GoStork Interview Series: Connecting Rainbows and Protecting Families with Gena Jaffe from connecting rainbows

Rebecca Hochreiter

CMO of GoStork

Gena Jaffe is a lawyer and a mom of two through RIVF. She’s also the founder of connecting rainbows, a helpful resource sharing educational and legal family building information with the LGBTQ+ community and connecting them with fertility specialists, such as lawyers and sperm banks, to help grow and protect families.

During our Instagram Live, Gena shared her personal family building journey through RIVF, essential information on establishing parental rights (including how being on the birth certificate isn’t enough), how second parent adoption works, the legal and financial differences between a known donor vs a donor from a sperm bank, what same sex parents should consider in creating their will, how her family celebrates Pride, and so much more!

Here’s a quick overview of the insight Gena shared with us on LGBTQ+ family building:

1. Reciprocal IVF

As Gena explains, her wife provided the eggs, and she carried both children. It wasn’t what they had initially planned, and there were some bumps along the way, but it was all worth it in the end.

2. What to look for in a fertility clinic

  • Reviews from other LGBTQ+ parents; ask your community what they think of a specific clinic.
  • Look through their website, the language they use, the information they provide on LGBTQ+ family building. A simple rainbow logo is not enough.
  • View the first appointment as an interview. Go in with a list of questions and concerns. How do you feel about the doctor and staff, are you a good match? Do you feel supported? Just because you interviewed a clinic, it doesn’t mean you have to go with that specific one.

Do fertility clinics test patients prior to starting treatment?

For lesbian couples, one may not realize that you can actually advocate for testing before starting IUI or IVF – even if you don’t think you have any issues that would affect your fertility. As Gena explains, testing is not routine practice in all clinics. However, there are things that can potentially prevent pregnancy that you wouldn’t know about without testing. She suggests asking for tests, such as a transvaginal ultrasound, an HSG, a test to check the uterine cavity, and hormone levels – basically, anything that can affect your fertility in any given month. These tests will only take one cycle and you’ll be giving yourself the best chance of getting pregnant.

How much should a lesbian couple save up in advance of their family building journey?

As Gena notes, there are many variables to the final cost. It depends if you’re using a sperm bank or a known donor, and if you’re doing at home insemination or IVF. That said, a typical journey may cost around $20,000, but given everything she and her wife faced, they spent around $50,000.

“It can seem overwhelming when you are in the beginning and you look at everything that it takes […]. Just take it step by step.”
Gena Jaffe, connecting rainbows

3. The differences between a known donor and a donor from a sperm bank

  • If you go through a sperm bank, the rights are already terminated as by making a donation, the donor is terminating his rights. Sometimes, the bank will have to submit a waiver to court, but you don’t need to do anything extra with a lawyer.
  • If you’re using a known donor, before you do anything at all, you need to have a contract drawn up that terminates the parental rights of the donor. This is crucial as if they don’t waive their rights, they can assert their parental rights down the line.
  • In terms of cost, legal fees (if using a known donor) vary by state. A vial of sperm (from a sperm bank) usually costs around $1000, but you’ll probably need more than one.
  • Gena explains that it is definitely cheaper to use a known donor. You do have to account for contract and lawyer fees, but a donor through a sperm bank is still more expensive, especially if it takes several rounds of at-home insemination to achieve a pregnancy.

4. Establishing parental rights for LGBTQ+ couples

In Gena’s case (RIVF with donor sperm), she and her wife started the second parent adoption process during the second trimester. In some states, this is called a step parent adoption.

When you are in an LGBTQ+ relationship where one person is giving birth, and the other may or may not have contributed genetic material, there is a legal process to follow. This is because it is almost always the person who carries who is considered the legal parent. So, Gena’s wife had to adopt her own genetic children in order to be considered the legal parent of the child.

  • While you may both be on the birth certificate, it does not mean both of you have legal parental rights.
  • A birth certificate is simply an administrative document governed by the law of the state in which the child was born. It is not a legal contract, and thus not something that can be relied on.
  • While you can start paperwork during pregnancy, the whole process cannot be completed before the child is born. Depending on the location, the legal process can cost around $3500.
  • Gena recommends doing the adoption process child by child and not waiting until your family is complete. Until the adoption is finalized, one of you will not be a legal parent.
  • There are risks to not completing the adoption process. While everything can be fine if you live in a liberal state and don’t travel a lot, issues can arise as to who gets custody in case of death or divorce. This is why it is recommended to complete the adoption process as soon as possible and child by child. Even twins require separate filings.
  • Gena also recommends sorting your will as early as possible. If you’re legally married, everything automatically passes on to your spouse. It’s best to talk to an estate planning attorney with LGBTQ+ experience. You can also name a guardian for your child.

“This area of law is very niche – people think that because they have the birth certificate […]., that it’s ok, because of marriage equality. But marriage equality does not equal parental equality.”
Gena Jaffe, connecting rainbows

5. Find your support system

For Gena, finding a community of other lesbian couples going through a fertility journey helped her get through her own. Finding a community, whether virtual or in person, provides “a safe place to land when something goes wrong”.

“My family building journey was an emotional rollercoaster, but very very worth it.”
Gena Jaffe, connecting rainbows

Thank you, Gena, for sharing such educational insight and for supporting and helping protect so many LGBTQ+ families!

Follow connecting rainbows on Instagram for legal and fertility information and tips.