Single and Wanting Children, Some Men Seek 'Gestational Carriers'

A year ago, David, a successful and single 51-year-old attorney, was engaged to a woman he described as "what you would want in life: a lawyer, pretty, intelligent and always wearing Chanel outfits."

However, he started to realize that maybe she wasn't the one for him. At the same time, he also felt strongly about something else: He wanted to be a father.

"I realized that I didn't need to get married to have kids," said David, who asked that his last name not be used.

He is among a growing number of single men who, as they near their 40s or even 50s, are determined to have children -- even if they have not yet found their ideal life partner.

After splitting from his fiancée, David considered adoption as an alternative means of having children.

"But it was nearly impossible because I was 50 and single," he said. "Many young women giving up their kids often wanted a married couple to adopt their kid."

So David decided that his best option was to join Growing Generations, one of the largest surrogacy agencies in California. He chose an egg donor, and, in addition, a "gestational carrier" to bear his child. Gestational carriers are women who agree to carry embryos composed of donors' or intended parents' sperm and eggs.

Hard numbers on the trend are hard to come by, but a doctor at one of the world's largest fertility treatment centers said he has seen more men like David in the last several years.

"They come from all walks of life: doctors, lawyers, bankers," said Dr. Richard Scott, a physician at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey.

The trend may be spurred by a growing number of men and women who choose to be single and no longer feel the pressure to get married, said Stuart Miller, CEO of Growing Generations. Ten to 12 percent of his client base is single, he said. This figure includes both sexes.

'Not for the Meek at Heart'

"The decision [to have a child] is too important to forego just because someone else is not around," said Jeff Bloch, a 47-year-old freelance media trainer who is now raising two children on his own. He is gay. "I'd rather be a parent by myself.

However, Scott said, having a child through artificial reproductive technology and surrogacy is "not for the meek at heart."

"If you're hesitant, then don't do it," he said, explaining that couples and single people who come to his office receive psychological tests to help assure that they will likely be competent, committed parents.

Legal hassles often accompany the psychological and emotional toll of artificial reproductive technology and surrogacy. To avoid this, many intended parents pursue gestational surrogacy in order to decrease the risk of a surrogate winning a lawsuit by being awarded custody of the child after giving birth.

Melissa Brisman, an attorney who regularly negotiates different types of reproductive arrangements, including gestational carrier contracts, said that so far she has not heard of a case where a gestational carrier wanted to keep the baby. That's because the woman carrying the baby feels less of an attachment since she has no biological connection to the baby. The donor's eggs were implanted in her.

The surrogacy-agency business remains controversial and illegal in certain states. Intended parents must often work closely with lawyers because of the different state laws regarding the legality of surrogacy and the legal rights of the intended parents.

Financial costs for gestational surrogacy can be staggering, but on average single men spend $60,000 to $80,000 in donor, gestational carrier, legal and other fees.

Redefining Traditional Male-Female Gender Roles

According to Mary L. Shanley, a political-science professor at Vassar College and author of "Making Babies, Making Families," single men becoming single parents thanks to surrogacy is "a mixed bag."

"On the one hand, if some single men wish to have children because they want hands-on responsibility for the care of their children, they want to be in the nurturing role and not just financial providers, then [this trend] is promising," she said. "They're redefining masculinity and male roles in society.

"But on the negative side, is that really why men are doing this? This needs to be meaningful; they shouldn't just exploit women in the end by buying women's services, buying eggs, buying a surrogate, then a nanny."

When it comes to artificial reproductive technology in general, Shanley said, "parents should be cognizant of their future kids' desires, not just the iron-clad contract they signed."

She said she believes that no sperm or egg donations should be anonymous, although most arrangements made today are.

"This is an identity issue," she said. "I understand that not all adults want this, but for those who do want to know who their genetic forbearers are it should be available."

Single fathers David and Bloch have already thought about how they will answer their kids' questions.

"I'll tell them everything," David said. "I'll tell them the truth about the surrogate, sperms and the egg donor when they're a year old."

Bloch said: "It's an evolving story. My 2-year-old is already aware that some of her friends have mommies. I'll tell them that there are different types of families, and in our family this is how it is."