So whether you’ve become a gay parent through adoption, fostering, co-parenting, surrogation, step-parenting, a previous relationship or any other way; let’s celebrate, embrace, enjoy and smile about our little monkeys (or devils depending on the day of week).Read More
I didn’t in my wildest dreams think that I would ever be a father (and married). I was 20 in the late late 90’s and neither were even heard of. It’s just amazing how far we have come. Don’t get me wrong there is still a long way to go but progress is progress.Read More
Originally published January 6, 2014 by Matt
So here we are; sitting in cattle class (really uncomfortable and hot by the way) making the journey back home from Los Angeles. No internet, crap TV and LOTS of time to think.
I love Santa Monica, it reminds me of Glenelg but on a much bigger scale. Sun, sea, blue skies and good food. I think all these things help me love Santa Monica but there are a few other reasons I really love it.
1. The medical and legal teams we have In Santa Monica are amazing, incredibly skilled and 100% dedicated to their jobs. Without them, our dream to create a family wouldn’t be possible.
2. But most importantly our gorgeous surrogate Natasha lives in Calafornia and she is even more amazing than our legal and medical teams. What she is doing for us is simply incredible and really without her, none of this would be possible. I don’t think words can describe or justify how we really feel about Natasha.
*just went and got myself another beer*
Although we secretly wanted twins for lots of reasons, the thought of twins scares the living daylights out of me. God a singleton scares the living beejee’s out of me but is absolutely managable. I’ve spent so much time with Lachie, that I have some idea what to expect with one but OMG 2? Two adorable little monsters like Lachie? Oh shit! God I love him to bits but he does not stop from the hours of 7am until 7pm minus a few hours in between when he does actually sleep.
*beer not strong enough, time for a Gin and Tonic*
I keep thinking about how we are going to deal with the arrival of twins in late July/early August and how we are going to cope…Our lives are going to change forever. I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t anything that can prepare us for this. We just need to take every day as it comes and deal with it then.
Holy Crap! Oh Shite! So exciting
Originally published January 4, 2014 by Greg
So, I am discovering that there are a lot of social rules around the pregnancy process.
One of the biggest ones, is that you’re not supposed to tell anyone you’re pregnant until you’ve passed that magical 3-4 month period, had your 20-24 week scan, and then safely passed the highest risk period of all human pregnancy – the first trimester. There are good reasons for this, as once you’ve told the world that you’re pregnant, it’s an awfully difficult conversation to have to tell them that you’re no longer pregnant should something go wrong. There aren’t even words for how that feels, it’s always going to be painful to have to revisit it again and again. The rule of thumb is say nothing until you’re 110% sure, then even then, wait a few weeks longer. Better to be cautious and safe, than sorry.
Having now started with that, here’s the first unsurprising reveal for you all: We’re undergoing the surrogacy process.
I think anyone who has had a conversation with us in the last 12 months knows that. We’re fairly well advanced in the process, we’ve had an agency working for us for months, and friends and relatives have helped us sift, screen and select from the large numbers of profiles to work out who we’re going to undertake this process with. I guess that’s the surrogacy equivalent of saying “we’re trying for a baby” when you’re a straight couple.
It’s really hard to stay in the closet as pregnant men when half your social circle on Facebook, and at work, and in the family know what we’re doing and keep asking questions. In this age of social media, what are the rules about when you make a more public statement? Do you still wait for the 24 week scan? Or, since nature really has nothing to do with it anymore, it is okay to say something earlier? The risks are still there for surrogate-based pregnancy. All we’ve really done is stack the odds as much as we can with the best possible situations, the best possible participants and inputs, and a truck load of modern science.
We’ve been talking to our friends about this for months. They know that every time we go to Los Angeles, it’s got something to do with the surrogacy process. They know something is in the works, they’ve seen me turn up late to work due to “Doctor’s appointments” and heard my jokes about “making a healthy contribution to the process”. Any attempt by me to dissemble clearly isn’t doing much to dispel their idea that we’re at least a good way along. At least far enough along to have started what my friends have affectionally termed “the swishy-swoshy bit”.
Keeping secrets is not a feeling that sits well with me. Or many gay men, I imagine (except my husband). We spend altogether too much of our lives NOT saying something when we should, and I personally have developed a staunch determination to live my life in as open a way as possible. I don’t have secrets. I don’t have taboos. I don’t have parts of my life that I won’t instantly talk about if someone just asks me. You can imagine this annoys the living daylights out of Matt (he says it’s just being polite, I maintain he has unresolved privacy issues), and you’d be absolutely right. So when you tell an openly gay man that he shouldn’t say something, the chances are good that it’s going to burn a hole in his tongue until he actually says it. I know I’ve been more indiscrete than my husband would prefer. I’ve basically been unable to lie when asked a direct question. So that brings us to today.
I’m sitting here in our favourite hotel in Los Angeles. That I’m in LA means something surrogacy related happened today. This morning, actually.
The lovely Natasha has just left to head back to her lovely family. Before that we all just had a lovely lunch together. All very normal. But before that we shared a fairly unique situation, where we were all clustered together in a slightly too small Doctor’s examination room. The absolutely excellent Dr. Guy Ringler, of California Fertility Partners was maybe a little bit smug when he conducted the examination and announced the news to us all, gathered together.
Initially it was very warm, catching up with Natasha (our first real chance to just chat and spend time with her since we met), and meeting her friend who had accompanied her for the ride down to LA. Then we filed into the examination room and Matt and I politely waited outside for Natasha to arrange herself demurely in the position appropriate to the task at hand.
After a few moments in which it became increasingly clear that we were all getting a bit nervous, Dr. Ringler appeared and greeted us all. He was, as always, the epitome of professionalism. Once we were all in appropriate positions to ensure Natasha’s modesty, he professionally and politely coated an ultrasound probe with a domestic condom and a generous dollop of lubricant and with just the tiniest of surprised gasps from Natasha, he turned on the Ultrasound machine and began the examination.
About 10 seconds in the examination, I began to laugh quietly but hysterically.
It wasn’t that I found it funny. I had caught sight of something on the screen, and I was pretty certain I knew what it was.
This comes mostly from the fact that I cope with my anxiety and nerves by over-educating myself. When I am nervous or uptight, my hands fly immediately to Google and I proceed to reassure myself by over-educating myself in all aspects of the unknown. So in the past week or two, I had seen many, many screenshots of early ultrasounds, gestational sacs, and many slightly too graphic ‘representations’ of what the early developmental foetus looks like.
So as soon as Dr. Ringler’s magic wand passed over the part of the Uterus on his way to finding a clear picture, I knew I was looking at gestational sacs. Plural.
Two of them. There. I said it. I broke the taboo and said the “T Word”. Twins.
The examination continued. We got to listen to two foetal heartbeats. The first one was loud and strong due to it’s position in the uterus, while the other one is clearly a sneaky little f_cker and was hiding way up the other end. It took quite a bit of manoeuvring in the third dimension to do it, but Dr. Ringler was ultimately able to give us a clear heartbeat from that one too. Everything looks good, everything looks healthy, they are exactly the size that the textbook says they should be, and being able to see the pixelated flickering of their hearts was oddly reassuring.
But through all of this, I kept laughing to myself. A bit hysterical, a bit crazy.
Please describe why you have chosen to have a child through a Surrogate Arrangement. If you’re in a relationship, what experiences led you to come to this decision together?
This is not the first surrogacy journey for us. We are fathers to two amazing girls, who were born via Surrogate last year at the end of a long journey for us that started as far back as 2007. At the end of the initial IVF process with Dr. Ringler, we were now left with two high-grade (4.5/5) embryos that are currently frozen at the California Fertility Partners clinic in Los Angeles.
The first year with our girls has been an amazing rollercoaster of emotions. We would simultaneously describe it as the best and most exhausting year of our lives. We were probably fairly typical parents, maybe a bit better prepared because we were a bit older than most people who become parents, but just like every other human on the planet, we were totally unprepared for the scale of the changes to the way you live, the way you think and the way you feel, once you have children.
Speaking for me, I thought I knew what it felt like to be proud of an accomplishment. I have had a few accomplishments in my life, and would have described myself as being “proud” of what I have done. But I have now discovered that I feel more raw pride, and raw emotion at the tiniest of achievements that my daughters do (things like first steps, first words, mimicking my facial expressions, and even just brushing their own teeth) than I ever felt for myself. This is a defining change for me. I have realised through parenting these girls a whole new world of emotional resonance and empathy with others. At the same time, I’m intellectually challenged by the daunting task of preparing them for the world they will live in. It has made me rethink long-standing attitudes and challenge myself to be a better parent. And logistically, everything has changed. Our house now rotates around their needs, making their diet as good as possible, making their sleep good quality, and as they grow older, this will shift from the physical needs to the emotional, as we prepare them to live in a complicated and challenging world.
When the girls were a year old, we received a letter from the fertility agency to ask us what we wanted to do with the two remaining embryos that remained in storage. Our options were clearly laid out – as I am sure you can imagine. But it kicked off a conversation between Matt and I about whether we were “done” yet or whether we were interested in “seeing what might happen” if we opened up our hearts and our home to another child. The embryos that are stored are from the same egg-donor that gave us the girls, so they would be full-sisters to them.
There’s a lot of reasons people will tell you to not have a third baby. The logistics become significantly more complicated when the children outnumber the parents. The time off disappears. Tag-team parenting is not an option as three kids are a bit much.
But the decision-maker for us, was the idea that in a laboratory in LA, waiting for their turn to be brought to life and emerge into the world was another amazing and incredible individual like the two daughters we already have. The world needs more amazing people in it, and we have the resources and the emotional space to raise another child and give them an incredible childhood.
So here we are – looking for a surrogate who wants to help us add a little brother or sister to our family. To make us parents for a second time, and make our amazing twins become someone’s “Big Sisters”.
Please describe below your life below. For example, if you are in a relationship or married, describe how you met, write about your occupation, your childhood, family, places you have travelled and anything that you feel your surrogate may like to know.
Matt and I met nearly 18 years ago in our mutual home town of Adelaide, Australia. It may sound impetuous but we basically moved in together within 24 hours and have been a couple since then without pause or break or major crisis. We got married in the UK in 2007, but it was a fairly small celebration due to the timing of it.
After we’d been together a couple of years, we followed our shared dream of moving and living overseas. We moved initially to London, where we both got work in various aspects of IT. We spent a year of working in the City and taking weekend breaks to try to see everything that the northern hemisphere had to offer, then moved together to Scotland, where I started working within Finance for the first time. We felt very at home in Edinburgh, where Matt has extended family connections, and ultimately ended up staying there for 7 years, and buying a historic cottage gatehouse. I continued to pursue my career in Finance IT, and Matt primarily worked for himself – offering IT services to clients and contacts in London, Scotland and Australia.
After that time, we decided to follow a dream and moved to the French countryside. We had purchased a ruined frame of a barn without electricity or running water which was situated at the end of a long lane from a small village in the Alps. We spent the next year learning very different skills as we renovated it and made it liveable. Finding it hard to get work in France as our language skills weren’t fluent, we ended up buying into the local bar so we could work for ourselves. Turning around a business that wasn’t doing well was very challenging, and doing so in a foreign country with all the challenges of language and cultural cross-over was very difficult, especially for Matt who doesn’t speak French.
Around 2010, we decided to try to find a balance between city life and country life, and I returned to working in Finance by getting contract work here in Zurich. As the next few years passed, we both realised that we enjoy the city life a lot more, and that while we have no regrets about renovating a barn in the French Alps, it was not the permanent home we wanted. We have now sold the barn and live permanently in Zurich.
Describing us, I’m the more conservative and very even-keeled emotionally and I have often been described as having infinite patience. I am the solid rock at the centre of our lives and I have always been proud of my undented positivity and optimism. Over the years, Matt has always been the one to bring the energy and the courage to the relationship. He is constantly in motion and always thinking about what’s next, and making plans to launch us into the unknown. Without his “nothing is impossible” attitude, I am quite certain I would never have left our hometown, and I wouldn’t have taken the idea of becoming a parent seriously. I like to hope that we manage to find a balance between my slower moving, thoughtful pragmatism and his boundless creative energy.
We now live and work with our friends and our daughters here in Zurich, where I have taken steps to secure my career and take it to the next level. We have developed a large circle of friends, many of whom also have children of a similar age, and we’ve also become part of an extended network of gay dads in the city who meet fairly regularly. I think it’s really important for our girls to see they’re not the only children in the world to have two Dads.
We started our surrogacy journey with the girls for a lot of reasons, but it was largely influenced by the families. We saw how much joy being an Uncle made us, and we saw how parenthood changed and consumed our peers. It felt like parenthood was the natural middle-stage of our life long journey. Having travelled and explored the world, we’re now nesting and settling in to focus inward on these little people.
We still have quite an extended network of friends from all the cities we’ve lived in. The months of the last year have been filled with weekend visits from old friends from Australia, France, London and Scotland. Some of them have shared our Christmas celebrations, and others turned up for random baby playdate weekends.
Our families have been enthusiastically involved in the last year in a way that only having children can create. Matt’s mother flew to the US to be with us during the first few weeks after birth, as did my Brother. They stayed with us together in San Diego in a family home that we rented to create a real family environment for the girls when they were first brought home. Our lovely surrogate Natasha and her family were constant visitors for that first month, and it felt really good to have a place we could invite them to.
My parents decided to come and live here in Zurich for the summer this year and rented an apartment near ours so that they could visit daily but still respect our space in the evenings. And I assure you, they did visit every single day. As I type this, Matt’s mother is here again staying with us, and the girls have been to Australia twice in the year since they were born.
We went back to our hometown at Christmas, and the month spent there was full of brunches and dinners and open days as the entire extended family on both sides was incredibly keen to meet these two miracle girls that they’d heard and read so much about. The suitcases that came back with us after that trip were stuffed with the hundreds of teddy bears, cards, gifts, toys and hand-knitted woollens that our extended family had given the girls in that month.
It goes without saying that both families were fully supportive of our decision to become parents last year and would be delighted to see us expand the family further.
To finish, here’s a few photos of us and our girls from the last year: