Personal Essays by Gay Dads

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.

Show Comments ()

Take a Virtual Tour of The Homes of These Famous Gay Dads

Many famous gay dads — including Neil Patrick Harris, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Ricky Martin — have opened up their homes to fans on the pages of Architectural Digest.

In each issue, Architectural Digest offers a peak into the homes of different celebrities. In recent years, they've featured the homes of several famous gay dads. Check out the videos and stories the magazine pulled together on the beautiful homes of Neil Patrick Harris, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Ricky Martin below!

Keep reading... Show less
Children's Books

New LGBTQ-Inclusive Children's Book Asks: What Makes a Family?

A new children's book by Seamus Kirst follows a young girl's journey of emotional discovery after she is asked which of her two dads is her "real dad."

Editor's note: This is a guest post from Seamus Kirst, author of the new LGBTQ-inclusive children's book "Papa, Daddy, Riley."

Throughout my life, I have discovered that reading provides an almost miraculous way of changing the way I think.

There is no medium that better offers insight into the perceptions, feelings and humanity of someone who is different from us. Through reading we become empathetic. Through reading we evolve. I have often emerged from reading a book, and felt like I was changed. In that, even in this digital age, I know I am not alone.

As children, reading shapes how we see the world. The characters, places, and stories we come to love in our books inform us as to what life might offer us as we grow up, and our world begins to expand beyond our own backyards.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Photo Essays

Interested in Foster Care? These Amazing Dads Have Some Advice

As National Foster Care Month comes to a close, we rounded up some amazing examples of gay men serving as foster care dads, helping provide kids with a bright future.

Every May in the United States, we celebrate National Foster Care Month. With over 437,000 children and youth in foster care, it's our honor to take a look at some of the awesome dads in our community who are opening their hearts and their homes, and providing these kids with a bright future.

Thinking about becoming a foster parent? Check out these resources here, and visit AdoptUSKids.

Meet the Foster Dads!

Keep reading... Show less
Transracial Families Series

This Transracial Family Relies on a 'Support Group' of African American Women

Puerto Rican dads Ferdinand and Manuel are raising a daughter of Jamaican descent — and love to find ways to celebrate their family's diversity

Our second feature in our transracial family series. Read the first one here.

Ferdinand Ortiz, 39, and his husband Manuel Gonzalez, 38, have been together for 7 years. In 2017, they became foster dads when they brought their daughter, Mia Valentina, home from the hospital. She was just three days old at the time. On December 13, 2018, her adoption was finalized.

Mia is of Jamaican and African American heritage, and her dads are both Puerto Rican. When Manuel and Ferdinand began their parenting journey through the foster care system, they received specific training on how to be the parents of a child whose race and culture was different from their own. "We learned that it's important to celebrate our child's culture and surround ourselves with people who can help her be proud of her culture." However, as helpful as this training was, the dads agreed that it would've been beneficial to hear from other transracial families and the type of challenges that they faced.

Keep reading... Show less
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

How the Shut Down Opened Me Up to Being a Better Dad

David Blacker's dad used to tell him to 'stop and smell the roses' — the shut down has led him to finally take the advice

"Stop and smell the roses." It was the thing my dad always said to me when I was growing up. But like many know-it-all kids, I didn't listen. I was determined to keep my eye on the prize. Whether it was getting good grades in school, getting my work published, scoring the next big promotion, buying a house or starting a family. For me, there was no such thing as resting on my laurels. It has always been about what's next and mapping out the exact course of action to get me there.

Then Covid.

Ten weeks ago, I — along with the rest of the world — was ordered to shelter-in-place... to stop thinking about what's next, and instead, focus on the here and the now. In many ways, the shut down made me shut off everything I thought I knew about being content and living a productive life. And so, for the first time in my 41 years, I have literally been forced to stop and smell the roses. The question is, would I like the way they smell?

Keep reading... Show less
Transracial Families Series

How This Transracial Family Creates a 'Safe Space' to Talk About Their Differences

Kevin and David know they can never understand what it's like growing up as a young black girl — but they strive to create a 'safe space' for their daughters to talk about the experience

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of ongoing posts exploring issues related to transracial families headed by gay, bi and trans men. Interested in being featured as part of the series? Email us at

Is adopting a child whose race and culture is different from your own something that us queer dads need to talk about? Share our experiences? Learn from others? We've been hearing from our community, and the answer has been a resounding, "yes."

With over one-fifth (21.4%) of same-sex couples raising adopted children in the United States today (compared to 3% of different-sex couples), it's highly likely, at the very least, that those families are transcultural. According to April Dinwoodie, Chief Executive of The Donaldson Adoption Institute, Inc., all adoptive families are transcultural. "All, in my opinion, adoptions are transcultural because there are no two families' culture that is exactly the same, even if you went as far as to get very specific about the family of origin and the family of experience and almost make it cookie-cutter … no two families operate the same."

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Movie Night: My Favorite Family Tradition

As his sons have gotten older, the movies have morphed away from cartoons and towards things blowing up — but movie night remains his favorite family tradition.

Editor's Note: This is the next in a series of excerpts from Joseph Sadusky's new book, Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad. The book contains many stories about his life as a dad, as well as lessons learned, and we're excited to share several excerpts from the the book over the course of the next few months. Read previous installments here!

Of all of our traditions and rituals, probably the most consistent and longest-lasting one was movie night. Sure, we read the heck out of Harry Potter. But our capacity for watching Harry Potter? We're talking Quidditch World Cup here, folks.

In its early version, movie night looked like this: During the week, I would order a movie and a cartoon from Netflix—back when "Netflix" meant "mail." On Saturday night—and I mean, faithfully, every Saturday night—we would order a pepperoni pizza (which Mark faithfully took the meat off of—I'll get to food later) for delivery and then sit and watch our cartoon and movies while eating. The kids had a say in the movie, but I got to pick the cartoon. They watched enough of their own cartoons on the regular, and besides, this gave me a great opportunity to introduce them to the wonders of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Josie and the Pussycats.

Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse