Building the family of your dreams can be a complicated road for anyone. For gay men and same-sex couples, fitting together those seemingly jumbled puzzle pieces can seem insurmountable at times.
Yet in reality, for gay men, building a family through surrogacy is as simple as five steps. And for each of those steps there are professionals to help guide you along the way.
Before you take the first step, there’s a prologue to the journey: Get a semen analysis. It’s important to test the quantity and quality of your sperm to determine if we need to take additional steps in the treatment process to improve your sperm. The semen analysis is a simple test that your primary care physician can order and facilitate.
Once we know we have your sperm in good working order, the first step in the journey is to freeze your sperm. Along with that comes important, required FDA infectious disease screening, and genetic carrier screening blood tests. The best place to freeze your sperm is with the fertility doctor you’ll be using for your journey.
With your sperm frozen, the second step is to identify your egg donor. Selection of your egg donor is an incredibly important step in your family-building process because she will provide half the genetic make up of your children, and her egg quality will impact your ultimate success rate.
Take your time with this step, and search through as many agencies and referral sources as needed until you find your perfect donor candidate. If having a donor with blonde hair is important to you, then you can have that. If having a Stanford grad is important to you… you’ll pay for it handsomely, but you can have that too. Never settle for less than what you are looking for. Your child’s genetic make-up is at stake.
Now that we have the sperm and the egg, the third step is for your fertility doctor to create the embryos. Our goal is to create between four and 10 blastocysts to freeze, or to biopsy for genetic testing and then freeze. We hope to generate enough good quality embryos to provide you with several chances for pregnancy.
This is where the whole process can take a big pause, if you choose. The embryos are frozen, and they can remain that way for years depending on where you are financially, in your relationship status or anything else that might make you want to slow down the process.
Once you’re ready to move forward with building your family, the fourth step is to find a surrogate. That woman could be someone you know, or it could be someone you have identified through a surrogacy agency.
I always recommend choosing a surrogate candidate you can easily communicate and relate with. Surrogate mothers are amazing women who commit a year of their lives to help you become parents. Select the woman you want to carry your child during its development. Consider whether you want to become very involved in her life during the pregnancy, or if you prefer to remain more detached. The agency will work to meet expectations of both surrogates and intended parents to help insure a successful journey.
For those wanting twins, now is also the time to decide if you want to have them with one surrogate or two. More and more people are finding that having two surrogates, each carrying one child at the same time, leads to a much better chance for healthy babies. It also increases the chances that you will have twins born around the same time as one another.
Once you’ve chosen your surrogate comes the fifth and final step: the embryo transfer. After preparing your surrogate’s uterus with hormones to make it optimally receptive, your fertility doctor will carefully transfer the embryo into the surrogate. Ten days later is the pregnancy test and, hopefully, some great news – you’re pregnant!
After that last step, there’s no way to get around it: You now have nine months of waiting. Depending on your arrangement you may be talking with the surrogate via Skype on a weekly basis, visiting the doctor with her, or having no contact at all.
Certainly the medical aspects of this entire process are incredibly intricate and complicated. Yet the journey for the parents does not have to be. By taking it one step at a time, and being sure to engage experienced, compassionate professionals each step of the way, the process can be as easy as five simple steps. Enjoy the journey!
GUY RINGLER is a board-certified physician in both obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. He is a partner with California Fertility Partners. You can find him on Twitter @gayfertility.