David and I were in bed thinking about the future. Thinking of names for our future child. The plan was to get married and adopt. The long and winding road that led to the birth of our amazing son began at that moment.
A few weeks after our nighttime conversation, we encountered our first roadblock. On the night of November 4, 2008, California's Proposition 8 passed. Our hopes of getting married were dashed. It was going to be a lovely wedding too. We would remain domestic partners for another five years.
However, we did move forward with our adoption plans. Like many potential parents looking to adopt, we researched private versus going through the county. Our first venture was through an agency. We attended a few meetings and found the costs and risks to great. What if we were selected and the birth mother changed her mind? We weren't sure we could handle that.
Next, we started taking classes with the county to become foster-to-adopt candidates. So many classes. We learned a good deal about the process. We also learned about the red tape. It was going to be a difficult process, one that could very well lead to a similar outcome of being placed with a child and having them taken away. This was difficult for us because we felt adoption was the right thing to do, plus there was no way we could afford to go the surrogacy route.
It had been four years since we both agreed to expand our family. David and I had exhausted our options. Enter David's co-worker, Danielle. One day while at lunch, after constantly hearing stories about trying to adopt, Danielle told David, “I'm going to have a baby for you."
This is how Danielle describes it now: “I decided to be a surrogate for Joey and David after hearing their stories of the many struggles they were going through with adoption and fostering. It was heartbreaking and frustrating to watch. Heartbreaking because all they wanted was to love a child and frustrating because I grew up in foster care and would have been so lucky to have been taken in by an amazing couple like them. As soon as the idea popped in my head, it immediately made sense to me and I knew with 100 percent certainty I wanted to do it."
When David told me about Danielle's offer, I didn't believe him. However, after meeting Danielle, I realized that she was serious. It was better than winning the lottery! She didn't want to be compensated. She wanted to make our dream come true.
We made our first attempt. We did it at our home. Danielle was in the guest room with a friend who was a nurse. David and I combined our samples (which we later learned not to do because the swimmers fight and kill one another), provided Danielle with the cup, and our at-home insemination attempts had begun. It was a cost-effective way, which, luckily for us, worked.
Valentine's Day 2013
At 6:30 a.m., Danielle called to tell us she was pregnant. We both sent pictures of the pregnancy test sticks to our moms with the message, “Happy Valentine's Day, Grandma!"
Again, Danielle: “Our process of getting pregnant couldn't have been better! I think that removing the financial and clinical elements allowed us to relax and enjoy the whole process a bit more. It also allowed the three of us to grow closer and helped to open up our lines of communication. There are a lot of awkward and uncomfortable things a woman goes through when pregnant and I felt so open and was able to easily share all of the fun details."
Things got a little tricky for us when it came to the legal portion of this process. We wanted to hire the same attorney friends of us had used. Soon we found out that we had made a critical mistake. Danielle had become pregnant before we hired an attorney. That attorney and several others refused our case because of the legal complications our decision would cause. (Surrogacy lawyers require quite a bit to occur before the insemination attempts begin. We unknowingly bypassed all of that.)
Eventually, we found an attorney who would take our case. We could not have had a better one! Since we did not know which one of us was the biological father, we placed David as the presumptive biological father, Danielle would release her parental rights, and I would adopt our child from Danielle. Our final hurdle would be getting a judge to sign off on this.
The months went on. We made sure Danielle was taken care of. We coined ourselves “Team Baby." Danielle became a part of our families who were all so excited. They each wanted to host their own baby shower. We ended up having three.
Throughout the pregnancy, we were convinced of two things: that the baby was a girl and that it was David's. During our gender reveal party, we learned the baby was a boy. David and I chose the name Caleb Daniel. Caleb kind of just came to us while Daniel was our way to honor Danielle for her generosity.
There was one more piece of business that needed to be taken care of before Caleb was born. On September 30, 2013, David and I finally were married. It was exactly eight years to the day that we first met. We changed our last names to Seymour-Ochoa, so that we'd all have the same last name. Minutes before the reception, we received an email from our lawyer letting us know a judge had signed off on our case and that we were good to go. The moment Caleb was born, he'd legally be ours and both of our names would appear on his birth certificate.
Caleb wasn't ready, perfectly happy in his comfy waterbed.
Our doctor decided it was time to go in and get him. Since the birth would be a C-section, we were told only one of us (David or I) could be in the room. It was a huge defeat and one of the hardest decisions I've ever made. I told David he could go. Plus there was a high probability that I'd pass out.
Moments before they were set, the doctor and anesthesiologist agreed to let me come back as well. I was elated. Our lives were about to change forever.
In Danielle's words: “Luckily, our pregnancy did not have any major complications. I made sure to keep them in loop with fun stuff like cravings and what would make me nauseous. I was terrified of giving birth from both a pain and emotional standpoint so I was thrilled when my doctor recommended a C-Section. We were lucky enough to have both Joey and David allowed in the room when we delivered. They were there for the birth of their son, but they were there to support me too and that meant the world to me."
When David cut the umbilical cord – I thought for sure I'd pass out if I did it – I took our baby's first picture. In that moment, as I looked at his little face, I realized he looked exactly like me. We had been wrong on both counts. And so, in an odd twist, I legally adopted my own biological child. None of that mattered however. Caleb is ours; biology has nothing to do with it.
Things took a quick and very scary turn. Caleb was having problems breathing. Both of his lungs had collapsed. Before David or I had the chance to hold our baby, he was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The team worked feverishly to inflate them. They placed a Darth Vader-like breathing mask over him.
All the while, family members were streaming into the hospital. They spent time with Danielle and got a quick glimpse of Caleb. However, he needed quiet and calm. Around 11 p.m., the nurses told David and me that we needed to go home to get some rest. We drove home. We looked at his empty nursery and cried. The room was decorated with a “Jungle Book" theme, the story of two males taking care of a man-cub. We had done everything ourselves. Now, when he was supposed to be in that room, he was not. We had even boarded our dog for the night. We were all alone.
Over the next few days, Caleb fought hard and improved significantly. On the fourth day we were finally able to bring him home. He completely recovered and there were no side effects. He was a strong and healthy boy. Danielle was ready to be discharged as well. As we had arrived, we all left together, but this time with our little bundle of joy created through love, unbelievable generosity, and the belief in a dream that David and I would one day be fathers.
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I've lived my life thriving off of being told no. Being gay meant I'd couldn't work in the sports industry, yet I've worked for five professional teams over a nearly nine-year career in sports. Being gay meant I'd couldn't be in the military, yet I am an officer in the United States Navy Reserve. (After my child and marriage, it's the thing I am most proud of.) Being gay meant I couldn't get married, yet we've been together for nearly 12 years now and married for almost three. Finally, being gay meant I'd never become a parent, yet today I'm the father of the greatest 2½-year-old.
Danielle, summing it all up: “Bringing Caleb into this world with Joey and David is the best decision I have ever made and I cannot wait to start trying for No. 2. Knowing I helped two amazing people create a family is something I will cherish always. I think it is important to share our story because it may be able to help navigate a special situation where there is little to no support or information readily available. There are plenty of surrogacy horror stories out there and I enjoy sharing ours as much as possible because it is a great success and absolutely beautiful."
Whether with potential parents from groups that we belong to like the American Military Partner Association or now, Gays With Kids, we love sharing our story. We love surrounding ourselves with others who will do whatever it takes to make their dream of parenthood a reality. It took us five long years, but our dream certainly came true.