Verywell Family recently published a series of interviews with families about their experience building their families through surrogacy. Here's one of those heartwarming stories.
Randy Rowe and Kyle Keigan
Ages: 34 and 30
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Occupations: Assistant professor of Russian at the University of Cincinnati and art director at Steel City Brand (respectively)
Son's age: 4 Months
Image: Christian Alzate / Verywell
Why did you decide to use a surrogate?
We are a same-sex couple, and so our options for growing our family are limited to adoption or surrogacy. Given the hostile political climate that LGBTQ+ parents have faced with regard to marriage and children, we opted to use a surrogate rather than pursue adoption.
Many states have differing laws with regard to LGBTQ+ adoptions. Moreover, many adoption agencies are religiously affiliated. Under so-called “religious freedom,” these agencies are free to discriminate against same-sex couples seeking to adopt.
We chose to use genetic material from Kyle and my [Randy’s] sister to make embryos. We then found a wonderful gestational carrier who carried and delivered Oskar. We chose to use our genetic material, as well as our family’s in order to ensure that our parentage or legal relationship to the child could not be challenged because of the make-up of our family. This may seem paranoid, but we have seen this happen in places like Russia, and [we wanted to be sure].
How did you find your surrogate?
Our amazing gestational carrier lives in Colorado, and we would have never found her without the help of our incredible agency, ConceiveAbilities. We chose them as our agency mostly because of their “all-in” package, which made the logistical and financial aspects of our journey very easy and stress-free.
Furthermore, we wanted access to a large and well-vetted pool of potential carriers. We needed to have a carrier in a state that is legally friendly to surrogacy, and moreover, a state with established precedence for legal parentage procedures for same-sex families.
It turns out Colorado was an ideal state for us, and so we were introduced to our carrier through our agency. ConceiveAbilities has thoroughly vetted their carriers and surrogates with regard to health, mental, financial, and social stabilities. They also spend much time getting to know the surrogates/carriers, so that they can make a perfect match.
After spending a month getting to know me and Kyle, our match manager suggested that we meet our carrier and her husband. We met. We all loved each other. We all decided to go on this journey together within 24 hours.
What was your role in the birth?
Well, obviously, our carrier did all the hard work! We were lucky enough to have a carrier who has tremendous support from her family.
This is something that ConceiveAbilities requires of their candidates, but we didn’t know just how wonderful it would be for our carrier to have such a patient and loving partner. She and him did all of the hard work during the pregnancy, labor, and birth.
We actually had an induced birth, so the time from induction to birth was about 24 hours (Friday, 5/21/21 at 9:30 p.m. to Saturday, 5/22/21 at 9:30 p.m.). Kyle and I were in close contact with our carrier and her partner from the minute they arrived at the hospital for the induction.
We had taken a flight from Cincinnati to Denver two days prior and were at a hotel nervously awaiting any progress reports. Our carrier was relaxed and wanted to try to sleep after the initial administration of the induction medication, so we remained at the hotel the night of May 21, and we decided we would come first thing in the morning of May 22.
"It was wonderful having almost 12 hours with our carrier. For the most part of the induction, she was not in a terrible amount of pain, so we were able to have many conversations and bond."
- Randy Rowe
When we arrived there was still not much progress, so we settled in for the day in the room with our carrier and her partner. It was wonderful having almost 12 hours with our carrier. For the most part of the induction, she was not in a terrible amount of pain, so we were able to have many conversations and bond.
We didn’t have the opportunity to meet our carrier in person until the birth because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We sat and talked, laughed, listened to music, watched cheesy horror films on TV, and overall we cemented our little team. Team Oskar, if you will.
We, of course, offered our support in any way that we could. We brought her everything she asked for, and tried to anticipate her every need. Thank goodness for her partner! He was so wonderful in anticipating her needs. (He had done this with her three times prior.)
While we were offering all of the help we could think of, and her partner was there by her side, she was handling the labor and delivery with grace, confidence, and the mysterious strength of a woman giving birth. She was phenomenal beyond what we thought possible of a human being.
What is a misconception about surrogacy and how did your experience contradict it?
Many peoples’ concern was that surrogacy and/or using a gestational carrier is somehow a shady business. That is to say that we fielded a lot of questions like, “Well, what if she doesn’t give you your baby?” or “What if she takes the payment and there is no baby?”
These questions are likely due to the stigma that still exists in talking about surrogacy. This is not something that is done in the shadows, and if more people felt comfortable being open about the process, then I think there would be greater understanding and a larger belief in the legitimacy of surrogacy.
Our agency and carrier were the utmost professionals. We had mounds of legal paperwork that were expertly handled by our agency-connected attorneys, and we had all of our finances handled by a professional escrow management firm.
When it came down to it, ConceiveAbilities ensured the professional handling of our journey’s logistics and finances, both of which were agreed to and contracted well before Team Oskar assembled officially. This made our relationship with our carrier stress-free and allowed all of us to focus solely on our soon-to-be baby boy, Oskar.
While the number of children born each year in the U.S. via surrogacy is a small percentage of the total, the number of families turning to this practice has risen sharply in the last 20 years. According to a study in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics, the percentage of surrogate births out of all assisted births tripled between 1999 and 2014, while the number of infants born annually via surrogate doubled between 2004 and 2008.1
Even so, there is still a shroud of secrecy and confusion around the practice and the legality of surrogacy varies greatly from one state to another. To help demystify the process, we asked a diverse group of parents to share their reasons for pursuing surrogacy, what their experience was like, and the misconceptions that exist about the process.
One of the biggest ones: The definition of the word surrogacy, which many of the families here found themselves explaining to friends and loved ones. In most cases, as many of the parents explain, "surrogate" typically refers to a gestational carrier or a woman who becomes pregnant through in vitro fertilization (IVF) and is not genetically related to the child she is carrying.
Gestational carrier vs. surrogate
"Gestational carrier" is a mindful alternative to the word "surrogate." "Surrogates traditionally were genetically related to the baby, while the term gestational carrier indicates no genetic connection to the baby," says Rachel Gurevich, RN, a fertility advocate and member of the Verywell Family Review Board.
Traditionally, surrogates are genetically related to the baby they are carrying, oftentimes artificially inseminated by the baby's father. The term gestational carrier acknowledges the possibility of a donated embryo from the intended parents, in which the gestational carrier has no relation to the fetus.