A Growing Number of Gay Couples are Using Surrogacy to Become Fathers

Like most new dads, Noel Cabrera and Carlton Hock look forward to their first Father’s Day with twins Andrew and Erin, but say they have nothing special planned.

“We live day-to-day with the babies,” Cabrera said. “It’s a matter of just getting through the day.”

Cabrera and Hock, partners for five years, began their journey to parenthood in 2008. They’re among the many thousands of gay male couples who have used major surrogacy clinics to grow their families. Thursday night, CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien focuses on this trend in the latest installment of her In America series, Gary and Tony Have a Baby.

O’Brien, who has four kids of her own, said she was fascinated by the idea of gay men making babies.

“In so many ways, it was a completely different experience than a heterosexual woman who has four children,” O’Brien said in an interview. “But in so many ways it’s the same, very similar to the dream and desire to be a parent. Many of the things they said were the exact same things my husband said when we were waiting to have our children.”

Cabrera, 47, who was born in Cuba, and Hock, 43, originally of Milwaukee, have much in common despite their dissimilar backgrounds.

“Both of us come from very, very strong families,” Cabrera said. “The family unit is very important. I always grew up thinking I was going to have children. When I was young — before I knew I was gay — I said I was going to get married and have children.”

Cabrera came out as gay in the 1980s and began researching surrogacy and adoption in the late 1990s. He met Hock during a trip to Chicago in 2005.

“Noel knew he wanted a family before I even thought about moving here,” said Hock, who lived in Chicago at the time. “That was something we talked about. Noel looked at possibly adopting overseas and other programs. I was in my late 30s and thought my time had passed for having a family, and that kind of renewed that.”

After Hock moved to South Florida to be with Cabrera, the men began planning their family. They decided to use California-based Growing Generations, which describes itself as “the first surrogacy agency dedicated to serving the gay and lesbian community.”

More and more, gay couples are choosing the surrogacy route.

“Why is this happening now?” said O’Brien, whose 8 p.m. CNN special spotlights a gay male couple, Gary Spino and Tony Brown of New York City. “What is the process? Surrogacy is incredibly expensive.”

Spino and Brown, both 47 and partners for nearly 21 years, spent about $150,000 to have their son, Nicholas, now 8 months old.

“We didn’t have concerns about being gay parents; we had concerns about being older dads,” said Brown, an attorney who specializes in nontraditional families like his own.

Cabrera, a Weston psychiatrist, and Hock, a math teacher at Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, spent about $160,000 to bring their twins into the world.

“We paid to a trust fund,” said Cabrera, who also is director of Chrysalis Center, a community mental health agency with offices in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Lake Worth. “They estimate how much the cost will be for the whole process. We had to pay all that up front.”

Costs include paying one donor in New York City about $10,000 for her eggs and another woman in Portland, Ore., $30,000 to carry the embryos. Surrogacy programs encourage splitting the roles to avoid legal and emotional entanglements.

Two years ago, Growing Generations told Cabrera and Hock they had found them the perfect surrogate: a divorced woman in her early 30s with two daughters of her own.

“She said she wanted to help other couples,” Cabrera said. “She has an uncle herself who is gay and he was unable to have any children. Also, there was a financial benefit. She wanted to go back to school and she thought this would help further her career.”

Cabrera and Hock found their own egg donor through an online profile.

The medical process began in December 2008, when 10 eggs were harvested from the donor. The eggs were fertilized in vitro with sperm donated by both men, and two embryos were implanted in the surrogate’s uterus.

Even today, according to Cabrera, the men aren’t certain whose sperm fertilized the eggs.

“We didn’t know who the father was,” Cabrera said. “We don’t care. We used the best embryos and we didn’t care where they were from.”

In late December came news that the surrogate was pregnant. After the first ultrasound seven weeks later, Cabrera and Hock learned the woman carried two fetuses.

“At 20 weeks, were able to identify the gender. We flew out to Oregon for the ultrasound. That’s when we found out we were having a boy and a girl,” Cabrera said.

The pregnancy was uneventful, and on Aug. 19, 2009, the surrogate gave birth in Oregon, one of five states where both same-sex partners’ names could be put on the birth certificates.

Miami Beach attorney Elizabeth Schwartz, who specializes in alternative families, did the men’s legal work in Florida, the only state in which gay people are prohibited by statute from adopting.

“All of my dreams have been achieved,” said Cabrera, who lives with his family in Boca Raton. “I am totally fulfilled as a person. This was a last step in my life, in terms of profession and personal life, and I was able to achieve it.”

Said Hock: “It certainly is life changing. It now becomes all about the kids and in a good way. Wanting the best for them and trying to do things for them to better their lives — and hopefully create the best children you can.”

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Dr. Kim Bergman

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 26 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for over two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for Intended Parents, Surrogates and Donors. She is the co-owner of Fertility Counseling Services and Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national Emeritus board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman’s is the author of the upcoming book, Your Future Family: An Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Red Wheel Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. Her two daughters are in college.