New Fathers on Their Surrogacy Experience and How They’re Paying It Forward
This article originally appeared in Daniel Magazine, September 2014.
After $100,000+ in costs, 18 years of being together, and 10 years of trying, Danny Wong and Jay Cook are finally fathers. Their twin boys were born just this past July through a surrogate and an egg donor, each boy genetically linked to either Wong or Cook. The babies are healthy, the men are happy, and life has since been pleasantly hectic, but Wong and Cook’s journey to make a family was a difficult one. Now in their California home with their twins sleeping nearby, Wong and Cook share how their arduous process not only found its happily ever after, but will soon benefit countless other gay and lesbian couples looking to have children.
Jay Cook and Danny Wong have been together for nearly 20 years, clear by the classic signs of long-term commitment. As we talked, they’d echo each other, interrupt and speak over one another, and occasionally disagree about small things.
For example, they now live in Acton, CA, which is part of Los Angeles County. Yet while they knew where they were, neither could agree on when they had moved there. Wong was pretty sure it was 10 years while Cook insisted it was 7. It took a couple moments for them to agree that, okay, fine, it was 8 years.
But what’s still vivid to them is where they met 18 years ago in the mid-90s. “It was a nightclub in West Hollywood,” Wong said. “It was a coincidence thing because I was carpooling with friends that night and we were supposed to go to a different club, but one of my friends wanted to go to this gaysian bar instead. So it was purely chance. If we hadn’t taken that detour, I never would’ve met Jay.”
“I’d just moved to do an internship for my school,” Cook added, who is originally from Michigan. “I was new to the area, so I just decided that night to go out and that’s where I ended up. And I didn’t meet Danny until the very end of the night, like 20 minutes before closing.”
“We only got one dance!” Wong laughed.
“And then I asked if he wanted to get something to eat afterward,” Cook continued, also laughing, “and he mentioned that he’d carpooled with his friends. So I said, ‘Hey, that’s fine. I can drive you back.’ But I’d just moved to the area so I had no clue where anything was. Not that I cared.”
About 8 years into their relationship, they both explored their mutual desire to have children. They first looked at adoption, but between the outrageous wait times in the United States and the strict laws against gay couples adopting out of such places as China and Vietnam, they began to consider surrogacy.
Wanting to keep it in the family, the original plan was for one of Wong’s sisters to donate her eggs and for Cook’s mother’s girlfriend to be the surrogate. While both women agreed, the idea soon fell apart due to legal restrictions regarding surrogacy in Michigan and Wong’s sister getting engaged.
The following several years were a flurry of red tape and headaches, each step forward feeling like two steps back. First they were put on a long waiting list by their doctor for a surrogate, then three outside potential surrogates they knew through friends and acquaintances additionally backed out at the last minute. After that, they were referred to an agency that specialized in matching couples to available surrogates, which came at an additional cost.
Once their surrogate was secured, Wong and Cook still needed to find an egg donor, not to mention all four people involved getting medically and legally cleared. “We needed to be tested to the level of an organ donor, like we were giving a kidney,” Cook explained. They also had to pay for everybody’s lawyers and health insurance.
They again went through an agency to find an egg donor, specifically looking for somebody Asian so that there would be little problem with outsiders believing the children were Cook and Wong’s. “We also hoped Danny’s family would better accept the whole surrogacy thing then since the Chinese can be so conservative,” Cook added.
“I didn’t really care,” Wong muttered, laughing.
But due to cultural taboos, there weren’t many Asian egg donors on the market. When Cook and Wong finally found one, they paid the fees and signed some documents, only to have the agency later tell them that the woman had accidentally been double-booked. If they wanted to still use her, they would need to pay more money than the other couple. In the end, Wong and Cook ended up paying an “unheard of” amount to keep the donor, clocking in at an overall total of $25,000.
Things began to go much more smoothly after that, both of the chosen embryos taking without a hitch. “The doctor told us there was an 80% chance that one will take and a 60% chance that two will take,” Cook said. “So we were really happy.”
Then it was time for the waiting game. “Once you’re pregnant, you’re pregnant,” Cook said. “It’s just like a normal pregnancy. It’s pretty easy.”
As Cook said this, one of the babies began to cry. Both men laughed at the timing and Wong excused himself for several minutes to go tend to them.
The next nine months went by with Wong and Cook working together to take the surrogate to her medical check-ups. Aside from their insurance inexplicably dropping her when she was five months pregnant and them responding by paying for a whole new policy from a different company, the pregnancy was relatively problem-free.
And then on July 1st, 2014, it was Cook’s turn to take the surrogate for her regular check-up, she now just under 35 weeks pregnant. When her latest urine results came back, it was a sudden whirlwind. Due to pre-eclampsia, a common problem for someone carrying twins, she needed to deliver immediately.
“I thought the doctor was kidding!” Cook said. “She just said it so calmly! ‘Well, we’re going to deliver your babies today.’”
“And I was fine up until I called Danny,” he continued. “And then I heard his voice and I just lost it.”
“He just starts bawling and crying!” Wong said. “And I’m like, ‘Oh shit. Why is he crying? This is bad, this is bad.’”
They began to interrupt and talk over each other with the retelling of their story, laughing constantly as they did so. The situation still fresh in their minds, their speech became humorously fast in their excitement, making it a little difficult to understand them for a minute.
“Finally Jay gets the words out and I was just like, ‘WHAAAAAT?!’” Wong said, both of them laughing all over again as he dramatized the final word.
On July 1st, 2014, Kai Wing Cook-Wong and Jayden Wing Cook-Wong were born 3 minutes apart at 4:12pm and 4:15pm. Cook and Wong decided to not only hyphenate their last names to prevent either of their custodies from being questioned, but gave each child the same middle name because it is a custom in Wong’s family. The babies’ first names, Kai and Jayden, were decided because they were the only two names that overlapped between Wong and Cook’s lists of preferences.
“They’re doing really well,” Wong said, noting they had just turned two months old the day before. He also mentioned the frazzled life of he and Cook now with feedings every 3 hours, providing many sleepless nights. Indeed, during our conversation, a phone rang and both Wong and Cook didn’t even realize it was one of theirs. Aside from such hiccups, both men were otherwise convincing in their roles as functioning human beings.
Their experiences for the past several years, however, have not been lost on them. It was such an intense mix of frustration, confusion, and happiness, that they’ve since made some pretty big decisions.
“The whole process being so arduous, we’ve decided to start our own agency that is geared specifically towards the gay community,” Cook said. With a list of surrogates and clients already lining up, Wong and Cook will provide their assistance at a reduced rate so more couples can afford the option.
With Cook’s expertise as an ER nurse and Wong’s profession as a programmer, both men are currently well into the process of starting the agency, hoping to be set and ready to go in LA by November of this year. The name they’ve settled upon is “Same Love Surrogacy.”
“This stuff is so expensive that most people only have one shot,” Cook said. “And we want to help other gay families have the opportunities that we did.”