Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Asks: Is Destroying an Embryo Similar to Abortion?

It's a question many LGBTQ parents using advanced fertility treatments will need to face — what to do with "left over" embryos.

Let me start off by saying that I have always been pro choice and support all laws that allow people to have full reproductive rights including safe and legal abortions. This is a complicated subject and not one that I ever thought I would really have to deal with on a personal level, especially being a gay man.

I remember a very heated discussion on abortion in my biology class back in university. I was young, idealistic and had very strong convictions about abortion. I was debating with a female classmate who was pro life. She felt there was no reason for an abortion ever, not even if raped by your own parent or sibling. I could not really understand her position, then or now. Don't get me wrong, I still don't agree with her, but now that I'm older and wiser, and also a parent, I have come to respect and accept opinions other than mine.


Turns out that men do have a say and I don't mean the male lawmakers that try and take these rights away. When my husband and I decided to have a child through surrogacy six years ago, this was an issue that we had to think about. When finding a surrogate to work with, it is important to find someone who shares similar beliefs and values as you do. You need to think about what would happen if you discover abnormalities with your embryo or even if the embryos split. Would you want your surrogate to abort or use selective reduction? These are real discussions that are needed prior to signing surrogacy contracts. Everyone has different beliefs, but these are important discussions that need to be dealt with early on. At the end of the day you can talk about this all in theory, but my husband and I knew going into this that it was always the surrogate's decision, as it was her body after all. We could not force her to do anything she didn't want.

MILO'S FIRST ULTRASOUND

There was a case in California in 2013 that demonstrates this, though there was no men involved, this could have easily have been my husband and I. A California woman named Andrea decided to be a surrogate for her friends that were unable to conceive themselves. During the six week check up they found out the baby had Down Syndrome and might not survive to birth. Upon hearing the news of the diagnosis, the baby's intended mothers decided they no longer wanted Andrea to move forward with the pregnancy. The surrogate had other ideas and refused to abort and decided to keep the baby herself.

In our case we were very lucky, though we had discussed a possible termination with our surrogate in certain situations but never had to act on it or discuss it ever again. We were blessed with a healthy little boy on June 27, 2014. So why so much talk about abortion you ask? We have decided not to have any more children; we are "one and done" as they say.

Here is our dilemma: we are left with nine embryos and don't know what to do with them. We have been paying $500 a year to keep them frozen since they were created six years ago. Every year when we receive the bill, my husband and I have the discussion: Do we keep paying, donate them to another couple or to science, or do we destroy them? We have contemplated all of these choices, and then we just pay the money and wait another year.

I love the idea of donating the embryos, but it's a very difficult decision. I have talked to a few couples who are looking for embryos but at the end of the day I couldn't go through with it. These couples didn't live close by and were perfect strangers. It's been recently brought to our attention that there is a facebook group for LGBTQ couples who are looking for donated embryos with an open adoption relationship. I think if we were to donate them, it would be to someone we knew and we could possibly have a relationship of some kind with my family after. The question then becomes how much of a relationship would we have with them? Would we co-parent on some level? Would we discuss parenting styles? So many unknowns.

Another option is that we could donate them to science, but this is something we have not discussed too in depth with each other. I like the idea of helping with the advancement of fertility options and stem cell research, but not sure this is the right option for us. I have to admit this is something I need to talk to more people about and do more research on. I also wonder if in the end if we should be keeping these embryos for our son in the future for any unforeseen reason.

MILO'S FIRST 3-D ULTRASOUND

If I can't find someone I know to donate them to, we will have to make the decision to destroy them at some point. This is where the discussion of abortion all of a sudden became very real to me. I have really had to think about how I feel about embryos and whether they are just a bunch of cells or my son's brothers and sisters. A recent bill, proposed by Anti-abortion lawmakers in Pennsylvania, would require burials and death certificates for "fetal remains," which in their terms includes any fertilized eggs that never implanted in a person's uterus.

I have to be honest—this is not an easy decision for me or my husband and I can't imagine how difficult it must be for most women to abort their fetuses. I completely respect their rights to do so, and I expect others to respect mine. It is such a personal decision. I have a friend who had an abortion when she got pregnant by her "holiday boyfriend" in her early twenties. She was in school, not married and was not really ready for a baby. Her family heavily pressured her to terminate the pregnancy and she decided that was the best decision at the time. I know there is not a day that goes by that she doesn't think about that difficult decision she made. She is happily married now, with a beautiful family but I feel it is one of her biggest sorrows in life. I worry it might be one of mine as well, which is why we keep paying to keep them frozen.

Recently the clinic that was storing our embryos had a failure in one of the freezers and the temperature went too high and 65 people lost their embryos. We were lucky to find out that we were not one of those of those people, but on the other hand, I sometimes think that it would have made the decision easier for us. I know that sounds awful, but I am just being truthful as I am not sure if I am ever going to be able to make a decision on my own.

I am currently a board member for a non-for-profit organization that helps gay men have babies through surrogacy. Through our conferences around the world, we discuss everything surrogacy related and termination does come up when we discuss "questions to ask your surrogate", but we never discuss what people do with their unused embryos. I was hoping this article might open up this conversation. We would love to hear from others what they are doing with their unused embryos. It might help us and others make more informed decisions.

Follow Frankie and BJ below!

Frank IG @frankien70
BJ IG @bjbarone
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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.

Watch the video below and get ready for the water works!

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Surrogacy for Gay Men

Campaign to Legalize Surrogacy in New York Heats Up with Competing Bills

Two competing bills — one backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and another by Senator Liz Krueger with stricter provisions — are aiming to legalize surrogacy in New York.

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York is once again attempting to legalize commercial surrogacy in the state, which is still just one of three states in the country to forbid the practice.

"This antiquated law is repugnant to our values and we must repeal it once and for all and enact the nation's strongest protections for surrogates and parents choosing to take part in the surrogacy process," Governor Cuomo said in a statement in announcing a broader effort called Love Makes a Family. "This year we must pass gestational surrogacy and expedite the second parent adoption process to complete marriage and family equality."

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Gay Dad Life

"Worth Every Blood, Sweat, and Tear": Congrats to Gay Dads on Recent Births and Adoptions!

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

Gay men go through a lot of ups and downs on the path to parenthood. It can be one of the most emotionally draining times in our lives. But as each of these families who are celebrating births and adoptions this month agree: it's worth every hardship.

Congrats to the dads whose families grew this month!

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Change the World

Your Marriage Should Be Gayer, Says the New York Times

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.

Gay Dad Photo Essays

How Single Dads Are Celebrating Valentine's Day This Year

Valentine's Day is not just for lovers! We caught up with 8 single gay dads to see how they plan to celebrate Valentine's Day with this year.

Valentine's Day is not just for lovers; it's also a day to celebrate our loved ones. And that's exactly what these single dads are doing.

Within our community, GWK has a large group of admirable, active, and awesome (!) single dads and we want to honor them! On Valentine's Day, they and their kids celebrate their family unit in the sweetest possible ways. We asked the dads to share these moments with us, and, where possible, one of the most heartwarming things they've experienced with their kids on Valentine's Day to date.

Hear their stories below.

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Gay Dad Photo Essays

11 Gay Couples Share Secrets to Their Long-Term Relationships This Valentine's Day

This Valentine's Day, we spoke with 11 gay dad couples who've been together for almost a decade or longer to learn what's made their relationships last

You're the peanut butter to my jelly, the gin to my tonic, the strawberries to my cream, the Mr. to my Mr.!

Happy Valentine's Day folks! We're excited to celebrate this day of lurrrrvvve by featuring a few dads in our community who've been together for almost a decade or more! And they're ready to share their secrets to a successful relationship and parenting partnership.

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Single Parenting

The 'Strange Dichotomy' of Dating as a Single Gay Dad

A single gay dad describes the balancing act involved with dating after having come out later in life.

It was a Friday morning as I walked towards the twins' bedroom door, and I caught the dreaded whiff. The unmistakable smell of fecal funk. My heart sank — I knew exactly what awaited me on the other side. As I cracked the door open, my assumptions were immediately confirmed. Our resident two-year-old "scat princess", a.k.a. Maren, had pried off her poopy diaper and painted her bedroom walls and doors in her own excrement for the third time in as many weeks. I couldn't decide if I wanted to scream or cry. Fortunately my dad superpowers immediately took over and I did neither. I simply gritted my teeth, smiled, threw open the door and uttered "good morning, girls!" I spent the next hour giving the toddlers, the walls and the doors a Silkwood scrub-down. Again.

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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