Victoria and Jennifer Collier are the authors of the new book Getting to Baby, which shares their journey to have children through surrogacy.
First Name: Victoria Collier
Partner’s First Name: Jennifer Collier
Age: 41 / 42
Hometown/City: Decatur, GA
Number of Children: 2, Katherine and Christopher
When did you decide you wanted children?
We both knew we wanted children when we met in 1997. However, we deliberately waited until Victoria was finished with law school and established her business. We began trying to have children in late 2005 at the age of 35.
How did you decide to either biologically have a child or adopt a child?
We wanted to have a child biologically using Victoria’s eggs, but with Jennifer carrying them to term. We contemplated every variation and decided on this one because we both wanted Victoria’s genetics and we both wanted to have a biological connection with the child. When that did not work out, we chose adoption because we were familiar with the option with having family members and friends who have been adopted. After two failed adoption attempts, we chose surrogacy with donor eggs and donor sperm to increase our chances of pregnancy. We learned of surrogacy through a professional colleague/friend.
Did you share your journey with your family and friends? If so, have they been supportive?
Yes, and yes.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced raising children as a lesbian couple? How have you overcome those challenges and what advice would you give new parents in a similar situation?
In our community, gay parenting is fairly common, thus, we haven’t encountered too many challenges. The biggest seems to be the standard forms that we then need to modify because they say “father” and “mother” rather than “parent” and “parent.” Also, we get a lot of questions about what will they call each of us and won’t that confuse the children? We overcome these challenges/nuances by being open and forthright with the situation. Advice we would give to others: be comfortable with yourself and your decisions and others will follow suit; however, if you appear uncomfortable, ashamed, or embarrassed, you will be treated differently and so will your children. Be sure to have friends of both genders and both heterosexual couples with children as well as gay couples with children. Begin talking to your children from birth about how wonderful it is to be an individual and different from everyone else.
What do you wish you would have known before you started?
It would have been helpful mentally to understand two things: (1) when an agency or person says they are looking for Christian couples, that doesn’t mean you and (2) that when adopting a child or going through surrogacy, the majority of women want to place their child with gay men and that lesbians are the least often chosen.
What was your biggest setback in the process?
When we were pregnant with our biological child, we had a miscarriage after the amniocentesis. Two unsuccessful pregnancy tests thereafter. Mild depression (Victoria) for six weeks. Two failed adoption attempts.
What was the funniest thing that happened along the way?
When our surrogate was pregnant, we attended every ultrasound appointment. During one appointment, our son “baby b” had his feet propped up on our daughter’s “baby a” head as if he were sitting in a recliner.
Did you ever consider giving up?
Yes, after the second failed adoption and the feelings of depression returning. Also, feelings of no control over the process and ongoing inability to assess future expenses – rising financial hardship.
How has your life changed during this process? Before having kids and after having kids?
During the process Jennifer and I grew stronger and stronger and maintained the same vision, desires, and goals. We communicated a lot. After having the children, Jennifer left her career as an assistant district attorney to stay at home. There was a lot of adjustment to roles and responsibilities and reduction in finances. Our relationship was strained for a period of time, but we worked through it and now we work more as a team again instead of parent/provider.
How much did you budget for the process?
We were expecting $50,000.
How much has the process cost so far?
Overall, we spent close to $200,000. We planned to do IVF only 2 times, but ended up doing it 3 times. The travel expenses for both failed adoptions was not really anticipated. For our surrogate, we purchased a foreclosed house and fixed it up. Upon birth of the children, we had to sell it at a loss. Our surrogate was on bed rest from week 20 through birth at week 32, so we had to pay a lot for child care for her children. Also, she had emergency medical procedures that we had to pay the surrogate extra for.
Was your state/location a challenge to the process? How did it impact your decisions, if at all?
There are no surrogacy laws in Georgia, nothing expressly permitting it and nothing expressly prohibiting it. It is all based on contract law. It was helpful to have a surrogate in the same state.
Will you prepare your children to answer questions about their donors and surrogate?
Since birth we have been talking to the children about their surrogate and biological donors. We also have pictures that scroll on our computer regularly that the children see that include our surrogate. We will explain to them that we wanted to have them and love them so much that we asked a nice lady to help us and she did. We have a 22 minute documentary about our story as well as a published book, Getting to Baby. When appropriate, we will share that with them.
Would you be willing to share the name of the agency/sperm bank/other resources you used and why?
For our own fertility process, we used Georgia Reproductive Specialists. With our surrogate, we used Reproductive Biology Associates. The only reason we switched was that we wanted a clean slate. We had good experiences at both IVF clinics. Sperm bank was New England Cryogenic Center; but also looked at Fairfax Cryobank. We liked NECC because they provided verbal staff impressions of the sperm donors which were very useful. Additionally, we used Reproductive Biology Associates for the egg donor. Through the adoption process we used a national company that focuses on collecting as many couples as possible and not as much on acquiring prospective birth mothers. We also used an adoption facilitator who was wonderful! Her name is Dani Funk and her business is www.adoptionbabylink.com.
Any other advice, comments, or misc. wisdom about the gay parenting process?
Have a plan, set a budget, educate yourself and talk to gay parents before trying to have children, go to gay parent play groups, get referrals for reputable companies, explore all options and then decide on one and put faith in the process. Yet, also have a planned termination date so you know when to stop or switch gears if necessary based upon emotion preservation or financial security.
Getting to Baby, a new book by Victoria and Jennifer Collier, shares the agonizing road taken by this lesbian couple in their effort to have children. Having finally achieved the family they so desperately wanted with the birth of their twins, Katherine and Christopher, through a surrogate, the Colliers set out on a mission to help other couples avoid some of the pitfalls and frustrations they experienced. Getting to Baby is more than their story; it is a “how to” book outlining shortcuts and helpful hints for creating your family now, through fertility, adoption, or surrogacy.