Archive | June, 2012

Setting the Date to Make a Baby

29 Jun

We’ve got our Indian visas. All the prelim medical tests are done on our end. We’ve selected an egg donor for our child and we’ve wired the initial payments (upward of $8,000) to our clinic in India.

Now all that’s left to do is select our surrogate, visit our clinic in India, and make our baby.

We’ve worked out the dates for that big initial visit with both our clinic and employers. (Drum roll, please!) Matt and I will be traveling to Mumbai on Friday, July 20, and returning to New York on Thursday, July 26.

That means, of course, that three weeks from today we’ll be getting on a plane and heading to India. It feels almost surreal how quickly everything is happening, but we’re both very excited. It’s hard to be patient. We’d go tomorrow if we could.

Alas, just a few more weeks to wait.

Ordinarily we wouldn’t be telling people so much about this process, as in vitro fertilization, and pregnancy in general, can be a delicate, fickle undertaking. Consider the data, which tells us there’s a 60% chance of pregnancy from a first round of IVF. If there isn’t a successful pregnancy the first time, Matt will have left a second genetic sample to start the in vitro process again two months after the first go-round (which also means additional cost). There’s a 90% chance of success by the second time around. So, nine out of ten times, by the second try, you’re pregnant (in the case of gestational surrogacy).

This is the part, of course, where we beg you to cross all your fingers and toes (and/or send good thoughts, prayers, light a candle, or whatever it is you like to do in a situation like this) for a successful first shot.

It takes two weeks for the clinic to confirm our pregnancy after that initial visit, so we’ll know the result by mid-August. An e-mail from our clinic will serve as our equivalent of peeing on a little plastic stick and looking for a “plus” or “minus.” We’ll be on our honeymoon in Spain at that point, which would be a really wonderful time to get some good news.

If not, we’ll deal; we’re very optimistic, but also realistic. You have to be with things like this.

With IVF, and pregnancies in general, the oft-accepted rule is usually to not tell anyone about the status of the pregnancy until the first trimester of pregnancy is finished (which is about thirteen weeks). It’s most common for miscarriages to occur in that time period, for example, so couples often wait until after that to make announcements to friends and family.

In our case, however, we’ll be sharing each step of the process as we go along. We learned so much valuable information  from a few same-sex couples who wrote terrific gestational surrogacy blogs, detailing each step of their journey, from bumps to successes, that we feel it’s only fair to do the same ourselves.

In the meantime, we’ll be counting down the days until we leave for India.

Fatherhood, or at least a fertilized egg latched to a uterine wall and rapidly dividing, may be just around the corner.


“Will You Marry Me?”

26 Jun

When I woke up that Friday morning last June, I had no idea that I would be engaged to be married by the end of the day.

I sent Matt a text that morning. “Why don’t we go to a nice dinner tonight? Something French, maybe?”

“Sounds good to me,” Matt wrote back. A consummate foodie, he was never one to turn down the idea of going out for a good meal.

In a few weeks we were set to go to London and Paris for a vacation, so I brought up the idea of doing a Paris-themed night out. Matt was on board with that, too.

I made a reservation at Café Luxembourg on the Upper West Side and looked up show times for Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” playing at Lincoln Square.

We went all out at dinner, dressing up in jackets and ordering whatever we liked from the menu. When we finished our meal, Matt had a mischievous smirk on his face.

“Why don’t we head down to Per Se and have drinks before the movie?”

“Per Se?” I asked. “As in the single fanciest restaurant in all of New York?”

The mischievous smirk turned into a full-blown smile. Yes, that one.

I can’t remember what cocktail we ordered at Per Se, but I remember that it was obscenely priced and delicious. Matt had started checking his phone for news updates at that point, knowing that the New York Senate was supposedly going to vote on same-sex marriage equality in the late hours of the day. No news yet, though.

We finished our drinks and made our way to the movie. The theater was packed.

Throughout the movie, Matt kept peeking at his phone, which would have driven me absolutely crazy, but he got a free pass for his excitement, waiting to see if New York would join the handful of states that had decided its gay and lesbian constituents weren’t second-class citizens.

As the movie wound toward its conclusion, Matt nudged me and surreptitiously showed me his iPhone screen.


I gave him a quick kiss, and we held hands until the movie finished. I felt a flush of excitement. Matt squeezed my hand and I squeezed back.

“Wow, I can’t believe they did it,” I said to Matt as we walked out of the theater, referring to the New York Senate.

“I thought they would,” Matt said. “I’m glad they had the courage to finally get it done.”

We stepped out into the summer evening on the Upper West Side, across the street from the glowing, newly-renovated Lincoln Center. We felt a little wired from our great date night, combined with the news coming out of Albany.

“Should we go for a drink?” I asked.

“Why don’t we go for a walk around Lincoln Center,” Matt suggested.

We stopped at the famed fountain, brightly lit from within, as cascading water rose and fell in artful arcs. We walked toward the Vivian Beaumont Theater, mere steps away, and through a grove of trees that reminded me of previous trips to Paris. It was a fitting ending, I remember thinking to myself, for our Paris-themed evening.

“Let’s sit for a minute,” Matt said.

We soaked in the quiet of the city and the warm-but-not-stuffy evening air.

“So,” Matt said, speaking slowly, “what would you think about us getting married?”

I smiled. “I think that’s where we’re heading, don’t you? It’s exciting that it’s finally legal here in New York.”

Matt tried again. “But what would you think about us getting married. Now.”

I sat up. “Now? Oh! Well.” I collected myself. “Do you think we’re ready? Should we wait, save money and things?”

Matt laughed. “Josh. We’re ready.”

“Wait. We’re not just doing this because New York passed the law tonight, are we?”

He shook his head. “No, we’re not. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now.”

It was my turn to smile. “You have?”

He nodded.

“Okay,” I said. “Pretend like we didn’t have that whole conversation. Ask me again.”

“Will you marry me?”

I felt myself start to get a little teary, but I held it together. I leaned in toward him.

“Yes,” I said.

We kissed.

Out of the jacket pocked of his suit came a little black, velvety box. Adrenaline shot through my chest.

“Oh my god, this really isn’t just because the law passed tonight!” I said. “You’ve been planning this!”

“I’ve had it with me on a few dates now,” Matt said. “I was waiting for the perfect moment, and if this wasn’t it, I don’t know what would be.”

Inside was a Tiffany platinum band with a small, glittering diamond in it—perfect for a guy, and utterly classic. He put it on my finger.

“Oh my god,” I said again, unable to stop saying the phrase. “We just got engaged!”

We headed toward the car and both started calling friends and family to tell them our news. My first call was to my best friend, whose name is also Josh. We’d been best friends since college and had even moved to the city together, years ago.

“No way!” Josh said. “You’re serious? You’re engaged?

“Yep. And I have the ring to prove it.”

“Okay, you have to come downtown. A ton of people are gathering at Stonewall to celebrate the passage of the marriage law. You guys have to come. I’m walking there right now.”

Soon we were standing in front of the site of the original Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, where the gay rights movement had started in 1969. Just over forty years later, here we were, with a crowd well into the thousands, celebrating as a couple engaged to be married in a state that would now legally recognize our union.

“Alright, you two, smile!” Josh said, pushing Matt and I together and taking a picture of us with his iPhone. We’d been engaged less than an hour, and you could clearly see the delight on our faces.

That’s the photo you see in Matt’s post below, and it became our official engagement photo.

A year later, and more than six months into our marriage, now on our path to becoming dads together, I’m almost speechless thinking about how my life has changed, very much for the better, in twelve short months.

I’m so glad that Matt asked that biggest of questions that night last June.

I’m so glad that I said yes.

I love you, Matt, and I’m so excited to start a family with you.


One Year Ago . . .

25 Jun

One year ago today, at the moment that I am writing this entry, Josh and I were walking from dinner at Cafe Luxembourg to Lincoln Plaza Cinemas to watch “Midnight in Paris.”  While we watched the movie, I repeatedly updated the news feed on my cell phone to check on the status of the pending same-sex marriage legislation in New York state.  When the legislation was approved, I couldn’t wait to get outside and propose.  I had purchased the ring well in advance, and was carrying it with me, looking for the perfect opportunity.  We left the theater and walked across the street to the grove of trees behind Lincoln Center.  I was very emotional, and I’m sure that I could have been more suave in my approach, but I don’t think any amount of planning would have made the moment more perfect than it was for us.

Josh agreed to marry me, and I am the luckiest guy on the planet.  I love you so much, baby!  I can’t wait to start a family with you and to watch our kids grow up.

Lawyers Without Borders

22 Jun

A lawyer who specializes in surrogacy will be required for the second parent adoption as well as to answer any technical questions that will arise as fees begin to accumulate. This child (or children) will genetically be linked to myself and an anonymous egg donor, so legally, a second parent adoption will be required to cover any potential parentage issues for Josh. As this process can not start until after the birth and takes approximately 8 months to complete, a lawyer should be placed on retainer to help us with the entire process. Unfortunately, every lawyer that we have contacted has essentially replied with the same message: they have no legal standing to practice in India, so they are unable to provide us with the counsel that we require.

We may have to figure this out on our own until we arrive back in the United States. A family lawyer will be able to procure the second parent adoption, but as far as a surrogacy lawyer goes, we are out of luck. Thankfully, the surrogacy laws in India are unique in that the only names placed on a birth certificate are those with a genetic link to the child. Therefore, I would be the only name listed on the birth certificate, and thus Baby X will be considered a US citizen born abroad, at least according to India. This makes immigration a very easy process, once the US is satisfied with a genetic test proving my parentage.


Eggs in a Basket: Picking Our (Genetic) Baby Mama

19 Jun

On Sunday night Matt and I went to a big annual fundraiser called Broadway Bares, raising money for the fantastic charity Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. (They raised more than $1.2 million that night, more than any previous year’s take, after 22 years of holding the sexy, funny, hugely popular event.)

They do the event twice in one night, at 9:30 p.m. and at midnight.

“Which one do you want to go to?” Matt asked me, several weeks ago when we bought the tickets.

I sighed. “I hear the midnight show is a little more fun and raucous. But midnight? On a Sunday?

“I know, but when are we ever going to go to a midnight anything if we have a kid, or kids, this spring?”

“Book it,” I said.

And so we went to the midnight show.

We got home just after two o’clock in the morning, exhausted but still lingeringly energized from the high-energy show. By two-thirty we were in bed.

Then Matt’s phone chimed. E-mail!

Since we started this whole surrogacy process, we get inappropriately excited when Matt’s e-mail chime goes off on his iPhone. We get additionally crazed when it happens after midnight, because that means chances the e-mail is from India (which is nine and a half hours ahead of NYC time), increase dramatically. (It also increases the chances that it’s an e-mail from Brandi asking in an e-mail subject if we want to “make size so much bigger!” or a pleading note from a Nigerian prince who just needs us to wire $4,000 and then he’ll give us $40,000 next week. You get the picture.)

But in this case the e-mail really was from our surrogacy clinic in India.

“Please find attached the potential egg donor profiles for a July visit to our clinic. Please select three donors, in your order of preference, and we will check their availability in that order.”

Matt and I looked at each other. It somehow seemed poignant that it was Father’s Day.

Attached were sixteen profiles, showing a photograph of the egg donor, describing her height and weight, blood type, marital status, the number and age of her children, and specific hormonal markers. (The hormonal numbers, like prolactin numbers, were within the “normal” range for all donors. They were all also noted as HIV-negative and free of major diseases, sexual or otherwise.)

We agreed to get some sleep, as it was almost 3 a.m., and we both had to work in the morning, but made a pact to pick the genetic birth mother the next day after work. (The surrogate, who would carry the fertilized egg to term, will be picked in a later, separate round. For many good reasons, the egg donor and the surrogate are not the same woman.)

During our lunch hours, Matt and I sent the donor profiles to a select few family and friends and pored over every bit of information we had. Via text Matt and I agreed that we’d each pick five potential egg donors, compare our picks, and see which of them matched up.

That night we sat on our sofa in the living room and, like a really odd biologically-themed card game, or an America’s Next Top Model elimination, we revealed our picks one by one by placing printed copies of the egg donor profiles on the sofa cushions.

We had a few in common right away, which was exciting. We were able to eliminate about half of the sixteen in a matter of minutes. Then it was time to whittle away at our remaining top picks.

“What do you think of Janeane Garofalo?” I asked, holding up one of the profiles. Each profile started getting a nickname, which was helpful as there were no names on the profiles (only initials). The woman in the picture really did look like an Indian Janeane Garofalo. The next woman looked like she’d be an art teacher, so she became The Art Teacher.

“She could be a finalist,” Matt said. “What about Yearbook Pose?”

“Yep. Yearbook Pose is in. I’m still really all about The Lady in Yellow, though.” The woman in the photo looked like a mom I sometimes saw on the subway in the morning. For whatever reason, the photo and bio spoke to me.

“Yellow could be a finalist, too,” Matt said.

By the end of the night, we had it down to five. We decided to sleep on it one more night.

Today, as I was eating lunch at my desk at the office, trying to finish a million things before yet another work trip, Matt called.

“Ready to pick our final three?”

We went over the profiles that had become favorites one last time. “Okay, we have The Art Teacher, Yearbook Pose, and The Lady in Yellow. Do we feel good about that?”

“So no Janeane Garofalo?” Matt asked.

“I don’t think so, do you?”

“No,” he said. “I’m good with these three.” There was a pause. “Wow. We just picked the genetic mother of our child. Or children.”

“We did,” I said.

I was still smiling when we hung up.

One more step complete. One step closer to becoming dads.


No Floaties Required: Matt’s Swimmers are ‘Normal’

16 Jun

So the urologist called me back to give me some good news.  My sperm are “normal.”  I guess that’s a good thing, because when the results were received by  the Rotunda Clinic, they were pleased enough to ask us for a range of potential travel dates.

I can’t explain how scary it is to wait for test results like these.  You live your entire life just assuming that you will one day be able to have kids, but to spend a week waiting for a lab tech to count your sperm is completely unnerving.  One of the statistics that I came across while researching our options stated that “10-15% of male/female couples are infertile, and that at least one in five 18-25 year old men in Europe have semen quality in the subfertile range.”  I’m well past 25, and I’m pretty sure that the rate gets worse with age.  At least this is one less thing to stress over, and now we can focus on saving up as much money as possible before a potential trip to India in July.

In slightly less exciting news, I got my Indian visa back without any headache.  I received a text message alert that it had been processed and was available for pickup between 4 and 6:30 p.m. M-F.  The line at the Travisa Outsourcing India location was even longer than during the drop-off, but people were much happier as they were there to claim their reward for navigating a sea of bureaucratic paperwork.  Josh submitted his paperwork yesterday, so we should have his visa in hand by early next week.

It’s hard to write this blog without getting a little bit emotional.  Everything is happening so quickly, and I know that I can’t wait to be a father, but it’s difficult to complete all of these requirements without treating the whole process like a checklist of actions, not necessarily like a path to a child.  Every once in a while, the reality of what we are doing hits me, and I’m simultaneously choked up and grinning from ear to ear.  Thank you to all of our friends for your support as we start flipping through pages of anonymous egg donor bios.


Oprah Interviews Gay Dads Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka

15 Jun

Today is Neil Patrick Harris’s birthday, so it seems like a perfect time to post Oprah’s interview with Neil and his fiancé, David Burtka, which aired a few days ago on OWN.

Check out the kitchen in the Harris-Burtka house as the couple gives Oprah the grand tour. All I have to say about that kitchen is “yes, please”:

Meet Gideon and Harper, Neil and David’s twins, born via gestational surrogate:

Love these two as a couple. So happy for them and their family.

Watch a bootleg of the full Oprah’s Next Chapter episode featuring Neil, David, and their twins.

Pokes and Prods: The Pre-Surrogacy Medical Testing

9 Jun

Since deciding on gestational surrogacy to become parents, Josh and I researched our options and chose to work with the Rotunda Clinic in Mumbai, India, to start our family. For a complicated series of reasons (health insurance, employer policies, etc.), we’ve decided to use my genetic material this time around with surrogacy. If we do surrogacy again in a couple years, we’ll likely use Josh’s genetic material that time around.

The clinic e-mailed us with requests for my health history, as well as lab results to determine sperm motility and HIV status before the process continues to the next stage.  Most insurance plans won’t cover surrogacy-related expenses unless you can document infertility through a series of physician visits, so these costs will likely be out-of-pocket.

Working with an international surrogacy agency further complicates things, as my insurance company won’t contribute to a procedure that isn’t billable to a U.S. healthcare provider.  These tests can get expensive, but in the grand scheme of things, it seems necessary to just bite the bullet and hope that the insurance claim submissions will be approved.

(Click here to see the lab tests required by the Rotunda Clinic)

On Friday, as requested by the clinic in Mumbai, I took a trip to my urologist in Manhattan to get a lab referral for a routine semen analysis and urogenital culture.  She’s a fantastic physician and totally on board with our decision to attempt surrogacy. She sent me to Quest Diagnostics at 944 Park Avenue to complete the exams.  The procedures requested weren’t considered advanced in nature, so an appointment wasn’t required, at least according to the referral slip.

But, after arriving at the lab 20 minutes after my urology appointment, I was told that the earliest appointment slot would be in 11 days.  I explained that the referral slip (printed by this exact lab in bulk) specifically noted that walk-ins were accepted. After pointing that out, and a bit of patient reasoning with the guy behind the front desk, an exception to the rule was made and I was given a clipboard and some paperwork to fill out.  (The squeaky wheel gets the grease….)

I don’t know what I was expecting from a fertility lab, but I was led into a tiny room in what was once the coat closet of a very wealthy person’s Park Avenue mansion. There was a sink, a chair, a table with a stack of crusty, crinkled Playboy magazines, a tiny TV with a VCR cassette featuring a film from the 1990s, the nature of which you can probably guess, and a large bottle of Purell.

Now, as a gay man, I can tell you that what was provided in the room was doing absolutely nothing for me.  I wasn’t about to even go near the magazines (I can’t imagine how many previous tenants have flipped through them).

The whole experience was a bit bizarre and awkward. I could hear other people entering the building right outside of my closet, making it even more awkward.  I accomplished what was required and got out of there as quickly as I could.

The third and final stop of the day was at my internal medicine physician for a referral for the required blood work.  Rotunda Clinic requires tests for HBsAg, HCV, VDRL, HIV (1+2) antibody, HIV PCR, and a blood Rh typing.  I took the referral to the Quest labs on 57th Street in Midtown, had three vials of blood taken, and was out of there within an hour.

All of the results should take about a week to process. My urologist and my internal medicine physicians will forward the emailed results directly to the clinic in Mumbai to add to our file.

And now, we wait….


First Things First: Getting Indian Visas

8 Jun

Applying for a visa in India is a tedious process.  Unlike many countries that simply stamp your passport upon arrival, and maybe charge a minor fee, India requires a lengthy visa application, with details like past travel, and identifying marks or bodily features, as well as a hefty fee for processing.

We began our visa process at the website for the Indian consulate in New York City, where we learned that India has recently outsourced their entire visa process to a company called Travisa.  (Insert here any outsourcing jokes you might be tempted to make.) The process is fairly straightforward, but it takes some time to complete all the requirements.

To start, I needed a few copies of a standard 2×2 passport photo (white background, no glasses, etc.), as they’re needed for this application, and will also be needed in India during passport processing for the future baby(ies).  Getting those extra photos now, in the U.S., will undoubtedly save us from additional hassle later in Mumbai or Delhi.

Once I had my photos, I completed the India Visa Application Form online.  Visas are offered for 6 months, 5 years, or 10 years.  As the surrogacy process will require at least two visits, 9 months apart, we opted for the 10-year visa (the 5- and 10-year visas are the same cost, so why not guarantee yourself as much time as possible?).

When I finished the application, I printed a copy, affixed a copy of the 2×2 passport photo in the appropriate box, and signed the papers.

Next, you have to use a scanner or smartphone to make a copy of the entire first page of the application, and then use that cropped image of the 2×2 photo and signature on the Travisa site for the next step in processing.  (I know this sounds strange, but there are helpful videos on the Travisa website to help navigate this part of the process.) The Travisa online form can’t be completed until the India Visa Application has been submitted, as they provide a Web File number that will link both applications.

After completing both applications, the site gave me a selection of times to drop off the paperwork at the Travisa India Outsourcing Center at 316 East 53rd St. in Manhattan.

I picked the 11:20 a.m. time slot, but arrived at 10:50, a full half hour earlier than required.  I’m glad did, because I didn’t even reach the front of the line until 11:30 a.m.  The check-in attendant looked at my documents, checked the photo against my actual passport photo, and sent me to another line for payment processing.  The experience at the Outsourcing Center was time consuming, but everything was conducted in a professional manner and my application went in without complications.

Travisa told me that I should get an e-mail and text message in 3-4 working days, notifying me that the visa was available for pick-up.  The total cost was $166, payable in cash, money order, or credit card.  Credit card transactions add a few days to the processing time, though, so I opted for cash payment, and made sure to get a receipt.  (Always good to have a paper trail if something goes wrong later.)

You have to leave your passport with Travisa during the visa process–it felt strange to leave behind such an important, hard-to-replace document–so make sure that you aren’t planning any weekenders to the Caribbean while going through the application process.

After submitting my visa paperwork, I popped over to my urologist for the next step in the process.

More on that, next….