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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Surrogacy for Gay Men

Dads Talk About Surrogacy Process in New Video for Northwest Surrogacy Center

The Northwest Surrogacy Center interviewed some of their gay dad clients for a video to celebrate their 25th anniversary of creating families through surrogacy!

Last year, Northwest Surrogacy Center celebrated 25 years of helping parents realize their dreams. And they celebrated in style by inviting the families they've worked with over the past two and a half decades to join them!

At the party, they took the opportunity to film queer dads and dads-to-be, asking them a couple of questions: how did it feel holding your baby for the first time, and tell us about your relationship with your surrogate.

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In an op-ed for the New York Times, Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage: a History," lists the many insights LGBTQ marriages can offer straight ones.

According to a fascinating op-ed in the New York Times this week by Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage: a History," turns out the people convinced marriage equality — legal across the United States for five years now — would usher in the complete breakdown of civil society should be more worried about the health of their own marriages.

In the article, Coontz details the results of research that followed 756 "midlife" straight marriages, and 378 gay marriages, and found same-sex couples reporting the lowest levels of physiological distress — with male gay couples reporting the lowest. The reason for this, the author said, is pretty simple — misogyny. The idea that men and women should strive for parity in a relationship is still a fairly new idea, Coontz said, and traditional gender roles are still pervasive. Gay couples, meanwhile, are free from such presumptions, which often results in happier, healthier relationships.

The most interesting findings in the research relate to parenting. While gender norms tend to be even more emphasized among straight people once they have children, with the bulk of the childrearing falling to mothers, same-sex couples — once again freed from the stereotypes of the male/female divide — parent more equitably. As the author notes, "A 2015 survey found that almost half of dual-earner, same-sex couples shared laundry duties, compared with just under a third of different-sex couples. And a whopping 74 percent of same-sex couples shared routine child care, compared with only 38 percent of straight couples."

When it comes to time spent with children, men in straight marriages spent the least amount of time and the lowest proportion of "nonwork" time, with their children — while men in same-sex marriages spent just as much time with their children as women in a straight relationship. "The result?" Coontz writes, "Children living with same-sex parents experienced, on average, three and a half hours of parenting time per day, compared with two and a half for children living with a heterosexual couple."

Straight fathers devote the least amount of time — about 55 minutes a day — on their children, which includes things like physical needs, reading, playing, and homework. Gay mothers spent an additional 18 minutes each and straight mothers an additional 23 minutes. Gay fathers spent the most time with their children, the study found, an average of an additional 28 minutes a day.

Taken together, straight couples spend an average of 2 hours and 14 minutes on their children. Lesbian moms spend an additional 13 minutes, while gay men spend 33 more minutes than straight couples.

One factor, the author notes, that can help explain this difference is this: gay parents rarely end up with an unintended or unwanted child, whereas a full 45% percent of pregnancies in straight relationships in 2011 (the last year data is available) were unintended, and 18% were unwanted.

But right. Gay people shouldn't be parents.

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Fast-forward twelve hours later. The kids were safely with their mom for the weekend, and I was out on a date with a handsome guy I met on Tinder. The trauma from earlier in the day a mere, faint memory. This was the strange dichotomy of my life as a single gay dad. Balancing dating in the midst of coming out later in life, never mind the whole parenting thing, is a struggle. And, one that nobody really talks about.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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