As Gay Parents, It's Important to "Find Your Village," Say These New Dads
"It truly takes a village," say new gay dads Sean and Spencer Parker. "You do not have to do it alone."
In 2011, Sean Gannon, then a 22-year-old fitness instructor in New York City, was going through profiles on the dating website OkCupid, when a photo of an attractive man in a pirate costume caught his eye. Sean got in touch with the swashbuckler, and a few days later the two had their first date in New York's Washington Park.
When Sean and Spencer Parker, a 30-year-old director, got to know each other better, they realized they shared a dream: They both wanted to have kids. As their relationship grew stronger, they became more serious about fatherhood.
While attending a Men Having Babies conference in New York City, they listened to a panel of children born through surrogacy talking about their experiences. From that day on, the men knew they wanted to pursue surrogacy; they wanted biological children of their own. The husbands, who were married September 25, 2016, chose Circle Surrogacy as their agency.
They found a welcoming community in Maplewood, New Jersey. Maplewood has a large number of LGBT families, and the township shows its inclusive spirit in gay flag-raising ceremonies and permanent rainbow crosswalks.
As Sean says, "As a gay family, we chose one of the most accepting and safe family friendly places to raise our children. Maplewood NJ is full of gay families; it truly is the storybook fantasyland of my gay youth dreams. Prior to meeting Spencer, I had no idea Maplewood existed and how accepting it was of LGBTQ+ families, and I am so grateful to live in a place that I feel welcomed and that my family is accepted and supported."
From start to finish, the surrogacy process took about two years, a very short time by most standards. Nonetheless, the one setback they experienced, an embryo transfer that wasn't successful, felt like a major roadblock at the time. Despite misgivings about the wisdom of continuing their surrogacy, they persevered.
The happy conclusion of their journey was, of course, the birth of their twins, Clyde and Rowan about three months ago.
And in the blink of an eye, their lived changed forever. "Before having kids, we never used our kitchen and we were always on the go. Our lives were all about spontaneous evenings and trips at the last minute. Before having kids I thought we would carry on with the lifestyle we had. It only took a few days to realize that our whole world had changed-for the better in many ways. We definitely are now on a budget and more conscious of our unnecessary spending," the new dads say.
What's important to them now is radically different. "Being a family and showing up and being an attentive and connected father is the most important thing I can do with my life and for these boys," Sean says.
Like all new parents, Sean and Spencer struggle with sleepless nights. They are finding out that parenthood is a marathon rather than a sprint, and one without a grand finish at that. Each day requires different skills and work. The guys are lucky to be good communicators; they also report keeping each other grounded. Sean adds, "One thing that really seems to help all four of us calm down and come back to the present moment is singing Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds". Whenever I am feeling like I am not strong enough for a challenging moment, I sing this to the boys and I remember that every little thing is going to be all right."
Even while the dads are still in the fog of new parenthood, they say they can definitely see themselves having more children. "I do not know if we would do surrogacy again, but I can absolutely imagine us adopting to grow our family," says Sean.
There are two more things Sean and Spencer, now 29 and 37 respectively, would like to share. The first is: Do it! "Go into parenthood with your whole heart and be prepared for it to melt and explode into a million pieces because having kids is beyond anything you can ever imagine!"
The second piece of advice: Find your village. In the words of Sean, "It truly takes [a village] and you do not have to do it alone. Find your support system, and when things get challenging don't be afraid to reach out to them. In the beginning, I had so much pride in being a gay dad and I didn't want anyone to think that I wasn't capable of doing it on my own. That's just unrealistic and it's absolutely okay to ask for help. Reach out to your friends, family, or chosen family time and ask them to bring your lunch or talk to other parents about their experience. You asking for help in the long run benefits your children as well, they get to see your smile more."