Many people ask us how Max was conceived. It’s a rather personal question that some parents would understandably decline to answer. We usually don’t mind it, because we see it as an opportunity to inform them about the wonderful ways that families can come together outside of the norm. Of course some people ask in more articulate ways than others. While some may understandably ask if Max was adopted, others have simply blurted out, “Where did you get it from?” I’m always tempted to reply: “They’re a blue light special this week at k-mart -- hurry before they sell out!” I once replied that Max was born in Georgia, and the person assumed I meant Georgia as in the former Soviet republic! Until a few months ago, Russia was a popular country for international adoptions. (To see why it isn’t anymore, recall this disheartening story). I now make sure to say Atlanta, Georgia. But regardless of how people ask the question, my answer always winds up with me bragging about Max’s surrogate mother, Christie, in one respect or another.
There are many reasons why we brag about Christie. First, there’s a lot to brag about. Max is a lucky boy to get half of his genetics from her. She is both beautiful and super smart. She has two masters degrees, one in the sciences, and she is an AP chemistry teacher. Max can thank his lucky stars for her prowess in the sciences, because neither Stewart nor I are math or science whizzes. She is also incredibly driven, which is another trait that we hope Max emulates. For example, our journey almost ended before it even began, if it weren’t for Christie. We were having trouble finding a doctor to perform the IUI (intrauterine insemination) in the Atlanta area for two men. There weren’t many doctors who performed it for infertile straight couples, and finding one of those in the deep South who didn’t mind that we were gay was even more challenging. It was Christie, after much persistence, who found a doctor to perform the procedure. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that it turned out the doctor was Jewish and originally from New York!
There’s another reason we like to brag about Christie. There is a common misperception that traditional surrogates aren’t known for having great looks or intelligence. When we met with some surrogacy agencies to see if we wanted to work with them, we mentioned that we were also considering traditional independent surrogacy. They told us point blank that we were not going to find what they thought was a “quality person” to do traditional surrogacy; and, that we were especially not going to find such a person online. They warned us that a surrogate found that way would likely not be college educated, would be from a different class level, and therefore would be hard to relate to! We feel that the agencies (not that there aren’t pros to using them, which is beyond the topic of this post) really push this incorrect stereotype because it scares infertile couples into thinking they need to sign up with them and pay for an expensive egg donor, which then leads to having to pay for expensive IVF treatments to implant the donor’s egg into the surrogate. Given that this is what couples exploring surrogacy are often told, it is not surprising that when we met other couples planning to have children via surrogacy, they would raise their eyebrows when we said we were not working with an agency and were on a journey with a traditional surrogate.
So another reason we brag about our surrogate to anyone who asks about our story is to debunk the stereotype that prevails about traditional surrogates and carriers. We’ve come to learn that, in reality, traditional surrogates are as beautiful, talented and smart as any other women out there, and on top of that are extraordinarily selfless and courageous. We talk to a lot of couples (and even some singles) looking to start their family through surrogacy. We tell them all about Christie not only because we’re so proud to have her as Max’s surromom, but also because we hope to open their eyes that independent traditional surrogacy is a real option for them and that they aren’t sacrificing a bit -- genetically or otherwise -- by pursuing that route. We don’t think that the agencies adequately convey this message, so we feel like we have to as a counterbalance. Because if we had listened to the naysayers, Stewart and I would have lost out on the son, and the surromom, of a lifetime.