Travis Mayfield, 38, practically glows every time he talks about his “kiddos.” Part of that glow is a little bit of a daze from a lack of sleep, now that twins Eleanor and Thomas have turned 2 years old.
“They're amazing, beautiful kids,” Travis says, “but you can definitely tell that they’re two. They've got big emotions right now. And two kids isn't just twice as much work. It's exponential.”
Travis is sitting with husband, Curtis Man, who is also 38, at their Seattle home. The twins are napping — as best as any 2-year-olds can. Occasionally, a father gets up to help one of the kids back to sleep. No matter what, he always comes back with a smile.
After tagging in Curtis on nap duty, Travis sits back down and talks about coming out to his family — how even then he knew he would one day be a father.
“My parents were as fine with me being gay as any evangelical Christians could be,” he says. “They always said they would love me no matter what. My sophomore year of college, I took them up on that promise.”
Both Travis’s parents worried this meant no grandchildren — until their son set the record straight.
“I told my mom, ‘You need to understand — I can be a dad and I will be a dad,’” he says.
Both mom and dad are now wonderful grandparents for Tommie and Ellie and look at Curtis “like their own son,” Travis says.
Curtis came into Travis’s life nine years ago — during a first date where Travis made his dream to be a father abundantly clear.
“We had sushi, and we were about to order dessert,” Travis says, “and I told him, ‘Look, I want to be a dad. It's very important to me, and if it’s a deal-breaker for you, we probably shouldn't get dessert.’ I was looking for my future fellow dad, and I wasn't going to settle for someone who wasn't the right match or wasn't interested in kids.”
Travis turns to Curtis and smiles.
“We had dessert,” he says.
Curtis and Travis became domestic partners in 2010 and legally married in 2013. Curtis admits that kids were not really on his mind during that first date, but he stayed open to the idea.
“At the time I wasn't thinking about kids or even a long-term relationship,” Curtis says. “I wasn't opposed to being a father; it just never entered into the vision I had for my future. But being with Travis, there was just this series of signs that this is the life I should choose. And of course, the world completely changed when the kids came. I can't imagine my world without them.”
The couple evaluated every path toward fatherhood. After a years-long journey, they chose surrogacy.
“Before we met, two men having kids meant only one thing — adoption,” Travis says. “Surrogacy wasn't even on our radar. But it made the most sense for each other and for our family. It was a long process, but we felt like we had more control than an adoption. I didn’t want to sit on a list for 10 years and never get a kid — or be in my 50s and suddenly become a first-time dad. We knew that this was the time, we were both getting older, and we needed more control over our timeline so we can do this right.”
Ellie and Tommie dressed as "Where The Wild Things Are" characters. Photo credit: Kristi Waite Farquhar facebook.com/KristiTakesPhotos/
Both men spent months of time and research on different adoption plans before opting for surrogacy. Travis highlights that all gay families need to take that same journey and consider all the options — not just for their future children, but for themselves. Surrogacy made the most sense for his family with Curtis, and Travis admits he felt blessed that the two could pursue that route.
“Having a family is an incredible journey no matter the route you take,” he says. “We encourage other couples to open their minds to all the possibilities.”
When the couple decided on surrogacy, they explored using a family member as the egg donor. “We put almost a year into that, and we realized it wasn't going to work,” Travis says. “I realized that we needed to take a break from this. I'm glad we did. I realized I needed that time to work through some of the emotional issues that had come up during the process. I think it was important I did that.”
Curtis says it didn't feel like a pause to him. “We did things at our own pace,” he says.
Travis turns to Curtis and smiles. “I’m all emotional, and he’s the logical one — he's the rock,” Travis says.
The couple’s hard work paid off. They found an egg donor, a surrogate and a helpful lawyer. Although paid surrogacy was illegal in Washington, they worked with their lawyer to secure everything they needed in Portland, Oregon, a three-hour drive from Seattle.
“We made trips monthly, then weekly,” Travis says. “We wanted to be there for everything.”
They decided Curtis would be the sperm donor.
A software engineer for Microsoft, Curtis could claim much of the costly surrogacy process as “infertility treatments” under his company health insurance. Travis, the man who couldn’t wait until the dessert course to start bringing up babies, never cared about the biological link to his children.
“Genetically, I don't care if I pass anything on,” Travis says. “The insurance being good and the idea of having gorgeous mixed-race babies – it was never a question if Curtis would be the donor.”
Now the two dads – Daddy for Travis, the Cantonese Baba for Curtis – couldn’t be happier with their choices. And Travis has embraced his chance not only to have a family, but to share his family with others.
As a director of digital strategy for several local TV stations, Travis often appears on morning news shows to report on trending topics across social media. He brings both his personality and personal life on air with him.
“Viewers love to know about the kiddos and our life,” he says. “They relate to us as parents. If I say something crazy or stupid one day on TV, I can just say how I haven't slept all night or how I walked in this morning with baby vomit on my jacket. And people get that. They see us as a family first, gay second.”
Travis laughs. “In a way, we’ve become just as boring as everybody else. But it helps people to understand it.”
Curtis admits he doesn't watch his husband on TV, but he’s not immune to the local fame. “People will stop me with the kids and say how much they love him on TV,” he says.
Despite Travis’s public presence, the family is quite private. Right now, the two men are heavily focused on guiding their children through the so-called “terrible twos.”
Tommie is the calmer of the two right now, while Ellie has started what Travis called a “fearless” streak – something he hopes she keeps.
“Little girls can lose their confidence so easily,” Travis says. “I hope we can continue to allow her big emotions and fearlessness. We both hope she is empowered from this young age.”
The two men are open about their family to their children, even including their surrogate in the children’s lives. They both agreed they didn't want the family to become a “conversation” someday. They wanted to be honest from Day One. And it looks like it’s working.
“Ellie’s always excited about it,” Travis says. “She loves to hold both our hands and say to just anyone who will listen, ‘I have two daddies — two daddies!’"