Archive | May, 2012

A Change In Direction: From Adoption to Surrogacy

30 May

Earlier this year our friends E & A, a married male couple, became the fathers of two babies, born by gestational surrogate. A few months after the babies were born and things settled down for them a bit, we e-mailed and asked if we could bring them dinner and hear about their adventures in becoming dads, and also talk about our own burgeoning path to parenthood.

When we got off the elevator in E & A’s new building (they moved to have more room for the babies), we heard a baby crying and knew right away which apartment was theirs. We were delighted to meet the babies and catch up with our friends.

“So, you guys are thinking about adopting?” E asked us later in the evening, as Matt and I each held a baby. (Matt and I were in baby heaven. That’s Matt, at right.)

“It seems like the best path for us,” Matt said. “We’d love to do surrogacy, but I’m not sure that’s in the financial cards for us right now.”

During our many hours of online research, Matt and I had read that the cost of surrogacy in the United States can easily reach $100,000, and can be as much as $160,000. Also, because many states have different laws about surrogacy, things can get legally complex. At our meeting with an adoption agency, we were told adoption would cost $25,000-$30,000, and as a relatively young couple who’d also like to buy a house in the near future, it made sense for us to take a less expensive route that still ended with a baby.

But then, just a few days ago, Matt and I were lying around in the living room, poking around on our laptops.

“Hey, have you read about surrogacy in India?” Matt asked.

“I think I might have read something about it in the Times,” I said. “Why?”

“Do a Google search,” Matt said. “This might be something worth considering.”

And, indeed, it was.

Looking Into Gestational Surrogacy

To give some quick background, gestational surrogacy involves using a couple’s genetic material to create fertilized eggs, and then implanting the fertilized eggs in a surrogate’s womb. If one member of a couple is infertile, a donor egg or donor sperm is used. In our case, as a same-sex couple, we would use genetic material from one of us, and then use a donor egg. (Just to clarify, in gestational surrogacy, the woman who carries the baby–the surrogate–does not provide the egg. The surrogate is the carrier for the baby, but not its genetic parent.)

In India, since 2005, there has been something of a surrogacy baby boom. (There are hundreds, if not thousands, of articles about it online.) It’s been reported that surrogacy has become a billion-dollar industry in the country. There are many different viewpoints on gestational surrogacy, especially when it takes place in developing countries, but the fact remains that gestational surrogacy is entirely legal in India, as it is in many countries and states in the U.S.

Many of the articles on Indian gestational surrogacy also point out that the amount of money surrogates make from the arrangement often allows Indian surrogates to purchase housing for their families, as well as provide a paid education for their own genetic children.

Adoption vs. Surrogacy: Length & Cost of Process

As Matt and I began discussing adopting in the United States verses looking at surrogacy in India, our conversation came down to two important elements: the length and cost of the process.

We knew that adopting could take as little as a year, but could stretch out to multiple years, and would likely cost about $25,000-$30,000.

In researching Indian surrogacy, and communicating with a few Indian clinics, we learned that Indian surrogacy would also cost about $25,000-$30,000, a dramatic difference from the $100,000-$160,000 price tag for surrogacy in the United States.

Unlike U.S. adoption, surrogacy wouldn’t require a social worker to do a home study, and it wouldn’t require any of the other bureaucratic complexities of adoption. We wouldn’t have to advertise for expectant mothers who may be considering putting their baby up for adoption, and wait for a mother to select us.

Beyond that, we also know the precise length of the process: once we complete our paperwork with an Indian clinic, and make our initial visit, we would have a baby in nine months. (Sometimes surrogacy doesn’t take the first time, of course, and another round of in vetro fertilization is necessary. Still, you know how long you need to wait for your baby to arrive once the process is under way.)

“So, is this the route you want to go?” I asked Matt.

“I think so. You?”

I smiled. I nodded.

And, with that, Matt and I started the process of becoming parents, half-way around the world.


The New Dads on the Block

5 May

Matt and I have always wanted to be parents. Long before we met each other–in fact, even as teenagers–we always knew we wanted to have children someday.

Matt and I met in November 2008 and fell in love that winter. Exactly three years to the day after we met, we got married in Central Park, surrounded by friends and family. Now, six months after the nuptials, we’re both ready to set out on the journey of becoming parents.

Yes, of course, becoming parents is slightly more complicated as two guys. We can’t just make a baby in the privacy of our home and, nine months later, have a newborn in our Baby Bjorn as we stroll the farmer’s market for fresh produce. But, thankfully, there are many options open to us (and all couples, regardless of sexual orientation) in becoming parents.

Matt and I started the journey of becoming parents today with an informational meeting at Family Focus Adoption Services, an adoption agency in New York City (where we live), which has been around for more than two decades, and is well-known as an agency that works very happily with same-sex couples. In fact, at the informational meeting we attended, there were three young same-sex male couples in attendance, along with two straight couples.

So, here’s what we learned at today’s meeting: Adopting a child will cost about $25,000-$30,000. There’s a good chance it will be a multi-year process. The first big step is setting up a home study with a social worker, which is a months-long process of vetting us as a potential adoptive couple (a non-refundable process that will cost just over $1,500).

After all the initial screening and bureaucracy is complete, the process of essentially advertising ourselves in any way possible to potential birth mothers begins. There are a slew of websites expecting moms can visit if they want to place their children for adoption, and these days moms can essentially browse the sites and pick a couple they want to have their child. The agency then serves as the impartial middle man, helping bring the whole process together, from the initial contact to the day there’s an infant swaddled in Little Giraffe blankets in your arms. (There really are too many great baby product and clothing sites out there to browse for my own good.)

There are many other ways and places to advertise the fact that you’re a couple that would like to adopt children, of course. They suggest reaching out to hospitals, women’s clinics, churches, etc. Word of mouth, as we learned today, can also be hugely helpful. We heard a story today about a grandmother who was getting her hair done at a salon, talking about her son and his husband, who had just announced they wanted to adopt. The woman washing hair a couple chairs over overheard the conversation. That woman was pregnant and wondering what to do, and that day at work she’d found the couple she’d eventually give her baby to. Kind of amazing, right? You never know how and when and where it’ll happen.

Matt and I want to visit a few more agencies before we settle on one, but we enjoyed meeting with Family Focus today, and definitely consider them a contender. But, there’s still quite a bit more footwork and reading to do before we make a final decision. We certainly hope to make that choice early this summer so we can get things rolling in what may very well be a marathon process.

Aside from all the reading and research, discussing and pondering, Matt and I are very excited and happy to have started our journey in becoming dads together.

And, who knows? Someday soon we might just be the new dads on your block.