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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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

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The effort stalled last year after opponents, including several Democrats, successfully argued that the bill didn't go far enough to protect women who serve as surrogates — even though it included a surrogate "bill of rights," the first of its kind in the country, aimed at ensuring protections.

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Opponents, led by Senator Liz Krueger, had once again attempted to torpedo legalization efforts this year by introducing a second bill that would legalize surrogacy in New York, but also make it the most restrictive state in the country to do so. "A bill that complicates the legal proceedings for the parents and potentially allows them to lose their genetic child is truly unfortunate," said Sam Hyde, President of Circle Surrogacy, referencing to the bill's 8-day waiting period. He also took issue with the bills underlying assumptions about why women decide to serve as a surrogate. The added restrictions imply that "they're entering into these arrangements without full forethought and consideration of the intended parents that they're partnering with," he said.

The bill was sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman, an out gay man who became a father via surrogacy, and Assemblymember Amy Paulin, who has been public with her experiences with infertility.

"My husband and I had our two daughters through surrogacy," Holyman told Gay City News. "But we had to travel 3,000 miles away to California in order to do it. As a gay dad, I'm thrilled parents like us and people struggling with infertility will finally have the chance to create their own families through surrogacy here in New York."

"This law will [give intended parents] the opportunity to have a family in New York and not travel around the country, incurring exorbitant costs simply because they want to be parents," Paulin said for her part. It will "bring New York law in line with the needs of modern families."


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