My son, Craig, and his husband, Matt will soon be parents! It’s an incredibly exciting time for these two men, both of whom knew they wanted children but didn’t know if the dream could ever happen for them. They’re not the first gay couple to have children – thousands have blazed this trail before them (hurray!) – but their circumstances are a little unusual: Matt’s sister, Laura, is their gestational* surrogate. Laura and her husband, Tim, live in South Carolina with their three young children: Hadley (4), Locklyn (3) and Thatcher (18 months). On top of raising three active toddlers, Laura is an elementary school teacher. The surrogacy is her fourth pregnancy.
Naturally, many people are curious about the process and the pregnancy, and they ask lots of questions of Craig, Matt and Laura. All three answer as honestly as they can, and are happy to share the parts that are comfortable for them. As most of us haven’t been – and most likely won’t go – down the surrogacy road, they’ve opened up about their joint decision to have a child and all the choices they’ve made along the way.
Here’s the first of a two-part article on the path to parenthood. Part 1 – Laura weighs in. Part 2 – an interview with the dads-to-be.
Uncle Matt loves his nieces to pieces.
What was your motivation for deciding to be a surrogate for your brother and his husband?
To give Matt and Craig a family and for them to experience the love and joys (and chaos) of parenthood.
Did you offer or did the guys ask you? Can you describe how the arrangement was decided?
I think I offered after my first or second pregnancy (must have been the postpartum – haha!), but we all had a serious discussion via Skype when I was pregnant with my third.
Did you have any concerns, fears or second thoughts going into this?
Yes, yes, and yes, just like with any pregnancy. Matt and Craig have been very thorough with laying out the plan – Matt is a lawyer after all – and making sure that all parties involved know what to expect.
What’s been the best part of the experience so far?
Best part 1: Seeing the excitement in Matt and Craig and having the opportunity to be such a close and involved part of it. And they’ve come for more visits, which is awesome! Best part 2: Seeing how involved Tim is in the process. He has come to all the major ultrasounds to support me and help Skype in Matt and Craig.
Have there been any surprises – with the process, the pregnancy, how you’re feeling about it all?
It was surprising to be pregnant, yet have nothing to do as far as preparing for a newborn; it is surreal, but very nice. Also, I was surprised with the whole fertility process and all that is involved. I learned a lot about the struggles families face when dealing with infertility and what some women have to do in order to get pregnant.
Tim and Laura with their happy handful: Hadley, Locklyn and Thatcher
What questions do you get asked most often about your pregnancy? And how do you respond?
The most common question is, “Are you going to feel sad about giving up the baby?” My usual response is something like this, “I’ve never viewed this as my baby, but an extended babysitting service for my brother and his husband. The baby just happens to be very, very young and need constant supervision!” So I don’t think I will feel sad about giving the baby up, because it was not mine to begin with.
A babysitter is actually excited when her “shift” is over. And if there are issues of feeling sad that can come with any pregnancy, Matt and Craig will help me deal with it and I will seek professional help. Sorry that was a bit long-winded, but it is a very loaded question. Also, Tim and I are just excited not to have another newborn: we’ve had three kids since Hadley’s birth in December 2010, and we just want to enjoy them!
The second question I get asked a lot is, “Oh, so your brother’s wife can’t have children?” And I usually respond with, “Well, my brother’s husband can’t have children on his own, so I’m their oven.”
How is this pregnancy different from your previous three?
Besides the obvious – no preparation for a newborn needed – the only other difference is giving updates to Matt and Craig. Also, maybe it’s the fourth pregnancy, my aging body, or the household of three toddlers, but I am constantly tired!
Also, a major difference has been Tim’s health. He recently has had a lot of back problems. He is usually Superman around the house, and it’s been a struggle for him to take it easy, but very necessary. We’ve had to call in the grandparents to help us out.
Hadley cuddles with Uncle Craig.
How have you explained the pregnancy to your three young children? Have they been curious?
We started the discussion with Hadley and Locklyn right when the whole process started before I was actually pregnant. We just started talking about all the loving couples that we know who have babies and children, and just asked them, “shouldn’t Matt and Craig have a baby?” They of course responded with “yes!” Then when I became pregnant and started to show, Tim and I told them that this was not our baby in mommy’s belly for our home, but a baby for Matt and Craig’s home. The baby would be another cousin for them to love and play with like their other three cousins.
They started calling the baby,“cousin baby.” Hadley kisses my belly when she comes home and when she goes to sleep says “night, night cousin baby,” and sometimes Locklyn follows suit. Locklyn will sometimes put a small toy or block under my shirt and say it’s for the baby. Tim and I keep an open dialogue with them and are constantly asking them questions to make sure they know what will be happening when “the baby is big enough to come out of mommy’s belly.” Thatcher just likes to roll all over my belly when he’s trying to fall asleep. He’s too young to really understand yet.
Your husband Tim’s support through this is obviously so important. How has he coped with everything?
Tim has been very supportive, coming to the ultrasounds and when the process first started, helping with administering the medicines/drugs. I’m sure he will appreciate having all of his wife back when this process is done, and not having to share me with his new nephew/niece.
What would you imagine to be the best relationship you can have with this child – your nephew or niece?
I want the baby growing up to know his/her “southern state side” family very well. And I would like to know the baby very well, too. I hope for many visits both ways and regular Skype sessions.
What would you say to other women considering being a gestational surrogate?
Recently someone said, “oh, I was thinking about doing that” when talking about being a gestational carrier, and my first thought was “oh if you only knew!” But really it’s only several months of my life that I’m helping out, which seems so minimal to the lifetime of happiness it will bring to Matt and Craig and all family members involved. It’s a family legacy we are all involved in and helping create for generations to come! It’s so much bigger than just me!
*Gestational surrogate: a pregnancy resulting from the transfer of an embryo created by in vitro fertilization (IVF). The resulting child is genetically unrelated to the surrogate.
Part two next week: Matt and Craig talk about making parenthood a reality.
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