Gay Dad Life

Baby Love: How Amber Made A Gay Couple's Dreams Come True

This is the story of Baby Love. Baby Love isn’t her real name; it is the name we chose for the purposes of this story. One reason we are going to call her Baby Love is that her parents would like to give her a choice when she grows up to keep this story to herself. More to the point, we are calling her Baby Love because three people took every ounce of their love, from the far corners of New York to the depths of Texas, to bring Baby Love into this world.  If you stick with the story, you will hear about the moment Baby Love was born.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Amber, the surrogate who carried Baby Love. Amber will be the guest at the Men Having Babies (“MHB”) Pride meeting this week in New York. This is a real cause for celebration for anyone who cares about our gay families. MHB has grown from a program that ran at the NYC LGBT Center starting in 2005 to an independent nonprofit organization that provides valuable invaluable support to prospective gay fathers, including online resources, ratings of surrogacy agencies and fertility clinics, seminars, exhibits and workshops worldwide.

Most importantly, MHB provides prospective fathers who cannot afford the expenses involved with parenting through surrogacy with over a million dollars’ worth of cash grants, discounts and free services from about forty leading service providers through the Gay Parenting Assistance Program (“GPAP”). To date GPAP has already provided almost 200 couples with access to substantial discounts, and more than two dozen couples and singles received full support, including grants and free service. These prospective parents, who otherwise may have not been able to complete this journey, were chosen by a grant committee. As of today, about 10 babies are already expected to be born later this year, with many more to come. Applications for stage I of the program is open year round, and stage II applications for 2016 are received from eligible stage I recipients until August 1.

The celebratory Pride meeting of the organization will take place at 6:30pm on Wednesday June 17 at the JCC Manhattan. It will start with a networking reception, with a short briefing by the organization’s board about recent developments, future plans and opportunities to get involved. Following the reception Amber and the parents she helped will tell their stories. Tissues and light refreshments will be provided.

This story began ten years ago when Amber, pregnant with her first son, decided that she would be a surrogate one day. Amber doesn’t remember where she heard about this option, but what she does remember is that, from that moment on, for ten whole years, she knew she would one day carry a child for another family. For the most part Amber’s pregnancies were easy: she enjoyed them, and she even said that she felt like she “could be pregnant forever.” Despite her amazing outlook and good pregnancies, there were moments that weren’t easy, but none of these hardships came close to stopping Amber from pursuing her dream.

When I asked Amber what pushed her all this time, she said that, as a mother, she couldn’t imagine someone not being able to start a family because they couldn’t have a child on their own. She knew she wanted to give this gift, not only to them, but also to herself.

Five years ago, Amber, by then a mother of three, moved to Texas, where surrogacy is legal; and the moment she and her family unpacked, she started exploring it. For a long time she was a fly on the wall on Facebook groups dedicated to surrogates and their networks, and she recommended that any women considering surrogacy do the same: hear the stories, the lovely with the ugly, the good with the bad. Amber, in a way that is typical for her personality, spent a long time researching agencies, clinics and speaking with surrogates who had gone through this journey. So it was hardly surprising that, three days after she submitted her application to her preferred agency, she got matched with a gay couple from New York. Two days later she had her first phone call with the intended parents. I asked Amber about the moment before she hit “send” on her application. She remembered that she had butterflies because she had put so much of herself into it. She felt very vulnerable.

It had been a while since everyone on that phone call had been on a first date , but that’s exactly what it felt like. Excitement mixed with anxiety is how they all described that call. Amber remembers the exact date: January 8. Will she like us? Will they like me? Can I make sure I make a good impression while being completely honest? Is this the right person for us?

Amber says that she got some very good advice from an experienced surrogate before the call, who told her not to say “yes” just because she felt excited to start the process. But after an hour-long conversation, which had no awkward silences, it took both parties less than two minutes to write back to the agency and say: YES YES YES.

Amber told me that a few days ago while going through some documents she re-read the couple’s application. She said that everything they wrote in that application was spot-on, and that everything they had hoped for happened. She attributes this to both parties being emotionally ready and being in the right place at the right time.

Amber didn’t ask to be matched with a gay couple in her application, but she knew she would end up working with a gay family; maybe that is why she didn’t feel the need to be specific about it. Amber’s daughter has a disability, one of the intended dads is a cancer survivor who walks with a prosthetic leg. Amber felt that commonality brought them together. The next event that brought them closer together was a failed transfer. Amber and the intended parents had only two embryos from their initial harvest, simply bad luck. So when they found out that the pregnancy didn’t take, not only were they extremely sad about the devastating news, they also didn’t know what would happen next. Amber was very upset and emotional, and the intended parents were concerned about Amber much more than the pregnancy. This concern, and their commitment to stick through this together, is what brought them closer. This is not an uncommon human experience: families, friends and even coworkers can grow closer through hardship. But the fact that these people who were strangers until a few short months ago found comfort in each other – no blame, just compassion – was a true testament to their unique and wonderful relationship.

“Looking back, I wish I could have been able to explain to them what a highly emotional person I am. I wrote it in my application, I told them again and again, but I don’t think they knew how real it was until that failed transfer,” Amber told me. Amber recognized that a mismatch of intended parents and surrogate around these types of personalities can be devastating to their relationship. She points out that their success was not only a result of their match, but also due to their ongoing lively and loving communication.

Attached

At last, Amber said the word that I was waiting for the whole conversation. She said she was very attached to the process and that is why the failed transfer was so hard on her. So I asked the question that everyone asks the first surrogate they meet: “Were you concerned you would get attached to the baby growing inside you?”

“I don’t want to sound crass or insensitive,” Amber said, “but I wasn’t worried about that at all. This embryo that grew to be a fetus and then a baby was put in my care to grow and I was responsible to protect it for 10 months. I am not her mother, I didn’t worry about the day after she was born and my focus was surrounding a healthy pregnancy. I wasn’t a pregnant mother, I was a pregnant woman.” If you talk to Amber you quickly find out how goal-oriented she is and how passionate she is about those goals. So for those 10 years, all she could imagine was handing a child over to a family that wanted a child. This was Amber’s goal as she set out on this journey.

On the morning of the delivery, Amber went to see her doctor, checked into Labor and Maternity, and called the intended parents, her husband, her best friend, and the photographer whom she had asked to document the birth. This was Amber’s gift to Baby Love. Amber is something of a prophet; she knew something about this moment to come that no one else could predict. Amber knew that memories would never be enough in order to capture that moment when she delivered Baby Love and handed her over to her parents. Amber, more than anything, wanted this child to be able to see that moment with her own eyes. Amber wanted Baby Love to know how many people loved her and truly wanted her in this world and she set out to document this precious event. She wanted the parents of Baby Love to see what she saw in that moment: her dads holding her in her arms. Baby Love was born, and rivers of love poured out of that delivery room. The nurses, doctors, and other families in L&D;, for many of them the first time they have encountered a surrogate birth, all learned something about our families that they didn’t know before.

I asked Amber if she was worried that maybe one day the parents of Baby Love would choose not to tell her about her surrogate carrier, and maybe that was why she wanted it documented, so there was proof that she was part of her creation.   Amber told me that when Baby Love was a few months old she visited her in New York and the four of them sat at a restaurant for brunch. A woman stopped by Amber and said, “Your baby is so beautiful.” It took Amber only a second to say, “These guys are her parents; I only helped her come into the world.” Amber was never worried about her place in this story; she and the parents spoke about it many times before they started the process. She wanted to give Baby Love and her parents something she regretted not doing for her own kids, a glimpse into the moment they arrived into this world.

I asked Amber how she feels now, and she told me that she is simply proud. She is proud of herself, of her family, of the new dads and of Baby Love. The moment Baby Love was born she was extremely proud and honored, and this is something she will carry with her for the rest of her life.

Amber continued the story about the woman at the restaurant: “After I told her that I was the surrogate the woman got very emotional, she told me that her boss had just started this process and that when she tells him about their inadvertent yet very meaningful meeting he is going to be so excited to hear that this is a real possibility.” This is why Amber wanted to tell her story; she wants people to know this is a possibility for them too.

Photo credit: All photos in this article are courtesy of Natasha Hance – NHancePhotography.com

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Gay Dad Life

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Easter and spring time are here with their pastel palettes, giant bunnies, and eggs for days. And yesterday was Passover, so happy Pesach!

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In my two months as a parent, I've had the pleasure of meeting a lot of new parents. As a gay dad, I am the one signing up for little activity groups and social gatherings with other new parents. I am often the only father in the room. I find myself trying to "fit in" by discussing all of the things that new moms talk about: nap schedules, feeding, baby gear and "that the sidewalks are too narrow!" But there are some topics of conversation to which I cannot contribute (e.g., breast feeding). As a social person, this can leave me feeling a little isolated, almost as if I exist just outside the real parenting bubble. Because being a mom is different.

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Here we are now, pregnant again with our son which we revealed Live on Facebook! We're due in August, we're now writing several blogs, social media influencers and launching a new business focusing on our main mission to support others and being advocates for UK surrogacy. It's no wonder we're shattered!

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Change the World

Three Eagles, Two Male one Female, Form Nontraditional Family

Three bald eagles in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge are sharing a nest and incubating eggs together

According to the Advocate, three bald eagles — two male and one female — are sharing a nest and incubating eggs together.

"Families come in all shapes and sizes, and that's true for wildlife too!" wrote the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services on Facebook. "Meet Valor I, Valor II and Starr, a breeding trio of bald eagles that live along the Mississippi River in Illinois. For several years, fans from all over the world have been watching this nontraditional family through a webcam as the eagles deal with the trials and tribulations of parenting."

The thruple came to be in unique way. "The nest was originally inhabited by Valor I and another female eagle named Hope," wrote the Advocate. "Initially, Valor I had poor parenting skills — he didn't hunt or guard the nest while Hope was away. Valor II entered the nest in 2013 to pick up the slack — and taught Valor I some parenting skills in the process. Hope left the nest in March 2017 after she was injured by other birds. But instead of going off to find new mates, the male eagles decided to stick together until Starr joined their nest in September 2017."

Though rare, this isn't the first time that a trio of eagles have come to share nests in this way. According to USA Today, other trruples were have been spotted in Alaska in 1977, in Minnesota in 1983 and in California in 1992.

Check out this family below!


Trio Eagle Cam Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge Live Stream www.youtube.com

Change the World

These Guys Are Proof: Bisexual Dads Exist!

Far more LGBTQ parents fall into the "B" category than any other. Here are three of their inspiring stories.

A couple months ago, Gays With Kids received the following message via one of our social media channels:

"Hey guys, love what you do. But where are your stories about bi men who are dads? Do they not exist? I get the sense from your page that most queer dads identify as gay. I identify as bi (or pansexual) and want to become a dad one day, but just never see my story represented. Are they just not out there?"We can say with resounding certainly that YES bisexual dads absolutely exist. In fact, of all the letters in our acronym, far more LGBTQ parents fall into the "b" category than any other.

But our reader is certainly right in one respect--we don't hear the stories of bisexual/pansexual dads told nearly often enough. While we occasionally find stories to tell about bi dads, like this great one from earlier this year from a dad who just came out, we otherwise aren't often finding stories of bi dads nearly as easy as we do gay dads. We're sure this is due to any number of reasons--societal pressure to stay closeted from both the straight and LGBTQ communities along with erasure of bisexuality both come to mind.

But it's also because we haven't done the best job reaching out specifically to the bi dad community! We hope to start changing that, starting by bringing you the stories of three bid dads in our community.

(Are you a bi dad? Click here so we can help tell your story and increase exposure for the bi dad community, or drop us a line at dads@gayswithkids.com!)

James Shoemaker, bisexual dad of three, in Alton Illinois

James Shoemaker, who is 65-years-old and lives in Alton, Illinois, says he's known he was bisexual since the age of five. Still he lived what he called a "happily socially heterosexual" life throughout his adolescence, until he had his first same-sex experience in college at the age of 18-years-old.

In his 20s, he began his first same-sex relationship with a man, which lasted about five years. But soon the conversation turned towards children. James wanted his own biological children, something that would have been difficult, particularly at the time, to achieve. He and his boyfriends split, and soon after James met the woman who would become his wife. Since he had previously been in a relationship with a man, and his friends and family were aware of his sexuality, there was no hiding his bisexuality from his wife. There was no hiding my bisexuality from her

"We were both in our 30's, and both wanted kids," James said. "Wo were both kind of desperate to find a partner and she expressed that."

He and his wife proceeded to have three daughters together and lived what he called a fairly "conventional" life. "There was so much societal support [for raising a family] within conventional marriage," he said. "This was new to me, since I came out at age 17, and was used to being "different".

Being in a relationship with a woman, James said, alienated him from much of the LGBTQ activism that began to take hold in the 1980s and 1990s. "I felt I could not act as a representative for gay rights while married to a woman and raising kids with her," he said.

When his youngest daughter turned 18, he and his wife split and, and James began, once again, to date other men. Eventually, he met Paul Mutphy, who he has been dating for four years. Since reentering the world dating another man, he's had to confront, at times, people's misconceptions about his bisexuality. "It's not just gay guys looking for more social acceptance," James said, noting that "Bi rights" has not really caught the public's attention in the same way as "gay rights".

Maxwell Hosford, bi trans dad of one, in Yakima Washington


Maxwell Hosford, who lives in Yakima, Washington, came out as bisexual when he was 13-years-old. "I was still questioning myself," he said "and the term bisexual seemed to fit me."

A year later, when he was 14, Maxwell also came out as trans. "I had heard about Chaz Bono on the radio one morning before school and it got me thinking," he said. "I realized that I wasn't the only one who felt that way and that there was a term for how I've felt."

Though people often conflate sexual orientation and gender identity, Maxwell stressed that he sees his identity as trans and bisexual as perfectly natural. "I see them interacting in a way of fluidity," he said. "Not straight but not gay. Just a feeling of love."

Maxwell described his path to parenthood as a bit of an accident. "I was on testosterone for two years but had a four-week break because i was switching doctors," he said. During that break, Maxwell ended up getting pregnant, and wasn't aware of the pregnancy for several months after. "I just thought my body was just being weird from starting T again," he said. Once he took the test and saw the two pink lines, though he knew his life was about to change forever. He went to Planned Parenthood the very next day.

Being pregnant while trans, Maxwell said, was an incredible experience. "I was comfortable enough with my gender identity that I didn't have very much dysphoria," he said, though he noted he did face a lot of misgendering from strangers. "But I understood that because I did have a big ole pregnant belly," he said. He was grateful for his medical team who all referred to him according to the correct pronouns.

Soon after, his son Harrison was born. As soon as he held him in his arms, Maxwell said the entire process was worth it. "All the misgendering, all the questions and people misunderstanding doesn't matter once you have that baby in your arms nothing matters but that little bundle of joy."

Three years ago, Maxwell met his current fiancé, Chase Heiserman, via a gay dating app, and the three now live together as a family. He says he couldn't be happier, but he does face some difficulty as a bi trans man within his broader community. "In some peoples eyes my fiancé and I are a straight couple because I'm trans and he's cisgender," he said. Some of the difficulty has even stemmed from other trans men. "I've had some bad comments from other transmen regarding my pregnancy and how it doesn't make me trans," he said, noting he continues to fight the perception that he is not "trans enough" because he chose to carry his own baby.

Through it all, though, Maxwell says becoming a father has been the biggest blessing in his life. "Being able to carry my baby and bond through those nine months was amazing," he said. "I'm breastfeeding, which is hard as I'm trans, and so I'm self conscious of my large breasts now but it's such a bonding experience that it doesn't matter when I see the look of love and the comfort he gets from it."

For other gay, bi and trans men considering fatherhood, Maxwell has this simple piece of advice: "Go for it."

Michael MacDonald, bi dad of two, in Monterery California 

Michael MacDonald, who is 28-years-old and living in Monterey California, says he came out as bisexual over two years ago. He has two daughters, who are four and two-and-a-half years old, that were born while he was married to his ex-wife. "My children are amazing," he said. "They have been so incredibly strong and brave having mom in one house and dad in another."

Both children were fairly young when Michael and his ex separated, so "they didn't really break a deeply ingrained idea of what a family unit is like. They have always just sort of known that mom and dad don't live together."

Co-parenting isn't always easy, Michael said, noting it's "one of the hardest things in the world." He and his ex overcome any potential difficulty, though, by always putting the children first. "As long as they are happy, healthy and loved, that is all that matters," he said. "I'm so fortunate to have such an incredible/pain in the butt partner to help me raise these amazing little girls."

Though the separation was hard on all of them, Michael said it's also been an amazing experience watching his children's resiliency. "I am so proud of the beautiful little people they are," he said. "Their adaptability, courage and love is something really spectacular."

Since the separation, Michael hasn't been in a serious relationship, but he has dated both men and women, something he says has been "absolutely challenging. Not only does he need to overcome all the typical challenges of a newly divorced parent ("Do they like kids? Would they be a good stepparent?") but also the added stresses of being bisexual. "It can sometimes just be a bit too much for some women to handle," he said.

He has been intentional about making sure his children have known, from a young age, that "daddy likes girls and boys," he said. "They have grown up seeing me interact with people I've dated in a romantic way, like hand holding, abd expressing affection, so I think as they get older it's not something that will ever really seem foreign or different to them to see me with a man or woman," he said.

In his dates with other men, Michael says most guys tend to be surprised to learn that he has biological children. "But once I explain that I am bisexual, it's usually much more easily understood," he said. He is more irritated, though, when people question or outright refuse to recognize his bisexuality. "While I understand and have witnessed many guys who use bisexuality as a "stepping stone" of sorts when coming out," he said, it does not mean that "bisexuality is not real or valid."

As a bisexual dad, he also says he can feel isolated at times within the broader parenting community. "It can be a little intimidating feeling like you don't really belong to one side or another," he said. "There's this huge network of gay parents, and, of course straight parents. Being sort of in the middle can sometimes create a feeling of isolation"

The biggest misconception about bisexual dads who have split with their wives, he said, is that sexual orientation isn't always the reason for the separation. "When my ex wife and I separated, while my bisexuality did play a small part in it, it was not the reason we separated," he said. He added that while life might not be perfect, it's good. "My children are happy, healthy, and loved," he said. "That's really what matters the most."

Change the World

Mayor Pete Hopes His (Future) Kids Are "Puzzled" That Coming Out Was Ever Newsworthy

Mayor Pete and husband Chasten don't have any kids yet, but have talked openly and often about their hopes to be dads one day

Pete Buttigieg, who is making waves in the political world by competing to be the first openly gay and (at 37 years old) first Millennial President of the United States, currently doesn't have any children with husband Chasten. But it's clear from his public comments and writings that he and Chasten hope to become dads one day.

And when that day comes, Buttigieg says he hopes his kids will find it puzzling that coming out as gay was ever a newsworthy event. Back in 2015, well before he began his campaign for president, Buttigieg wrote an essay in the South Bend Tribune that said the following:

"Like most people, I would like to get married one day and eventually raise a family. I hope that when my children are old enough to understand politics, they will be puzzled that someone like me revealing he is gay was ever considered to be newsworthy. By then, all the relevant laws and court decisions will be seen as steps along the path to equality. But the true compass that will have guided us there will be the basic regard and concern that we have for one another as fellow human beings — based not on categories of politics, orientation, background, status or creed, but on our shared knowledge that the greatest thing any of us has to offer is love."

In the meantime, Pete and Chasten are kept plenty busy with their two fur babies, Truman and Buddy.


Personal Essays by Gay Dads

An All-Boys School: One Gay Dad's  Short-Lived Experience in the Traditional Environment

"The most dangerous phrase in the language is 'we have always done it this way.'" —Rear Admiral Grace Hopper

The process of entrance to Manhattan's elite private schools can be similar or even more rigorous than college admissions. And you can take that and multiply it tenfold when you're dealing with an all-boys environment. I know this from experience, as my partner Andy and I have spent the last year and a half dealing with one such establishment, that has been in existence for "136 years," and touts the cliché slogan of "educating boys to become scholars and gentlemen."

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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