20 years ago, Gene became the first single gay man to work with Circle Surrogacy in order to become a dad — trailblazing a path for many others since.
"I think I was pretty naïve, I guess," chuckled Gene, one of the first single gay dads to work with Circle Surrogacy over 19 years ago. "I just had made a decision and went out and did it, and wasn't really thinking about how difficult it might be or what other people thought, being first at doing something."
So how did Gene hear about surrogacy as an option for single gay men? Well, it began with Gene flipping through a bar magazine. He recalls seeing an ad about a woman providing a service to connect gay men with lesbians in platonic co-parenting relationships. While he started down that path, working with the founder, Jennifer, he remembers thinking, "What if I meet someone? What if I want to move? It would create all these complications."
He relayed his hesitations to Jennifer who in turn told him about Circle Surrogacy where she was working as the social worker at the time, performing the psychological screenings for Intended Parents. Jennifer introduced Gene to John Weltman, the founder of Circle and a gay dad. From there, Gene's surrogacy journey began.
At the time, traditional surrogacy journeys were more common at Circle, and that was how Gene became a father. While his first match didn't work out, his second with surrogate Maria was successful, and they became pregnant on the first attempt.
A couple of weeks before the baby's due date, Gene received a call from his surrogate that she was in labor. He was at the office at the time, and had planned to be there for the birth, so he started to freak out. "So I left early and this is where having support is important," recalled Gene. "I had a friend from the airport that helped me change my flight and a friend who was a cop that met me at my house because I called him and was like 'I have to get to the airport!'. So he brought his police car to bring me – it was at the height of the Big Dig [a massive construction project in Boston] – and he was able to part traffic and get me there in time. Then I heard from my surrogate Maria that she was home and it had been a false alarm!"
Jared was born 10 days later, and Gene was there for the birth.
When it was time for Gene to travel home to Boston with baby Jared, he'll never forget their first travel experience together. Gene recalled the looks he got at the airport and on the plane. "They were looks because here's a guy, with an infant," said Gene. "As a man, I never thought of that as being a thing, but it's a thing. A man isn't supposed to be out alone with an infant. Who knew?"
Another common question Gene would get was "Where's the mother?" (Frustratingly, this question has continued through time, and many dads still get asked this by strangers.) But that was also when Gene most felt like a Super-dad: able to balance the stroller and diaper bag with one hand while holding his son in the other. This was his son, and he was his dad.
Gene was able to take a year off work to care for and bond with his son, and after the first year was up, Gene moved to the town next to his parents and they began to enjoy grandparent time with Jared. "That was very helpful to be near my parents for anything that could come up," said Gene. "My mom was always nearby so there was always help in that regards."
As Jared grew, Gene created a photo album of Maria for his son to help him understand where he came from. There were also photos of Maria in Jared's room, and Gene would refer to her as Jared's mom. He met Maria once when Jared was two, a second time when he was five, and again when he was 11. At that point, Jared seemed comfortable with the explanation.
Nothing specific about Gene's surrogacy journey to become a dad was discussed until one day, when Jared appeared to be struggling with something. "He seemed to be having trouble at school, so I kinda wove in the story about me being gay and the complications of having kids, and how I went through this process which was very difficult, and how if I could get through that, he could get through this." Gene's heart-to-heart with his son opened up their world together with Gene able to talk about how he became Jared's dad, his own sexuality, which they really hadn't discussed, but there hadn't been a need to till this point.
"I kinda already knew," added now 19-year-old Jared, as the father and son both reflected on the moment. "I was also surprised as it's a lot of work for one person which I thought was cool."
Jared went on to say that his friends, when they find out his family's story, think it's really great! "A lot of them think it's really cool, and a lot of people have thought about doing it. I have one friend who is really considering surrogacy and asks me a lot of questions."
"[Jared] grew up going down to P'town," added Gene, "and just being around the environment that we were apart of... there's just normalcy that was part of it, it was just our life." Times have changed, for the better, in many ways, Gene continued. "Going to high school now, there's gay-straight alliances, he has a lesbian friend in high school, it's just really different now."
It's been almost 20 years since Gene became a father through surrogacy with Circle Surrogacy. He was a trailblazer and one of the first single gay men to pursue such a path with Circle, and while he doesn't have any specific advice to others who are now considering the same path, in a different cultural landscape, he does have something to say to all parents: "Parenting is hard. You'll be good at a lot of things but a lot of things you'll be really bad at as well."
Regardless of becoming a parent as a single man or in a relationship, whether straight or gay, those words will always ring true. Parenting is hard. But the rewards, as Gene will attest, make everything worth it.