Malcolm and Rob Pausmith, 36 and 40, respectively, have both always wanted children. Rob had an amazing upbringing, with two loving parents who showered him and his sister with love and opportunity. He always knew that he wanted to provide that same atmosphere for his own child someday. Similarly, Malcolm always felt very paternal. He remembers taking care of family members, being a babysitter when he was younger, and he always knew that someday he wanted a child of his own to care for and nurture.
On one of their first dates in 2012, the California-based couple sat down to get to know each other at a more profound level. They didn't shy away from hard questions: What kind of person are you? What are your goals, your dreams for the future? At the top of both of their lists was becoming a parent. Rob remembers thinking, “This is the man I want to marry; this is the man I want to start a family with."
For years, the two men had assumed they would create a family through adoption. Cameron, Rob's best friend, frequently talked about how special he felt being adopted. Rob and Malcolm wanted to offer that same love to a child who needed a family as well.
PrestonPhoto credit: Next Exit Photography
In 2015, two years after they got married, Malcolm and Rob decided it was time to start the process. They filled out reams of forms and paperwork, underwent home visits and had their entire lives investigated. They sent letters to birth mothers and met with prospective birth parents. Their families and friends wrote letters to vouch for their characters.
Each time a new adoption appeared on the horizon, the men were overcome with excitement at the possibility that they would finally become fathers. But it didn't happen. Sometimes the birth parents decided to keep the child. Sometimes they chose different couples. And each time Rob and Malcolm's hearts were broken a little more.
Malcolm persuaded Rob to keep trying, but ultimately, they decided to chart a different course; they began looking into surrogacy. Once they made that choice, things began to go their way quickly. “It was amazing!" Rob said of the experience. As their fertility agency, they chose to work with the Pacific Fertility Center Los Angeles. Things progressed quickly from there; a surrogate who had been recommended to them but had decided to retire changed her mind after she met with the two aspiring dads.
Malcolm (left), Preston and Rob, Halloween
Malcolm and Rob cried once they realized that they were getting closer to realizing their dream. Looking to optimize the conditions for success, they asked the agency to conduct all kind of tests on both their sperm. Via egg donation they obtained five high-quality eggs. In Rob own words, “Our doctors could not have been any more amazing. From day one we felt like we had a team of specialists holding out hands and guiding us. We had the eggs fertilized and met with our surrogate again. We met and discussed how the surrogacy would work, and our surrogate asked us if we had any special requests during the pregnancy. In the end, we decided that she was the expert and after spending so much time with her, we knew we could trust her. We told her that all we wanted was a healthy baby." Finally the news came: their surrogate was officially pregnant.
Rob and Malcolm became very involved in their surrogate's pregnancy. Rob made constant phone calls and sent many, many text messages, he said. He kept asking her to take pregnancy tests over and over and over again. Each time they came back positive, but it wasn't until the doctor confirmed this that he was finally able to breathe. "We loved her and we were so happy that she had decided to do this for us. We would get together every week to have dinner and to talk. Over the nine-month process, she became family."
The doctors found out their baby was going to be a boy. By March 2017, the guys could feel him kicking and moving around.
Soon, the nursery was all set up. Friends and family got in on the action by inundating their home with baby stuff.
On June 6, 2017, Malcolm and Rob took their surrogate to the hospital. At 12:34 in the afternoon, a gorgeous boy entered the world, surrounded by the people who love him most. They named him Preston Dean Pausmith.
Before they became dads, Rob and Malcolm prioritized their careers over all else. Their main worries, they say, were being able to make enough money to travel and buy nice things. But the moment they held their son in their arms, nothing else in the world mattered but his happiness and wellbeing.
According to Malcolm, Rob used to work seven days a week. But since having Preston, he has cut his days in the office to four. He makes sure that he is home in time to help Malcolm put their son to bed.
Malcolm has also cut down on his work in order to provide better care for their son.
Fortunately for the dads, Preston has turned out be an easy child thus far, so their social life hasn't had to change much. They still go out to eat all the time, and go over to friends' houses for parties and get-togethers. They take Preston with them everywhere, who has traveled with them as far as Hawaii.
Some things have changed dramatically, though. Simple things Leaving the house is one of those things. They used to grab their keys and go; now they have to plan things around his naps and feedings. In order to be at dinner by 6, they have to start getting ready to go at 4. New friends tend to be parents. And all of a sudden their weekends are filled with kids parties rather than Sunday brunches in West Hollywood!
Rob (left) and Malcolm and Preston
Before they became parents, Malcolm and Rob used to go “a million miles per hour." But when you have a baby, you learn to look at all the details of something, they say. It has made them pause, slow down. Preston is also teaching them patience and flexibility. Things don't happen on Rob and Malcolm's time anymore; things happen on Preston's time. He has created a sense of calm. Malcolm and Rob find themselves talking sweeter to one another, hearing each other out more, and spending time just enjoying one another's company.
Once a baby is born, parents tend to forget to some extent how difficult the road to fatherhood was. “Malcolm was ready to be a father at birth," says Rob. “He seems to have been pre-wired with information that would allow him to be a dad. As soon as Preston was born, Malcolm instinctively knew how to handle situations and always had the right answer. Malcom never had any doubts."
And Rob was pretty confident about his own parenting abilities. That is, until about a week before Preston was born. That's when Rob, in a fit of near-hysteria, called his best friend Cameron (who is now Preston's godfather). He suddenly had this overwhelming fear that he was not going to be able to do this. "I don't know what came over me. I just started thinking about all of the things that could go wrong," he remembers thinking.
Fortunately, Cameron had some wisdom to dispense. He reminded him that there are no books on how to be the perfect parent. That everything was just someone else's opinion. He told him that, of course, he would do something to mess this kid up; they just need to be prepared to pay for therapy later on in life. This made Rob laugh and he calmed down.
When asked if their family is treated any differently than others, Rob says that for the most part people have been amazing. "Malcolm and I are very open about our love for one another and our life. We love sharing our experience, and are always happy to answer any questions people have. I think when we walk through life considering ourselves as normal as can be, other people view us the same." When asked who he "belongs" to, the dads have learned to respond with a sly answer: “he's mine and my husband's," they'll say.
As far as what the future holds for the couple, they see themselves having at least one more child in the next five to ten years. They see lots of PTA meetings and sports games. They look forward to traveling and introducing their children to new and exciting things.
They also have some advice for anyone else thinking of pursuing their dreams of fatherhood: don't let fear get in the way.
*We've partnered with Pacific Fertility Center Los Angeles to share some of the stories of the men whom they helped become dads. Be sure to keep an eye out for next month's family!