Justin and Matthew live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and have been together for 11 years. They met through mutual friends and the first time Justin saw Matthew, he knew there something special about him. They both wanted children, and after almost 4 years of dating, they decided to begin their journey to parenthood.
Justin and Matthew Reed began with adoption at first but had no luck for many years. They found it difficult to find agencies willing to work with them, and when they looked into private adoption agencies across the country, the high cost and uncertain outcome was difficult for them to overcome. "We had friends who had several poor experiences with some of the more reputable agencies," added Justin, and this did nothing for their confidence when considering those agencies.
Justin (left) holding Henry, and Matthew
The couple also became licensed foster parents and were foster dads for some time, but ultimately agreed that it wasn't for them.
In May 2015, just when they had almost given up hope, a co-worker at the local university where Justin worked approached him. She had been privy to the challenges Justin and Matthew had faced and she came to Justin's office to speak with him. She shared with Justin her own IVF story. She was a mom of six kids, but had struggled with infertility after having her first born. Thankfully she became pregnant with the help of IVF and had triplets four years after her eldest. She then later had twin boys, naturally - a wonderful surprise. But she also disclosed to Justin that when she had gone through her own IVF journey, they had created additional embryos and she wanted Justin and Matthew to have access to them as her own family was complete.
Justin's mind was awhirl. He was amazed at how generous his co-worker was, but at the same time he didn't think Matthew would agree to it, and also, they wouldn't be able to afford a surrogate.
Justin, Henry and Matthew
But then his co-worker surprised him with an even more generous offer: she would be their surrogate.
"Okay, now there is no way this would happen," shared Justin, "So I thanked her emphatically for the offer and said I would talk it over with Matthew, which I knew he would never agree to."
But Matthew's response surprised Justin almost as much as his co-worker's offer. Matthew was in! "Well, I guess this is about the best possible situation," Matthew said, and Justin freaked out. By October 2015, they were pregnant!
Before the pregnancy took place, the couples attended therapy together. "The fertility center required us to attend therapy prior to agreeing to proceed," shared Matthew. "The board wanted to be sure that we all knew what we were getting into." The main goal of the therapy sessions were to discuss how the process would connect the two families and ensure that both sides understood the long-term impact this would have on both their existing families and their future child.
After being in the room for the implantation, at every doctor's appointment, and for the scheduled c-section, Justin and Matthew finally became dads to Henry on July 7, 2016. "Our whole experience was amazing," shared Justin.
Justin and Matthew see Henry's birth family periodically and will forever be grateful for the amazing gift they gave them. "Subsequent to Henry's birth, his birth mother was unexpectedly diagnosed with a brain tumor and has been undergoing treatment for the last 18 months," shared Matthew. As a result, organizing time together has been difficult but they talk to Henry about his birth family and show him pictures, something they will continue to do as he grows.
On January 18, 2017, the husbands – they were married in December 2015 as expectant dads – finalized the adoption of Henry.
Henry's adoption, January 2017
Justin and Matthew's path to fatherhood is difficult to define. They first tried adoption, then became foster parents for a brief time, and then experienced a surrogacy journey but are not related to Henry biologically. "So, while in the end it was a legal adoption, because of the DNA," said Justin, "really it was a surrogacy situation from the beginning, or I guess you could call it a planned adoption." Whatever you call it, this family was built by determination, generosity like no other, and a cast of big hearts.
Never more true, love most certainly makes a family.