creating a family through surrogacy: an interview with Tommy Starling

Today, we interview Tommy Sterling about his famiy story. Tommy
lives in South Carolina along with his partner Jeff and newborn

Dave: How did you and your partner Jeff meet
and how long have you been together?

Tommy: A mutual friend introduced Jeff to me in a
night club in Myrtle Beach, SC. We started dating a couple of
months later and have been together for 11 years.
D: When and how did the “let’s have a family”
conversation come up?

T: Six years into our relationship the
conversation came up about starting a family. We started our
journey with hopes of adopting a child who needed a loving home.
Living in the state of South Carolina, we could not find a lawyer
willing to work with us in our search. We turned to a young,
expecting, friend who was thinking about giving her child up for
adoption. We were hopeful that things would work out and we would
have a private adoption. The young lady decided to keep the child a
couple of weeks before giving birth to a beautiful daughter. A few
years later, we had a friend in South Carolina offer to be a
surrogate for us. We met with her and her husband and went for all
our testing to be sure everything was in line. When we made the
trip to the lawyer’s office we were turned away. We found out
that we could not be protected legally in our state if we pursued
surrogacy. After five years of trying different avenues, we had
given up our dream to have a family. Then, unexpectedly, we met a
couple in New Orleans who showed us a picture of their new
daughter. We immediately inquired as to their process. They told us
about a surrogate agency in Los Angeles that works with gay
couples. Two weeks later we were on a flight to meet with our
surrogate agency, Growing Generations.
D: As you mentioned, you decided to create
your family through surrogacy. How did you select your surrogate
and what was that process like?

T: We were fortunate to have the help of Growing
Generations to select our surrogate and guide us through our
process. The process took several months and was stressful. We had
to use a surrogate that lived in California in order to get the
legal rights we wanted for our child. We also chose to use an
anonymous egg donor instead of the surrogate’s eggs for
additional protection. By using an anonymous egg donor, the eggs
became our “property”. The fertility clinic was able to use
Jeff’s sperm to fertilize half the eggs and my sperm to fertilize
the other half. One of Jeff’s embryos and one of mine were
transferred to our surrogate. We do not know, nor do we care, which
of the embryo survived to become our daughter. The only thing that
mattered to us was that we were the parents of this beautiful
D: What type of relationship did you have with
your surrogate while she was carrying? Do you maintain a
relationship with her today?
T: Our
surrogate was absolutely amazing. She made us feel at ease from day
one. We never worried about her or the health of our daughter
through the entire pregnancy. We were able to be a part of the
entire process and attend all the appointments we wanted. Our
surrogate even kept a journal for us so we would know how she was
feeling each week. We still talk to her about once every 3 months.
She will always be a part of our lives.
D: What’s your favorite family

T: Our favorite family activity is traveling. We
take our daughter with us everywhere we go. At nine months, she has
already been to 12 states, 3 countries, attended a Rosie cruise and
has flown on over a dozen planes. She is such a trooper and joy to
have around.
D: What are some of the challenges that you’ve
encountered as gay fathers? How do you advocate for equality in
your daily lives?
D: Surprisingly, we have
not encountered many challenges. We have had great acceptance from
our friends, family, and community. The one thing we do to advocate
equality is to correct people when they make comments about
Carrigan’s “mom”. We are quick to tell people she does not
have a mom and that she has two dads. So far, the response from
strangers has been positive. The corrections also make people think
twice about what a family can be.
D: What advice would you give to any
prospective parents considering surrogacy

T: For those considering surrogacy, make sure you
know the laws in your state. We would advise you to seek out the
advice or help of a qualified agency that can guide you through the
process. We also recommend working with a surrogate that already
has children.