Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Gay Belgian Dads Give Detailed Account of Their Two Surrogacy Journeys in the U.S.

Gay dads Wim and Dirk pen a detailed essay to give a glimpse into what the surrogacy process is like in the United States as a foreigner.

Written by dads Wim and Dirk.

At first we didn't know about the surrogacy possibilities in the United States, so we prepared ourselves for adoption. We followed the mandatory adoption courses, as most gay couples in Belgium do when they want to have children. We started with the international adoption course but when most countries closed international adoption for gays we decided to give up international adoption and go for national adoption. While we were in the process of being evaluated (psychologically, financially, ...) we read an article in a newspaper about a gay couple that was expecting a child through surrogacy. We managed to contact them and they've told us their surrogacy journey.


Even though we had lots of doubts, we contacted their surrogacy agency CSP (www.creatingfamilies.com), set a date for our first Skype contact and gathered as much information as possible. As the adoption process was continuing we needed to make a choice and decided surrogacy was the right path for us. Mostly because national adoption was presented with lots of caveats like the uncertainty of the health of the child (drug addicts) and the possibility of unplanned contact with the birth mother, father or grandparents.

But since surrogacy is expensive, we still had our doubts about how trustworthy surrogacy agencies are. Luckily Wim's mother overheard a conversation at the local bakery about a heterosexual couple that was pregnant through surrogacy. They we're using the same surrogacy agency and assured us all expenses were acceptable (no excesses) and carefully reported. That's when we decided to stop the adoption process at once and start our surrogacy journey.

It was about one month after finishing all administration that we were chosen by our first surrogate mother, Sabrina. She had been working with a heterosexual couple, but they didn't get pregnant and decided to work with another surrogate. Nevertheless, we we're very happy to be chosen by Sabrina and couldn't wait to start working with her. In October 2012 we travelled to California to meet Sabrina and her husband in Laguna Beach. The meeting was arranged by our counselor who was also present. It seemed like time stopped when our counselor left to get Sabrina. But the moment she entered, we immediately felt what a warm person she is. We had a drink in the restaurant, went for a walk and had an enjoyable conversation the next few hours. We didn't have that connection with her husband though, who didn't seem to be interested.

During our trip to California we also had an appointment at the fertility center and the doctor made us feel comfortable. We both left a specimen of semen for the insemination.

Unfortunately, our first egg donor turned out to have chlamydia, so she couldn't donate at the time Sabrina was ready for the first attempt. We either had to wait 6 months and try again or choose another egg donor. We chose the latter to be able to do the first implantation 3 months later. The egg donor donated 14 eggs out of which 12 could be used. The doctor inseminated 6 eggs with each of our semen. When the DNA of all embryo's we're tested for abnormalities, it turned out all of Dirk's embryos were flawed but 3 Wim's embryos were good. We chose to use the strongest male embryo.

We had to wait about 2 weeks until the doctor would check if Sabrina was pregnant or not. Sabrina couldn't wait that long and tested herself at home. Of course, she couldn't hold the positive result to herself :-) A few days later the doctor confirmed the pregnancy. We were so very lucky our first attempt was successful!

Usually we had a Skype meeting once a week. Besides discussing personal topics, she kept us up-to-date on her doctor appointments and surrogacy group meetings. Funny fact: in Belgium it is custom to keep the name of the baby secret until the baby is born. That's why Sabrina always referred to the baby as B6, the embryo's designation (boy number 6).

After a few months we learned she was divorcing her husband. Besides the emotional aspect we had doubts about the financial strength of Sabrina but we were assured that wouldn't be a problem. More importantly, we had to look for insurance since she couldn't use the insurance of her husband, who wasn't working for the government, anymore. On the bright side, she was already involved in a new relation and we had a great contact with her new companion.

When Sabrina was 6 months pregnant we went to visit her again. She had an amazing surprise gift for us: a 3D ultrasound of our baby. Besides spending time with Sabrina and James, we also enjoyed the Californian sun.

About 3 weeks before the planned birth of our son, we received a phone call from our counselor in the middle of the night (Belgian time). Sabrina didn't feel well, went to the doctor and was diagnosed with sepsis. Our counselor told us Sabrina had to go in labor that day! We immediately realized we wouldn't make it for the delivery. Even though we booked our flight right away, we wouldn't arrive until 2 days later. In the meantime, Sabrina did take care of our son, Thomas.
When we finally arrived, we were exhausted but went to the hospital right away to hold our son. Finally, the moment we had been waiting for so long had arrived.

While waiting for all the paper works – birth certificate and passport – we stayed close to Sabrina. After a week we wanted to go to Santa Monica for the remaining days but on our way, we got a call of the hospital that Thomas was dehydrated, and it would be best to stay nearby, just in case. So, we stayed a little longer in the high desert region.
Luckily, all the paper works were quickly settled, and we were able to return to Belgium, with Thomas, 2 weeks after his birth.

On the airplane we got a lot of attention of the flight crew, because of our very little travel companion. We got even more attention at the airport in Belgium as all our family was waiting for our arrival.

Back in Belgium we stayed in touch with Sabrina, having Skype calls one a week. In the next months, our Skype contact diminished, and we gradually switched to liking each other Facebook post. It still is a fantastic way to stay up-to-date without intruding each other's life.

We always wanted 2 kids and we both wanted to be the biological father of one of them. Since all of Dirk's embryos weren't viable, we knew we had to work with an egg donor again. Be preference, that would be the same egg donor. At first, we didn't plan on starting a new surrogacy cycle for the next year (or two?). But when we were informed our egg donor wanted to go on a long trip to Europe, we decided to move quickly to ensure ourselves we could use same egg donor.

Because of the sepsis, Sabrina wasn't allowed to be our surrogate once again, so we had to work with another surrogate mother. Fortunately, we found a match in Sheila very soon. Our counselor had suggested us to Sheila as we would be a good match. She was a single mother with an 18-year old son, Jordan. Like Sabrina, she experienced a failed conception with a heterosexual couple, but our surrogacy agency ensured us the problem was not with her.

A few months after our first Skype contact later we travelled to L.A. with Thomas, to meet up with Sheila. This time we would meet in Newport Beach at the Marriot hotel. We invited Sabrina too, so they could meet each other as well. After our we met Sheila and her son Jordan, we had a lovely diner with Leila, Jordan, Sabrina & James. Even though neither one ever told us, we had the impression Leila and Sabrina didn't get along very well.

Just a few days later, we had an appointment at the fertility center to do a fresh cycle. Our egg donor would donate while Dirk would provide a fresh sample of semen. Kind of strange we weren't allowed to see each other, but we respected the anonymous nature of our contract.

This time only 6 eggs were donated, out of which 4 were good enough for fertilization. Since all embryos were flawed last time, our hope on having a at least one good embryo wasn't very high, and we were already thinking about our next moves in the worst-case scenario. Fortunately, 3 embryos turned out to be viable. The only little downside was there were no female embryos, so we couldn't have a girl as we would have preferred.

We didn't have any more setbacks as Leila got pregnant with the first attempt too. If everything goes that smooth, you almost consider it normal even though we did realize we were very lucky.

Compared to Sabrina, our relationship with Leila was more reserved and business-like, but as we're rational and direct ourselves, we didn't mind. We kept each other up-to-date with a weekly Skype call.

Between Christmas and New Year, when Leila was about 7 months pregnant, we – including Thomas – went to California to meet her in Palm Springs. Because of the holidays we didn't spend that much time together but we both appreciated the ability to see each other in person.

Just one month later, we got another phone call in the middle of the night. Our counselor told us Leila would give birth to our son that same day. Once again, we would be too late for the birth of our child. We arranged our flight right away, but we were only able to leave the next morning. It was strange being at work while our counselor – who was with Leila during birth – kept sending us WhatsApp updates on the birth. Getting a picture of your newborn son via WhatsApp just isn't the same as waiting in the hospital to see him. Luckily, we both aren't very emotional persons.

Two days later we were able to hold Matthias for the first time. In the meantime, Leila had cared for him, together with her parents.

We stayed close to Leila and the hospital the first week of our stay. As Matthias did have jaundice, we received a UV mat we had to wrap around Matthias. Some people must have thought we were aliens when we plugged in our glowing baby at a restaurant.

After a week we moved to Marina Del Rey to enjoy the beach until we had received all papers. This time we were able to return to Belgium 10 days after our arrival. We had a lovely final dinner with Leila and Jordan, but Leila did have a hard time saying good bye to Matthias. We almost felt guilty about having to keep your son. Luckily, her son was there to support her.

The welcoming party at the airport was once more heartwarming. Especially seeing Thomas again after so many days.

Facebook is still the best way to automatically keep each other up-to-date. Unfortunately, Leila doesn't want to use Facebook or Instagram, but we send an automated e-mail each time we post a picture. That way, she receives our updates and she usually responds with comments.

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Gay Dad Life

How Canada's 'Gay Dollar' Helped This Gay Man Reflect on His Biggest Regret—Not Having Kids

Canada unveiled a 'gay dollar' coin earlier this year, helping Gregory Walters reflect on the progress the LGBTQ community has made—and his decision to forgo having children children

Earlier this year, Canada unveiled a rainbow-stripped coin dollar to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the country's decision to decriminalize homosexuality. With the coins now firmly in circulation, Gregory Walters, who lives in Vancouver, wrote a moving essay for the Globe and Mail, expressing joy for how far Canada has come on the issue of gay rights, but how the coin is also a symbolic representation of the "greatest regret" of his life—his decision not to adopt children.

Gregory writes that he had hoped to adopt a child ever since his early career working with persons with developmental disabilities. "Several children I worked with were wards of the State of Texas," he wrote. "Their parents having relinquished all rights either owing to egregious acts of abuse or a lack of desire to raise someone with so many needs. There were days when I felt, 'If I could just take you home and raise you.' I knew there was a need for adopting persons with special needs but my own internalized homophobia got in the way yet again. Despite what is probably my own gift in working with children, I never felt worthy enough to be a parent. I always felt that if I were a gay dad it would create more of a liability for the child."

Gregory decision to forgo having children, he says, is his "greatest regret." While he takes responsibility for some of this decision, he also adds: "society's view of homosexuals and its opinions regarding gay adoptions also played a major part."

To critics of Canada's coin, some of who have said its a cheap political pander to the LGBTQ community, Gregory concludes with this thought:

"I don't care if the indulged majority who never had to question marriage or raising children or being secure in a job may feel the coin is frivolous. The coin isn't for them in the first place. It's an acknowledgment for those of us who repressed our true selves and felt oppressed. It is for gays who never lived to see rights and protections enshrined in law. It is for younger LGBTQ people to learn more about how far we've come and to gain a deeper sense of gay pride. For these reasons, the coin has value so much greater than any monetary designation. The coin represents both empowerment and normalization."

Read Gregory's full essay here.

Gay Dad Family Stories

Boston Will Always Have a Special Place in the Hearts of These Gay Dads

Matt and Rej met in Boston and got engaged in Fenway Park. The latest chapter of their fairytale Beantown romance? Fatherhood.

Husbands Matt Ottaviani and Rej Gareau met in Boston in 2013 via OKCupid. A couple years later, the two returned to get engaged in Fenway Park. And in the latest chapter in their fairytale Beantown romance, it's also where they would begin the process of becoming dads with the help of Circle Surrogacy.


Matt and Rej dated for a short time while they were both living in Boston. Once Rej's studying was complete, he returned to Canada (where he is from) and they continued their relationship long distance. In a little under a year, Matt followed his heart to Ottawa. Together they braved the cold, bought a house, and got married in October 2015, following a proposal at Fenway Park orchestrated by Rej, and including friends and family. Their loved ones watched as Rej got down on one knee on the baseball field, and asked Matt to marry him.

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Surrogacy for Gay Men

What Professionals Will I Work With on a Surrogacy Journey?

There will be LOTS of people involved in your surrogacy journey. Kristin Marsoli of Circle Surrogacy breaks down the team of people you can expect to work with.

A surrogacy journey, while monumental, is also a complex process with multiple milestones, many of which are new territory for intended parents. You will likely form the strongest relationships with your egg donor and surrogate, however there are many other professionals who you'll encounter on your journey who will educate and support you on your way to parenthood.

Here are the types of professionals you can expect to work with on your surrogacy journey working with an agency such as Circle Surrogacy & Egg Donation:

Parent Outreach Team

When you start your research on surrogacy and surrogacy agencies, if you contact Circle Surrogacy, your first point of contact will be a member of our Parent Outreach Team. This person solely supports intended parents at the very beginning stages of their journeys, before they've signed on with an agency. The Parent Outreach Team is a wonderful resource to answer questions about the surrogacy process, surrogacy costs, how to choose an agency and more. At Circle, many of our Parent Outreach Associates are also parents through surrogacy, so they can share their experiences and understand exactly what it's like to be in your shoes. When you have your surrogacy consultation, you'll meet with a Parent Outreach Associate and a Lawyer to discuss your personal surrogacy needs and journey. Your Parent Outreach Team will support you through signing on with the agency.

Circle's Parent Outreach Team

Egg Donation Matching Coordinator

It's time to match with the first of two women who will be very important in your journey to parenthood: your egg donor! Selecting an egg donor may come easy to some, but others may take more time determining their perfect match. Our egg donor coordination team will help you find the right egg donor to meet your needs. They will help you navigate the egg donor database and coordinate your egg donor match.

IVF Doctor and Clinic Coordinators

You'll work closely with your IVF clinic professionals, including coordinators and, especially, your doctor. Your IVF doctor will advise you on your IVF journey and embryos, evaluate your egg donor and surrogate to determine they are ready for the process medically, and perform the egg retrieval and embryo transfer. Some intended parents come to surrogacy having already identified a clinic, others look for guidance in choosing a clinic that will best suit their needs.

Program Manager and Coordinator

Perhaps the professionals you will work the closest with will be your Program Manager (PM) and Program Coordinator (PC). As your journey support team, your PC and/or PM will be your day-to-day contact during your entire journey, from the moment you sign on with the agency, until the birth of your baby and beyond. Your PC and your PM ensure that you are meeting every milestone, having a smooth journey, and preparing for the arrival of your baby(ies).

Social Workers

Early on in your journey, you'll have an intended parent support call with one of the agency's social workers. During this call, you'll speak with the social worker about your upcoming journey, setting up expectations, talk about matching preferences and more. Social workers are also available to intended parents throughout their journey should they have a bump in the road, or if they need help navigating and talking through a situation.

L-R Alicia Abdella, Manager of Intended Parent Support and Social Worker, Jessica McCaffrey, Intended Parent Attorney and Scott Buckley, VP of Client Services

Lawyers (both at Circle and local attorneys)

During the surrogacy process you will work with a lawyer for the following milestones:

  • Drafting, negotiating and finalizing your surrogacy contracts
  • Establishing your parental rights
  • Safely returning home

Intended parents will be assigned a Circle attorney who will be part of the Coordination team. Parents can also expect to work with local counsel – lawyers who work out of the state from which their gestational carrier resides. Local counsel will help with establishing parental rights.

Surrogate Matching Team

A key milestone during your surrogacy journey is matching with your gestational carrier. At Circle, the Matching Manager – who is also a lawyer – presents intended parents with the profile of a gestational carrier whom she believes will be a great match. The match is based on a few criteria: legal fit, personality fit, geographic location and views on surrogacy. The Matching Team will help coordinate your first call with your potential surrogate, and work with you to find the most suitable match.

Trust Accountant Team

Each surrogacy operates a little differently; however if you work with a full-service agency such as Circle Surrogacy, a Trust Accountant will manage any outgoing payments to surrogates, egg donors and third parties. Upon matching, trust accountants keep intended parents informed of the monies needed to fund all expected expenses up until 6 months post delivery. They can also answer any financial questions intended parents may have.

Medical Billing Team

Intended parents will interact with the Medical Billing Team when they are matched with their gestational carrier. The team determines what intended parents can expect to pay for medical expenses from local monitoring, pregnancy and delivery, based on their specific case. The Medical Billing Team also reviews each medical bill from monitoring, physicians and the hospital prior to payment to ensure accuracy, and advocate for intended parents should medical facilities need to be called for any discrepancies.

Gestational Carrier's OBGYN

Around the 10th week of pregnancy, the IVF clinic will discharge your surrogate from their care and she will start seeing her OBGYN. Your surrogate will select her OBGYN that is local to her, and usually the same doctor she saw for her own pregnancies. Many intended parents attend the 20-week ultrasound with their surrogate, at which time they meet the OBGYN in person (in some cases, IPs have been "attended" ultrasound appointments via video on their surrogate's phone!).

The entire team at Circle

Hospital Staff

Your baby will be delivered at a hospital in your gestational carrier's home state; many times, it's the hospital where she delivered her own children. Circle recommends touring the Labor & Delivery section of your surrogate's hospital to help familiarize yourself with its staff and layout in advance. Many intended parents combine their visit for the 20-week ultrasound and the hospital tour. Touring the hospital with your surrogate enables you both to ask questions of the hospital staff and prepare for baby's delivery.

Embassy personnel (international intended parents)

International parents will work with their agency's legal team as well as local counsel to ensure they can return home safely. Some intended parents will need to travel to the embassy to secure travel documents for their baby(ies).

There are so many experienced professionals involved in a surrogacy and egg donation journey. It's important to understand with whom you'll be working throughout each milestone. While every agency operates differently – and an independent surrogacy journey will involve fewer agency professionals – these are the professionals intended parents can expect to work with on a journey with Circle Surrogacy. And because Circle is a full-service agency, many of the professionals mentioned above – outside of IVF clinics, local attorneys, hospital and embassy personnel – are all under one roof, making the management of your journey smooth and secure.

Entertainment

How Fatherhood Has Impacted Tom Daley's Diving Career for the Better

British diver Tom Daley, and new-ish gay dad, is looking to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in South Korea.

British diver Tom Daley is currently in the running to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in South Korea, his fourth if he competes, at the young age of just 26.

But he also has another concern that most young gay men his age couldn't fathom—fatherhood. He and his husband, filmmaker Dustin Lance Black, recently welcomed Robbie Ray via surrogacy in June 2018.

In an interview with the Independent, Daley explained how fatherhood has changed his routine and training, which he says is often for the better.

"It has changed my life completely in all of the best ways possible," Daley said. "It has changed my perspective, the way I think about things. [My son] is the most important thing in my life, everything I do is for him, everything I think about he is at the forefront of everything."

With respect to his diving career, Daley continued, "if you have a bad day at training, or a good day, you are grounded immediately when you get home through the door because you are having cuddles or you are having to change a dirty nappy. It is the first time that I have been able to leave diving at the diving board and not think about what I need to the next day in the pool."

Whatever the challenges he faces while training, he said, "I can leave it there because you don't have time to think about diving when you are looking after a kid under one."

The strategy seems to be working in Daley's favor. He recently enjoyed his most successful FINA Diving World Series ever this past Spring in Canada, winning 12 medals across five events. And barring any major catastrophe, he is overwhelmingly expected to qualify for South Korea 2020.

And we can't wait to cheer the young dad on!

Change the World

One Gay Dad's Fight Against Hate in Superior, Nebraska

Brian Splater is refusing to let homophobic and transphobic elected officials in his town go unchecked

Millie B. Photography

Guest post written by Brian Splater

No one ever should feel they will have a very lonely and secluded life as a child. But that is something me and many other gay kids believe as they are growing up.

The truth of the matter is there are people who will try everything in their power to have our rights go back in time instead of forward. It is very disheartening when these people are elected officials, or they are people who use their place of employment to spread their disgust and hate.

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Politics

America's First Gay Dad Governor Heads Into the Lion's Den

Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently became the first elected Democrat to speak at the annual Western Conservative Summit in Denver

Last Friday, American's first gay dad Governor, Jared Polis, became the first elected Democrat to speak at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, where he urged the Republican crowd to help him build a "Colorado for all."

"While we should never gloss over the things that divide us, there is a lot more that unites us," Polis said. "When we close ourselves off from discussion or debate, and we reject the possibility of hearing and understanding other perspectives, it threatens the fabric of our democracy."

If he was hoping for a Kumbaya moment, he didn't exactly get it. As he was called to the stage, he was greeted with a smattering of applause—while others booed and shouted for a "recall" of the Governor.

"It was almost unbearable for me to sit there to listen to his talk," Abby Johnson, one of the event's attendees, told the Denver Post. "And I'm going to tell you why. He kept talking about equality for all persons, yet we live in a society where 60 million innocent human beings have been slaughtered in the name of choice. Where is their justice? Where is their equal rights?"

Polis was also criticized from his left flank for attending the same event that refuses to let the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay GOP members, participate—and that featured Donald Trump Jr. as a speaker the same day. "To me it feels like vanity," Katie Farnan, a staffer with progressive group Indivisible, told the Denver Post. "He can go and be a hip Democratic governor who isn't afraid to go into GOP sanctuary. Or maybe it's recall insurance. But unless he was there to hold them accountable for their support for fascist and racist policies, what's the point?"

In response to the criticism from both sides of the political aisle, Polis told the Colorado Sun: "I think it's very important that Coloradans of different ideologies, different races, different geographies, different orientations and gender identities all really celebrate that we're all part of what makes Colorado great."

The event is hosted each year by Colorado Christian University to bring together conservatives from around the state, and the larger West.

What do you think, dads? Was Polis's decision to speak at the event a savvy political move or mere pandering?

Entertainment

Hate Group Boycotts 'Toy Story' for Featuring Lesbian Moms—Hilarity Ensues on Twitter

"One Million Moms" announced a boycott of the latest Toy Story movie for *very briefly* featuring lesbian moms. Twitter's response was swift and hilarious.

One Million Moms, which is affiliated with the anti-LGBTQ American Family Association, recently called for a boycott of Toy Story 4 for (very, very briefly) featuring (interracial!) lesbian moms in the animated film. The angry, hateful moms affiliated with this group must have watched the film VERY closely because you could easily blink and miss the moment that apparently "blindsided" viewers.

The Internet reacted with a collective facepalm to the ridiculous boycott. Here are some of our favorite hilarious Twitter reactions to the hateful group:

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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