Single, gay, 50: one man takes surrogacy road to parenthood
‘I did this as a human being, not as a gay man.” New York resident Kevin Moran is reflecting on his decision to have a family as a 50-year-old single man, by means of egg donation and surrogacy. He is speaking to me by phone from his upper west side apartment.
Eight-week-old Ari is sucking on the bottle, in his daddy’s arms. Ari’s fraternal twin, Beau, is close by, in the safe hands of a live-in nanny.
Being on the vanguard of “the culture” is not a pressing concern for Moran. He has more pedestrian, familial worries. About to return to work after paternity leave, he is still settling the boys into their routines and, on a personal level, finding new balance after two months lived in extremis.
The boys’ birth has been the culmination of a two-year personal journey, bringing unparalleled joy, some considerable frustration and, as he puts it, “a few meltdowns” in the shape of medical emergency.
What is it, I wonder, that prompts a single gay man arriving into genteel middle age to want children?
“A friend asked me to be her ‘baby daddy’ a few years back. Ultimately I said no, because our friendship was not strong enough to sustain being joint parents, but it really got me thinking.”
Her request triggered clarity. He wanted to be not just a father but a dad, and was prepared, emotionally and financially, to have a family as a single parent; he just needed to figure out how best to do it.
Having a child by way of donor eggs and surrogacy is a complex legal proposition in the US. The law varies state by state, and stealth is required to assure that the legal rights to parentage are incontestable, falling, in Moran’s case, to the “commissioning parent” alone.
Indeed, Irish law is complicated and ambiguous regarding surrogacy, and specific legislation is absent. Alan Shatter’s recent guidance document on surrogacy outside of the State outlines important considerations, but ultimately recommends that anyone considering surrogacy abroad seek expert legal advice.
The complexity of surrogacy chiefly emanates from the paradox that being the genetic parent of a child does not automatically mean that one is its legal parent. Our law did not envisage where science and culture have brought us.
Moran engaged an LA-based surrogacy agency, Growing Generations, dedicated to building “families of choice” among a worldwide, chiefly gay clientele.
Opting for surrogacy using an egg donor is a costly process. Moran reckons the cost can range from $125,000-$200,000 (€97,700-€156,460), depending on circumstances. The process can also be lengthy and subject to distressing setbacks.
His first and most challenging consideration was finding a suitable surrogate mother. This is achieved through a matching process, one where each party – surrogate mother and commissioning father – chooses the other by means of photos, personal essays and mediated introductions.
Practical decisions informed his choice. He favoured prospective surrogate mothers who were healthy and motivated by a desire to contribute rather than purely financial gain (typically US mothers are paid about $25,000).
He also sought a woman with prior experience as a surrogate mother, and thus someone with prior knowledge of surrogacy’s emotional and physical journey.
The woman who ultimately gave birth to Ari and Beau, was a 34-year-old mother-of-three from Texas, who had already been a surrogate mother for a gay French couple.
Moran visited her twice during the pregnancy, and also met her husband and family. It turned out to be a positive and rewarding experience for all.
As all of this was under way, Growing Generations steered Moran through the labyrinthine process of finding an egg donor, processing, fertilising and implanting the egg. It is a process immersed in science and uncertainty.
Choosing the mother of one’s child in such a manner can appear calculated. I put it to Moran that it is an inherently unnatural act, demanding the exercise of semi-God-like power.
He rejects my hyperbole.
“It was a very practical choice. I didn’t overthink it. At the end of the day you want a family, nothing more.” He focused on healthy women of northern European extraction like himself.
Being single, Moran decided it would be easier to have kids who looked like himself.
The first egg donor chosen failed, unable to produce enough follicles for the process to be successful. A long delay ensued.
The second, a 24-year-old Californian, ultimately was successful, but not without some difficulty.
The first two embryos implanted did not survive – an occurrence that is deeply upsetting – triggering a repeat of the process. The second two embryos planted both prospered. They happened to be male.
The boys were born in Texas by Caesarean section. Moran, unable to be present because of airport delays, describes experiencing an overwhelming sense of joy on their arrival.
“It is the best single thing I’ve ever done.”
Within a week, a shocking medical problem emerged. Against all odds, the twins had inherited Factor XIII Deficiency, a rare form of haemophilia, as a result of both Moran and his chosen egg donor being recessive carriers of the gene.
On average, there is one case per year in the US. The discovery, involving much worry and an emergency rush to hospital with a bleeding infant, was a crushing blow.
Moran was devastated, seized by concern for the welfare of his boys.
Some weeks on, a maintenance regime for the infants is emerging. They are expected to thrive and lead a full normal life, though requiring infusions of a blood clotting agent every three weeks.
“We are lucky,” says Moran, philosophically. “It could have been much worse.”
I wondered if the prospect of having twins at the age of 50 had given him pause for thought? Moran is circumspect and practical in his response.
“In five years I expect to semi-retire, so I’ll be there to walk the boys to school. Many dads have kids at a time in their lives when work commitments are demanding and time is squeezed. My being older will have its advantages.”
In the interim, he has engaged a full-time nanny and has negotiated with his employer to work from home a number of days per month.
His is an outlier story – a single gay man having twins at 50. I hunt for evidence of a general backlash, feeling sure that he must be the source of scandal in some ranks. None exists so far, although he accepts that New York’s specialty is to accommodate new paths and new ways to live a life.
Indeed, the biggest challenge he has experienced has been closer to home.
“I have shed some friends along the way, even before the boys were born,” he explains. “They fell silent.”
He is unsure of their issues, but suspects a certain selfishness in their personality felt challenged by his choice to have a family. “I realised they weren’t my true friends anyway.”
With that, Ari stirs in his arms. Moran pauses, and, reaching for a pacifier, whispers wryly.
“Quiet honey, I’m on the phone. Daddy is a celebrity.”