More Gay Couples Building Families Via Surrogacy

Article by Nara Schoenberg about surrogacy and gay couples provided by Chicago Tribune. 

Cliff Hastings and Ron Hoppe-Hastings sailed through the vows at their 2011 civil union ceremony, until they got to the part about entering into fatherhood together.

“We cried our eyes out,” said Hastings, 41. The topic of parenthood was emotional for them. Both really wanted kids — but there was more to it than that: “We didn’t know what the options were. We both thought that having kids might be more of a pipe dream than an actual reality.”

Today, Hastings and Hoppe-Hastings are the proud fathers of 11-month-old twin girls conceived with the aid of an egg donor and grown in the womb of a surrogate, a woman who carries a baby (or babies) for other people, often heterosexuals with fertility issues.

No one tracks how many gay men are having babies via surrogates, but observers say the numbers are growing.

An informal survey of fertility clinics in more than 10 cities conducted for the Tribune by FertilityIQ (fertility iq.com), a website where patients evaluate fertility doctors, found that 10 percent to 20 percent of donor eggs are going to gay men having babies via surrogacy. In many places, numbers are up 50 percent from five years ago.

Cost remains a big barrier, according to FertilityIQ co-founder Jake Anderson, with costs for gay men, who typically need a surrogate and an egg donor, coming in at about $100,000 to $200,000. But with employers increasingly paying for fertility treatments for heterosexual couples, and lesbians pushing for insurance benefits that include them, gay men will likely gain more insurance coverage as well, according to Anderson.

“We think this is going to be pretty darn commonplace,” he said. “Maybe not tomorrow, but five years from now, 10 years from now, everybody will know a few people who have built their families through gay surrogacy.”

Hastings and Hoppe-Hastings, who are married and live outside Champaign, Ill., thought they would adopt their children. But, about three years ago, one of Hastings’ high school classmates posted pictures on Facebook. She was pregnant, and when Hastings congratulated her, she explained she was a surrogate, carrying a baby for a heterosexual couple. The friend got Hastings in touch with the agency that had arranged her surrogacy, Family Source Consultants in Chicago.

From the first meeting with the agency, he said, surrogacy just felt right.

“It was a very known process in which there were many, many steps that would allow us to be part of that child’s creation and birth,” said Hastings, director of sales at a software company.

“Although there were many things down the path that could go wrong, we would know who the egg donor was, we would know who the surrogate was, we would be on that path of a nine-month process. We had an agency that we really felt was supporting us.”

There were setbacks. The first egg donor chosen by the dads didn’t pass a psychological screening. The first surrogate they chose, a married Indiana mother, initially agreed to carry their baby, but then, a few weeks later, she texted Hastings. Her church didn’t approve of doing surrogacy for a same-sex couple; she was backing out.

“That was tough for us,” said Hoppe-Hastings, 32, a stay-at-home dad. “We almost felt like we had miscarried to a certain degree because we’d gotten so far in the process, and then we were back to nothing.”

The dads took a month off from the process, and when they came back, everything just clicked.

“Our eventual surrogate and egg donor just kind of fell into our laps via the agency,” Hoppe-Hastings said. “We interviewed them both the same day and just kind of fell in love with both of them, so it just worked out perfectly.”

Eggs were extracted from the egg donor and fertilized. Then two of the best embryos were implanted in the surrogate’s uterus; one of them biologically belonging to Hastings, the other to Hoppe-Hastings.

The girls were born six weeks early and had to spend 19 days in a Chicago-area hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. Today, the girls are crawling and learning to walk.

“They’re perfectly healthy,” Hastings said. “They’re gigantic. The doctor is constantly surprised that they’re premature.”

Alexandra, who goes by Alex, is very confident — “just a little bulldozer,” Hastings said. She’s also a big hugger. Sydney is more sensitive, more in tune with her emotions and an avid explorer. She loves to crawl through the house, finding new things.

“They’re easy babies,” Hastings said. “Probably the biggest thing is just waking up at 3 a.m. when one cries and just praying to God that we get in there before she wakes up the other one.”

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