Many of us measure our lives in BC and AC stages: Before Children and After Children. And although older kids can be just as much work, not much can prepare you for the immediate upheaval of a baby. Now, multiple that by three… In Bjarke Damm and Lars Hansen's case, that's what happened. With the help of two surrogates, they became dads in the space of two weeks to three babies. After 17 years together, their family grew from two to five in a matter of days. Talk about upheaval! And how are the dads managing? Let's find out.
Danish dads Lars and Bjarke met in 2001 at a nightclub they both used to frequent. "All of a sudden he was there, standing alone with a beer in hand, and somehow I just knew instantly that he was the one," remembers Bjarke. This moment was the beginning of a wonderful love story. "We have been together ever since, and are still very much in love with each other."
Lars and Bjarke were married in May 2007, and spent the next 10 years fulfilling so many of their dreams such as traveling, establishing successful careers (Lars is a GP medical doctor and Bjarke is a PHD psychotherapist), hiking and camping in the wilderness, and spending lots of time with loved ones as well as raising their beloved pup, Joey. But children was always a dream that never strayed too far from the husbands' thoughts.
For several year, Lars and Bjarke had considered surrogacy but they knew it wasn't a route without hurdles. As commercial surrogacy isn't legal in Denmark, they knew they'd have to go abroad, and then bring their child back into Denmark. This was going to be a huge issue as Denmark doesn't recognize the parents of surrogate children as the legal parents. "We had heard some scary stories of couples who were basically trapped in a foreign country with a newborn child," said Lars. "This, combined with the excessive costs involved, kept us hesitant about the whole thing, even though we longed so much to create our family."
With these seemingly insurmountable hurdles, Lars and Bjarke almost gave up hope. But just as they were ready to give up, they were approached by two very important women in their lives: Bjarke's sister and another close female friend, Danielle, who both offered to carry their children.
"Two wonderful women offered their help, we felt so lucky and so blessed," said Bjarke. Since Bjarke's sister and their friend were both Danes, the children would automatically become Danish citizens as well. The men were incredibly humbled by their loved ones' willingness to help them become dads and decided to continue their journey with both women.
Bjarke, Lars and their two surrogates all traveled to the US for the egg donation and transfers. In June 2017, Bjarke's sister became pregnant, and a month later Danielle became pregnant. A few weeks later, they discovered Danielle's egg had split and she was carrying identical twins. Everyone was thrilled!
In late January 2018, Anna was born, and in early February Lili and Nora joined their family. Since then, the dads' lives have been dramatically altered.
"The arrival of the girls has changed our life in a very fundamental way," explained Bjarke. "I have now been a stay-at-home dad for almost 10 months, without doing anything but taking care of the girls. But the funny thing is that it feels so right just staying at home." Before their daughters, Bjarke says he constantly thought about work, even in his free time. Now, his priority is his new role as "Far" - Danish for dad – and the experience has been liberating. "I have learned that there is something here that is so much more important – and in a way it sets me free."
That isn't to say everything has been smooth sailing – they are dads to triplets after all! "There has been a couple of times where it has been so hard taking care of three infants at the same time, that we almost collapsed," said Bjarke, but somehow they've both found the strength to work through the rough patches. "These hard times have brought Lars and I even closer together, because sharing the responsibility of raising our three girls, we really have to rely on each other."
Due to Danish law, the dads are still not the legal parents of each others' biological children. In Denmark, the birth mother has to wait two-and-a-half years until she can pursue adoption. This means that Bjarke's sister and Danielle are still technically considered the biological mothers of the children, even though they had egg donation. (Danish law considers the woman who gives birth as the legal mother.) Lars and Bjarke have full custody of the children so this doesn't affect their day-to-day life, but they're looking forward to the day Lars can adopt the twins (Bjarke's biological children) and Bjarke can adopt Anna (Lar's biological daughter).
Both Bjarke and Lars would tell any other gay man considering fatherhood through surrogacy to "go for it," but they would advise that if a female friend or family member offers to help, that both parties have to consider it thoroughly. "In our case, everything went according to plan," said Lars. "Both of the women didn't have any problems giving the children to us - since as they explained, they never felt like they were giving away their own children - they were giving them back to their parents. So this is really important!"
Further down the road, the family of five see themselves moving somewhere outside of Copenhagen and living in a smaller village closer to nature. This might include a temporary relocation to Greenland for a job opportunity for Lars, and for the family to explore the wild nature of the northernmost country in the world.
Whatever the future has in store for these dads, they feel immensely fortunate for those who helped and supported their dream of fatherhood. "We are surrounded by love, and without the two women helping us create the family, we'd always wanted - we probably wouldn't have had any children today. Because at the time they offered, we basically had given up hope. So this is really a miracle!!