JERRY AND DREW
Jerry and Drew conceived twins in California through a surrogate and known egg donor. Here’s their story.
First Name: Jerry
Partner’s First Name: Drew
Hometown/City: Matawan, NJ
Number of Children: 2
Names of Children: Bennett, Sutton
When did you decide you wanted children?
I think Drew and I talked about having kids on our very first date, which is one of those things straight people should probably never do, but in our case, we totally clicked over it. Of course, for gay dudes, talking about kids is easy but actually having them can be overwhelming. So we put it off for years. As we got into our late 30s, we decided it was time to get serious about it.
How did you decide to either biologically have a child or adopt a child?
We met with a therapist who specializes in family planning. She helped us understand all our options. We’d initially been uncomfortable with the idea of surrogacy and unsure we could afford it. But the more we learned, the better it sounded. We loved the idea of being part of the journey from the very beginning – being in the exam room for all the ultrasounds and especially for the delivery. It’s not for everyone, but I highly recommend it for control freaks like us.
Did you share your journey with your family and friends? If so, have they been supportive?
Yes, we were very lucky to have the support of our families all the way through the process. I think when Drew came out to his family and I to mine, they each thought that was the end of their hopes for us to have kids. So learning we were going to breed after all was a pleasant surprise for everyone.
Drew’s sister even volunteered to donate her eggs for us, which was a beautiful gift and which created a very special bond between her and our kids. (For the record, I was the sperm donor, so there was no unpleasantness going on in the test tube.)
Our friends went bonkers when we told them the news. They threw us a huge baby shower. Drew and I never married, officially or unofficially, so it was a little like the wedding we never had, a celebration of our relationship where we were surrounded by all our favorite people. I’ve never felt more love from the people I care about than when they found out I was having a baby (or in our case, two).
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced raising children as gay men? How have you overcome those challenges and what advice would you give new parents in a similar situation?
I’m happy to say we have yet to encounter any overt homophobia, but then again, we live in Los Angeles, where people are more likely to be confused by us than antagonistic. The biggest challenge of having a gay family is just dealing with being a little-seen and little-understood minority. I definitely don’t believe in lying to people about our family just to avoid awkwardness, so if a stranger asks who our kids’ dad is, we tell them the truth: we both are. Sometimes they’re baffled, but I feel like educating people about gay families comes with the territory. If you’re going to have a gay family, you’d better be prepared to explain it – constantly.
For the most part, people are very respectful. They’re just curious. Any prospective gay parents should just know that they’ll be “coming out” as a gay family on an almost daily basis. You have to be patient and to accept that part of being a gay parent is acting as an ambassador for the rest of us.
What do you wish you would have known before you started?
Just that it would be successful. No matter what route you choose to parenthood, there are no guarantees. I feel so lucky to have two happy, healthy, incredible kids. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how you had them or where they came from. Your kids are your kids, and once you’ve met them, you never question that they were meant to be part of your family.
What was your biggest setback in the process?
When my partner’s sister attempted to donate eggs, we found out she was far less fertile than she should’ve been. She was 28 and perfectly healthy, so we were shocked when she had trouble producing eggs. The fertility doctor was afraid she’d never be able to have kids of her own.
It was devastating for all of us. She was doing the purest, most selfless thing in the world, only to be blindsided by this horrible news. Thankfully, we ended up getting pregnant with her eggs… and now, two years later, she’s pregnant herself, so everything worked out for everyone involved.
What was the funniest thing that happened along the way?
When we went in for our first ultrasound, the doctor was pointing out what he saw on screen. The feet, the head, the heartbeat… and then he showed us the other feet, head and heartbeat. We almost fell over. He said, “You knew it was twins, right?” But until that moment, we hadn’t realized it. We had no idea how to read an ultrasound.
Did you ever consider giving up?
Yes, after our first attempt at in vitro failed, we were very pessimistic that we’d ever be able to have kids. We were almost 100% sure that we wouldn’t be able to use Drew’s sister’s eggs, which was heartbreaking. And we couldn’t imagine going forward with someone else in her place. It would’ve seemed so disloyal. We’re very lucky that our second round of IVF was successful, because I don’t know what we would’ve done otherwise.
How has your life changed during this process? Before having kids and after having kids?
It has been the most incredible, emotional period of my life. I’ve cried and I’ve laughed more than I ever have before. Every few days, it seems my partner and I look at each other, stunned, and say, “Can you believe we have kids?”
I had planned to go back to work after my kids were born, but after spending those first few weeks with them, I just couldn’t do it. I feel like I’ve been given a miraculous opportunity to be able to raise children, and I want to enjoy every moment of it. I’ve been staying home with them full-time for the last two years. As much as I loved working, it can’t compare to the fulfillment I get from being with my kids all day and watching them grow into these wonderful, magical little people.
How much did you budget for the process? What were the actual costs and how were they different from what was planned?
Well, the good news about having kids as a gay couple is, no matter how you do it, it takes a looooong time. That can be frustrating, but it does give you time to save up all the money it costs. We knew surrogacy would be a two-year process at least, so we started saving money as soon as we knew that’s what we wanted to do. We also raided our savings and withdrew everything we’d been stowing away for a house and a future, all of which we were willing to sacrifice to have kids.
By the end, the surrogacy process cost us around $150,000. It still seems like an absurd number to spend on anything, but we’re not people who live extravagantly. We drive sensible cars and wear Old Navy sweatshirts. Having kids was our splurge.
Was your state/location a challenge to the process? How did it impact your decisions, if at all?
California is a great state to have kids through gestational surrogacy. Both Drew and I were able to get listed on our kids’ birth certificates, so there was no need to do a second-parent adoption.
We specifically requested a surrogate in Southern California for that reason. We had to wait a bit longer, but that was a plus, too, because it gave us more time to save money. Also, we live in LA and wanted to be close enough to attend all the surrogate’s medical appointments.
Will you prepare your children to answer questions about their egg donor or surrogate?
We plan to be very upfront with the kids about where they came from. We feel we owe them that, plus we think it’s a beautiful story and one we’re very proud to share with them. They’ll also know that ultimately, it doesn’t matter who donated what. Your parents are the ones who raise you, so Drew and I are their daddies, period.
They call both our surrogate and our egg donor “Aunt”. (And their egg donor is a biological aunt, too.) I always want them to appreciate and respect the special role these women have in our lives. Every May, the day before Mother’s Day, we celebrate a holiday we call Surrogate and Egg Donor Day, which is a special day we set aside just for them.
Would you be willing to share the name of the agency or resources you used and why?
I’m not thrilled with the surrogacy agency we used, to be honest. One of the perils of having kids as a gay couple is that it’s kind of a brave new world for everyone involved. There aren’t always a lot of regulations in place, and not everyone you’ll interact with along the way has experience dealing with your situation. I didn’t feel our agency quite had a handle on things. Ultimately, I’m still incredibly grateful things worked out as they did, but I sometimes feel that happened in spite of the agency rather than because of them. Hopefully, that’s something that’ll improve over time as more people go this route to have kids.
Any other advice, comments, or misc. wisdom about the gay parenting process?
Parenting has been the most incredible thing I’ve done with my life, but it’s not for everyone. That’s one of the great things about gay parents. With everything it takes to be a gay parent, all the time, frustration and expense, you can be sure when you see a kid with two moms or two dads that they wanted that kid and love him or her with all their heart. I always love talking to other gay parents or prospective gay parents, and I’m happy to answer any questions anyone has. They can contact me through my blog at http://jerry-mahoney.comor via email at heyjerry [at] pacbell dot net.
You can find Jerry Mahoney at his excellent, hilarious, and entertaining blog, Where Do Gaybies Come From?. He’s also written about gay parenting for the New York Times, AfterElton.com, and other online publications.