Getting married and having a family was always important to Peter Thiede and David Contreras Turley, even as children. “But growing up in the 1980s, we never thought it would be possible,” says Turley, 44.
Thanks to New York State legislation and the landmark Supreme Court decision that granted federal marriage equality, as well as major advances in reproductive medicine, the New York City couple, who met in 2011 and were married in 2015, is now happily buried in diapers and pushing a triple stroller. “We’re living our wildest dreams,” Turley says.
Turley and Thiede, 43, are the proud fathers of three: a 21-month-old daughter and two sons, ages 5 months and 3 months. Yes, that’s right—three children under age 2. “It’s beautiful chaos,” says Thiede. “It’s everything we signed up for.”
Here’s how—with the expertise of Brooke H. Wertz, MD, MPH, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist, and her team at the NYU Langone Fertility Center, they achieved their dream family.
Choosing an Egg Donor
In May 2019, the couple met with Dr. Wertz at the Fertility Center. “We are committed to developing innovative approaches to achieving pregnancy,” Dr. Wertz says. “For Peter and David, like many other members of the LGBTQ+ community, this meant choosing an egg donor and a gestational carrier.”
Thiede and Turley elected to use fresh donor eggs, rather than frozen eggs from a donor bank. Fresh egg donation is the best option for people who want several children, which Thiede and Turley did. “Fresh egg donation typically produces 20 to 25 eggs, which can translate to 4 or 5 healthy embryos,” Dr. Wertz says. That number of embryos can support several pregnancy attempts.
To learn more about fertility services for the LGBTQ+ community, please visit the NYU Langone Fertility Center.
Next, the couple consulted with a psychologist at the Fertility Center to discuss issues such as addressing the details of the conception with their future children. They also talked through the traits they were seeking in an egg donor. Ultimately, Thiede and Turley hoped to find a donor who represented both of them. “We wanted to find someone with a background similar to our combined backgrounds, which has both Latino and Northern European heritage,” Turley says.
Egg donors must pass extensive screening procedures by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the New York State Department of Health, and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. These include medical and psychological examinations, genetic testing, drug screening, and testing for sexually transmitted diseases, which take place at the Fertility Center.
Within six weeks, by March 2020, the couple was matched with an anonymous egg donor who met their criteria based on her detailed profile and a photo of her as an adult and as a child. “We don’t know who that angel is,” Thiede says. “But she was a perfect match based on the criteria we were seeking. We were so blessed and excited.”
An embryologist then fertilized the harvested donor eggs in the laboratory with sperm from Thiede and Turley. “To increase the chances of a successful pregnancy through in vitro fertilization, we test the quality of the embryos using a process called preimplantation genetic testing or PGT,” Dr. Wertz says.
Selecting a Gestational Carrier
With IVF complete, the embryos are frozen and the search for a gestational carrier begins. A gestational carrier can be found through an agency that manages financial arrangements, or be “altruistic,” the term used when someone you know who is willing to carry a child. Thiede and Turley worked with a gestational carrier agency to select a compensated carrier who had previously carried a full-term pregnancy without uterine or fertility issues.
Because Thiede and Turley began their first gestational carrier process before compensated surrogacy became legal in New York State, all of their embryo transfers to a gestational carrier were performed out of state. The team at the Fertility Center facilitated shipping the embryos safely to the fertility clinics where the transfers took place. The entire process can now be performed in New York State, including at the Fertility Center.
The embryo was transferred into the gestational carrier’s uterus, and she was monitored for signs of pregnancy. Dr. Wertz and her team stay involved with the carrier’s pregnancy until a heartbeat is established. Then the carrier is discharged to her own obstetrician. The in vitro pregnancy success rate at the Fertility Center for euploid (normal) embryos is 65 to 70 percent, which is among the highest in the industry.
“Gestational carriers are amazing people,” Turley says. Thiede and Turley were involved throughout their carrier’s pregnancy. “We kept in close contact. We attended doctor’s appointments virtually. Our gestational carrier’s families felt like they became part of our family,” Thiede says.
After the birth of their daughter in August 2021, the couple used some of their remaining embryos for a second pregnancy with another gestational carrier they matched with through their agency, as well as a third pregnancy with the initial gestational carrier who was happy to be able to help them again. “We’re only getting older and we wanted to have as much time with our kids as possible,” Turley says.
Because pregnancies two and three overlapped, the couple welcomed two baby boys just two months apart, in January and March 2023.
Caring for three children under 2 “is like triaging,” Turley says. “We manage by playing to our strengths. I’m better in the morning, and Peter is better with the night shift.” Because both men work in New York State, they have access to paid family leave, which they have been taking together and staggering so that one of them is always home during the day for baby bonding.
Building a Family
Becoming a family of five usually takes longer, but Thiede and Turley were able to do it in a little over two years because they matched with each gestational carrier within six months, and their first carrier was willing to continue working with them.
“As they say, it takes a village to raise a child. That couldn’t have been truer than in our case,” Turley says.
In fact, “when you think about all the people in the lab, at the surrogacy agency, and the nursing and medical staff, it takes over a hundred people to build one family,” Dr. Wertz says. “But it is obviously very rewarding.”
“We are so thankful to our gestational carriers and Dr. Wertz and her team at the NYU Langone Fertility Center for helping us build our family,” Turley says.
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