Surrogacy Journeys

Our babies, Christopher and Katherine, were born in the spring of 2010. Our book, Getting to Baby, also came into being in the spring of 2011. In it we chronicle our optimistic expectation of easily achieving pregnancy, the disappointments of the world of infertility, the trudge through failed IVF, miscarriage, failed adoption, and then finally our joyful SUCCESS through surrogacy.

Ours is just one story with a happy ending. Every year, hundreds of others forge their own successful paths through surrogacy. Many have stories just like ours — gay or lesbian couples who find a path to parenthood through the generosity, trust, and love of surrogates and donors.

When you are riding the roller coaster of infertility, adoption, surrogacy, and pregnancy, the support not only of friends and family but of others going through the actual experience is so important. The blogosphere gave us essential information, encouragement, and support  — and is one reason we created GettingToBaby. We want to create a central, collaborative place for the kind of support, referrals, and education we had to really work to find, and really depended upon to make our dream of becoming parents a reality.

I thought I’d share a few great blogs of babies in progress—and babies brought home:

Babies in progress:
Special Delivery follows the journey of Kelli, a gestational surrogate carrying twins for Ian and Troy.  Ian’s sister Leandra donated the eggs, which were fertilized with Troy’s sperm. Kelli is halfway through the pregnancy, and their story is being made into a movie called “More than a Village” by documentary filmmaker Edward McDonald. Follow the film by following Edward on twitter: @edwardmcdonald

Bernadette and Duane share their roller-coaster ride of surrogacy in India at Rasta Less Traveled. We look forward to following their tale to a happy ending.

Babies at home:
George and Farid are the proud parents of Gustavo and Milena, born on November 6, 2011, to gestational surrogate Jeni. Their beautiful story is chronicled on Jeni’s blog Love Makes a Family.

Jeni, Kelli, and Bernadette also list other blogs they follow — so check them out.

Brings a smile to my face.  How about you?

Donor Unknown

The film Donor Unknown premiered on the PBS  series Independent Lens this week. This documentary follows the journey of Jo Ellen Marsh, raised by two moms in Pennsylvania, and her an insatiable need to discover the identity of the anonymous sperm donor Number 150, who contributed half of her DNA.

Jo Ellen signs up with a donor sibling registry and begins to connect with her half-siblings. Many half-siblings, it turns out. As the count rises, NY Times writer Amy Harmon picks up the story and eventually Donor 150—Jeffrey Harrison—recognizes himself and comes forward. Mr. Harrison has likely fathered 150 children. A similar story is featured on the Donor Sibling Registry website, in another documentary, Sperm Donor, which premiered on the Style Network in September. In this one, sperm donor Ben tells his fiance Lauren that he may have fathered 70 children. We get to meet several of them.

These are fascinating stories and very emotional journeys. Since we used donor eggs and sperm, this possibility is part of our story. Is it part of yours?

The decision to create a child using donor sperm and/or egg has ethical, legal, psychological, and deeply personal implications we must consider when creating our families. Getting to Baby is only the beginning. We always have to remember that there is a life that comes after the infertility. How we navigate life after the baby arrives is a lifelong journey.

The PBS website has a good list of resources for donor-conception issues.

Check it out here.

Let us know what you think about the implications of a generation of children conceived through a donor process.

Showing our Support!

We’ve been waiting for weeks to be able to announce this, but now it’s time!  Getting to Baby is the official Book Sponsor of The Mid-Year Conference of The American Academies of Adoption Attorneys and Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys. We are so excited and honored to be a supportive vendor of this conference which is so close to our hearts.

The Mid-Year Conference of The American Academies of Adoption Attorneys and Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys
November 3-4, 2011
The Sir Francis Drake Hotel
450 Powell St. | San Francisco, California | 94102

The theme “Exploring the new frontier of assisted reproduction law” is near and dear to us, as many of you know. Our greatest two joys (our twins Christopher and Katherine) came into our family through surrogacy, so we’re eager to hear more about this new frontier!

The Conference will be held in San Francisco, early November, (3-4) which is perfect seasonal weather in the Bay area. The two-day event will cover topics such as rights, contracts, ethics, medical advancements, trends in assisted reproduction, international surrogacy and so much more. Read more on the event agenda.

There’s something so uplifting about being surrounded by like-minded individuals, who share the journey while having their unique experience. We encourage all ART professionals and adoption attorneys who are not Academy members to register for this exciting event. We think you’ll find the agenda was created to address the interests of both Academy Fellows seeking CLE credit as well as professionals in all fields of adoption and ART practice.

For more information on the conference, visit their website .

You can even find the American Academies of Adoption Attorney’s on Facebook.

We hope to see you there – we’ll be showing the video of our journey, on Friday the 4th before lunch, and each attendee to the conference will receive a complimentary copy of our book “Getting to Baby” chronicling our experiences that finally led us to not just one baby, but two!

And if you need more reasons why you should consider attending, here’s their top ten list:

TOP TEN REASONS TO REGISTER FOR THE THE ///A AND //ARTA MID-YEAR CONFERENCE NOW!
SAN FRANCISCO, CA  NOVEMBER 3-4, 2011

1. Summer’s over. It’s time to plan your fall getaway.

2. Finally, the kids are back in school. You can concentrate again. Concentrate on planning your escape to San Francisco!

3. Did you know the average high temperature in San Francisco in November is 64 degrees? Don’t forget your fleece.

4. The stylish and historic Sir Francis Drake Hotel, conveniently located just off Union Square, is a bargain at $175.00 a night.

5. You don’t want to miss the cutting edge conversation on the frontier of assisted reproduction. The agenda is full of thought-provoking issues and has something for everybody

6. Love Richard Serra’s work? Don’t miss his drawing exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, mere steps from the hotel.

7. The networking cocktail party will be the event of the fall season.

8. Cable cars. They stop right outside the front door of the Sir Francis Drake.

9. Restaurants, from famous to dives and diners. There’s something for everyone! More on eating at a later date.

10. Your ///A and AAARTA buddies. Fun together. Learning together. Life is good.

Do it by the book

We know what it’s like to want a child so badly you’d do just about anything to have one. But when it comes to adoption or surrogacy, you absolutely must follow all the rules. The laws involving adoption and surrogacy vary by state — and with surrogacy, in some states, there simply aren’t any laws on the books. We cannot recommend more strongly that you work with a qualified attorney to ensure you are following the law at each step in the process.

Unfortunately, there are unethical people out there. A recent case currently receiving a lot of media coverage centers on Theresa Erickson, a nationally recognized surrogacy attorney, who pleaded guilty to being involved in a baby-selling ring.  According to news reports, Erickson and two accomplices recruited women to travel to the Ukraine to be implanted with embryos created from the sperm and egg of donors. Erickson and her partners would then tell prospective parents that a child had become available because another, fictitious couple had backed out of an adoption. They charged the adoptive parents, who had no idea they were being misled, more than $100,000, and paid the surrogates up to $45,000.

Erickson could receive up to 5 years in jail and be ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Fortunately, the innocent adoptive parents who were victims of this fraud will not have their parental rights terminated.

As an attorney, Theresa Erickson obviously knew that what she was doing was wrong. But sometimes, things aren’t quite so clear.

When we were going through the adoption process, we were contacted by a woman whose friend was pregnant. They would allow us to adopt the baby if we paid for the birth mother’s college tuition, along with some other financial arrangements. They did not want to use lawyers or an agency. When you have a situation presented to you in that way, you might think, “Well, if we save on lawyer’s fees and agency fees, it’s okay to put that money towards to her college instead. We’re helping her, and she’s helping us.” It’s easy to rationalize. If we weren’t lawyers ourselves, we may not have initially realized this is illegal — but it equates to buying a child. If we had agreed, it could have resulted not only in our losing that child later, but also in criminal charges.

Play it safe, and use a qualified adoption attorney or surrogacy attorney as you go through the process of getting to baby.

Make it fun

If you’re a heterosexual couple and you haven’t grappled with fertility problems, you’re likely to try to become pregnant the, ahem, old-fashioned way. Unless you’re an extremely fertile couple, this process can turn clinical in a hurry after a few months with no positive pregnancy tests. Thermometers, ovulation tracking and harried midday calls to announce the ideal timing can make lovemaking feel more like a chore than, well, making love.

That’s no way to go about things. Making love is supposed to be about communing with the person you love the most. If it starts to lose its appeal, a wedge can be driven into your relationship that lasts for years. At the very least, it can mean short-term annoyance for one or both of you, and worse yet, can put undue stress on both parties. Stress, while uncomfortable, can have even worse results — hampering your fertility and actually hurting your chances of becoming pregnant.

Even if the stress of it all doesn’t impact you physically, you won’t have a very enjoyable conception story to think back on. Doing things in the same way every day, mechanically, does not make for the fondest of memories.

Find ways to keep things fun, whatever that means for you. For some couples, behaving like newlyweds keeps the activity exciting. Do it in every room of the house, in any position you can think of. Pick odd times and locations for a quickie, as long as you’re not breaking the law or putting yourself at risk. Remember, before there was an objective to it, this was something you did for fun! Why can’t it be fun now that there is a goal in sight? After all, you’re working together to make something happen that will bring you unimaginable joy and fulfillment.

Having trouble getting in the right mindset to relax and have fun? Try getting out of the house. Vacations can spice things up, no matter how lavish or relatively mundane they might be. You don’t have to take time off from work or spend tons of money to get away from the routine and familiar surroundings of home. Even within your own city, you can head to a hotel for a change of scenery.

Anything that helps you approach your journey to parenthood from the right standpoint is worth a little bit of time and money, within reason. Relax. Have fun! Keep things in perspective.

Open Adoption

Closed adoptions are the kind most people have read about in books or seen in television and movies — adoptions, through an agency, in which the birth parents’ identity remains protected. Many adopted children have set out to find their birth parents once they reached adulthood, often gaining media attention if their attempts at reunion are successful.

Things don’t have to be that way. Open adoptions are about as far from that familiar scenario as you can get. In an open adoption, a birth mother seeks out a couple that she feels would be a good fit to raise her child. The adoptive couple gets approval through the state in which they live to bring the baby home. Open adoption has been gaining ground as an option for the past 20 years.

In the age of the internet, couples hoping to find children and birth mothers hoping to find adoptive parents have plenty of options for connecting. Agencies can help, delivering letters from prospective parents to potential birth mothers. The birth mothers often have a hard time choosing from tens or hundreds of hopeful couples, while prospective parents usually enter a stressful waiting game, wondering when the call will come from a birth mother ready to entrust them with her child.

Open adoption, while empowering and reassuring to the birth mother, has plenty of potential for complications. There’s always the risk that the birth mother will change her mind at the last minute, which happens more than you might think. That process can be extremely painful for hopeful parents, especially after a relationship with the birth mother has been established over the weeks or months leading up to birth. Not only do couples who find themselves in this situation have to deal with feelings of loss, they often begin second-guessing themselves, wondering if they could’ve said or done anything to lead to a different outcome. Sometimes, partners can begin blaming each other for the failure.

However, open adoptions do have their advantages. Unlike in closed, anonymous adoptions, you can have continued contact with your child’s biological parent or parents, and even biological grandparents, which gives you access to information that can become important, like family medical histories. Depending on how deeply involved with the birth mother you become before the baby is born, you can even attend doctor’s visits with her, see sonogram pictures and start laying the groundwork for a lifelong relationship.

You can read more about our experience with attempts at open adoption by reading “Getting to Baby.”

We understand

We understand how important having a family is. My partner and I tried long years, with much confusion, plenty of doctor’s visits, lots of close calls and our share of heartbreak along the way until we finally had the opportunity to look into our twin babies’ beautiful eyes. We struggled against many odds, but we finally became parents. Believe it or not, no matter how frustrated you are or how difficult your journey has been to this point, you can get through this. There are many options available to you, some of which you might never have considered.

Do the different options seem daunting? Not sure how to approach them? There’s a lot to think about as you consider what path you’ll take while Getting to Baby. Although our book isn’t intended as a substitute for advice from medical professionals and other experts, it will help you to understand you’re not alone in your struggles. We’ve been through it, too, and we hope our personal journey will help in some way to prepare you to make the right choices and ask the right questions. We also hope we can provide a little moral support and some perspective.

Visiting this website shows you are someone who wants to learn as much as you can about what it means to become a parent and how you can get there, no matter who you are or what kind of relationship you’re in. We hope our website and book will help inform you and provide suggestions that could have helped us as we pursued our own path to parenthood.

We are Victoria and Jennifer Collier. As we endeavored to become parents, we tried everything from In-Vitro Fertilization, which resulted in a miscarriage, to several close calls on adoption before finally finding surrogacy, which ended up being the right choice for us. What’s the right choice for you? We can’t say, but we can tell you about our experiences with each option, preparing you for hidden pitfalls and tricky choices you might be faced with along the way. After all, knowledge is power. Being armed with the right knowledge from the outset can save you from missteps, frustration and heartbreak.

If you enjoy what you find on www.GettingtoBaby.com, we recommend checking out our book for a more in-depth look at not only our journey, but what your journey could be.

Support system

Have you ever tried to explain something you just feel in your gut? For many people, it is not an easy process. That said, when you find yourself yearning for something completely life-changing, like a child, taking the bull by the horns and facing your own thoughts, feelings, fears and hopes is an absolutely essential process.

Once you and your partner, if you have one, understand what’s behind your desire to have a child, you can explore other aspects of the concept of parenthood. After all, even though society sets some protocols for who does what, when and how, that might not work for you. Will one of you be a stay-at-home mom? A stay-at-home dad? Perhaps neither of you will stay home, and in that case, childcare should be considered. What can you afford? How will you react to pressure or judgment from others?

Gay, straight or single parent, one child or several, the logistics that must be considered are staggering, even if fertility isn’t an issue. And if getting pregnant is an issue, or is impossible for you and your partner, there’s a whole new universe of questions to be answered and feelings to be explored. What are your thoughts, feelings and attitude toward infertility treatments? In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)? Adoption? Surrogacy?

Although the thought is not one that many prospective parents want to wrap their heads around, you also need to consider your views on children with special needs. Some babies arrive with physical disabilities, while others suffer from developmental problems. Plenty of babies with special needs are already here and in need of adoption into good homes. In other cases, pregnancies are not successful. That’s the last thought any potential family wants to face, but it’s important to remember. Whether you’re planning a pregnancy, an adoption or to conceive through a surrogate, facing these possibilities is just as important as planning a budget and making lifestyle choices.

A good support system, from your partner or spouse to family and friends, can help you think through the details at the outset. People to bounce ideas off of are key, whether it’s a close friend or spouse or someone you rarely see. No matter who it is, having someone you trust and feel completely comfortable sharing with can provide perspective and comfort. This person can join in your joy, but also keep you in check, as you’re dealing with the dizzying prospect of caring for another person.

Where is your head?

Are you really, truly in touch with your feelings? Soul-searching and analysis of the facts on the table are key when approaching the journey to parenthood. Once people find out you want to become parents, they will ask you questions, sometimes very personal questions. If you can’t answer them, that might be a red flag.

How long have you been trying to get pregnant, and how? What methods have you used? And for a more intangible question, what is motivating you to want to have a child? Even if you think you know the answers to those questions, including the last one, which might be the most difficult to answer, revisit them in your mind. Your mindset is a very important part of trying to become a parent, especially if you want to get pregnant rather than pursue another path. The way you cope with stress can directly affect your ability to carry a child.

Negativity won’t help. If you have other children, questions might creep into your mind about why you were able to become pregnant before but can’t now. If you don’t have children already, negativity can take the form of wondering why you can’t seem to have children while everyone else around you can. Either way, getting into a bad head space can have a very real impact on what your body is willing to do.

Calm self-reflection is important. You need to identify why you want to have children right now. If you’re following your urges for the first time, you may never have addressed these questions. If you’ve had other children or tried in the past, you may have — but your answers may have changed as the years marched on. Getting your priorities straight clears the clutter. It allows you get a sharp focus on what you want right now, shaping your decisions and helping you cope with natural stress that can arise in the process.

Don’t just look at what you’re feeling and facing right now. A long-range plan, covering everything from efforts to become pregnant, adopt or use a surrogate; to who will care for your child once he or she arrives, will help eliminate stress along the way. The logistics, from people to finances, can be a little daunting. Better to take them on at the outset than reach a conundrum unexpectedly at an inopportune time.

We can help guide you through some of the questions you might need to ask yourself and some of the obstacles you might face in our book, “Getting To Baby.” If you like what you see at www.GettingToBaby.com, consider picking up the book, in which we share our own journey in hopes of preparing you for yours.

Letting go

Sometimes, the process of getting to baby requires letting go. Letting go of your attachment to one method of becoming a parent can be tough. If you’ve always dreamed of becoming pregnant with your partner, facing the reality that your body, your partner’s body or a combination of the two won’t allow that to happen can be heartbreaking and difficult to accept. The same goes for couples or individuals who have long hoped to become parents through adoption — for some people, the stars just don’t align for a child to enter their lives in that way.

Letting go can be tough, and it can be difficult to realize when it’s time to move on. It’s much like ending a relationship — a process we all know can be messy and painful, and doesn’t always happen as soon as it should. With relationships, all outside observers sometimes realize it’s over long before the parties involved in the relationship reach the same conclusion. In the meantime, it means plenty of pain and frustration for both of them.

The same goes for letting go of one method of becoming parents. When it’s over, it’s over. At a certain point, trying to head down a road that isn’t working only hurts and amps up stress. In the case of attempting to become pregnant or adopt, money also becomes part of the equation.

Approach your effort with eyes wide open. Set a time frame. Decide how long you’re going to work on getting pregnant before you seek professional advice or diagnosis from a fertility specialist. Set a time frame for when you’ll stop trying. Same goes for trying to adopt or using a surrogate. Decide when you’ll start trying, how much you’ll invest and when you’ll walk away.

It might be hard to think about, but there’s an option that many prospective parents don’t talk about at all — not becoming parents. Remember, there are ways to live a happy and fulfilling life without children. At a certain point, your efforts toward getting to baby might become more of a burden than a pursuit. It’s essential to be able to step back and consider what’s happening. Is this best for you, or is it okay to choose to live your life in a different way than you had expected?

At www.GettingtoBaby.com, in the membership section, you can find fertility specialists who discuss the options available and how they assist their patients with determining when it is time to let it go. Do your research, and don’t dismiss alternatives before you fully understand them.