Gay Dad Family Stories

Two Illusionists Tackle Their Trickiest Act Yet: Fatherhood

After Ryan's sister offered her "oven," Chris and Ryan were able to form their family through surrogacy.

When Chris was a little boy, he found a magic trick at the bottom of his cereal box and quickly became hooked on magic. Little did he know that this was to be the start of a career in the art of illusion. Ryan had a similar formative experience at a similar age when he received a magic kit for his birthday and started doing shows for friends and family. "Our hobby continued as we grew older and we were doing shows for schools, banquets, and corporate events," said Chris.

In 2005 they met in Michigan. "We were both performing separately and event coordinators double booked us for the same event," said Ryan. "So on the spot we created a two-man show and the result was amazing; we had chemistry on stage and off, and the rest is history."

Yet, the rest is far from history. The rest tells a story of two illusionists who, while living and working abroad in Guam, became dads with the help of incredible family members and wonderful friends. So let's start after that serendipitous meeting, and what lead them to become dads.


After their two-man show success, Chris and Ryan Zubrick began touring and creating their illusionist act together. "We were performing and touring around the Midwest when we saw a job posting on an online forum for a headlining act overseas," said Chris. They submitted their promotional material and eventually got the job in June 2007. "A two year contract in Saipan turned into a 7.5 year contract and we were then promoted and moved to their theatre in Guam - it was a much larger theatre and production." (Their current contract takes them through till April 2020.)

On October 10, 2013, Ryan and Chris were married.

As they both always wanted kids – "It was something we had talked about all along" - they began their adoption journey with an agency based in Portland, Oregon. But just as they were about to get into the waiting pool of parents-to-be, they received an email from Ryan's sister Kimberly, which included this unforgettable and life-changing line:

"I have an oven that has never been used, in good shape, and I wanted to see if you needed it?"

At first, Ryan and Chris were so blindsided by the offer, they took it literally. "Looking back, we laugh to ourselves because we didn't know why Kimberly was offering us an "oven" as ours was in perfectly good condition!" chuckled Chris. "Could we be so naïve?"

So excited by Kimberly's generous offer, they shared the news with their longtime friend, a genetic counselor, to learn more about the process of surrogacy. To both of their surprise, their friend said, "If you guys are looking for eggs, I'd be more than happy to donate mine!"

"Everything seemed to be falling into place for us," said Ryan.

They parted ways with their adoption agency and began researching surrogacy in California. Because of their unique situation, and the decision to not involve a third party agency, they struggled to find professionals that would work with them. "We knew things would not be without complication," said Chris. "Kimberly was family and this would be her first pregnancy. And on top of that, our egg donor was a really close friend, but we knew it would be worth it in the end."

"It was taxing emotionally, but after months of searching and being rejected countless times, we found a team of lawyers, psychologists and a fertility clinic who would work with us regardless of our unique situation," said Ryan. "Thankfully, California has some of the best surrogacy laws already in place for us."

The dads-to-be traveled to Santa Monica for the sperm donation and embryo transfer. They were able to transfer two embryos to Kimberly, one fertilized by each husband; only one took, and a few months later they found out at their gender reveal that they were having a boy! Ryan and Chris were thrilled and began to make plans to be there for the birth. (They had FaceTimed in for all the doctor's appointments and ultrasounds from Guam.)

The day finally came, and the dads were scrubbed up and ready to welcome their son into the world, when the birth plan went out the window. "Ryan's sister experienced a placenta abruption, cutting off Oliver's life line for about 6 minutes," explained Chris. "She was rushed in for an emergency C-section." The dads were not allowed in for the surgery, and due to his time without oxygen, their son had to be rushed via ambulance to the Children's Hospital in LA where he stayed for two weeks undergoing cooling therapy. "We were unable to pick him up or hold him," remembered Ryan. "It was very difficult." Being there for the birth, cutting the umbilical cord and experiencing skin-to-skin contact all disappeared, but thankfully, after two weeks, their son, Oliver was released and cleared all his milestones, and the dads were finally able to take him home.

Today, the family of three start their day a little later than most families due to their evening performance schedule, typically rising around 9:30am. The day is then filled with activities, errands, walks, beach expeditions, and anything to do with the water as Oliver loves it all! Around 6:30pm, Ryan and Chris head to work – "the theatre where we perform is right across the street from our house" – and Oliver goes to a sitter's or they come watch him at his house.

Around 10:30pm, Ryan and Chris have finished their performances and come home to Oliver or collect him from his sitter's. "We have a late dinner and play," said Chris. "He usually has a lot of energy." At 11:45pm they start the bedtime process: pajamas, stories, and teeth brushing, then bed. The dads usually follow around 2am.

Within the small community of Guam, Ryan, Chris and Oliver have only received positive comments and acceptance. "We are local celebrities due to our profession so everyone knows us," said Chris. "From locals and tourists alike we have only experienced positive responses about our same sex family."

Ryan and Chris agree that although they encountered some difficulties when pursuing fatherhood, they were very fortunate in their journey to become dads. And through their experience, they have some advice: "There will be hurdles and challenges and times when it seems like it may not be worth it, but it so is. Rely on each other for support, take small breaks from the process if need be, but if it's something you really want, push through and think about how awesome being a father will be."

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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."


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