Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Men Having Babies Surrogacy Conference and Expo in San Francisco, CA. I had heard of the Men Having Babies organization before, but until this recent event had not had a chance to attend one of the conferences. So, with three local SurroSisters in tow, we headed into the city for a day to focus on one of our favorite topics….Surrogacy!
My purpose for attending the MHB Conference, was an opportunity to see what the seminar was all about, the type of information they were sharing, resources they’re promoting, and to connect with other surrogacy professionals in attendance. Education is important to me and being the surrogacy advocate that I am, I couldn’t wait for the days activities!
We started the day by arriving at the LGBT Center early to attend the surrogacy professionals breakfast upstairs. It was such a treat to be able to meet so many wonderful organizations, agencies and fertility clinics! I am always up for meeting new agencies, clinics, and organizations as it gives me the chance to find out what they have to offer you all as surrogates and parents to be!
Armed with my camera in hand, and my SurroSisters taking notes, we made our way from the 4th floor (where the professionals and sponsors were set up as the Expo) down to the 2nd floor Rainbow Room where the seminars were being held. The room was close to packed as we entered, with a line of men still at the door checking in for the day’s event.
How great is that to see a room full of at least 200 men eager for knowledge and understanding of how the surrogacy process works?! All those men we shared a room with that day were there with the same goal in mind, to start their family. It was such a great vibe!
Ron Poole-Dayan and Anthony Brown, Esq., both of Men Having Babies, and Judy Appel of Our Family Coalition started things off with a warm welcome and introduction. After introductions and review of the agenda, they quickly went to business. They began with explaining the Surrogacy process (something they’re both familiar with as both Ron and Anthony had their children through surrogacy), information on egg donation, FAQ’s, agency information; as well as what it means to go “independent”. I feel that they did a great job explaining the process and appreciated that they left time for members in the audience to ask questions.
The next part of the discussion was the “Expert Panel”. This panel was comprised of two fertility doctors, Dr. Smikle of Laurel Fertility, and Dr. Schirock of Pacific Fertility Center, and a reproductive lawyer, Deborah Wald of The Wald Law Group, and Gail Anderson of Donor Concierge. These folks did a great job discussing their roles and provided many important things to remember when going into a journey.
A large portion of what Men Having Babies provides is what they call the Gay Parenting Assistance Program, or GPAP. The program is broken up into two phases:
Stage 1: Journey Booster program consists of helping these men (who qualify) receive discounts for agency and clinic services, when going through the program with Men Having Babies. To date they have helped to provide over $1,000,000 of services and discounts to gay men.
Stage 2: Direct Assistance program grants couples or individuals (who are selected by the grant committee) to receive direct financial assistance, or to be matched with a partner clinic and/or agency which will provide services free of charge.
Many of the sponsors in attendance at the Men Having Babies are partners who provide the discounted and/or free services. So when you attend a conference, you will be meeting these agencies and clinics that you could be working with, face to face. This is a great benefit offered by the GPAP. It is nice to be able to meet the agency representatives and case managers. It provides the patient/interested parties an opportunity to ask questions about their specific situation and some agencies/clinics were providing on the spot appointments for registering for their program(s). You can check out more about the GPAP at the Men Having Babies website.
After Session 1 ended, lunch was provided and sponsored by The Reproductive Science Center. During the “working lunch” all participants were given a chance to check out the sponsors booths. There were agencies, clinics and organizations there waiting to greet the interested participants. Each table was filled with company brochures, marketing material and friendly smiles. I was impressed with the amount of sponsorship this event had. The girls and I took turns meeting the representatives of each table, grabbing handfuls of brochures, a few “freebies” before heading back downstairs for the next session.
During Session 2, Ron, Anthony, and Judy once again gave a few presentations and then welcomed a “Personal Stories Panel”. Here we met two surrogates, one of which had recently delivered twin girls for an international set of Intended Fathers, and also works at a surrogacy agency, and another who had been an egg donor, a traditional surrogate, and a gestational surrogate. The ladies were accompanied by two men, who were fathers thanks to surrogacy. One of the men had a story of his twins being born early and one not making it, which was heartbreaking to hear, but an important story to share as things like that do happen. As surrogacy educators it is important to tell not only the good stories of surrogacy, but the sad ones as well so potential parents via surrogacy and surrogates know what can (and at times does) happen.
What I liked about the personal stories panel was that each person really shared their journey honestly. They did not spare any details or sugarcoat anything. The fathers via surrogacy were not afraid to talk about their concerns with the cost of surrogacy, their relationship with their surrogate, and other “taboo” subjects. Both men shared their experience with their surrogate as a positive one and have continued the relationship together. There was also an example of an international journey that continues to flourish even though the families are thousands of miles apart and the pregnancy is over. I looked over at one point and could see several people in the audience shed a tear or two as the stories were told which is something that made me smile, knowing these stories were hitting home.
The panel discussion ended and we were on our way to break out sessions in multiple conferences rooms. This is where agencies and clinics could speak to a handful of people at a time, and give them a more in-depth look at what they had to offer in a more intimate setting. Here was another opportunity for those in attendance to learn more about the process and agencies/clinics respective services. It was great to see the diverse services offered by each sponsor. You could see the true passion of the individuals who were facilitating the sessions. I felt this was a great opportunity for intended parents to get a feel for one agency or another. The break out sessions were packed and very informative. After they ended we had a few visits back to the expo tables to meet folks from the remaining agencies, we took a few pictures and ended our evening with wine and cheese. These SurroSisters were such troopers, completely exhausted, but, still smiling!
As I reflect back on this amazing Saturday, I can honestly say the event was a true success. The participants in attendance went home with pages of notes and information, as well as business cards, brochures, and goodies from the organizations, clinics, and agencies they met while there. In an event where people are coming together to share information, education, support, there really can be no wrong. All parties did a spectacular job on providing accurate and thorough information on Surrogacy. Also, I got to spend the day with three awesome SurroSisters!
I highly suggest you check out Men Having Babies for further information on their programs, and attend one of their conferences. For more information, please visit their website https://www.menhavingbabies.org/