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.

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Gay Dad Family Stories

This European Couple Became Dads Through a U.K.-Based Surrogacy Program

Janno, from Estonia, and Matthias, from Belgium, were accepted into the "Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy" Program.

Janno Talu, an accountant, and Matthias Nijs, an art gallery director, were born in different parts of Europe. Janno, 39, is from Estonia, and Matthias, 28, is from Belgium. Their paths crossed when the two moved to London, each from their different corners of the European Union.

Janno relocated to London earlier than Matthias, when he was 24, and his main reason for the move was his sexuality. "Although Estonia is considered one of the more progressive countries in Eastern Europe, when it comes to gay rights, it is still decades behind Western society in terms of tolerance," said Janno. "And things are not moving in the right direction." In 2016, same-sex civil union became legal, but the junior party in the current coalition government is seeking to repeal the same-sex partnership bill. "In addition," Janno continued, "they wish to include the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the country's constitution. Even today, there are people in Estonia who liken homosexuality to pedophilia, which is why I decided to start a new life in the UK, where I could finally be myself."

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Asks: Is Destroying an Embryo Similar to Abortion?

It's a question many LGBTQ parents using advanced fertility treatments will need to face — what to do with "left over" embryos.

Let me start off by saying that I have always been pro choice and support all laws that allow people to have full reproductive rights including safe and legal abortions. This is a complicated subject and not one that I ever thought I would really have to deal with on a personal level, especially being a gay man.

I remember a very heated discussion on abortion in my biology class back in university. I was young, idealistic and had very strong convictions about abortion. I was debating with a female classmate who was pro life. She felt there was no reason for an abortion ever, not even if raped by your own parent or sibling. I could not really understand her position, then or now. Don't get me wrong, I still don't agree with her, but now that I'm older and wiser, and also a parent, I have come to respect and accept opinions other than mine.

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Change the World

A Year of "Dadvocacy" with Dove Men+Care

This past year, Gays With Kids has partnered with Dove Men+Care to fight for paid paternity leave for *ALL* dads.

Throughout 2019, we've been advocating alongside our partners Dove Men+Care for paid paternity leave for *ALL* dads. We've encouraged our community of gay, bi, and trans dads, along with our allies, to sign the Pledge for Paternity Leave, and we've been part of the Dove Men+Care and PL+US Day of Action on Capitol Hill as a group of Dadvocates, lead by Alexis Ohanian, spoke with lawmakers and shared their paternity leave stories.

We created six videos of dads in our community sharing their paternity leave stories, numerous social posts, and over eight articles on the topic. We've helped collect close to 40,000 signatures for this vital cause, but the fight continues.

We sat down with one of the Dadvocates who played a huge role in organizing the Day of Action, Vice President / General Manager at Unilever, Skin Cleansing & Baby Care USA Nick Soukas, for a Q&A on his thoughts on and experiences of the day itself.

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Change the World

Miami Tourism Board Releases Vacation Guide for LGBTQ Families

Miami isn't just about circuit parties! The LGBTQ Family-Friendly Miami Vacation Guide showcases many options for queer parents, too.

As gay people, it can be difficult to find vacation spots that are LGBTQ-friendly out of the normal travel "fruit loop" — New York, Mykonos, San Francisco; repeat. For those of us with kids, the Venn diagram of destinations that are both queer and kid friendly can seem practically non-existent.

Fortunately, that's starting to change as the tourism industry realizes that LGBTQ families are a growing segment of vacationers. One city to quickly pick up on this trend is Miami. While the gays have long flocked to Miami for party weekends, the city has also recently noticed an uptick in the number of LGBTQ visitors who are parents. In response, Miami's tourism board release a guide, LGBTQ Family-Friendly Miami Vacation Guide, that includes loads of options for queer parents and their kids. Amid Miami's legendary circuit parties, it turns out, are tons of family friendly things to do — like the Museum of Science, an eco-adventure theme park, and other kid-focused events all year long.

Who knew?

"When I came onboard as Director of LGBTQ Marketing a little over a year ago, I found that our LGBTQ messaging was centered around our annual events," said Dan Rios, who works with the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. Massive parties like the White Party and Aqua Girl are a central part of the city's LGBTQ offerings, he said, but he was also worried the city was "developing a reputation solely as a party destination. "I want to diversify that message to highlight everything else that Greater Miami has to offer."

Hence the city's family-friendly guide that includes offerings within "art and culture, dining, beaches, fitness," Dan said. "We have unique and amazing family attractions that we had been promoting to our general audiences for decades. I saw this as an opportunity; an opportunity to introduce our attractions to LGBTQ families, and an opportunity to further promote our attractions -- it was a win-win."

Dan said the Bureau is also in the midst of a campaign that will prominently feature LGBTQ parents within different travel destinations throughout the city, which will be featured throughout both LGBTQ and mainstream websites, publications and advertising.

We applaud the effort to reach out to LGBTQ families, and hope more cities follow Miami's lead! Be sure to check out the guide here.

Gay Dad Life

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Today we're celebrating, alongside our families, the Chinese New Year! As we usher in the year of rat, we asked some of our dads how they honor this special time, what they do to celebrate, and how they're instilling these traditions in their kids. Here are some of their responses.

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Indiana Court Says Couples Using Sperm Donors​ Can Both Be Listed on Birth Certificate — But Ruling Excludes Male Couples

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the case, a major victory for LGBTQ parents — but the Attorney General may appeal to the Supreme Court.

On Friday, a US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling from a lower court that said that both parents in a same-sex relationship are entitled to be listed on the birth certificate — previously, the state of Indiana had required the non-biological parent within a same-sex relationship using assisted reproductive technologies to adopt their child after the birth in order to get her or his name listed on the birth certificate, a lengthy and expensive process not required of straight couples in the same situation.

It's a double standard LGBTQ parents have long been subjected to in many states across the country. So this represent a major win. As reported by CNN, this ruling "takes a lot of weight off" the shoulders of LGBTQ parents, said Karen Celestino-Horseman, a lawyer representing one of the couples in the case. "They've been living as families and wondering if this was going to tear them apart."

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals deliberated the case, according to CNN, for more than two and a half years, which is one of the longest in the court's history.

However, because all the plaintiffs in the case involved female same-sex couples using sperm donors, the ruling left open the similar question of parenting rights with respect to male couples. Indiana's Attorney General, moreover, may also appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

We'll be following the case closely and be sure to keep you up to date. For more on this recent decision, read CNN's article here.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

As a Gay Dad, What's the Impact of Letting My Son Perform Drag?

Michael Duncan was excited when his 10-year-old son asked if he could perform in drag for charity — but he also felt fear and anxiety.

As LGBT parents, we have all lived through some sort of trauma in our lives. For many it is the rejection of our family, being bullied, or abuse. We learn to be vigilant of our surroundings and often are very cautious of who we trust. As adults, we start to become watchful of how much we share and we look for "red flags" around every corner.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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