On April 14-15, The Center on Halsted hosted Men Having Babies Midwest, a surrogacy seminar and parenting expo aimed at gay men who wish to start a family through surrogacy.
The event, along with mirror events in New York City, San Francisco, Dallas, Tel Aviv and Brussels focused on giving gay men and couples a solid introduction to the intricacies of starting a family while offering road maps to navigating the process.
The weekend featured sessions and seminars hosted by successful surrogate gay couples, psychologists, surrogate providers, medical doctors and surrogate mothers on a various topics, including legal processes, planning, budgeting, ethics, insurance and the medical aspects of surrogacy. Prominent among the speakers at the event were Men Having Babies ( MHB ) Board Chair Anthony Brown Esg., Executive Director Ron Poole-Dayan, and board members Sherman L. Taylor II and Frank Nelsonwho have all started surrogate families. Also present were MHB Marketing Director Shelly Marsh and Surrogate Advisory Committee Chair Michelle Pine, who have each helped same-sex couples start families by acting as surrogate mothers.
The first seminar of the conference was "Is surrogacy right for you?," and featured personal stories from gay fathers and the surrogates who helped them. The segment covered the process of choosing a surrogate, setting up the ground work for a pregnancy, waiting and bonding with the expectant mother, and the birth itself.
The second seminar, "Psychological and Ethical Aspects"which featured Pine, alog with psychologists Dr. Ariadna Cymet Lanski and Dr. Silvia Schneider Foxtouched on how prospective parents and surrogates can prepare for the pregnancy, the dynamics in their relationship to one another, dealing with the uncertainty of the process, dealing with critical social views of surrogacy, and the experience of children born via surrogacy.
The day's last seminar, "Planning your parenting journey," was based on the accumulated knowledge of hundreds of gay men who have already gone through the surrogacy process and covered types and components of typical surrogacy arrangements, the typical sequence and timeline for gestational surrogacy, legal considerations in the United States and Canada, financial considerations and risk tolerance.
The second day of the conference started with a seminar on selecting service providers, budgeting and cost-saving tips, and resources for financial support. Following this was an expert panel discussion on budgeting and insurance with Poole-Dayan as moderator and Pine, Virginia Hart, Kristen Hanson and Scott Buckley, Esg. The next panel covered the medical aspects of surrogacy and touched on the medical screening of future fathers, egg donors and surrogates, the creation of optimal embryos, and the IVF process. This panel was moderated by Taylor with input from Dr. Juan Alvarez, of The Fertility Centers of Illinois; Dr. Sigal Klipstein of InVia Fertility Specialists; Dr. Guy Ringler, of California Fertility Partners; and Dr. Elizabeth Barbieri, of ORM ( Oregon Reproductive Medicine ).
The final section of the conference featured breakout sessions with representatives of various seminar sponsors and service providers for twenty minute group consultations and question-and-answer sessions. At the close of the two-day event were two question-and-answer sessionsone on the legal aspect of surrogacy ( contracts, parental right, and international recognition ) led by Brown while the other focused on the financial aspect ( cost-saving practices, The Gay Parenting Assistance Program, or GPAP ) and was led by Poole-Dayan and MHB Finance Manager Cat Pursley.
There was also a Gay Parenting Expo featuring more than 25 organizations, clinics, surrogacy agencies, lawyers and supporting community resources.
Men Having Babies is a non-profit organization that was spun off in 2012 from a program that ran at the NYC LGBT Center since 2005. For more information, go to MenHavingBabies.org .