Gay men increasingly turn to surrogates to have babies
CHICAGO — Cliff Hastings and Ron Hoppe-Hastings sailed through the vows at their 2011 civil union ceremony, until they got to the part about entering into fatherhood together.
“We cried our eyes out,” Hastings, 41, said. The topic of parenthood was emotional for them, he said — they both really wanted kids — but there was more to it than that: “We didn’t know what the options were. We both thought that having kids might be more of a pipe dream than an actual reality.”
Today, Hastings and Hoppe-Hastings are the proud fathers of 11-month-old twin girls conceived with the aid of an egg donor and grown in the womb of a surrogate, a woman who carries a baby (or babies) for other people, often heterosexuals with fertility issues.
No one tracks how many gay men are having babies via surrogates, but observers say that the numbers are growing.
“I’ve definitely seen an increase,” said Dr. Eve Feinberg, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “As gay marriage has become legal, I think it’s become much more socially acceptable for men to pursue fertility treatments and have babies.”
Five years ago, surrogacy for gay men was “unheard of” at Fertility Centers of Illinois, Feinberg said. When she left the practice in July, 20 to 30 male couples were pursuing surrogacy in a given year.
An informal survey of fertility clinics in more than 10 cities conducted for the Tribune by FertilityIQ.
Cost remains a big barrier, according to FertilityIQ co-founder Jake Anderson, with costs for gay men, who typically need a surrogate and an egg donor, coming in at about $100,000 to $200,000. But with employers increasingly paying for fertility treatments for heterosexual couples, and lesbians pushing for insurance benefits that include them, gay men will likely gain more insurance coverage as well, Anderson said.
“We think this is going to be pretty darn commonplace,” he said. “Maybe not tomorrow, but five years from now, 10 years from now, everybody will know a few people who have built their families through gay surrogacy.”
Hastings and Hoppe-Hastings, who are married and live outside Champaign, Ill., thought that they would adopt their children. But then, about three years ago, one of Hastings’ high school classmates posted pictures on Facebook. She was pregnant, and when Hastings congratulated her, she explained that she was a surrogate, carrying a baby for a heterosexual couple. The friend got Hastings in touch with the agency that had arranged her surrogacy, Family Source Consultants in Chicago.
From the first meeting with the agency, he said, surrogacy just felt right.
“It was a very known process in which there were many, many steps that would allow us to be part of that child’s creation and birth,” said Hastings, director of sales at a software company.
“Although there were many things down the path that could go wrong, we would know who the egg donor was, we would know who the surrogate was, we would be on that path of a nine-month process. We had an agency that we really felt was supporting us.”
There were setbacks. The first egg donor chosen by the dads didn’t pass a psychological screening. The first surrogate they chose, a married Indiana mother, initially agreed to carry their baby, but then, a few weeks later, she texted Hastings. Her church didn’t approve of doing surrogacy for a same-sex couple; she was backing out.
Gay men who want children are increasingly turning to egg donors and surrogates. An informal survey suggests that 10 to 20 percent of donor eggs are now going to gay men.
“That was tough for us,” said Hoppe-Hastings, 32, a stay-at-home dad who, along with Hastings, coaches the national champion girls volleyball team at Parkland College. “We almost felt like we had miscarried to a certain degree because we’d gotten so far in the process, and then we were back to nothing.”
The dads took a month off from the process, and when they came back, everything just clicked.
“Our eventual surrogate and egg donor just kind of fell into our laps via the agency,” Hoppe-Hastings said. “We interviewed them both the same day and just kind of fell in love with both of them, so it just worked out perfectly.”
Eggs were extracted from the egg donor and fertilized. Then two of the best embryos were implanted in the surrogate’s uterus; one of them biologically belonging to Hastings, the other to Hoppe-Hastings.
There were more bumps in the road: The girls were born 6 weeks early and had to spend 19 days in a Chicago-area hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. Hoppe-Hastings came up to Chicago to be with his daughters, staying at a Ronald McDonald House. Hastings had to stay in Champaign to work. The dads’ insurance company initially deemed the babies’ hospital “out of network,” a costly distinction that added to the fathers’ stress.
In the end, though, everything worked out. The insurance company came through, and the girls came home.
Today, they’re crawling and learning to walk.
“They’re perfectly healthy,” said Hastings. “They’re gigantic. The doctor is constantly surprised that they’re premature.”
Alexandra, who goes by Alex, is very confident — “just a little bulldozer,” Hastings said. She’s also a big hugger. Sydney is more sensitive, more in tune with her emotions and an avid explorer. She loves to crawl through the house, finding new things.
“They’re easy babies,” said Hastings. “Probably the biggest thing is just waking up at 3 a.m. when one cries and just praying to God that we get in there before she wakes up the other one.”