Your potential surrogate is looking at you, too

If you’ve decided surrogacy is the right path for you, you have a lot of decisions to make. How do you want to find your surrogate? What kind of relationship do you want with her? How are medical and logistical concerns going to work before, during and after the pregnancy? How will you handle surrogacy costs?

Amid all of those choices, it’s important to remember that you’re not the only one doing the looking. Potential surrogates look at intended parents, too. While every surrogate seeks something different, it seems that most are looking, first and foremost, for a couple that can never have babies without help.

Since there’s no physical way for gay men to have a baby on their own, a lot of surrogates want to help gay couples. Some surrogates seek out Christian couples, often as a way to discreetly say they don’t want to work with a homosexual couple.

Some want very little interaction once the child is born, while others want to be like an extended family member throughout the child’s life.

Be sure to communicate openly with prospective surrogates to make sure every possible aspect of the relationship is addressed up front. After all, it’s a big decision for everyone involved — a life-changing one.

Getting on the same page

If you’re in a relationship, there is much to discuss when starting a family. Why do you want a baby? Is this what your partner wants, and do you both want it right now? Consider your own thoughts, feelings, fears and hopes. Do they mesh with those of your partner?

What about career issues? Will one partner stay home? If that’s just not an option, how will childcare work? Those are touchy questions, no matter your relationship status. In heterosexual relationships, there are societal pressures that will try to dictate the answers for you. If you’re comfortable with that, great. If not, address it.

For lesbian and gay couples, society has fewer preconceived expectations. That brings with it a certain freedom, but also many questions to be answered.

Whether you are trying to conceive naturally, undergoing fertility treatments to get pregnant, or considering adoption or surrogacy, it’s important to enter the journey to parenthood with your eyes wide open. After all, if you let your mind wander unchecked and develop expectations about how things are “supposed to be” without your partner’s awareness, conflict can arise. Head that off at the pass by sharing your feelings, thoughts and expectations openly with your partner from the start.

Side effects of infertility treatments

For people who are trying to conceive, infertility treatments can be a miserable process. Shots. Hormones. Fertility drugs. Mood swings. Physical side effects, from headaches to moles. Uncomfortable procedures. Many, many doctor visits.

If you’re the one whose body will be hosting the fertilized egg, you’ll bear the brunt of the physical effects from hormone treatments. If you’re not, you’ll be supporting your partner through a roller coaster ride. Both of you need to know what side effects could surface as you work at getting pregnant. Assess whether or not you’re willing to accept potential side effects, and how you’ll deal with them should they appear, so you won’t be surprised or confused. Not all of them are bad — some women see an increase in libido as a result of hormone treatments. However, many also experience intense mood swings and other strange reactions, like the appearance of moles.

Multiple doctor visits can take an emotional toll, too. Invasive physical examinations are never pleasant. Just sitting in the waiting room with other couples suffering from infertility can make you feel exposed and even discouraged to see the same faces again and again. On the other side of the coin, seeing the same faces in waiting rooms can serve as a much-needed reminder that you’re not alone on your journey.

Sometimes it doesn't work

Adoption situations don’t always end well. Trust me. Jennifer and I have been through it.

At one point while we were trying to adopt, we were matched by an adoption facilitator with a birthmother in Texas who was very pregnant with a baby girl. The situation seemed like a great fit — we had previously been pregnant with a girl and I am from Texas. The birthmother even preferred lesbian parents. Also, Texas, in addition to being my home state, has a relatively short waiting period before a mother can sign relinquishment papers, after which she cannot change her mind. These factors all made the situation seem promising.

We were present for the birth and began bonding with the child. The day we were supposed to adopt, one hour before we were going to take the child home, we received a devastating phone call — the birthmother had changed her mind. We were left in another state, with a car full of baby supplies and no opportunity to say goodbye.

While it’s still painful to think about that experience, it led to a lot of self-reflection, which helped both Jennifer and me realize that adoption might not be the best option for us.

The no child option

Among families who are pursuing the path of parenthood, there’s an option no one discusses — not becoming parents. When Jennifer and I were going through fertility treatments, adoption attempts and the surrogacy process, we agreed that if we found ourselves at the age of 40 and still childless, we’d find ways to move forward and create a positive and fulfilling life without children.

That said, there’s a big difference between actively deciding it’s okay to move forward without children, and doing that in a constructive way, and resigning yourself to not having children. It’s all about mindset.

Keep your eyes wide open throughout your process. Communicate, and err on the side of sharing. Don’t let discouragement force you to give up hope, but to avoid becoming unhealthily focused on “getting to baby,” remember that life can be fulfilling without children. Remember, it’s okay to have a life with or without children — it’s all about your attitude and approach.

When you’ve decided as a couple what your plan is going to be, stick to it. Commit yourself completely to whatever approach you’re pursuing, and decide together when it’s time to alter your path.

Have Faith

You don’t have to believe in God to have faith. No matter what you believe in, having some kind of faith will help you get through the process of becoming a parent.

That can be much tougher than it sounds. At the outset of the process, when possibilities and choices seem limitless, it’s easy to believe that somehow, some time, you will have a child. However, after a few bumps in the road, believing parenthood is in your future can be much more difficult. The inability to become pregnant naturally, struggles with fertility treatments, miscarriages, failed adoptions, trouble tracking down surrogates — there are many bumps in the road you can hit, and each in turn can hit your confidence. Trust us. We know. We hit just about every bump a couple can hit before we finally ended up with our beautiful twins.

Coping with loss, particularly miscarriage, is very difficult for both prospective parents. It might start to seem like expectant parents are everywhere you look. You might feel frustration heaped on top of grief and loss. That’s normal. When you’re focusing so hard on getting to baby, all you will see are mothers, pregnant women and babies everywhere. It’s like becoming fixated on a certain number — suddenly, that number is in every telephone number, every address, and every license plate you see. It’s in the time whenever you look at the clock. It’s a part of the TV channel every time you stop on a show.

Stay centered. Control your emotions. Find an outlet to express your grief and anger, whether that means heading to therapy or a support group, simply talking to a friend or writing it out. Becoming overwhelmed isn’t good for you or those around you, and it won’t help you achieve your goals.

When Jennifer and I lost a child, we found a perspective that worked for us. Partially because Jennifer is a twin, and partially because we knew we wanted two children but only wanted to go through the process once, we had long hoped to have twins. When we lost our first child, a girl, we chose to look at it this way: Our little girl wasn’t ready to come until her brother could be with us, too.

Find your own silver lining. Keep the faith. Know that some how, some way, it will work out for you. The timing and path might surprise you, but believe that things will transpire as they’re supposed to.

Considering the options

You don’t have any qualms with the different methods of getting to baby that are out there. Infertility treatments, donor sperm or eggs, adoption, surrogacy — as long as you end up with a child you can love, you don’t have moral qualms with any of the alternatives on the table. Your partner feels the same way. …Right?

Don’t be so sure. It’s overwhelming to face the options available if you’re having trouble getting pregnant, but you might be able to strike a few from your list at the outset. You and your partner should talk honestly and openly about the choices available, sharing what you truly think of each. No alternative is simple — under the headings of infertility treatments, adoption and surrogacy fall a myriad of other choices to make. Whether to seek a child or surrogate by yourself or through an adoption agency or surrogacy agency, which websites to browse, which fertility treatments you’re willing to try and which you aren’t — both of you need to have open, honest input. Even if your reasons for preferring one method over another — or flat-out not wanting to go down one of the roads available to you — aren’t necessarily politically correct, it’s important to lay them on the table.

Some couples find that one or both parties have a natural aversion to the thought of raising a child without a genetic bond. If you’re having these feelings, it will probably be very hard to share them with your partner because the mere concept of distinguishing between children on that level is offensive to some people. Sharing will be even harder if your partner is very open to the idea of adoption, or even prefers it.

Even if it’s tough, err on the side of sharing. It’s not fair to either of you to pursue an option that makes you uncomfortable, and shelving emotions early in the process can lead to resentment down the road.

If your own emotions and preferences don’t narrow your options for you, find a way to work through them together and pick a path. Write pro and con lists, talk to professionals, seek advice from friends and family. Do what you must. It’s in your best interest to choose a pursuit and stick with it, giving it your full attention, rather than trying to go down several roads at once. No matter your multi-tasking abilities, getting to baby isn’t a process you should apply them to.