this third option if they plan to have twins, or more than one baby through surrogacy.

Once embryos are created, you'll decide which embryos will be transferred into your surrogate mother. Hopefully a pregnancy results, and you'll be on your way to fatherhood!

The question is: what's is like when you're NOT the bio dad to your baby? We spoke with a few dads through surrogacy from Circle Surrogacy & Egg Donation, about the emotions surrounding being a bio dad...and not being one.


If you're going to tell friends and family who the bio dad is, when should you tell them?

Dads we spoke to decided before the journey began if and when they would tell people who the bio dad is. All the dads that we spoke with shared this sentiment in different ways.

Two dads decided that they didn't want to know who the bio dad was and proceeded with the journey without knowing. This allowed them to avoid the bio dad question entirely.

We spoke with a dad who said that he and his partner know who the bio dad is but chose not to share that information and asked that those closest to them respect their privacy. This allowed both dads to feel equally connected to the baby during the pregnancy, and prevented family and friends from treating them differently as parents.

Two Circle dads have now begun their second journey and look back at their first wishing they hadn't told anyone because "as soon as our friends and family found out who the biological father was, they began assigning traits and characteristics to my husband. They often draw connections between the two of them because they know my husband is the bio dad." He went on to explain how he can sometimes feel excluded from the narrative and began to wonder if his family members would treat or love his child differently knowing the child didn't have his genetics.

One Circle employee who is a dad through surrogacy at Circle Surrogacy stated: "For us in the earlier days he was the spit of my husband looks wise so people could work it out. As he grew, and became more "me" it's harder. People now tell me they are unsure. He knows who his bio dad or as he calls it "DNA Sperm daddy" is. He asked when he was about 7 years old. We have always had an honest answer policy for our kids (age appropriately of course). I have always felt that the biology is no ones business but ours and his. I get annoyed when people try to guess in front of my children as it's none of their business and honestly, in poor taste. Look at us as a family, not a DNA connection!"

One sentiment came through loud and clear: don't ask who the "real" dad is. Not being the bio dad to a child born through surrogacy does not negate the realness of fatherhood.

Instead of focusing on your genetics, focus on the genetics of your egg donor

Circle Surrogacy's dads told us that they focused all their genetic energy on the egg donor, since that was more of a question mark in terms of what traits or features the baby would get. Selecting an egg donor's genetics by looking at a woman in a database can feel overwhelming. Some Egg Donor databases are very evolved, and provide details about an egg donor's health and her family's health, as well as personality traits, previous donation history, school and employment details and recent photos as well as baby pictures. Having this amount of information at your fingertips can help provide insight as to who your baby might be, or what s/he will look like.

"It was easier to focus on the donor's genetics because we didn't know her. I chose my husband, so I already know that I will love the parts of my child that he/she gets from him. We spent far more time wondering about the parts of our child that would come from our donor," shared one Circle Dad.

Selecting an egg donor is a big milestone in your surrogacy journey. You're selecting a woman and imagining her genetics mixing with your own genetics and what that will look like!

What is it like to NOT be the bio dad to your baby?

Gay dads everywhere may wonder the same thing: what is it like emotionally knowing you're not the biological father to your child? The dads we spoke with were very open about what that feels like, and they realized that not being the bio dad is a lot like being the bio dad. Many of the non-bio dads we spoke with related the experience to being a father in the more traditional sense.

Whether it's a man and a woman, a man and a man, or a single man, there is a different connection for dads since they don't physically carry the baby. Both dads are the "real" dad, and both become fathers at the same time.

One Circle dad said, "I was worried that when the baby was born, my husband would have a stronger connection to our baby than I would, but the moment he was born, everything changed. That moment was so full of love and excitement and pure joy that all of those worries washed away."

Upon the arrival of their babies, the dads were reminded that genetics are only a small piece of a much bigger picture. All the dads we spoke with agreed that whether they had a genetic connection or not, once their baby(ies) arrived, they were a dad. We were lucky enough to speak with a Circle dad who has now experienced not being the bio dad to his first child, but being the bio dad to his second baby due next year.

He and his husband are expecting another child in the spring of 2020 and he now realizes that he has no more connection to this baby girl of whom he is the bio dad, than he had with his son. One of the only differences is that he now feels more responsibility in the success of this second journey since it was his embryo. He placed more pressure on himself during the transfer, ultrasounds, and other milestones in fear that if something were to go wrong, it would be his failure. This was one of the only ways in which this experience was different than the first.

When asked if he felt less connected to the baby that he was not the bio dad for, another Circle dad said, "I absolutely did not. I fell head over heels in love with my son and I knew he was not my biological child. The bond between us is unbreakable. He is my reason for breathing and in many ways so much more "like me" than his bio dad. We share the same taste in music, TV shows, and movies. We simply get each other. He's my mini me in every way except biology. He's my little friend."

***

Who will be the biological father to your child(ren) is a very personal decision. Or, if there is a genetic or medical reason for one dad to not donate his biology, the decision may be made for you. Either way, it's one of the first big decisions you'll make as a couple in the egg donation and surrogacy process. And it's perfectly okay to not tell others who the bio dad is, or if you do want to share the news, wait until the baby is born. Each journey is different, and how dads manage the emotions of fatherhood – biological or not – are just as unique.

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What Professionals Will I Work With on a Surrogacy Journey?

There will be LOTS of people involved in your surrogacy journey. Kristin Marsoli of Circle Surrogacy breaks down the team of people you can expect to work with.

A surrogacy journey, while monumental, is also a complex process with multiple milestones, many of which are new territory for intended parents. You will likely form the strongest relationships with your egg donor and surrogate, however there are many other professionals who you'll encounter on your journey who will educate and support you on your way to parenthood.

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Parent Outreach Team

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Circle's Parent Outreach Team

Egg Donation Matching Coordinator

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IVF Doctor and Clinic Coordinators

You'll work closely with your IVF clinic professionals, including coordinators and, especially, your doctor. Your IVF doctor will advise you on your IVF journey and embryos, evaluate your egg donor and surrogate to determine they are ready for the process medically, and perform the egg retrieval and embryo transfer. Some intended parents come to surrogacy having already identified a clinic, others look for guidance in choosing a clinic that will best suit their needs.

Program Manager and Coordinator

Perhaps the professionals you will work the closest with will be your Program Manager (PM) and Program Coordinator (PC). As your journey support team, your PC and/or PM will be your day-to-day contact during your entire journey, from the moment you sign on with the agency, until the birth of your baby and beyond. Your PC and your PM ensure that you are meeting every milestone, having a smooth journey, and preparing for the arrival of your baby(ies).

Social Workers

Early on in your journey, you'll have an intended parent support call with one of the agency's social workers. During this call, you'll speak with the social worker about your upcoming journey, setting up expectations, talk about matching preferences and more. Social workers are also available to intended parents throughout their journey should they have a bump in the road, or if they need help navigating and talking through a situation.

L-R Alicia Abdella, Manager of Intended Parent Support and Social Worker, Jessica McCaffrey, Intended Parent Attorney and Scott Buckley, VP of Client Services

Lawyers (both at Circle and local attorneys)

During the surrogacy process you will work with a lawyer for the following milestones:

  • Drafting, negotiating and finalizing your surrogacy contracts
  • Establishing your parental rights
  • Safely returning home

Intended parents will be assigned a Circle attorney who will be part of the Coordination team. Parents can also expect to work with local counsel – lawyers who work out of the state from which their gestational carrier resides. Local counsel will help with establishing parental rights.

Surrogate Matching Team

A key milestone during your surrogacy journey is matching with your gestational carrier. At Circle, the Matching Manager – who is also a lawyer – presents intended parents with the profile of a gestational carrier whom she believes will be a great match. The match is based on a few criteria: legal fit, personality fit, geographic location and views on surrogacy. The Matching Team will help coordinate your first call with your potential surrogate, and work with you to find the most suitable match.

Trust Accountant Team

Each surrogacy operates a little differently; however if you work with a full-service agency such as Circle Surrogacy, a Trust Accountant will manage any outgoing payments to surrogates, egg donors and third parties. Upon matching, trust accountants keep intended parents informed of the monies needed to fund all expected expenses up until 6 months post delivery. They can also answer any financial questions intended parents may have.

Medical Billing Team

Intended parents will interact with the Medical Billing Team when they are matched with their gestational carrier. The team determines what intended parents can expect to pay for medical expenses from local monitoring, pregnancy and delivery, based on their specific case. The Medical Billing Team also reviews each medical bill from monitoring, physicians and the hospital prior to payment to ensure accuracy, and advocate for intended parents should medical facilities need to be called for any discrepancies.

Gestational Carrier's OBGYN

Around the 10th week of pregnancy, the IVF clinic will discharge your surrogate from their care and she will start seeing her OBGYN. Your surrogate will select her OBGYN that is local to her, and usually the same doctor she saw for her own pregnancies. Many intended parents attend the 20-week ultrasound with their surrogate, at which time they meet the OBGYN in person (in some cases, IPs have been "attended" ultrasound appointments via video on their surrogate's phone!).

The entire team at Circle

Hospital Staff

Your baby will be delivered at a hospital in your gestational carrier's home state; many times, it's the hospital where she delivered her own children. Circle recommends touring the Labor & Delivery section of your surrogate's hospital to help familiarize yourself with its staff and layout in advance. Many intended parents combine their visit for the 20-week ultrasound and the hospital tour. Touring the hospital with your surrogate enables you both to ask questions of the hospital staff and prepare for baby's delivery.

Embassy personnel (international intended parents)

International parents will work with their agency's legal team as well as local counsel to ensure they can return home safely. Some intended parents will need to travel to the embassy to secure travel documents for their baby(ies).

There are so many experienced professionals involved in a surrogacy and egg donation journey. It's important to understand with whom you'll be working throughout each milestone. While every agency operates differently – and an independent surrogacy journey will involve fewer agency professionals – these are the professionals intended parents can expect to work with on a journey with Circle Surrogacy. And because Circle is a full-service agency, many of the professionals mentioned above – outside of IVF clinics, local attorneys, hospital and embassy personnel – are all under one roof, making the management of your journey smooth and secure.

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