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

A Gay Dad Wonders: What Will the 'Roaring Twenties' Bring?

Jim Joseph says he's looking forward to "moving forward in 2020" and in the decade to come!

The Roaring Twenties are upon us, and with the new decade comes great anticipation.

I remember as a kid that whenever a new decade came, it felt like "out with the old and in with the new." It seemed like pop culture and the way of doing things suddenly shifted. Witness 1979 into 1980 and the dawn of a new era in music, fashion, entertainment, and culture. Same with 1989 into 1990. Bam!

As I got older and started my own journey of growth, I started tracking decades by the milestones I had hit during each of the ten-year increments.

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Life

Gay Dads Tell Us Their Parenting Goals for 2020

Some are hoping to expand their families — others are hoping to keep the members they already have alive!

We asked our community on Instagram what their parenting goals were for 2020. Here are some of their responses.

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Life

10 Ways Gay Dads Inspired Us in 2019

No two gay parents have the same family creation story, but they still have one thing in common — they inspire us.

Every week, we bring you the stories of gay men and their families. While no two of these stories are the same, one thing they have in common is this — they inspire us. Check out 10 (out of the MANY!) ways gay dads moved us in 2019!

Keep reading...
News

Indiana Court Says Couples Using Sperm Donors​ Can Both Be Listed on Birth Certificate — But Ruling Excludes Male Couples

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the case, a major victory for LGBTQ parents — but the Attorney General may appeal to the Supreme Court.

On Friday, a US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling from a lower court that said that both parents in a same-sex relationship are entitled to be listed on the birth certificate — previously, the state of Indiana had required the non-biological parent within a same-sex relationship using assisted reproductive technologies to adopt their child after the birth in order to get her or his name listed on the birth certificate, a lengthy and expensive process not required of straight couples in the same situation.

It's a double standard LGBTQ parents have long been subjected to in many states across the country. So this represent a major win. As reported by CNN, this ruling "takes a lot of weight off" the shoulders of LGBTQ parents, said Karen Celestino-Horseman, a lawyer representing one of the couples in the case. "They've been living as families and wondering if this was going to tear them apart."

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals deliberated the case, according to CNN, for more than two and a half years, which is one of the longest in the court's history.

However, because all the plaintiffs in the case involved female same-sex couples using sperm donors, the ruling left open the similar question of parenting rights with respect to male couples. Indiana's Attorney General, moreover, may also appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

We'll be following the case closely and be sure to keep you up to date. For more on this recent decision, read CNN's article here.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

As a Gay Dad, What's the Impact of Letting My Son Perform Drag?

Michael Duncan was excited when his 10-year-old son asked if he could perform in drag for charity — but he also felt fear and anxiety.

As LGBT parents, we have all lived through some sort of trauma in our lives. For many it is the rejection of our family, being bullied, or abuse. We learn to be vigilant of our surroundings and often are very cautious of who we trust. As adults, we start to become watchful of how much we share and we look for "red flags" around every corner.

So, what effect does this have on our children? Does it unintentionally cause us to be more jaded with our interactions involving others? For some the answer may be a resounding "no." But as we look deeper into the situation, we often find that through survival our interactions with others have changed and we may not even realize exactly how much we are projecting on those around us.

Keep reading...
Diary of a Newly Out Gay Dad

A Gay Chiropractor Explains Why He Came Out to His Patients

After Cameron Call, a chiropractor, came out to his family this past year, he knew he had one more step to take — he had to come out to his patients

Fear is an interesting thing. It motivates when it shouldn't, shows at inconvenient times, and is the author of stories that do nothing but hold us back. I would argue though, too, that fear has some good qualities. I believe it helps us to feel. And I think it can be a great teacher as we learn to recognize and face it.

For years fear prevented me from embracing my truth and accepting a large part of who I am. I know I am not alone in that regard. But for so long my fear convinced me that I was. Fear is what kept me from ever telling my parents or anyone growing up that I am gay. Fear mingled with strong religious teachings, embraced at a young age, which led me to believe that I could cure myself of my attractions to the same gender. And fear is a part of what kept me in my marriage to a woman for over ten years.

Keep reading...
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Gains Clarity After a Health Scare

A recent health scare helped give Erik Alexander clarity.

Sometimes fear can cripple the mind and hinder ones judgement. Having children of my own, I have come to grips with accepting the things I cannot change and learned to take action when there is no other choice. When it comes to my own personal health, the future and well being of my family gives me all the clarity I need to make the right decision about any kind of health scare.

This episode is dedicated to all the parents out there that are going through or have gone through similar situations.

Keep reading...

Fatherhood, the gay way

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

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse