Gay Dad Life

A Game Show Winner on his Biggest Jackpot Yet: A Son

When Michael Bellavia first started looking into becoming a father he, like many gay men, was discouraged by the steep price tag. Unlike most gay men, however, his path to fatherhood was paved in gold. Twice. Michael's story is one of unbelievable good fortune that ultimately led Michael to the biggest jackpot of his life---a son.

As it is for most parents-to-be, timing for Michael, a New York native turned Los Angeles transplant, was important. “I had wanted to be a dad all along," Michael said. “Family had [always] been important; everything from carrying on the family name, to legacy, to the feeling that life wouldn't be complete without [experiencing] that part … But other things took priority along the way."

Those other priorities consisted of a production company he co-owned and ran, and an agency called HelpGood that, according to its website, “works with nonprofits, NGOs, government agencies and corporate social responsibility teams to develop cause marketing, communication and fundraising strategies that inspire action."

Then in his 30s, Michael viewed his businesses as his babies, and everyone who worked for him as his kids. But it didn't leave much time for the real deal.

He was also in a long-term relationship with a man who didn't want children but who was very supportive of Michael's own dream to have a family. Both thought they'd eventually come around to the other's way of thinking. That didn't happen.

When Michael reached 40, he realized that fatherhood wasn't going to happen magically. He needed to do something. Initially he looked into surrogacy but the associated costs quickly put that option out of reach. So Michael decided adoption was the next-best route for him and he became certified by the county of L.A. to adopt. His partner was supportive and became licensed as well, not with the intention of becoming an active parent, but to be supportive of Michael's journey.

Yet Michael's adoption process stretched on. Eventually, he began to research other ways to put surrogacy within financial reach: He looked overseas.

First he considered India, but that was quickly taken off the table as the laws changed right as Michael began his research. Then it was Thailand, but after reading about several problematic surrogacy events there, he decided not to pursue it. Finally, there was Mexico. But just as he was about to put down a sizable deposit with an agency, The New York Times ran an article on the agency's shady business practices. The agency quickly imploded, and Michael was back to square one.

That was it, Michael thought. He decided to keep pursuing adoption. Also, his business had not been as profitable as it had been in the past, and as a result surrogacy seemed increasingly out of reach.

In 2013 Michael's luck began to change. While cleaning out his grandparents' attic in New York, his cousins stumbled upon a garbage bag full of stock certificates. Their fresh-off-the-boat immigrant grandparents, who passed away 15 years prior, had been buying stock certificates on the side with their hard-earned pay. All turned out to be worthless, except one, which turned out to be worth several hundred thousand dollars. That money was split between family members, and Michael was one of the beneficiaries.

This bit of money put surrogacy back on the table, but it still wasn't enough...

Michael began to consider other ways to help raise the money. He had always been a fan of game shows and even had a history of competing on them. So when an opportunity to be on a new FOX network show called “Boom!" arose, he and two of his friends applied and were accepted.

Michael on "Boom!"

The show was taped in August 2014. It was a multiple-choice general knowledge quiz show and the prize money was up to $500,000. Every time a contestant answered a question, he or she had to snip a wire of the bomb; if the answer was wrong, the bomb would explode spraying ketchup, chocolate sauce or some other sticky substance. One of his teammates answered a question incorrectly and was covered in goo, but they still make it to the final round.

And from there, they won $300,000, split three ways. Suddenly, Michael's dream of fatherhood was in reach.

Dominik at 4 months old; Michael at 552 months old (= 46 years)

Still, he hadn't settled on an egg donor. He decided to ask a close friend, Jessie, if she'd be willing to donate. She agreed, but originally with one condition: she would be his donor, but nothing more. As they began the egg retrieval process, however, Jessie changed her mind and asked if she could play a larger role in the baby's life. Michael, having already offered a closer relationship, didn't hesitate to accept the new terms.

2015 was a blur of non-stop activity and life events for Michael. They went through three surrogates before finding the right one. Jessie met Erika, the woman of her dreams, and got married. Michael and his partner reached a crossroads and after 15 years together, they amicably split. But most importantly: Michael became a dad when his son, Dominik, was born on July 7 of that year. There were four of them in the birthing room along with the surrogate: Michael, Jessie, Erika and Michael's ex who remained supportive (and still is) throughout the entire journey.

Dominik is now almost 22 months old. Michael, Jessie and Erika co-parent him together and, after a few initial figuring-out moments, all is going well. Michael emphasizes that communication is key and could not be happier with his family's dynamic.

Michael has also been dipping his toes back into the dating pool, and has been actively seeing someone for the past 21 months. They met just two weeks after Dominik was born (via Michael's hilarious Instagram feed) and they're still having fun together.

Michael was initially surprised by people's responses to him as a single gay dad. “Frankly, I felt like I got more interest," he said. “ I don't know if they saw a responsible dude or if they saw a "daddy" who is now a Daddy."

Michael has zero regrets about his path to parenthood, except perhaps maybe one. “I do sometimes get these pangs of 'I wish I'd done this earlier so that I would be around for more of his life,' " shared Michael. “I don't think I'm going to be grandpa, and that isn't scary but it is disappointing."

But there were moments when Michael thought he'd never become a dad so realizing that dream has made him happier than he ever thought possible.

As it was for Michael, becoming a parent via surrogacy can be out of reach for many would-be gay dads. But he does have some advice for those that want to try:

  1. “Do you need that $4 crappuccino? No! Take that money and put it in the baby basket."
  2. Talk to a financial consultant.
  3. Consider alternative families such as co-parenting with a lesbian couple.
  4. Make sure to check every garbage bag when cleaning out a deceased relative's attic.
  5. Check your state's unclaimed funds office - every state has one and your family might have money there too.
  6. And if you live in the New York or Los Angeles area, check out Craigslist for game show auditions, because you just never know...

Check out more family profiles here:

After a Harrowing Delivery, Barry's Bootcamp CEO Welcomes Home a Baby Boy

Afraid of Adopting from Foster Care? These Dads Say Don't Be

A Dad Finds Hope After a Failed Adoption

Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Life

'NolaPapa' Launches YouTube Channel: Story of a Gay Dad

Check out Erik Alexander's new YouTune Channel: Story of a Gay Dad

When we first found out that our second daughter was African American I froze. Not because of her race, but because I knew NOTHING about African American hair. So I frantically tried to learn as much as I could while she was a newborn so I was ready to style it when she was a little older.

I decided to launch our YouTube channel Nolapapa: Story of a Gay Dad to focus on this very topic! Episodes 1-5 will solely be dedicated to learning how to wash, care for and styling African American hair. Afterwards, the content will shift towards personal & family situations, adoption, gay parenting questions and other great content! I'd love your support and become part of our little village as we launch this new project!

Sending Nola love to each of ya!

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Encouraged by His Son, Single Dad Richard Started Dating Again — and Just Got Married!

After his 14 year relationship ended, Richard got a gentle push into the dating pool from an unexpected source — his son!

In 2014, Richard Rothman's relationship of 15 years ended, leaving him understandably reluctant to jump back into the world of dating as a single gay dad. But after spending one too many Friday nights at home, he got a gentle nudge from somebody unexpected —his teenaged son, Jonathan.

"Dad," Jonathan said. "Would you just get out of the house and go on a date already?" (You may remember wise-beyond-his-years Jonathan from this post that went viral of a tattoo he got commemorating his adoption day.)

On his son's encouragement, Richard started dipping a tentative toe back into the dating pool. In 2015, he met Kevin thanks to mutual friends that introduced them via social media. It took four months before Richard introduced Kevin to his son, who was a Sophomore in high school at the time.

On New Year's Eve in 2017, Kevin proposed while the couple was vacationing in Palm Springs. The city has an outdoor festival every year, he explained, which the couple attended. The band Plain White T's happened to be performing their hit "Hey There Delilah" as Kevin got down on one knee and proposed. "Now whenever I hear that song it brings back memories of that night," Richard said.

Richard and Kevin married on March 30, 2019 back at the scene of the crime — in Palm Springs, at the Frederick Loewe Estate. Jonathan was Richard's best man, and also walked him down the aisle (awwww.....). Kevin's brother Bobby served as his best man.

"As so many wonderful moments continue to happen for us in Palm Springs, we now own a home there in addition to our primary residence in Bentonville, Arkansas," said Richard.

Check out video from the couple's special day below!

And Jonathan is now an E4 Master-at-Arms in the US Navy.

Gay Uncles

Gay Uncles are an Essential Part of This Gay Dad Family's Village

It takes a village to raise a child, and this village includes many gay uncles

In November last year, Ottawa-based husbands Matt Ottaviani and Rej Gareau (whose story we shared in July) became first-time dads through surrogacy. They were overjoyed to welcome their daughter Andy and become a family of three.

But as many of us know, raising a child isn't always just about the nuclear family. The African proverb "it takes a village to raise a child" is a commonly repeated phrase, and rings very true for many families. Matt and Rej are no different, and when they shared their story last month, one thing jumped out to us: the important role Andy's guncles play in her and her dads' lives.

In honor of Gay Uncles Day today, we reached out to Andy's many guncles to learn first-hand how their relationship with the family affects their lives. Here's what they had to say.

Keep reading... Show less

'Life Is Amazing': Congrats to Gay Dads Whose Families Recently Grew!

Help us congratulate gay dads on their recent births and adoptions last month!

Wishing all of these gay dads whose families expanded in the last month or so a lifetime of happiness! Congrats to everyone in our community on their recent births and adoptions!

Keep reading... Show less
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

We Gained a Son Through Foster Care — He Didn't Lose his Family

Foster-adopt expert Trey Rabun writes a moving essay about his own experiences as a parent in the foster care system.

My husband, Phil, and I talked about having children since out first date over 11 years ago. Like many other gay dads, we waited to start the journey to become parents until we felt secure with our careers, finances, and home life. This meant we didn't start the partnering journey until 2016 when we were eight years into our relationship.

When we first met, I was completing my graduate studies in social work and subsequently started a career working in foster care and adoption. This made our decision to pursue foster care-adoption as our path to parenthood a fairly easy one. In fact, I can't recall us discussing other avenues to parenthood, but I'm sure we briefly discussed them before solidifying our decision to become foster parents.

Keep reading... Show less
Change the World

In the Philly Area? Attend 'Family Pride' On October 5th!

Philadelphia Family Pride is hosting their 10th Annual "Family Matters" Conference on October 5th for LGBTQ parents, prospective parents, and their kids!

Guest post by Stephanie Haynes, the executive director of Philadelphia Family Pride

On Saturday, October 5, 2019, Philadelphia Family Pride will hold their 10th Annual Family Matters Conference from 9am to 3:30pm for LGBTQ parents, prospective parents and their kids of all ages at the University of the Sciences in West Philadelphia. The theme this year is "Telling Our Stories." Registration is now open!

In an interactive keynote, Anndee Hochman, author of the Philadelphia Inquirer's weekly "Parent Trip" column, will share highlights from her work as a journalist and memoirist. She'll invite conversation about the stories that shape us—what tales do we share? who does the telling? who is left out?—and how those stories, added up, are changing the world. Read her bio.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Adoption

5 Things to Keep in Mind When Preparing for Your Home Study

Molly Rampe Thomas of Choice Network lists the 5 things gay men should keep in mind when preparing for your home study

The homestudy is the first step in the adoption process. In every state the homestudy is done a little differently, but all of them have the some combo of paperwork, trainings, and interviews. The homestudy can take anywhere from 2 months to 6 months to complete. Without it, you cannot adopt.

Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse