Personal Essays by Gay Dads

No, My Kids Don't Have a Mom; But I'm a Dad Who Learned From the Best

When his mom passed, Bradley Pounds couldn't imagine becoming a dad without her by his side. "But storms pass," he said, and "dreams endure."

A month before our first child was born via surrogacy, I came home late from work to find my husband sitting on the sofa in the dark. The blue light from the television lit up his face. His eyes were puffy; he'd obviously been crying.

Given the timing, I was surprised to see him in that state. This was our victory lap. Here's our story in a nutshell: After a nightmarish surrogacy journey failed a year prior, burning through 19 embryos and $50k with no results to show for either, we had opted to lay this project down and lick our wounds for a few years. Then, an incredibly generous woman stepped forward and offered to donate her eggs for no compensation. We took this as a sign that we were meant to get back in the game. We decided to throw a Hail Mary pass and try again, and this time we found ourselves working with an excellent reproductive clinic and surrogate sent straight from heaven. It all clicked, we got pregnant on the first try.


Bradley and his mom

This time around, it wasn't just an easy pregnancy but a fairytale journey of awe and anticipation. In the weeks prior we had FIVE baby showers -- one at church, one at each of our jobs, one for family, and then the fun boozy one with friends. (We didn't have to buy a single diaper until Jake was seven months old.) We were on top of the world.

I sat down beside my husband and asked him what was the matter.

"Our kids . . . they're not gonna have a Mom."

My heart sank a little bit. The 'no Mom' bridge is one that gay dads have to cross early in our parenting journeys, so it would be pretty nuclear if he was still stuck on that point a few weeks before delivery. I pressed him for more. He wasn't experiencing regret about our decision to bring a child into the world; he was certain about that. No, it was another sadness altogether. It was grief. He was mourning the loss of the mother that Jake would never have.

Shannon and his mom

Shannon and I both grew up the sons of devoted, joyful mothers. Shannon's mom is soft-spoken, agreeable and friendly. I think she's Jake's favorite person on the planet, with Shannon and I competing for a distant second place. Most of my friends have tenuous relationship with their mothers-in-law. Not me. I've repeatedly asked mine to just move in with us but she won't take the bait.

I struggle to find words to describe my own mother. She was special. She was magnetic in a way that she refused to acknowledge. People said she was the prettiest woman in town, which would only elicit a giant eye roll from her before she swiftly changed the subject. It's true, she was gorgeous -- but I think what people really meant is that she put them at ease; she made everyone feel seen and encouraged.

The two of us were incredibly close. My mom turned 18 on a Tuesday and had me the following Sunday. We grew up together. We were friends, and my favorite thing to do was make her laugh. I can remember being four years old and dictating my first story to her at the kitchen table. She helped me write before I could read. Her hands were soft and her eyes were bright. She smelled like a thousand flowers.

Bradley and his mom

When I was 29, my otherwise healthy mother went to see her doctor for a backache. She left that appointment with a diagnosis of metastatic liver cancer, and we buried her three months later. She was 47. After mom died, I put my dreams of becoming a parent on a shelf. I couldn't imagine doing it without her there to teach me how to change diapers or listen to me whine on the phone about being sleep deprived. When I pictured what fatherhood would look like, it always involved her standing beside me. If I couldn't have that, I wasn't sure I wanted to be a dad at all.

But storms pass, life returns to normal and dreams endure. Jake was born in 2017, followed by our daughter earlier this year. We named her Laura Ruth, after our moms. We've surrounded them with positive, loving women in important roles in their lives. They know their surrogate and their egg donor, and they're blessed with a few dozen aunts, grandmother figures and friends who love them and provide positive role modeling. I've learned that moms tend to rush in and fill the space left behind by one of their own, in a way that I'm not sure that dads do.

The truth is that our kids don't have a mom. They have a couple of guys with rough hands who, on their best days, smell like Tide. But we can make them feel seen and loved, and know that for us they are the sun in our morning and the stars in our night. We can be gentle and nurturing. We can give them safety and closeness. Because we learned from the best.

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Gay Dad Photo Essays

Dads and Their Kids Serving Major Squad Ghouls This Halloween!

Check out our fang-tastic round-up of gay dads and their kids dressed to impress this Halloween!

Every time we think we've seen the best of the best for Halloween, the following year tops the last - and this year's no different! These gay dad families look FANG-TASTIC! If you haven't gotten in on the fun yet, enter out first ever Gays With Kids family Halloween costume contest! Entries are due today!

In the meantime, check out these amazing costumes below!

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Gay Dad Photo Essays

Gay Dads + Kids = MAJOR Family Halloween Costumes

All October long, we'll be posting pics of gay dads and their major Halloween costumes from previous years for inspiration! We'll ALSO let you know where to get the looks!

We've said it before and we'll say it again — NO ONE does Halloween (aka queer Christmas) better than the gays. So if you're in need of some inspiration for this year's family costume, look no further! We selected 31 of our favorites off Instagram from last year, one for each spooky day of October, to help get your creative juices flowing.

We can't wait to see what creepy, creative and/or cute costumes dads have up their sleeves (or maybe capes?) this year!

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Gay Dad Photo Essays

Celebrate Mother's Day This Year by Checking Out These Fabulous Lesbian Insta-Mom Accounts

Most of our content focuses on gay, bi and trans dad. But this Mother's Day, we're bringing you ten two-mom families worth following on Instagram.

Although the majority of our content focuses on gay, bi and trans dads and dads-to-be, we're always excited for Mother's Day. It's when we get to show our love for all of the AMAZING sister-accounts out there that celebrate lesbian moms!

This Mother's Day, we asked a few of our fav two-mom Instagram accounts how they celebrate the special day, what they love most about being a mom, and what they've learned in the process.

Be sure to follow these awesome lesbian and bi women celebrating all things motherhood on Instagram.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Raising Grounded Kids in Crazy Manhattan

When it comes to raising kids in Manhattan, Dr. Evan Goldstein lives by this lesson — less is more.

There are several lessons that we all learn as we continue to age on this wacky place called earth. But I learned one of life's most important nuggets my first year of medical school, and it has never left me. I remember this one night in particular—it was late, and I had been studying when I realized I forgot an important book in the stacks of the library. Thankfully, a janitor opened the locked door and allowed me to retrieve my belongings. I remember it took him a while to open the locked section that I needed to enter, as he had so many dangling keys on his keychain. He responded to me gazing at the lock by saying, "Son, I may only be a janitor without any education beyond high school, but I have seen medical student after student enter this school for the past 25 years. Can I give you some advice?" "Of course," I said. "Do you see all these keys on this keychain?" he said. "Every single one holds a new responsibility. Less keys, less responsibility. Less is more! Remember that my friend." And with that, he was gone.

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Change the World

11 Family Stories That Show the Depth of the Adoption Experience for Gay Men

November is National Adoption Awareness Month! To celebrate, we've curated some adoption stories that show the true depth and breath of the adoption experience for gay men.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month! And few people are more aware of the importance of lifting up and celebrating adoption in this country than the LGBTQ community. According to the Williams Institute, 21% of same-sex couples are raising adopted children compared to just 3% of different-sex couples. Despite the fact that we are a crucial part of the support system for children needing loving homes, we are currently facing an administration that is trying to make it legal for foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate against us on the basis of religion.

To help celebrate National Adoption Awareness Month, and demonstrate that religious beliefs should in never trump the ability for a loving LGBTQ family to welcome children into their home, we've rounded up several family stories that show the true depth and breath of the adoption experience — men who never planned to become dads, and woke up one day to find themselves responsible for little ones. Men who always wanted to become dads, and suffered through years of failed placements before finally making their dreams come true. Single men, who realized they were strong enough to adopt on their own. And men who adopted older children through the foster care system.

These are just a few of the inspiring stories of gay, bi and trans adoptive dads — we are literally sitting on a treasure trove of them. And, no doubt, there are countless more headed your way in the months to come.

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Popular

"We're Dads, the Greatest Thing We've Ever Been": Congrats to Gay Men Whose Families Recently Grew!

Wishing all of these gay dads whose families expanded a lifetime of happiness! Congrats to everyone in our community on their recent births and adoptions!

Gay men go through a lot of ups and downs on the path to parenthood. It can be one of the most emotionally draining times in our lives. But as each of these families who are celebrating births and adoptions this month agree: it's worth every hardship.

Congrats to the dads whose families grew this month!

Congratulations to dads Ryan and Sebastian on the birth of their son, Máximo!!

Ryan and Sebastian's path to fatherhood was through surrogacy and their journey took nearly five years from start to finish. "There were many ups and downs and we almost gave up — but are so glad we didn't!"

"Holding Máximo for the first time was something we will never forget," shared Ryan. "He was looking up at us and we were just overcome with love and joy."

This new family of three live in Long Island City, New York.

Congratulations to dads Andy and Mike on their birth of their son Bennett!

In July this year, Andy and Mike became first time dads through surrogacy when they welcomed their son Bennett.

"We are absolutely in love with our baby Bennett! He's doing awesome and his Daddy and Papa have been rewarded with a lot of big smiles! He sleeps a lot and is generally relaxed as he learns about the world around him. He's made us happier than we knew possible and we feel incredibly blessed that he is the culmination of our wonderful surrogacy journey."

Even though their son is only 3 months old, they're already starting to think about and plan for his sibling! Congrats dads!

Congratulations to dads Bryan and Zachary on the birth of your son Spencer!

Three years ago, husbands Bryan and Zachary moved from New York City to Dallas, Texas to start a family.

"Like for most, our journey had many uncertainties with ups and downs along the way," said Bryan. "When you stop and really think about everything that goes into the process and has to take place, it's a true miracle and we feel blessed."

On August 26 this year, their son Spencer was born through surrogacy. "Patience, hope, support and remembering what's eventually to come helped my husband and I during the most stressful times. Now that Gates is here, it's hard to even look back."

"Holding Gates for the first was a true miracle - my husband and I finally took a breath. At that moment, the three of us created our new family and everything was exactly how it was supposed to be."

Congratulations to dads John and Ryan on finalizing the adoption of their son Connor!

When John and Ryan in 2004, they both knew they wanted to be parents. They were married in 2005 and started their journey as foster parents in 2009. They first became dads when their son Cody, then an infant, came to live with them. His adoption was finalized in 2013.

"After Cody's adoption, we 'closed' our home and actually moved a few times before joining the foster parent community again in 2018. When we decided to look to foster and adopt again, Cody was fully on board and that was a big part of our discussions about timing."

Their son Conner was placed with them as an infant in May 2018. Connor's adoption was finalized on October 16, and he was 19 months old at the time.

"Adoption day was a whirlwind," shared John. "We were first on the docket for the judge and he made quick work of finalizing his placement and formally making Connor a member of the family!"

The forever family of four live in San Antonio, Texas and would love to connect with other families like theirs.

Congratulations to dads Matt and Ian on the birth of their son Rocco!

Denver couple Matt and Ian had been dreaming of the day when they'd become dads. The husbands have been together going on 8 years, married for 5, and had picked out their son's name even before they were married.

"The journey to fatherhood has been a long and emotional one," shared Matt. "After our first fertility clinic placed roadblocks in front of us for almost two years, we changed to a new once and suddenly found ourselves on a pace far quicker towards fatherhood. We engaged a surrogacy agency to find our gestational carrier after two attempts to do it ourselves, and ended up with someone who was so far and beyond what we ever could have imagined, we cannot imagine the journey without her. We call her our angel not just because of her selfless act but for her guidance along the way as a mother herself."

From their first 13 embryos, one little one tried to hang on but didn't quite make it to the end. After several years of trying up, they decided to give it one more go and were able to produce 6 eggs, one of which resulted very quickly into a multiplying, healthy and genetically viable embryo - the last of 19 attempts. "The day we found out that our little bundle of cells had matured, we unexpectedly lost my Grandfather on the same day – a stark reminder of the cycle that is life. We gave our son the middle name of Keen as it was one of my late grandfather's signature words to use. 'Oh, that's so keen...' is a phrase I can still hear him saying to me as a child."

On July 26, the dads welcomed their son Rocco! "We are blessed now with a sleeping, funny, expressive and engaged little spirit in our lives. The process was tough, emotional and downright exhausting. The moment he showed up though, let out a scream then looked at his with his funny little furled brow, every single appointment, lost night's sleep, worry and tear was collectively worth it. We are Dads … and that is simply the greatest thing we have ever been."

Congratulations to Travis and Jay on finalizing the adoption of their son Kathan!

Travis and his husband Jay began their path to fatherhood a little over three years ago when they began the certification process to adoption through the foster care system. "After a little over a year and a half in the making we got the call on June 3rd 2018 at 11:30am. That day changed our lives in so many beautiful ways," said Travis.

At just 4 days old, the dads brought their son Kathan home, and 16 months later, they celebrated his adoption being finalized. "It felt like we had been set free as a family for the first time."

Kathan's adoption day was incredibly personal for the dads so they spent it with close family and took Kathan out for celebratory brunch.

Congrats to this Orange County forever family of three.

Congratulations to dad Derek and Zack on the birth of their daughter Georgia!

On October 18, 2019, dads Derek and Zack, and big brother Hank, welcomed Georgia to the family. The family is over the moon!

"Zack and I were lucky to be able to work with the same surrogate that helped us with our son Hank," said Derek. Their family journey experienced a significant setback when one of their fertility clinic's embryo storage tanks malfunctioned, and they lost all their genetic material - 11 fertilized embryos - that Derek's sister and Zack had donated to create their family. Luckily, Derek's sister was incredible and happily flew out to donate her beautiful genes again.

"Our family is truly the living embodiment of the love of our extended family and our carrier Raelene (and her family) have for us and our dream to meet our children. Meeting Georgia, for me, was the realization of all those feelings of love and hope we felt throughout our journey."

Congrats to this San Francisco family of four!

Congratulations to dads Rob and Scott on the birth of their daughter Sierra!

Rob and Scotty's journey to fatherhood started in December 2014, and they became first time dads eighteen months later when their son Ryder was born through surrogacy. In early October this year, they welcomed their daughter, Sierra, also through surrogacy.

"Holding her for the first time was amazing and warmed our hearts completely," shared Scotty. "Our son loves his baby sister and is very protective of her!!"

Huge congrats to this Sacramento family!

Congratulations to dads Brian and John on the birth of their son Weston!

Brian Wall and his fiancé John Agricola live in Toronto, Canada, and they recently welcomed their son Weston into the world on November 13.

"Our path to fatherhood was made a little simpler because my first cousin offered to be our surrogate," said Brian. "It took about a year total from picking an egg donor and our first successful embryo transfer on March 13."

When the dads first held their son they both agreed it was the most emotional experience they've ever had. "So grateful to our surrogate and he is a healthy boy!!"

Congrats to this new family of three, and can't wait to see wedding photos from your upcoming nuptials!

Congratulations to Ricky and Jeff on finalizing the adoption of their daughter Kylie!

Ricky and Jeff finalized the adoption of their youngest on November 8, the biological sister to their son Kadyn.

"Her birth mom knew that she couldn't take care of her and wanted us to have her," shared Ricky. "We went through the county again and we were able to adopt Kylie 6 months after her birth. The extra cool experience this time around was the fact that we were invited to be there to be part of the birth."

To be finalize Kylie's adoption was "amazing" said the dads. "It means that nothing and no one can do or say anything that would effect her being with us, which almost happened about a month before the adoption day."

Congratulations to this Californian forever family of four!

News

United Nations Calls on Cambodia to End Criminalization of Surrogates

Cambodia's 2016 law criminalizes surrogacy — and requires women who work as surrogate to raise the children they conceived for intended parents as their own.

Last Friday, the United Nations Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) reiterated its support to end the harassment and criminalization of surrogates in Cambodia, according to Voice of America.

The report issued by CEDAW recognized growing international criticism of the unregulated practice of surrogacy around the world, which often leads to the exploitation of women who work as surrogates. However, since surrogacy became illegal in Cambodia, over 60 women working as surrogates — the very people put in danger of exploitation — have been arrested and subjected to criminal proceedings. The women were only released according to VOA, under the condition of raising the surrogate children until they are 18.

"The Committee is particularly concerned that such an obligation creates an additional financial and emotional burden on women who are in precarious situations, which led them to act as surrogates in the first place," the report reads, "and that they face discrimination and stigma from their families and communities for having acted as surrogates."

CEDAW called on the Cambodian government to repeal the October 2016 law — particularly the requirement of raising the children they conceived for other intended parents as their own. This punishment is particularly onerous given that many of these women entered surrogacy arrangement against their will, said Chak Sopheap, Executive Director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, speaking to VOA.

"Surrogate women in Cambodia are likely to be at the sharp end of various economic and political hardships that caused them to make the decision to become a surrogate," she told VOA in an email. "We have seen, over the past year, women surrogates raided, charged with human trafficking, and detained, with no transparency from the authorities as to their wellbeing or that of the children they have given birth to."

Read more about this story here.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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