The journey of two guys ( with one cat & lot of great friends) trying to get through life and expand their family through surrogacy in Thailand.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Clinic vs. agency vs. facilitator vs. going insane because of too many choices

Every surrogacy journey has to start somewhere, and unfortunately most of the time is starts with a very difficult decision: Who will you trust to facilitate and oversee the process of bringing your baby into the world?

For Frankie and I, this whole process actually started in July of 2012 when we first contacted several clinics in India. We asked questions ad nauseam and eventually zeroed in on the clinic that was right for us. I developed a great relationship with the facilitator of the clinic and began to trust her to help us handle this delicate process. As many of you probably know, this all turned out to be in vain as several months later India shut their doors to singles, which was essentially their way of giving the finger to gays. After seeing months of research go down the tubes we resigned ourselves to the fact that Willow would have to remain an only child for a while longer. But there’s always a silver lining; that night while figuring out whether or not I could coerce Willow into playing dress-up, I discovered that they make wigs for cats!

(I think Willow would look dashing in one of these, but Frankie vetoed the idea…)

Down but not out, we regrouped and started looking for alternatives. There was Ukraine, but they don’t allow singles or gays. On a good note, there was an agency claiming they had ways to get around the whole issue of gays not being able to legally enter into a surrogacy contract. Because that’s not at all dodgy…   There was also Mexico, and this was certainly appealing given that the surrogate would be a lot closer to us physically since we are in the US. But upon further investigation, we only found two agencies facilitating surrogacy there at that time, and for various reasons neither were an option as far as we were concerned. And then it happened; I heard Frankie yell from the other room, “Husband! We can go to Thailand!”

My first thought was one of disbelief. How could it be that I had done so much research into India and never once came across a website or blog concerning surrogacy in Thailand? As I mentioned previously, I have a very special connection to Thailand, and I immediately loved the idea of going through surrogacy there, but it seemed to good to be true. I wasn’t sure what exactly Frankie was smoking, but clearly he had to be in some sort of delusional state as things never work out for us that easily in reality. But, I surmised that at least we could try selling his magical elixir to raise money for surrogacy here in the US.  It worked for that lady in “Weeds” right? We started looking over the website for New Life Thailand, and that quickly snowballed into us sending out emails to all of the major clinics and agencies in Thailand. Not all of the clinics responded, but the ones that did seemed to be creditable at first glance…and so it started to become real. We decided to let ourselves become cautiously optimistic and begin researching again.

Fortunately, around that same time, I received an email from my contact at the Indian clinic offering to put me in touch with one of her friends who facilitates surrogacy in other parts of the world. Because I had developed such a good relationship with her while looking into India, I felt confident in her guidance and I was incredibly grateful. I came into contact with my current facilitator in February, and the courtship began again. As it turned out, she contracts with New Life Thailand which was great given that they were already the agency we were most interested in. Even more importantly, our personalities meshed well, I got honest answers, and I began to really trust her.  About 1,000 questions later, we signed the contract with New Life Thailand and we will be transferring embryos next month. It seems like we just started the process yesterday and yet we've actually been working on this for over a year.

For those of you who might be just starting out in this process, I wish I could give you a magical map that would guide you to the perfect solution for your situation, but such a thing doesn’t exist. Instead, I invite you to consider these helpful hints as you begin your journey.

You must first accept that much of this process is going to be beyond your control. If you cannot deal with that, international surrogacy is not for you.

That said, there is one thing that you can always control: your level of education. Research IVF. Research the egg donation process. Research citizenship options. Research Thai culture. Research until you can’t bear to research any more…and then grab some coffee and keep going.  A good facility or facilitator worth their weight in salt will answer any questions you can throw at them, and then invite you to ask more. (If they don’t, I suggest you move on. Good questions deserve good upfront answers.) But if you don’t do your job asking the right questions, you can’t get mad later when things don’t go the way you expect them to.  Because of the current climate regarding surrogacy in Thailand, I wouldn’t take as long as we did to get going…but that doesn’t mean you should rush in to anything without doing your due diligence.

And last but not least: take my advice, take the advice of others who have gone down this road, take it all in, and then throw it out and go with your gut. If your heart tells you that something isn’t right, listen to it. There is no one successful path. Was New Life the right choice for Frankie and me? Definitely. Is it the right choice for you? That’s a question only you can answer. Remember, you’re going to lose a lot of control during this process, so if you don’t trust your choices and have faith, you will go insane faster than Amanda Bynes.

P.S. I want to offer a huge congratulations to Brooklyn Couple on the birth of their twins!! I couldn't be happier for them! :-D

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Kiss Vs. Tell

I’ve read through many blogs written by gay couples going through surrogacy. Many, many blogs. So many in fact that when I first discovered them it became a bit of a problem for me. I found myself sneaking behind the dumpsters at work with my smart phone just to get a fix. My fingers, callused from the touch screen, would tremble as my archaic 1G phone would slowly load the pages of blogger. (Is 1G a thing? I know 4G is supposed to be fast…so I can only assume 1G is slow.) It was almost worse than the great Facebook addiction of ’08.  Fortunately, I got help. Well, I suppose I didn’t get help so much as I simply got caught up with all of the blogs out there that were of interest to me. But hey, let’s not pick apart the details.

In any case, after I realized I hadn’t showered in a few days and I had lost five pounds because I couldn’t stop to eat, I also realized that in many of the blogs the IPs would mention getting asked one question that really offended them: “Who is going to be/who is the biological father?”  Of course, there were variations of this question. “Who’s going to be the real dad?”, “Whose material did you use?” or “Who the baby daddy?” But regardless of how it was asked, it seems the reaction was always the same: The IPs would be slightly insulted. Some would reportedly respond with a curt, “We’re not saying” Others would reply “We’re both Abcd’s father” While others would simply say, “Nunya…. None ya business!” Ok, maybe no one actually said that; but they should have! It’s really an underused comeback. But regardless of their actual response, it seemed they all had an underlying suspicion that these family members, friends, or even unassuming strangers adoring their child on the street were somehow trying to disrespect them. While they certainly have every right to feel the way they do, I can’t say I understand that feeling myself.

Is it an inappropriate question? Maybe. I suppose that’s debatable. But I don’t think people intend for it to be inappropriate or offensive. It comes down to one simple thing. Ignorance. No, not the hateful “My sister-cousin-wife says that gays are evil” type of ignorance. But the “surrogacy is a relatively new phenomenon and most people haven’t met a gay couple who have had or are having a child through surrogacy” type of ignorance. The people who ask this question aren’t sitting at home thinking, “If I one day happen to meet a gay couple expanding their family through surrogacy, what can I ask that will really get their goat?”  They’re engaging you and/or your adorable child, and when they learn that you’re preparing for a child through surrogacy, or that your child was born through surrogacy, they find themselves unprepared and so the awkwardness ensues. As for family and friends; there is probably an intimacy there that leads them to believe they’re privy to this bit of information. Either that, or they just like to watch you squirm when you feel awkward. With my friends, either is a real possibility.  

In any case, I am happy to tell you all that the genetic father or our child is going to be Nunya…none ya business. (See, you didn’t see that coming, did you?) No, in all seriousness, even if we wanted to keep it a secret, I don’t think that’s feasible.

This is a picture of my husband's hand (Well, not actually his, but you get the idea):

This is a picture of my hand (Actually, this hand is a little darker than mine...):

Needless to say, the genetic father of the child will most likely be evident at a glance. Frankie has a beautiful mocha brown skin tone...and me...well, not so much. Also, even if that wasn't a factor, we decided early on that we would be as open and honest about this experience as possible, both with our friends and with any children we are fortunate enough to have, and for us that includes this detail. So, I’m pleased to tell you our first attempt will be with Frankie’s material; and I couldn’t be happier. We ran into the problem of both of us wanting the other to be the bio dad. So, we left it up to a simple coin flip. Heads I win, tails he loses. Well, that and we looked at it practically and realized that to ensure the baby could get on his health insurance right away and to ensure he would qualify for FMLA, it would be easiest if the child was genetically related to him. We’re hopeful that our egg donor will produce enough eggs so that half can be fertilized with his material and the other half with mine. If that’s the case and we’re successful this time around, we’ll consider trying again with frozen embryos fertilized with my genetic material at a later time. But in the end, it really doesn't matter. If we're lucky enough to have a baby with his genetic material, that child will be just as much mine as his. If someone asks, "Who's the real dad?" I will happily respond by saying "We're both real dads, but the baby is genetically related to my husband." Maybe that's one of the perks of being shunned by family. You learn that unconditional love is not defined by genetics but instead by the family love creates. 

Just a couple notes:

This post was certainly not meant to offend anyone who has decided not to disclose the genetic father of their baby. That's one of the beautiful things about surrogacy. The journey is generally the same, and yet also so unique and different for each IP. There really is no right path, just the path that's right for your family. :o) 

I realized that I hadn’t actually mentioned which agency we’re using for this ride. After a lot of research we went with New Life Thailand. That said, I’ll be sure to write something up regarding how we ended up picking them.

Also…you might have been thinking that “Abcd” was just a place marker for an actual name in the example above. If you were, you were sadly wrong. It’s apparently a real name (or at least a name someone was given) pronounced “Ah-bee-suh-dee”. You know, sort of like Obesity, only starting with an A. I think it’s safe to say the list of baby names just got longer….