By: John Jericiau
When I attempt to explain to others the steps we have to go through to try to add to our family, I typically will hear responses like a simple “Wow!” or “No Way!” to a more thought-out “That’s not fair!” or “It should be easier for you!” The truth is that it’s not an easy road. At least 1% of all babies born in the United States were produced by in vitro fertilization (IVF), so we’re definitely not alone (interestingly, almost half of these IVF births were twins, triplets, or more). But being a two-dad family does add even more paperwork and issues to sort out.
First of all we’re going to need a woman to carry the baby from embryo to term – a surrogate (some say oven, but it’s impersonal enough without having to call her an inanimate object). For a gay guy this may be only the second woman in our life that we ever really truly needed (the first being our own birthmother), and this may be difficult to swallow. It is a shame that we can’t just do it ourselves, and I would love to experience the miracle of pregnancy and birth first-hand, but it’s not in the cards and never will be. The wooing of this woman is not a romantic journey; generally it consists of the intended parents (IPs) searching websites or classifieds or surrogacy companies for the right person, and then preparing to shell out $30,000 or more towards the cost of the entire IVF process – a lot more than some of our straight counterparts who pay $30 for dinner and a movie and then wake up the next morning with a done deal.
Alen and I did get lucky with our surrogate. Our close friend who carried Dylan to term a few years ago has been on board ever since for a repeat performance. She’s an angel from heaven who for some reason thinks we were meant to have a big family, and she wants to help. We are grateful for that.
Our IVF physician insists on eggs from very young and therefore potentially more fertile women, so our angel from heaven is out and instead we need an egg substitute. Back to the websites or classifieds or egg donor agencies, and back to writing large checks (around $10,000) in the process. Lists and lists of beautiful, smart, and talented women are available from which to choose the X chromosome. This woman must also be responsible and dependable … she has to adhere to a strict calendar of medications (injectable and oral) while maintaining celibacy in her personal life. Even after perfect adherence, it’s possible that she may produce too few or even too many follicles and therefore be unable to continue in the process, at which point it is back to the drawing board.
The Y chromosome is in our hands. As we are both competitive swimmers, it looks like things look good on our end. With a plethora of sperm from which to choose, we simply stir our gene pool and let nature decide. Arguably the least expensive (but no less miraculous) part of the process, the production of the little guys must be timed with the women described above for maximum efficacy. It’s a concert, and the beat of the drum is just as important as the other instruments.
The IVF physician is the conductor, and the bulk of the money spent will be for him and his staff. Near perfect timing and luck will determine if we have an addition by the end of the year. But that’s just the medical side. The hidden costs include paying an attorney to write up well-scripted legal agreements to let the world know that out of this will come two guys as parents. Neither woman involved will have any parental rights, nor can either change her mind (although “changing her mind” implies that at one time the baby belonged to her, which in this case was never true). Everyone involved will need psychological screening and medical testing to be sure that we are all of sane mind and able body. Birth certificates will be written with John and Alen as Parent A and Parent B. The birth hospital will need legal notification to let them know what’s going on.
So where are we in this process as of today? I can hardly contain my excitement. All the paperwork is done. All screening and testing has been done. Our handpicked pair is just about to start on that strict calendar of medications. Oh, and Alen has ordered repeat psychological testing for me, STAT!