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Friday, August 22, 2008

Educator on Surrogacy by Default

Here are a few dumb statements and questions I’ve encountered lately regarding our children:

Twice people have said the boys “look like their Daddy”, meaning my partner. Uh, then who do you think I am? My name’s on the birth certificate too. I know the people who said this were in no way meaning to disrespect me, but it made me feel like I’m nothing more than a babysitter. We’ve decided that we’ll both be called Daddy and they can add our first names to clarify if they’re talking to or about one of us in particular.

While getting professional pictures taken a couple weeks ago, the photographer finally looked at me and said, “So who are you? A friend of the family?” I just said, “No, I’m also a father”. I watched the wheels spinning in his head, then clarified that we’re a couple, we had them via surrogacy/egg donor, and then he apologized.

“So where’s the mother. Will she be involved in their lives?” I guess the concept of egg donor is off most people’s radar, so when this question has been asked, I just explain that there was an egg donor who plays no part in their lives or even knows of their existence.

“Did you adopt outside the country?” This has been asked of me when I’m out in public with the boys by myself. No, we’re not “Bradgelina”. I just say tell them that the boys are bi-racial and not adopted. Then they get it. A neighbor who’s white and has bi-racial (black and white) children told me she gets dumb questions like that too.

“Oh, so you’re both parents?” This requires explaining the legal process and how we’re both considered legal parents in all states and both listed on the birth certificates.

“Are you guys married?” Apparently the uninformed youth of today think gay people can marry in this country. I’ve been asked this on three occasions by people in their lower 20s. While it’s positive to find out that younger people think gay marriage is perfectly fine, it requires explaining that it’s legal only in two states, that other states don’t recognize those marriages, that a few other states offer domestic partnerships, and that our state offers neither. So next time it’s on the ballot, we need you to stop texting long enough to go VOTE!

At the time, some of these questions or statements seemed a little insulting or dumb, but then I realized that the average person has never encountered our situation. Becoming a parent this way makes you an educator on surrogacy by default. I don’t let it get to me. I don’t think there will ever be so many gay parents out there with children from surrogacy that it just becomes common knowledge, so we’ll most likely have to explain the situation over and over for many years. So far no one’s reacted negatively to me when I explain, so I find that very positive.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Three Months Old!

We’ve survived the first three months! The boys are now approaching 15 weeks in this world and things are settling down a bit. The first couple months were rough with the sleep depravation. Like other parents say, the first few months with a newborn are just a blur. I lost ten pounds initially, but have gained back most of it and have been making it to the gym two or three times per week. I think I often just forgot to eat those first few weeks, or by 9:00 p.m., realized I hadn’t eaten, but was too tired to eat. We each had to care for one baby every night, which meant getting up every hour and a half to two hours, so there were nights where I didn’t get much more than four hours sleep. People say to “sleep when the baby sleeps”, but with twins, it seems like they rarely were sleeping at the same time. Plus we didn’t have the advantage of being able to stay home from work for three months, nor did we have any family help, so that added to the stress.

It’s nice to have other twin parents around for support. It’s very stressful on the parents and there were a few “disagreements” here and there. I think we were both doing so much work and so tired that we each, at some point, began to think the other person wasn’t pulling his weight. Other twin parents say they went through the same thing during the first few months, so it’s comforting to know we aren’t unusual. We’ve settled into a routine now so life is a lot calmer.

The boys are getting bigger, having more than doubled in weight since birth. One is over 13 pounds, the other around 12. The larger twin is sleeping through the night many nights from around 8:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. The smaller guy, not so much. He’s up once for a feeding around 2 a.m. and then up again around 6 a.m., but this is still much better than when he was up at least four times a night!

In the beginning, it was just survival mode. You feed and change them, they sleep or scream. So much work with no real feedback from them. I remember the first time one of them smiled big at me, my heart just melted! Now I can coax a smile out of them almost anytime I want. They seem to be recognizing us too. The other day I came home from work and one of them saw me and smiled. After work I spend time with them, talking or even reading a book to them. They love this and will coo and babble back at me. They have physical time too where they sit in bouncy chairs and kick their legs, building up muscles for crawling. They really seem to want to crawl, and both of them can move around a bit. I can see it won’t be long until they’re crawling all over the place. With the recent interaction and time to stop and appreciate them (as opposed to the “survival mode” times), I’m beginning to feel like a father and have completely fallen in love with my children. It’s a feeling I never could have imagined, that two little human beings rely on us for everything and feel comfort in our arms.

It’s still a strange feeling out in public when I have the boys, knowing that other people see me and know I’m a parent. People have told me that parents always worry, and now I worry too. I see little glimpses of their personalities and wonder what they’ll be like when they’re older. One is more easy going and focused (he can happily watch the ceiling fan for a half hour) while the other requires more attention and seems less focused. I never want them to experience pain or anything bad in life, but I know I can’t control that and we all experience pain at some point. They’re so innocent and perfect, but next year, we’ll need to start the discipline process when they begin to lose a little of that innocence. I see other parents in our neighborhood making that transition right now and it seems to require a bit of mental gear shifting on the parents’ part to move from only care to care and discipline.

My hopes and dreams for our sons are not that they’ll be rich or famous, or that they’ll be doctors or sports stars, but that they’ll be happy. I’m not concerned that they choose certain career paths, or even go to college, although we’ll certainly steer them toward college. I just want them to be capable of having healthy relationships with others and I want to help them discover their strengths and use those strengths to their advantage. If I had understood that 25 years ago, I could have avoided much trial and error in my own career path. I also want them to be strong, have a positive self image, and to love and allow themselves to be loved. These are the things I’ve been thinking about, and then how my own actions will guide them down this path.