Why we chose surrogacy over adoption
Eric and Grant Anderson are both originally from Orange County, California. Together for the past 17 years, they relocated in to the UK in 2005 and now live in Basingstoke, Hampshire.
Both work as academics, with Eric, aged 46, a professor at the University of Winchester and Grant, 35, a lecturer at Brunel University.
Soon after meeting, they discussed their mutual desire to become parents. On arriving in the UK, they looked into adoption, but ended up opting for surrogacy. In July 2012, they became the proud parents of fraternal twins, Ryan and Garet – born to a surrogate mom in California.
Eric explained to GSN why they took this route, their experience of the surrogacy process, and what advice they might offer to other prospective gay dads.
When and why did you settle on the idea of surrogacy?
Eric: I was adopted and I’ve always wanted to adopt. I’ve always had the perspective that there are kids there who need a family, and that I’d be good for that. Being adopted myself, there’s also that concept of giving back.
Grant and I were set to start the adoption process here in the United Kingdom in about 2006. We were disrupted by Grant getting a very severe cancer: a sarcoma with a very low survival rate.
We fought that cancer for 17 months, followed by another two years of intense immunotherapy. There were complications from the procedures that lasted another couple of years.
By this time, we were years beyond when we had wanted to have kids.
He, obviously, survived and we got back into the adoption world only to find that they wanted us to wait seven years, post all clear. That would have put me at, well; I think 48 by the time that we could start the process. Add another two years of having to wait … basically longer than I wanted to wait.
Worse than that, we were told by more than one agency that a judge and/or a panel would take the cancer into consideration and it probably wouldn’t fare well for us.
So, we vacillated. We sat down and we drew up pros and cons of going forward with adoption versus surrogacy, and we chose the surrogacy route. The minute we did, it empowered us.
For the first time, we controlled the shots: We chose who the egg donor would be; we chose who the agent would be; we chose who the doctor would be, etc, etc. And for us, it put us in the driver’s seat. And even though it came with a financial cost, it was so entirely worth it.
What sort of research did you do when exploring the idea of surrogacy? How did you settle on a particular agency?
Well, firstly, because we’re both academics, we did a lot of research into surrogacy itself: academic research. The other thing we did, we befriended Tony and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow [gay dads through surrogacy that have often appeared on British TV to discuss their experiences]. They obviously have a lot of knowledge.
When we chose to do surrogacy we did a great deal of research into what we wanted: what level of involvement we would want with the biological mother, the egg donations, etc, etc.
We came to our conclusions that we would want somebody who would be available for the kids to visit with, to have a relationship with, but not be so attached. So, we wanted a certain level of distance, but basically, we did not want to do an anonymous egg donor.
We needed to find someone within our social networks that was going to be willing to give us their eggs, and so we made that decision and then we found an absolutely ideal person.
She’s in the US and she was one of my old students and friends, and she married one of my other favorite students. We are all incredibly ideologically minded.
The next decision was, ‘Whose sperm do we use?’. For us, the decision came down to the fact that: we did a great deal of research about Grant’s cancer and it appears that it’s probably genetically-linked, so we decided that, even if the chances were low, if one of our kids got cancer, we’d feel so guilty, so we decided to use my sperm.
You were in the UK and the surrogate was in the US. Did you feel detached from the process or were you in very regular contact?
Very regular contact. We flew back and forth to make regular visits. I’d fly out and Grant would fly out.
We chose an agency near us, near our house in Southern California. That way, we kinda kept an ‘at home’ feeling, and it also meant that the agency that we chose used surrogates from that local area.
We wanted our children to be equally involved with the surrogate’s life as the egg donor’s life, so we tell people our kids have two moms – a tummy mommy and a bio mommy/egg mommy, so as part of our interviewing procedure for the surrogates, we wanted a surrogate that wanted to visit with, see, know our children.
And by having an agency close to where our family where in southern California, it meant that we could go for the summers and have that on-going relationship.
Despite being 6,000 miles apart, we felt very connected to the whole process. If you’re gonna spend, and the whole process was about $120,000, so about £80,000 – if you’re going spend that money, then you’re going to spend a little extra to fly out there and have some sense that you’re part of that journey.
And did the pregnancy and birth all go smoothly?
Beyond belief. Our agent made everything go like clockwork. There was no disappointment throughout the entire process – we were literally filled with joy the entire time, and so was our surrogate, and our relationship was absolutely amazing and continues to be today.
We spend the summers in California, visiting both the biological mom and the surrogate mom – they’re friends now, even though they hadn’t met before this whole journey, and our kids have this huge, wonderful, expansive family now.
Would you do anything differently, or do you have any advice for anyone else considering surrogacy?
The biggest piece of advice would be: Research everything. For me, would I do anything differently? Nothing of importance comes to the front of my mind whatsoever.
You must have heard of surrogacy horror stories – what are the pitfalls that people should definitely try to avoid?
Most of the pitfalls are out of your control. For example, we had chosen a surrogate and, we didn’t want to proceed quite yet because we wanted summer babies and she needed to start sooner and so she de-chose us.
It turns out she was a first-time surrogate and she had a miscarriage, and that has a financial and emotional cost to everybody involved. We’re so fortunate we didn’t have a situation like that.
The second surrogate we chose, our doctor, Dr Guy Ringler, ruled out. He said, ‘No, the chances of her having gestational diabetes are high,’ so we ruled her out, and in her next surrogacy, yes, she had gestational diabetes. And so you really have to research everything, but so much of it is up to chance.
The same biological and financial problems that can go wrong with any childbirth, they can happen to surrogacy. There are horror stories out there like that, but they’re not horror stories of volitional malpractice. They’re not horror stories of, ‘she was a surrogate and she kept the child’ – you can’t in California.
There are some stories out there about agents, who have collected people’s money, particularly from overseas, who really weren’t agents whatsoever, they just collect money from gay couples overseas and they never see or hear from the person again, so you have to make sure that you’re with a reputable agent.