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Three cornerstones of a successful journey to parenthood through assisted reproduction: Trust, Communication, and Flexibility.

Create a wonderful team and trust those on it; ask every question; voice all concerns; have clear and open communication; and maintain flexible expectations.

Your Journey to Parenthood

Beginning with a Wish

Your journey to parenthood begins with the wish to be a parent. But if you are gay or lesbian, you know that this is more complicated than just wanting it. Once you declare that you want to be a parent, everything in your world starts to shift and change. You are no longer an individual or two individuals--you are already thinking of yourself as a family and what is possible in the fulfillment of your dream of parenthood. As a gay man or lesbian, there are many thoughts that might also start running through your head. Can I do this? What will people think? What do I do? What's the best way for me to become a parent? Is it okay for gay people to be parents? All the questions you've ever had about your life, any homophobia you've ever experienced both from others and from yourself come flooding to the surface. This article will start to raise some of those questions and get you thinking about the journey ahead.

Sorting Through Your Feelings

It may be that deep in your heart for as long as you can remember you've always known that you want to be a mommy or a daddy. Or maybe you've found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, and you've both realized that you want to have children. Although it's something you really want, you think that it might not be possible, or certainly not easy. So what are the things to consider?

Let's start by sorting through all of your concerns. When you figured out that you were gay that realization caused a shift in the universe for you. All of the sudden, everything made sense, and yet you knew that nothing would ever be the same. Coming out created a paradigm shift--making sense of the past and shifting your expectations for the present and future. One of the expectations that you might have grappled with is what to do with a life-long wish to have a child. And you may have dealt with the seeming incongruity of coming out and wanting a child someday, by putting having a child in the category of things that you have to give up to be true to yourself.

Now years later, the compelling drive to be a parent resurfaces and turmoil ensues. Once you start to let the wish surface it comes on strong, and you can think of nothing else but the baby you envision holding in your arms. So now you come face to face with your own internal homophobia and an opportunity to move through it to full self-acceptance and self-love. At this point there are only two things stopping you from fulfilling your dream of parenthood: Questioning whether or not you should become a parent and figuring out how to become a parent.

Should you become a parent?

In answering this question you will probably ask yourself all the usual questions that anyone considering parenthood asks. Will I be a good parent? Can I afford to raise a child? Is this a world I want to bring a child into? How will having a child change my life? You will grapple with all of the things any perspective parent struggles with. However, as a gay man or lesbian you will also be asking yourself another set of questions. Is it okay for a gay person to have a child? Will my friends and family support my choice? Will my child suffer because she has gay parents? All of these questions are understandable, and important to clarify before you have your child.

Let's start by addressing whether or not it's okay for a gay person to have a child and whether or not your child will suffer because she has gay parents. There is a large body of research that overwhelmingly shows that children of gay and lesbian parents are no different than children of heterosexual parents and that children don't need two parents of different genders or even two parents at all (See http://www.familyequality.org, May 2006 Academic Symposium). Okay, so you read the research and you're still not sure. Consider that whatever doubt remains for you, is doubt about whether or not it's okay for you to be gay at all.

Tom and Mark talked about having a baby on their second date. Both of them had wanted children for as long as they could remember, and each of them had tried to come to terms with having to give up their dream of parenthood when they came out. Now, ten years into their relationship, their drive to be fathers is still quite strong. Mark started researching gay dads online and found out that there are actually many ways that gay men can become fathers now. He shared his research with Tom who had many misgivings and they began two years of research and soul-searching. As their quest for fatherhood unfolded, it became clear that their biggest roadblock was Tom's own unresolved feelings of discomfort with being gay. Mark's family had been supportive when he came out in college, while Tom's family was still not very supportive eighteen years after he had come out. When Mark and Tom spent some time talking openly about these issues, Tom gained the clarity and confidence to confront his self-hate and come to some resolution. The men ended up choosing surrogacy and almost two years later their twin daughters were born. Having dealt with his internalized homophobia head on, Tom was able to come to fatherhood with openness and self-acceptance, which is what will be transmitted to his daughters.

Overall, your child will be born knowing that you are his parents and that your family is perfect. Children learn about what's right and wrong from you--including whether or not it's okay to be gay. If you have any internalized homophobia (and, let's face it, all of us do!) that is what may get transmitted to your child. When you're alone, you can choose to pass or to come out but when you're with your children the choice has some consequences. So, get clear about who you are and that being gay is completely okay, and your child will feel that way as well. If you build a strong foundation of self-love and acceptance in your family and child, they will be able to deal with any homophobia cast their way. We'll deal with how to talk to your child about their creation as well as how to talk to family and friends in a later in this article.

The most important question for anyone contemplating becoming a parent is: will my child feel loved and taken care of? For most of you the answer to that one is easy.

How do I become a parent?

Today there are many options and a plethora of resources for gay and lesbian people who want to become parents, so once you decide how you're going to have your children finding an agency or individual to help you is the easy part. However, there are many things to consider in choosing the method that is right for you. Here are some of the things to consider: Does being biologically related to your children matter to you? If so will you use a known egg or sperm donor or an anonymous one? How will you decide which partner will carry the baby or whose sperm to use? What factors are important to you in choosing a donor? What method can you afford? In sorting through all of these issues start with what's important to you, explore all options and then be flexible and keep focused on the eventual outcome of parenthood.

Carole and Mary, a lesbian couple, dreamed of being moms. Carole had always wanted to be pregnant and carry her own biological baby. She tried to get pregnant with donor insemination for over a year but was not getting pregnant. Eventually, the couple sought professional advice and decided to see if Mary could get pregnant. Mary got pregnant on the second attempt. Initially, Carole felt a mixture of sadness, regret and excitement. She worried that her ambivalence might interfere with bonding with the new baby, or that Mary or other people would not consider her a full parent. Once Max was born, however, it quickly became apparent to Carole that it was up to her and Mary to consider themselves both full and equal parents, and to convey this to Max and to the outside world. And--Carole was instantly in love with Max the moment he was born-despite her earlier doubt.

Ultimately, once you leap into the journey to parenthood, do your research, consult experts and then trust yourself--you'll find the method that's right for you and whatever method you choose know that parents are people who choose to create their family and who love and raise their child, regardless of biological connection.

Being a Family

Once you get clear for yourself that being gay and being a parent are completely compatible, and you sort out how you want to become a parent, there are a number of issues yet to be thought through. What last name should we use? How do we talk about our family? How do we talk to our kids about their conception? How much do we tell others about who the sperm donor/egg donor are? The short answer is: tell your children the age-appropriate truth, tell everyone else as much or as little as you feel comfortable sharing. There are no right or wrong answers here--the only reason you're not sure what to tell your kids about their family creation is if you still have some discomfort with it. Remember, sort out any feelings you have about being gay and you'll know exactly what to say. Kids always want to hear their story. They want to know where they came from. So go ahead and tell them.

Bob and Martin chose to have their family through surrogacy, and their surrogate was eight months pregnant. They became concerned about how to tell their son his creation story, and wanted to be sure they were clear before he was born. Telling your child from the very beginning is the best way to approach this. I advised them to tell him from the moment they first hold him in their arms that daddy and papa wanted a baby so much and there were a whole lot of people who helped him come into the world. Share details about your baby's conception, birth and the first time you saw and held him. Don't be afraid to tell the truth--remember that the only reason you worry about what to tell your child is because you're still not sure it's okay to be gay, to be a gay parent, or to have chosen the path to parenthood that you chose.

Conclusion

For those of us who want to be parents, having children is one of the great joys of life. And being gay has no relevance in making this choice. As gay men and lesbians, your job is to sort out any internalized homophobia you still have so that you can come to parenthood free, open, completely comfortable with yourself and ready to love and accept your children. In this state, you will be free to follow your heart, be the best parent you can be and trust your instincts as a parent. Remember, love makes a family and you are the person most qualified to love your children. When you come down to it--that's all that matters.