Dr. Conrad Cean was nearing 40 when he felt his biological clock ticking — with no special someone to help him start a family.
So he did something that’s only recently become an option for single men: He turned to IVF and a surrogate halfway around the world to make a family of his own.
The 43-year-old pain specialist from New York City is now the proud, single father of 18-month-old twins, Konrad Fritz II and Kennedy-Josephine Marie. And he’s considering adding to his brood.
“I grew up in a very close family with two sisters, parents in Queens and cousins,” he told TODAY. “We’ve always been a tight family and I always wanted children.”
Cean's surrogate family takes on special poignancy in the wake of the blowup between British singer Elton John and the fashion designers Dolce & Gabbana after the founders recently championed "traditional" families and criticized fertility treatments in a magazine article.
Although no one keeps track, plenty of bachelors are intentionally having babies, though perhaps not “in the millions,” said Dr. Philip Werthman, director of the Center for Male Reproductive Medicine and Vasectomy Reversal in Los Angeles, who helps men optimize their sperm for IVF.
“The desire to be a parent is similar, whether you are gay, straight, in a relationship or not,” he said. “For these men, they are getting older, they have the resources and the love to give and they want to go ahead. Technology gives them the ability to have children outside traditional means.”
Cean said he planned to marry by 33 or 34, but his busy schedule interfered with finding the right woman.
“I had just finished my fellowship and was trying to get the lay of the land in the business of medicine,” said Cean. “I thought I would meet the right person, but I didn’t want to force anything.”
After two failed embryo transplantations in India in 2012, Cean went to Panama where for about two-thirds the cost of surrogacy in the United States, his twins were born on Aug. 30, 2013.
“I was ecstatic,” said Cean, who used his own sperm and is biologically related to the twins. “It’s other worldly, worth a thousand bucks, a million bucks. It’s hard to put into words.”
Stephanie Scott, executive director of Simple Surrogacy in Dallas, says she sees men like Cean “all the time.”
“Some of them have been focused on their careers for so long, they never got married,” she told TODAY. “A lot are afraid they have missed their opportunity and don’t want to wait and hope they’ll find the right woman.”
In gestational surrogacy, a woman is implanted with an embryo through in vitro fertilization using a donor egg and sperm. The baby is not genetically related to the surrogate mother.
In the United States, a man could spend up to $150,000 for all the medical costs, including $10,000 for an egg donor and $25,000 for the surrogate mother.
Scott arranged for Peter Gordon, a 48-year-old middle school teacher from Brimmer and May in Massachusetts, to have his twins with the help of a surrogate. His twins, 3-year-olds Noah and Olivia, were born in St. Louis.
“It’s funny,” he told TODAY. “I always said when I was in my 20s I would find the woman of my dreams and be married. But in my 30s I was at a junior boarding school and didn’t pay much attention to relationships. All of a sudden, I was in my 40s.”
Gordon said he made a “pact” with himself. If he reached 44 and was not married, he would look into an “alternative way” to have a family. The summer he turned 44, a relationship dissolved and he began to look into surrogacy, a lengthy project that, in the end, cost him $90,000.
“I had to qualify for loans and lines of credit,” he said. “I vetted agencies. I was meeting surrogates and getting an egg donor. It was all a blur. … Still, I was determined.”
The surrogate he chose was 23 and single, but had a child. “She made a decision she wanted to help others,” he said.
Gordon was in the delivery room at the full-term birth. The twins had a baby nurse and now a nanny, and he makes sure there are plenty of female influences in their lives.
“Oh my gosh,” he said. “It was the most unbelievable dream come true. It’s one of the hardest things I have ever done, but a lot of it is instinct. … From the minute they were born, they were in my arms and have been there ever since.”
Gordon says he still dates, when he can, but caring for twins is “tiring.”
“I still think it will happen,” he said of finding a wife. “And it would be great to share this with someone. … But that void I used to feel when I worked at boarding schools is no longer there, because my life is filled with my kids.”
As for Cean, he said that he, too, would still be open to marriage.
“I am definitely still looking,” he said. “My two biggest things are finding someone genuine and sweet with a kooky sense of humor. Someone offbeat.”
But his weekend family life is also full and rewarding: a Saturday gymboree class, naps and bottles, an afternoon walk in the park or drive out to Queens to see his parents, sister and cousins.
“My family was skeptical at first — obviously they would be,” said Cean. “But I have absolutely have no regrets.
“Hey, gay guys do it all the time. I told myself I was the straight half of a gay couple.”