Having a Baby via Surrogacy: roadblocks and success
Originally written for Gays With Kids as “Having a Baby via Surrogacy, what to do and what to avoid”:
We were very fortunate when it came to building our family. The opportunity fell in our lap and today we’ve got two amazing little boys! Every step wasn’t perfect though. You know, any road can be bumpy and despite how far you’ve come sometimes there are still roadblocks. This is our story, from the idea of kids until we were all Taylors. **Please read to the end, as there’s more than a warm fuzzy moral.
Starting out – One day a friend casually mentioned that she had a cousin who had been donating eggs and now was interested in carrying a child for a couple. “Would you be interested in something like that?” Um. We hadn’t talked about it more than random comments about having kids, never actually discussing it in any detail. So, we talked and then met this person, this surrogate, not fully understanding what/why she wanted to do this. She was smart, caring, wise, and beautiful and had no ulterior motives. Amazing. And she liked us (thank goodness).
First step, legal stuff – It’s not every day you strike up an agreement with somebody to create a life and then hand that life over. Where do you even begin? We started by researching online all of the different types of surrogacy and adoption methods. Naturally, we met with a family law lawyer and she gave us instructions and reviewed our potential Gestational Surrogacy contract. Her instructions: have contract notarized, have baby, complete Secondary Parent Adoption. Cool, easy. Having a baby via surrogacy was going to be a piece of cake.
Step two, make baby – now to become pregnant. We hadn’t been saving up for years to have a baby through IVF or something clinical. Plus, we found out that most reproductive clinics would not work with a surrogate that was also the egg donor (aka Traditional Surrogate). After some discussion, we thought “we’re pretty chill people,” so we went with the home method. It worked and boom: life was growing!
Step three, tell the world – when you never ever have given becoming a dad a second thought because you didn’t think it was possible, you have never thought about how to tell people or what anybody might say. Well, we started by telling the OB/GYN and making sure she was the right fit for our situation, and she certainly was. Since she was good to go and baby was growing, we could tell other people. Friends were so excited and surprised and had so many questions, appropriate and not. Family, uhhh, some were thrilled beyond belief. Others were silent and then just said “How is this happening?” Some were outright cruel. I wasn’t prepared for that. In my mind the only response to give when somebody shares such incredible news is just to smile and hug and be excited for them. I didn’t think telling anybody would make me go back several years in personal growth and comfort with myself. Life: surprises around every corner.
Step four, have baby – simple enough. You know, get waken up at 12:55 am, rush through the house like a crazy person and drive (safely) to pick up the oven and the bun for delivery. It went perfectly…except the speed bumps in the parking lot. Yeah, let’s just say I’m glad her water didn’t break in the car. We checked in and our OB was there to deliver and we welcomed a little boy. He was such a surprise; came out peeing and we were all crying and cuddling and crying….
Step five, paperwork – we made sure ahead of time that the hospital’s lawyers and social worker were aware of our situation and they were good to go with it. We brought everything legal we had just in case…and then the Vital Statistics clerk came in. If you’ve not had a child in a hospital, this is the person who completes the paperwork for the Social Security Administration and starts the birth certificate process. She came in, saw us and immediately began questioning us, questioning our surrogate that she was sure everything was in order, she left to make some calls, came back, questioned us more, gave us more paperwork and then before leaving made sure to tell us that she disagreed with our process and that the birth certificate still would have just the birth mother’s name on it. No. Just no. After feeling sufficiently dampened on our big day, we moved past it and got to leave.
Time passed and we all grew close, our surrogate a part of our lives like any other auntie (because now she was our BFF in addition to giving us this amazing child). We waited to complete the Secondary Parent adoption because we knew that there’d be one more little person eventually. Two years later we were preggers again and went through all the same steps again.
What was different – Taylor baby No. 2 was born the evening before Thanksgiving. We would be celebrating with hospital cafeteria turkey feast. This also meant that the hospital had a bare-bones staff level. Our nurses all knew what to do to get us out of there, they gave us the appropriate paperwork and cute baby footprints…but there was no Vital Statistics clerk (we were okay with this). Oh well, we were given some paperwork that seemed right…and a phone number for the Department of Health to ensure that their records were appropriately updated. Okay, that’s new.
Actually, it wasn’t new. Upon contacting the Department of Health after the holiday, we got a call back from somebody who worked with surrogacy specifically. He said that he just needed to get a copy of the surrogacy agreement to update the names on the birth certificate…and that’s it. Wait, what?! Really? I called him back and thoroughly explained our whole situation, starting three years prior and he repeated, “Yep, please just send me a copy of the contract and the birth certificate when you get it. I’ll update it all.”
I’m not one to question a good thing, but I am one to go back and question if something else had bad blood behind it. I asked if there was a change to surrogacy or family laws in the last few years that made the process so different. The man told me that there have been no changes and it seemed that the clerk at the hospital provided wrong directions and completed the process incorrectly.
“So we don’t have to go through any sort of adoption? At all?”
“No, that’s why you have a surrogacy agreement.”
“So our lawyer and the hospital lawyer were wrong?”
“And nothing’s changed in the last few years, legally?”
“Correct. Nothing was done correctly from the start. Send me the paperwork and I’ll fix it.”
Sent. Fixed. We have birth certificates with our names on them. Us. The 100%-legal-from-the-start parents.
Why do we need to share our story when other couples will face much more difficult or multi-layered battles? Simple: if somebody had shared accurate information or been willing to do the job they’re paid to do from the start, we would never have had to face the opposition and stress that we did. We could have enjoyed the whole birth experience without feeling like an incomplete family. If we had been given correct information from the start, we could’ve skipped hours of phone calls and exposing our personal information to strangers that never needed it to begin with.
The moral of the story – go through the process the state or province directs you. Work with those who maintain family records and deal with like situations daily. Push back. Get clear answers and clear guidelines from those who manage the process. Don’t lose hope. There are people, such as a social worker or Department of Health who can and will help.
Even though the road may be long and bumpy, don’t be discouraged. Create the family you never thought possible. Two dads, two moms, one of each, fly solo… There are so many types of families. All a baby needs is a loving home to welcome it and a family willing to do the work. The other pieces will fall into place.