What's it like for a gay couple to create their family through egg donation and surrogacy. We talk with Armando Correa, People Magazine En Español's Editor In Chief and author of In Search of Emma: How We Created Our Family.
In this episode, we cover:
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Welcome, everyone to Creating a Family talk about infertility and adoption. I'm Dawn Davenport. I'm the host as well as the director of creating a family.org. This is the first of a two part series on LGBTQ plus parenting. Today we're going to be talking all about surrogacy, which is a great option for same sex couples or individuals to have children. But next week, we will also be talking about adoption. So make sure you tune in next week for learning another great avenue for LGBTQ plus parenting. So today, we're talking about as I mentioned, surrogacy as an option for becoming a parent. Today we're going to be talking with Armando Correa. He is with People magazine, En Espanol, he's the editor in chief and the author of a book In Search of Emma: How We Created Our Family. His first novel, The German Girl is an international bestseller that has been translated into 14 languages and published in more than 20 countries welcome Armando to Creating a Family. It's fun to be talking with somebody who is a best seller, author and
Emma will be as well. Yeah, great title for having me. Thank you for having me. And as you know, in search of me, it was my first book, I remember, I think it was in 2008, or seven that I have to visit from one of the editor of HarperCollins, he came to my office in people and find your your mandate or achieve. And I thought he was quite, you know, wanting to create a book about celebrities, legend in the Hispanic world. I said, No, no, Armando, I want you to create a book about how you create your family. And I usually don't speak or write up on my personal life. It took him a while to convince me. But I agreed to do with you know why? Because when I went over notes, I've been keeping through how the process, I discovered I have extensive records of conversation I have with my family over the years, it took me to make Kemah. I always said this is the making of Mr. Yeah. Well, you know, it's how we create our families is such both obviously personal. But it's such an intense time, it doesn't surprise me at all. many in our audience are adoptive families or have created their families through egg donation or through force IVF, from struggling with infertility. And it is such an intense time. So it's not surprising to me at all that that it was, I'm just thankful that there was a that the publisher was interested, because I certainly think that there's great interest in the public for this information. So let me let me ask some of the basics first, do you have a partner or are you doing this as a single dad, I have a partner, we have been together for over 30 years, we met during college in Cuba. We came to this country together in 1991. And when I started working as a reporter at the Miami Herald the Spanish edition on overhead as we bought our first house, I think it was in 1993. And looking at the house, you know, it was the American dream. We were you know, coming to this country. And having a bad year, I set my appointment time to create a family. I said no, you're dreaming. You're crazy. You're we have a project. I remember he said, then you know it because I am a broad adoption guy. You know, I, I think we started trying to adopt a kid. And I remember writing to some agencies in China and Ukraine, in Latin America. And I realized that 1993 In Florida, it was illegal to adopt to you know, same sex couples. After a couple of friends, they adopted a kid, I went to some agency, they said, You don't have to say that you're a couple, but I can lie. You know, I'm having my, my son or my daughter and thinking that I have to lie to have them. It was like a trauma for me. And then in 1997, we moved to New York, because you know, they open people in Espanol. For the first time, I was hired as a senior writer. And I remember reading an article in People Magazine, we belong to the same company, about a gay guy who had a daughter. We are surrogacy,
like a science fiction for me at that moment. And I read the article before going to brain, I call the agency immediately. I remember the guy saying, How did you know that? Because, you know, the article is going to be printing a couple of weeks. I said, Well, you know, I wrote to the same guy.
He said, exactly. And then it was my first call to an agency in Oregon. I remember. Okay, that makes sense.
because you're correct. I mean, things have changed so dramatically. And this is important for our audience to know. But if for LGBTQ plus families, things have changed dramatically in the last, really the last 10 years. But truthfully, we could say five years. And so you were talking way back when in the 1990s. And you're correct. There are now some international countries that are open for gay parents. But my memory would say that there were none back in the early 90s at all. Well, yeah, no, that let me clear right now, because same sex couples can now adopt children in all 50 states, there are some limitations. And some of them, for example, for fostering children, for same sex couples, but legally we can adopt in the old 50 states. Yeah. And I would say that you can go to our website, creating a family.org. And under adoption, click on LGBTQ, and it will take you to a map that outlines the legality, which is you mentioned, it is illegal, but we've got all that information on our website so that you can our audience can go there. Well, Armando, do you always want to be a parent? I mean, as soon as that you knew you were gay, and that you weren't sure it was an option. But if was parenting, something that you always wanted to thought you couldn't have? Or you weren't even sure you wanted it? No, no, I think that was my dream since I was a child. I grew up without a father. I think that was one of the reason. My mother peoplesmart, my father when I was two and a half years old. And it was during the 60s. And my father was an engineer. My mother wanted to be go to college, too. And my father said, you have to take care of the children. And then they got divorced. We move to Havana, she went to college, she became a very successful engineering, mechanical engineering, by the way. And I grew up with a strong woman and my grandmother, my mother, very independent woman, my sister, my aunt, and I think I always dreamed to be a father. And my father is a great father, to his children, because, you know, she got married, he got married, he has three daughters. And he's a great dad, but he was an absent to us. And then I think it was my dream. And then, you know, I went to him 10 years, so I know my guy, I'm gay. It's gonna be a problem, then I get married. Because he's Cuba. And remember being getting Cuba is like, you can be in yell, during, you know, I was too young during those years. But you know, in during the 80s, it was a problem, you can lost your job. And, and then I get married for a couple of years, trying to find myself. And then I realized, I am gay, my sexual orientation, and they met Gonzalo we, we started, you know, our relationship, we moved together to United State and then, you know, we create our family. So, okay, so we know why you chose surrogacy was really the only option that was available to you. So what was the process for you? And what year was this? Like, in 95? Yeah, we were started exactly in 1998. In eight, okay. And I had my daughter in 2005. We have all the accidents possible. And, and, and let me tell you, even going through surrogacy and through all these agencies is really hard for you know, same sex couples, most of the surrogate, they don't want to work with same sex couple. They want a traditional family. And, and it was hard to find one, when we met Mary, in San Diego, California in this agency. I remember she sent me a beautiful email that she decided to work with us because she said White woman married to a black guy, and they have a bi racial sheet. daughter and she doesn't want to be discriminated because she is different. And then you know, she she won our hearts immediately. And she was a sort of a mother for our three kids, you know?
Okay, so that's obviously did was this a surrogacy where you used a separate egg donor and what what we call gestational surrogate especially on surrogacy? Yeah, we did it via gestational surrogacy. We went to another agency for the egg donation. And we found one perfect for us. We did the whole process. And when this you know, she started to maintain their her ex, she doesn't have enough takes and they we lost all the money. We lost the you know, we prepared the surrogate. It was like, you know, losing a child. I remember crying in the middle of the subway receiving message from the doctor and trying to, you know, losing a child the dream of a child. Certainly. Yeah, it
It was it was traumatic for us. And then you know, we, I said to my partner, okay, we are depressed, we are sad. Like, we need to go to plan B, and we started to find another surrogate, we tried to find one who donated before the nacho cheese.
egg donor, you mean a donor egg donor, I'm sorry. And then the Western, another accident. During the process, she got pregnant with her boyfriend. And she lost a pregnancy, naturally. And we have to wait for her, she sent another email. And so gateway went away for you. And then she donated the eggs with I think we've got like a 14x. And we didn't the whole process, you know, with that sperm, we create around 12 Good embryos. And we did, yeah, and we did the first transfer, we three of them, perfect, transfer perfect embryos. And two weeks later, they said nothing, you know, no pregnancy at all.
And I then we need to wait another couple of months preparing the survey again. And we work with their frozen embryos. We transfer three, and we get them. You know, it sounds easy. But it was not easy at all. I've remembered we transfer three to authentic they got a dash. And we were thinking oh, we're gonna have twins. And like three months when we did the ultrasound, one of them die. And I cry as I was losing one of the babies. It was terrible when we're you know, but then we have a mom and I tend to forget all the trauma, and all the bad things that happened to us during the process. And all the money that we spend because you know, during those years, I was simply writer for the magazine. We didn't have money. We just moved to New York, we bought an apartment with the money that we got selling our house in Miami to sell our apartment to find all the process. Yeah, it was expensive, really expensive. We're going to talk about that in just a minute.
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Okay, so I do want to point out that I think things have changed since then, as far as the willingness of surrogates to work with same sex couples or individuals. I don't think that that is nearly as much of a problem but that gets, you know, our society has shifted and changed and become more evolved. And I think that that surrogates and egg donors have is baller certainly surrogates have as well. Alright, so you you found an egg donor, and you worked with this woman and you got 14 which is great embryos, but you were freezing them back in a time when vitrification I don't even know fish suffocation was being used in the case, that would be the early 2000. I don't think it was. So using probably an older form of Oh, yeah. Preservation, but but the second time around, and of the the three that you transferred. You had your daughter, Emma, so that is exciting. Now at the second question I would have is were you able to use some more of the frozen embryos later for subsequent to create? Have you had more children? Let me ask that maybe that'd be the way to ask it. Yeah, you had more kids? Yeah. Yes. When When Emma was like two years and a half. I remember her saying that. I want to have the brother I want to have a sister. And you know, our family's really small. And I said to consolidate we have frozen embryos. Let's try to do it. Don't panic is not gonna be again a long process. We try once we get immediately. We are done and that's it. If not, we can move a way we want to explain to her but the first thing we need to find Mary.
We call Mary We as you know, we keep a good relationship with her. She had a daughter after him
My other daughter, and she said, okay, yes, for you, I can do whatever you asked me to do. I never thought I gonna be a surrogate again. But if with you guys, I can do it again. And then having the twins, it was like a, you know, it was a dream. Because we did the first transfer, and we got them. I was in shock at the beginning because I said, Okay, we have Mr. We need another boy or a girl and I said, we got the ultrasound. And the doctor said, A, when he said baby a I saw my guy is gonna be a baby.
And I was in shock. And now and then when we did the other ultrasound, and they said the sex of the twins. And Mary said baby A is a girl, baby baby is a boy. If you know having Luca Sianna is complete our family.
They have a great relationship right now AMI is going to be 16 this month, and the twins is going to be 12 in December. And are you still I'm thinking where if you were still living in the city, you are really going to be struggling at this point to find? Well, when because when we had AMA, I get a deal with my company, because I have to sell my apartment in New York. And then with the money left, it was it was when I get only in a studio in the city. And I were thinking to take a year off and my my boss said no move to Miami because we have family Miami. And with the money left, we can buy a house a nice house in Coral Gables in Florida. And I work from home in that was 2005 with Emma. And when we started the process with having the twins, I got a call from my boss saying that I you know, offer me to be the editor in chief for the magazine they're gonna have we have to move to
to Manhattan again. And he was in the middle of the crisis in 2007. I think 2008 and selling the housing in Miami was hard. Yeah, then, you know, two years later, we sell the house, we sold the house and we bought an apartment in here in New York, for the standard is a nice apartment. But you know, if I tell you how many square feet, we live, like five people is crazy. But I prefer to live in the city. And I'm going to say why because you know, I work from 10 to seven. And I can you know, take the subway and I got the NEF with all the family every day.
For me, this is important.
Like two or three years ago, we bought a house in upstate New York. And then you know, everybody has their room in the middle of the woods. And it was great to have in the house during the pandemic, because we spent two years in the house out of the city working and they wouldn't you know, who are tough classes for all of them. And I loved you know, I think I am the only guy enjoying the pandemic. Because for the first time I spent, you know, time in the house time for the kids.
It was fun. It was fun. Yeah, I think actually, I think it's the honestly, I think the pandemic has been a mixed blessing for a lot of people. I mean, certainly there are some who have obviously had people die. And then there's others who have had long COVID. So there's been a lot of really negatives, and people losing jobs, but for I think there are definitely I hear from a lot of people that it has given them time to kind of refocus. It's given them time to to settle in. So yeah. Now let me ask a question about choosing your egg donor. Was that hard for you? Again, this is back in the Yeah, this is back in the night. Things have changed since then. But was that a struggle for you back then? Yes, it's always a you know, in the agencies, some of the donor they don't work with things like sex couple, when we found the first one that she didn't have enough eggs of follicles, however, it's cold. We have like an emotional connection with her. I think her grand mother, it was from the same town in Spain that my grandmother and so my English you know, she was American from Irish family. But you know, having that kind of connection, it was important for us. For the second one, we didn't have any connection. We found the first one who was available and who wants to work with us. And that's it. But he didn't know the whole process is during those years it was complicated and long process and I think still is yeah, it yeah
less. So I think it has become easier, I do think it has certainly become more common if nothing else. And there's more options available now than then there used to be including egg banks. So, so really, you chose the first one, it sounds like based on some criteria, including probably where she was from and in ethnicity and things such as that. But it sounds like the second one. You didn't have the time or the or the energy. Yeah, I remember when we read her profile, and all the interviews, she was studying art in Europe, one of the great university in California. And she loved one of the artists that we love, we just, I remember, we came from the Whitney Museum. And we saw everyone we've, we decided that she was available that I always need to get some kind of connection with a with everybody, you know. And then I said to console, I think she's perfect. We bought, we bought the book in the Whitney Museum, and we dedicated to her, and we started the, this kind of weird relationship with the egg donor. And I still have, you know, only me because I know, you know, they have to be anonymous, you can have,
you know, their full name, but actually remember when she she asked me when I had Emma, send a picture of the of her, you know, of a mat to her. And I did it, and she follow me in social media follow her. But I never I never said to my family or friend, which is?
Well, you may well hear from your children someday wanting that information. That's something that we certainly hear from donor conceived people. Yeah, right now for things more important the survey than the donor, because I think that they understand that this that DNA from them, because they know that California, we you know, we have dinner with her. And once a year for Mother's Day, we call her. But someday they're gonna realize that they don't or is the important one is like, but you know, I, they know their story since day one, I create before it's right in the book, I create a picture book, like casing the search for FEMA in search refinery in search of Luca, the three of them, they have it with all the picture, the whole process. And, you know, we got the picture from the egg donor for the survey, because I met them. That was one of the the thing that I asked to the agency that they don't want to have to have a meeting with them, I want to know them in person. And then we have the picture with her. And I remember reading this book to me, she was 234 years old. And I have to read it every night. And she said to me that it was her favorite book, and they know their story. And they know that the egg donor simply donate like an organ to make them. I know, you know 50% of the DNA is from her. But it's like a organ donation, you know, well, your children and you know, the thing is, we as parents who come become parents in non traditional ways have to accept that our kids process of what that person is, and what they mean in their life may be very different from ours. I mean, you may think of it as an organ, they may think of it as, you know, half of their DNA half of who they are, or they may not and honestly, they may not care at all. And sometimes I've often wondered if because we're, it sounds like you're able to provide information. So it's not really anonymous, that that satisfies a lot of your children. It may sound like they're having they're not interested as if yet but it could satisfy a lot of your kids need for information because they have information they don't have to wonder exactly. And you know, for the egg donor is better sometimes that they expend donor because the sperm donor you don't have even a picture with the with egg donor, the profile. Now you definitely have a picture. I mean, sometimes good enough for the egg donor if I have pictures since she was when she was a baby in elementary school with a family I have the whole tree around her, you know and which I feel strongly that that's important for children. And that is available, you have to oftentimes pay for it separately but it is available from many sperm banks to be able to get now again, you know, things have changed. So how did you make the decision with Consuelo two as to which sperm or did you mixer? I mean, it's so interesting how gay couples handle it and it's so many different ways. Yeah, he might gay because they was the one dealing with the whole process in state one
And at the same time, you know, because even you're going to be the egg donor, a sperm donor, you have to pass a process, genetic process. And in my, in our agency, the doctor made clear he doesn't work with people with some kind of genes or problems or whatever not. And Gonzalo and I, you know, it was more like because I wanted, you know, I wanted that they wouldn't be mine. And he's a great dad. And you know, he's completely involved with the, with the children. But he in his family he has the cystic fibrosis is called the gene and one of her sister who's living in Italy. She's one of the survivor, and we didn't want to have that face with his children.
Yeah, okay. So for you, it was, it was easy that
you were avoiding the passing on the cystic fibrosis factory, or the potential to right. Okay.
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Alright, right. Now we come to the you know, the the issue is you mentioned before, of cost, oh, my God, not inexpensive to use and search. It simply isn't. It's so unfair. But that's just the reality unless you get somebody who donated. So what's cost to consideration when you were first thinking about it? Well, at the beginning, I remember the first agency that I almost signed the contract, they want me in front to, to present a check of $90,000.
Before look at the database and everything. And and I didn't have the money, I want to put my money on sale. And then I realized there is a ton of agencies in California from San Diego, that the most important thing is the clinic and the doctor. And they I found this is small agency in in La Mesa, California. And you know, you're
with us our pay in every month, like expensive, you don't have to have like a big check in front to start the process. And that was better for us. And then I have all the papers, and I put it on the book that I spent 100,120 $5,000 with Emma,
it was more expensive than the twins. Yeah. Well, you That's it, I was just going to point out, Lucky may not be the correct word. But you are able to have all of your children based on one egg donor cycle, you got enough embryos that you were able to not have to do it again. Yeah. And the thing I warn parents to think about before they go into it is that you may not be that lucky. So I mean it and you may have one child and that's fine, too. But if that it could easily have been double that amount. Because if you if you had not had embryos leftover, then you would have indeed been able to do it, then you would have had to pay for the whole egg donation, and the fertilization and then the cryopreservation. So, yeah, it's that something important to think about? And it's and you don't know what going in you can't guarantee it going in. Yeah, but you know, for me, I I think because it's the you know, money if you can have that you can you know, you but the money common goals, you know, then and you have your children and maybe I can have right now a bigger apartment or whatever, but I have my daughter. Yeah. And, and sometimes you're spending a lot of money in something that maybe a house or a car when college degree is the same thing. And then, you know, for me, I know I didn't have the money. I don't have to sell my apartment. I know that my salary. It was like a regular salary. You know, in our industry. We don't make a lot of money. But that was that was not an issue for me. Because I know I can still working and we're gonna be a family and we're gonna be fine. You always need money. I mean, some people would think spending 125,000 on a car
would be worth it, you know, and they people draw
on all sorts of things. It's how we what we prioritize and where we put our money. And, and, and we are fortunate and many of us are fortunate to be able to even have that choice because we have options to either borrow or to save or, you know, in jobs, but nonetheless, it's a, it's a frustrating thing. Now, keeping in mind that there it doesn't, I don't know how often it happens, but it is possible to find someone in your family that would volunteer to be a surrogate for you. And that like save a significant, because what is the cost of certain of the surrogate? versus the cost of the egg donation and the creation, the fertilization? How does that break out? Yeah, you know, this sort of, as always, between, you know, various different price, let's say, you can start in $12,000 to the 3050 60,000. In my case, it was around 30,000. And the donor is the same. I think the minimum was around 1000 10,000. But you because you want a specific kind of girl, you know, if he is some Asians, they want an Asian girl, and that's more more expensive, which or kind of Jewish, you know, then oh,
to be a model, I didn't care about that. But you know, some people want is a donor from Harvard and Princeton, and there are more expensive. There are some kind of agencies specialized in Ivy League donors. But for me, I want to have a young girl healthy. And the majority of them they are in college, all of them I think. I remember when I saw the picture, and that's, that's a kind of frivolity, frivolity. But I say, I don't want to have any of these girls. But most of them the picture for the prom, the classic, you know, girl from wet with a corsage and and I said, let's try to find a regular girl trying to find a regular girl. Is that what you said? Yeah, yeah, like, you know, like, because I didn't want to have like, they want to portray themselves like a nice girl from Midwest with a good size and the problem. Oh, so you did not want the problem? Pick? I didn't want that. Yeah, you wanted a bite? You know, I Danny's the one who is healthy. And
also, yeah, that would be the most important we there's sort of a you'll have to be careful because you're gonna spend 1234 years with her maybe. And during the process, and by the law in California, they have to be mother. And that's it and be healthy. And, and you have to know that, you know, they have nice pregnancy and they have like a nice birthday. No, they don't have an issue when they have their kids. Yeah. And also it helps if you also we encourage you to, to ask about their support. And does their spouse fully support this? Or? Yeah, yeah, if they're married, there is much better.
And, and you feel more because at the beginning, I feel in the hands of unknown people it was the uncertainty is the worst thing. Because you don't know. And during those years years, the law, it was, you know, California have like the more the friendliest law protecting surrogates and, and they intend them parents that they call them. And and then that's the reason I choose a gestational surrogacy because the baby's mind genetically can legally and I don't have to adopt it. And if we go to the floor, and we have a DNA, she doesn't have any DNA with a baby nine.
And we go to the girl when she's five months old, and the baby legal issue are
there is that his tone of protection? I think, and again, legally, things have shifted a bit. And there are some certain states that you are listed, you know, if the things of things have changed, it sounds like Yeah, yeah.
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Alright, so and as far as your extended family, your mother Consuelos mom, or dad and his family, were they totally accepting of your plans to become parents? Since day one? Yeah, this is I remember, when we have, we went for the ultrasound to save the general if EMI was a girdle number or a boy, in this, this is more room for the ultrasound, we were like a 17 people for the family for both family.
And when we have Emma and we have the twins, the whole family, you know, the console sister from Italy came with her husband, and my whole family from Miami.
And even I invited my father from Cuba and you know, right now he's 3787 years old. But during those you're invited a for the first time, you know, we have the only picture the MF with my my dad
was an open book, the whole process, and we have the support of the family. And Emma and Lucas, they have a great relationship with my sisters and agoncillo sisters. It's wonderful. And now they're coming for Thanksgiving to New York to spend with us in our say house. We have a you know, I know we are a non traditional family. But we're a family like yours like every family. Absolutely. If you go to my if you go to my apartment, you're gonna see a lot of plastic toys and, and you're gonna see this gassing every night about the homework and the after school classes. And what is going to be the best high school for the doings and I am looking at, you know, she wants to go to medical school.
We started looking for a school for her.
And for me, you know, for me, the most important thing is they had to be good person. You know, for me that's important to be independent, and be healthy now. Amen. So any further recommendation to other gay guys who want to become dads? Well, the first thing you have to trust your instinct, you know, you have to be confident. And I think the most important thing is be patient. You have to be patient. In my, in my story, if you dream about it is going to be a reality soon. Because, you know, the biggest accomplishment more than anything I've ever done in my work life, including writing and publishing my books is having my children. Yeah, that that is a beautiful, beautiful in note to end on. Thank you so much. Amanda Carerra. for being with us today. The book is in search of Emma, how we created our family. Thank you so much and to our audience. Come back next week. We'll talk about creating your family through adoption. Thanks so much.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai