Another Look at ‘The New Normal’ and the Road to Becoming a Parent through Surrogacy

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BY JOHN WELTMAN

A surrogacy expert's continuing look at issues in NBC's 'The New Normal'.

“So… this baby is going to be the greatest thing that ever
happened to us, right?” Bryan asks David in this week's episode of The New
Normal
.
“It’s our little miracle. So when can we start enjoying it?”

Having a baby means embracing some uncertainty. It’s one of
the most important events in a parent’s life, and yet, it is impossible to
predict exactly how it will play out. This goes for straight couples, who
conceive with or without the use of assisted reproductive technology, as well
as for gay couples. And it holds especially true for those who have children
through surrogacy.

David and Bryan show two different approaches to handling
this uncertainty. Excited and eager to move forward and get ready for their
future child, Bryan buys baby clothes before the first ultrasound. David—unsurprisingly, the measured
doctor—is more
cautious, reminding Bryan of all the remaining pregnancy tests and of their
agreement not to buy any clothes before all they have received the results.

Here are two different responses, both reasonable. David is
right to exercise caution. Pregnancy is unpredictable. For those who pursue
surrogacy or utilize in vitro fertilization, there is no guarantee that a given
embryo transfer will be successful. There is no guarantee that an egg retrieval
will yield a sufficient number of quality eggs. Sometimes, there is a need to
make adjustments along the way. Communication with an IVF physician can help
couples who choose surrogacy understand the big picture.

At the same time, too much caution can stifle the joy of the
surrogacy experience. Taking time to enjoy the process is important, as David
comes to realize as the episode draws to a close. “So, even though it’s not
going to be easy, I need to try to celebrate the wins,” he tells Bryan. “Like
when we heard that heartbeat yesterday, I don’t think
I’ve ever loved you more, because that—that was the sound of our family.” The
depiction of love between the intended fathers in this moment is perhaps the
most poignant and genuine we have seen in the show thus far.

KissAt the opposite extreme of the
emotional spectrum is the scene in the store. While they are shopping with
Goldie and Shania, Bryan and Davis share a kiss. A man walking by with his
family asks them to stop, and calls them “disgusting.” David wants to ignore
him, but Bryan responds, “Thanks for your intolerance and your bigotry and for
fostering this ignorance in another generation.” The message was clear enough
that the collective social conscience of much of the world hasn’t advanced as
quickly as the scientific and medical achievement that has made surrogacy possible.

The scene brings up the issue of how gay couples should
respond to ignorance and how, as parents, we need to address intolerance when
our children are faced with it just because they have two dads or two moms.
Bryan is concerned about how he and David will respond when their child faces
the same bigotry they experienced in the store.

My husband and I shared these concerns. These are good
conversations to have. We were worried that our children would be bullied for
having gay fathers. Surprisingly, in the eighteen years since we had our first
child through surrogacy, we have rarely found the prejudice we anticipated. We’ve been fortunate. We have supportive
families, friends, and some of the best neighbors in the world. My hope is that
every LGBT family should be so fortunate, but this is sadly not the
case.

Gay couples considering having
children should anticipate all of these issues. The surrogacy process
has highs and lows. And these highs and lows continue after the birth. Gay
couples in the process of becoming parents through surrogacy should talk about
how they will address bullying and prejudice, and intolerance should they come
up.

Before Cliff and I had children, we went to a lecture
given by April Martin, who wrote the Lesbian
and Gay Parenting Handbook
. She said her kids had learned the “stupid”
lesson: some people (the bigoted ones, of course) are just plain stupid. Try it. It
helps and it works when it comes to keeping kids confident on themselves and on
their families. 

 

John Weltman is the president and founder of Circle Surrogacy and an expert in assisted reproductive technology law. He and his husband are the fathers of two sons, 18 and 17, through surrogacy.  They were the first in America to have two children through surrogacy, one from each dad, through the same surrogate mom. 

Have your children experienced bigotry because of their gay
parents? What are your strategies for addressing it? I’d love to hear from you
in the comments below.

Earlier in this series…
Surrogacy Expert Weighs in on 'The New Normal' [tlrd]

Comments

  1. Jesse says

    Actually, I don;t like this show either. It seems dated. Can;t help but compare it to Modern Family.It has an ounce of the intelligence and clever writing that Modern Family has. I can’t stand the fem gay lead. Sterotypically superficial with little redeeming qualities. The character treating the future kid like a pet Pomeranian to dress up seems to be an ongoing theme, handled in a stereotype-affirming way, that is simply ammunition to any hater that stumbles upon the show.

  2. Craig says

    So far I’m not on board with this show. It’s really cringe inducing. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be funny or not, but I have yet to laugh once during any episode. Was the “retard” (their word, not mine) last night supposed to be funny calling the character “fag?”

    I want it to survive just as a spit in the face of NOM, but I may just get to the point where I dvr it (yes they track that), then delete it after a few days.

  3. Bob says

    THIS WAS THE FIRST EPISODE I LIKED – Weltman’s typically ponderous account leaves out the best scene.
    David, the “less skipy” partner is in line at the juice bar in the gym. The first person in line is mentally challenged, and is asking many questions, stopping the line. Some macho number eventually calls him a retard. David calls the hunk out, eventually decking him.
    The “retarded” guy says “I don’t need you to fight my battles for me, FAG!”
    There is more to the show than the surrogacy

  4. Scooter says

    This doesn’t seem to be a show with a vision. It seems like it was put together by committee. It seems to have been produced by the characters of the showtime series Episodes. “Let’s put this character in it, then this one, then this one…they tested well separately.” I like the Justin Bartha Character coming unglued that he has to be the strong one. I like the surrogate trying to get a grip on her life. But the “other” gay of the duo seems crass, and while it’s nice to have conflict and growth, he seems like a rehash of Jack from Will and Grace. And then let’s put in the Archie Bunker grandmother so she can throw in every disparaging point of view so that the others can roll their eyes at her. “oh she’s just a funny old bigot.” I don’t have hopes for this at all. Poor Justin.

  5. Steven says

    @J1 and J2: Whatever. I like “The New Normal.” It’s definitely not as clever as “Modern Family,” but it’s still pretty sweet.

    Also, when I have a kid, he or she’s gonna be well-dressed. I’m not stereotypically gay, but you have no d–n right to tell me how a gay guy should act. Those stereotypes belong to us, and we’ll use them whenever we d–n well please. And anyway, those stereotypes are a little camp: they’re too absurd to take to heart, and most of the gay guys I know know how to own them. If you’re uncomfortable with that, too bad, man up.

  6. jj says

    Whether or not “The New Normal” is accurate about surrogacy, it has yet to find a consistent comic tone.

    I can understand why the show would want to have a traditionally funny “Lucy and RIcky”-type couple – he’s the smart doctor! he’s the giggly cutie! – but the writing is so uncertain and the jokes so forced that nothing works. Satire and mawkish sentiment just don’t mix.

  7. Caliban says

    The show is growing on me. I’m watching the 3rd episode right now on Hulu and their fear and upset about the hate their kid might face was unexpectedly realistic, not just comedic fluff. Justin Barth’s character saying they needed to stand up to people like that, not just for them but the kid, was a nice scene. Yeah, it’s uneven and it still might lose me as a viewer, but so far I’m sticking with it.

    And at least they kiss.

  8. Hugh says

    To be honest, I don’t know if I like the show or not. I want to like it, but the writing’s not consistently funny. Some jokes miss and some jokes just got a wtf reaction from me, like the ‘let’s not become a boring lesbian couple’ or the weird scene with the doctor calling redhead babies demonic. Those really tend to stick out especially since show goes out of its way to send messages of tolerance and acceptance.

    I think the third episode was the weakest so far, mostly b/c of awkward writing: the uber Republican grandmother taking the kid to Planned Parenthood and the confrontation with the homophobic dad failed as a teachable moment b/c if I saw two people kissing in the kids section of a department store I’d be giving them the evil eye too, regardless of genders.

  9. PKNY says

    The characters are not believable, besides being toxic. Too bad they wasted a good chance at national airtime with more of the same predictable fluff that only works on “reality”

  10. says

    I like “The New Normal”. It really takes aim at the bigots…Ellen Barkin nails it. I’ve met people just like her. Hell, look at the Republican Party!!

    As for those who complain about the stereotypical gay type, then praise Modern Family, straight actor Eric Stonestreet plays a queen among queens in his portrayal (with the exception that he likes sports). Yet no complaints? It also should be noted that on Modern Family, it is a huge ensemble and the gay couple doesn’t carry the entire show.

    By reading some of the comments, it seems that no one has ever met anyone that is similar to “The New Normal” couple. Well, I have and I’ve said it before, and will say it again….some of you need to look in the mirror.

    A comedy exaggerates, that is what comedy is. Watch the beginnings of any classic comedy, like Seinfeld…it fell flat until it found its ‘feet’. “The New Normal” needs viewers, especially gay viewers, because the “Republican” states will avoid it, and a Utah (Mormon owned) NBC affiliate refused to air it. It is also being boycotted by ‘One Million Moms’ (probably among other far-right groups who will boast once it gets cancelled). It might not be perfect, but you need to give it time, a chance and support!

  11. jamesintoronto says

    I love The New Normal. It seems to characterize everything that is going on in America right now and puts a comic spin on it. And the Bryan character is spot on, the very heart of the show. It broke my heart when he confronted the guy in the outlet mall and then when he broke down afterwards. It is the type of show America needs right now.

  12. UFFDA says

    Fairies marry. Fairies have a baby. Fairies are just like everybody else. Except they’re fairies and we’re going to remind you of that at every possible moment with gestures, tone of voice and relentless posturing. Bleh.

  13. sara says

    Some of the comments on here could be written by your average garden variety bigot. I don’t know why the people calling out this show find the grandma character so unrealistic. Have you listened & looked at yourselves lately.

    You name call people who you think are different than yourself. You actually feel that you’re superior & better than these people. You’re disgusted that these ‘inferior people’ actually have a voice and are portrayed on your television screen.

    Sound familiar? Because this seems identical to how homophobic people think about gay people on TV. You’re like Tony Perkin twins.

    Anyways, I’ve enjoyed the first few episodes of the New Normal. I think it does have some issues of balance between comedy & drama, but the acting is good and they feel like more of a couple than Cam & Mitchell on Modern Family.

  14. sara says

    I should also add that unlike on Modern Family, the Gay couple on the New Normal are allowed to show affection and have kissed at least a couple of times in each of the episodes so far including one scene in bed. This is something that either Modern Family or the ABC network have been scared to death to show.

  15. jj says

    @Sara, no one is being a bigot or self-hating.

    There’s a big difference between the queen-ish lead on “The New Normal” and the “Jack” character on “Will & Grace,” for example; the latter was hilariously well-written and acted, transcending the stereotype, the former is just plain drab and unfunny.

  16. Yuki says

    I’m having a hard time figuring out if I like The New Normal or not. Nana and Shania–that is, the grandmother and the daughter–are an absolute riot, but the three leads are just… bland.

    I don’t buy them as wanting a baby–Bryan just seems to want something to dress up, and David doesn’t seem to care–and I honestly don’t feel like they have that much chemistry. We haven’t seen much of /why/ they like each other, of /why/ they’re together… we’re just told they are and expected to believe it. Plus, so far, everyone’s rather one-dimensional; I think the person that’s gotten the most development in these first three episodes is Nana.

    It has potential, but I feel like it’s uneven so far.

  17. TK96 says

    I think Ellen Barkin is hilarious. She and the little girl are both fun to watch. I like the fact that the guys kiss. It is a bit mind boggling to me that they do – there is nothing remotely attractive about the Bryan character. Who would kiss him? He is repellent to me physically, emotionally, and intellectually. A petulant 13 year old girl in a male body. Blech. I guess there is a lid for every pot, though. I keep watching because Barkin makes me laugh every time she is on the screen. She is the most realistic character on the show.

  18. Andrew says

    I think that the ideal thing for children is to be born into a loving family with a father and a mother who love each other and cherish and nurture their children. The ideal is not always attainable, and so people have to try hard to make alternative situations work. I truly wish them success.

  19. Fox says

    I’m still watching. It’s cringeworthy at times, but I think it’s improving. The dialogue is clunky, often. The little girl is fabulous, but she can’t sustain the show. I’d like to see a man in the grandmother’s life, as well as the surrogate’s. They now need to start showing us in what ways the stereotypes aren’t really stereotypes.

  20. 99% says

    I try to watch it a few times, but just find myself diving for the remote to change the channel.

    It’s wretchedly awful. David and Brian are obnoxious and played to the stereotypical extremes. And Ellen Bursten; just venom. She is not the show’s “Karen Walker”, she is just venom. Period.

    I feel like this show was written in the 1990’s, the perceptions have not matured from then, but let’s put some currency into it with man-on-man kissing.

    It makes me look forward to “Happy Endings” where the dialog is nothing greater than snarky, sarcastic put-downs, but at least they have an honest portrayal of a gay character.

  21. kevin says

    I think the show improves every week. The first episode had to introduce six regular characters and set the whole situation in motion. Don’t be so quick to dismiss a show when it’s trying to get on its feet. Look at the entire first season of NEWHART, a great show that found its winning formula (and supporting cast) after 22 episodes. Look at the first half-season of WILL & GRACE (never a bad show, but it took a dozen episodes to stop Will & Jack to relax and Karen to–literally–find her voice).

    Some people seem to be mad that the Bryan character isn’t immediately likable or think he’s too stereotypical (and Cam on MODERN FAMILY isn’t?). But, by the third episode, he’d grown a heart beneath that facade.

    Granted, I’m apprehensive because this is a show created by (and often written by) Ryan Murphy…and his shows almost always seem to lose me (NIP TUCK after two great seasons, GLEE after one season, AMERICAN HORROR STORY after four episodes). He’s pretty erratic with high highs and low lows. But the cast of THE NEW NORMAL is uniformly excellent.

    But, do we have so many shows that have gay characters in LEADING ROLES that we should be wishing for its failure after just three episodes? I don’t think so. If you don’t like it, stop watching. But stop feeling like you must stomp it out. You don’t want to be lumped into the same chorus as One Million Moms (Minus About One Million), do you?

    Oh, and the kissing between Bartha and Randalls is the most natural and affectionate I’ve seen on TV.

  22. Caliban says

    I don’t think Bryan is that bad. Yes the character is in many ways a gay stereotype but he also has moments of surprising depth that shows he’s something more than just a shopaholic fashion queen and actually quite sweet. The flashback in the 2nd episode that showed them meeting was nice. I watched the 3rd ep last night and the scene at home where Bryan cries after they’d had a run-in with the homophobe at the clothing store was very effective, IMO. Particularly when he reveals a little about his own bullied past, but says he’s not crying for himself by what their child might face. I thought it was a great scene.

    I also think the actors have good chemistry together. They have personality quirks that are annoying but there are those moments when they let down their walls and you finally think, “Oh, NOW I see what the other guy sees in him.” Plus they kiss and show affection in a natural way, which is a nice change from other shows.

    FWIW, Will & Grace seemed to take place in a fantasy world where homophobia, REAL homophobia, was practically non-existent and that was unrealistic.

    I don’t watch a lot of TV, mainly just The Daily Show and Colbert Report, so I’ve never seen Modern Family (or Glee or AHS for that matter) and can’t compare The New Normal with it. Maybe that’s a good thing since I can see for its own merits and aren’t constantly comparing it to other shows or projecting attitudes toward Ryab Murphy on the show.

  23. says

    I’m thoroughly enjoying this show. I hope it runs for years. The characters are warm and likeable – except for Grandma – but you can love to hate her.

    Although it does embrace more than a few stereotypes. We must remember stereotypes start somewhere besides people’s imaginations.

    “Ladypants” (I’m sorry, but that will forever be his name to me now) wouldn’t have any ladypants to wear if there weren’t enough fashionista fem guys buying and wearing such items.

    I think the lead couple is adorable, the banter witty, and the message wonderful.

  24. says

    you know, boys, there’s no sense in continuing to be upset about “stereotypes” if you, yourself, refuse to live as openly and visibly as the so-called “stereotypical” people you’ve chosen to blame for your own insecurities.

    take a lesson from the people you can’t stop hating – learn not to care so much about what others think.

    i think the show has a lot of potential. it’s pretty darn sweet :)

  25. Jerry6 says

    The idea is good, but the script, and subsequent reciting of that script is silly, and embarising to watch and listen to. The actor from “Glee” was terrible there, and his “graduation” has not improved anything. Nice try, but no cigar!

  26. Stacy says

    The show is supposedly to be about promoting the acceptance of minorities in the lead characters, but routinely bashes other minorities, (red heads, lesbians, ethnic jokes). It is a poor example of real gay couples and should be ashamed of their promotion of hate towards of others. This show is for people who make fun of gay people and other minorities…not for people who advocate for their equality and inclusion in a modern society.

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