Somewhere a cartoon bird breaks into a cheerful chirping sonnet, a mouse mends a dress, and two dads dote upon their baby. “Ours is a tale as old as time. Heath (Daddy) and Carlos (Papa) met in a distant fairytale land at a grand ball where all the princes would gather,” Carlos said.
“At least that’s what we will tell our son. We actually met in NYC at a friend’s dinner party 11 years ago. Not nearly as exciting, but we also love that it’s kind of old fashioned.”
The two dads now live in Los Angeles with their newborn. These Disney princes were once in a similar boat as many of us; the couple knew they wanted to become dads and they eventually chose surrogacy as their path to fatherhood. But the costs involved struck them with despair!
Well dads Heath and Carlos are a prime example of a couple that defied the odds and accomplished their surrogacy dream despite considerable financial barriers.
Heath remembers the early days of their journey: “Through parent-to-be classes at the LGBT Center in NYC, we learned about all of the different paths to create a family.”
Their friends in class were ecstatic when Heath and Carlos soon announced their intentions to move forward with their journey to fatherhood. The pair did the research and quickly became go-to dispensaries of knowledge for all things gay-dad-to-be related — on everything from medical, legal, and the emotional intricacies. “We still love to share our story and help people understand how the process works! Especially to dispel the myth about the ‘swirl’ and may the best sperm win approach… who even started that?”
Not sure who thought that up either, but wouldn’t it be fun? Like the Puppy Bowl but with… sperm. Eh.
The future fathers considered all their options and eventually decided that surrogacy was the right fit for them, even though they knew the tremendous costs involved.
“For us, surrogacy was quite expensive, and we could not have done it without the help of an organization called Men Having Babies, and of course the amazing women who were our surrogate and egg donor.”
Through Men Having Babies’ Gay Parenting Assistance Program, the couple was able to start turning their dream into a reality. “They also matched us with our surrogacy agency, Same Love Surrogacy; our fertility clinic, California Fertility Partners; and our attorney, Vorzimer Masserman.”
The dads-to-be felt a kindred spirit working with Same Love Surrogacy, a Los Angeles-based agency created by three gay dads who felt compelled to help others after becoming dads through surrogacy themselves.
The dads/founders of SLS said: “All too often, even those agencies that purport to serve the LGBTQ community as part of their client population fall short in doing so. The result is a cookie-cutter approach that fails to recognize and respect the cultural environment and societal challenges faced by LGBTQ intended parents.”
The agency’s founders bring more than 25 years of cumulative experience to craft a masterful experience for gay, bi, and trans dads-to-be.
Next, Heath and Carlos met with Dr. Guy Ringler of California Fertility Partners, also located in Los Angeles. CA Fertility Partners, now celebrating more than 30 years, enjoys a solid reputation as a family-building leader. Dr. Ringler, who is also gay, is proud of the clinic’s work with the LGBTQ community.
“We were impressed with how closely they worked with us to ensure our specific needs were met.”
Dr. Ringler explains that the clinic always respects the individuality of each gay intended dad, and sets out a custom plan of action for each unique scenario. Because of their longevity, you can expect Dr. Ringler’s colleagues in the clinic are all at the forefront of reproductive endocrinology. It is their goal to provide comprehensive and compassionate fertility care to all. As their website explains: “Our IVF babies are now 30… and having babies of their own!”
And like all things in parenthood, as suddenly as it started, the surrogacy journey had come to a close and their little baby was on his way!
Along this path to fatherhood, naturally, the couple has amassed quite a collection of amusing experiences. Heath elaborated, “One of our favorite stories so far has to be our birth story! At the time we were living in NYC, so we flew out to Los Angeles about three weeks before our due date, thinking that would be plenty of time.” Much to their surprise, they turned on their phones upon landing at LAX to a bombardment of messages from their surrogate and her husband. It was time! “We literally raced straight from the airport to the hospital and made it just in time to be a part of the entire birth. Our surrogate was so incredible that we are convinced she waited until we were on the plane to let her cervix relax and poof, baby was ready!” This Lifetime movie is literally writing itself.
Despite all that the dads had weathered during the process, they insist they never had any doubts about their desire to grow their family through surrogacy.
“There were certainly moments of ‘do we know what we’re doing?!’ before anyone becomes a parent, you worry about knowing the right information, teaching your kids the correct things, and NOT dropping them!” said Carlos. “You just have to trust that when they arrive, your instincts will guide you on what they need most. And it’s true! As cliché as it sounds, what they need most is your love and attention… and for you to NOT drop them!”
Of course, the dads are regularly subjected to the nosey and heteronormative game of twenty questions that many same-sex parents seem to endure. “Our family is treated differently than others, but we go back and forth on whether that’s a negative or not. People have a lot of questions, and some of the questions are quite personal and could be offensive. Like: ‘Who’s the ‘real’ dad? or ‘Was it hard for the “mom” to carry the baby for 9 months?’”
Despite these questions being rooted in plain ol’ ignorance, the dads take it as an opportunity to educate and lead by example. “If you’re wondering how we answer those questions, we say that we are BOTH the real dads because we’ll be there to love him and raise him every day. And to that second question, we say how grateful we are to our surrogate and egg donor who helped us bring our son into the world, but that he doesn’t have a ‘mom’ per se. He has two people who are trying their best!”
Ultimately, all queer dads-to-be will encounter a fork in the road which will require they make a decision regarding how exactly they want to grow their family. While all choices lead to similar rewards, choosing surrogacy doesn’t have to be as mystical, overwhelming (and come on, usually unaffordable) as it sometimes can seem.
Organizations such as Same Love Surrogacy and California Fertility Partners tackle this challenge head-on and consistently reaffirm their proven commitment to the ever-changing nature that shapes our unique little community of men who have had — or who want to have — babies.
Carlos continued, “The world needs more gay families, no matter what the path! But if you are pursuing surrogacy, it can be overwhelming.” The cost, legalities, matters of convoluted health policy, and sheer number of people inevitably involved is enough to throw a kink into the plans of even the most prepared dads, as Heath and Carlos became acutely aware. It’s important to remember that no matter the path you choose, you absolutely don’t have to go it alone. Reach out and locate LGBTQ-focused organizations to assist in all steps of the process.
As we consistently prove to ourselves and those around us, we, as a queer community, are strongest in numbers. Let’s always remember that as integral to our human rights as marriage now is, so too is the potential to grow our families as large as we’d like, and to do so as affordably as possible.
Heath said it perfectly: “Through it all, remember that what you are creating is coming from choosing love. It takes a lot of love to choose to bring a little person into the world and show them that being completely yourself only creates more love. It’s all worth it for the love.”
To follow along on Heath & Carlos’ parenthood journey, check out their awesome family Instagram account @AskYourOtherDad