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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Naming Etiquette - Is there Any?

We’ve begun discussing baby names and have one boy’s name picked out so far. I’ve agreed not to divulge that name to any other human as baby names have apparently been “stolen” around our neighborhood prior to birth. I doubt the names were actually swiped, but how many Aidens can one neighborhood handle?

But back to the name game, we’ve initially decided that the babies will have both our last names and they’ll be hyphenated. At first this sounded like a simple solution, until I began considering names. The children would basically end up with four names, and our last names don’t exactly hyphenate well. Then I wondered what would happen when (if) our son someday married. Would his wife take the hyphenated name? A daughter could easily take her husband’s name, or opt to keep our name. It just seems like later in life, the hyphenated last name could become complicated. I’m not sure what most gay parents do about this since there really is no set etiquette that I’ve heard of.

My next thought was to legally change my last name to Nick’s. His last name is actually similar in sound to mine and I’d prefer that we all have just one family name. No one in his family shares his last name and I never cared much for my last name. At this point, I don’t feel much, if any, connection to the name or my family. If my parents found out, I’m sure they wouldn’t be happy, but they’ve already condemned me to hell. What more could they do to me? I’m sure they’d find out considering I’m a partial owner of their house and send my part of the mortgage payment each month to my mother. If I changed my name, could this have any effect on a possible future inheritance from them? Maybe I’m over-thinking this.

I looked into the process and the actual name change doesn’t appear to be the difficult part. After changing my name, I’d then have to get a new driver’s license, passport, social security card, credit card, health care card, etc. and then report it to my employer. If I ever applied for a job where a background check was conducted, I believe I would have to explain the name change.

Changing my name sounds like a lot of work. My main reason for considering a name change is to make life easier on the kids. Would it be embarrassing for them to have a hyphenated last name? Every time their full name is called in class, they’ll stand out. Another option would be to give them only Nick’s last name, and then I would be the oddball in the family. I don’t care much for that solution, but it may be the best option for the kids. I’ll continue my research and see what other gay couples have done.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Gay Parents - What Will Our Children Experience?

Halloween is near and this past weekend brought parties and pumpkin carving to our neighborhood. Friday we attended a costume party with a mix of young families, babies, toddlers, and gay men. This may sound like an odd mix of people, but typical of where we live. Gatherings like this are great for me to spend more time with babies since I haven’t had much experience with them. I’m finding out that some babies are much “higher maintenance” than others. I’ve been asking lots of questions, like, “How often does he eat at six months” and “When did she start sleeping through the night?” One friend showed me her feeding/diaper changing log from when her twins were babies. With twins, this is a necessity to keep track of what and when they eat. I’m thinking about going high tech with an Excel spreadsheet to log all this information since we have a spare laptop. I can see the pie charts and graphs already, possibly comparing the feeding input to pooping output!

Sunday was our neighborhood’s second annual pumpkin carving party in the park where kids and parents gathered to carve out extravagant pieces of art or, in my case, a free-hand, traditional jack-o-lantern. The weather was warm and perfect for the occasion. Next year we’ll be out there with the twins, dressed in some sort of goofy baby costumes for sure.

I’ve been reading a suggested book the past few days, “Families Like Ours – Children of Gay Parents Tell it Like it Is”, by Abigail Garner. The book documented the experiences of children who grew up with gay parents. Many of the adult children described experiences of having their parents divorce after one parent came out – a very different experience than our kids will have. But much of the information they provided still applies. There were also a few who grew up with two gay parents from the beginning. A major concern I had before diving into parenthood was how the kids would be treated by society. We all know how cruel kids can be.

The book brought up issues I never thought of, such as grade school projects where kids create Mother’s Day cards or other family discussions where everyone is assumed to have a mommy and daddy. It’s going to be important for us to meet with our children’s teachers each year to explain our family situation and probably have a stronger than average relationship with their teachers. During grade school, the issues documented in the book were generally smaller and along these lines. Middle School or Junior High sounds like the time larger problems will arise.

Middle School is a difficult time for many students, but for children of gay parents, it’s often worse. This is the time when kids start discussing sexuality and no one wants to be outside the norm. One issue discussed in the book that concerned me was early sexual activity by children of gay parents. Children sometimes feel compelled to prove their heterosexuality at a young age if their peers accuse them of being gay. Other problems some of the children in the book encountered were anti-gay teachers, hostility or violence from peers, feeling a need to protect their parents from anti-gay sentiment, and learning when it’s ok to be “out” about their families and when it’s better to stay closeted. By high school, the problems usually subside to some extent. Then in college, children of gay parents tend to experience positive reinforcement for growing up in non-traditional families.

It seems like all the children documented in this book said that the earlier parents openly discuss the fact that they’re gay, the better. Even if the child was born with two gay parents, there needs to be an open, age-appropriate discussion before they start hearing anti-gay statements, or even the term, “that’s so gay!” If you wait until high school to have any discussion, they may have already begun to learn homophobia from peers. With that being said, the book points out that children raised in gay-friendly neighborhoods experience far fewer issues, which I suspect (hope!) will be the case for us. Also, because most of the children interviewed were adults, they grew up in the ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s. I imagine that as time has passed and societal attitudes toward gay people have changed, gay parenting should be easier in the 21st century.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Thinking About Preparations

News of the twins spread fast throughout our neighborhood. We haven’t had a single negative reaction, and people I barely know have offered congratulations. Two different couples on our block had twins this year, so we’re getting plenty of advice from new parents. Another friend and neighbor offered to organize our baby shower and other neighbors have offered hand-me-down clothing. I think a lot of the baby clothes on our block are on their third baby by now. Everyone has advice on the best strollers, the best toys, beds, bouncy things, etc. One person says that with twins, you have to feed them at the same time, another says it’s impossible. Keep a tight schedule or just go with the flow. Knowing myself, I think keeping on schedule will be the way we go.

We’re waiting until the end of the first trimester to begin preparing the nursery and making purchases, but I feel like I should be doing something at this point. Our coat closet in the front entry is overstuffed, so I think a cleanout and purchase of some sort of closet organizers might be a good place to start. I’m thinking about the storage we’ll need on the main level of the house. We have a large, open living room/dining room/kitchen that’s almost loft-like, so there will be no easy hiding of messes. I need storage that looks nice. Isn’t there a container-specific store? I’m thinking large wicker baskets, maybe something stackable.

I’ve suggested removing the dining table and chairs that we never use and making that area the baby zone. I’ve seen how the toys and swings can quickly fill part of a living room fast, so with two, I can only imagine. I’m always thinking five steps ahead of myself. It’s only October, but everyone says the months of pregnancy go by fast. November’s less than a week away already.

We had a bit of a scare two weekends ago when our surrogate called and said she was “bleeding” and heading to the emergency room. She called back and said they told her everything was fine and the bleeding was normal after IVF. Nick flew out to San Diego the following Monday to go with our surrogate to her regular doctor. Again, two heartbeats were confirmed and everything is fine. While he was there, Nick toured the hospital where they’ll be born and did a pre-check-in. He said the staff was friendly and had no problem with the “two daddies and a surrogate” situation.

We’ve also been looking into daycare centers. With two babies, it looks like this could cost over $2500 per month! They seem to have many rules, lots of holidays, and big deposits – as if a newborn could do $1000 damage to their building. If it’s going to cost that much, I might as well quit my job and stay home all day to take care of the babies! I think I’d have to find at least a part time job though – how would I re-enter the workforce in five years? I’ve noticed several new moms in our neighborhood work part time, so maybe this is an option. I hate the thought of my children spending long days in daycare.

Telling the Grandparents-To-Be

A couple weeks later, we received confirmation from the doctor that our surrogate was indeed pregnant with twins. There was a one week period where the doctor told us that, based on hormone levels, there could be more than two, so the twin confirmation was a relief! More than two and we’d look like one of those nutty families on TV with 15 kids! Well, maybe not, but three babies at once sounds like chaos to me.

With the pregnancy confirmed, I pondered what, if anything, I would say to my parents. They live in another city and haven’t contacted me in 15 years unless they want something from me. I call them every couple months just to check up on them, but even then the conversation is generally a monologue from my mother who goes on and on about the mundane intricacies of her life, which usually entails bargains she found on QVC or “what a good Christian” so-and-so is. My father’s a simple, honest blue-collar retiree who never says much on the phone other than “how’s the weather” or “how’s your car running”. They’re deeply religions people who make a production of praying in restaurants before eating, attend church every Sunday and have Bibles on their coffee table. As you can guess, they weren’t thrilled when I came out to them in 1993 while I was in college.

Looking back, I’ve really never had a great relationship with them, even as a child. I think they’ve always known I was different. My father has three interests: Jesus, sports and fishing. Me – not so much. I think he just never could figure out how to relate to me, so I never remember doing anything with him. My grandfather on my mother’s side used to take me on weekends and he was my father figure, teaching me woodworking, how to take care of a lawn, simple car maintenance, and the art of putting things back when you were finished with them. He didn’t care that I wasn’t interested in sports, although on occasion he’d take me fishing, which I didn’t like. But I put up with it because I enjoyed being around him.

I went back and forth for a few days before deciding whether to tell my parents about the babies. They had mentioned a few months ago that they might be driving through our city next Spring and would want to stay at our house. This was the only reason I first came up with for telling them. I would avoid explaining the situation with them in my house. I discussed it with a few friends, and everyone agreed that I should tell them. Some suggested that I might be surprised by their reaction, that when babies are involved, parents often change their tune toward their gay children. I still doubted they would be happy or accepting. But in the end I decided to tell them for one reason –honesty. If I never told them, what would I say to my children someday when they asked me why they had no grandparents? If I told them that their grandparents didn’t even know they existed, wouldn’t that suggest to my children that either I’m ashamed of them or that their existence is somehow shameful? I decided to tell my parents and whatever their reaction would be, at least I could someday tell my children the truth about their grandparents.

I called my parents and my father answered the phone. He asked if I’d done any traveling for work lately, so I responded by telling him that yes, I had traveled to Los Angeles recently. Then I dropped the bomb. He didn’t say much and sounded a bit like a deer caught in headlights. He asked how much it cost for the surrogate and commented that I’d have to change diapers – something he’s never done in his life. He put the phone down and went to get my mother, came back and said, “She’s doing the bills right now so she’s going to have to call you back”. So apparently doing bills is more important that finding out you’re going to be grandparents!

My mother called back a few hours later (my father didn’t mention my news to him) and I told her. As she always does, she hijacked the conversation and went on a preaching monologue about how her new church (some mega church with a money-swindling, anti-gay preacher) has helped her understand that homosexuality is absolutely wrong. Then she said that although I don’t lead a crazy “sex and drugs lifestyle” and that I’m a nice and honest person, I’m going to hell for eternity unless I leave my lifestyle and accept Jesus into my heart. Oh, and one more nugget – our having children is just another obvious sign of the “end times” and that Revelations is coming true before our eyes.

No congratulations, no acceptance of the babies as grandchildren. But then do I really want someone with such extreme religious views around my children anyway? She said she’d pray for my salvation, as she does every night. My dad said in the background, “Make sure he knows we won’t hate the babies!” Now there’s a quote for the baby book.

She said she loved me before hanging up, but I haven’t felt any love from them in many years. I’m sure they do, but I have to wonder what lies and hatred they hear at their church that affect how they interact with me. I know they don’t accept Nick as part of their family and they never ask about him. They’ll ask about the dog, but not Nick. They did meet him about five years ago when they visited us. They were nice to him, but still they never ask about him. I know I’m not the son they wanted and they aren’t the parents I would choose, but nothing can be done about that. They’re so sure of their narrow religious beliefs that there seems to be no room for compromise. Not even a way to agree to disagree. Either I turn straight and believe exactly as them, or I go to hell and burn for eternity. I researched their church online and it sounds rather cult-like, to be honest. I just don’t understand why people buy into this sort of religious extremism.

I haven’t heard from them since that conversation, not that I expected to. At this point I have no plans to call them. They know when the babies are due and if they’re interested, they can call me. My mother’s words to me were disturbing. I was a bit hurt, but really I didn’t expect more. The conversation clogged my mind for about three days. I reviewed my childhood in my mind, thinking about the relationship I had with my parents, considering what I plan to do different. I promised myself that my children will never feel like outcasts in their own family, no matter what they do or how they turn out. Then I moved on and dropped the matter from my mind. It was time to move forward, think positive, and focus on my true family – Nick and the twins.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Transfer - Two Days I'll Never Forget

You know those days in your life that remain so vivid in your memory forever? These two days were two just like that. Since Nick used air miles and I used a standby pass from a friend who works for an airline, we were on different flights. My flight left around 6 a.m. on a Sunday, so I was up at 3 a.m., not that I slept much. I was excited and worried at the same time. Worried about the dog, because we never both leave her at the same time. We tried a kennel years ago and that didn’t work out well for her. I lined up a couple neighbors who graciously took care of her in our absence, but I still worried.

I showered, dressed and went over details in the pre-dawn darkness before leaving Nick and the dog sound asleep in bed. (His flight didn’t leave until the afternoon). The security line was unusually short, although I received “extra attention” because I was flying standby. I arrived at my gate early enough to grab a croissant, juice and newspaper. The flight seemed quick and I arrived at LAX early. I don’t think I’ve ever seen LAX so dead, but then who wants to fly that early on a Sunday? I picked up a rental car and since I had time to kill, headed to our old neighborhood to visit a few neighbors I hadn’t seen in a couple years.

I finally met nick that afternoon at our hotel in Sherman Oaks. We had dinner at Denny’s and headed to the Galleria for a little shopping. At this point I was a zombie, having had so little sleep the night before. Back at the hotel, I dozed off in bed while Nick watched the Emmys live. Everyone on TV was complaining about the heat, but it didn’t seem so hot to me.

I slept surprisingly well, but woke early. We had time to hit Denny’s again for breakfast (was I really eating at Denny’s twice in 24 hours?) where a strange mix of tourists and what looked like poor, aspiring young actors came together for an unhealthy breakfast. There were framed prints of old ‘50s greasers on the wall and the smell of eggs, pancakes and bacon in the air. I picked at my omlette while we discussed parenting techniques and plans for the nursery.

We headed to the doctor’s office in Encino, not more than a couple miles away, but traffic down Sepulveda and Ventura Blvd. crawled along, taking multiple cycles to get through each stoplight. Strangely, I felt like I had returned home, seeing all the familiar palm tress and vegetation I missed after leaving California. But the gridlock traffic reminded me of my love/hate relationship with this city! We arrived at the office right on time and waited for about 30 minutes before going into the room with our surrogate. Nick had already met her, but this was my first time in person. The doctor called us into a small conference room where I set the big gift basket filled with shampoos, soaps, bath salts, and other spa items that I had schlepped all the way from home. This was our token of appreciation for what this woman was doing for us, although I don’t know how you can thank someone enough for doing this job.

The doctor showed us the two best embryos and had a detailed picture for us. She suggested only transferring the two because they were so viable. She said the chance of twins was around 20%, and we confirmed that we were willing to accept twins. I feel like I’ve known all year that we were destined to have twins, another strange feeling I can’t explain. As soon as I looked at those embryos, I knew those were both of our children. That strange feeling is also telling me that it’s a boy and a girl, so we’ll see in a couple months if it’s correct.

The doctor lead us to the room where our surrogate had been undergoing acupuncture for the past half hour or so. She was smiling, happy, nervous and a beautiful woman. They had her in stirrups, legs covered with a blanket, ready to accept the embryos. There was a large flat screen TV on the wall where we could see the live view of her womb, and then down in the corner of the screen was a live view of the embryos in a small dish. The embryos were actually in the next room, so we watched on the TV as someone sucked them both up into a catheter. A little window opened up and the catheter was passed to the doctor. We watched on the screen as the catheter was inserted and the embryos released. The doctor pointed out where they were, swimming around looking for a home. She gave us a picture of them both in the womb, as well as the close up picture of the embryos, our first pictures for the baby albums!

A man came back in for more acupuncture, so we had a few minutes to talk with our surrogate. She’s going to come to our house in December when we’ll get to know her better. It seems like such an odd relationship at this time. She’s incubating two babies for two men she barely knows, and we’re trusting someone we barely know to grow and nurture our babies for nine months. I wanted to get to know her more following the transfer, but I had to head back to the airport and Nick was staying in L.A. for work, so he had to leave too. The process was so quick. All those months leading up to what took 5 minutes. I felt a bit sad leaving her in that room, covered in acupuncture needles.

I headed back to LAX, expecting heavy traffic, but the traffic gods smiled on me that Monday morning and I was there in no time. I was on standby for a flight so I spent several hours in the airport until a seat was finally available. I read a magazine, kept an eye open for movie stars (LAX is the best place in L.A. for star sighting) and ate lunch in a bar, sharing a table with a kind, old Jewish man in traditional clothing who had just flown in from TelAviv. He gave me a package of some odd, unsalted pretzels that I ate as we discussed current events.

I arrived home late that evening where I was greeted by a very happy dog who survived being abandoned by both her daddies. The following Monday we received a call from our surrogate. She was throwing up and a home pregnancy test was positive! She said she knew it was twins because she never had morning sickness with her other two children, and higher hormone levels associated with twins can cause more sickness.

The Process of Surrogacy

Once we decided to become parents, we first looked into adoption. We talked to a gay couple around the corner who has a five-year-old boy they adopted as a newborn, and they explained the process they went through. They told us which adoption agencies worked with gay parents and how the agencies try to get you to take an older, special needs child. I believe they even brought a child home, only to have him taken back just after they became attached. In the end, they were very lucky and adopted a newborn. The entire process took years for them. This didn’t really sound like the best option for us.

Friends of ours gave us the names of another gay couple nearby who were going through the surrogacy process, so we gave them a call, had a few phone conversations, and finally met them for wine and cheese at their home last winter. When we first met, they were only a couple weeks away from birth, so they were happy to show us their house and the nursery they created for their little boy. It was a beautiful nursery with everything ready to go and a closet organized with the next year’s worth of diapers, clothes and other assorted gear. The baby even had his own bathroom with vessel sink, granite counter and custom tile. All I could think was, “This is the way I should have been raised!” What a lucky kid.

The couple was near our ages and I could tell what great and loving parents they would be. They explained the process to us and recommended a few surrogacy agencies in California. I’m not sure how many agencies there cater to gay couples, but the reason for doing this in California is the law. California will recognize both of us as equal parents of our babies and both our names will go on the birth certificates. This means that all states must honor us as parents, no matter what the law is in individual states regarding same sex adoption/parenting.

A couple weeks later, they flew to California for the scheduled birth and came home three days later with their healthy baby boy. They’re very busy, but we see them from time to time and their little boy is growing fast. He’s now at the “fun baby stage”, as I call it, when he sleeps through the night, laughs, giggles and interacts with people. Soon he’ll be crawling and getting into things, so we’ll have to consult with them on home baby proofing. They’ve enjoyed their son so much, they’ve decided to go through the process again to have another child. I’ve mentioned that I tend to be stressed over situations I’ve never been through before, so seeing this couple go through the process has really helped me understand what to expect and calmed my nerves. Once all our children are a bit older, hopefully we can spend more time with them. I also think it’ll be important for our children to see another family just like theirs so they don’t grow up feeling like they’re all that different from other kids.

Nick did the research on the different agencies, comparing costs mostly. We settled on an agency in Los Angeles and began the process. In the beginning, we met with an attorney who walked us through the entire legal agreement (something like 60 pages) and he counseled us on choosing a surrogate and what to ask and look for. We interviewed a couple surrogates and chose one who lives in San Diego, so they babies will be born there.

The next step was to choose an egg donor. The agency had many to choose from, each thoroughly screened. They were all young, mostly college students, and they were beautiful. Some were working on advanced degrees, a couple were aspiring actresses (this is L.A., after all!) and they all seemed to have great genetics. We chose one who was of a similar “Euro-mutt” background as myself, because we had decided that Nick was going to be the biological father from the beginning. Unfortunately when they contacted her for the egg harvest, she had just found out she was pregnant. We had one day to choose another egg donor, so we picked another donor of European descent, although she didn’t look like me as did the first choice. I was a bit disappointed about this, but I got over it. Just the fact that any woman would do this, help someone she’ll never know create life, amazes me.

Nick had to fly out to L.A. for the sperm donation last winter. They quarantined the sperm for six months to ensure there was no disease and no risk to the surrogate. There was a little back and forth with the surrogate over the contract, so we met a few times with the attorney until everyone was happy and the process could begin.

From the time we signed the contract to actual conception took about four or five months. Partially due to the sperm quarantine, and then the surrogate and egg donor both underwent treatment to synch their cycles. The big day was near, and we hoped they would give us a couple weeks notice before the embryo transfer, but no such luck. We received the call and in two days, the eggs would be harvested and then the following day the embryos would be created. They created seven embryos and monitored them for three days or so to see which ones are the most viable. This left us scrambling for last minute plane tickets, hotel arrangements, and lining up dog care for a couple days.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wanting Children - My Process

In the early years of our relationship, there was no discussion of kids. My partner Nick never brought it up until about four years ago. Every now and then he’d say, “We need to get a baby”. He might as well have said, “We need to get an elephant” because, I was convinced it was just a phase and never going to happen. But soon he was talking about it more and more, to the point where I had to respond with all the reasons we shouldn’t have a baby. First of all, where would it come from? And then the rest of my reasons, we can’t afford it, we have no room (we were living in a small condo at the time), the neighbors and people in general would be un-accepting (we lived in a conservative suburban area), my parents would disown me, we both work full time, and finally, I just don’t see any benefit for myself in raising a child.

Much of my response was logical and probably typical of what most gay men would think when their partner suddenly brings up children. It was just crazy talk to me and an idea that had never entered my mind. Why couldn’t we just be happy where we were at in our relationship and continue down the same, easy road? For the next two or three years, every time he brought up babies, my heart skipped a beat and I cringed.

Every now and then we’d get into a heated argument over obtaining a baby. I’d leave the argument with some sort of open-ended statement that left my opinion ambiguous just to get past it and move to more peaceful waters. Nick later changed his mantra to, “Once we get a house, then we’ll get a baby”. Fine. We lived on the West Coast in an extremely expensive real estate market and there was no way we could afford a house.

So went the baby game for what seems like several years. He’d bring it up, I’d change the subject and then block it all from my mind. Then big changes came to our lives. Three yeas ago I found out I was being laid off from my job. I’d worked there for eight years and was initially devastated, scared, and pissed off. I had several months notice, but even so, life sucked. Soon after the layoff notice, Nick called me at work and asked if I’d be willing to move to another city. He wanted to apply for a promotion within his company that would require a major move. Without putting much thought into it, I agreed to the move.

Planning the move and realizing that we were able to afford a nice, new construction house in the new city took my mind off the misery of my final weeks at my job. I was looking forward to a new job and all the changes to come. There was still plenty to worry about, but overall, things went about as smoothly as they could. The housing market was strong and we had multiple offers on the condo above asking price within 48 hours of listing it. The new house wouldn’t be finished for a couple months, so I left with the dog and stayed in a hotel in the new city until the house was ready. In this time, I found a new job that I started right after moving into our new home.

At some point during the turmoil of this move, I stopped worrying. I usually consider myself an agnostic, but all of this change seemed to be orchestrated by a higher power. I can’t really explain where this feeling came from, but I just went with the flow, accepting my new job and finally settling into the new house. It all seemed like it was just meant to be.

Soon after moving into our new neighborhood, we began making friends with our neighbors. It’s a new urbanism development and very gay friendly with many gay couples and plenty of gay-friendly straight couples. This was so refreshing after dealing with nutty neighbors for years in our old condo complex. It’s a very social place where spontaneous happy hours occur on front porches, and walking the dog around the block can take an hour by the time you stop to talk to neighbors and friends along the way. And then there are all the babies. I’ve never been around so many babies in my life. In the past two years, 7 babies have been born just on our block. Twins are common too, probably due to all the “30-somethings” requiring fertility treatments. I saw men in my age group at backyard parties enjoying themselves, their babies strapped into a Baby Bjorn and a beer in one hand, giving their wives a break.

Having children was never an option I considered possible, so I never really thought about it deeply. But for the first time in my life, I saw friends go from childless, to pregnant, to first-time parents. I grew up in a small family with only one brother, so I never experienced seeing someone go through this process. Just seeing the big smile on a friend’s face when she showed me her pregnancy-confirming ultrasound picture after attempting to get pregnant for over a year piqued my interest. Why was she so happy? Why was I happy for her? Why did I find myself fighting back tears of joy at a baby shower for a couple who traveled a long and bumpy road to get pregnant?

All of this got me thinking about babies and life. Looking at my relationship with Nick, it was comfortable and had come to a plateau some time ago. So what else is there to experience in life? I’ve traveled the world, found a life partner, moved to a nice home, eat out at nice restaurants, have wonderful friends, and basically do what I want. But is that it? Do I just set my life on cruise control for its second half? All these people having babies say the same thing. “It changes your life forever!” And they mean it in a good way.

When I saw the joy in the eyes of new parents when they looked at their babies, I saw a joy I’ve never experienced. There had to be something to this parenting thing. I hadn’t heard anyone say they thought having a baby was a mistake that made their life miserable. I heard over and over, “It’s the hardest job you’ll ever have, but the most rewarding”.

I suppose I did have one reference in my life that gave me a little hint of what it’s like to love a child and all the work involved - our dog. Years ago Nick took me to a pet shop to see some puppy he liked. I had never had a dog and never considered getting one. The puppy was cute, but I told him to forget about it. Two days later, the puppy was in our apartment, an apartment that didn’t allow dogs. We were nearly evicted for having the dog, but that prompted us to look into buying the condo, which turned out to be a great move financially.

But back to the dog - the first time I took her out on her leash, I was grossed out when I had to watch her poop. We were up in the middle of the night taking her out to do her business, spent evenings potty training her, playing with her, took her to obedience school, and soon I fell in love. Some parental instinct kicked in and this dog became my child.

At age one when she had to have a $2000 operation, I was terrified. My stomach still fills with knots every time she has any medical issue. I buy her toys, food, health insurance and take her to PetSmart just to see how happy it makes her to ride in the car and run around the store. I walk her four times a day, give her baths, and tend to her happiness. She’s still the center of attention in our home to this day and I know her life will have seemed too short someday when she’s gone. For all the work and money we put into this dog, I’d never go back in time and not have her. The happiness she brings to my life far exceeds the work involved. Based on this experience, I know I have a paternal or parental instinct built into me. The unknown scares me, and I worry about new experiences, but now I know that raising these babies will bring even more joy than the dog. It’ll be like the same experience, only bigger! I’m going to realize strengths that I never knew I possessed, and the work will be a hundred times greater. But I predict the return will be a hundred times greater too.

Now we had the house, an open and accepting neighborhood, support of friends and good schools. I found myself open to the idea of having a child, but scared nonetheless. When it comes to big change, I’m usually conservative. But Nick’s personality balances me out as he generally does what he wants to based on his gut feelings. The feeling of that higher power taking control is back, and things are happening for a reason. Life is changing forever.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Welcome!

Hello and welcome!

I have no clue who will find my journey interesting, but it is quite a developing story. I suppose it began 12 years ago when I met my partner. We fell in love and have been in a monogamous relationship ever since. We're pretty average guys leading average lives and not really a part of the gay community in our city, although we have a few gay couple friends in our neighborhood. I'm white, he's African American, and we're close in age. We live in a nice house in a newer neighborhood where neighbors are close and supportive.

So what's the interesting part? We're soon to become parents of twins via egg donor and surrogate. Not until next year, so there's still plenty of time to freak out. Currently our surrogate is eight weeks along. We both flew to California for the embryo transfer in early September, and she knew a week later that she was pregnant. The babies will be half African American, half white to reflect our races and look a bit like both of us.

We have ultrasound pictures of the two black blobs in our surrogate's womb stuck to the front of our stainless, side-by-side refrigerator in our pristine kitchen. After growing up with a mother who felt it necessary to cover the entire refrigerator with magnets, papers, ads, and coupons, I swore my refrigerator would always be clutter free. But here I am, 8 weeks into fatherhood, already breaking my own rule. A side of me fears this will eventually lead to the refrigerator becoming a canvas for our children's artwork - stick figures, scribbles, hand outline turkeys made from construction paper. But I'm in a state of change. Our house looks like a model - colors coordinated, furniture carefully chosen, everything in it's place. I'm a neat freak - probably a direct result of being a gay man who grew up in a cluttered, disorganized home. Now I look around the house, wondering what will need to go, what needs more organization, and where all the baby gear will be. There's no way to keep a model home with twin babies. Eventually I'll teach them the art of putting things back and making beds. But for now, I'm reconditioning myself to keep a clean, but less organized home.

So many gay men seem to be anti-children. They're loud, messy, and expensive. When my partner first brought up the idea of a baby, all I could think of was sticky figerprints, poopy diapers, screaming, and a major interruption of my life. It's easy to see why gay men feel this way. Most of us dropped the idea of kids from our minds way back when we realized we were gay. It's just not expected of us and not always even possible. But times are changing - especially for me.

I'm going to post a bit back in time to give a sense of how we arrived at this day in our relationship and how a once self described "happily childless" gay man finds himself standing in the empty nursery-to-be, fondly imagining the pounding of little feet on hardwood floors, giggles, crying, and late night feedings - activities that will happen in the room in the next few years.