What’s It Like to Be a Surrogate Mom?

by Anna Medaris Miller – May 6, 2015 – US News and World Report Health

Jodie Hayes had something on her mind. For four years, it tugged. For four years, she let it simmer.

Finally, the time was right – or at least as right as it ever would be – to bring it up with her husband, a U.S. Army soldier who was training in another state.

babybump“Do you remember when you were a kid getting asked what you wanted to be when you grew-up?”Hayes, a 38-year-old who lives near Savannah, Georgia, ​wrote to him in an email during the summer of 2013. “I really wanted to be a mom. I didn’t care about a fancy career or getting rich. I just wanted to be the best mom I could be.”

“Fortunately, you and I were able to conceive and become parents pretty easy,” continued Hayes, whose daughters are now 14 and 17. “I can’t imagine how it would feel to not be able to do the most natural thing in the world, experience pregnancy and having a child. Can you imagine life without our girls?”

Then Hayes cut to the chase​:​ “This is why I want to become a surrogate.”

Hayes was talking about becoming a gestational carrier, or woman who carries another couple’s embryo to term. The process involves using assisted reproductive technology to fertilize a woman’s egg with a man’s​ sperm in a lab and then transferring the resulting embryo into the carrier’s uterus. (In the other type of surrogacy, called traditional surrogacy, the woman is the child’s biological mother but became pregnant via artificial insemination.) In a sense, Hayes was telling her husband she wanted to rent out her uterus to another family.

“I wanted to be the answer to someone’s pain or frustration [by helping them] get the family that they wanted,” Hayes said in an interview with U.S. News. “I wanted the pride of being able to do that – being able to get them to smile again – and be able to hold the child that they wanted to hold.”

The Goal: A Healthy Baby

Some women hate being pregnant – they get morning sickness, feel sluggish and tired and wish they could fast-forward to the good part: a baby. Other women love being pregnant – they glow, feel energized and at peace, and enjoy the journey and the destination. It’s the latter group that makes up the vast majority of gestational carriers, says Michele Purcell​, a registered nurse who directs the egg freezing, donor egg and gestational carrier programs at Shady Grove Fertility Center in Rockville, Maryland​.

“Most women have good pregnancies, but I would say [gestational carriers] have exceptional pregnancies, where they really just feel great the whole time,” she says. “And if they don’t at the beginning, it’s so worth it at the end that they don’t mind it.”

There are other, less altruistic reasons, why a woman might want to become a gestational carrier. Namely, the money. Surrogate​ moms are compensated anywhere from $15,000 to $60,000, depending on various factors such as the agency, location, agreement between the parents and the surrogate and how many babies the woman carries. ​(All medical care, travel and other costs related to the pregnancy and birth are reimbursed as well.)

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Brussels conference offers European gay men hope of parenting through surrogacy and adoption in the USA and Canada

MenHavingBabies.org – 5/28/2015

The “Parenting Options for European Gay Men” conference, hosted by the NY based organization “Men Having Babies”, attracted more than 200 prospective gay fathers from 10 countries, and also garnered intense media attention. The conference served to raise awareness of limited domestic parenting options for European gay men, amid increasing political debates across Belgium, France, and the Netherlands regarding surrogacy and assisted reproduction legislation.

With over 2000 gay couples and singles worldwide, including 700 in Europe, the nonprofit organization Men Having Babies (MHB) is dedicated to easing the path to surrogacy parenting for its members. For several years MHB has been providing unbiased guidance and financial assistance to prospective parents in the USA, the UK and Israel. On May 2-3, 2015, the organization held its first conference in continental Europe, in collaboration with the LGBT parenting organizations “Meer dan Gewenst” from the Netherlands and “Gay Surrogacy UK”.

The “Brussels Conference on Parenting Options for European Gay Men” attracted more than 200 prospective gay dads from 10 countries, well above original estimates. The high demand forced the organizers to add an overflow room where dozens of attendees watched the presentations via live video feed. “We were overwhelmed and moved by the large attendance and intense desire for parenting expressed by men who came from not just neighboring France and the Netherlands, but also from as far as Ireland, Portugal and Bulgaria,” said Ron Poole-Dayan, MHB’s executive director.

The conference brought together community activists, medical and legal experts, parents and surrogate mothers. Several workshops and panels offered peer advice on surrogacy and adoption of children from the USA, finding and picking professionals to help in the process, and information about MHB’s Gay Parenting Assistance Program (GPAP), a program designed to make parenting more affordable to those in financial need. “Even with the easing of legal obstacles to adoption by gay men, the reality is that across continental Europe there are very few domestic adoption opportunities,” said Anthony Brown, MHB’s board chairman. “Meanwhile, domestic surrogacy is either illegal or unavailable, and societal attitudes are much more hostile to surrogacy compared with those in the USA and England.” To help prospective parents navigate the precarious legal landscape vis-à-vis gestational surrogacy, the conference offered country-specific panels with leading European legal experts.

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Amendment: Gays could be denied as foster or adoptive parents in Texas

by Christy Hopp, May 25, 2015 – The Dallas Morning News

Gays and same-sex couples could be turned away from adopting children or serving as foster parents under an amendment filed by a social conservative House member and expected to be heard Tuesday.

The measure also would allow child welfare providers to deny teenagers in foster care access to contraception or an abortion under a wide umbrella of religious protections for the state contractor.

Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, has filed the measure that gives state contractors for child welfare services the right to sue the state if they are punished for making decisions based on their religious beliefs.

The state could not force contractors to follow policies providing for contraception or allowing same-sex couples to adopt, for instance. If the state tried to terminate a contract or suspend licensing for the state contractors’ failure to abide by such polices, the contractor could sue, win compensatory damages, relief from the policy and attorneys fees against the state, according to the proposal.

Sanford tried to pass as separate bill earlier in the session, but it failed. The proposal now has resurfaced as an amendment to the sunset bill that would reconstitute the Department of Family and Protective Services.

Civil rights and gay equality groups fought a similar measure earlier in the session, saying, “If enacted into law, Rep. Sanford’s amendment would allow child welfare providers to discriminate against not just gay and transgender families seeking to provide loving homes for children who need them, but also against people of other faiths, interfaith couples and anyone else to whom a provider objects for religious reasons. This would seriously weaken the state’s child welfare system by further shrinking the pool of qualified parents who can provide a safe, loving home for children.”

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The 2015 MHB Brussels conference on Parenting Options for European Gay Men – highlights

The Regnerus Gay Parenting Study Is Even More Flawed Than We Thought

by Camille Beredjick, May 12, 2015

As they gear up for legal battles nationwide, anti-LGBT activists’ weapon of choice is the infamous “Regnerus study,” a report by University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus that claimed to “prove” same-sex parenting is inherently harmful to children. The study has been thoroughly debunked as methodologically and ethically flawed, and experts far and wide — including Regnerus’ own university — have said they want no affiliation with it.

We thought we’d seen it all, but nope — two sociologists are taking another crack at determining the study’s scientific validity (or lack thereof), and what they’re finding is even more absurd than the fallacies we were already aware of.

Indiana University’s Brian Powell and the University of Connecticut’s Simon Cheng actually redid the study for Social Science Research, the same journal that published the original article. Not surprisingly, when they used proper methodology and eliminated “suspect data” — see below for a laughable example — they found that kids fare just as well when raised by a same-sex couple as by a mom and dad.

From Right Wing Watch:

By eliminating suspect data — for example, a 25-year-old respondent who claimed to be 7’8″ tall, 88 pounds, married 8 times and with 8 children, and another who reported having been arrested at age 1 — and correcting what they view as Regnerus’ methodological errors, Cheng and Powell found that Regnerus’ conclusions were so “fragile” that his data could just as easily show that children raised by gay and lesbian parents don’t face negative adult outcomes.

“[W]hen equally plausible and, in our view, preferred methodological decisions are used,” they wrote, “a different conclusion emerges: adult children who lived with same-sex parents show comparable outcome profiles to those from other family types, including intact biological families.”

In his original study, Regnerus claimed adults who had been raised by gay or lesbian parents were more likely to have depression, abuse drugs, engage in criminal behavior, and acquire STDs, as well as have a higher likelihood of having experienced childhood sexual abuse. Regnerus and others have used these findings to testify against marriage equality, but a more detailed look at the study shows that he hardly spoke to any children of same-sex parents at all:

The Regnerus study was promptly scrutinized by fellow social scientists, who pointed out major flaws in his methodology. Many people who he categorized as having been raised by a gay or lesbian parent had spent very little time with that parent or with his or her same-sex partner. Even Regnerus admitted that his data included only two people who said they had been raised for their entire childhoods by a same-sex couple.

Regnerus compared the outcomes of children raised in what he called “intact biological families” (with married biological parents) “lesbian mother” families and “gay father” families, finding differences between “lesbian mother” families and “intact biological families” in 24 of the 40 areas he looked at, and differences between “gay father” families and “intact biological” ones in 19 areas.

But in scrutinizing Regnerus’ data, Cheng and Powell determined that of the 236 respondents whom Regnerus had identified as having been raised by a lesbian mother or gay father, one-tenth had never even lived with the parent in question and an additional one-sixth hadn’t lived with that parent for more than one year. Still more had provided inconsistent or unreliable responses to survey questions, throwing their reliability into doubt. That means, Powell says, that over one-third of the 236 people whom Regnerus classified as having been raised by a lesbian mother or gay father “should absolutely not have ever been considered by Regnerus in this study.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Changing The Way We Think About Mother’s Day

May 7, 2015 by Asaf Rosenheim via Gays With Kids

changing

Our family belongs to a gay synagogue, so most of the parents who attend the children’s services with their kids are gay. One Yom Kippur our rabbi asked for a show of hands. “Who has two moms?” she asked. “Who has two dads? Who lives with a grandparent or an aunt or uncle? Who has only one mom? One dad?” And so on. The kids kept on raising their hands, one group after another, sometimes giggling, sometimes saying something proud like “ME!” Finally, rabbi Weiss asked: “Who has a mom and a dad?” All the (mostly gay and lesbian) parents in the room raised their hands. And then it hit me: while we are trying to provide our children with alternative views of families, the families we grew up in are almost always the traditional nuclear mom-and-dad model; for most of us, this was and still is our parenting experience.

In our family there are two dads, and a daughter and son (twins) who turned 3 just a few months ago. When I’m asked, it is very easy for me to affirmatively state: Our kids have two dads or, as we say at home, an aba and a daddy. But people always wonder, and people sometimes (especially kids) are brave enough to ask: Do they have a mom?

Technically they don’t, our kids were born with the help of a gestational surrogate, which means that we received an anonymous egg donation which together with our sperms was used to create embryos, which were subsequently carried by our friend, who served as the children’s surrogate. Over the years, friends, family and many strangers have suggested that one of these two women must be “the mother.” We answered politely that we call one the egg donor and the other the surrogate, but mostly they seemed unsatisfied by these answers. Usually I think this is just a matter of educating them on our family structure, but sometimes I do attributed it to being insensitive, homophobic, dad-phobic, or mother-centric depending on the person asking and his or her tone. Many people think it is just fine for a same-sex couple to have kids but still believe that a mother is necessary for the healthy development of a child. Others have pointed out that children born using anonymous sperm or egg donation will always wonder about their genetic parent, and that we are depriving them of a right to know their biological mother.

My friends in similar family settings have tried to address these issues in many admirable ways: I have seen fathers asking their children, “Do you have a mom?” just to demonstrate how the kids answer so clearly, “No, I do not; I have two dads!” Others have created strong bonds with women in their lives that the children could identify with as the equivalent of a mother figure: an aunt, grandmother, the surrogate herself, or sometimes a caregiver. When asked, many of us will gladly point you to solid research indicating that children of same-sex couples are just as happy and healthy as children who grow up with a mother and dad. I would be grateful if someone could show this information to my 3-year-old, who was at that moment extremely unhappy about a variety of things: from not being able to play on my iPhone to having to take a bath.

For example, in her book “Modern Families: Parents and Children in New Family Forms,” Dr Susan Golombok says that children of same-sex couples do just as well as children in traditional families. The problems some children face come from outside the family rather than within it and depend very much on where they live. She argues that schools should make an active effort to combat the stigmatization of children in different families. Dr Golombok is currently carrying out a study of children with gay dads who were born with the help of a surrogate. The study should be completed this summer, and the very much anticipated findings will be available shortly after.

In spite of these positive research results, it’s hard not to wonder about the effects of growing up without a mom, and not only that, but with no mother ever having existed. My husband Eric sometimes points out that women used to die in childbirth with terrible frequency, and that even his grandmother never knew her own mother because of this common tragedy. While she was raised by her father and grandmother, she still knew that a woman who was her mother had at least lived at one time and had been known by the people in her life. Our kids wouldn’t be able to imagine a mother. The idea of our kids having nothing but a void where a mother would normally be sometimes kept me up at night.

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Premature Babies May Survive at 22 Weeks if Treated, Study Finds

May 7, 2015, by Pam Belluck

A small number of very premature babies are surviving earlier outside the womb than doctors once thought possible, a new study has documented, raising questions about how aggressively they should be treated and posing implications for the debate about abortion.

The study, of thousands of premature births, found that a tiny minority of babies born at 22 weeks who were medically treated survived with few health problems, although the vast majority died or suffered serious health issues. Leading medical groups had already been discussing whether to lower the consensus on the age of viability, now cited by most medical experts as 24 weeks.

The Supreme Court has said that states must allow abortion if a fetus is not viable outside the womb, and changing that standard could therefore raise questions about when abortion is legal.

For most parents and doctors, the new study will intensify the agonizing choices faced about how intensively to treat such infants.

The study, one of the largest and most systematic examinations of care for very premature infants, found that hospitals with sophisticated neonatal units varied widely in their approach to 22-week-olds, ranging from a few that offer no active medical treatment to a handful that assertively treat most cases with measures like ventilation, intubation and surfactant to improve the functioning of babies’ lungs.

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