Welcome to our worldRaising Alek Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
Social Chaos: Raising Alek
I thought I’d do a 180 degree turn this week and change the topic from teenagers last week, to newborns this week. In many ways, this week’s column is a celebration of life that is dedicated to a beautiful newborn baby by the name of Genevieve Scott, born to my dear friend Rick and his husband Ky.
Genevieve was born on Jan. 9 at 4:00 p.m. via in vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogacy. I asked Rick to share with me the details of his journey to fatherhood.
Sam: I’ve said before that people say it takes a village to raise a child, but with gay and lesbian people, it takes a village to create a child. You used an agency to pull your “village people” together; the IVF doctor, the lawyer, the egg donor, and the surrogate. Do you think there’s any difference in the attitudes of the villagers during the surrogacy process for a gay couple versus a straight couple?
Rick: We actually learned that it’s common with straight couples that the woman often feels very threatened by the egg donor and surrogate. The woman may have jealousies or feelings of inadequacy that get triggered by the surrogate performing a role that she wishes she could have done. With a gay couple, however, men already know they cannot give birth, so there’s an immediate feeling of gratitude towards both the surrogate and egg donor.
Sam: Any interesting stories about the process you’d like to share?
Rick: One story was how hard we fought to have our egg donor. Out of all of the profiles, hers was the only one that “felt” right. Once we got the agency to say she was available and reserve her for us, we ran into a series of difficulties. At first, the IVF doctor recommended not going with her because she was only 18 and they have a policy of working with more emotionally mature donors. Their fear was that at that age, she could forget to take her intense regimen of drugs or get her priorities out of order. Though we appreciated his perspective, we still felt right about her, so asked to meet her.
We flew her in for an interview and the doctor changed his mind. Since she was married and had a child, he felt that she had the emotional maturity that they wanted. We started to move ahead with the process and then found out that our egg donor, though listed as being from Texas, had been living in Austria for more than six months. By American law this gave us cause to be concerned about her being exposed to mad-cow disease, so they could not move forward with an anonymous egg donation. The agency tried to get us to go with another donor, but we really wanted to get over this hurdle and stick with her. The only legal way around this was for the surrogate and egg donor to meet so there was an established relationship between them. This changed completely the direction of our privacy.
We decided we would rather stick with her and let everyone meet, so we flew in the surrogate and egg donor to meet each other and the surrogate agreed to take a chance with an egg from out of the country. Once again, we moved forward in the testing process and then got a call that our egg donor tested positive for Tay-Sachs disease, which means that if either of us tested positive that our child would most likely die within a couple of years.
The agency encouraged us to go with someone else, but we chose to go through more blood tests and found that we were both negative to Tay-Sachs, which means there would be no chance for this disease to come through to the child. Final hurdle completed and we had a successful egg retrieval. She produced 25 eggs, 17 of which were healthy. We were able to get 12 of those fertilized (we each fertilized half of the eggs) and asked the doctor to choose the two healthiest embryos to put into the surrogate without letting us know who the genetic father was. We could have chosen the sex at that point too, but did not.
Sam: So as I write this, Genevieve is approaching two weeks old. Assuming you’ve gotten enough sleep to even know, how does it feel?
Rick: With the birth of our child, there has been an overwhelming protective “Papa Bear” energy that has come forward. It has deepened our love for one another and our feeling of rhythm as a couple to create a safe and loving family. The best part is watching her feed and the worst part is the 2-4 a.m. time when she is wide-awake. We are sleepless, but happy, zombies.
Sam: Genevieve is probably one of my favorite names for a girl. I had an “Aunt Neva” and always loved that name. What’s the story in picking this name for your daughter?
Rick: We had a whole list of boy names that we agreed to, but could not come up with ONE girl name that we both felt was right. Then we decided to ask the egg donor what names she liked, since she was much younger than us and we figured she would be more in touch with what our daughter’s peers would be named. The egg donor said the other name she had loved, that she didn’t name her daughter, was Genevieve. As soon as she said it, we both knew immediately that that was the right name for our girl, and we liked that she would know her genetic mother had loved that name. We wanted a name that was both feminine, but also would allow her to move into the world as a powerful woman. This name feels perfect for us.
Sam: And a powerful name it is. Can you tell me how you prepared for being a parent? Is there any real way to prepare?
Rick: The best baby gift we received from a friend was a book called What to Expect the First Year by Heidi Murkoff. It was invaluable in helping us feel prepared for every aspect of fatherhood. Once the baby arrived, it has continued to be helpful going month by month on what to expect from your baby and what their needs are. A second book that we read and enjoyed was The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp. The Canadian medical practice provides home visits from midwifes that has given us great comfort, knowing we would have someone every week coming by to check on us and answer questions.
Sam: How is your life different now than it was two weeks ago?
Rick: Ky has put his career on an indefinite sabbatical, since we wanted to raise Genevieve the old-school way, with a stay-at-home parent sending her off to school and there when she got home. Once she’s sleeping through the night, he’ll start taking one to two clients a day while I watch her. But Ky’s priority is her, while I take care of securing our family’s financial needs. Even though I’m not up at night feeding her and changing her diapers, I’m still exhausted from not sleeping and worrying about Ky being a sleepless zombie. Sleepless, but happy.
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