Help Ben and Erik Holladay-McCann start a family!

For: Ben and Erik Holladay-McCann
Colorado
Organizer: Benjamin Holladay-McCann
Help Ben and Erik Holladay-McCann start a family! (Ben and Erik Holladay-McCann)
$35,330
of $120,000 goal
29% Complete
Raised by 40 donors

The Story

We're beginning our journey to parenthood! Well - we've actually been on the journey for a while now. We've been saving money ever since our wedding and have spent lots of time researching our options. We decided that surrogacy is right for us, and we are beyond excited to take the next steps towards becoming parents. 

However, becoming gay parents, we've found, is incredibly difficult! While we found an incredibly generous person to be our egg donor and have an excellent surrogacy agency helping us through the process, there are a lot of challenges in our way, the biggest being the financial burden. We've made a lot of progress over the years through savings, but still have a long way to go. We believe that 2017 is the year that we will start our family, so we're reaching out to you - our extended family - to ask for your help and support in making our dream come true. We're also going to get creative by taking advantage of discounted or pro bono services, applying for grants, maybe even having Ben sell some of his knitted designs! But any bit helps, so no matter how much you are willing to give, we are incredibly grateful for your love and support.

Another thing we should add--our number is a ballpark estimate on what we need. One thing we've learned through our research is that surrogacy has a LOT of variables that make estimating the amount needed very difficult. We're pledging to do whatever we can to minimize the expense, so whatever funding is left over, we will be paying it forward to another family who is is trying to start a family. So, you may be helping out more people than you know with your support! 

With love,
Ben and Erik

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on November 25, 2017

Posted on November 25, 2017

Update 9 – A loss and a setback

Well, it is with heavy hearts that we have to share some sad news. Unlike the last post, this one doesn’t have a happy ending.

Erik and I received a voicemail yesterday from our doctor at InVia Fertility. Unfortunately, the test came back on the chromosome testing and both of the embryos we had left were abnormal. While we don’t have specifics yet on what was actually wrong, essentially neither of the embryos are viable to be transferred to a surrogate. We are back to square one and emotionally devastated with this news. Virtually all of our savings has been spent on this process, and we’re not sure what, if anything, we can salvage.

With it being Thanksgiving week and some poor cell service, we actually missed the call from our doctor. In a way, this was a blessing—we got to enjoy time with our family and not be burdened with the news until we got home from visiting. However, we have yet to actually connect with our doctor, so there’s still a lot we don’t know, and a lot of questions we have on how to move forward. Financially, we are not in a position to do anything right now, but talking with her will help shed some light on what our options are and how we should think about our next steps.

Before we received the results, I had intended this update to be a sort of “year in review” post. I want to still share some of the highlights and facts of our journey, because I think it’s important for people to know just how far we’ve come together despite this loss.

It’s been almost exactly one year since we started, and it’s been an incredible journey. Erik and I have grown so much closer as a couple, we’ve learned an incredible amount about surrogacy, and are still so excited to be parents one day. We’ve been incredibly blessed with the support and love from everybody, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that we have an amazing support network of the people who surround us.  As an accountant, I like to believe that the numbers don’t lie, and I think the facts below show just how powerful kindness can be:

  • Our total expenses incurred to date are $49,312.01. This includes both fundraising and education, (about $800 dollars), and the biggest chunk of course being the egg retrieval and embryo creation (roughly $48,500).
  • Despite that high number, we were able to cover $16,180.10 from discounts and pro bono services. That’s nearly a third of the expenses that we were able to avoid, and it’s amazing that we have angels of individuals looking out for us to help us with this.
  • The total out-of-pocket payments that we made totaled to $33,131.91. Most of this was from our savings from our day jobs, but also with the help of selling items through my knitting website and picking up odd jobs here and there. Knitting for hire isn’t exactly lucrative, but every bit helps.
  • We raised nearly $1,900 from this community on YouCaring. Your generous outpouring really helped us with some unexpected expenses, and we are so grateful for your help and support of our dream of becoming parents.
As I said before, we still need to talk with InVia about if any of our costs are recoverable. It could very well be that we need to spend another $40,000 dollars just to create the embryos again, and as we’ve seen, there is no guarantee in this process. Despite all the pretests we could possibly do, you never know how things are going to turn out until they happen.

Despite all the unknowns at this point, we know we are going to continue on a journey to become parents. When or how is still to be determined, and when we know, we’ll share those updates with you. But above all, thank you for being with us through this difficult time. We love each and every one of you.

Posted on November 17, 2017

Posted on November 17, 2017

Update 8 – Life Gives You What You Need


Brace yourself – this is going to be a long update, but it does end well!

For those of you who know me, you know that I love a good plan and sticking to it. I like when things happen on schedule and when everything is in its right place. Going through surrogacy is an exercise in patience--despite our best efforts, nothing goes to plan. I'm learning that isn't necessarily a bad thing, but there is so much control you have to let go of when going through surrogacy. It's a challenge to say the least.  

The past few weeks have been incredibly emotional, filled with ups and downs. Like I said in the last update (which, I glanced down and saw that was in AUGUST...), we will go for long stretches of time waiting, and then many events will happen simultaneously. After our egg donor was medically cleared, we began working with our clinic to plan the egg retrieval. Due to our donor's work schedule, it looked like October was going to be the best time to do the retrieval. This was going to be perfect! Erik was already planning on going to Michigan to photograph a wedding, and I was planning on being in Michigan for work as well. We would be able to go to Chicago together with our donor, be there for the procedure, and we were going to get 20 eggs and it was going to be great. 

Except things never go to plan, thanks to that pesky thing called biology. There is so much of the science that I do not understand, but I will do my best to explain what happened. In order to start the egg donation cycle, the doctor must choose the precise moment to begin medication and then periodically monitor how our donor responds. This basically involves a blood test to inspect hormone levels (and other things, I'm sure). The problem was, our donor had a certain hormone level that was too high that would interfere with the medication. It wasn't anything to worry about, our donor is perfectly healthy, but in this case, the medications wouldn't have been effective. In order to proceed, all we could really do was wait until the hormone levels returned to normal with our donor. After three weeks of our donor patiently driving to her outside monitoring clinic and having her blood drawn, it was finally determined that the levels were normal and she was ready to start medications. Hurray!! The downside to all this waiting is that Erik and I missed our window to be with her during the actual egg retrieval, which we were really looking forward to. More on that in a minute.

So, our egg donor was finally ready to begin medications, and let me tell you, our donor is a superstar for going through this for us. If you know anyone who has ever donated eggs, give them a hug and say thank you. It’s not an easy process. In essence, it is shots for 10-14 days, blood draws, ultrasounds, and culminating in an outpatient procedure. The doctor is constantly monitoring the donor to decide the precise moment for the “trigger shot” which is the last shot the donor takes before the procedure. None of this is exactly pleasant for the donor—the side effects of the medications can be uncomfortable, not to mention the shots are self-administered.  It’s extraordinary that we have this person in our life willing to go through so much for us to start a family. Honestly, I don’t know what we did to deserve such a gift. I’m also thankful that our donor’s partner was there to help her through it all. It’s one more person in the constellation of individuals helping making our dream of having a baby come to life.

While our donor was having her procedure, Erik and I were literally waiting for a plane to take off on our way to New York City where we attended the Men Having Babies(MHB) conference. We weren’t originally planning on going to one of these conferences—we had received a lot of information from the MHB website and YouTube channel, and our surrogacy agency (Colorado Surrogacy) and IVF clinic (InVia Fertility) have been amazing resources. However, a new requirement for the MHB grant program was added this year, which was attending one of their conferences. From the application instructions we received, it sounded like some of the parents who were approved in the past weren’t exactly ready for the process, so this was a way to ensure intended parents were educated enough to go the distance. Fortunately, we had saved up enough hotel and airline points to make the trip relatively cheap. The conference was great, but it was catered more for intended parents who are just starting the process. Many of our decisions have already been made—who the donors will be, our clinic, our surrogacy agency, etc. Heck, our donor literally just had her egg retrieval! However, we were able to get good information on deciding on a surrogate, and we also had an amazing experience listening to teenagers and adults who were born from surrogacy and have two dads. Overall, a memorable experience.

However, all of these events happening simultaneously were stressful, to say the least. As I mentioned, Erik and I were at the airport when our donor was going through her egg retrieval. I'll never forget the moment when we received a message from our donor’s partner telling us that everything was fine and that the doctor was able to retrieve eight eggs. At first we were very excited. Eight eggs! That seemed like a lot! Wait, is it a lot? Our clinic assured us that this was a successful retrieval and eight was a great number to have. After all, you really only need one. So, we felt good about eight. They told us that the next step in the process was fertilizing the eggs, and our total number may go down after that.

So, we anxiously awaited the news on how many were fertilized. In fact, it was in the middle of a break at the conference when we received the phone call telling us to check the patient portal. Erik scrambled to pull up the results on his phone and…..! Four. Four eggs were fertilized. Wait… what? But we started with eight! We knew not all of them would make it, but this seemed harsh. All of the sudden, it started to feel like the Hunger Games with these eggs. Or maybe Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Eight eggs enter, four leave fertilized. Regardless of your preferred dystopian movie reference, the dread we felt was very real. The note we received on the patient portal said that the eggs go to incubate for five days, and after that they will check and see how many develop to the blastocyst phase, which is when they are ready to be frozen. Again, the note told us that not all of them make it to this next phase.

The lunch we had after receiving that news was less than satisfying. While most of the men at the conference went to go explore the various providers, Erik and I contemplated on what this meant. While asking around, we found out that four fertilized was actually a good number, and again, “you only need one.” Right, but what happens if that one doesn’t take? Would we need to start all over? Could we ask our donor if she wanted to go through a retrieval cycle again, and would she even say yes? It was overwhelming. At times I started to tear up thinking about those four little embryos.

While mentally trying to sort this out, I sent a note to the coordinator at the IVF clinic just to get some reassurance. In fact, I the subject line of my email was “need some reassurance.” Our coordinator has been fabulous throughout this entire process—always thoroughly explaining things, incredibly supportive, always looking for ways to help us reduce costs, etc. I asked her what she thought and what we should be thinking about if this wasn’t successful. The email that I got back literally made me cry—like always, she took the time to write a thoughtful email answering all my questions, and most importantly reminding me that “sometimes life gives you what you need.” And again, we only need one.

Of course, we were still anxious and eager to see how many results developed, and yesterday we found out that two had made it. Two! The other two didn’t develop after fertilization, but two were doing very well. Perfect, in fact. Those aren’t my words—the clinic grades each embryo based on several factors, and both of ours were 4AA. According to them, those are two perfect embryos. Life gives you what you need.

So what is next for us? Well, we’re not quite out of the woods yet with these embryos. They are being frozen now, but the clinic also biopsied both of them for PGS testing. This is where they are checking for any chromosomal abnormalities. We should receive those results back in a few weeks, and fingers crossed, both will be a-ok (or maybe, 4AA-ok?). Other than waiting though, our next real big step is saving up for the next milestone which is finding a surrogate. I’d love for this to happen next year—we already have a few funding sources identified, and fingers crossed we will get good news from the MHB grant program. Whatever happens will happen, and with next week being Thanksgiving, I know that Erik and I both have much to be thankful for. It’s been an amazing year, and we are so much closer to becoming parents.


Posted on August 11, 2017

Posted on August 11, 2017

Update 7 - When things come together

This ride is certainly a roller coaster. It's not a bad thing, but we will go weeks without hearing anything and not making any progress to hitting several milestones at once. What causes the delay? Usually, it's schedules. It's unbelievable how many schedules we have to coordinate, between Erik and me, our lawyer, our doctor, our donor, our donor's lawyer, other clinics, and probably a few other parties I'm forgetting. That being said, we have a few big updates that we're ready to share with you all! 

First, our egg donor completed her medical tests, and she's cleared to be our donor! All of the tests indicated that she's a great candidate for egg retrieval, which means we can expect to get multiple eggs. I've learned that a lot of this process can be a bit of a numbers game. You might start with 10 eggs, but only 8 are healthy enough to become embryos. After fertilization, they check to see which embryos are progressing, and maybe you end up with 5. Then, there's genetic testing, and maybe 4 come back normal. That doesn't leave a ton of margin for error in case the embryo doesn't transfer successfully, etc.  So, knowing that we're in good shape to start retrieval and expect to have plenty of eggs is a huge weight off our shoulders. I have a strong feeling we're going to be successful!

Since finding out that great news, our next step has been working with our lawyer to set up the egg donation agreement. There are so many things you don't think about that go into this type of arrangement. Fortunately, we have an awesome lawyer in Ellen (http://trachmanlawcenter.com/) and she's helped us navigate the agreement. Fun fact: for this type of agreement, the intended parents also pay for the donor's lawyer as well. We've nearly finalized the agreement, so once those get signed, the fertility clinic gets legal clearance for us to continue moving forward. 

That said, we've already been working with our clinic (http://www.inviafertility.com/) to get the schedule ball rolling, and it looks like we're going to have the egg retrieval scheduled in early October! There is a LOT of preparation that goes into this. Erik and I both need blood drawn, Erik has done genetic testing, our donor has about 10 doctor's appointments that she'll be getting ready for, etc. It's so much to keep track of, but fortunately InVia has an amazing coordinator that has kept us informed with everything we need to do. It's complex, but we feel great about the direction we are heading in.

Our last bit of big news is that we just submitted our application to Men Having Babies, a grant program that works with gay men who are having a child through surrogacy. It was so satisfying to get all of the information they requested together and sent off, and we are very hopeful to hear good news so that we can continue on in the process. We'll know more in the beginning of 2018, which is actually good timing for us. Once we have our embryos created, we plan on cryopreserving them until we have enough funding to continue and have identified a gestational carrier. In a perfect world, we'll reach our funding goals by next summer and will be ready to actually have a baby on the way!

So, what can you do to help in the meantime? Share our story! We have such a long ways to go that sometimes it feels a bit unachievable, but we've already felt so much support from everyone that we know we're going to make it on the right timeline. So far we've received about 8% of our total funding from crowdsourcing, which feels amazing! Again, we can't thank you enough for the your help. 

Fall and winter are right around the corner, despite the current temperature readings! With that in mind, I'm available to knit gifts! Feel free to contact me through my website: (www.noahnoacrafts.com) I'm continuing to take commissions, and I also have a few finished hats for sale. More items are definitely coming soon! Erik is also available for photography services through his business: (http://www.holladay.photo). We want to find as many ways as we can to give back and pay your kindness forward, so if you have other ideas, feel free to share them with us!

Thanks again for keeping up on our journey. We may go quiet again for a little bit just since October seems to be the next big milestone, but if any other updates happen between now and then, we'll be sure to let you know!

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