I always knew I wanted to have kids, and when I met my partner, it was clear to me that we would one day become parents. Once we began planning to have a child, we knew that, like other gay couples, our path to parenthood as two women would be very different from that of our straight friends who are not experiencing infertility. Thankfully, there are options for gay couples to have a baby. That said, they aren't always cheap or easy.
The costs of becoming parents are something that I’m sure most people never think about, and yet we will likely spend thousands of dollars to grow our family. How much we need to save depends on what our insurance will cover and which route to parenthood works the best for us.
Before we even decided on which action to take, we were already lucky; we had two uteri to choose from. We decided that I will be the one carrying, but if my partner, Emet, really wants to, she has that option, as well.
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Different Kinds of Donors
We will also need to decide if we want a sperm donor who is anonymous, open, or known. An anonymous donor means our child will never have the ability to reach out to him, even after he or she turns 18. An open donor is willing to meet our child after he or she turns 18. Anyone can go to the California Cryobank website and check out the options.
We already know that a Jewish donor is important to us. Meanwhile, friends of ours want a donor who is the same ethnicity as the non-biological parent. But there are still a lot of other decisions to make.
Do we want a donor from a sperm bank who has many other children out there? Do we want our child to know those half-siblings? These are the questions we have to think about.
We know couples who have playdates with their kids’ half-siblings and share information about health and personality. We also know couples who have decided to never learn the identity of the other children whom their donor conceived. It’s a deeply personal decision for each family.
Another option is a known donor. This could be a friend who is willing to be in the child’s life, either as a co-parent or an “uncle.”
Legal issues and our own desire to be seen as the child’s primary parents make known donor relationships tricky for us. That said, it may be a great option for other queer couples to have a baby. We know we don’t want a co-parenting relationship, although there are other couples who would love the extra support.
Intrauterine Insemination vs. In Vitro Fertilization
In order for one of us to become pregnant, we have two options: intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF).
IUI is the cheapest option. Without fertility problems, you can do this procedure at home without any medical intervention. If it doesn’t work at home, any reproductive endocrinologist will be able to assist, though that would increase the cost, including blood work, medications, and office visit charges.
IUI success rates are 5 to 25 percent each month, depending on age and fertility issues. The odds might sound low, but they’re not so different from natural conception.
If IUI doesn’t work, we have the option of IVF, which is a process by which eggs are retrieved from the ovary, fertilized, allowed to grow for three or five days outside of the womb, and then implanted in the uterus with the hope that the embryo will attach to the uterine wall.
Some lesbian couples might also want to do reciprocal IVF. Through this process, one partner carries an embryo using her partner’s egg.
For someone facing infertility issues, IVF can absolutely increase the chance of pregnancy. Depending on age, clinic, and fertility issues, a woman’s chance of conceiving each month with IVF varies from 13 to 75 percent.
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Some couples may choose to adopt rather than try to get pregnant. In my county, there are many children to adopt at no cost because of their age or special needs. It’s much more costly to adopt a newborn. One provider that I saw based its fees on a sliding scale, but the least expensive option was still more than $13,000.
International adoptions aren’t any better. In fact, some agencies charge upwards of $46,000, depending on where the child lives.
Another option is surrogacy, whereby a woman will carry a child for the couple, who will pay all medical and legal fees. The surrogate will not have any relationship with the child, unless previously agreed upon.
This is by far the most expensive way to grow a family, but the most desired option for some gay couples to have a baby.
Average Costs of Growing a Family for Queer Couples
|Sperm||$855||One vial from California Cryobank, not including a full donor profile.|
|IVF||$12,000–$18,500||Resolve.org: National average, excluding medication costs (which vary)|
|International Adoption||$12,000–$46,000||Adoption.com: depends on the country where child resides and agency fees.|
|Surrogacy||$128,000–$156,000||CircleSurrogacy.com: includes medical and legal fees.|
Whether or not to have a child is a big decision for every prospective parent, but I never imagined how much it would cost or how much we would need to save. Insurance rarely covers infertility treatment, let alone elective conception procedures, so many of the costs will likely be out of pocket.
Financially Preparing for the Baby
Once we made all the preparations to have a child, we knew there were additional financial considerations to take into account. In preparation for our baby, I found the following financial to-do list super important to consider, for couples of all gender identities and sexual orientations:
1. The Cost of Birth
We typically think about what items we need to purchase for the baby, but we frequently forget to consider that childbirth can involve a medical procedure with costs of its own.
The hospital and other medical fees can range from $2,500 to $25,000 or more, depending on where you give birth, as well as any complications that might arise. Make sure to check with your insurance company and see if you can reduce your costs by choosing a different hospital, doctor, or midwife, or by reducing medical interventions if possible.
2. Completing Financial Paperwork
Even though I’m legally married and my partner [wife?] and I share a last name, there are necessary steps we need to take as a queer couple to ensure our assets are protected in the unfortunate — but unlikely — event one of us passes away early.
My partner and I made sure to complete wills before I got pregnant. We also filled out medical directives in case some tragedy were to happen.
We also spoke with our financial planner, who encouraged taking out life insurance. While we still haven’t decided whether we’ll take out a policy, a few of our friends have one. Considering everything else in our budget right now, we aren’t sure if it’s a top priority for us. However, that shouldn’t dissuade you from taking out a policy if you’ve got wiggle room in your budget.
“The rule of thumb for life insurance is to buy it once someone besides yourself is depending on your income to live,” says Certified Financial Planner R.J. Weiss.
“As such, there is no better time to get a policy then once you expect your first child — fortunately, a good term life insurance policy is surprisingly affordable and purchased right, shouldn’t impact your budget in a big way,” Weiss adds.
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Saving for the Future
We have also started thinking about college, especially because of the rising costs in education. Using your Social Security number, you can open a 529 Plan — an account that helps save funds specifically for college.
This raises a number of other financial questions related to how we budget for higher education going forward. How much will we need to save for our children to go to college? Should we plan for a specific type of school? Do we make it a priority for our kids to pay for some of their college themselves? Regardless, we’ll be starting a college fund as soon as the baby arrives.
And retirement is something that always comes up. Our financial planner highlighted the need to continue to save for our old age. While we weren’t too concerned at first, we made sure that a sufficient portion of my partner’s income is going towards a retirement plan.
Talking with a financial adviser has been very helpful. In fact, we continue to check in with her to make sure that our money is in order.
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3. Budgeting Appropriately
BabyCenter, a website focused on pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting, has a first-year baby costs calculator. It indicates that our estimated cost would be about $2,500.
While that might be low, I am assuming we will receive a lot of the big-ticket items as gifts from the baby shower or through hand-me-downs from friends and family. You should also consider childcare costs if you aren’t planning for one parent to stay at home.
I’m planning to stay home with the baby at first. But even so, I know our budget will change drastically as the year —and our child’s life — goes on.
“In my experience as a father, as well as a financial expert, budgeting appropriately is the most important consideration individuals need to make before deciding to become parents,” says financial educator and dad Joe Flanagan, an operations manager at My Trading Skills. “The budget for a child goes well beyond the cost of birth, which in itself is costly.”
“Future parents need to consider the cost of childcare, which is on the rise, housing, education, food, clothes, and entertainment, as well as the fact that as children grow older they become more expensive to maintain,” Flanagan adds.
“All of these costs, as well as any other child-related expenses, need to be carefully budgeted for annually so that individuals intending to become parents can plan accordingly.”
Looking at your current budget and thinking about what changes you’ll need to make is something you should definitely do ahead of the baby’s arrival.
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4. Planning to Take Time Off
Currently, I work as a freelancer. When I don’t work, I don’t get paid. A friend of mine who just had a baby finished medical school only a few weeks before the baby arrived. She is spending the next 12 weeks applying for jobs. Her hope is that she will be employed by the time the baby is old enough to go to daycare.
Another friend, who was in school and working a handful of jobs during pregnancy, decided to take a semester off. But she had saved enough by working at a summer camp and taking out some student loans to last a few months without a stable income. Additionally, this friend, as a single parent, applied for government assistance to support the baby.
Some people are lucky enough to receive paid time off. Others qualify only for the standard 12 weeks of unpaid leave from the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Keep in mind that if you’re a 1099 worker (or a contractor of a similar nature) or if you work for a company with fewer than 50 employees, you don’t qualify for unpaid leave through FMLA. As such, you’ll have to speak with your employer to work out a system that benefits both of you.
Final Tips to Prepare for a Baby
Take a look at your finances and see how long you can afford to go without pay. During pregnancy, take the time to contribute additional cash, if you can, to your emergency fund. This will ensure you’ll be well prepared if you need to take time off after delivery. If you have a partner, communicate with them to see if they also want to take time off.
While you may not be able to address every financial issue of having a baby, careful planning and saving will ensure you — and your newest family member — are prepared for almost anything.
Additional reporting by Connor Beckett McInerney.