So you’re considering becoming a parent? Congratulations! There is a litany of choices before there is even a diaper to change or a school to choose. For many LGBTQ+ families, this barrage of decisions starts a bit earlier than most.
One decision that you’ll need to make right away is: how will you grow your family? There is no wrong answer. Do one or both of the parents in the equation have eggs or sperm they can contribute to the future offspring? One option is using donor sperm or egg to pair with one partner’s corresponding half. If not, you may consider donor embryos. And depending on the pieces you and your partner can contribute, you may also need to consider surrogacy.
Deciding on a donor is another huge task. When it comes to a donor, consider the following: do you need an egg donation, sperm donation or both? Will you go with a known donor, someone that you already have some type of relationship with who can donate to you? Or will an anonymous donor at a sperm or egg bank be better suited for you? What information does the donor bank provide to you? How many families does the bank allow to use the same donor? (This is important for considering the number of siblings your future offspring might have from different families.) Does the bank have good reviews? Is the donor completely anonymous or would the child have the option of meeting them when they turn 18?
The role of the donor is very important and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Even if this person is never a part of your life, they may eventually be a part of your child’s life. If you have questions about how to choose a donor, ask other folks who are donor conceived or look into support networks who specialize in this. The US Donor Conceived Council is also a great resource.
If you are considering surrogacy, there are other questions to ask yourself. Is your state friendly to surrogacy? Do you want a surrogate who lives near you or your fertility clinic? (This can cut down on some costs if you don’t have to cover travel fees for your surrogate to get to the fertility clinic). Do you want them to match your values, race, religion? Do you want to go through an agency or can you manage an “independent” journey, meaning you find the surrogate and set up all legal processes yourself? Are you considering a traditional surrogate, or will you go the route of gestational surrogacy? If you choose gestational surrogacy, who will be the gestational carrier? There are Facebook support groups that can help you find a surrogate match such as “Intended Parents & Surrogates & Egg Donors (Helping People Meet).”
Fostering & adoption
Another option when family planning in the LGBTQ+ community is to consider fostering or adopting. There are many children in need of temporary families while their biological birth parents work to make their homes safe. And there are many children who are in need of safe adults to adopt them. Becoming a foster parent requires several steps including taking courses, completing a home study/family assessment and getting licensed with your state for foster care. Depending on where you live, this can be a bit of a barrier if your state has implemented laws that allow foster/adoption agencies to discriminate against same sex couples. However, there are some states such as New York and California where LGBTQ+ rights would be protected against discrimination.
Regardless of how you decide to grow your family, starting this is a long and generally complicated journey with many other questions along the way.
Once you’ve thought through how you want to go about growing your family, the next question is, can you afford it? There are a lot of costs that go into creating a person. If you need a surrogate, that is likely going to be one of the most expensive routes. If you or your partner is able to carry a pregnancy using your own eggs and your own sperm, that is typically the least expensive option.
Here is a run-down of some of the expenses that you might incur:
- Purchasing donor sperm/eggs/embryos
- Yearly storage fees for sperm/eggs/embryos
- Shipping fees from the bank to your doctor’s office/home
- Harvesting of eggs to create your own embryos
- Creation of embryos
- Insemination procedures and assisted reproductive technology (such as intrauterine insemination [IUI] or in vitro fertilization [IVF])
- Surrogacy costs (which could include lawyers, surrogate compensation, surrogacy agency fees, travel fees for surrogate, etc)
- Adoption costs (both parents or second parent adoption, also known as co-parenting adopted children, might be necessary for the non-biological parent to establish parental rights, especially in a state that is not as friendly to LGBTQ+ couples). It may be helpful to explore the Family Equality Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community
If the financial pieces sound daunting, explore your insurance coverage options. Fertility treatments are not always a covered healthcare benefit by insurance providers. Although for LGBTQ+ families this isn’t necessarily “fertility treatment” in the traditional sense, most insurance providers don’t care to differentiate infertility and growing a family. If you have the ability to shop around for fertility-friendly insurance before you start the process, definitely check into what the options are. There are even some companies that specialize in fertility insurance. You can try calling your fertility clinic to see if they have any companies that they recommend using.
If you decide that pregnancy is right for your family’s journey, finding fertility specialists (reproductive endocrinologists) that are competent with LGBTQ+ couples is important.
If there is a non-gestational parent involved who is interested in feeding the baby their own human milk, lactation induction is an option. There are several ways to accomplish this and many resources to utilize to help your family achieve their goals. It’s also a great idea to meet with a lactation professional who specializes in lactation induction. Lactation induction can be achieved for non-gestational parents, adoptive parents or transgender/gender non-conforming/non-binary parents with varying levels of success. Success will be measured by your own goals.
No matter your gender identity or sexual orientation, however you decide to grow your family as prospective parents, whether through surrogacy, pregnancy or adoption as a lesbian or gay couple, transgender, bisexual or LGBTQ parents, know that there is no wrong way to raising children and loving them. Good luck and best wishes!