12 Things I’ve Learned in My Journey to Fatherhood
My partner and I have made the plunge into fatherhood via gestational surrogacy. We are expecting boy/girl twins this fall. It’s been a long, difficult, but rewarding experience. And because I’m currently enjoying my last few months of adequate sleep and independence, I wanted to share some of the things I learned along the way. This post is specific to my experience being a black man, married to another black man, pursuing gestational surrogacy.
1) You Will Unwillingly Become an Ambassador for Black Gay Dads.
For any sort of minority, being an ambassador isn’t unique. For example, by virtue of you being black, your actions are magnified and become a microcosmic representation of all black men in the eyes of white people and non-black folks. Think about how black men often force ourselves to be polite even under the most intolerable treatment lest we be labeled as thugs or the scary black man. Same can be said for black gay fathers. You may very well be the only black gay dad a person may know. And suddenly you realize your actions and behavior are going to be the image that shapes the view of so many people around you. No pressure at all.
2) The Surrogacy World in the U.S. is ½ White ½ International
I’m exaggerating a bit, but like most things in this country, the surrogacy world is dominated by white middle and upper middle class couples both straight and gay. And of course, there’s a large segment of international parents from China, Europe, and Israel. There aren’t many black gay couples pursuing surrogacy. It remains out of reach for the majority of melanated individuals.
3) This Shit is Expensive
This is a given, but once you actually start to crunch the numbers and physically see your bank account deplete and your debt rise from taking out loans, shit gets real. We have forgone even the most basic of luxuries such as food delivery. We cook 99.9% of our meals at home and only travel for work purposes. Fortunately, I have a fairly well paying job and my husband had some money saved up over the years, so although the journey did hit our finances hard, it didn’t devastate us. $150,000+ is the average total cost to complete a surrogacy journey nowadays.
4) Money is Only a Partial Motivator for Most Surrogates
I’m not going to lie and say that money does not play a role in the recruitment of surrogates. But after hearing from a wide array of surrogates, you start to realize that the primary motivation is simply altruism. The majority of surrogates simply want to help families who are unable to have their own children. There are other reasons too. Check instagram or YouTube. There are some women who document their surrogacy journeys. Not for money, but for validation and likes. This is not to say that any surrogate who shares their journey publicly is doing it for validation. In fact, most aren’t. But there are a few who see this solely as an opportunity to up their follower count. Luckily, most of those potential surrogates get rejected outright.
5) Not Everyone Can Be a Surrogate.
Contrary to popular belief, becoming a gestational surrogate isn’t as easy as offering your uterus to the highest bidder. There are a lot of requirements. And not fulfilling those requirements means that the agencies, doctors, lawyers, and courts involved will reject the arrangement outright. Here’s a small insight into what it takes to be a surrogate: You have to have been pregnant before, you cannot be on government assistance, you have to be financially stable, you have to be raising your own kids, you cannot have any mental health issues, you cannot have any medical issues, you have to have had healthy pregnancies, you cannot be obese or underweight, you cannot have a criminal record, and you cannot lack support from your partner if you’re married or in a serious relationship. The horror stories you hear in the news about surrogacy often stem from shady practices that bypass ethical recommendations and safeguards. Most reputable doctors, agencies, and lawyers follow guidelines set by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
6) You Will Have to Develop a New Level of Trust in Someone Else.
Pregnancy is hard. Hormones are brutal. And sometimes pregnant people just want to be left alone. They don’t have any ill intentions. They care about themselves and the child or children they are carrying, but they may not be in the mood to talk or play nice. And you have to accept that. Because ultimately it’s still the surrogate’s body. And you adding extra stress is not going to do any of you any good. You have to trust that this person is going to do what’s best for herself and your children. I constantly think about my children and I wish I could call or pop in at any moment just to see how they’re doing, but I have to respect that my surrogate has her own family and her own life. There’s so much you cannot control about this journey. You simply have to trust. Therapy also helps.
7) Infertility is Real
And it’s heartbreaking. For many gay men seeking to become parents through surrogacy, we’re not medically infertile. Just socially. But being a parent through surrogacy and IVF means you’ll cross paths with heterosexual couples who are also pursing surrogacy. And their stories don’t start from a place of excitement like it does for gay men. They’ve experienced years of miscarriages, failures to conceive, and failed IVF cycles on their own bodies. You will learn about endometriosis, Asherman’s syndrome, uterine fibroids, cervical insufficiency, male factor infertility, and dozens of other silent diseases that many of your friends, family, and colleagues may suffer through without you knowing. You’ll become more empathetic and cheer on families both gay and straight as they finally achieve their dreams.
8) Other Gay Men Will Judge You for Doing Surrogacy.
“There are thousands of kids in need of homes, why don’t you just adopt? It’s selfish. We’re already overpopulated!” Aw, the age old adoptive gay dads versus surrogacy gay dads conflict. That initial quote is missing a lot of nuance. My husband and I actually did look into adoption both privately and through foster care initially. Unfortunately, we soon learned that it would be difficult if not impossible due to the migratory nature of my work. For my job, we’re never in the same place for very long. Hell, we’ve lived in four different cities in two different countries in 2020 alone. Not to mention, this quote also ignores the fact that unfortunately a lot of parents are not equipped to adopt. Particularly through foster care. I’m a firm believer that in order to be a good foster parent you have to be prepared to help a child through any sort of trauma they may have experienced in their life. Children in foster care have different levels of trauma from mild to severe, but you have to be prepared to handle any of it. Most people aren’t. And when it comes to overpopulation, if your life mantra is that there’s too many people, I suggest you tell straight people to stop having children. Or accept the fact that the idea of overpopulation is largely a myth and has more to do with artificial scarcity and uneven distribution of resources.
9) Twins are Very Risky
For gay couples in particular, a double embryo transfer is very common. Each dad fertilizes an egg from the same egg donor and both are transferred to the surrogate. This results in twins with each child genetically related to one dad and each child genetically related to one another via the egg donor. Unfortunately, twins are a high risk pregnancy that can come with a multitude of complications for both surrogate and babies. It’s not recommended by pretty much anyone, but many gay men still do it anyway. Why? Because if things turn out fine, the outcome is excellent. You have two beautiful babies that are genetically connected to each of you and you only had to go through the surrogacy process once. But if things go wrong, it can be heartbreaking, traumatic, and financially devastating.
10) No Matter How Much You Wanted This, Part of You Will Mourn Your Current Life.
And that’s okay. My husband and I have both wanted children long before we met each other. But we know that being parents is not going to be easy and is going to change everything. We’re both homebodies and with the pandemic going on, it has been nice not being forced to go anywhere or do much of anything. We can watch movies, listen to music, read, and play video games for as long as we want. Mourning isn’t necessarily a negative thing. It’s akin to getting your dream job in a new city. You’re excited for the new adventure, but you know you’ll miss your current home and old friends. You can always come back to visit, but it’ll never be quite the same. You’re mourning the life you had, but you’re excited for what’s to come. That’s what preparing for fatherhood is like.
11) Watching the News Will Depress You and Make You Wonder What Kind of World Your Child Will Grow Up in.
Having children, particularly black children during an international pandemic and in the middle of an anti-racist movement makes you anxious about what kind of world you’re leaving for them. And yet, you do it because part of you still remains hopeful. You remain hopeful that the world will get better. And it leaves you motivated to help change things for the greater good so that your children will have a better world to look forward to even after you’re gone. And of course, once again, therapy helps.
12) All of the Stress, Heartache, and Uncertainty Will Feel Worth It
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve wanted kids for as long as I can remember. And no matter how my kids turn out, how difficult they may be, and how tired and stressed I may become, I want to experience all of it. I want to be a dad and I’m so thankful that I live in a time and place where that’s possible. And I’m so thankful that I’m married to a man who shares my passion. We still have some weeks/months left to go, so I’ll let you all know how things turn out eventually. But I’m remaining hopeful for what’s to come.
Peace to the squad!
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