Saturday, April 30, 2011

Talking Q-Talk

A couple of Saturdays ago, my friend Frank, who is trying to have a baby via surrogacy, told me that he was going to Q-Talk. It’s a monthly late-night gay-centered talk show at The Metropolitan Room, a small cabaret spot on West 22nd Street in Manhattan. This month’s topic was perfect for Frank: LGBT Parenting through surrogacy. Of course it was also of interest for me, but to be honest, my main motivation in wanting to go was simply getting out of the house Stewart worked that Saturday, and after being with Max all day I was ready for a change of pace. Before Frank could even extend me an offer, I invited myself to join him!

I was new to Q-Talk and didn’t know what to expect. It turns out I was in the minority about that. A good-sized crowd of 40 to 50 people showed up, and when they were asked if they had attended Q-Talk before, an overwhelming majority raised their hands. The crowd seemed to be made up of mostly gay men and a sprinkling of women. The other thing I immediately noticed is that there didn’t seem to be many parents in the audience. This should be quite interesting, I thought!

The show’s guests were John Weltman, a gay dad and president and founder of Circle Surrogacy (an agency that helps infertile and gay couples have kids via gestational surrogacy), and Tony Brown, a gay dad featured in the CNN documentary Gary And Tony Have A Baby, about the journey he and his husband Gary took towards having their baby via gestational surrogacy. Since Frank and I are both fairly educated on the topic of surrogacy, and have met John and Tony before, their ensuing discussion that night wasn’t very illuminating for us, at least as far as surrogacy is concerned. We did, however, both find it amusing when John mentioned how, while he enjoyed very much the documentary and how it portrayed Tony and Gary’s journey to parenthood, he did have one serious beef with it. The show mentions at least ten times throughout that Tony and Gary used an agency to help them with the surrogacy process, but never once mentions the name of the agency. Why did John care? Of course because the agency Tony and Gary used was none other than John’s own agency, Circle Surrogacy!

While we didn’t learn much new about surrogacy that night, the show was hardly a disappointment, in large part due to a surprise guest. John brought his 15 year old son with him to the show. I don’t know many gay parents to begin with, but none of the ones that I do know has teenagers already. Because we all know that those can be difficult years for any parents, I am very interested in hearing what teens of gay parents have to say about their experiences growing up in that household, and also in seeing how they interact with their parents. John’s son spoke to the Q-Talk audience that night, and I was very impressed with how articulate and open he was about his family life. Just as I had hoped and expected, he was a typical 15 year old – a kid who liked to give his dad a hard time, but in a fun-loving way. He seemed content and comfortable in his own skin, which can’t be easy for someone his age in a room full of strangers who are prying into his family life. Most importantly, I could tell that he was proud of his dad and that they enjoyed a strong, loving bond. Oh, and to top it off, the kid was funny too. When an audience member asked him what it was like having two dads, he replied that it was pretty awesome. Why? Because he can leave the toilet seat up without anyone in the household getting mad at him!

Thankfully Max is a long way away from being a teenager, and since the country is continually improving in how it treats its gay citizens, hopefully by the time Max hits those years the environment for gay-lead families will be more welcoming than it is today. But it was certainly nice to see from John’s son at Q-Talk that even now, what there is still a lot of work to be done in this area, there are teenagers out there being raised by gay parents who are just what any parents would wish their children to be: happy, loving and well-adjusted, with just enough back-talk and humor thrown in to keep things interesting!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Spring Break

I have never yearned for spring more than this one. As all of you reading this in the Northeast know, it was a rough winter. And long. I thought that Day Light Savings Time signified that spring was just around the corner, but only now, over a month later, is the weather finally coinciding with the time of year. Of course it doesn’t help that I am simply not a winter person, and it seems that every year I complain about the cold weather more and more. I can be overheard to say on more than one occasion each winter that one day we need to move somewhere warmer; but, besides having most of our family and friends here, we love New York and couldn’t imagine raising Max anywhere else. I guess that means I’m resigned to bitch about winter for many years to come!

What made this winter tough wasn’t just it being frigid and long, but that it meant more often than not being cooped up in the apartment with Max. You see, before Max I was never known to be a homebody. And, and since Max was a spring baby, I didn’t have to become a homebody after his birth. Until early November of last year, I spent most of my days with him out of house, and much of that time we stayed outdoors. I strolled Max on long walks, pushed him in the bucket swing at the play ground (after he was 3 or 4 months old), and chilled with him at one of the numerous community gardens in my neighborhood.

Max happy to be back at the playground

Obviously during the winter months these activities are limited, so I really had to challenge myself to still get out of the house with Max and have at least one activity for us to do each day -- such as: attending story time at the local library, meeting up with other new parents for a play group, or entertaining Max at music and movement classes. But even with these different activities, there was still a lot of idle time at home, and this idle time became increasingly challenging as the winter months crept by. Max was growing before our eyes and becoming increasingly mobile. He quickly learned to entertain himself by finding and frequenting all of the danger spots in our apartment and playing with all the possible harmful objects in our place. Even after baby-proofing, it seemed like most of the time we spent together in the apartment was occupied by me either chasing him away from those places or distracting him from going to those places with more appropriate playthings, such as toys and books. I now understand why parents of little ones need so many!

Max fights the winter blues at Chelsea Piers
So for me, the arrival of this particular spring season is exciting, beyond the general pleasantness of warmer weather, because I can once again spend a lot of time with Max out of the apartment and into the great outdoors. And just in the nick of time, because these days I desperately need to get out with him between 5 and 7 pm, which can be the most difficult hours of the day. In the late afternoon, Max can grow cranky and fussy just at the time that I get wiped out from having ran around taking care of him all day, and Stewart hasn’t gotten home from work yet. It is too late in the day for Max to take a nap, but too early for him to go down for the night. Plus, during this time there aren’t any planned activities for infants or toddlers. Most parents are instead winding down their day, having dinner with their families or getting their kids ready for bed. Thankfully, now that the weather has improved, I can spend that time strolling Max around the neighborhood, letting him roam at the playground, or pushing him in a swing, until Stewart gets home. Everyone’s mood brightens at that point, because I am happy to get the break I need, Max is happy to see Papa, and Papa is happy to play with Max for the hour or so before his bedtime.
Our family is thrilled that spring is back!
So welcome back spring, you were missed!!!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How Mothers Are Made

This is a guest post from Laurie, an amazing woman, mother and friend who, with her husband, is raising their bright and gorgeous three year old daughter, Georgia.  Like her half-brother Max, Georgia was conceived and brought into this world by our selfless hero, Christie, through the incredible gift of traditional surrogacy.  Thank you so much Laurie for sharing your story with my readers! 

For the first nine years of my marriage, I insisted that becoming a mother was as much about the journey as the destination. In other words, I thought that unless my body was involved in the process, I could not be a mother. When telling our story, I often say we tried everything but voodoo, and that was next on the list. The list of acronyms for the various medical procedures I endured is a long one.

Four pregnancies, along with four miscarriages, made me think I'd never experience motherhood. After my final miscarriage, I was ready to try voodoo! When I was grieving over the loss of another baby, I was still making plans to continue treatment. I wanted to try a controversial medical procedure to try to increase my chance of carrying a baby to term. My family, my husband, and finally, my doctor, told me “enough.” My doctor was totally against me trying the procedure, called IVIg.

I was gently, but firmly, told it was time to make a decision: stop treatment and accept living my life without becoming a mother; adopt; or find a surrogate mother.

After many long talks, lots of research and soul-searching, my husband and I decided to continue our quest to become parents through surrogacy. A few missteps in the beginning eventually led us to Christie, the woman who changed our lives forever just four years ago. She said, “trust me” and I did. She showed me that being a mother is about so much more than carrying a baby in your body. With her help, I did get to experience both the journey and the destination.

Laurie, her husband, and Christie pregnant with Georgia 

This month, we celebrate our daughter's third birthday. A very girly, very pink, party was held in her honor a few days ago. I've been reflecting a lot lately about how much my life has changed. There are days when I long for the old days, when I could come and go as I pleased, when I could go to the bathroom without an audience, when I didn't have to be “on duty” all the time. But only for a moment. I wouldn't trade the reality of my life now for what it was approximately three years and nine months ago, give or take a day.


Georgia turns 3!

My life these days begins with a lively little girl saying “Good morning, Mommy! I had a great nap!” as she crawls into the bed with me, warm and smelling of sleep and wet diaper. Then we watch cartoons for a while, usually Dora The Explorer. We snuggle and talk during these mornings together, time I treasure. Next, we get up and begin our day. Our days involve staying at home and reading, coloring, playing dress up, dancing, singing, making crafts with lots of glue and glitter. Some days we have play dates with a local group we found online at, or we shop for groceries, or run other errands. Sounds pretty boring, right? Not to me. Every day is an adventure and an opportunity for me to learn more about this amazing child. We end our days by reading books, snuggling with Daddy, and gathering up the six or more stuffed animals (the babies) that our little one insists she has to sleep with, and saying goodnight. Before I go to bed myself, I will tiptoe into her room several times just to look at her.

When people hear our story, about using a surrogate mother to help us become parents, most will begin to regale us with a horror story of “The Surrogate Who Kept The Baby.” They always want to know if we ever worried about that. The short answer is “NO.” Sure, it has happened to some couples, but it happens far less often than the horror stories everyone seems to know would indicate. Most surrogacy stories are really boring and wonderful. Like ours.

Another funny question we are often asked is “So, how does that work?” I guess what they want to know is the mechanics of “how” our surrogate mother got pregnant. Artificial Insemination. Google it.

People also want to know if my eggs were used. No. They want to know if we used donor eggs. No. We decided to combine the egg donor and gestational carrier into one neat (and attractive, I might add) package. This is called Traditional Surrogacy. They want to know if we used my husband's sperm. Yes.

Certainly these are nosy questions and sometimes somewhat inappropriate, but I feel that in order to educate people about surrogacy, you have to be prepared to be asked these kinds of questions. I don't mind; I'm proud of the fact that four adults (my husband and I, Christie and her husband) and two children (Christie's boys were an important part of this journey, too) came together to create a child.

Laurie keeping a watchful eye on her newborn

This child that I love so very, very much, has absolutely zero biological connection to me. And guess what? I'm okay with it. More than okay with it. She and I have a connection that goes beyond biology and always will. She will always know the story of how she came to be. She will always know that she has two handsome and loving half-brothers who are older than she (our surrogate mother's children), and an adorable half-brother who is younger. That would be Max, son of Jacob and Stewart. We have created not only a child through surrogacy, but a large extended family.

Laurie and Georgia meet newborn Max

These days, my relationship with Christie is exactly what she and I had both hoped it would become...two friends who are also moms. The only thing I'd like to change about it is to live closer so that we can spend more time together. And my husband and I are working on doing just that. We want to live closer not only to our own families, but to our extended families as well.

There is one other thing I'd like from Christie: that she honor the part of the surrogacy contract that states that she will potty train my child. She insists that she never saw that part of the contract. It is there, in very small print.

Is motherhood everything I thought it would be? Absolutely not. It is more. So much more. Happy Birthday, Georgia Grace. You are everything I wished for. Thank you, Christie, for making my dream come true. And, finally, thank you, Jacob, Stewart and Max, for being a part of our wonderful, extended surrogate family.

We love our new extended family too, Laurie!

Monday, April 4, 2011


In my previous post I mentioned that we recently attended my Aunt Beth’s funeral. As we walked to our car to drive back to Manhattan after that long and emotional day, Stewart told me that he found it touching and sweet that my family had gathered at my Uncle Jack’s house after the funeral to spontaneously tell stories about my Aunt Beth’ life. Stewart was glad that Max would grow up in a family that bonded over the enjoyment of sharing stories together about the more colorful moments in everybody’s lives. I was very glad to hear that sentiment from Stewart, as I too love our family’s tradition of storytelling.

That love originates from my mother’s father, Noah Finkelstein. Although he passed away when I was only eleven years old, I have fond memories of him telling me stories while I sat on his lap. Some of these stories were make-believe, but the ones that resonate with me to this day were stories mostly true (though all good stories involve a little exaggeration!) about my family, including many about his brothers.

Any big family occasion is the natural setting for people to sit around and tell stories. This doesn’t happen at every event, but you can usually count on at least some old family classics being told when an event brings somebody new to the party. When that happens, the unsuspecting newcomer is bound to hear about the time that, as a teenager, my brother David threw-up all over my sister Rebecca’s date on a ferris wheel at the town fair; or, about the time when my sister Rebecca as a kid so frustrated my mom in the car that my mom grabbed her ice-cream cone and tried to throw it out the car window . . . not realizing that the window was closed!; or the time that my sister Esther, at age 8, cracked-up the family’s newly purchased used car by putting it in reverse so that it rolled right out of the driveway (and then insisting that she didn’t do it!)

Since I am the youngest of my siblings, many of these stories were before time. I think I have an extra appreciation for them because these stories give me a glimpse into what my family was like before I was around, and when my parents were still together. Now that I’ve heard many of them a million times, what I really enjoy about them is seeing the reactions on the faces of the people who are hearing the stories for the first time. For example, I get such a kick out of how much my nieces and nephews love hearing these stories and how they beg for more. I can’t wait until Max is old enough to enjoy them so that I can cherish his reaction when he hears these stories for the first time. I have no doubt that, like all of his cousins, Max will beg us to repeat those he has already heard and beg us to tell him new ones.

Of course, he’s going to be particularly interested in stories about his Abba, and just like there are favorite stories about my siblings, there are some family favorites about me too. My personal favorite story involving me is actually the earliest one that I remember. When I was three years old I decided that I wanted to go on a trip by myself. So I did what any logical three year old would do – I packed my little suitcase full of underwear . . . just underwear! Family members differ on who was supposed to be watching me at the time, but I somehow managed to leave the house for my big trip with my suitcase of underwear without anybody seeing me.

As the story goes, once outside I heard live music, which was coming from the West Orange High School marching band a few blocks away, who were working through a pre-game rehearsal. I followed the music all the way to the high school, where I spotted a big yellow school bus. I was delighted to find the perfect means of transportation for my big trip, and proceeded to climb aboard! But unfortunately, that’s as far as my adventure went. My sister’s friend, who was part of the marching band, recognized me and said, “Oh my god, that’s Jacob Drill!” Next thing I knew, I was hauled into the principal’s office, a phone call was made, and my dad came to pick me up. I knew he was very angry because when I saw him, his bald head was as red as the Gremlin that he was driving at the time!

red gremlin

 With tales like this to hear, I’m sure Max will acquire the same passion for family storytelling as the rest of us. I look forward to having some fun ones starring Max to share too, and in a way this blog is an early effort to do just that!