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.
At 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]