We had two of the biggest grins on our faces, walking through the two glass doors of our fertility clinic on a cold Tuesday morning. After checking in with the front desk, we sat down on a comfortable set of chairs next to a table with current magazines and a live orchid.
Once we got settled waiting to be called in for our consultation, we scanned the room. Besides being the only pair of guys amongst a sea of presumably straight couples, there was something else that was different. The room felt somber and sedate. The other people in the waiting room seemed to have the color drained from their faces. We stuck out like a pair of sore thumbs.
We felt immediately out of place with our excitement and enthusiasm. No one seemed to want to be there except us. Heading to the fertility clinic, we were bright, chipper, and excited to get started. For the others, their presence at a fertility clinic was not representative of the first or best option to create a family. Their presence there did not bring them joy. Being in that waiting room with us likely represented repeated fertility attempts and tremendous loss over the course of several months or years.
Our journey to parenthood has drastically changed our perspective on fertility and the stigma that comes with IVF and surrogacy. For gay men who want to pursue having biological children, IVF with gestational surrogacy is one of the only options readily available. There was never a question as to whether we would seek the help of a fertility clinic to build our family, even though we aren’t technically infertile.
Beginning our surrogacy journey with the help of our fertility clinic brought us an immense sense of hope to grow our family. But for many intended parents, IVF and surrogacy are considered last-ditch efforts in the journey to a healthy baby.
Being largely ignorant of the infertility world and the people in it, we were happy to openly talk about IVF and surrogacy to anyone willing to listen. Besides the biases we face by being gay men wanting to have children, there was no real perceived stigma attached to IVF or surrogacy, as it is regarded as “the way” many gay men or single men have biological children.
We are both scientists working in healthcare, so IVF was a point of conversation with our peers, mainly because it’s such an amazing technology that exists. How cool is it that we can create an embryo outside of a human body, genetically test it, freeze it, thaw it at a later date, and then transfer it into a person's uterus to potentially make a baby? Needless to say, our friends and coworkers had many questions, and we were excited to help answer them.
Talking about our surrogacy journey openly at work or with close friends, it became clear that this infertility world--a world we thought was so small and uncommon--was actually quite the opposite. Dozens of our friends or coworkers began to approach us about their struggles with fertility or their pursuit of IVF or surrogacy to help build their families. These exchanges were always behind closed doors with the intent of maintaining confidentiality. Some stories had good endings and others did not, but our takeaway was the same: it was something to stay quiet about. On some level, we felt honored that we were confided in on a clearly sensitive subject.
Our journey hasn’t been easy, but as we approach 35 weeks pregnant with our twins created through IVF and carried by our amazing surrogate, we are humbled by the struggles some of our friends have had to endure to grow their families.
Hopefully, by talking openly about our journey (the good and the bad) we can help break down some of the shame and stigma for everyone going through IVF and/or surrogacy. What we have learned most of all throughout this process is we are all doing this for the same reason. Why these technologies are needed to build our families shouldn’t matter.
Alec and Paul live in Portland, Oregon. They were married in 2017 and besides their mutual love for hiking and IPAs, they both knew they wanted biological children. They started their surrogacy journey in late 2018 and are now parents to twins.