Launch Day and Book Review

Today is the official launch day of Eric Rosswood’s new book, Journey to Same-Sex Parenthood.  I was able to receive an advance copy and wrote a glowing review for it on Amazon.  Of course, I am somewhat biased given the fact that I contributed our family story to this collection of personal stories about gay and lesbian parents.

With that said and having now read the entire book, I think Eric Rosswood did a marvelous job. I really do wish a book like this existed when Josh and I were originally considering our options for family building.

It is very well organized into five sections covering different paths to parenthood for same sex couples: Open Adoption, Foster Care, Surrogacy, Assisted Reproduction, and Co-Parenting. Each section includes multiple representative firsthand stories by gay and lesbian people that went through it themselves. Each story takes you on an emotional roller coaster toward parenthood that keeps your attention while at the same time informing you of the highs and lows that may occur along the way. I think that same sex couples hoping to have children will have better understanding of practical issues, but especially the emotional complexities that come with each approach after reading these personal stories. Other books may focus on a single approach, or read more like a clinical manual. This book is warm and intimate.

For the detail oriented, the end of the book comes complete with multiple appendices that comment on legal issues, benefits and challenges, and questions to ask yourself when considering each of the five different paths to parenthood.

I encourage any gay or lesbian couples interested in pursuing parenthood to check this book out today!

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Solidarity

My New Year wish for 2016 would probably be for solidarity among LGBT moms and dads of different stripes.

Parents in general are probably familiar with a phenomenon I call “competitive parenting.”  Because of their love for their children and a deep desire to do their best as parents, people often subscribe to different philosophies and methods: attachment parenting, free range kids, cloth diapers, etc.  Furthermore, insecurities about whether they are actually making the best choices for their own children sometimes leads them to go from self-affirmation to putting down other parents in order to make themselves feel superior.  This can be as subtle as singing the praises of a gluten-free kid diet in mixed company, and as extreme as telling formula-feeding moms that they are depriving their babies.  I find this competitiveness to be the best mom or dad unnecessary.  We are all in this together, we all love our children, we are all trying our best, and we really shouldn’t have to prove ourselves to anybody.  We have more in common than there are differences to be found.  Solidarity!

LGBT moms and dads in our unusual situation often struggle with even more insecurity because of feeling judged by society as a whole.  In attempt to prove themselves just as good, competitive LGBT parents grapple with how we raise our kids, as well as the manner in which we built our family in the first place.  Over the past few years, interacting with LGBT parents on social media, I have found some mutual support in these groups, but a lot of division as well.  I can easily dismiss hateful comments from outsiders, who know nothing about my circumstance, as ignorant.  When other gay dads talk about fostering and adoption as a more moral path to parenthood, or even suggest that commercial gestational surrogacy is selfish and exploits women, it really bothers me.  I also dislike when I see other gay dads through surrogacy turn up their noses at the idea of fostering or adopting kids.

Rather than putting each other down, we should be lifting each other up together.  We are all in this together, because society does not distinguish between gay dads through adoption, surrogacy, co-parenting and previous relationships.  We’re just perceived as gay dads.  We all love our children equally regardless of how they came to be in our care.  We are all doing what we think is best for our own families, because the truth is that there are merits and drawbacks to any family-building approach.  Josh and I have already discussed in previous posts how we carefully navigated surrogacy twice in effort to ensure, as much as possible, positive outcomes for all parties involved.  We have complete respect for gay dads who foster and adopt.  After considering that path ourselves, we decided to pursue surrogacy instead for very specific reasons.  The best way to have and raise kids in one’s own case is not necessarily the best nor the most feasible path to parenthood for others.  There should be more solidarity than divisiveness, because LGBT parents have more in common than differences.

In closing, I would just like to mention that Eric Rosswood’s upcoming book, “Journey to Same-Sex Parenthood: First Hand Advice, Tips and Stories From Lesbian and Gay Couples” takes a unified and balanced look at these varied ways same sex-couples become parents.  We are very happy to have contributed our personal family story to the section on surrogacy, and we are excited to read other family stories about assisted reproduction, fostering, adoption, co-parenting and more.  We hope prospective LGBT parents will find this resource informative and helpful in deciding their own best path to parenthood.  The book is available for pre-order on Amazon now.  Check it out!

Coming March 2016

Coming March 2016

Journey to Same-Sex Parenthood

Coming March 2016

Coming March 2016

We are excited to share our family story in an upcoming book by Eric Rosswood to be published in March of 2016!  “Journey to Same-Sex Parenthood: First Hand Advice, Tips and Stories From Lesbian and Gay Couples” is organized into five sections describing these different paths to parenthood for same sex couples: Adoption, Foster Care, Assisted Reproduction, Surrogacy and Co-Parenting.  We contributed our family story to the part on surrogacy.  Each section includes personal stories like ours as well as an appendix with legal issues and questions to ask before pursuing each family building approach.  We are excited to read other family stories and think prospective LGBT parents will find this resource informative and inspirational.  The book is available for pre-order on Amazon now.  Check it out!

Do Genetics Matter?

Earlier this year, a recent advance in stem cell research got a lot of media attention. Researchers at Cambridge University and the Weizmann Institute in Israel were able to program stem cells to become primordial germ cells, the precursors to eggs and sperm. Scientists have been able to create viable baby mice from these cells, and with further study, viable human eggs and sperm may someday be created using stem cells from any human’s skin sample. I think this type of science has tremendous potential to assist male and female individuals suffering from various forms of infertility. However, more public interest seemed to come from the idea that someday same-sex couples may be able to contribute both egg and sperm to create children that are genetically related to both partners.

Reading about this future possibility got me thinking. We are a full house of six and won’t likely be having more children, but if this technology was available when we were going through surrogacy, would we have been interested in having children conceived with egg and sperm from Josh and me? How much do genetics really matter to us?

For us, how our children may be related to us genetically mattered some, but less than and in different ways than people may think. Josh and I are both reasonably proud people with good self esteem, but neither of us have a great desire to create “mini-me” children that carry all our traits and looks. In our initial conversations about becoming parents, adopting children that had no genetic relationship to either of us would have been a serious consideration, but it was not possible in Florida at that time. A surrogacy process where one of us contributed sperm to create children had some legal and social benefits that made it the way to go.

Living in South Florida, we have enjoyed our island of progressive blue in an often red state. We have been acutely aware that much of Florida subscribes to the Deep South mentality. Because of the hostile stance that the Florida state government had toward same-sex parents, we felt that at least one of us having a biological link to each of our children afforded some protection from the nightmare scenario of the state considering us “illegitimate, unfit parents” and trying to take our children away. As an interracial couple, we thought having children with both Caucasian and Asian features meant that if ever one of us was travelling with small babies alone, strangers would be more likely to accept either of us as related to these children. A man alone with small children and no mom in sight still raises eyebrows, and if the kids are clearly not biologically related to the man, some may even jump to conclusions that something inappropriate is taking place.

Thus we set out to have biracial kids. The other half of this genetic equation in current assisted reproductive technology comes from an egg donor. We decided to keep the identity of the egg donor completely secret, because if family or friends knew anything about the background of the egg donor, they could in turn infer which one of us was the sperm donor. The only people who know the genetic details of our family are the ones intimately involved in the process and the kids’ ongoing health. We know, the surrogates know, the lawyers and doctors know. Our families may have thoughts, but their theories have never been confirmed, and this reasonable doubt helps for us to both be treated equally as parents. When the kids are old enough to understand where babies come from (AJ and JJ are fast approaching that day), they will be the first to know about their genetic origins.

When we were considering a second surrogacy process a few years ago, we were presented with the opportunity for the person not genetically involved the first time around to make a contribution. But this was not our primary motivation for considering more children. We wanted AJ and JJ to have little siblings to teach them about responsibility, and help them understand that they are not the center of the universe. We knew that if we were blessed with a girl like DJ, it would bring more balance to our household than thoughts of genetics ever would.

Looking back, Josh and I have learned that genetics may matter for external situations, but within our family, it actually matters very little. Josh and I both love all our children equally no matter the biology. We have proven it to ourselves in a manner that is nearly scientific.

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About MJ and DJ

MJ and DJ are our second set of twins born through surrogacy.  A few years ago Josh and I started talking about the idea of having more children.  We thought it would be nice to have a girl to break up all the testosterone in the house, and it would also be an opportunity for the non-donor partner from our last surrogacy experience to make a genetic contribution to our family.  Because of the economy and our finances at the time, international surrogacy seemed the way to go this time around.  We researched our options and decided to look into an agency and a clinic operating in India.

The next step in our plan was to travel to Mumbai, India to see for ourselves.  We visited the clinic and were presented with some options for prospective surrogates.  We personally met and chose to work with Pavitra because she was experienced having served as a surrogate previously.  Regardless of language barrier, we knew that Pavitra understood exactly what kind of process she was getting involved with because she had done it once before.  We knew that we would not have the close relationship with Pavitra like we did with our first surrogate, but the financial benefit for Pavitra and her family in India’s economy would be life changing.  The beaming smile on Pavitra’s face when she learned we had chosen her told us everything we needed to know.

When we did IVF in India, we asked for the doctor to transfer two embryos instead of the standard three because we were trying to aim for a singleton.  As fate would have it, two embryos implanted anyway and we had a second set of twins on our hands!  Because of laws against sex selection in India, we did not know the if we had boys, girls or both until their birth.  Baby girl DJ was delivered first via c-section and baby boy MJ arrived moments later.  MJ and DJ were born during a period of change in the surrogacy industry of India, and this complicated and prolonged the process that ultimately allowed MJ and DJ to come home to the US one month after their birth.  After we left, the door seems to have slammed shut for gay couples seeking surrogacy in India.  Thailand and Nepal have followed suit in the years since, and we do not recommend international surrogacy at this time.

MJ has a name that is the masculinization of Josh’s grandmother that died a few years before.  DJ is named after a pop culture icon.  It is a name I have been saving for my daughter since before AJ and JJ were born!  DJ is a bit of a fashionista.  She insists on choosing her own outfits out of the closet proclaiming them to be “cute!”  She is partial to clothes with her favorite characters Minnie Mouse and Hello Kitty.  MJ has a voice that carries and honestly was singing before he could talk.  He started out with “ABC” and “Twinkle Twinkle” but has begun to branch out into singing along to pop tunes on the car radio.

Baby girl DJ on the left and baby boy MJ on the right shortly after their birth

DJ and MJ shortly after their birth

2nd Birthday cupcakes

2nd Birthday cupcakes