PARENTHOOD AT LAST! Hope, Hurdles, and Happiness Part 1: Alex & Yoni
Alex and Yoni, a gay couple who’ve been together for five years, both work in corporate jobs in California’s Silicon Valley. Israeli by birth, they emigrated to the United States with the specific desire not just to begin a new life, but to become parents — something each of them knew they’d always wanted.
Their decision to work with ARTparenting and Meryl Rosenberg was the result of what Yoni laughingly describes as “an incredible amount of due diligence — perhaps a little too much, but let’s just say we’re really into research.” He says that they investigated about 12 different surrogacy agencies and “at least six or seven fertility clinics” before deciding on Oregon Reproductive Medicine (ORM) and, of course, ARTparenting. Alex admits that they even set up a giant Excel spreadsheet to help them systematically analyze all their gay surrogacy options.
“We probably overdid the research,” he says, “but it worked. I truly cannot imagine having gone through the surrogacy process with anyone other than ARTparenting. Meryl is understanding and sensitive, she acts fast, and she was always open to discussion of the countless topics that we had questions about. Meryl just felt right for us — the chemistry was there, and we felt comfortable from the moment we began talking with her and her staff.”
Alex and Yoni had a less than perfect experience with the first surrogate with whom they were matched.
“Everything was going along fine,” Yoni explains. “We liked her very much, spent a great deal of time with her, traveled to her city, met her husband and child, and things seemed to be on track. But there was a difference of opinion on several contractual points.”
The primary issue? Alex and Yoni wanted the right to make a decision about continuing the pregnancy if any genetic or other medical complications were found regarding the child. At the end of the day, the surrogate wasn’t comfortable with this; though she had been during the earlier phases of the process as she stated during in-depth interviews, in her written application, and critically based on her psychological evaluation.* Due to their apparent differences, they parted ways.
*The question of termination of a pregnancy and philosophy is a key part of the advance vetting process with potential surrogates. It is a critical issue, perhaps the number one issue in the matching process, so ARTparenting spends a great deal of time on it — in the initial interview, in the written application completed by the surrogate, and in detail with the mental health professional who evaluates surrogates before matching. Though highly unusual with such extensive pre-screening, in this case, the surrogate changed her mind.
“Meryl was wonderful at this somewhat traumatizing time,” Alex says “ She assured us that she would take care of us and very quickly called us to let us know that she had a wonderful replacement surrogate in mind. That was when Brittany, our new match, came into our lives.”
Yoni echoes, “Meryl told us she had just the woman for us — a surrogate who had recently delivered a baby for another couple, and who wanted to serve as a surrogate again. So as soon as she was ready for another journey, we should talk with her. Meryl really had our backs.”
The two men soon met Brittany, who lived across the country in central Pennsylvania, over Skype, and it turned out Meryl was right — it was a love match from the start.
“Brittany was kind, approachable, flexible, and told us she would be happy to work with us,” Yoni remembers.
The embryo transfer was scheduled for January 2017, which occasioned a comedy of errors worthy of an “I Love Lucy” episode, involving a last-minute diverting of a cross-country flight for Brittany and her husband . . . a cancellation of Yoni and Alex’s flight altogether from California to Oregon . . . a rare three-foot snowstorm in the Pacific Northwest . . . and a mad scramble for the very last rental car when Brittany’s flight was diverted to Seattle — all in an effort to make it to ORM for the transfer. This was all set against a ticking clock counting down to the moment when the defrosting embryos would no longer be useable.
“On top of everything, ORM had called us to say that they were closing their clinic because of the severity of the weather,” Yoni recounts. “But they kept it open for us when we explained we were all on the way in our rental car no matter what.”
For Alex, one of the most challenging moments came when he decided he had to phone his sister who lives in Seattle and tell her what was going on, so that she could rush to Seattle Sea-Tac airport, meet Brittany and her husband coming off their diverted Portland flight, and take them to her house to sleep for a couple of hours before setting out for Portland in the still-raging blizzard. Because of the many diverted flights from Portland, there were no available Seattle hotel rooms to be had in the storm!
“The thing is,” Yoni recalls, “Alex and I hadn’t told his sister that we had a new surrogate and that we were about to fly to Portland for a transfer. Following our first attempt, during which we shared our journey with everyone and later had to go through a difficult conversation explaining to all of our friends and family why it didn’t work, we had decided to keep it a secret from everyone until we were further along. But it became impossible — we needed my sister’s help, and she certainly rose to the occasion. She was fantastic. We emailed her photos of Brittany and Steven, and she found them at the airport. So she actually met them in person before we ever did!”
Brittany and Steven, Alex and Yoni, all made it to Portland just in time. The long and nerve-wracking road trip turned out to be a bonding experience that allowed everyone to establish a tight relationship. After the embryo transfer, they all stayed an extra day in Portland to re-group after the travel drama, and then returned to their respective homes.
“Brittany was absolutely wonderful during the resulting pregnancy,” Alex reports. “We video Skyped often and talked pretty much daily on our WhatsApp group called Baby Boom. We also made sure to fly out for all her ultrasounds and get to know Brittany and Steven’s kids. Brittany kept us informed, calmed us when we were stressed or worried, and really kind of educated us along the way. Never having had a baby, let’s just say we were way behind her in terms of knowledge and experience.”
Were there any other bumps? “Well, at the end of February,” Alex says, “two months into the pregnancy, my mom had her 60th birthday, and my sister and I took her on a cruise, while Yoni went skiing with friends. Right when I got off the cruise ship, I got a call from Brittany saying that she was bleeding (something that never happened during her previous pregnancies) and that she was worried. Obviously, we were concerned — worried that she was losing the baby. It was a weekend, and the doctor could only see Brittany on Monday, so we spent the next 24 hours feeling very anxious. However, when the doctor saw Brittany on Monday, he reassured her that the baby was fine and that the bleeding was the result of harmless fluid sacs created during the embryo transfer.”
It was a planned birth, scheduled for just a bit ahead of the due date. And because it was Brittany’s fourth delivery (following her own two children, now 10 and 7, and her first surrogacy), Alex and Yoni wanted to make sure they would be there in time. So the men traveled to Pennsylvania about two weeks ahead of the scheduled birth date and planned to work from there until the baby came. They also planned a “pre-birth photo shoot,” to capture Brittany, Steven, and themselves at the final stages of the pregnancy, to have a memento for them and for Brittany and Steven of this wonderful journey.
As it happened, though, immediately following the photo shoot, Brittany went into labor. She was advised by the doctor to head to the hospital, and speedily gave birth to a baby boy whom Alex and Yoni had already named Tom. Alex and Yoni were cuddling their son moments after the delivery, on September 20.