When I finally accepted the fact that I was gay, I figured my life would be drastically different than how I’d always pictured it. It pained me to think I’d never be a dad — but I was wrong.
My husband and I had been together for 7 years when serious talk of having children began. We didn’t really know where to start… adoption or surrogacy? We weren’t sure what would be right for us.
After doing some research and speaking with other gay couples with children, we decided to go the surrogacy route.
We contacted a reputable surrogacy agency and signed a contract with them in March 2011, officially becoming “intended parents.”
This was the beginning of our surrogacy journey, and a roller coaster ride of emotions — at least for me. My husband is much more pragmatic than I!
From the first meeting we had with our surrogacy coordinator, the realization that fatherhood was actually in the cards for me was so powerfully overwhelming. There was elation, trepidation, fear, joy… you name it and I felt it.
But it all seemed so daunting. There was a lingering fear in the back of my mind that something could go wrong during this process and my dream of having a child would be dashed. Still, we pushed forward.
Our first task was to review possible egg donors (ED) with our surrogacy coordinator. After carefully considering our options, we decided on donor 384.
The decision was based on several things — including the viability of her eggs, her family health history, and that she resembled my husband and my Irish genealogy. Another deciding factor was that she was amenable to meeting our child one day in the distant future if that was what we wanted.
Next up, a more substantial hurdle: We needed to find the gestational carrier (GC) that would be the best match to carry a baby for a liberal, 30-something, urban gay couple.
Interviewing potential carriers (us interviewing them, and them interviewing us) was overwhelming. Would they like us? Would they agree to carry a baby for a gay couple? What sort of relationship would a carrier want to have with our child and with us, if any?
The surrogacy coordinator arranged several phone interviews with possible GCs, and one stood out as a clear front-runner in our minds. We were surprised to find out she was a conservative-leaning married mother of 3 who was a police woman in a small town outside Dallas, Texas.
This description wasn’t that of someone we would’ve imagined carrying a baby for a gay couple, but there was an immediate connection during the phone interview.
To make sure we were a match, we wanted to get to know each other, and the best way to do that was to meet in person. My husband and I flew down to Texas for a weekend to spend time with our potential GC and her family.
She toured us around their town, we went out to dinner, and we spent a lovely day on a lake in their boat. Despite our differences, the trip was a wonderful success.
What a rush of relief, gratitude, and joy — we were so excited to have found such (an unlikely) match to carry our child.
One of the most important details to mention at this point in our journey are the contracts and legal documents we had to secure. Thankfully, our surrogacy coordinator was on point with every aspect of this arduous process.
We wanted to be absolutely certain that when our child was born we would be the only parents, and didn’t want to have to entangle ourselves in a terrifying custody battle. With binding contracts in place we moved forward with the ED and GC.
In November 2011, 8 months after the start of our surrogacy journey, our ED completed her egg retrieval. To our surprise, 15 eggs were harvested! We were so grateful — we’d heard so many stories about surrogacy failures and multiple retrievals. But we had 15 potential chances to get pregnant.
Shortly after the egg retrieval, we flew to Texas to visit the fertility clinic that had our frozen eggs. It was our turn to provide semen that would fertilize the eggs.
During the fertilization process we spent many hours in fertility clinics and had the chance to talk with other couples that were also trying to get pregnant. There were so many disappointments; so many sad stories of failed attempts.
Would things be different for us? I had so many talks late into the night with my husband: If this didn’t work, would we adopt? We flew home to DC and eagerly waited to find out how many potential embryos we would have.
We were elated when we learned that, of the 15 eggs, 9 were successfully fertilized.
To come out of the fertility clinic with 9 viable embryos was a feeling of good fortune I can’t explain, yet I also felt some guilt about the many couples we met that had tried so many times to have a child and failed.
The fertility clinic urged us to transfer multiple embryos to our GC to raise the percentage of a successful pregnancy. But after a lot of discussion, my husband and I decided we’d take the chance of only implanting one embryo.
It was a difficult decision, but we both agreed we didn’t want to get pregnant with multiples, even if it lowered our chances of getting pregnant on the first try.
Ten months in, the fertility clinic implanted the single most viable embryo of the bunch. This was an exciting step forward, albeit nerve-wracking, as it started the clock, waiting to see if our GC became pregnant.
I forced myself to keep my expectations in check — I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but remained cautiously optimistic.
It was difficult to concentrate at work because my stomach was often in knots. I was always thinking, Will the call come today saying we’re pregnant or that we need to try again?
When we got the call from our GC saying that we were indeed pregnant, we felt overwhelming relief and enormous appreciation toward everyone that had been a part of our journey to that point.
We knew we still had 9 months to go, but getting pregnant with one embryo on the first try made me believe that this child was meant to be part of our family.
Over the course of the next 9 months, we attended every ultrasound in Texas. We learned our baby’s gender was male, and began setting up his nursery.
We read books on newborns, attended parenting classes, bantered back and forth about potential names, and attempted to prepare for the birth of our son.
Finally it was time. We flew to Texas 3 days before the OB-GYN planned to induce labor. There was no way we were going to miss the birth of our son.
We spent time with our GC and her family over that weekend. In the early morning on the day of induction, we received a call from our GC that her water had just broken — they weren’t going to induce labor after all! We rushed to the hospital and experienced one of the most amazing, intimate, and beautiful events of our life.
I don’t quite know how to express in words the way I felt the day our son was born. From the moment I saw him crowning I felt disbelief that I was really a dad.
Cutting his umbilical cord was a memory I’m glad I have, but in that first parenting moment — like every parenting moment to come — I wondered if I was doing it right.
I yelped a little and stopped with the scissors halfway through the cord, as the doctor yelled for me to “keep cutting!”
The hospital staff had never dealt with a surrogacy birth, let alone a gay surrogacy birth, but they were incredible. They gave us our own room on the maternity ward across the hall from our GC. The nurses taught us how to give our baby a bath, change diapers, attend to his umbilical wound, and more.
Holding my son, watching my husband hold my son, giving our boy his first meal are all moments that are cut into my memory, and always will be.
I felt so much love for him. I was completely overwhelmed with gratitude for our journey and for all those that had been part of it in any way small or large.
The only snafu was when we were leaving the hospital.
According to Texas law, only the “mother” of the child could release the baby to us. The law considered our GC as the mother even though she had no genetic relation to the child at all, and she was listed as “mother” on the birth certificate. Once we were finally cleared to leave with our son, we began the legal process of removing the GC from the birth certificate.
Our son is now 8 years old. He’s a bright, funny, sensitive boy, and we feel like we’re the luckiest parents in the world.
We knew he was meant to be, since he had been the one and only embryo we implanted.
We’ve always been open with our son about his surrogacy and how he came to join our family. He knows his GC when he sees her on Facebook, and we’ve always celebrated all the people that had a part in building our family.
As we talk to him, we rely on a lot of resources to help guide our conversations in an age-appropriate way.
There are a surprising number of great children’s books on surrogacy, same-sex couple families, and blended families, and we’ve also found many groups on Facebook for gay fathers and surrogacy families.
From the very beginning, finding the right surrogacy agency and coordinator for us was the key.
The entire journey there were so many questions, and we wouldn’t have been able to handle all the hurdles if we hadn’t had someone to lean on with a solid understanding of the entire process.
But still, we were so lucky in all of it. Surrogacy was the scariest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever experienced. The love we have for our son is like nothing we’ve ever experienced before — and the gratitude we have for all the people involved in helping us build our family is immeasurable.
I know in my heart that I was meant to be a father, and I’m a really great dad.
I will forever be grateful to all that helped me realize a dream I thought I had to abandon. Lucky for me, I was wrong.
Kevin Ward is a father and realtor living in Washington, DC with his husband and son.