This Love Story Starts in Provincetown and Ends in Parenthood
Joe Burke explains how his beautiful family of three came to be via a surrogacy journey
Guest post written by new dad, Joe Burke
In typical gay, New England fashion, Peter Stanieich and I met down in Provincetown the day after July Fourth. While there was an undeniable spark between the two of us, it's probably safe to assume that neither one of us expected things to progress the way it did so quickly. Both living in Boston at the time, we ended up regrouping in the city a few days after meeting in Provincetown for a couple drinks. We had so much fun that we spent almost every day and/or night together for the following two weeks.
I vividly remember discussing fatherhood within the first year of dating. Both coming from large, tight-knit, and supportive families, we shared an interest and bonded over the idea of becoming parents one day. It's one of the many reasons we fell in love.
After getting married in the summer of 2015, we slowly began looking into the various paths to fatherhood. We were always leaning towards surrogacy, but knew that also came with legal headaches and a huge price tag. After a number of consultations with agencies and fertility clinics, we officially decided on surrogacy and began the journey in the fall of 2016 with New England Fertility Institute in Connecticut and Extraordinary Conceptions in California.
While not originally part of our criteria, we eventually chose a young lesbian for our egg donor. When we finally received her agreement to become our donor, I remember feeling so much excitement that not only were we one step closer to becoming dads, but that another member of the LGBTQ community was helping to bring our son into this world.
Our surrogate only lived two hours away, so we were able to attend all the milestone appointments and watch our son grow from a teeny tiny blob to a healthy, rotund baby boy. While proximity shouldn't be the sole factor for choosing a surrogate, it should be in the forefront of your mind if considering surrogacy. As gay intended parents, it's easy to feel a sense of disconnection without witnessing a belly expand as your little girl or boy develops or feeling those tiny kicks as they somersault around. Having a surrogate within driving range allowed us an opportunity to at least partially have that experience and watch our son grow before our own eyes.
The night of his delivery was blissful chaos. From the moment we arrived at the hospital everything progressed quickly. In fact, we barely got our feet into the building before being pulled back into the delivery room with our surrogate. One nurse pulled me aside and even joked that our soon-to-be-son was almost a parking lot baby. Without question, the greatest experience of our lives was being in that delivery room, seeing our son for the first time, and tightly placing his warm body on our chests.
To this day we remain in close contact with our amazingly sincere, selfless, and strong surrogate. Although we try to send pictures on a weekly basis, we are setting up a time to see her later this month for the first time since Callum's delivery. It's a special relationship that we hope will last a lifetime.
With the surrogacy journey lasting three years, we found ourselves more prepared than most couples. It probably didn't hurt that we were already uncles to three nephews and a niece.
Overall, fatherhood has been an intense, yet rewarding experience. We've both wanted a family for so long and grew up thinking that it was an unobtainable dream. We so relieved to be at this point in time, happily married with a beautiful baby boy who's constantly being showered with love (and new clothes).
Prior to our son being born, we both wanted to approach our parenting styles with a calming presence. I think that has really worked in our favor and rubbed off on our son, who is one of the most easygoing and happy babies we've ever been around.It's so cliché, but time really has flown by, making the past three months seem like three weeks.
Being fathers in a same-sex relationship has been a great experience. In our house there are no preconceived, stereotypical parenting roles. We're both able to take turns shouldering the responsibilities, even if one of us is more squeamish with poopy diapers than the other.
The only downside of fatherhood in these first couple months has been the existence (or lack thereof) of paid family leave. As things currently stand, we were both unable to receive paid time off after the birth of our son. Between the two of us, we managed to take 10 weeks of unpaid time off from our places of employment to be with our son in those critical first couple months. Combined with the financial stresses of surrogacy, the lack of paid family leave has been just one more obstacle we've had to overcome. We sincerely hope that things change on a federal or state level for us when baby number two comes along, but in the meantime we're just happy to be in a state that has some of the best surrogacy laws in the country and actually recognizes our family as equals.
If there's anyone seeking surrogacy advice, we'll gladly lend some inside knowledge. We'll be experts in the process soon, because next year we'll be starting the surrogacy journey again and going for baby number two.