Gay Dad Family Stories

This European Couple Became Dads Through a U.K.-Based Surrogacy Program

Janno, from Estonia, and Matthias, from Belgium, were accepted into the "Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy" Program.

Janno Talu, an accountant, and Matthias Nijs, an art gallery director, were born in different parts of Europe. Janno, 39, is from Estonia, and Matthias, 28, is from Belgium. Their paths crossed when the two moved to London, each from their different corners of the European Union.

Janno relocated to London earlier than Matthias, when he was 24, and his main reason for the move was his sexuality. "Although Estonia is considered one of the more progressive countries in Eastern Europe, when it comes to gay rights, it is still decades behind Western society in terms of tolerance," said Janno. "And things are not moving in the right direction." In 2016, same-sex civil union became legal, but the junior party in the current coalition government is seeking to repeal the same-sex partnership bill. "In addition," Janno continued, "they wish to include the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the country's constitution. Even today, there are people in Estonia who liken homosexuality to pedophilia, which is why I decided to start a new life in the UK, where I could finally be myself."


For Matthias, his move was motivated by study when he came to London in 2013. "It had always been my intention to move back to Belgium after finishing my masters degree, but life took a different turn when I met Janno at that Halloween party the same year." The two were instantly attracted to each other, but Janno only found out what Matthias really looked like under his face paint when it came off at the end of the night. "It was like Janno kissed a frog and it turned into a prince!" That night was the beginning of their relationship together and their desire for fatherhood.

Matthias accepted a job in Belgium that same year and the couple continued their relationship long distance, visiting one another when they could while Matthias continue to apply for jobs in London. "Our relationship survived this test, and we finally moved in together in London in July 2015."

After briefly considering adoption, Matthias and Janno decided that surrogacy was the best path for their family. "The main reason we chose surrogacy was because we wanted to be part of our child's early years," said Matthias. They wanted to be there for their child's development and create a bond as parents right from the beginning.

But forging ahead with their surrogacy journey was not easy. Commercial surrogacy is not legal in the U.K., meaning it is against the law for anyone to profit from an arranged surrogacy agreement. Only altruistic surrogacy is allowed and it can be a fairly lengthy precess before Intended Parents are recognized as the legal guardians of their child. "We were lucky to be accepted by COTS (Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy) in September 2016 following an initial wait period lasting for about half a year. It took as another year before we were matched with a surrogate and treatment commenced."

But things didn't go quite as planned after their initial match. Their first transfer resulted in a miscarriage at 7 weeks and then that was followed by a failed transfer. "Due to further medical complications, we needed to find another tummy mummy," explained Matthias. "Along came Katie. With just two embryos left all our hopes were pinned on her and the third attempt. And third time, lucky we were!"

Their daughter Isabella was born on August 20, 2019.

"There are no words to describe the feeling when you are holding your baby in your arms for the first time. The rush of emotions and unconditional love, which keeps growing stronger and stronger with each day going by."

The dads daily lives are now completely different and revolve around Isabella's needs. "Everything takes a lot more time! To catch a train, we used to arrive at a station just minutes before, now we give ourselves plenty of time as babies can be very unpredictable! We have opted for reusable nappies, so the whole house has turned into one big laundry room. Gone are the days of spotless and tidy house! We also spend a lot more time together at home, and have friends visiting us rather than meeting them in town. We do try to have a date night every couple of weeks when Isabella's grandmother comes for a visit and looks after her."

While the paperwork is still yet to be finalized - they had a November 6, 2019 date set but the court-appointed case worker failed to file her report in time for the meeting so it was postponed - but the couple understand it to be more of a formality. "We are on the home stretch!"

The new family of three continue to stay in close contact with their surrogate Katie and her family, exchanging messages daily. Katie lives in Yorkshire with her husband and three children - twins aged 7, and an 8 year old. "We plan to see them in Yorkshire at the beginning of January. We have become good friends with Katie and this relationship will absolutely continue. We have also become rather attached to Katie's children as have they to us. They are like our extended family!"

For now the dads are content with their small family but hope to one day add a sibling for Isabella to the mix. And for the future, Matthias and Janno plan to make their relationship "official" by getting married but they're waiting for the day that Isabella and a potential sibling can play a role in their dads' wedding.

As for advice to other dads considering surrogacy in the U.K., the two recommend joining some of the U.K. surrogacy groups on Facebook to make connections and get information. "There are surrogacy organizations bringing together would-be parents and potential surrogates, but due to the lack of surrogates it may take a long time before you get matched," explained Matthias. "You want to be active and visible on chat groups as a lot of the surrogates follow these groups and it may be easier to strike up a conversation. Potential surrogate will want to get to know you as a person before you move onto talking about sperm and eggs! It's a bit like dating!"

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Gay Dad Family Stories

These Dads Had 'Twins' — Just Four Months Apart

Angel and Dan's wanted twins, without the complications of a twin pregnancy — so they worked with two separate surrogates at once.

If you have ever been out late on a Saturday night, you may have high hopes of meeting a handsome stranger, but you probably wouldn't expect to meet your future husband. Angel Mario Martinez Garcia, 45, surely didn't when, five years ago on a very early Saturday morning in Barcelona, he casually approached Dan's Mouquet, 40, and asked him, over many gin and tonics, what he wanted out of life. The nightlife setting notwithstanding, Dan's told Angel he ultimately wanted a quiet life, with a partner and children.

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Love, Kids, and a Sixteenth Century French Château

A 400-year-old castle provides a charming backdrop to this modern family's life.

Ready to be enamored and exhausted? Meet Papá, Daddy, and their three lovable boys. This typical family's day-to-day is probably the closest we can get to a literal fairy tale, sans the leather-bound book. Their lives revolve around work, school, Wednesday soccer practices, and maintaining the sixteenth century French château they call home.

Yes, a 400-something-year-old castle is the backdrop to this modern family's life. The husbands acquired the château two years ago, and promptly moved in with their three newly-adopted sons to furnish the countless bedrooms and paint the walls rainbow with their own memories.

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Gay Dad Family Stories

The Inuit Custom Adoption Program Helped These Dads Form Their Family

After learning about the Inuit Custom Adoption Program from family, Keith and Kevin knew it was the way they wanted to become dads.

Keith Willey, 49, and his husband Kevin Kablutsiak, 42, who live in Ottawa, Canada, first met online in 2010. The couple had their first date soon afterwards in a coffee house and, "haven't looked back since," said Keith. They married on May 22nd, 2016.

Keith, who works as a Policy Advisor with the Canadian Federal Government, and Kevin, who works as the Director of Communications with the Canadian National Inuit Organization (ITK), always knew they wanted kids together, and talked about it early on in their relationship. Still, as gay men, they weren't sure that option would ever be available to them.

"I grew up in the UK in the 1970s so I assumed it would be impossible to have children," said Keith. "I always assumed that I would have to lead a life sort of in the shadows and in secret. Attitudes were so different in the 70s to how they are now that I simply believe that we thought it would be impossible to have a child."

The option materialized for the couple, however, when Kevin's sister, pregnant at the time, approached the two men about adopting her baby through the Inuit adoption process. They knew they couldn't pass up the opportunity.

"Kevin is Inuk and adoption, particularly inter-family adoption, is common in Inuit culture," said Keith.

The Inuit Custom Adoption Process was originally used in the small Inuit societies in the arctic, Kevin explained. It's primarily (though not exclusively) intended as a path for adoption within families. The process is legally recognized by the Canadian legal system.

As Kevin went on to explain, Inuit custom adoption was traditional used to support survival within, what were until quite recently, people living a nomadic lifestyle. It is, in essence, a deeply loving and selfless tradition of giving the gift of life to a carefully selected couple, most often with the guidance of elders (usually the matriarch within a family). If a couple couldn't conceive, for instance, others would sometimes offer their help. Similarly, if a couple lost a child, the grieving parents might be given a baby to help ease the ache of their loss. While most Inuit parents have zero intention of custom adopting their children to other families, adoption continues to be an established method in Inuit regions.

Through this process, and with everyone's agreement, the two men legally adopted Kevin's sister and her husband's child from birth. They named her Abbie. "Kevin's sister and her husband came to stay with us in Ottawa prior to the birth so Abbie was in our care from the moment she was born," said Keith. "She got to come home with us the day after the birth with the legal process taking around 11 months to complete from start to finish."


As far as their parenting styles, the couple say they've drawn on each of their pasts. "Both Kevin and I had somewhat difficult childhoods and have spent a lot of time working through and dealing with childhood trauma," Keith said. "As a result, we are better parents and we continue to look after ourselves and each other as we continue to grow in parenthood."

Though the couple come from different cultures, they said they've had no difficulty developing a parenting approach that works for them both. "I don't think either of us raise Abbie in the same parenting style that we experienced," Keith said, "We both talked and agreed on our approach before Abbie was born and we work well together as a parenting couple."

The result is a parenting style that incorporates some elements of both of their backgrounds, Keith said. "Inuit culture tends to shower children in love and we certainly do that," said Kevin. From English-style parenting, the couple have also borrowed the tendency of English parents to be "pretty obsessive," Keith said, about routines, such as scheduling meals, naps and bedtimes.

Though life was good before Abbie joined the family, "now it's fantastic!" Keith said. "I feel like being a parent was what I was put on this earth to be." Because neither man ever expected to become fathers, moreover, both say they look at parenthood as a privilege rather than a right — a helpful perspective they suggest to other gay men considering fatherhood. "Parenthood is an amazing gift," Keith said, "But remember it's about them, not you — and they deserve the best start in life we can give them."

Though fatherhood came to them somewhat unexpectedly, Keith and Kevin say they couldn't be happier with the way things turned out. "When I reflect on our life together, and where we both came from, it is incredible to me that we are now married, content, and parents to our wonderful panik," Keith said, using the Inuktitut word for daughter. "We are totally blessed."


Politics

Gestational Surrogacy Legalized in New York State

The Child-Parent Security Act, which legalizes commercial surrogacy in New York State, was included in the 2020 New York State Budget signed by Governor Cuomo

Yesterday, a years-long battle about the state of compensated gestational surrogacy came to an end in New York when the Governor signed into a law the Child-Parent Security Act in the 2020 as part of the state budget.

The effort stalled last year after opponents, including several Democrats, successfully argued that the bill didn't go far enough to protect women who serve as surrogates — even though it included a surrogate "bill of rights," the first of its kind in the country, aimed at ensuring protections.

"Millions of New Yorkers need assistance building their families — people struggling with infertility, cancer survivors impacted by treatment, and members of the LGBTQ+ community," the Family Equality Council said in a statement about the victory. "For many, surrogacy is a critically important option. For others, it is the only option. Passage of the Child-Parent Security Act is a massive step forward in providing paths to parenthood for New Yorkers who use reproductive technology, and creates a 'surrogate's bill of rights' that will set a new standard for protecting surrogates nationwide."

Opponents, led by Senator Liz Krueger, had once again attempted to torpedo legalization efforts this year by introducing a second bill that would legalize surrogacy in New York, but also make it the most restrictive state in the country to do so. "A bill that complicates the legal proceedings for the parents and potentially allows them to lose their genetic child is truly unfortunate," said Sam Hyde, President of Circle Surrogacy, referencing to the bill's 8-day waiting period. He also took issue with the bills underlying assumptions about why women decide to serve as a surrogate. The added restrictions imply that "they're entering into these arrangements without full forethought and consideration of the intended parents that they're partnering with," he said.

The bill was sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman, an out gay man who became a father via surrogacy, and Assemblymember Amy Paulin, who has been public with her experiences with infertility.

"My husband and I had our two daughters through surrogacy," Holyman told Gay City News. "But we had to travel 3,000 miles away to California in order to do it. As a gay dad, I'm thrilled parents like us and people struggling with infertility will finally have the chance to create their own families through surrogacy here in New York."

"This law will [give intended parents] the opportunity to have a family in New York and not travel around the country, incurring exorbitant costs simply because they want to be parents," Paulin said for her part. It will "bring New York law in line with the needs of modern families."


Personal Essays by Gay Dads

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Joseph Sadusky recounts the ways he and his adopted sons are cut from the same cloth.

Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of excerpts from Joseph Sadusky's new book, Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad. The book contains many stories about my life as a dad, as well as lessons learned, and we're excited to share several excerpts from the the book over the course of the next few months. Read previous installments here!

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There's nothing quite like father-daughter relationships, and when it comes to single dads, your little girl likely holds a very special place in your heart. From the moment she's born, it's as if you can see every moment of her life in front of you, from her first steps to walking her down the aisle at her wedding. You'll be the first man she'll know and talk to, and you'll be her biggest example of what a loving man looks like. She'll come to you for advice on how to navigate challenges, be independent, treat others and grow into herself.

Your relationship with your daughter may be shaped by your personal history, whether you've been through a difficult divorce or breakup, you've transitioned out of a straight relationship, or you made the courageous decision to pursue surrogacy on your own. Whatever your situation is, studies have shown that children with involved fathers excel more in school and have fewer behavioral issues in adolescence.

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After Rene suffered a brutal homophobic attack that left him hospitalized, he and his family have turned to advocacy to heal

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