Change the World

One Dad's Mission to Convince New Gay Fathers: It's Okay to Feel Depressed

Simon Leyshan shares his coming out story, his battle with postnatal depression, and how he came out the other side.

If you're a fan of the 'Gram, you might recognize Simon Leyshan from his very popular account @champagnedadstyle. Simon shares his life as one part of a two-dad family, stay-at-home father, and manager of a luxurious holiday home. His posts are comical, relatable and sincere. It is clear how much Simon loves his life as a dad, his daughter and his partner, Holt. But the earlier years of fatherhood were very difficult for Simon. For some time, Simon battled postnatal depression, a form of depression that is commonly mistaken as something only mothers experience. Here, he shares his coming out story, his battle with depression, and how he came out the other side.


Coming Out

Simon never really had any interest in dating girls. "I had girlfriends all my life but only little ones," said Simon. "For a few months – the longest six – but there was never any connection."

After high school, Simon worked three jobs in order to save for his "OE" ("Oversees Experience" - what Australians and New Zealanders call a few years traveling around the world in their late teens / early twenties), and soon as he could, he was off. Simon spent 6 years traveling and working around Europe. He met new people, had exciting adventures, and never had to deal with the expectation of having a girlfriend and fitting into the "white picket fence" hetero lifestyle.

After 6 years abroad, Simon, tired of living out of his backpack, moved back to his hometown of Brisbane. Pretty quickly, the pressure to meet someone reared its head again and Simon began to feel awkward. That was, until he met Holt.

Simon met Holt Meyers at a personal trainer course. "Sparks flew, like you see in the movie," said Simon. "When you meet someone and the sparks just fly, that exactly how it was for me."

When it came time to tell his family he was gay, Simon began by telling just one person: his mom, who was very accepting. She even said that although she hadn't known, there was always part of her that wanted to tell her son that if he ever told her he was gay, she would've said it was totally fine.

Simon continued to tell one person at a time, until eventually the news spread like wildfire. The response was mainly positive. He was 27 at the time.

Living Authentically and Talking Kids

Over a roast dinner, cooked by Holt, that Simon and Holt first discussed kids. At the time, Simon still suffered from the notion that he couldn't be both gay and have a family. "Why couldn't you have a family?" was Holt's response.

"That one conversation allowed my feelings to grow stronger – I can feel this way AND have kids!" said Simon. "For the first time, everything felt like I could have a really good life!"

A lot happened in a short time. After 4 months of dating, the two moved in together, Holt took Simon to his first gay club (which Simon didn't enjoy, at least at the time), and they travelled together. Holt is 9 years older than Simon and had always known he was gay; he'd come out when he was 17. It was hard for Holt to understand why it took Simon so long to come out.

As happy as Simon was living his authentic life, he also began to experience short bouts of depression. He attributed his dip in mood to the sudden upheaval of his old closeted life, and figured he was just learning to adjust.

One day, the couple bumped into friends of Holt's, another gay couple, who had started a family via surrogacy in the United States. Energized by the encounter, Simon and Holt met up with the dads soon after at a cafe so they could ask them more about the process. The very same day, Simon emailed the surrogacy agency they used.

As surrogacy is illegal in the Australia, they contacted a lawyer immediately to find out specifically what they could and could not do. In the United States, both Simon and Holt are recognized on the birth certificate, but when they came back to Australia, the government doesn't recognize their family. Simon is Olivia's only legal father.

Juggling Parenthood and Depression

Both Simon and Hold fell instantly in love with Olivia the moment she was born. They flew back to Australia and began their new life as parents. Simon took on the role of full-time stay-at-home parent.

When Olivia was six months old, Simon began to realize something wasn't right. Even before then, he suspected something was amiss, but after half a year of exhibiting symptoms, he was sure. Simon constantly felt exhausted, like any new parent, but he also felt very isolated. Being a gay man, on top of being a new dad, didn't help. He wasn't accepted into the "mum" groups who all met regularly for coffee, and knew few to no other gay men with kids. Simon began to feel as though he was losing himself.

To further compound those feelings, Olivia suffered from severe constipation. She was in daily pain and would scream when she was unable to make a bowel movement. The problem persisted till she was eight months old, when, after many doctor visits, they finally found something that worked. But still, Simon couldn't shake the emptiness.

"[I was] trying to juggle everything, but there was always something that stopped me from being completely happy."

Complicating matters further: Simon hid how he was feeling from everyone. As a man who hadn't actually carried a pregnancy to term, he didn't feel as though he was "allowed" to feel depressed in the same way a woman might. Though many people assume postnatal depression only affects mothers, however, it can indeed affect new dads as well. These feelings can be amplified for new gay dads, in fact, many of who work hard to become fathers. When new gay dads become depressed, we often fear the response will be: "Well isn't this what you wanted?"

For Simon, everything came to a head when Olivia turned one and they went to the doctor's for her immunization shot. The nurse touched Simon on the arm, looked him and said, "How are you doing?" Simon burst into tears.

He started to explain he was so tired and down and depressed, but he knew that this was normal. The nurse said this isn't normal, it isn't normal to feel so down. The nurse was the first person to say to Simon that he might have postnatal depression. She explained that postnatal depression is far more serious than depression because you're caring for someone else.

But it would be another year until Simon got the help he needed.

Getting Help

As Olivia neared her second birthday, Simon's depression was at its peak. He spent all his time and energy on Olivia and putting on a brave face. But as soon as he had a moment to himself, all he wanted to do was sleep. The symptoms became so severe, it even began to affect his taste and smell. It was becoming increasingly difficult for him to see anything positive in his life.

Simon began pushing Holt away as well. He wanted everyone to give him space and allow him to breathe.

By Olivia's second birthday, the depression had completely taken over. Finally, he worked up the courage to speak to his mother, and admitted he needed help. So on the morning of Olivia's birthday, Simon went to the family doctor and spent two hours just talking.

She said, "You have very severe depression, and I would have no doubt that it's postnatal depression."

Facing this fact, the doctor went on, would be the only way to conquer his depression. Simon was prescribed medication that the doctor explained would just lift the fogginess so that he could learn to function again and fight it. Together they made goals.

He saw a psychologist the next day, and for the first time, Simon didn't feel guilty talking about his feelings. He began to take medication and the fogginess, as promised, lifted. His friends and family noticed the difference right away, and he was able to find happiness in his day-to-day life again.

Today

Simon is making it his goal to share his life openly and proudly on Instagram, including his battle with postnatal depression. His family posts are honest and hilarious, but he doesn't forget those darker days. He once struggled to come to terms with his diagnosis, and due to societal and cultural pressure, he chose to suppress his illness. It wasn't until he finally hit rock bottom that he sought help, but he doesn't want others to get to that point.

When describing his depression, Simon tried to explain how it felt. "It's a different feeling," he said. "It's not just feeling tired, you just know it's different. You have negative thoughts, and when you're tired you shouldn't have negative thoughts."

Simon has a message to other new gay dads: Your feelings and emotions are legitimate, and it's okay to ask for help. "Don't try and shove it down and think you're not allowed those feeling, or you're not allowed to feel bad," shares Simon. After receiving help, Simon was able to be the best dad he can possibly be, as shown by the adorable pics he posts of his family to his Instagram account. And isn't that what we all want, to be the best fathers we can be?

Thanks Simon, for sharing your story and message with us.

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Politics

Utah Court Rules Gay Couples Can't Be Excluded From Surrogacy Contracts

The Utah Supreme Court found in favor of a gay couple attempting to enter into a surrogacy contract.

DRAKE BUSATH/ UTCOURTS.GOV

Earlier this month, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that a same-sex couples can't be excluded from entering into enforceable surrogacy contracts, and sent a case concerning a gay male couple back to trial court to approve their petition for a surrogacy arrangement.

As reported in Gay City News, the case concerns Utah's 2005 law on surrogacy, which was enacted prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. As a result, the content of the law is gendered, saying that surrogacy contracts should only be enforceable if the "intended mother" is unable to bear a child. When a gay couple approached District Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox to enter into a surrogacy arrangement, he denied them, arguing that the state's law only concerned opposite sex couples.

"This opinion is an important contribution to the growing body of cases adopting a broad construction of the precedent created by Obergefell v. Hodges and the Supreme Court's subsequent decision in Pavan v. Smith," according to GCN. "It's also worth noting that same-sex couples in Utah now enjoy a right denied them here in New York, where compensated gestational surrogacy contracts remain illegal for all couples."

Read the full article here.

Sponsored

The Most Important Woman a Gay Man Will Ever Date

Kristin Marsoli of Circle Surrogacy gives some tips and tricks for getting to know your surrogate once matched

It's time to fine tune your dating skills because you're about to enter into the most important courtship you'll encounter. And it all starts with the biggest first date of your life.

And it's with a woman.

This woman is your gestational carrier; the woman who will carry and care for your baby until she delivers this little bundle of joy right into your arms.

Matching with a gestational carrier – or surrogate – is one of the most exciting milestones in your journey to parenthood through surrogacy. However, it can also be the most nerve wracking. Chances are you've seen a profile about your potential surrogate match so you know a little bit about her and her family. But before you commit to this woman, you'll need to meet her first – either in person or via video. And this is one first meeting you've probably never prepared for!

Circle Surrogacy has been matching surrogates and gay dads for almost 25 years. Here are tried and true tips and tricks to getting to know your surrogate...and keeping the relationship alive during pregnancy and after birth!

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Gay Dad Life

"Daddy, Which Belly Did I Come From?"

How do gay dads talk to their kids about the women that helped bring them into the world?

When you tell your kids the story of how they came to be, is the woman who delivered them identified by a face and a name? That's a decision that every gay dad has to make when it comes to having kids through surrogacy or adoption. In this episode we explored two ways of keeping in touch with the birthmother (for adoptive kids) or the gestational surrogate (for IVF and surrogacy) as part of gay dads' children's birth story.Some adoptive parents choose to have an 'open adoption,' where the child gets to meet the birthmother. Parents who go through surrogacy sometimes keep in touch with the surrogate and have their kids meet her when they are old enough.

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Popular

'Our Family is Complete': Congrats to Gay Dads on Their Recent Births and Adoptions!

Join us in congratulating all of the gay men in our community whose families grew recently!

Wishing all of these gay dads congratulations on their exciting news this month. From becoming first-time dads to finalizing adoptions, congrats to everyone in our community on their wonderful news!

Circle Surrogacy is the proud sponsor of this month's congrats post. They were founded in 1995 on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to be a parent. "For over 20 years we've helped LGBTQ+ couples and singles around the world fulfill their dreams of parenthood. We've helped bring more than 1,900 babies into this world... and counting!"

Congratulations to Andrew and Edward on finalizing the adoptions of their twins!

For Andrew and Edward, their foster parent training plus home study took about a year. "We had a brief placement of twin girls that were four years old two months after we had been approved," said Andrew. "Then we took a break as it was a difficult process, the 'loss' aspect, when that placement ended."

Then on March 15, 2017, their case worker sent them information about two little babies - a boy and a girl - that were still in the NICU and only nine days old. "It was a foster case with an uncertain future, but we decided those little babies needed us!" They dads took a leap of faith and on July 10 this year, their twins' adoptions were finalized. Andrew and Edward have a wonderful bond with the paternal grandmother as well as a special relationship with the twins' father. "We all love these twins, and the more love they have the better their lives will be."

"Adoption is one of those experiences where one side experiences incredible joy while the other side experiences incredible loss," continued Andrew. "We are grateful to experience this joy knowing that biological family members are happy for us to experience that joy."

Congratulations to this Mt Airy, Philadelphia, forever family of four!

Congratulations to Sean and Thomas on finalizing the adoptions of their twins!

Together 15 years, London couple Sean and Thomas recently finalized the adoption of their twins.

"About 3 years ago we started meeting adoption agencies and were approved as prospective adopters the following spring," shared Thomas. "We were anticipating a long wait, but quite quickly were matched with our twins. At the time they were nearly five."

After a fairly long transition period for everyone to get settled in, the adoption was formalized the day after Father's Day. "Two years after matching, at times it seems like the kids have been with us forever and other times a blink of an eye. But it is certainly the most life-changing, transformative experience and we cannot imagine life without them. It's wonderful that our family is now official!"

Congratulations to Phillip and Clinton on the birth of their daughter Madison!

Little Madison joined her dads on July 1, 2019, after coming into the world via surrogate.

"I caught Madison as she was born," said Phillip. "I have never felt such an exhilarating rush in my entire life! We were genuinely in love at first sight!"

Now that we Phillip and Clinton are dads, they say they feel a "sense of wholeness" in their lives! "We have a new motivation and purpose in life! It's truly the greatest blessing!"

These new dads and the apple of their eye live in Texas.

Congratulations to Michael and Tyler on the birth of their twins, Elliot and Oliver!

Herriman, Utah, couple Michael and Tyler have been together for 9 years, and married for 3. "In the beginning of our relationship we knew how important family was and how much we wanted to be dads," said Micheal. "After we got married we met with a couple surrogacy agencies and were advised to meet with an IVF clinic before proceeding. In doing so, we found that going through a surrogacy journey independently was very possible."

So the dads decided to shift gears and work in that direction, booking a follow up appointment with the clinic. "We met with their 3rd party coordinator over the surrogate process and she did not have any inquiries of any surrogates." Serendipitously, and unbeknownst to the husbands at the time, their future surrogate made an appointment to talk about being a gestational carrier for a same-sex couple. "The next day we got the unexpected call that someone was interested and open to meet. From there the rest was history as we continued with the surrogacy process."

Over a year later, the dads welcomed their two sons. "The first time we got to hold the boys, it felt so natural to us, as if nothing else in the world existed and time stood still as we got lost in the moment."

Congratulations to Adam and Josh on finalizing the adoption of their daughter!

Adam and Josh got engaged on Good Morning America on Valentines Day, and welcomed their Christmas miracle baby into their lives on December 26th. On July 12 this year, they celebrated becoming a forever family of three.

"For an event that always seemed like it would be the end of our adoption journey, Baby K's Finalization Day felt more like the beginning of a greater adventure," shared Adam. "Since day one, Baby K was always loved and 100% part of our family, but we are so filled with joy to see this day come and make it officially official. We cannot wait to spend the rest of our lives not only watching Baby K grow and develop, but also to see the two of us learn and grow in this new role as parents."

Congrats to these Dallas dads!

Congratulations to Dan and Martin on the birth of their son Herman! 

Copenhagen couple Dan and Martin welcomed their second child through surrogacy on July 11 this year in Florida, USA. Herman joins big sister Ellen, born March 1, 2015, in Vermont via surrogacy. Here's a little more.

"Two amazing American women and their families took us in as their own and we're forever bonded," said Dan about their path to fatherhood experience. "It has been an amazing journey with both of them, our family is complete."

Congrats to the Danish family!

This post is sponsored by Circle Surrogacy

Circle was founded in 1995 on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to be a parent. To this day, that belief is at the core of everything we do. For over 20 years we've helped straight and LGBTQ+ couples and singles around the world fulfill their dreams of parenthood. We've helped bring more than 1,900 babies into this world... and counting!

We're an agency comprised of social workers and lawyers, accountants and outreach associates, and program managers and coordinators; but, more importantly, we're an agency made up of parents, surrogates and egg donors, who are passionate about helping people build their families, and invested in each and every journey.

Circle is proud to have helped so many gay families achieve their dreams of becoming parents. Together, we make parenthood possible.®

News

Ed Smart, Father of Kidnapping Victim Elizabeth Smart, Comes Out as Gay

In coming his coming out letter, Ed Smart, a Mormon, condemned the church for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals.

In a post on Facebook, Ed Smart, father of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, came out as gay. He also discussed his strained relationship with his Mormon faith, claiming he felt he didn't feel comfortable living as an openly gay man in a church with a difficult history with respect to its LGBTQ members. He and his wife, Lois, have filed for divorce.

"This is one of the hardest letters I have ever written," he began the letter. "Hard because I am finally acknowledging a part of me that I have struggled with most of my life and never wanted to accept, but I must be true and honest with myself." He went on to acknowledged a new set of challenges facing he and his family as they navigate a divorce and his coming out — in the public eye, no less — but concluded, ultimately, that it's a "huge relief" to be "honest and truthful about my orientation."

He went on to condemn The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals. "I didn't want to face the feelings I fought so hard to suppress, and didn't want to reach out and tell those being ostracized that I too am numbered among them. But I cannot do that any longer."

In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Ed Smart further discussed his reasons for coming out now, as a 64-year-old man.

"I mean, I knew that it would probably come out at some point, just because people can't leave things alone. I did anticipate that it would happen at some time, but my intention in writing it was to try to let my friends and family know, you know my extended family ... know where things were. So, you know, I was really concerned about how the rumor mill starts," he told the paper. "I knew that at some point in time, that would come out," he elaborated. "I didn't know when it would come out, and so I would rather have it come out the way that it did versus having some rumors going around, and you know the crazy way things can get twisted."

In 2002, Ed Smart's daughter Elizabeth was abducted at knife point by a married couple from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah. She suffered physical and sexual abuse at the couple's hands, for nine months, until she was finally rescued by police. During the ordeal, papers — including the Salt Lake Tribute — speculated about Ed Smart's sexual orientation based on some fabricated information sold to the paper by tabloids like the National Enquirer. (The Enquirer retracted the story, and the reporters at the Tribute were ultimately fired.)

"I think that in April I started feeling like I needed to prepare something," Smart told the Tribute. "Because during Elizabeth's ordeal, there were things said, and it wasn't what I wanted to say, and I was not going to allow that to happen again."

As to how his family has taken the news, Smart said they've been "very kind" to him. "I think it was very difficult to have this kind of come out of the blue. I don't think any of them knew I was struggling with this, so it was something they were, if you want to call it, blindsided by. I totally get that. They've really been very wonderful."

Congrats to Ed Smart on making the difficult decision to live his truth. Read his full letter here and his interview with the Tribute here.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

"Rollercoaster and Sons," Explores the Journey of One Single Gay Dad Through the Foster-Adopt System

When it comes to the foster-adopt system, "there is no roadmap," said single gay dad Chase Turner

Guest post written by Chase Turner

Many of us thought long and hard about what avenues were best to pursue being a dad. For me, fostering to adoption was the selected road. There is no roadmap here, many things that came my way were learned by doing. Along the way, I started wishing I had a better support group or people who could understand what it's like to be gay and attempting to adopt. Often we (people who are LGBT) feel scrutinized and judged for choices that the majority makes but for us there is pushback. Once my adoption was complete, I felt it was necessary that I put pen to paper and write this story, from a gay male perspective.

My goal was to provide a voice in the space of foster care and adoption where there is a void. Additionally, I wanted to provide an authentic look at all facets of the process, from the kids, to the obstacles and challenges that happened within my personal life. I do hope you enjoy and more importantly can relate or prepare yourself for a similar journey.

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Fun

Gay Dad Penguins Strike Again! This Time in Berlin Zoo

The latest male penguins to care for an egg together are Skipper and Ping in the Berlin Zoo.

First, there was Roy and Silo — the two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo that served as inspiration for the famous children's book And Tango Makes Three. Then Magin Sphen got together in Sydney, where aquarium keepers gave the cocks (Calm down, that's what a male penguin is called!) a foster egg to care for.

And now, please welcome Skipper and Ping in Berlin to the latest list of gay dad penguins! As soon as the two emperor penguins arrived at the city's zoo, they set about trying to start a family, said Berlin Zoo spokesman Maximilian Jaege to DPA news.

"They kept trying to hatch fish and stones," Jaeger said.

So the zookeepers loaned the penguins an egg from a female penguin, who is apparently uninterested in hatching eggs on her own, according to the BBC.

Unsurprisingly, the gay penguins are killing it as parents. "The two male penguins are acting like exemplary parents, taking turns to warm the egg," Jaeger said,

Read the whole article on DPA here.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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