Tag Archives: surrogacy conference and expo

“You’ll get there together”: Jimmie and Marco’s Surrogacy Journey

Over the cooing sounds of their three-month-old baby, we recently spoke with new dads Jimmie and Marco Chavez-Lopéz. Their journey to fatherhood has included two very consequential visits to the Men Having Babies/ OFC Surrogacy Conference and Expo, now in its 5th year and taking place this upcoming weekend, January 13th and 14th, at San Francisco’s Marines’ Memorial Club and Hotel in the Union Square area. The speed of their journey went from moderate – they’d known each other for ten years before beginning to build their family – to high speed, as of last year’s Surrogacy Conference and Expo. Read on for more…


Polly Pagenhart, Our Family Coalition: How long was this journey, from having the twinkling of the idea in your head – like “Oh, we can do this, we’re gonna be dads!” – to now, when your baby is in your arms and you’re launched into fatherhood?

Marco and Jimmie Chavez-Lopez with baby Marisela.

Marco and Jimmie Chavez-Lopez with baby MariElisa.

Marco Chavez-Lopéz: I think it was about 18 months. But the fun thing that I like to tell people about this wonderful conference is that we went to the first one years back, in 2014. It was very overwhelming and not at all what we were expecting. We didn’t hear the word baby a lot, and it was like sticker shock, terminology shock.

Jimmie Chavez-Lopéz: We were getting married that year, so it was really just to get baseline information. And then we skipped 2015 and went 2016, and it was during that conference that we organically met our surrogate.

OFC: Wow, at the conference? That’s wonderful.

Jimmie: I think what was really different about the 2016 conference for us was that we were able to hear stories. For us, being able to listen to multiple surrogates giving their descriptions of their experience was very different. Jokingly I said I would love to work with (one we were listening to) – and ultimately we chatted, and that’s kind of how it worked out.

I think at that point just after that conference is when we decided, “We’re doing it now!”

Marco: And along the lines of going to that second conference: we were more ready. We had gone through finally getting married, and major things in our life that we needed to get through, and we were like, “The conference is back, let’s return.” It was a different feel, a different set-up. We heard a lot of engaging stories and at that point we were like, “There are so many different ways to create a family. Look at all these choices. Look at all these options.”

The break-out sessions were great. This time we were much more organized, and had a much more structured look at what we wanted to get out of this conference. And because we met our surrogate and listened to her story, and just by chance that worked out, we seemed to really be lucky through our entire journey.

Starting off with meeting our surrogate and just by chance creating a relationship with her – whether or not we ended up being on that journey together, she was a great resource from the beginning.  She was going to help us get there no matter what –  if it was her or someone else. So we really lucked out.

Jimmie: Just going into contract and identifying an egg donor, that went really fast as well. We had met Dr. Bankowski of Oregon Reproductive Medicine (ORM) also at the conference. We had already taken a look into the the different clinics that were going to be there and some clinics that weren’t; looked at their success rates and estimated costs, so for us we were determining if we were willing to pay a little bit more for a higher success rate, knowing that it’s possible, that one way or the other, we might not get pregnant right away.

Ely, our baby MariElisa, actually, was (conceived on) the first transfer.

So in January we met our surrogate; I think we were in contract officially around April or May, and then we were pregnant the next January. Our embryo transfer was actually the same weekend as the conference. We got pregnant exactly one year later. It gives me all the tingles.

This little nugget was definitely meant to be ours.

OFC: Did you feel that right away, when she was in your arms?

Jimmie: Yeah, we did. I had never even changed a diaper before until she got here. But I’ve always known that I wanted children. When Marco and I first met, I was like, “I don’t want to scare you away, or ask you to marry me or have kids, but I don’t want to spend time with someone to find out later that kids are absolutely off the table.”

When Marco and I first met, I was like, “I don’t want to scare you away, or ask you to marry me or have kids, but I don’t want to spend time with someone to find out later that kids are absolutely off the table.”

We were together for about nine to ten years before we started officially talking about it. It’s just been wonderful. And we are gearing up to start a second journey, hopefully, later this year. So, we will probably go to the conference!

OFC: What were the things that you were most worried about that turned out the most different? Fears, concerns, natural things you were obsessing would be a problem but actually weren’t? What were your biggest discoveries?

Jimmie: I think for me, there were a couple of things. I thought it was going to take longer to get pregnant. I was afraid that – we are part of the MHB group, and we heard all of these stories, and some of them are heartbreaking to read – yet we had a relatively smooth journey, which I know that we are both really, really thankful for. But I think that getting pregnant on the first transfer –  that was really surprising to me.

Even though we did our research – that’s why we went with ORM, because they had high success rates –  I still thought we were going to be that 0.6% or whatever that’s not successful, and we have to be prepared for that. And I think in my mind I was ready to hear from them, “Oh, well it didn’t take. We’re going to have to do this again.” That we were pregnant just like that was fantastic.

Jimmie and Elly.

Jimmie and Ely.

Marco: While you were asking that question, I was asking myself to come up with three. The first one would be this fear of her not being my biological child: “Will I bond, would she see me as her father?” And she does. She does.

Jimmie: We’re having a moment here already.

(warm laughter all around)

OFC: That was exactly my same fear because I’m in the same boat. Non-bio parent.

Marco: We talked about that a little bit. How do we share in this experience – not once she’s here but even just before – and how do we plan what this process is going to be like? So, one of the things we agreed on was that I was going to hold her first, just to try and find something to help get to that point. And that meant a lot. So, you figure it out.

OFC: Your naming that is so big.  I feel like those of us who have gone on these journeys before our peers have learned things that are so important. I feel very, very similar. That the other (bio) parent and the child would have this deep thing and I would be on the outside waving my arms and crying or something.

Jimmie: Honestly, it’s kind of the reverse fear. Where I’ve been in the middle of the night, just crying, because Marco is a wonderful nurturer and soothes her so much easier than I can –  and I have had such a terrible fear that I’m going to be a horrible parent, that she won’t love me. And by no means is that true. The times where I am not able to comfort her have been really overwhelming for me. She’s amazing and she knows that.

Marco: The second discovery that I think a lot of people can relate to I’m sure is that financial piece – how do you get there? The sticker shock is crazy, and then when you see how many options there are to get there it can be overwhelming. It is overwhelming. That part gets a little scary. When you were asking what kind of things we were fearful of, for sure, the financial piece was scary: the challenge, “How do we make that work?”

Jimmie: We didn’t qualify for any of MHB’s Gay Parenting Assistance Program (G-PAP), nothing at all, so we started our journey with $20,000 and I basically maxed out my credit cards with cash advances. We took out completely separate loans that we’re paying back every month right now. And we would do it all over again. I just wish that there were other options to help people – we were able to make it work, but I think that there are a lot of people who might not be able to make it work because of that.

Marco: I think the third discovery is that place you get to when you finally let go of so many expectations, because you have timelines. You set these arbitrary timelines, like, “We’re going to do this by June, then we’re going to move here by December.” Well, you have to let all of that go, because it’s going to happen organically, all by itself.

You set these arbitrary timelines, like, “We’re going to do this by June, then we’re going to move here by December.” Well, you have to let all of that go, because it’s going to happen organically, all by itself.

And when we had our first bump in the road that delayed us a couple of months, it was a clear reminder to just let things happen the way they’re supposed to.

Jimmie: And that delay ended up with the embryo transfer on the one year anniversary of when we all met! It happened how it was supposed to be; and it’s ok, because we weren’t ready until then. For whatever reason – we don’t understand – but we weren’t ready yet.

OFC: That’s really wise. You don’t know it in the moment, just feels like a bump and very scary. Having the transfer the very same weekend a year later is just really beautiful.

OK last question: If you had the chance to talk to yourselves years ago, what would be the most critical advice you’d want to give yourselves, with the insight you have now that you’re on this side of the journey?

Jimmie: Don’t be so scared of it, and maybe start a little sooner!

Marco: I have two pieces of advice – that letting go piece: it adds a little more anxiety than you’ll ever need. It’ll feel so much better if you just let go of those expectations. And, just trust yourself and your partner: trust that you’re making this decision together, and that you have each other, that your intentions are clear. And you’ll get there together.


The 5th Annual Surrogacy Conference and Expo takes place this weekend, January 13-14, 2018, at the Marines’ Memorial Club and Hotel, in San Francisco.

Our Family Forest

by Anthony M. Brown, Board Chairman of Men Having Babies

anthonybrownandfamilyWhen my daughter documented her family tree for a class project, there were so many branches that it covered an entire poster board. My heart soared: It was a family forest! I’m called “Papa” by three amazing kids. My son is the biological child of my husband; we had him 4 years ago with the help of a gestational surrogate. I adopted him and he lives with us. My daughters, now 8 and 3, live with their mothers in the same neighborhood as our family. I call them my daughters because I am their biological father through sperm donation, but the truth is that I am not their parent.

This is a critical distinction that donor dads must make. I am not a coparent with my daughters’ mothers. But that doesn’t mean that I do not have a reciprocally fulfilling relationship with them, it just means that the major life decisions that relate to my girls are made by their mothers, the two amazing women who taught me how to be a dad. I am not sure whether we picked them, or they picked us, but from the moment we met at an equality fundraiser, we instantly hit it off. This wonderful family life didn’t always seem possible for me. In the ’70s and ’80s, as a closeted teenager and young man, I would have been in denial if you had told me that one day I, too, would have three children. Or perhaps it would have been a relief; an affirmation that I could change my orientation. I desperately didn’t want to be gay and, after running from my true self for what seemed to be ages, I did what many young people who grew up in my era did: I tried to end my life. My parents found the bottle of pills I had taken and, on the advice of our family doctor, walked me around the backyard of our house for hours attempting to allow the effects of the pills I had taken to wear off. I just wanted the pain to stop, but my parents wanted their son and fought for my life. I am thankful every day that they did.

familyforest-pullquote1After that moment, I knew my parents loved me and, eventually, with much soul searching and self-acceptance, I learned that I could be happy… and gay. Once that switch was flipped, life turned on. My family is the culmination of that awareness and of so much love. But that love had to start with me. I don’t think anyone who doesn’t truly love themselves could be a donor dad. It requires patience, responsibility and, most of all, faith. I had to have faith that my daughters’ moms would allow me to have a relationship with them. They also had to have faith that I would be a man of my word and surrender my parental rights to the non-biological mother. We all had to have faith that we would be able to conquer whatever parenting trials would come our way.

And that faith is constantly tested. When my first daughter was born, my husband and I would babysit her about once every other week and, once she was old enough, have sleepovers once a month. I remember getting a call from one of her mothers after we returned her from a sleepover right after the adoption hearing had taken place—a hearing where I formally surrendered my parental rights. She was asking about a small burn mark on my daughter’s leg. Neither my husband nor I could recall anything that could have caused it, but then I remembered that at one point over the weekend we were all in the kitchen. I was holding her when I turned to my husband and brushed up against an open toaster door. I didn’t think it had touched her, and she didn’t cry, so I thought nothing of it at the time. When I realized she had gotten burned, I was terrified that we would not be allowed to see her again. I went through a short-lived freak out until the moms calmed me down, reassuring me that it happens to everyone (she had even fallen off the changing table a couple of times under their watch).

It is moments like that when you truly understand perspective. But the one person that was most tested by my being a donor dad was my husband. He often felt like the odd man out. While I was busy going to clinics and running out of events because “mom was ovulating,” he was often left alone and feeling out of touch with the whole process. If I could have done anything differently, I would have made sure that he was more involved and included him more in the process. The reality, now that the kids are older, is that all three of them refer to my husband as “Daddy” and to me as “Papa.” When asked, they are the first to tell you that they have “two mommies and two daddies.” This, to me, is one of the coolest things ever.

Because we are honest with all three kids about where they come from, they feel special. They understand that their mommies and daddies loved them so much that they worked together to make our family a reality. If I can offer any new perspective on being a donor dad, it is that anything is possible with honesty, careful preparation, and love. You can have the family of your dreams, no matter what it looks like.blognote-surrogacyconference