My husband Lin and I are busily preparing for the arrival of twin boys, in June. Lin has started his baby reading project with a history of American child rearing going back to the days of the colonies, seeking context. I found an old BMW wagon online that will be good for carting the critters around, and even better for staving off mini-van drudgery. Registry items have been delivered, baby shower RSVPs roll in daily, and I'm almost ready to attack our disastrous hall closet. Our surrogate, Jeanne, is just about into the third trimester, and with little left but for the babies to "bulk up", we're in a lull, permeated by the occasional big deal.
Last Monday, Lin and I stood in a Connecticut courtroom, and were granted legal custody of our in-utero twins. A "Pre-Birth Order" has now been issued, directing the Norwich hospital where our kids will be born to list our names on their official birth certificates.
Despite the moment's obvious significance, until we were actually there, amid dark-suited lawyers and Family Court ennui, it was just another item on our unwieldy check-list. But being sworn in, and queried briefly by the judge and our lawyer, got it to sink in a little. The boys aren't expected until June, but on a very important piece of paper, we're parents in the eyes of the law.
The legal intricacies of our surrogacy ride have been multiple, starting with the fact that what we're doing would be impossible if our surrogate lived in New York. People often lump the Empire State in with other progressive trailblazers, like California (notwithstanding Prop. 8, which hopefully is headed down! this week), but with regard to reproductive technology, there are shortcomings. Most importantly, a woman who lives in New York and wishes to be a surrogate cannot receive a single shiny dime for her time and trouble, even for expenses. Needless to say, there are not long lines forming to endure this process forbupkas.
We settled on the surrogacy tag-team of Massachusetts, first-in-its-class legalizer of same-sex marriage, and Connecticut, also a marriage equality state, where Jeanne lives.
Early in the process, though, the bureaucratic backwater where institutional conservatism meets banal discrimination almost derailed our whole plan. We needed a medical loan to cover our IVF cycle, and were referred by our agency to a firm that funds such borrowing. With decent credit, and an ability to re-pay the loan, we assumed we were set. After all, with this sort of loan, the funds are deposited directly with the provider, and we would never even see the cash. Nary a chance to quit New York for a months-long stay in Paris, on them...
But after applying, we got a phone call from the woman tasked with reviewing our documents. They needed to know who the mother was, saying that there must have been some confusion in filling out our application. We explained that we were a legally married same-sex couple, and that the loan was for the IVF the cycle involving Lin, my sister (who, amazingly, acted as out egg donor), and our surrogate.
"Oh, we don't fund loans for that purpose," she said matter-of-factly.
I freaked -- we were being rejected because we were gay. The firm did fund loans for gestational surrogacy, all the time. Just not for same-sex couples, it appeared. A stream of tense emails and phone calls began, lasting several weeks. Without the loan, the tenuous financial framework we'd constructed to allow us to build a family using IVF, would fall apart. Being discriminated against in real-time infuriated, confused and demoralized me.
An interminable month later, we heard that our application had made it to the head of the firm, and that our loan had been approved.
It was a big relief, preceded by a big indignity. You either fund loans like this to credit-worthy customers, or you don't. If the legal and medical frameworks are in place for procedures like ours, and you're in the business of making such loans, you do so, without regard to the sexual orientation of the borrowers. OK?In the end, the firm, no doubt on advice from their legal team, described it all as a "misunderstanding."
Most of the time, Lin and I blissfully, willfully ignore our status as a "same-sex married couple." We're a married couple -- that's all. While the cultural laggards finish catching up to this reality, we live our lives as if that moment has already arrived, and do what we can to help make it so. But standing in that courtroom the other day, and having our motion to become parents ruled on and approved by a judge, with flowing robes and all, came with a crisp sense of progress, in real-time.
If any other same-sex couples involved in IVF are currently having similar experiences with regard to getting medical loans, please feel free to contact me, and I can direct you to the company that ultimately approved our loan.