Gay Dad Life

Surrogacy Advice From a Single Gay Dad Who's Done it. Twice!

John Riehs is the proud father of two beautiful young children, each of whom was born through surrogacy. (Dallas readers may recognize John as a well-regarded pediatric dentist and the owner of Preston Center Pediatric Dentistry.) To help us tell his story, John responded to several questions we had for him on coming out, how and why he chose surrogacy and the most important lessons he learned from his experience with two different surrogacy journeys.

On Coming Out

“Coming out" was a slow process. It wasn't until after dental school, 1999 at age 27, when I first allowed myself to experience what I had thought about since I was a kid. I knew at a young age, probably around 11 or 12, that I had feelings for the same sex, but I was from rural Texas and this was not acceptable. Or even discussed.

I think being sheltered in a small southern town, with a population of fewer than 5,000 people and a community where “being gay was not allowed or accepted" contributed to my late coming out.

Because I never knew anyone who was gay, I thought my feelings were wrong and rare. I had no clue that there were bars and communities where I could meet others who felt the same way I did.

After dental school, I moved to Oklahoma to begin my career. I met a guy, and soon started traveling to Dallas, where a large gay community existed. Being in Dallas allowed me to have a “second life" away from the social unacceptance of my childhood. Jump forward five years and I had moved to Dallas permanently and I came out to my family. First to my brother, then to my cousins, whom I consider sisters – all of whom where loving and supportive. Then to my Mom and Dad. This was a little more challenging, given their upbringing and the timing, early 2000. I think their reaction was understandable. They loved me, but did not understand or support my “being gay."

For a few years my personal life was never discussed with my parents. But as time moved on and social norms evolved, mom and dad began to realize that I was happy and that maybe their reluctance to support me had to do with their own insecurities about what others would think.

Today my family is my greatest support system and they love me and my children unconditionally. Just as it took me time to accept my own sexuality, it took time for my family to accept and readjust their own expectations for my life. As a father, I understand that now.

On Choosing Surrogacy

In my mid-thirties, being gay, I never thought I would have the opportunity to have a family. It wasn't until I met a gay father through my dental practice that I realized this was a possibility. I was 35 at the time, and the dad had twin girls through surrogacy who were now my patients.

I never asked many questions of this dad, but he opened my mind and allowed that first glimmer of hope that would one day come to fruition. I eventually came to be friends with other gay dads who had created families through surrogacy as well.

After many dinners with these friends, I had gained considerable insight into the surrogacy process. But just to make sure I was as fully prepared as possible, I even reached out to other families from the local LGBTQ community whom I did not know but I had learned that they had children through surrogacy.

During this time of research, I convinced myself that “I can be a dad by myself – I don't need a partner to make this happen."

But by the time I turned 37 a couple of years later, I realized that I had not moved beyond my initial stage of information gathering. My birthday stirred emotions about aging and I believed that it was "now or never" to start my family. So as a next step, I picked a local surrogacy agency here in Dallas to learn about their program and services. I met with them in early Spring of 2012, and within a month I made the decision to proceed with them.

Before coming to that decision, however, I spent a great deal of time reviewing my finances and also thinking about how parenting could affect my future relationships with other men. At the time, I presumed the ability to have a relationship with another man would be extremely hindered if I had a family. But since then my thinking on this has changed considerably, and I no longer think that my kids somehow prevent me from finding love.

The moment I signed with the surrogacy agency, my journey began. I found it helpful having the agency to guide me through the process, at least for the initial surrogacy.

On the biggest decisions he made during his journey to fatherhood.

I think the biggest decision I had to make was to mentally be prepared to commit to something, someone, other than myself. As a gay man, I never thought I could have a family, and my life centered around me. It was a little--no, a lot--egocentric, as I'm sure most gay men can relate.

Another important decision I made: I determined not to confide in my family and friends about my decision to start a family until I was halfway through the process. I had made my mind up and I didn't want anyone to influence me to back out.

Because of our background growing up in the conservative South, I expected my family might discourage me from my plans. As it turned out, I was correct. In the beginning my family did voice their opposition. But their feelings changed along with the birth of my son, Jacob. In fact, my dad recently told me (on Father's Day) that being grandparents to my two children was the greatest gift I could ever have possibly given to him and my mother. By way of apology for his initial reaction to my plans to become a dad, he also let me know that sometimes parents concern themselves with their own insecurities, which can make them selfish.

On what he leveraged from his first surrogacy journey to help prepare him for his second journey.

As with anything, going through a process once gives you plenty of insight for the next round. Having experienced every step during Jacob's eventual birth allowed me to ask better questions, more questions, during the process of having my daughter Hayden, my second child.

Some of the trials and tribulations associated with the first surrogacy were also diminished with a better contract that incorporated items about hospital delivery, insurance, ob/gyn, etc.

I found that open communication and discussing potential hurdles in advance helps out tremendously in case the pregnancy does not go as planned. For instance, during my first surrogacy, the surrogate became hypertensive during the first trimester and eventually pre-eclamptic (a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure). During this time, it was in the best interest of my child's health to minimize the surrogates stress, so essentially I felt a great deal of pressure to “follow her lead" in order to maintain my child's safety. Had we discussed expectations for an emergency delivery, difficulties may not have occurred.

On what he did differently for his second surrogacy journey.

I made sure the following questions and requests, missing from my first surrogacy contract, were included in the second one.

  • Please provide the last five years of your medical visits/history.
  • Can we choose an OB/GYN was acceptable to us both? I'd like one with privileges at a level III NICU hospital.
  • Delivery at a hospital I choose (one with level III NICU).
  • If for some unforeseen reason the delivery occurs at a different hospital, the expenses for transport to the agreed-upon hospital would be adjusted from compensation.
  • Verification of surrogate insurance at time of transfer.
  • Agreement that the surrogate would not do any traveling during the third trimester.
  • If surrogate chose to travel during the second trimester and a premature delivery occurred, surrogate would pay expenses associated with transportation and additional out-of-state hospital fees.
  • I chose not to use breast milk from the surrogate, but made the request to obtain it if my child was born premature.
  • If the surrogate had been a surrogate previously, ask to speak with EVERY family she has delivered for.
  • The second surrogacy was an amazing experience. I think open communication and discussing all potential outcomes and expectations made for a smooth journey. My second surrogate maintains contact with me through Facebook. However, because of the difficulties with expectations and the emergency delivery, I do not have any contact with my first surrogate.

On the most important advice he'd like to share with gay men just starting their surrogacy journey.

I think the best advice I was given prior to the start of surrogacy was to be prepared for hurdles and not to get discouraged. There are so many moving pieces in the process from screenings, egg donation, surrogacy designation, fertilization, transfer, contracts, etc. It is a timely process and staying positive is important. For my first surrogacy, it took almost two years from the time I signed with the surrogacy agency until Jacob's birth.

Advice I wish I had received for my first surrogacy was to ask more questions -- and to keep asking as many questions as possible. The more communication and potential outcomes discussed, the more likely hurdles would not turn into walls.

During my first surrogacy, full disclosure of the surrogate's health history was not received and ultimately factored into my son Jacob being born at 29 weeks. I think it's a fair request to receive a potential surrogate's medical records. If the surrogate is willing to have full transparency with her health, that likely would set the pace for a much more positive experience for intended parent and surrogate alike.

One last piece of advice, which I consider extremely important: while reviewing the surrogate's contract, be sure to address the choice of OB/GYN. Naturally, many surrogates want to use their own OB/GYN, which is understandable. However, if complications occur during the pregnancy, most OB/GYNs only have privileges to deliver at certain hospitals.

If your child, like mine, is delivered at a hospital with a minimal neonatal intensive care unit or "NICU" (hospitals have different levels of NICU), and needs a more sophisticated NICU then you'd have to have him/her transported from one hospital to another. Believe me, watching your child fight for his life, as I did with my son, is extremely stressful. Adding the burden of a transport only served to increase the stress!

Furthermore, larger urban hospitals tend to have more experience with surrogacy and the “red tape" paperwork involved. Have a meeting with the hospital administrator prior to the birth to review the paperwork and have everyone on the same page. That process would have been invaluable for me for Jacob's birth. But the hospital my first surrogate chose was not at all familiar with the process or the documents. They required documentation to procure his birth certificate. I was eventually able to work everything out, but I can attest that it took a vast amount of time and I had to endure endless red tape.

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Gay Uncles

Gay Uncles are an Essential Part of This Gay Dad Family's Village

It takes a village to raise a child, and this village includes many gay uncles

In November last year, Ottawa-based husbands Matt Ottaviani and Rej Gareau (whose story we shared in July) became first-time dads through surrogacy. They were overjoyed to welcome their daughter Andy and become a family of three.

But as many of us know, raising a child isn't always just about the nuclear family. The African proverb "it takes a village to raise a child" is a commonly repeated phrase, and rings very true for many families. Matt and Rej are no different, and when they shared their story last month, one thing jumped out to us: the important role Andy's guncles play in her and her dads' lives.

In honor of Gay Uncles Day today, we reached out to Andy's many guncles to learn first-hand how their relationship with the family affects their lives. Here's what they had to say.

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Gay Dad Life

Need a Sitter for Your Kids? Gays With Kids Reviews UrbanSitter

Back-to-school is already here for some of us, and if you're looking for a sitter to help out with school runs, after-school pick-ups, and the occasional date night, check out our review of UrbanSitter.

Instagram @davidcblacker

We moved from New York to Boston the summer of 2017. Along with the Manhattan skyline, our beloved Broadway, and late-night cookie deliveries, we also left behind our sitters — two sisters who had become more like family.

After settling for several months into our new home and neighborhood, we realized we hadn't had a dads' night out since our move. Our kids were still too young to leave alone at night, so I began what I presumed would be the tedious task of finding a sitter.

The first thing I did was to leave a post on our local parents' Facebook group. The dad of one of our daughters' classmates told me about UrbanSitter, a website and mobile app that he'd had success using to find last-minute sitters a few times. He also mentioned that within the app, I could see see babysitters and nannies recommended by parents at our kids' school in addition to local parenting groups.

While I appreciated the tip, I let him know that I was really hoping for a direct referral. But when none others came from the — other than a couple of middle schoolers looking for their first sitting jobs — I decided to give it a try.

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Move over Modern Family, there are some new gay dads taking over the small screen! Big Bad Boo Studios is bringing their animated series The Bravest Knight to Hulu. The series is based upon a children's book called "The Bravest Knight Who Ever Lived" by Daniel Errico, and it follows the life of Sir Cedric - now grown and married to Prince Andrew - as he regales their adopted daughter Nia with tales of his knighthood journey as she trains to become a knight herself.

"We are so excited about The Bravest Knight, its values and our partnership with Hulu," said Shabnam Rezaei, the director of the series and co-founder of Big Bad Boo Studios. "They understand how to push the envelope with authentic storytelling."

"I immediately fell in love with the idea of a girl wanting to work hard and make something of herself," Rezaei continued. "I also have a nephew who has two dads, so it's a very personal issue for me. I want him to have role models when he's watching TV. I want him to feel like having two dads is completely normal. That's what this show is going to do for him."

Errico's book was first realized as an animation when Hulu created a short film based upon his writing and were interested in exploring the concept of a full series. "I watched the eight minutes on Hulu and at the end the prince and the knight get married and I was in tears," says Rezaei. Rezaei then stepped in to create all new art work including new character design by Tim Linklater and backgrounds by Sarita Kolhatra. Together, they created a kickass bible and pitched the series to Hulu and were successful.

Diversity and inclusivity is celebrated throughout The Bravest Knight, reflected by its casting choices. Nia is played by Storm Reid, from "A Wrinkle in Time," and her dads Sir Cedric and Prince Andrew are voiced by T.R. Knight and Wilson Cruz respectively. The star studded cast also includes Wanda Sykes, Bobby Moynihan, RuPaul, Steven Weber, Teri Polo, AJ McLean, Jazz Jennings, Maz Jobrani and Christine Baranski as the formidable Red Dragon.

"With so many wonderful stories yet to be told, we hope that The Bravest Knight stands as an example of the undeniable strength in inclusivity, and the inherent joy in all forms of love and identity," said Errico, the author of the original book.

The first 5 episodes were released on June 21, and there are 8 more planned for release before the end of the year. Be sure to tune in!

This is the Main Title Song for Big Bad Boo's Hulu Original Series "The Bravest Knight". The song is performed by Justin Tranter and composed by Michael Plow...

Popular

'Our Family is Complete': Congrats to Gay Dads on Their Recent Births and Adoptions!

Join us in congratulating all of the gay men in our community whose families grew recently!

Wishing all of these gay dads congratulations on their exciting news this month. From becoming first-time dads to finalizing adoptions, congrats to everyone in our community on their wonderful news!

Circle Surrogacy is the proud sponsor of this month's congrats post. They were founded in 1995 on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to be a parent. "For over 20 years we've helped LGBTQ+ couples and singles around the world fulfill their dreams of parenthood. We've helped bring more than 1,900 babies into this world... and counting!"

Congratulations to Andrew and Edward on finalizing the adoptions of their twins!

For Andrew and Edward, their foster parent training plus home study took about a year. "We had a brief placement of twin girls that were four years old two months after we had been approved," said Andrew. "Then we took a break as it was a difficult process, the 'loss' aspect, when that placement ended."

Then on March 15, 2017, their case worker sent them information about two little babies - a boy and a girl - that were still in the NICU and only nine days old. "It was a foster case with an uncertain future, but we decided those little babies needed us!" They dads took a leap of faith and on July 10 this year, their twins' adoptions were finalized. Andrew and Edward have a wonderful bond with the paternal grandmother as well as a special relationship with the twins' father. "We all love these twins, and the more love they have the better their lives will be."

"Adoption is one of those experiences where one side experiences incredible joy while the other side experiences incredible loss," continued Andrew. "We are grateful to experience this joy knowing that biological family members are happy for us to experience that joy."

Congratulations to this Mt Airy, Philadelphia, forever family of four!

Congratulations to Sean and Thomas on finalizing the adoptions of their twins!

Together 15 years, London couple Sean and Thomas recently finalized the adoption of their twins.

"About 3 years ago we started meeting adoption agencies and were approved as prospective adopters the following spring," shared Thomas. "We were anticipating a long wait, but quite quickly were matched with our twins. At the time they were nearly five."

After a fairly long transition period for everyone to get settled in, the adoption was formalized the day after Father's Day. "Two years after matching, at times it seems like the kids have been with us forever and other times a blink of an eye. But it is certainly the most life-changing, transformative experience and we cannot imagine life without them. It's wonderful that our family is now official!"

Congratulations to Phillip and Clinton on the birth of their daughter Madison!

Little Madison joined her dads on July 1, 2019, after coming into the world via surrogate.

"I caught Madison as she was born," said Phillip. "I have never felt such an exhilarating rush in my entire life! We were genuinely in love at first sight!"

Now that we Phillip and Clinton are dads, they say they feel a "sense of wholeness" in their lives! "We have a new motivation and purpose in life! It's truly the greatest blessing!"

These new dads and the apple of their eye live in Texas.

Congratulations to Michael and Tyler on the birth of their twins, Elliot and Oliver!

Herriman, Utah, couple Michael and Tyler have been together for 9 years, and married for 3. "In the beginning of our relationship we knew how important family was and how much we wanted to be dads," said Micheal. "After we got married we met with a couple surrogacy agencies and were advised to meet with an IVF clinic before proceeding. In doing so, we found that going through a surrogacy journey independently was very possible."

So the dads decided to shift gears and work in that direction, booking a follow up appointment with the clinic. "We met with their 3rd party coordinator over the surrogate process and she did not have any inquiries of any surrogates." Serendipitously, and unbeknownst to the husbands at the time, their future surrogate made an appointment to talk about being a gestational carrier for a same-sex couple. "The next day we got the unexpected call that someone was interested and open to meet. From there the rest was history as we continued with the surrogacy process."

Over a year later, the dads welcomed their two sons. "The first time we got to hold the boys, it felt so natural to us, as if nothing else in the world existed and time stood still as we got lost in the moment."

Congratulations to Adam and Josh on finalizing the adoption of their daughter!

Adam and Josh got engaged on Good Morning America on Valentines Day, and welcomed their Christmas miracle baby into their lives on December 26th. On July 12 this year, they celebrated becoming a forever family of three.

"For an event that always seemed like it would be the end of our adoption journey, Baby K's Finalization Day felt more like the beginning of a greater adventure," shared Adam. "Since day one, Baby K was always loved and 100% part of our family, but we are so filled with joy to see this day come and make it officially official. We cannot wait to spend the rest of our lives not only watching Baby K grow and develop, but also to see the two of us learn and grow in this new role as parents."

Congrats to these Dallas dads!

Congratulations to Dan and Martin on the birth of their son Herman! 

Copenhagen couple Dan and Martin welcomed their second child through surrogacy on July 11 this year in Florida, USA. Herman joins big sister Ellen, born March 1, 2015, in Vermont via surrogacy. Here's a little more.

"Two amazing American women and their families took us in as their own and we're forever bonded," said Dan about their path to fatherhood experience. "It has been an amazing journey with both of them, our family is complete."

Congrats to the Danish family!

This post is sponsored by Circle Surrogacy

Circle was founded in 1995 on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to be a parent. To this day, that belief is at the core of everything we do. For over 20 years we've helped straight and LGBTQ+ couples and singles around the world fulfill their dreams of parenthood. We've helped bring more than 1,900 babies into this world... and counting!

We're an agency comprised of social workers and lawyers, accountants and outreach associates, and program managers and coordinators; but, more importantly, we're an agency made up of parents, surrogates and egg donors, who are passionate about helping people build their families, and invested in each and every journey.

Circle is proud to have helped so many gay families achieve their dreams of becoming parents. Together, we make parenthood possible.®

News

Ed Smart, Father of Kidnapping Victim Elizabeth Smart, Comes Out as Gay

In coming his coming out letter, Ed Smart, a Mormon, condemned the church for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals.

In a post on Facebook, Ed Smart, father of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, came out as gay. He also discussed his strained relationship with his Mormon faith, claiming he felt he didn't feel comfortable living as an openly gay man in a church with a difficult history with respect to its LGBTQ members. He and his wife, Lois, have filed for divorce.

"This is one of the hardest letters I have ever written," he began the letter. "Hard because I am finally acknowledging a part of me that I have struggled with most of my life and never wanted to accept, but I must be true and honest with myself." He went on to acknowledged a new set of challenges facing he and his family as they navigate a divorce and his coming out — in the public eye, no less — but concluded, ultimately, that it's a "huge relief" to be "honest and truthful about my orientation."

He went on to condemn The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals. "I didn't want to face the feelings I fought so hard to suppress, and didn't want to reach out and tell those being ostracized that I too am numbered among them. But I cannot do that any longer."

In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Ed Smart further discussed his reasons for coming out now, as a 64-year-old man.

"I mean, I knew that it would probably come out at some point, just because people can't leave things alone. I did anticipate that it would happen at some time, but my intention in writing it was to try to let my friends and family know, you know my extended family ... know where things were. So, you know, I was really concerned about how the rumor mill starts," he told the paper. "I knew that at some point in time, that would come out," he elaborated. "I didn't know when it would come out, and so I would rather have it come out the way that it did versus having some rumors going around, and you know the crazy way things can get twisted."

In 2002, Ed Smart's daughter Elizabeth was abducted at knife point by a married couple from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah. She suffered physical and sexual abuse at the couple's hands, for nine months, until she was finally rescued by police. During the ordeal, papers — including the Salt Lake Tribute — speculated about Ed Smart's sexual orientation based on some fabricated information sold to the paper by tabloids like the National Enquirer. (The Enquirer retracted the story, and the reporters at the Tribute were ultimately fired.)

"I think that in April I started feeling like I needed to prepare something," Smart told the Tribute. "Because during Elizabeth's ordeal, there were things said, and it wasn't what I wanted to say, and I was not going to allow that to happen again."

As to how his family has taken the news, Smart said they've been "very kind" to him. "I think it was very difficult to have this kind of come out of the blue. I don't think any of them knew I was struggling with this, so it was something they were, if you want to call it, blindsided by. I totally get that. They've really been very wonderful."

Congrats to Ed Smart on making the difficult decision to live his truth. Read his full letter here and his interview with the Tribute here.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

"Rollercoaster and Sons," Explores the Journey of One Single Gay Dad Through the Foster-Adopt System

When it comes to the foster-adopt system, "there is no roadmap," said single gay dad Chase Turner

Guest post written by Chase Turner

Many of us thought long and hard about what avenues were best to pursue being a dad. For me, fostering to adoption was the selected road. There is no roadmap here, many things that came my way were learned by doing. Along the way, I started wishing I had a better support group or people who could understand what it's like to be gay and attempting to adopt. Often we (people who are LGBT) feel scrutinized and judged for choices that the majority makes but for us there is pushback. Once my adoption was complete, I felt it was necessary that I put pen to paper and write this story, from a gay male perspective.

My goal was to provide a voice in the space of foster care and adoption where there is a void. Additionally, I wanted to provide an authentic look at all facets of the process, from the kids, to the obstacles and challenges that happened within my personal life. I do hope you enjoy and more importantly can relate or prepare yourself for a similar journey.

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Fun

Gay Dad Penguins Strike Again! This Time in Berlin Zoo

The latest male penguins to care for an egg together are Skipper and Ping in the Berlin Zoo.

First, there was Roy and Silo — the two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo that served as inspiration for the famous children's book And Tango Makes Three. Then Magin Sphen got together in Sydney, where aquarium keepers gave the cocks (Calm down, that's what a male penguin is called!) a foster egg to care for.

And now, please welcome Skipper and Ping in Berlin to the latest list of gay dad penguins! As soon as the two emperor penguins arrived at the city's zoo, they set about trying to start a family, said Berlin Zoo spokesman Maximilian Jaege to DPA news.

"They kept trying to hatch fish and stones," Jaeger said.

So the zookeepers loaned the penguins an egg from a female penguin, who is apparently uninterested in hatching eggs on her own, according to the BBC.

Unsurprisingly, the gay penguins are killing it as parents. "The two male penguins are acting like exemplary parents, taking turns to warm the egg," Jaeger said,

Read the whole article on DPA here.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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