Matt Nguyen, a game designer, and Christopher Chansler, a stay-at-home dad, have been together for 9 years, and married in October of 2019.
The couple met while Matt was living in Oakland, and Christopher in Sacramento. "We met each other online through OKCupid," Matt said. "Our shared passions for everything video games and geek, nerd culture drew us together." After many dates — filled with binge-watching Netflix and playing World of Warcraft together — they realized they were a perfect match.
Today, the pair lives in Cary, North Carolina — and the move to the Tar Heel State is what prompted the couple's journey to fatherhood. "I always wanted kids," Matt said. "But it was always an afterthought and a daydream."
As the couple was looking into moving, they began some intensive research into what it was like raising a family in Cary, North Carolina, gobbling up everything the could watch or read on the subject. "After seeing such glowing praise of the many families that decided to make this place their home, it dawned on us both that not only would this give us a slower paced lifestyle we desired but would also be the perfect opportunity to start a family as well," Matt said.
The realization that they were about to embark on a journey to fatherhood was met with "excitement, anticipation, and joy," Matt said. "This was becoming our defining pivotal moment, the start to a new life and new family."
After making this mental leap, intensive research in surrogacy soon followed. "We found Gays With Kids and Men Having Babies to be great resources," Matt said. The couple reached out to several surrogacy agencies, but fell in love with Same Love Surrogacy, based in Los Angeles, California. "While we have no doubt many other agencies would be great too, the guidance, knowledge, and personal care Same Love brought to us was invaluable throughout our journey," Matt said.
Same Love Surrogacy helped match the couple with their gestational carrier, Nicole, of whom they have no shortage of positive things to say about: "She's amazing, loving, kind, and selfless," said Matt. Not long after, Nicole was pregnant with an embryo created via an egg donor and Matt's sperm.
The relationship Matt and Christopher have formed with Nicole, the couple say, is among the most unique and rewarding parts of the surrogacy journey. "The great thing about surrogacy is you get to form a great friendship with your surrogate," Matt said. "We video chatted every week with her, and still do — she's become a close friend, and we love her very much."
Nicole lives in Pennsylvania, so Matt and Christopher were only able to make the trek from North Carolina twice throughout the journey to visit with her in person. "But she was such a great host that we have also fallen in love with her hometown," Matt said. "She lives near the coziest mountain campground and we foresee us taking many summer vacations visiting there."
With Nicole's pregnancy progressing smoothly, the next important task for Matt and Christoper: deciding on a name. After a work trip took the couple to Europe over Christmas — during which they visited Sweden, France, Spain and Germany— the couple returned stateside inspired to choose a name reminiscent of the continent, in honor of the impactful trip. "We chose to name [our son] after the German composer Johannes Brahms, but without the 's' to sound more like a first name," Matt said.
As it turns out, the name also references the couple's shared passion for video games. Brahms is one of the pair's favorite composers, Matt explained — but Braum, spelled differently but pronounced the same, is also one of a favorite video game character in the game League of Legends. "We love how our son’s name embodies our love of music, video games, and memories of our great European adventures," Matt said.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit during the couple's surrogacy journey, it presented what they described as their first major roadblock. "Covid-19 definitely added quite a few wrinkles to our surrogacy plan," Matt said. The hospital where Brahm was to be born informed the couple that only one of the two of them would be able to stay with the newborn following the birth — presenting the couple with a very difficult choice. Fortunately, when the time came — in June of 2020 — the hospital staff took pity on the couple. "After listening to our situation all the nurses voted to overrule that and let us both stay," Matt said.
For other queer couples out there contemplating fatherhood, the couple's best piece of advice is to allow some time to develop compatible parenting styles. "Combined with sleep deprivation and us having constantly conflicting opinions on how to soothe Brahm, we were no longer your friendly gay couple," Matt said, of the early days following their son's birth. Fortunately, a pediatrician helped the couple realize that it's okay if their parenting styles differ somewhat. "We quickly realized that while we might not always agree with each other, we both were always wanting the best for Brahm despite our contradictory views and that helped us find common ground with our parenting styles," Matt said.
For other gay men specifically interested in surrogacy as a path to parenthood, the couple had some words of advice for those struggling with the cost of the process — which can be between $135,000 and $200,000+.
"Yes, the whole surrogacy journey is expensive, but every service you pay for is worth it — especially your agency," Matt said. The biggest value involved, he added — and the biggest surprise — was the relationship they were able to form with their surrogate. "Nicole is great, and Same Love Surrogacy provided her with an incredible support system as a first time surrogate," Matt said. "You get that, plus all the ease of navigating through lawyers and IVF clinics without needing to know anything about the process."
When the pandemic subsides, the new dads say they are looking forward to the opportunity to build more community with other gay, bi and trans fathers — especially other self-described dorks. "For any Gaymers out there," Matt said. "Hit us up and play some games with us!"