Alternative Reproduction: What Couples Really Face

Medical advances in alternative forms of reproduction are easily outpacing the culture, leaving same-sex couples sometimes facing years of frustration.

BY Mary Wheeler

September 05 2012 5:00 AM ET

From left: April Nelson and Margaret Fiore, with Avery and Addison

 

Fiore couldn’t be categorized as Nelson's surrogate because there was no medical reason Nelson couldn’t get pregnant. So Nelson was classified as an egg "donor" to Fiore.

The couple also had to cover their bases legally. According to Nelson, “Our experience truly illustrated how the law continues to lag behind the science in this area. I had to terminate all rights to the eggs, but once they were ’embryos,’ Margi and I shared ‘joint custody,’ in the sense that neither she nor I could make decisions about the use of the embryos without the other’s consent. But, once the embryos were implanted, the fetuses were once again no relation to me legally."

Michele Zavos, with the Zavos Juncker Law Group of Bethesda, said the couple already had the adoption paperwork ready when the twins were born. Once their attorney filed it, they had a formal adoption in less than two months.

The birth certificates were then re-issued reflecting parent no. 1 and parent no. 2. According to Nelson, there were mixed feelings on the day of the adoption.

"We were happy to know that our family was now as protected as it possibly could be in terms of the parentage of the children,” Nelson said, “but there was still something a bit degrading about having to stand before a judge in order to be granted the status of parent to two children who are already genetically mine."
For couples considering alternative reproduction, the first thing to do is get educated. “The changes in advanced reproductive technology alone in the last 20 to 30 years have made the possibilities for gay couples to have children much greater,” said Abigail Glass, a Sherman Oaks, Calif. based therapist specializing in fertility treatment, adoption, and surrogacy. “We have come a far distance in supporting gay couples to start families, and I believe we have much further to go.”

Each decade provides new advances in reproductive medicine, and alternative reproduction has drastically changed. During the last five years alone, modifications in the methods of egg freezing have resulted in greatly improved egg survival, fertilization rates and pregnancy rates. Commercial egg donor banks that provide pre-screened frozen eggs are still relatively new in the industry as a whole.  Those banks were always available for any kind of families, but they are still not considered to have as high a success rate as fresh cycle transfers.  “The hope in our industry is that science gets to a place where pre-frozen eggs are the ’norm‘ in order to make the entire process much more cost efficient to the intended parents,” says Wendie Wilson-Miller, president of Gifted Journeys, an egg donor agency located in Toluca Lake, Calif. and author of Insider’s Guide to Egg Donation: A Compassionate and Comprehensive Guide for All-Parents-to-Be.

But the culture hasn’t kept pace with fast-moving advances in medicine. The overall lack of resources and support groups for same-sex couples seeking alternative reproduction is frustrating. “I do believe that there could be significantly better resources out there for gay families seeking egg donors,” says Wilson-Miller. Resources should include which agencies and IVF clinics consider themselves “gay-friendly” and openly ask all of their egg donors if they are willing to donate to same-sex couples or single gay parents. “It is important to know (at least for us) if a donor is open to working with all types of families since that is our clientele,” said Wilson-Miller.

Nelson and Fiore are grateful for the support they received from friends and family in northern Virginia and Alabama. "Our neighbors truly are our family," Nelson said. "What makes me know I am home is that most days I don't even think about being gay or that we are in a same-sex relationship. We are simply the Fiore-Nelsons who have the two wild 3 ½ year olds who fly up and down the block on their hot wheel tricycles about 25 times any given day. We are just Addison and Avery's parents now."

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