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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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

 

About AJ and JJ

To replace my now obsolete page comparing international and domestic surrogacy, I have decided to put up pages about each of our two sets of amazing twins.

AJ and JJ are our first set of twins born through surrogacy in the Summer of 2007.  Up until their birth we took turns visiting the surrogate Marie in California to spend time with her and her family, as well as prepare for the arrivals.  Josh had in fact spent the weekend before they were born in California to attend the 32 week ultrasound and tour the hospital.  Josh returned to our home in Florida on a red-eye flight early Monday morning, only to get that fateful call Monday evening that the babies had decided to make an early arrival!  The boys were born premature at just over 4 lbs. each.  We both raced back to meet our boys in the NICU Tuesday morning and instantly fell in love.  Marie graciously agreed to pump breast milk to help the boys thrive in the NICU.  We spent several weeks camped out in an extended stay hotel close to the hospital shuttling breast milk to the hospital every three hours to help the NICU nurses feed and care for our boys.  I remember the NICU nurses fondly because they were so kind to us as a gay couple and helped teach us the basics of feeding, diapering, and not panicking when these fragile little babies starting crying.  The boys were discharged from the hospital after they had grown to 5 lbs., and we returned to Florida where our parenting adventure continued.

We tried to juggle AJ and JJ on our own for the first few months, but with some of the preemie issues they had feeding and apnea, we felt our sanity slipping by the Fall.  We met our wonderful nanny Pat, who has been a godsend for all of our children ever since. These preemie twin boys grew to have some typical speech delay issues, so they spent a year going to speech therapy before entering preschool.  They have flourished since, and AJ and JJ are now working their way through elementary school in the gifted program.  AJ and JJ have personalities that complement but sometimes clash.  JJ has a detail oriented approach to life, and has turned out to be an avid gamer just like his Papa (me!).  AJ is an easygoing kid and has distinguished himself as a bit of an athlete.  He enjoys basketball, bicycling, and swimming in the pool at our home at every opportunity.  They get along well most of the time, but their level of twin closeness naturally leads to occasional flareups as well.  I foresee them sharing a special bond as twins and in their special circumstance for many years to come.

AJ and JJ having their first encounter "on the outside" before discharge from NICU. BFF's ever since!

AJ and JJ having their first encounter “on the outside” before discharge from NICU. BFF’s ever since!

AJ and JJ - Summer 2015

Summer 2015 – AJ is on the left and JJ is on the right in both photos

For more on our story, keep an eye out for a page about our second dynamic duo DJ and MJ to be posted soon.  Our journey to become gay parents will also be featured in an upcoming book to be published early 2016.  For more details, check out www.ericrosswood.com