It was on their first date that TV sitcom director Todd Holland's now-husband, actor Scotch Ellis Loring, asked whether he wanted children.
"His clock was ticking," said Holland. "I had the classic male response of 'Whoa, that's so much responsibility!'"
Today Holland, the 49-year-old director of sitcoms like "30 Rock" and "Malcolm in the Middle", and Loring, an actor and composer, are fathers to three beautiful children ushered into the world by Growing Generations, a surrogacy agency based in Los Angeles that has become the destination of choice for many gay families nationwide. According to the company, it has helped bring approximately 850 babies to couples since it launched in 1996.
"About 75 percent are gay couples," said Growing Generations CEO Stuart Miller. "We initially started the company specifically to help members of the gay and lesbian community. It's a very complex, complicated process that involves attorneys, doctors, psychologists, insurance."
With the cost of a surrogate birth ranging from $125,000 to $200,000, the agency has attracted celebrity couples including actor B.D. Wong and his partner Richie Jackson, who had a son. Actor Neil Patrick Harris and his partner David Burtka, who are having twins via a surrogate, are widely reported to be working with Growing Generations. Harris's publicist, Simon Halls, declined to confirm the reports but added, "I can tell you that Growing Generations is great … they helped me have three kids!"
The Growing Generations process is a curious mixture of courtship and online shopping. Prospective parents begin by scrolling through the company's database of pre-screened egg donors, where there is information on everything from ethnicity to education, as well as video of the potential donors.
"It's like the Sears Christmas Calendar," said Holland, joking that donors are asked questions straight out of a Miss America pageant, such as "What are your hopes and dreams? What do you hope to do when you grow up?"
Once an egg donor is selected, prospective parents begin a similar search for another woman to act as a surrogate. Once the couple has met their chosen surrogate and definitively confirmed she will carry the child, the eggs from the egg donor are fertilized with sperm collected from one or both gay men and implanted into the surrogate, who aims to carry the baby to full term. Many couples mix the sperm so they won't know which man is the biological father.
Growing Generations uses strict guidelines to ensure there are no legal entanglements between prospective parents and surrogates. The surrogate must be someone other than the egg donor, and must have already given birth to a child.
"It does make the process emotionally easier for the surrogate and the intended parents that she's not biologically connected to the child that she's carrying," Stuart said. "We want to make sure that the surrogate understands what it's like actually having a baby and how she's going to feel about giving that baby up, even though it's not her biological offspring."
Surrogates can earn $30,000 for carrying embryos to term and are screened to determine their psychological fitness for the job.
"We work with a psychologist and she has screened and evaluated probably over a thousand surrogates," Stuart said.