Saturday, March 31, 2012

Backtrack: Egg-Donor Selection (or Morgan Only Likes Pretty Girls)

This is a topic I never seemed to read about on other blogs.  Although incredibly personal, how do you choose an egg-donor?  What is the criteria you base your selection on?

After deciding on which clinic to use, we were emailed what seemed like a hundred egg-donor profiles.  It's a slightly uncomfortable experience opening up generic profiles and seeing pictures of women who are donating their genetic material for charitable or, let's be honest, monetary reasons.

My first reaction to looking at a few of the pictures was "oh my god, one of these women will be the genetic mother of our child."  It's unsettling and takes awhile to get used to.

After getting over the initial awkwardness, I began to wonder what is it that we're looking for in this mystery woman?  Their profile's are so vague.  There are two lists of women to choose from; one being college-educated women, and another who are not.

Initially, our first thought was to go with the smarter, college-educated donors.  But is education genetic?  I don't think so.  I would say it's a matter of social/economic/regional status.  My thought is that the more educated women came from more privileged backgrounds (middle- to upper-class).  They want to finish paying for school or to study abroad.  The longer list are women who want to pay for their own or their children's education, buy a home, start a business, etc.  I believe all the women are doing this for honorable and charitable reasons, but money talks regardless of country or class.

As we began looking through them, I felt a little bad at first because I was judging them on their looks.  I wish I could say "looks don't matter" but when that's 90% of what you have to go on, you weed out who you find unattractive.  When you begin to decide what's attractive to you and what's not, it gets quicker to discount the contenders.

John and I both looked through them together and picked our favorites, compared them, and narrowed them down.

Once we whittled down our possibilities, that's when I really begin to scrutinize each one even more based on their looks.  What parts of her face would mix well with mine?  Never one to stifle my vain and conceited opinion, some of the terrible things I uttered sounded like things mean girls in high school say about other girls:

  • She's not tall enough
  • She's too fat
  • Her face is too round
  • She has a big jaw
  • She's ugly
  • Her smile is too gummy
  • She looks mean
  • She looks mannish
  • Why would she dress like that?
  • That's the picture she though best-represented herself?
Once we narrowed our list down to about 10, you get even more precise:
  • Her ears are too big
  • She has a bad complexion
  • I don't like her make-up
  • Her hair looks terrible
  • Her hairline isn't right
  • Her face isn't symmetrical
We were told to narrow it down to 5 candidates, and so we did.  I would have been extremely happy with any of our top 5.  But we still presented them in the order in which we liked them.  The top two, in my mind, were pretty much tied; one was more beautiful in the classic sense and the other was more beautiful in a modern way - but both on equal standing.

I also used a program that morphs two faces into a baby picture with the top 5 (a sort of "Mommy, what will I look like?" if you're an "Arrested Development" fan).  I thought the top 3 made the best looking babies, though I don't put a lot of credence in those pictures.

We submitted our 5 and found that "Ms. Classic" wasn't available until the end of the year, so we chose "Ms. Modern" and couldn't be more happy.

So there you have it.  It makes me sound like I'm obsessed with looks; I'm just like any other man.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

He's Clean - And They Swim!

I'm so happy to report that my husband of nearly 14 years is STD-free.  What a relief - he was really sweating that one :-).

And my man has super swimmers - 120.5 million/mL (which Google says is good).  I always knew he was a stud - and now we have the paper to prove it!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Money Makes the World Go Round

Or How to Get Agitated Moving Money Around the World...

So if I can press a button and in milliseconds be video chatting face-to-face with someone on the other side of the world, why is it so hard (and expensive) to transfer funds to another country?  In this day in age, it's all ones and zeros, isn't it?   (Boy, I really sound old there - very sad for me.)
It's time to send my deposit to SCI to get things started (yay!).

I spent an hour and a half on Saturday at my bank (Bank of America) - only for them to tell me at the end that they couldn't do a wire that day because their wire office is closed (they have a special office for it??).  And it also took them that long to tell me the exchange rate - and when it was a good bit less than the going rate, they couldn't tell me what exchange fees they were charging.  Oh, and they didn't even know that - according to their website at least - wiring money in a foreign currency was a different rate.  Overall, they were charging 7% between their exchange and wire fees.  Just not acceptable.

So then I did some more research online - after spending a couple weeks on and off looking at this.  I was thoroughly confused.  Exchange rates and transfer fees; wire, ACH (and all the different brands of these transfer mechanisms); who deposits in foreign currency, and who doesn't; etc. etc. etc.  (That MBA in finance really didn't help!)

I settled on Xoom - it's a product by PayPal, but if you take funds from your bank account the fees are minimal and the exchange rate pretty good.  I signed up and initiated a transfer - this was too easy - and immediately my transfer was cancelled by their system.  I asked why, and got the vaguest of answers basically saying they couldn't verify my profile (though didn't ask for documentation - isn't that against some regulation?), and couldn't verify the purpose of the funds (though they didn't ask that either).  Go find another service - literally, they said that.  Great customer service, huh?
So more research, and more confusion.

Then I found Xe.  I had used their site to find exchange rates in the past, but they also offer a service where they broker a funds transfer with minimal fees and a good exchange rate!  You send them the money via wire or ACH, then they'll convert it and wire it into a foreign bank account.  (I'm sure it's much more complex than that, but that's the gist).

When you sign up you'll need to send them some identification documents for verification, then call them for a phone screen.  Seems like a lot, but the banks need to basically do the same thing - so it was somewhat reassuring.  Then your account will be activated within 24 hours.

Just initiated my first transfer - so far so good!

(And no, I'm not a paid endorser of Xe - just wanted to pass along what I found in the hopes that others don't have to spend many hours on this when there are far more important things to worry about!)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

And the Award Goes to...

After many years of waiting and wondering, many months of reading and research, and many weeks of final due diligence - we've finally made our decision!

We're happy to be working with Dr. Shivani and Surrogacy Centre India to help us realize our dream and complete our family.  We can't wait to get started!!

The sample is dropped off...

Well I gave it my best shot; I hope I didn't blow it. Needless to say, it's a load off my mind.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I broke three Shake-Weights preparing...

Tomorrow is my semen analysis test. I'd be more embarrassed if it wasn't hilarious. I've found you have to have a sense of humor when it comes tome these things. Everybody at work knows about it, so imagine how red my face will be when I stroll into work afterword...

I'm sexy and I know it.

References: Checked!

We finished talking to references for the clinic today.  Everyone we talked to was incredibly honest and forthcoming, and gave us a good perspective on the process, the clinic, and India.  It was great to speak to them directly and it helped us immensely.

Thank you all (you know who you are)!
Morgan will be going for his semen analysis in the morning to see if his boys swim.  He promises his first post to the blog tomorrow on the subject (I'm a bit scared - you should be too).

Monday, March 12, 2012

Where We Are

After searching and researching, and surfing the web until we nearly drowned, we narrowed our choice of clinics/agencies down to five.  This was based on information generally available on their websites and on blogs.  Decent history of success and serving gay couples were musts - and overall, we just looked for clinics that felt right and seemed open about how they do what they do.

Our finalists (in alpha by city - had to sort somehow):
  1. Dr. Rama's Institute for Fertility  (Hyderabad)
  2. Kiran Infertility Centre  (Hyderabad)
  3. Rotunda - The Center for Human Reproduction  (Mumbai)
  4. Surrogacy India  (Mumbai)
  5. Surrogacy Centre India  (New Delhi)
Not to say any of the others were bad - they just didn't seem like the right fit for us based on the information we had.

We compiled a list of questions we wanted the finalists to answer (below), and a few weeks ago we wrote to each of them for more information with a selected subset of these questions.  We were not only looking for the answers (some of which we already knew), but also to see HOW they answered.

Most didn't even answer the questions we asked, but rather gave very general information that to varying degrees addressed some (but not nearly all) of the questions.  If they couldn't even be bothered to answer a simple question by e-mail, how would they be when we were mid pregnancy and we had a question about an important test result?

Two answered all the questions (and a third nearly all), and we liked what we heard.  We started to focus on them and do more digging - and pretty quickly one rose to the top.

We had a series of good e-mail exchanges with them, followed up by a lengthy Skype "interview" and more e-mails.  Now we're in the middle of talking to some of their references (and a few people who they didn't explicitly give as references, but who used the clinic).

So far, so good - we're exploring our remaining questions and concerns with them, and at the same time building a network of people who have been through the same thing.  I thank them all for their honesty and availability (even while some are juggling newly born multiples!).

For posterity - here are the questions we asked.  We knew some of the answers - and the answers to many more questions we didn't ask - but this gave us a documented list to compare clinics and dig deep.  We asked about 13 of these initially, and the rest (and more) in follow up.
  • How long have you been doing surrogacy?
  • How many staff members are associated with your organization?
  • What hospital are you affiliated with?
  • How many surrogacies have you arranged, how many got pregnant, and how many resulted in a successful delivery?
  • What is your overall success rate for surrogacy with an egg donor?
  • What is your percentage of multiple births w/ surrogacy and an egg donor?
  • What is your percentage of male vs. female births w/ surrogacy and an egg donor?
  • What is the mortality rate after 12 weeks?
  • What percentage of surrogate births have health problems (such as Downs Syndrome or a disability)?
  • Are you a gay friendly organization, and have you served gay couples in the past?
  • Roughly what % of your past clients are gay?
  • Do you arrange to select the surrogate?
  • What criteria is used to screen and select a surrogate?
  • What % of surrogacy applicants are accepted?
  • Do you arrange to monitor and care for the surrogate during the pregnancy?
  • Where do the surrogates live during pregnancy?
  • Do you allow contact with your surrogates during the pregnancy?
  • Do you routinely perform amniocentesis or other genetic tests in utero?
  • What kind of accommodations are the surrogates housed in?  Are their families there?
  • Do we get copies of the scans/results?
  • Do you offer anonymous egg donation?
  • Where do you source your egg donors?
  • Will we be able to select an egg donor based on pictures and written details?
  • How many pregnancy attempts are included, and what is the fee structure if all attempts fail?
  • How many embryos do you typically implant in one try?
  • Do you accept cryoship (or some form of remote deposit) for sperm?
  • Do you arrange for an attorney who is knowledgeable about local laws?
  • Will you provide agreements/contracts in advance for my local attorney to review?
  • Do you provide any assistance in securing the requisite paperwork to leave the country (including exit visa)?
  • Have you been sued by clients or surrogates?
  • How do you typically stay in contact with international clients, and how often during pregnancy?
  • How do you communicate test results and issues/problems to the IPs?
  • Are you willing to have a follow-up conversations via Skype?
  • Who will be our main point of contact?
  • What are your current fees in detail, and how do you structure the payments?
  • Are the prices you quote what your clients actually pay historically?
  • Additional fees for twins?
  • Quote for surrogacy with Indian egg donor (grade A), cryo-ship frozen sperm
  • Cost for second attempt?
  • How are the payments staggered?
  • How out of pocket are we if there is a miscarriage within 12 weeks?  After 12 weeks?
  • How can we be assured that the prices quoted initially will be the final prices paid (barring unforeseen and delineated additional costs)?
  • What services does the Concierge Service provide and how is the service priced?
  • Please provide at least three references, including two gay couples (couples from the US preferred)

We hope to have a final decision in the coming days - stay tuned!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

How We Got Here (Our Back Story)

Once Upon A Time...

No, that's not right - let's just jump in.  And since this is our back story, it's a bit long.  Apologies - try to stay awake....

Morgan and I have had a strong desire to have children since we met at 21 (perhaps even earlier) - but we knew we needed to spend some time together first as a couple, and ensure we had a stable environment that could support a family.  As we approached 30, we knew we were ready.  But how would we do this?

We first heard of Indian surrogacy in 2006 - mainly of Rotunda.  At that time, there was scarce information on the web, and the lack of detail and regulation certainly concerned us.  But we kept looking and researching, as we preparing (or rather we were preparing to prepare - build my career, buy a house, save, and start to form a plan).  Well, I did - I'm the planner.  Morgan just wanted a baby.  Now, please.

Then something unexpected happened - in early 2007, my sister offered to be a surrogate for us.  She was a few years younger at 27 and had a one year old son (my adorable nephew).  So attention focused on making this happen.

We lived in Southern California at the time (Orange County) - Morgan was born and raised there, and I had moved there to go to college (from upstate New York) and stuck around.  We absolutely loved it there.  Problem was, my sister hated California (should have been an early clue!).  She was living in North Carolina along with some of our family that had migrated down there to run away from the bitter cold winters.

Since we did want to all live together through the pregnancy - which also helped her financially, and would allow us to help raise my nephew - we looked for alternatives.  As luck would have it, there was a company I was interested in working for that was based in Cambridge, Massachusetts - and my sister loved living in Boston.  And it would also be closer to our family still living in upstate New York.

So by fall 2007, I had gotten a job with that company and we moved cross country.  A month later my sister and nephew moved in with us.

We do love where we live - we bought a beautiful house on a few acres in central Massachusetts, in a great small town (never thought I'd say that!).  It's a good hour from Boston, but it's quiet and peaceful - and we think it will be a great place to raise a family.

Our nephew made a big impression on us, even before we lived with him - he was about 22 months when they moved in, and we just fell in love with him and absolutely loved watching him grow into a little man.  I think Morgan was quite literally a second parent to him.

We started trying to get pregnant within a couple months, and by early June 2008 the stick turned pink!  We were elated, and we began planning.  We were getting married (legally this time) in late July - on our 10th anniversary (another advantage of moving to Massachusetts).  So timing was right that the baby would be almost 12 weeks by the wedding - and would be a great announcement to our family during our reception!

Unfortunately, it was not to be - my sister had a miscarriage around 8 weeks.  Our elation turned to devastation.  But we were busy planning a wedding and fixing up the house - and we knew this wouldn't be the end of it - so we pushed on.  By fall we all realized this wasn't the best situation for any of us, and my sister and nephew moved out by October.  I still miss him.

We started to regroup over the winter and figure out what new direction we wanted to take.  Then another relative offered to be a surrogate for us.  What luck?!  We were cautious.  But we talked.  And talked.  And decided to take a stab - this time with a little more planning - and a lawyer.  This seemed like the best and quickest way to make this happen.  But alas - several months and several thousand dollars in legal fees later, she backed out.  Or at least we think she did - we never did hear back, despite trying, and she's since gotten a divorce and isn't part of the family.  Sad.

So obviously all of that gave us pause.  And pause.

We absolutely knew we still wanted to have children, but we needed to really take our time, and walk into our next situation with our eyes wide open (as best you can, anyway).  We explored domestic adoption.  And looked again at Indian surrogacy.  After weighing our options, we felt like surrogacy just felt right, and was the direction we wanted to head.

We spent the next couple years exploring the options, the clinics, and the stories - good and bad.  This ramped up over the past year, and especially the last six months, as my career took off and we were able to secure the resources we'd need to do this.

But this post is long enough - so that's how we came to embark on Indian surrogacy.  We'll talk more about what we learned and how we're making our choice next.  

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What's in a Name?

In the summer of 1998, I was a Junior in college in Southern California.  I wanted to make a connection and find a boyfriend, so naturally I looked to the internet (it was still fairly new then, remember?).  Even at that time, however, the web was used more for a quick hook up rather than long term commitment, if you get what I mean.  And I didn't want that (or at least not JUST that).  So I put up a post with the title "Something More..." with the hopes that the right man would see it.

Shortly thereafter, Morgan responded.

We soon learned that we were both looking for something more than one night - but a life together.  A long life that included a family, and children.

Look how thin young we were!
We took our time (we were only 21 when we met), but by 30 we knew the time was right.  It's taken another five years to get everything in line, and to go through the trials that somehow seem necessary to get where we are today.  And now we can embark on this (hopefully final) journey to complete what we started over 13 years ago and become a family.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Welcome to our blog!

Morgan and I are embarking on our next phase of becoming a family:  through Indian surrogacy (see future post on how we got here).

There are so many stories on the web that are at the same time exceptionally touching and exceptionally heartbreaking.  I thank you all for sharing your journeys in such candid detail, and for helping so many of us gain a sense of what it is like to take this road.  It's our intent to add to the body of narratives about surrogacy in India, and be a small part of what is fast becoming a wealth of resources for future intended parents and their children.  In short - we want to pass on what we learn, like those that have come before us.

But be warned:  We're fairly boring people, so keep your finger on the scroll wheel.