An Interview with The New Dads

5 May

We shot this interview in late March, but we can finally share it here since word is out at work that I’m leaving to become a full-time dad to our twins. 🙂

The interview ended up on iVillage, Huffington Post, AOL Video, and popped up on blogs and on Twitter. We had a lot of fun doing it, and hope it helps spread the news to all manner of people looking to start families that there are more great ways to do so than ever before.

–Josh

Deciding to Become a Stay-At-Home Dad

4 May

Last May, when Matt and I got serious about pursuing gestational surrogacy, we started having a conversation about what we’d do about childcare when our child was born. Would we hire a nanny? Would one of us work part-time, perhaps from home? Would one of us stay home full-time?

We did some quick math, looking at the cost of childcare compared with our incomes. Basic arithmetic quickly revealed that, after taxes, if I stayed at work I would essentially hand all, or the vast majority, of my income right over to our nanny. I’d still be working full-time, but it’d be like I was working for (nearly) free.

My job, working on the sales end of things at an academic publisher, also required about 50% travel. Would I really be willing to be away from our new baby half the time? And bring in little income after childcare expenses?

With that in mind, we decided that Matt would be the genetic donor for the embryos that eventually became our twins. The biggest reason came down to boring legal and paperwork reasons: if I were the genetic donor, and I left my job immediately after the birth, I’d no longer have insurance that would immediately cover our children. Since our marriage isn’t recognized federally, there were also big questions if insurance would cover our child(ren) even if I were on Matt’s insurance.

Twin babies looking over fathers shoulderWhen we’d originally looked into starting a family, we thought we’d adopt. The question of a genetic link wasn’t at all a primary concern for us in becoming a family. As Oprah Winfrey famously said, genetics is the least of what makes someone a parent. So when we figured out the legal/health care implications of genetic parentage, especially keeping in mind that I would probably stay home with the kids, figuring out who’d be the donor in a surrogacy situation was actually pretty easy. We didn’t want to mess around with any potential insurance issues when we had squalling newborns newly at home.

For a while I did some wrestling with how I felt about leaving my job. I liked my position, I’d worked hard to move up in my company, and I’d recently had a banner sales year. I also liked the people I worked with, and didn’t mind the travel, especially with all the airline miles and hotel points I’d been able to save up for use with Matt. But things became even more clear when we found out we not only had a pregnancy on our hands, but a twin pregnancy. I didn’t want to work for nothing, and I certainly wasn’t interested in work travel that’d take me away from our twin newborns 20 or more weeks a year.

As the birth of the twins approached, something interesting happened at work. Nobody even seemed to consider the fact that I might not come back after the birth of the twins. There seems to be a fundamental gender assumption that if you’re a dad, you’ll be back at work a few weeks after a child is born, and that’s that. With a pregnant woman in the workplace, some may wonder, even openly, if she’ll return after the birth.

But me? Not even a vague feeling or question from anyone about if I’d be back after the birth. It was just assumed that I’d be back.

Well, surprise! 😉

I couldn’t be happier with the decision to become a stay-at-home dad. Every family has to decide for themselves what works best for them, and Matt and I feel like this is the right decision for us. I’m looking forward to entering the (somewhat rarified) world of the stay-at-home dad. I’m sure there’ll be a learning curve, and I’d bet anything that raising twin newborns will be way more work than any job I’ve ever had.

But, conversely, I also think it’ll be more rewarding job than I’ve ever had.

In the end, I’m pretty sure that’s what matters most.

–Josh

Dog Care While We’re In India

3 May

We could be heading out to India any day now for the birth of the twins, so Matt and I knew we needed to make arrangements for our dog, Butter, while we’re away.

We could be gone as few as fifteen days, or we could be away more than a month. For a while we thought we might see if a couple friends might be able to host Butter, but logistics started to get complicated.

Luckily, Matt’s family in Wilmington, NC, stepped in and graciously offered to watch Butter while we’re away, no matter how long we’re gone. The great thing is that Butter knows our family well, along with their homes and other pets. It’s probably the easiest possible transition, which is great.

We also have family in Richmond, VA, which is pretty much the half-way point between New York City and Wilmington. We headed down to Richmond over the weekend, and Matt’s mom, Ellen, headed up from Wilmington to make the doggy trade-off.

butter dog car new dasd on the blockAs you can see in the photo, taken moments after we got in the car, Butter was still trying to figure out what was up with the double car seats in the backseat. He’s used to having the entire backseat to himself.

“It’s like going from First Class to coach,” Matt joked.

Once we got to Richmond, we had a fun time with Matt’s cousins, hanging out and spending some final pre-kids time together. At the end of the weekend, we handed Butter off to my mother-in-law, Ellen.

When we get the news that the babies are coming, Ellen will take a one-way flight up to New York, and then the three of us will fly out to Mumbai together. (Matt’s dad, brothers, and grandma will take care of Butter while we’re all abroad.)

butter dog grass richmond va new dads on the blockIt’s very weird being at the apartment now without Butter. Other than when he gets groomed, or when one of us takes him out for a walk, we’re never without our little guy. When we finish a meal we keep thinking Butter is around to eat the scraps, and both of us are still trying to shake our usual Butter walking schedule. It’s definitely an adjustment.

I’m betting Butter’s reaction when he sees us again, though–and when he meets the twins for the first time–will be pretty priceless.

June will come soon enough. 🙂

–Josh

Update: Week 33, Day 5

2 May

As Matt mentioned, our surrogate was in the hospital for a while, first with low blood pressure, and then to see to a few other more minor ailments (a headache, etc.).

Our surrogate was released from the hospital, but then returned a few days later, this time with high blood pressure. High blood pressure can be a very real concern during pregnancy (those of you watched the latest season of Downton Abbey know all about that), so Matt and I were relieved to get an e-mail update from Dr. Bhat this morning.

“Your surrogate’s blood pressure is stable at present. The babies’ best interests are in prolonging the pregnancy. However, it is possible that at some point the doctors at the hospital may feel that the best interests of the babies and the surrogate are in delivering. This point is not predictable. I wanted to ensure that your travel plans are in place.”

We let Dr. Bhat know that our travel plans are indeed in place–we can travel at any time, using United Airlines buddy passes–so we’ve asked her to let us know the very moment they can tell that things are moving along. When that happens, we’ll immediately fly my mother-in-law, Ellen, up to New York from Wilmington, NC, and then all three of us will try and get on the next possible flight to Mumbai.

That e-mail gave us a little more peace of mind, and we’re happy to know that she’s being well taken care of and carefully attended to as we enter the final days of the pregnancy.

–Josh

Notes from the Twittersphere

1 May

new dads gay dads rihanna 2

Truth. 😉

Week 33: Nurseries & Nesting

30 Apr

Now that our twins have reached Week 33, we’re very aware that it could be “go time” pretty much anytime.

It’s handy, then, that a pretty significant nesting instinct kicked in for both of us in recent days.  Our friends and family gave us a ton of excellent presents at our baby shower, but we still had a few things to go out and buy before the big day. (We’ve done more shopping in the last several days than we’ve probably done in our whole marriage.)

We took a two-session twin-specific infant parenting class (with the fabulous Natalie Diaz), and in the class it was recommended we eschew the $1,100 cribs out there and hit IKEA for the $100 ones.

“They’ll get poo and pee and vomit and all kinds of things all over them,” we heard in class. “Get a cheap and sturdy one for now, and when it’s time, toss the crib out and spend the money on a real big girl or big boy bed.”

It seemed like sound advice, so we did just that. We hit IKEA, bought the cribs, a Poang rocker, a great dresser, and a changing table.

photo_2Building it all wasn’t easy. Matt was especially key in getting the furniture together, but I think Butter would appreciate us mentioning that he oversaw the effort with a keen and careful eye. 😉

I helped with the furniture, but also simultaneously undertook the task of washing and folding six or seven packed loads of infant clothes, blankets, towels, onesies, burp pads, and all manner of other baby paraphernalia. We wanted to make sure everything was fresh, clean, and ready to go for its first use.

photo_4When all the furniture was built, and the laundry put away in the new dresser, we had this amazing moment where we stood and looked around us at our welcoming, cozy, fully-realized baby nursery. We had the windows open, with a breeze coming in–spring finally made its way to New York City–and Butter trotted around checking everything out. Matt and I kind of stood there with stupid grins, looking around at the room we’d put together for our kids. It was a little bit mind-blowing, just standing there and soaking it all in.

photo_3Butter remains very interested in the nursery. During the day, the room has become his new favorite spot to curl up and catch a pocket of sunshine. He’s given me a few quizzical looks when we’ve been in the nursery together, seeming to say, “So, Dad, what’s up with these cribs and blankets and everything?”

Soon enough, he’ll understand. He’ll be great with the kids. He’s so sweet and patient with small children, and I can only imagine it’ll be the same–probably with an added air of protectiveness–when we bring the twins home.

In the evenings, when we’re all ready to tuck in for the night, I’ve developed a new habit of walking to the nursery, flipping the light on, and looking in.

I can’t tell you what it does to my heart just to look into that room.

To say that we can’t wait for our little arrivals is an understatement. We’re so excited. But, we’d also love for them to have all the extra days possible in the womb, growing and getting stronger and preparing to come into the world and meet their dads, and their new four-legged, furry protector, who’s sure to be curled up on the floor by their cribs at all hours of the day and night.

Our family of three is about to become a family of five.

–Josh

For more photos from our nursery, and our daily life, feel free to follow us on Instagram @joshcentral.

Hospital Bills

29 Apr

Our surrogate spent a total of 15 days in the hospital for treatment of pregnancy-induced-hypertension (PIH) and pre-term labor.  Hiranandani Hospital was amazing when I asked for updates from Dr. Soni, the OBGYN who will oversee the birth.  I occasionally requested a copy of the most recent bill, and it was provided typically within 24 hours as a pdf.  The 15 day stay included the bed, consultation fees, medication, and supplies.  We have used about 3/4 of the initial deposit, so we will most likely have to either top off the account via wire transfer or pay the balance when we arrive in Mumbai.  Josh and I anticipated this scenario, so we budgeted appropriately and are anticipating a total hospital expense of roughly $4,000 including the birth, NICU time, and the surrogate’s pre-birth stay.  (On a side note, if I stayed in the hospital for 15 days in NYC as a cash paying patient, my bill would probably approach six figures, so getting a bill for approximately $1,400 was almost enjoyable.)hiranandani_hospital_600x450

She was released from the hospital last week, and a few days later, she was re-admitted because her blood pressure continues to be a concern.  Pre-eclampsia is a condition that women pregnant with multiples can encounter, and we believe that the hospital is a better place for her to wait than the surrogate housing.  Dr. Soni has indicated that she is doing very well, on a strict diet, and getting very close to her delivery date.  In anticipation of a last-minute flight to India, Josh and I spent the weekend in Richmond, VA, meeting my mother half way to her home in North Carolina in order to pass along our dog.  ‘Butter’ will stay with my brothers and my father in NC until we return from India to claim him.

Mom is all packed and can’t wait to get this party started.  On the day that Rotunda announces our birth (or if we make it to the scheduled C-section date), we will fly mom up to NYC and all 3 of us will hop on the 8:35 PM direct flight to Mumbai.  Obviously this could happen at any moment because the twins are already at 33 weeks, so it’s hard to focus on all of the small things that I have to take care of before we depart.  Oh, and I just got an email from our lawyer letting me know that one of her clients was just able to obtain the baby’s exit visa through the FRRO in Mumbai rather than having to schlep everyone to Delhi.  She believes that we will be able to do the same thing, saving us a rather large travel expense and a few wasted days.  Small blessings.  Thank you to Meg at Amani & Bob’s Indian Surrogacy for keeping tabs on the ever-changing FRRO regulations.  I’ve been glued to your blog since the day our pregnancy was confirmed.

-Matt

DNA swabbing

13 Apr

Before heading to work today, I took a trip to the DNA testing lab to have my portion of the process completed. As the company we decided to use is based in Arizona, they contract with local facilities to have samples shipped directly to them. This keeps the chain of custody secure and saves us an extra swabbing and shipping fee while we are in Mumbai.

My contact at Chromosomal Labs set up the appointment for 9:00 am in Woodside, Queens, a neighborhood barely 10 minutes away from my home by car. I arrived on time and was greeted with some seriously gross accommodations. The office was dirty, with grime and black marks covering the walls, and the rep contracted by the lab mistakenly (I doubt) arrived at 9:50 assuming a 10:00 am appointment. I showed her the PDF with the date and time of the appointment, scheduled less than 48 hours earlier, and she apologized, but at that point I was already angry. She also asked if I brought passport size photos of myself for the kit, which I was never made aware of. Because she was running late, she agreed to use the digital camera and printer sitting next to me on the counter to take the picture at no additional cost beyond the $30 she would pocket for the swabbing. The whole thing was so smarmy, but I guess they are used to doing drug tests and Maury Povich type testing, so I can’t blame them for trying to make a buck.

The swabbing was quick and easy. Two buccal swabs were swiped on each side of my mouth for 20 seconds, they were sealed in an envelope that was signed by both of us, and I was on my way. The lab should receive them via FedEx in a few days. I also got a confirmation number and a tracking number for the kit that was shipped to the US Consulate in Mumbai. Due to security screening, they suggest having the kit sent at least one month in advance of your immigration appointment, so we are right on track.

At the moment, I’m on a train from New York to Boston to visit a friend who recently moved away from Queens. This weekend may potentially be my last relaxing trip for a while, so I intend to enjoy every moment of it!

–Matt

Preparing For the Return to Mumbai

10 Apr

Today was filled with phone calls and emails with the US Consulate in Mumbai, the DNA processing lab in Arizona, and the Hiranandani Hospital in Powai.  It started with a 7:00 AM EST email from Rotunda Clinic letting me know that our surrogate had just been admitted to the hospital due to a blood pressure concern.  As she is at 30 weeks 4 days, any little concern needs to be thoroughly examined by a physician.  I called the hospital directly and was able to speak with Dr. Anita Soni, the OBGYN who will ultimately oversee the birth of the twins.  She reassured me that our surrogate is doing well and that she was admitted for observation and to provide nutrition and support.  We aren’t sure how long before she will be released, but I assume that it will not be longer than a day or two.   Our 100,000 INR deposit at Hiranandani was received months ago in anticipation of any complications, so treatment will be deducted from that balance.  Of course, I have no idea how much any of this will cost.

081009-dna-02Next, I reached out to the US Consulate to obtain information on the process for DNA verification of my genetic link to the babies.  Thankfully, the process has recently been streamlined (as of March 28, 2013) and we no longer have to scramble across the city to make a payment to the hospital for a doctor to perform the cheek swabs.  They can be paid with a direct bank draft available at any bank in the city.  The fee will be 1000 INR (about $20 USD) per cheek swab.  If any other potential parents need the specific details on the DNA process, please let me know via email or a comment.

The DNA testing kits have to be sent about a month in advance of the birth to account for travel time and potential early labor.  I will be completing my cheek swab here in New York on Friday, and the two sealed testing kits will be shipped directly from Chromosomal Labs in Phoenix, Arizona.  Melissa at Chromosomal Labs has been absolutely fantastic and I highly recommend her as your DNA lab provider.  The lab must be an AABB accredited center and they should be familiar with the required paperwork and processes when you call for a quote.

Once the babies are born and released from the NICU, we will schedule an appointment at the US Consulate to complete an application for a CBRA (Consular Report of Birth Abroad).  This document will be used to process the passport application for the newborns after the DNA test confirms their citizenship through my genetic link.  The cheeks will be swabbed, the kits will be mailed back to Arizona, and the results will be available 2-3 days after they are received.  The results will be emailed to the consulate, and HOPEFULLY, I will match!  Once a link is established, the passports are issued and the last step is the exit visa.

I have spent hours putting together a plastic binder full of documents that I may potentially need to complete the applications for CBRA, passport, social security card, and exit visas.  While photocopies are pretty easy to obtain in Mumbai, I’ve made multiple copies of everything.  This includes documents to prove my time in the US, including tax returns, college transcripts, utility bills, old passports, and a list of every date and time that I have ever left the US.  While it seems overwhelming at first, the process is actually keeping me focused on my checklist and allowing me to briefly stop stressing about all of the uncertainties ahead.

I can’t believe that I will be a daddy in about 5-6 weeks.   I’m already so in love with our babies.

–Matt

Week 29: Hello, Baby Shower Gifts!

31 Mar

One of the facts of having children through gestational surrogacy is that you don’t get to see the day-to-day changes in a growing pregnancy belly. You don’t get to see or feel babies moving, and unfortunately we aren’t able to be a part of all the doctor visits, etc.

But one way Matt and I are experiencing the growth and changes in the third trimester of our surrogate pregnancy is the growth and change in the number of gifts that have arrived for our twins in the past few weeks. It started with a trickle–a few boxes here and there–and culminated in a full-on deluge of colorful, thoughtful, adorable presents at the baby shower our friends and family recently threw for us.

twin baby shower gifts gay dads gayby

Matt’s mom, Ellen, and several of our very good friends put together quite a team effort to pull off our baby shower, and it ended up being one of the most relaxed, fun, easy, celebratory afternoons I can remember. Everyone had champagne, people had a chance to talk and mingle and hang out, and we all got to toast to the pending arrival of our twins.

surrogate pregnancy belly week 26 twins 26 weeksI was on Instagram today, looking at some of the photos posted under the #surrogacy hashtag, and saw this photo of a surrogate carrying twins at Week 26. I looked at that belly and wondered what our surrogate’s own belly must look like now at Week 29. We’re thinking about her and the babies today, and hoping everybody is comfortable and happy and in good health.

We’re looking forward to the day, about six weeks from now, when we get to be with all of them.

–Josh