In 2005, Jennifer Menges was a stay-at-home mom, raising her three children in the suburbs of Minneapolis. Through a parenting website, she had met another mother who had been a surrogate for a family, and was now trying to get that child back. “I was absolutely horrified for that poor family, and shocked that this woman would even attempt to claim that child as her own,” Jennifer recalls. “I started researching surrogacy and discovered that what this woman was doing, wasn’t at all the norm. And the more I looked into the experience of surrogacy, the more I thought that it was something I could totally do.” She had donated her eggs while in college to help pay her tuition, and saw surrogacy as another way she could help families desperate for a child.
In 2006, Jennifer joined an agency, one that was working with same sex couples, and it matched her with two Jewish men in New York City, who already had one adopted son. “At the time, Minnesota was very surrogate-friendly and same-sex-friendly, while New York was not,” she says. “It seemed so unfair to me that there were so many laws, preventing a loving couple from being parents, just because of their sexuality.” Because of all of the laws in New York, the couple had no choice but to seek a surrogate from out-of-state.
They also decided to use an egg donor from California, and to do the embryo transfer there at a clinic that would allow each of the men to fertilize a separate set of eggs with their own sperm (rather than using just one man’s sperm). Up until then, clinics weren’t willing to work with more than one father, concerned that mixing samples in utero would be somehow less successful. (To this day, some clinics still won’t work with two sperm donors.) In February 2006, they transferred the best quality embryo from each father’s “batch,” and Jennifer became pregnant with the couple’s twins. They were set to become the first surrogate family to have twins by two different Dads.
While some in her community questioned Jennifer’s choice to become a surrogate for a same sex couple, even going so far as to refer to the twins as, “gay-bies,” her family, and even her church, embraced what she was doing. “It’s a pretty lenient Lutheran Church to begin with, and they were really supportive of the fact that we were helping others,” Jennifer says. “They’d even pray for us and for the intended parents. I think everyone’s main concern was whether or not we’d be able to give up the babies without it breaking our hearts.”
Both Jennifer and her husband, David, treated the pregnancy as they had with their own three children. “We’d play music for the babies in my belly, and my husband would talk to them, but we still never felt like they were ours,” she explains. During the course of the pregnancy, the same-sex couple came to Minnesota about every eight weeks, and they talked every day. “I think that’s actually the saddest part when the experience is over — people think it’s hard to give up the baby, but it’s harder giving up that bond you create with the parents,” she says.
Although Jennifer didn’t feel that the twin girls were hers, when it came to their birth, her maternal instincts kicked in. “My doctor wanted to deliver the twins at 36 weeks, but I just didn’t feel right about it, and was sure the babies just weren’t ready to come out,” she recalls. “I talked it over with the intended parents who agreed with me, so I dodged the doctor’s office, and stayed off my feet for the last three weeks of the pregnancy.”
In our next post we will share Part 2 of Jennifer’s Surrogacy Story…
If you would like more information about surrogacy or are interested in becoming a surrogate mother, please contact Surrogates Across America.