The truth is this was never going to be an easy journey. We always knew that it would be an emotional roller coaster, although there is no amount of awareness that could make our current situation any less painful. We haven't really posted much of our story in 2017, so consider this post a re-cap.
As many of you already know, last year we were awarded grant assistance through the Gay Parent Assistant Program (GPAP) with the nonprofit organization Men Having Babies. You can read more about that in a previous blog post. As part of the GPAP application process we submitted extensive financial details about our combined income, access to resources, and what we would be able to contribute to a surrogacy journey based on our timeline. In addition to the grant assistance, the MHB case manager matched us with participating providers who donate pro-bono and discounted services. We shared strong preferences about agencies and our budget, but it felt like we had little power in choosing providers. We were matched with a local agency, Northwest Surrogacy Center (NWSC) and a local fertility clinic, Oregon Reproductive Medicine (ORM). Both are internationally recognized and respected in the field. We weren't even sure that we would be matched with local providers so we were thrilled that our desire to be nearby and involved in the pregnancy would be possible with these matches.
We spent the last year creating seven embryos with ORM and waiting to be matched with a surrogate through NWSC. We had our first interview with a potential surrogate early this summer. Meeting a person who may carry and give birth to your future child can be an awkward situation. In some ways it's like single straight people dating in their late 30's and 40's; they shake hands, talk about occupations and hobbies, and then get to the important questions like "Do you want make babies with me or not?" We kept waiting to feel relaxed or for some kind of flow to emerge during the interview, but that never happened. And, like with first dates, at a certain point you just know if there is going to be a second date. We shared a glance within the first five minutes of our meeting and knew pretty quickly that this first potential surrogate was not going to carry and give birth to our child.
We left that meeting feeling disappointed, but totally ok with waiting for the right fit. So we went back into the waiting pool until late July when we were matched with another potential surrogate. Our case manager at NWSC sent over her profile. We looked through the photos of her and her family, as well as read through her story about what inspired her to become a surrogate. We looked through it together and separately several times while our case manager coordinated the initial meet-up. There was no doubt some serious excitement on our end.
We met surrogate K and her husband M in late July. This time when we shared a glance within the first five minutes, we both teared up. In fact, they teared up too. This was her. This was her supportive and enthusiastic husband. We gelled and we all seemed to know it. Before we left the building, we told our case manager that we were 100% on board and wanted to move forward with this match. About an hour later it was an officially confirmed match.
This is when we let our imaginations run rampant.
We thought up backyard BBQ hangouts, pregnant belly painting, and walks in the farmers market with them and their two boys. We hired lawyers to review the surrogate contract, which involved everything from the purchase of supplemental surrogacy insurance to the cost of breast milk. It felt surreal to be so close.
We were so baby ready that we got a puppy. No, really. We adopted a Shepherd/Cattle Dog mix, Enzo Despacito. He is four-and-a-half months old. He is so damn cute and really smart. It's been a great lesson for us in sharing the responsibilities of caring for another living being.
We were aware that once we officially signed a contract with surrogate K we would need to fully fund an escrow account to be managed by a third party. We had some early confusion about what that exact number needed to be. After saving on our own, crowdfunding, securing loans from friends, family, and other sources, and the MHB grant, we reached the goal that we committed to in our GPAP application. Unfortunately, even after the extremely generous pro-bono services from NWSC and ORM, it only recently became abundantly clear that our journey would ultimately cost more than we had budgeted. We were furious. We wanted to blame everyone involved for this oversight, but in the end it is our journey. We are responsible for navigating all of it, for the emotional labor and the logistics. We are the only ones in this process that are holding all of it: the medical, social, emotional, and financial parts.
We spent about a week researching and investigating ways to resolve our financial shortage. We just could not make it work. We have already invested $20k into our journey. We do not own a home or have other assets that we could sell or mortgage to help finance this journey. We simply can not afford to raise a child while also paying back over $1200/month in the loans that would be necessary for us to move forward with this match. So we cancelled the match and ended our relationship with NWSC.
So many couples go through this in private.
They silently grieve through several difficult rounds of in vitro fertilization. They quietly mortgage their homes and borrow thousands from family members for the chance to become parents. It makes sense that this is kept secret. This process is so intimate and has potential to evoke feelings of shame for going to such great lengths to grow your family. It definitely feels uncomfortable to share certain parts of our story, perhaps this is why we have only posted a few times this year. Although, quite frankly, knowing that there are so many people following our story is also powerful and it gives us such a sense of hope. We are a part of an online support group for queer men who are trying to become dads. Many of these men report that their journey to fatherhood took them on average 7-10 years. Some have stories of four or five surrogate matches, multiple failed embryo transfers, and various other obstacles. There is even one couple who had a surrogate-born baby in Nepal on the day of the massive earthquake there in 2015.
MHB has assured us numerous times that they are committed to their financial contribution and to supporting us until we have a baby. We are currently without an agency and without a surrogate. We are done telling friends things like “By this time next year we could be pregnant or have a baby…”. MHB plans to match us with another agency that is a better fit for our budget. Based on our last conversation with MHB, we expect to be rematched within the next few months. However, until we are matched with a new agency, we don’t know how long the wait will be to meet a new surrogate. It’s possible that it could be another two or three years before we have a baby.
There is not a path forward without the support of MHB, our friends, our family, our online followers, or from each other. We have so much gratitude for how much stronger our marriage has grown with each setback. It helps to remember that we are not alone. The dream of fatherhood is still alive.