Working with a Same-sex Couple: The Gestational Surrogate Experience
What is it like being a gestational surrogate for a gay couple?
Stephanie lives in the small Midwestern town of Augusta, Wisconsin and works as a senior operational trainer at United Healthcare. Her husband works in construction as a drywall finisher. ARTparenting recently talked with her about her experience as a gestational surrogate for a gay couple.
Stephanie, what sparked your interest in being a gestational surrogate?
Someone had asked me when I was pregnant with my first child over 11 years ago if I would ever be interested in being a surrogate. This was someone I worked with who was having trouble conceiving. They knew I enjoyed being pregnant — that I'd never had any complications. And they knew I was interested in helping other people. But I didn’t pursue it at the time. More recently, when my son — my youngest — turned six, I was like, “I think I want to do this.” My two older daughters and my son were all positive about the idea.
What brought you to Meryl Rosenberg and ARTparenting?
Well, I began looking online for assistance and information, found Meryl, and she answered all of my questions immediately. She was very prompt and caring, explained what we had to do in terms of psychological evaluation, interviewing, screening, etc. — all the important preliminary steps. And before I knew it I was at the stage where I was ready to be matched with a couple. The process was actually very easy and surprisingly quick.
So what about being matched with a male couple?
Well, when we found out that the intended parents were two intended dads, it was a little strange for us at first. I mean, it just wasn’t what we were expecting, even though we had stated we were open to this idea on our application. My husband, especially, was a little hesitant. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not close-minded or prejudiced at all, but we’re small-town people with traditional values, not living in the most sophisticated part of the country. But we talked it over and kind of decided why not and were perfectly willing to meet them.
How did that go?
It was fantastic, actually. We decided to meet midway between Wisconsin, where we live, and Pennsylvania, where the intended dads live. So we met in Ohio for dinner, near the fertility clinic that we were going to work with. Immediately, the ice was broken. We liked them a lot and they liked us. They were both businessmen, one worked in advertising, just super normal, nice people. By the end of dinner, all the silly stereotypes we might have had about gay dads in our mind were washed away, and we just hit it off. As couples, we had lots of common interests, music and stuff, so it was just totally normal.
Well, it was December of 2013 when we met in person, and we finished up all the screenings, counseling, and evaluations shortly after that. In January 2014, I begin fertility drugs to sync-up with the egg donor — the dads were using an anonymous egg donor. The first egg donor that they chose didn’t produce any eggs, and then she overproduced, and it just wasn’t working with her. So they switched to a new anonymous donor in May of 2014, and we went down to Ohio to do our first embryo transfer on the 20th of June. That first one didn’t take, and we tried again on July 25th, and that one was successful.
Was it a normal pregnancy, like your others?
Pretty much. At about 10 weeks, I had some spotting, which made me nervous since I’d never experienced that with any of my other pregnancies. But my doctors said I was fine, and that that sometimes just happens, and sure enough, it stopped. When I was pregnant with my own son six years ago, the only food issue was I couldn’t stand the thought of eating meat. And I was the way with this pregnancy. And sure enough, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy on April 14th of this year.
What was the pregnancy like in terms of your involvement with the couple?
Well, the dads were with me for the first ultrasound, at 12 weeks. Then again at 20 weeks, they flew up for the second ultrasound, which is when you find out the sex of the baby; so that was really nice. There was a third ultrasound, and for that one, we sent them videos and still photography, but otherwise, we just kept in touch by texting once a week or so on progress and updates. They never “hovered.”
And what about the birth?
Well, my due date was April 10th, which was a Friday, and the dads flew in that day. By the following Tuesday, the 14th, my water hadn’t broken and I really was ready, so my doctor induced labor, and it all went well. Not only were the two dads in the delivery room — which I insisted on because this was their moment — but my husband ended up acting as the event photographer! I found the whole experience wonderful, gratifying, liberating, all those great adjectives.
Would you work as a gestational surrogate with another gay couple?
Absolutely. At the end of the day, there’s just no difference between the concerns of gay intended parents versus the concerns of a male-female couple — everyone wants the same thing: a happy result for everyone involved, including the baby, and that’s all that counts. Plus, working with a gay couple, I have to say I kind of liked being the only woman in the room!
Did your kids ever meet the dads?
Oh yes, absolutely, I wanted my two older daughters and my 6-year-old son to be totally informed about what was going on. Meeting the dads just made it real to them. I think it was an amazing learning experience for them, not just the science behind what we were doing, but about human relationships. My 10-year old daughter said at one point, “So it’s kind of like a gift that you’re giving them?” That’s when I really knew she understood what was going on. In the end, I have to say working with a gay couple was an absolute non-issue — for me, my kids, and my husband. It was in many ways a blessing.