Choosing to pursue surrogacy as your path to parenthood is a beautiful, yet complex decision. Dads Adeel and Anthony share the steps they took to match with the perfect surrogate, how they chose their fertility clinic, their advice to other LGBTQ+ parents-to-be, and what it's like to become first-time fathers to not just one, but two babies!
Meet Adeel & Anthony
"I've always wanted to have children," says Adeel. "However, being a gay man, it didn’t seem possible when I was growing up." After he met his now-husband, Anthony, in 2009, they discussed potentially having a family in the future, but that dream still felt impossible and very far away.
"We knew that if we were going to try to have children we wanted to start with surrogacy and IVF," says Adeel. "We had absolutely no idea where to start, and Illume Fertility was the first place we contacted when we were ready to start our journey."
The team they spoke with recommended they contact a surrogacy agency, which they quickly did. Adeel and Anthony ended up working with Golden Surrogacy, an agency in Chicago, Illinois. These are common steps on any surrogacy journey. However, the way they matched with their surrogate was unique. Adeel is a doctor, and the surrogate he and Anthony ended up choosing was a friend of theirs - a nurse he had worked with at a hospital in Florida!
Note: While it can be an amazing experience to have a trusted friend or family member be your surrogate, it's important to understand that they will still be required to undergo all the same medical and psychological screenings as any other potential surrogate. Learn more about matching with a surrogate here.
Choosing an LGBTQ-Friendly Fertility Clinic
Finding a fertility clinic that isn't just LGBTQ-friendly but also provides culturally competent care isn't always easy. Adeel says that they felt confident in their decision to choose Illume Fertility, not just because of its positive reputation within the LGBTQ+ community, but also because Illume Fertility's success rates are very high and they wanted the best chance at success.
They connected with fellow dad via surrogacy, Dr. Mark Leondires, who helped guide them through the process. "Dr. Leondires was fantastic and our results couldn’t have been better," says Adeel.
Want to learn how surrogacy works?
Photos: IVF process, surrogacy journey, twins Adam & Anya
How They Chose Their Surrogate
"I can’t begin to describe how incredible our surrogate was," Adeel says. "I'm a doctor, and she was a nurse that I used to work with at the hospital - one of the best nurses I have ever worked with." Adeel describes her as extremely caring, devoted to her patients, and dedicated to working hard in the intensive care unit (ICU), all qualities that would translate beautifully to her role as their gestational carrier.
While Adeel and Anthony had since moved to a new city and Adeel no longer worked directly with their surrogate, they had kept in touch on Facebook. When she discovered that they might be interested in surrogacy, she reached out to express interest in helping them grow their family. "We couldn’t contain our excitement," Adeel says. "But we knew it could be complicated and potentially not work out."
Thankfully, the relationship with their surrogate ended up not just working out, but being the perfect fit! "We communicated every week at least throughout the entire process," Adeel says. "Since we lived only an hour away from each other, we were able to visit each other often and were even able to go to some appointments with her." Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, new safety guidelines unfortunately made things much more complicated.
"The most amazing thing was that she was a friend and someone we trusted so dearly even before the surrogacy process," says Adeel. "It could not have been any more perfect."
The Highs & Lows of Surrogacy
Uncertainty was one of the toughest things for Adeel and Anthony to navigate throughout the surrogacy process. "It was very difficult in the beginning because we just didn't know if it would work," says Adeel. They also knew the financial commitment behind pursuing surrogacy was steep, regardless of whether or not they were successful.
"It was also very difficult for us (initially) to find a surrogate," Adeel remembers.
Another emotional low point was finding out that one of their embryo transfers was unsuccessful. It sent them into a spiral, doubting if success was even possible, and left them contemplating moving on to their next step, which would have been adopting. "Adoption is also great, but it just wasn't our original goal," clarifies Adeel.
They are grateful they continued on with surrogacy, because without their perseverance (and that of their gestational carrier), they wouldn't have their twins today.
One major high point on their journey? "The moment we found out we were pregnant, we were beyond excited," remembers Adeel. "And then we found out we were having twins - it was the most incredible news we’ve ever heard! I can’t even begin to describe our joy." Their twins Adam and Anya were born healthy at 37 weeks gestation, which meant they were born at term - a huge goal for any twin pregnancy.
Learn everything you need to know about surrogacy:
Navigating Twin Parenthood
"It has been quite an experience, to say the least!" says Adeel. "Having two babies at once was definitely a challenge, especially in the beginning as we went from not knowing much about babies to suddenly having two at once." Instead of just learning how to take care of one baby, they had to learn how to take care of two at one time.
Adeel admits that the first three months after the twins were born were tough, mainly because of their unpredictable sleep patterns. "One baby would wake the other one at night and during the day, so the days and nights blended together, and I still had to work at the hospital during the pandemic."
After they got used to the chaos of parenting two new babies, everything became more routine, as Adeel and Anthony became more familiar with the twins' sleep patterns and routines. "Having an au pair (a nanny that lives with us) has been extremely helpful during weekdays so that we are able to work," Adeel says. "We also have a very loving family that helps us out as needed."
"We have found parenthood to be joyful and natural," he says. "We love spending time with the kids, taking them out, swimming with them, and teaching them to love to travel and explore at a young age!" As a family of four, they have already traveled to Mexico and Canada (twice). They are even planning a trip to Europe this year.
The dads also love reading to Adam and Anya, teaching them new things and playing nonstop.
In addition to enjoying life at home with their two little ones, Adeel and Anthony plan to continue traveling frequently with the twins, both to visit family in Canada and abroad. Their next stop? Italy!
"One of my big goals is to help others see that LGBTQ+ families are just as normal as other families," Adeel says. "I want to help young LGBTQ+ individuals see that anything is possible - I truly believe that nothing is impossible, it is my life motto."
Photos: Adam & Anya during their first year; with dads Adeel & Anthony at first birthday party
Advice to Other LGBTQ+ Parents-to-Be
After having such a positive experience with Illume Fertility, Adeel and Anthony say they have recommended the clinic to multiple LGBTQ+ (and non-LGBTQ+) hopeful parents. "One of them is currently pregnant right now!" Adeel says.
Throughout their long journey, the dads have learned many valuable lessons. Here are some of their top tips for dads-to-be pursuing surrogacy:
- Contact a surrogacy agency to start the process ASAP, as it is the most complex and takes the longest amount of time.
- Consider insurance for your surrogate and be aware that it can be quite complex - it’s best to start the process before any open enrollment begins (in November each year). If you start the process in January, by the time you find a surrogate, you may be able to have them get appropriate insurance prior to the following year. If not, it will delay that start.
- Do your research and select a fertility clinic to start the IVF process. Ideally, try to choose a clinic that is reputable, LGBTQ-friendly, and has great success rates.
- While the cost of surrogacy may feel overwhelming, keep in mind that payments are spaced out over time, so it is not quite as scary as it may seem.
In addition to all of the logistics surrounding surrogacy, it is also a very emotional journey!
Because of all the different stages of surrogacy, it can take quite a while, which is tough on a hopeful parent (but also gives you more time to prepare). "Remember, it usually takes years before your future child is born, so patience is key," says Adeel.
Although it can be disappointing and difficult to process an unsuccessful transfer, "Try not to worry," Adeel advises. "It can sometimes take multiple attempts before you achieve a healthy pregnancy."
Meet another LGBTQ+ family through surrogacy:
Finding Support as an LGBTQ+ Family
The dads recommend reading books about diverse families from the start of your child's life, so they feel represented and can start to understand that every family is different. "There are so many great books out there," Adeel says. "We read them to our kids all the time."
Adeel and Anthony's families, friends and colleagues, have also been extremely supportive, they say. They feel lucky to have such a loving community surrounding them as they raise Adam and Anya.
If you're a hopeful parent-to-be unsure of what steps to take next, just take advantage of every possible resource you can as an LGBTQ+ parent to be - and remember that you're never alone on this journey!
More Surrogacy Resources
Looking for more information about surrogacy? We've got you covered!