More Single Males Who Want Children Turn To Surrogacy

Source: Saint Paul Pioneer Press (St. Paul, MN) Publication Date: 09/24/2006 Byline: Nihia Tongchai Lee COPYRIGHT 2006 Saint Paul Pioneer Press Sep. 24--Tick, tock, tick, tock. Listen up, men: your biological clock could be ticking. For Minneapolis resident Chuck Stroebel, his alarm went off when he reached his late 30s. He knew it was time to have a child -- even if it meant raising it alone. "I realized I was turning 40," he said. "I didn't want to be too old while raising a child. I needed to move along if it was going to happen at all for me." Stroebel, who is gay, considered adoption but eventually decided he wanted a child who would share his genes. "I also like really seeing all the different stages of development," he added. "I wanted to be involved with the process from the beginning." He found his answer through surrogacy. He got involved with the International Assisted Reproduction Center, based in Maple Grove. The center helps couples and single people find prospective egg donors and surrogate mothers. The center paired Stroebel with a woman in her mid-30s who lived in Ohio. She met his requirements: a nonsmoker and nondrinker, someone of proper age in overall good health who had done surrogacy before. And to cut down on the cost, Stroebel's surrogate partner was also the egg donor. After two failed attempts, the surrogate mother gave birth to a healthy son in September 2005. Stroebel named him Jacob. "It's been the best decision I've made," said Stroebel, who keeps in touch with the surrogate mother. Stroebel is part of a growing number of single males using surrogates to have children. While specific data are not available, Gail Taylor, president and founder of the surrogacy agency Growing Generations in Los Angeles, said the number of single surrogate fathers in the United States has increased about 20 percent the past two years. "People are beginning to realize this is an option they have to have children," she said. Taylor said most of these men are educated and financially stable professionals, well aware of that ticking biological clock. About half these cases are gay men, she said. "Single men are realizing there might come a time when they are too old to raise kids," Taylor said. Dr. Jon Pryor, professor and chairman of the Department of Urologic Surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical Center said offspring of older males may experience some health defects, but it is unlikely. "There may be some genetic complications of conceiving children with older men -- like dwarfism -- but it's not always the case," he said, adding that men as old as 90 can still conceive healthy children. "As men get older, typically it's things like (their) energy level is less, sexual drive is less, testosterone levels decrease, the chances of osteoporosis increase and depression that are more likely to happen. Women go through menopause, but men just might feel like they don't have the energy to be a parent or father." In the Twin Cities, Steven Snyder, the director of the International Assisted Reproduction Center, said surrogacy among single men has increased 50 to 75 percent over the past couple of years. (Heterosexual couples still make up a majority of the cases.) "Surrogacy is becoming a much more visible and socially accepted practice," he said. When a child is born through surrogacy to a single father, the surrogate mother agrees to terminate her parental rights, giving full custody to the father. There are no state surrogacy laws in Minnesota, Snyder said, and most insurance companies do not cover the procedure, which is costly. Snyder estimated the cost, which includes the legal paperwork, egg donor and surrogate mother's fee, is more than $100,000 on the West Coast. On the East Coast, fees can range from $80,000 to $100,000. In the Midwest, the average cost is about $60,000 "because we're more conservative and medical fees are lower," Snyder said. To pay for his surrogacy, which totaled about $50,000, Stroebel used personal savings and took out an equity loan on his home. "It was worth every dollar, though," said Stroebel, who works for the state Health Department. Norman S., who did not want to give his last name, lives in Long Island, N.Y. The single, 49-year-old lawyer, who is heterosexual, brought his daughter, Madeline, into the world last year with the help of a surrogate mother in Minnesota. The procedure cost him $80,000. Norman still keeps in touch with the surrogate by sending her pictures of his growing daughter, but he does not know who the egg donor is. For Norman, the ticking biological clock was a concern. "I didn't want to have my first child when I was 73," he said. "It was extremely important to me to not only father a child, but to be a father to a child." Nhia TongChai Lee can be reached at nlee@pioneer press.com or 651-228-2120. Copyright (c) 2006, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News. For reprints, email tmsreprints@permissionsgroup.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA. COPYRIGHT 2006 Saint Paul Pioneer Press We will charge you at our initial conference at our hourly rate. If you hire us after the initial office conference, we will credit forward the amount paid for the first half hour toward future services. If you do not hire us, we keep the fees paid so we are reasonably compensated for the time and advice provided.