My partner Mark and I talked about how much we both wanted to have kids on our fourth date. We were sharing a second bottle of wine, our dinner plates long cleared. Somewhere, there is a list of things you aren’t supposed to say to a potential partner within the first weeks of knowing each other, but I was thirty- three years old and ready to settle down. I was tired of wasting my time.
Most of the men I dated in the past responded to my upfront honesty about children with nervous laughter. Some would shrug it off, quickly order another drink, and then quit returning my calls. Some would offer a casual, “Me too,” and resist discussing the issue again. I understood that not every gay man feels called to parenthood (or straight man, for that matter), and that’s fine. But I have plenty of same-sex friends who have kids, so I refused to believe I was alone in my desire to build a family. And then I met Mark.
Instead of laughing off my comments or belittling my desire, Mark reached across the table and took my hand. He looked me right in the eyes and asked me to tell him what part of the idea of parenthood made me the most excited. I was silent for a minute, surprised by such a thoughtful follow-up. “Being someone’s ally, “I finally told him. “And nourishing another person’s identity. Mark smiled into his glass.
Later, at our wedding in Vermont, Mark shared with our guests that he knew I was the one at around minute thirteen of our first date, when I made a joke that kept him laughing. for nearly a full minute. For me, the light bulb went off at that restaurant, when Mark exposed himself as a person who was sincerely interested in who I was, and who was additionally open to the idea of having kids.
Until only a few years ago, it was illegal for gay couples to adopt in Florida, out home state. That changed in September of 2010, when the ban was lifted. However, gestational surrogacy is still illegal reserved for “traditionally” married couples (which doesn’t matter, since Florida doesn’t recognize our same-sex marriage anyway). The way around this was through something called a pre-planned adoption, in which Mark and I legally agree to adopt the baby being carried by our surrogate before the baby even exists. The nice thing in Florida they have statues that protected us as intended parents. In the state of Florida when the surrogate has no genetic link to the child that she is carrying then she has no legal rights to that child ever. There are a number of spectacular legal teams and fertility clinics in our community who advocate specifically for gay couples in this situation and who are readily familiar with what steps need to be taken to make the process as easy as possible, but we found Wendy Arker and her staff at Creative Love Egg Donor & Surrogate Agency to be particularly fantastic.
Wendy talked with us for a long time over our first few meetings, thoroughly answering all of our questions and making sure that we didn’t walk out the door until we felt totally comfortable with ever step. We never felt any pressure to sign a retainer agreement. She even gave us her home number and told us not to hesitate to call her anytime.
Some people say this as a business courtesy, but it was clear from her face that she meant it – she was willing to do whatever it would take to make it work so that we could grow our family. She was patient when we took our sweet time selecting an egg donor (and boy did we drag out that step). She gladly shared with us her own experience in using an egg donor, which really helped alleviate many of our fears. To hear her talk about her son is truly the reason people become parents.
In the end, Mark and I picked a donor who we felt reflected a combinations of our personalities. Our donor also had a really great attitude toward life, and that spirit was something we wanted reflected in our children. Even through Wendy stressed to us that personality was not an inherited trait. It still made us feel good about our donor that she came across so wonderful. We were able to choose a surrogate much more quickly. As a mother of two, what we liked the best about our surrogate was her genuine desire to make parenthood possible for other people. Her kids are clearly very lucky to have her as a mom.
Having children who were in some way biologically tied to Mark was something that was important to him. Personally, I couldn’t care less. So Mark fertilized the eggs from our donor before they were implanted in our surrogate. We’ve heard horror stories from friends who have had to go through multiple donors and multiple surrogates, spending tens of thousand of dollars before anything would take, but we got lucky. We got the news that are awesome surrogate was pregnant after only the second round of IVF, and she carried our twins to just one-and-a-half weeks shy of full-term. The only complication, in her words, was the unbelievable number of cheeseburgers she craved throughout her pregnancy.
Our daughters, Hailey and Hattie, were born in April. Now four months old, we are starting to see their little personalities develop (they seem to be in a competition for who is going to have more attitude!), and watching them sleep still feel just like it did on the first night we brought them home – there is a magic there that is hard to explain. We couldn’t be more grateful for the fabulous work Wendy and her team did to help make this dream a reality, and Mark and I are thrilled to have started our journey into parenthood with these two beautiful joys.