Personal Essays by Gay Dads

One Year As A Father: A Very Real Reflection On The Journey Of Surrogacy

Ryan's honest assessment of the surrogacy process? It sucks.

Photo credit: Sonju Photography

My husband and I were asked to join our former surrogacy agency for the Men Having Babies conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Equipped with our one-year old twins, we were given the opportunity to say a few words about our baby-making journey. My biggest takeaway from standing in front of a room full of potential gay dads was this: surrogacy fucking sucks.

There, I said it.


Surrogacy fucking sucks and I realized I would never, never, never want to go through the process again. I'm not speaking about our agency of choice; we have no horror stories or negative experiences. In the grand scheme of science-experiment-babies, I'd say ours went fairly smooth. But what sucks about surrogacy is the process itself — the year-long (or more) period of holding your breath, getting hopes up, waiting for a call, awkwardly shooting semen in a cup then passing it along to nurses you've never met, physical and psychological testing and, of course, the glorious financial strain to top it off. And the waiting... oh the waiting game! I still joke that hearing something cost ONLY $1000 was a relief! Never before had money felt so liquid. Surrogacy has to be the most impersonal way to make offspring — I mean, passing along a plastic cup of your man juice is one thing, but suddenly there's an endless lineup of people who now know a copious amount of random facts about your personal life. Like there could be a Trivial Pursuit category dedicated to me and my husband's finances, sex history and weird preferences.

Holding our babies in a room full of prospective, eager gay dads to be, I felt so unbelievably grateful. My husband spoke to the crowd, saying, "I remember being on your side of the room...". And it made me smile because, yeah, I remember so clearly what it's like to want our family to grow, to think about our future babies all the time, to see friends or strangers with children and think, why not us? Why was it so easy for you? Feeling envious of people who already had their family unit, who went to parks together, took vacations, baked cookies for movie-night, and, yes, even parents who were the designated class helper for school projects and activities. Because I totally want to be Class Dad and do stupid elementary school crafts and field trips.

I remember how certain we were about our decision to be dads, and how overwhelming the process of becoming parents felt. It seemed like every next step required an education, a learning curve, or another $5k. Who am I kidding — another $10k! The main questions that ran through my neurotic head were: How does the process actually work? How long does it really take? How much does it cost? How do I find the right agency?

Short answers: 1. A surrogacy agency will help you find an egg donor and surrogate. The agency will guide you through the process, stop freaking out and learn as you go! 2. If there are no hiccups and everything works as planned, assume the process will take one year from start to finish. 3. Surrogacy will generally cost over 100k and under 200k, depending on your agency, IVF clinic and a slew of other miscellaneous factors. So plan for an average realistic ballpark of 150k. 4. As for the right agency, I'll get to that – keep reading.

I look back now that I can hold our babies and someday very soon earn my crown as Class Dad — as PTA head-bitch-in-charge — I can look back at that time of surrogacy craziness with fondness. It brought my husband and I closer together, made us discuss serious life situations many couples never do before having children. Sure there were times it felt like our relationship strained a bit from the stress, but it made us incredibly equipped for fatherhood. We were beyond prepared for something that you really can't prepare for. And not just with baby shit like decorating the nursery, buying clothes or figuring out how the hell to swaddle a kid; but we were prepared as a couple to face whatever came our way. We had to work hard and put forth so much thought into having these babies, that once they actually came it felt like a relief. I'd even go so far as to say that the surrogacy process lessened the shock of actually being a new parent. Anyone who endures surrogacy or IVF treatment, gay dads or straight couples, have to be the most prepared parents on the planet. And beyond that, I believe we produce the most wanted babies.

Photo credit: Sonju Photography

What I found is there's no right way with surrogacy, just as there is no right way with parenting. There is just your way, and your way means what is right for you and your family. In the case of surrogacy, it is so important to remember that it can be hard, extremely challenging at times. And other times it is unbelievably beautiful and exciting. It's a damn rollercoaster. Like one of those flip-you-around-feet-in-the-air rollercoasters that you shouldn't eat a hot dog before riding. But surround yourself with a team you intuitively feel is best to support your family.

There are so many agencies, doctors, clinics, attorneys, you name it. You can do all the research, get countless recommendations and speak to every baby-making expert in the world. At the end of the day, what matters is that you follow your gut. We went with a small, boutique agency local to us in Florida. We liked the security of having them near, felt extremely comfortable talking to them, and always received personalized service. The owner of the company is passionate about working with same-sex families and had gone through surrogacy herself. She understood both the business and personal aspects, but most importantly she genuinely loves helping people on this journey. The prices are the prices and the agency was extremely upfront about cost. There is no "inexpensive" method to make a baby this way, unless you go for the do-it-yourself route, which is absolutely effective for some people! For my husband and I, we selected our agency because they simply felt right. A gut feeling we are happy to have followed.

Photo credit: Sonju Photography

There at the Men Having Babies conference, standing with our former agency, along with another gay couple who just started their surrogacy process, in front of a room full of men eagerly hoping to be dads, I held our son while my husband held our daughter. And I truly can't believe it has come full circle. I can't believe that what felt like a long, arduous process really flew by in the blink of an eye. That our twins are now one-year old — shit, that we've been dads for one year already — because it all seems like yesterday. It feels like I could be sitting in the audience with a big question mark over my head, not knowing what to do next or how it will ever happen. Just wanting my family to grow, wanting so badly to be a dad.

And then suddenly — you're gifted hindsight.

So, yes, the surrogacy process fucking sucks but, and this is a very crucial 'but', it is so worth it. Every sleepless night, anxious phone call, doctor appointment, awkward moment or uncomfortable question — it is so, so, so unbelievably worth it. And while the process of surrogacy fucking sucks, the reward of pursuing the journey is so amazing. Being a dad is so amazing. Being a co-dad with my husband is so amazing. Knowing that we did this together for our family is so amazing.

If you're like I was and are filled with doubts, fears, questions — just have faith it will work out how it's meant to work out. Trust the process, however grueling and fucking sucky it may feel at times. Because you learn as you go, find strength you never knew you had, and meet some awesome people along the way. Plus, the silver lining far outweighs the general suckiness. Promise!

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Working:​ One Father's Plea for Gun Reform

One gay dad's plea to our leaders to enact sensible gun control

My articles on GaysWithKids aspire to be lighthearted, helpful and humorous. This one won't be any of those things. Because I'm feeling heavyhearted, helpless and sad. Last week I woke up to news of yet another mass shooting. This time at a family-friendly Garlic Festival in northern California. I don't know if it's because this one hit so close to home, or if it's because the headline included a picture of the innocent 6-year old who was among those killed, but I am overcome with emotion. But mostly I am angry. And I don't know what to do with my anger.

Then, just a few days later came two additional horrific mass shootings that stole the lives of at least 32 more innocent people, many of them children. And then there's the "everyday" gun violence that plagues American cities like Chicago, where guns injured another 46 people this past weekend alone… creating so much turmoil, a hospital had to briefly stop taking patients.

How does one verbalize the collective sadness felt around the world? One can't. And that's why I am asking everyone reading this article to commit to getting involved in some way, to help end this epidemic once and for all. Even though the solution is so obvious, we can't allow ourselves to become numb to mass shootings. Because becoming numb isn't going to save anyone.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A "Village of Women" Helped These Gay Men Become Dads

Elliot Dougherty's mother-in-law served as a gestational carrier, and his sister donated eggs, so that he and his husband could become dads

All good love stories start hot. Ours just so happened to, literally. The summer I turned 23, during the sweltering heat, I stood at an invisible crossroads. I felt a momentum pulling at me, but I couldn't tell from which direction. I had been putting myself out there as a hairstylist and building my portfolio by working with local photographers and designers. At the beginning of July, I received a Facebook message from a young man named Matthew Eledge. He sent me the script to a short film he was directing, hoping I might be interested. We met a few days later on a humid summer day at a quaint French cafe in the Old Market of downtown Omaha. Drinking wine, we discussed our inspirations for hours.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad's Letter to His Sons Before Their First Day of Summer Camp

A gay dad pens a heartfelt letter to his sons before their first day of sleep-away camp

My dearest Phoenix and Sebastian,

Whether I let you leave this year or next or hold you in our nest for the next ten years, at some point I actually have to face my own fears. The past seven years have been both the most rewarding and yet also the toughest I have lived. And as any good parent tells you, it gets tougher and tougher. But through this year, I have witnessed your growths, and more so your wants and needs. With that said, it's time for you to take independence head on. Yes, you will fall and yes, you will make mistakes, but that's normal for any human. It's what you do when this occurs that makes you a gentleman. Learn from your mistakes, don't repeat them. Own them and build on them to make you a better member of society.

Why I am writing this? Well, you guys are off to sleep away camp in four weeks and every day it gets closer and closer to me losing control. So much so that I won't have any control left. And that, kids, scares me. Yes, this is the camp I went to in my teens and yes, the staff and owners are friends from the past. But seven weeks is a long time and I am losing not only my two sons for this period, but also my friends. I am now forced to actually talk to Papa (partially kidding) or probably more likely live in a quieter-than-usual house. It's funny how you yearn for peace and quiet until you have it and then you realize how deafening it is.


Now, camp was such an instrumental part of my life, shaping everything I have accomplished to date and it's such a gift to be able to provide you both the same experience. We should all feel humbled and grateful. The emotions, the friendships, and the love of the fresh air will be unsurmountable. The key is to keep your head up and your eyes wide open. Listen to what people are asking of you. If you're unsure, use your voice. Be kind every step of the way. Take risks with caution. You both are so great with making friends, both young and old. But being in a community with many walks of life, 24 hours a day, is not easy—it can be quite challenging. So, what do you do? Turn this into a positive, allowing yourself to simply work on you being you. This "you" needs to be a productive citizen within this microcosm. Look for guidance. Find counselors and kids that not only challenge you, but also help you along the way. We all need assistance, every day of our lives, and it's imperative for you to be able to vocalize this in a manner that will provide the fruit you desire.

On the other hand, there are so many things that I can't teach you. These things you must learn on your own and I do believe this environment in which you will live in is the right place for you to experience all these things. Phoenix—make right choices. You are the sweetest and kindest person I know. Open your heart to everyone. You are so good at that. But also follow instructions. Not too aggressive, my young knight. Don't deviate too much from the path, my friend. And look out for your brother. Help him when he needs it. Sebastian—we worry about you. Make the right choices. And get dressed faster! You're too slow. Also, be flexible. Life is not a race and one has to be able to separate competition and sportsmanship. If you don't get your way, you will be fine. Sometimes that's how the cookie crumbles.

But just as you are working on what I mentioned above, I will be working on not only my own inner being, but also repairing and reinvigorating daddy and papa's relationship. Although you both have and will continue to be of utmost importance in our lives, our connection has taken a back seat to your progress. And selfishly, it is time for Andy and I to just be, as we started 13 years ago. Life is funny and it's only as you age that you develop some element of some wisdom to actually see some of it. But it's the foundations of situations, like sleep-away camp, that truly build the LEGO pieces to your future.

Now, over the last 30 days, I have asked you both random questions to truly understand if you are prepared to go to sleep-away camp this summer. And to my surprise, your answers do indeed show your readiness. Some examples that have made me smile are below. The last being my favorite.

  1. What happens when you wipe your tushy and there's poop on the toilet paper? Seb - put the dirty toilet paper in the toilet bowl.
  2. If you feel a bug on your face attempting to bite you, what would you do? Phx - quickly grab it, catch it in my hand, and gently place it back on the ground, alive.
  3. What happens if you don't know how to do something? Seb - ask a counselor. Seb then asks - what happens if the counselor doesn't know the answer? Can they ask Siri?

So, no, Siri won't be at camp, but the resources for you are abundant and I can't wait to see, to hear, and to watch your progresses, and more so see your independence that will shape the rest of your life. So, with that, yes, I will be crying when the bus departs, but just know it's out of happiness. I know it's the best for all of us and I wish you well, my boys. Enjoy the world. Life is too short not to. And please make sure you wipe your ass clean. Daddy's a well-known proctologist. 😂

Love,

Daddy

Politics

Utah Court Rules Gay Couples Can't Be Excluded From Surrogacy Contracts

The Utah Supreme Court found in favor of a gay couple attempting to enter into a surrogacy contract.

DRAKE BUSATH/ UTCOURTS.GOV

Earlier this month, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that a same-sex couples can't be excluded from entering into enforceable surrogacy contracts, and sent a case concerning a gay male couple back to trial court to approve their petition for a surrogacy arrangement.

As reported in Gay City News, the case concerns Utah's 2005 law on surrogacy, which was enacted prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. As a result, the content of the law is gendered, saying that surrogacy contracts should only be enforceable if the "intended mother" is unable to bear a child. When a gay couple approached District Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox to enter into a surrogacy arrangement, he denied them, arguing that the state's law only concerned opposite sex couples.

"This opinion is an important contribution to the growing body of cases adopting a broad construction of the precedent created by Obergefell v. Hodges and the Supreme Court's subsequent decision in Pavan v. Smith," according to GCN. "It's also worth noting that same-sex couples in Utah now enjoy a right denied them here in New York, where compensated gestational surrogacy contracts remain illegal for all couples."

Read the full article here.

Politics

Gay Russian Dads Forced to Flee Moscow

Fearing the Russian government might take their adopted kids into custody because of their sexual orientation, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev fled Moscow

A married couple in Russia, with two adopted children, were just forced the flee their home in Moscow for fear that the authorities would take their children away, according to German news site Deutsche Welle.

Trouble started last month after investigators in Russia opened a criminal inquiry into the proceedings that had allowed the gay couple, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, to legally adopt the two boys —adoption by LGBTQ people in Russia has typically not been recognized. The government became aware of the adoption proceedings after the gay couple brought their 12-year-old son to the hospital, who was complaining of a stomachache. The boy was fine, but after he mentioned offhand that he was adopted and lived with two fathers, the doctor called the police.

Andrei and Yevgeny granted an interview with Deutsche Welle after escaping Moscow, but on the advice of their lawyers have yet to disclose where they are currently located. Here is a quick recap of that conversation:

"In connection with the 'propaganda of non-traditional values,' the state representatives are accused of having neglected their duty of supervision," Andrei said, when asked to explain on what basis the Russian government might take his children into custody. "This means that lesbian couples could even have their biological children taken away because, through their lifestyle choices, they propagate "certain values."

Yevgeny also explained the events that led to the couple's harrowing escape "I was alone in Moscow at that time. A week after Andrei and the children had left the country, there was a knock on my door, but nobody called 'police, open up.' After half an hour the violent knocking stopped. My parents' home was searched. They were looking for the children and our Danish marriage certificate because we got married in Denmark in 2016. My friends then got me out of the country."

Read the full interview here.

Gay Dad Family Stories

This Couple is Using 'Wheel of Fortune' Winnings to Help Fund Their Adoption

Need to raise money for your adoption fund? Why not try your luck on Wheel of Fortune like these guys!

Doug and Nick Roberts connected three and a half years ago via a dating app, and on their first date, the two immediately felt a connection. Doug, a psychologist, and Nick, a neuroscientist, were married 18 months later. Today the couple live in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and they're ready to start their next exciting adventure together: fatherhood.

The husbands would like to have children, and Nick has always wanted to adopt. "We considered surrogacy, and may consider it in the future as we expand our family," said Doug, "but right now, it is cost-prohibitive. Adoption was easily the right choice for us as we begin to grow our family.

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Change the World

4 Tips for Using Instagram to Connect with Gay Dads Offline

We asked gay dads who have successfully met up with other LGBTQ families offline for some of their tips

Last week, we ran a story about several gay dads who did the unthinkable: meet other gay dads IRL after connecting on Instagram! We get MANY questions from gay dads wondering how they can meet up with others in their area, so we decided to dig a bit deeper this week to get their advice. What can gay dads do to meet others off the 'gram?

1. Be kind — share others' excitement in parenting!


From @twinlifedads Ben and Andy:

"Be kind. That is absolutely it. Be kind to each other and don't be afraid to reach out. Respond to each other when you can. Share in excitement for each other. There is no reason to bring someone else down who might be excited about how they are parenting."

2. Drop a couple comments and likes before reaching out!

From @brisvegasdad Tim and Nic:

"I think drop comments now and then on their posts and instastories and see where things land. Chances are, if you're commenting on a post and it is a heartfelt response, they'll click through to your account, look at your photos and connect with you. And that's when the magic happens - you can introduce yourself, talk about your lives and how things are being a parent... and after a while, if you're in the same neighbourhood, you meet up and grow your friendship organically. That being said, I'm obsessed with Bobby Berk from Queer Eye and his husband Dewey Do - if they ever had kids, I'd probably be completely unsubtle and leave strange awkward comments on their instaposts saying, 'GAY DADS MEET UPSSSSS'."

3. Go in with no expectations

From @stevecsmith Steve and Ben:

"I always try to reach out without any expectations – mostly just to provide a positive comment. I like to leave it up to the other parents to comment or message back before suggesting meeting up or a playdate. Every family is different, so how each person is going to respond is different too."

4. Keep trying!

From @theconways13 Ricky and Jeff:

"Reach out to other families, start a light friendly conversation. Get to know each other and let conversations happen organically. If they lead to a play date great! Our first experience in meeting another lgbt family (not through ig/gwk) was very awkward cause there wasn't a whole lot of conversation happening before hand. The conversations leading up to the play date will help make the first play date with the family go a lot smoother and fun. Don't be afraid of not connecting with the other families. If it isn't successful the first time, continue reaching out to to other families- don't let it deter you from reaching out to others."

Fatherhood, the gay way

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