The process of becoming a parent can be challenging but the longing to devote one’s life to a child does not discriminate. The feeling of wanting to hear a child say, “Daddy, come hold me” or “Mommy, I love you” is most certainly not limited by gender identification or sexual orientation.
This is the story of Kevin and Dennis from our book, Let’s Talk About Egg Donation. Kevin and Dennis were one of the first male couples in the country to have a child through surrogacy.
Kevin and Dennis had been together for ten years when they decided to bring a child into their lives. In 1992, there were very few same-sex couples who had created a child through egg donation and surrogacy. Kevin describes how the status of gay men and women at that time made it such that few ever imagined they could become parents.
Kevin tells us:
“We realized only on reflection that we both had always wanted to be parents, but because of the of the societal pressure and shame of being gay, we had suppressed that desire until it was deeply hidden and felt impossible.“
Like many of us, Kevin and Dennis preferred to have a child who was genetically related to both of them. Dennis’s sister offered to be an egg donor, which of course meant that Kevin’s sperm would be used. Then they needed a surrogate.
One of the loveliest parts of this equation is that their little girl grew up in a family where she knew her genetic history, which included the two loving women who helped her into the world.
Kevin and Dennis asked Kevin’s cousin Sandy to carry for them, and she agreed. Even though they were family, they knew contracts were necessary to legalize the arrangements between them. They went to a reproductive attorney, and together they figured out how to do this…This process was so unusual at the time that Kevin and Dennis had to locate and then convince a doctor who was willing to do IVF for them…
… and how lucky that they persevered, that Dennis’s sister was willing…and that eventually one out of all those embryos transferred to Sandy’s uterus became their daughter, Chelsea, now twenty-four years old.
They subsequently went to court and had Dennis’s name put on the birth certificate so that they were both legal parents. Today this is no longer necessary in certain “surrogacy-friendly” states such as California. In those states, an order is issued by the court prior to the birth so that the intended parents are the legal parents from the beginning.
We asked Kevin and Dennis about the relationship the family now has with Chelsea’s aunt, the woman who contributed the egg. They all work together in the family business. Dennis’s sister now has two children of her own, whom Chelsea thinks of only as her cousins. Neither Chelsea nor her two cousins think of themselves as half siblings.
From the moment of her birth, Dennis has been Daddy, and Kevin has been Dad.
…Early in the process, Dennis and Kevin saw a psychologist who gave them advice to “answer honestly and simply to every question.”
“We were told not to over-explain. When Chelsea was three, she asked, “Where did I come from?” I said, “A tummy.” She said, “Whose?” And I said, “Sandy’s.” She said, “Did she give me away?” And I replied, “Oh no! You need a boy and a girl to have a baby. So Sandy loved us so much she said she would help us. So we took you and put you inside of her until you were ready to come out, and then we got to take you home.” She said, “Well, that’s good, because I always wanted a Daddy and a Dad anyway.” When she was almost ten, she asked about who donated the egg, and we told her [it was] her Auntie Helene. She was beyond thrilled. She said she fit right in between both her Dad and Daddy and was so grateful. She always considered her Auntie Helene just that—her auntie. She never felt like she was her mom, although they are very close. She always just called her Auntie Helene.“
The recommended approach for helping kids understand how you created your family is to begin at the beginning, when a child is an infant, and then practice, practice, practice until you have the story comfortably rolling off your tongue. Kevin and Dennis waited until Chelsea asked whose egg had been used to conceive her, and that seemed to work just fine for them. Many kids may be curious about that much earlier. Other families are more comfortable when all those details are integrated into the story all at once, with the information woven into the fabric of family life, including the identity of the special helper who made it all possible.
Let’s Talk About Egg Donation will be available everywhere books are sold-