What It’s Like Adopting Our Kids Through Surrogacy

In various prior posts to our blog, we have discussed some of the reasons why we decided to pursue surrogacy to build our family, rather than through adoption.  In a particular post we also discussed how one of us having a genetic link to each of our kids matters, and how it doesn’t.  Essentially, it doesn’t in any way affect how we love and care for our kids, but it does matter in how our parental rights are legally recognized and accepted by society in general.

Recently, in effort to bolster legal protections for our kids, we each completed second parent adoptions of the twin set to which we are not biologically related.  We spent months working on this, and the experience helped us appreciate some of the challenges foster parents and parents through adoption face.

When we first told friends and family about our plans to have kids through surrogacy, some responded with the question of why we didn’t “just adopt”? At the time we suspected that adoption was not that simple, and now we know for a fact that it’s not.  We completed extensive paperwork and gathered all sorts of financial documentation to show that we were a stable home capable of raising children. We found the questions on the paperwork rather intrusive and struggled to answer some.  If our kids weren’t already with us, I would imagine that the way we answered some of these nebulous questions about our personalities might take on earth shattering significance.  We would fret that every answer would make or break our chance of being chosen to adopt a child!

After we submitted the paperwork, we had a social worker visit our home for a home study.  A home study is of course by definition intrusive.  Childless people hoping to adopt probably go to great lengths to make sure their homes are immaculate, and that everything is safe and baby-proofed to show how prepared they are.  Our challenge with two sets of twins (and a dog) already living in the house was a little different.  We had to make sure the social worker didn’t trip over anything and that the kids don’t injure themselves during the visit!

The cost of legal fees and the home study are significant.  I know that in private adoptions of newborns there are additional expenses.  Adoptions are still certainly less expensive than surrogacy, but the total cost can still put adoption out of reach for many.

I also know that parents seeking to adopt through the foster system are also required to attend parenting classes which pose an additional hurdle for many.

When we finally had our day in court, everything was taken care of quickly thanks to our diligent attorney.  The only hiccup was the judge taking a minute to understand that we were actually doing two adoptions at the same time.  We had heard that the judge likes to take pictures with the adopted kids, but we decided to have the kids keep their regular school routine and not attend.  Again, I imagine that the hearing would have much heavier emotional weight if we were adopting in the traditional sense.

So now we are a fully recognized, legal family of 6.  We only had a small taste of the challenges adoptive parents face, and it has given even us more respect for foster and adoptive parents everywhere.  Props!

Launch Day and Book Review

Today is the official launch day of Eric Rosswood’s new book, Journey to Same-Sex Parenthood.  I was able to receive an advance copy and wrote a glowing review for it on Amazon.  Of course, I am somewhat biased given the fact that I contributed our family story to this collection of personal stories about gay and lesbian parents.

With that said and having now read the entire book, I think Eric Rosswood did a marvelous job. I really do wish a book like this existed when Josh and I were originally considering our options for family building.

It is very well organized into five sections covering different paths to parenthood for same sex couples: Open Adoption, Foster Care, Surrogacy, Assisted Reproduction, and Co-Parenting. Each section includes multiple representative firsthand stories by gay and lesbian people that went through it themselves. Each story takes you on an emotional roller coaster toward parenthood that keeps your attention while at the same time informing you of the highs and lows that may occur along the way. I think that same sex couples hoping to have children will have better understanding of practical issues, but especially the emotional complexities that come with each approach after reading these personal stories. Other books may focus on a single approach, or read more like a clinical manual. This book is warm and intimate.

For the detail oriented, the end of the book comes complete with multiple appendices that comment on legal issues, benefits and challenges, and questions to ask yourself when considering each of the five different paths to parenthood.

I encourage any gay or lesbian couples interested in pursuing parenthood to check this book out today!

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Solidarity

My New Year wish for 2016 would probably be for solidarity among LGBT moms and dads of different stripes.

Parents in general are probably familiar with a phenomenon I call “competitive parenting.”  Because of their love for their children and a deep desire to do their best as parents, people often subscribe to different philosophies and methods: attachment parenting, free range kids, cloth diapers, etc.  Furthermore, insecurities about whether they are actually making the best choices for their own children sometimes leads them to go from self-affirmation to putting down other parents in order to make themselves feel superior.  This can be as subtle as singing the praises of a gluten-free kid diet in mixed company, and as extreme as telling formula-feeding moms that they are depriving their babies.  I find this competitiveness to be the best mom or dad unnecessary.  We are all in this together, we all love our children, we are all trying our best, and we really shouldn’t have to prove ourselves to anybody.  We have more in common than there are differences to be found.  Solidarity!

LGBT moms and dads in our unusual situation often struggle with even more insecurity because of feeling judged by society as a whole.  In attempt to prove themselves just as good, competitive LGBT parents grapple with how we raise our kids, as well as the manner in which we built our family in the first place.  Over the past few years, interacting with LGBT parents on social media, I have found some mutual support in these groups, but a lot of division as well.  I can easily dismiss hateful comments from outsiders, who know nothing about my circumstance, as ignorant.  When other gay dads talk about fostering and adoption as a more moral path to parenthood, or even suggest that commercial gestational surrogacy is selfish and exploits women, it really bothers me.  I also dislike when I see other gay dads through surrogacy turn up their noses at the idea of fostering or adopting kids.

Rather than putting each other down, we should be lifting each other up together.  We are all in this together, because society does not distinguish between gay dads through adoption, surrogacy, co-parenting and previous relationships.  We’re just perceived as gay dads.  We all love our children equally regardless of how they came to be in our care.  We are all doing what we think is best for our own families, because the truth is that there are merits and drawbacks to any family-building approach.  Josh and I have already discussed in previous posts how we carefully navigated surrogacy twice in effort to ensure, as much as possible, positive outcomes for all parties involved.  We have complete respect for gay dads who foster and adopt.  After considering that path ourselves, we decided to pursue surrogacy instead for very specific reasons.  The best way to have and raise kids in one’s own case is not necessarily the best nor the most feasible path to parenthood for others.  There should be more solidarity than divisiveness, because LGBT parents have more in common than differences.

In closing, I would just like to mention that Eric Rosswood’s upcoming book, “Journey to Same-Sex Parenthood: First Hand Advice, Tips and Stories From Lesbian and Gay Couples” takes a unified and balanced look at these varied ways same sex-couples become parents.  We are very happy to have contributed our personal family story to the section on surrogacy, and we are excited to read other family stories about assisted reproduction, fostering, adoption, co-parenting and more.  We hope prospective LGBT parents will find this resource informative and helpful in deciding their own best path to parenthood.  The book is available for pre-order on Amazon now.  Check it out!

Coming March 2016

Coming March 2016

Journey to Same-Sex Parenthood

Coming March 2016

Coming March 2016

We are excited to share our family story in an upcoming book by Eric Rosswood to be published in March of 2016!  “Journey to Same-Sex Parenthood: First Hand Advice, Tips and Stories From Lesbian and Gay Couples” is organized into five sections describing these different paths to parenthood for same sex couples: Adoption, Foster Care, Assisted Reproduction, Surrogacy and Co-Parenting.  We contributed our family story to the part on surrogacy.  Each section includes personal stories like ours as well as an appendix with legal issues and questions to ask before pursuing each family building approach.  We are excited to read other family stories and think prospective LGBT parents will find this resource informative and inspirational.  The book is available for pre-order on Amazon now.  Check it out!

Do Genetics Matter?

Earlier this year, a recent advance in stem cell research got a lot of media attention. Researchers at Cambridge University and the Weizmann Institute in Israel were able to program stem cells to become primordial germ cells, the precursors to eggs and sperm. Scientists have been able to create viable baby mice from these cells, and with further study, viable human eggs and sperm may someday be created using stem cells from any human’s skin sample. I think this type of science has tremendous potential to assist male and female individuals suffering from various forms of infertility. However, more public interest seemed to come from the idea that someday same-sex couples may be able to contribute both egg and sperm to create children that are genetically related to both partners.

Reading about this future possibility got me thinking. We are a full house of six and won’t likely be having more children, but if this technology was available when we were going through surrogacy, would we have been interested in having children conceived with egg and sperm from Josh and me? How much do genetics really matter to us?

For us, how our children may be related to us genetically mattered some, but less than and in different ways than people may think. Josh and I are both reasonably proud people with good self esteem, but neither of us have a great desire to create “mini-me” children that carry all our traits and looks. In our initial conversations about becoming parents, adopting children that had no genetic relationship to either of us would have been a serious consideration, but it was not possible in Florida at that time. A surrogacy process where one of us contributed sperm to create children had some legal and social benefits that made it the way to go.

Living in South Florida, we have enjoyed our island of progressive blue in an often red state. We have been acutely aware that much of Florida subscribes to the Deep South mentality. Because of the hostile stance that the Florida state government had toward same-sex parents, we felt that at least one of us having a biological link to each of our children afforded some protection from the nightmare scenario of the state considering us “illegitimate, unfit parents” and trying to take our children away. As an interracial couple, we thought having children with both Caucasian and Asian features meant that if ever one of us was travelling with small babies alone, strangers would be more likely to accept either of us as related to these children. A man alone with small children and no mom in sight still raises eyebrows, and if the kids are clearly not biologically related to the man, some may even jump to conclusions that something inappropriate is taking place.

Thus we set out to have biracial kids. The other half of this genetic equation in current assisted reproductive technology comes from an egg donor. We decided to keep the identity of the egg donor completely secret, because if family or friends knew anything about the background of the egg donor, they could in turn infer which one of us was the sperm donor. The only people who know the genetic details of our family are the ones intimately involved in the process and the kids’ ongoing health. We know, the surrogates know, the lawyers and doctors know. Our families may have thoughts, but their theories have never been confirmed, and this reasonable doubt helps for us to both be treated equally as parents. When the kids are old enough to understand where babies come from (AJ and JJ are fast approaching that day), they will be the first to know about their genetic origins.

When we were considering a second surrogacy process a few years ago, we were presented with the opportunity for the person not genetically involved the first time around to make a contribution. But this was not our primary motivation for considering more children. We wanted AJ and JJ to have little siblings to teach them about responsibility, and help them understand that they are not the center of the universe. We knew that if we were blessed with a girl like DJ, it would bring more balance to our household than thoughts of genetics ever would.

Looking back, Josh and I have learned that genetics may matter for external situations, but within our family, it actually matters very little. Josh and I both love all our children equally no matter the biology. We have proven it to ourselves in a manner that is nearly scientific.

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