As a man approaching 40 and one of five siblings, it seemed a bit odd when I asked myself that question. But as a gay man considering starting a family with a partner, but without a uterus or the ability to produce eggs, I needed some answers. And having sex with a woman wasn't one I wanted to hear.
After soul searching and researching and many evenings of deep conversations with my partner, Bill, I ultimately found that babies come from so much more than just a man and a woman: They come from all the people and experiences leading up to that point in your life when you decide to become a parent, from your mother and father, your brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews and nieces, your friends, your friends' kids, even your dog and cat, and from your beliefs, morals and values. I came to believe that children come from everywhere, and this gave me confidence and the conviction to move forward.
Fast-forward four years. We had stopped and started on the idea of adoption about a dozen times, finally realizing that we wanted a biological connection to our kid. We knew that it would be complicated, but that realization was the beginning of our true journey.
That journey had a confusing beginning as we weighed the options open to gay men considering surrogacy: Whom to use? How many eggs to transfer? Traditional surrogacy (where the surrogate herself is the egg donor) or gestational (where one woman supplies the egg and another carries the fetus)?
One ingredient seemed clear: Bill would be the sperm donor. I am from a large family of five kids and have enough nieces and nephews to start a Mormon commune, so I didn't care which of us left his genetic footprint in the little plastic cup. Bill is an only child and wanted to have his genetic line continue. So we embraced the idea of using Bill as the sperm donor, and my 26-year-old niece agreed to be our egg donor. After some serious research and discussions with other clients, we chose to travel with my niece to India for baby making. But after crossing oceans and two failed attempts, it once again became clear that having a baby is complicated, frustrating and, yes, an expensive goal. And so we grappled again with how to make this happen. We fought, getting into terrible arguments about doing this "having a baby" thing. It was a huge strain, and I could see how infertility and the challenges of babydom could tear couples apart.
And then I found a community of people just like me. They were gay, straight, single, married, older, younger, American and international, all in the same exact situation. This is when I knew for a fact that we were going to be dads. I now had an array of supporters out there to pick us up, dust us off and send us back out into the world of TTC (that's fertility lingo for "trying to conceive"). And in turn we reciprocated with encouragement, advice and virtual shoulders to cry on for others in "the process."
And it worked. It worked very well: Last year our online global community welcomed our daughter, Cristina Lei. I had never met these people. But there were dozens if not hundreds of them, all using the power of blogging to empower them to take the next step toward parenthood.
In fact, I wouldn't have had the gumption to pursue parenthood after the failed attempts in India without my blog friends. I still feel that way. Many of these virtual friends are now great real friends (and great parents). They realized their dream because they stuck with it like we did -- because, ultimately, this is a game of odds. As one Australian blogger friend said, "The only people who don't have a baby are the ones that stop trying." That's something I've repeated often, both to myself and when I talk about having kids with others, especially when the road gets bumpy.
On Sunday, May 5, Bill and I and our amazing surrogate will retrace our own six-year journey as we speak at the "Men Having Babies" seminar at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. Our course took us halfway around the world and included a cast of a few dozen players. If I've learned anything during this process, it is that everyone wins when you share your knowledge with others, even if that knowledge is difficult to share. And the funny thing is that I often think that if I had had this resource, this organization for gay men to explore their options when becoming dads, I would have been a 42-year-old dad instead of a 47-year-old one.
But who's counting?