As part of our Family Friday series, every week we spotlight one family, share the story of their love and send lots of love and support to them from our own huge family all over the world.
Since we've launched our Family Friday series, we've gotten so many beautiful submissions from you and we've been genuinely touched by your stories. Your families are beautiful. Thank you.
We're always amazed by how far our Gay Voices family reaches. Today, we're spotlighting a really special family from the Philippines. Jon and Dustin reached out to us recently to share the beautiful story of the new additions to their family and we could not pass up the opportunity to share them with you here.
Here's what Jon said when he first reached out to us:
On Father's day this year, we became fathers ourselves, and we spent the last 3 months in North Carolina, because our wonderful surrogate agreed to pump breast milk for our children. But now we are heading back to our home in the Philippines. Although neither the Philippines nor North Carolina recognize the legality of our love, we will be forever grateful to our family and friends in both places who continually prove to us that love is not dictated by the law. And to the United States, which does allow people like us to have our own kids.
Amazing, right? Check out our full interview with Jon and his family below and see a great round up of photos of their new family towards the bottom. Meet Jon, Dustin, and their new babies.
How did you and your partner meet?
I met Dustin in the Philippines 8 years ago on the beach. I was invited to an island to teach a yoga class, and while I was walking the beach, a friend asked me to join him in a relay race. As I was sprinting out of the water, I looked back to see how I was doing versus the other team, when I was smitten by the competition. Later in a sunset party at a nearby beach, Dustin brought me a drink and we talked for a bit, but nothing happened between us because I had a boyfriend at the time, and he was still in the closet, it turned out. A year later when my relationship ended, I tried looking for him through common friends, but he had relocated to Chicago.
Fast forward to March 2010, I was in New York to meet my first potential surrogate. While jet-lagging, I saw on Facebook Dustin's name on my training buddy's profile. It said that he lived in NY, so I sent him a message saying, "I don't know if you remember me, but we met six years ago in Boracay. I'm in town for a few days. Drop me a note if you want to get a drink."
Two hours later, I got a reply saying that he did not remember me, that he had moved to Manila, but that he would love to get a drink when I got back. We chatted through Facebook that week, and when I got home, he met me for a cup of tea within an hour of my plane's arrival. We were inseparable since then.
Tell us a little about what it's like living as an out family with new babies in the Philippines.
Well, the babies are not quite 4 months old, so we don't quite know for sure what the future holds, but we have received so much support from our family and friends. The Philippines is a "live and let live" kind of society, though the laws are very much influenced by the Catholic Church. So it remains the only real country in the world without any divorce, (Malta had referendum to legalize divorce two years ago, and the Vatican doesn't quite count as a country by many definitions). Women are still fighting for their reproductive rights to affordable contraception. Abortion is not even in the conversation, and neither is gay rights. But it's not illegal either. Dustin and I are just lucky that we are both self-employed, so we are in no danger of being fired for our orientation.
We had some hiccups dealing with our passport application for the babies at the Philippine consulate in DC. They insisted at first that our U.S. court order and birth certificate which declared us the natural and legal parents was not valid in the Philippines, and that we would need to get a Philippine court order declaring that the surrogate was not the mother and that we were the legitimate parents, but, after consultation with their lawyers in the Department of Foreign Affairs back home, they conceded that what the law does not forbid, it allows, and that they were required to respect the authority of the American birth certificates.
We had similar issues flying home on Philippine Airlines, but again, with a little explaining and patience, all things have been resolved favorably.
North Carolina, where the babies were born, was a mixed bag too. We had no problems whatsoever in Raleigh, but then again, the state did approve Amendment 1, while the twins were in our surrogate's womb.
However, I will forever be grateful to the United States for providing the system that allows gay families like our to grow and thrive. Even if catastrophe happens, and Obama loses and the Democrats are unable to repeal DOMA.
How has your extended family embraced your new nuclear one?
Both of us have had our brothers and sisters and parents come over to Raleigh from the different parts of the US or the Philippines, some for just a weekend, some for three weeks at a time to help with the new family. We could not feel more loved. We've also had several friends make the trip while we were there for three months.
Tell us about your surrogacy process.
We used a surrogacy agency. It's always been in the back of my mind, but when I hit 35, I decided it was time. When I was in NY in November of 2009 for the marathon, I took the opportunity to scout out a few agencies. I went with Growing Generations because they had the best database for egg donors, showing comprehensive medical history and more important than pictures, videos of the women. In March 2010, I met the first surrogate I was to use. Dustin was extremely enthusiastic about being part of a family from day one of our relationship, and he helped me choose our first egg donor. We flew to NY in July to do the transplant, but there was quite the snafu. A few days before we were scheduled to harvest the eggs and fertilize them, but two weeks after the egg donor and surrogate has started taking the proper medications for their respective procedures, the doctor informed us that our egg donor was a carrier of cystic fibrosis. We quickly had to take the blood test to see if we were carriers, and they did not inform us if we were clear until the day before we transferred the embryos into the surrogate. Of course, the agency and the doctor blamed each other for the breakdown in protocol. It was all for naught because the surrogate did not get pregnant, and in the end, we had only one frozen embryo saved. The one good thing that came out of all of this was that we were able to meet the egg donor and confirmed that she was exactly like her profile suggested she was. So no false advertising there.
We met a new surrogate in November, and we did a fresh transfer with a different egg donor at a clinic in L.A. in March. We were extra enthusiastic this time because we loved this egg donor more, she's a beautiful, tall, dark haired lawyer who's into LGBT and animal rights, and our new surrogate had just delivered twins for an Italian gay couple one year earlier. Unfortunately, the first try resulted in a miscarriage and the second in a negative pregnancy result from the beginning.
We met a new surrogate in September, and did our final transfer in November with our remaining embryos, though the one from the first egg donor did not survive the thawing. I remember driving to my sister's home in LA after the transfer and seeing a double rainbow when I stopped from some coffee. True enough, two weeks later, we got the positive pregnancy result, and two weeks after that, we got the best news, two heartbeats.
We flew to Raleigh for the first time in March of this year for the gender determining ultra-sound to find that we had a boy and a girl, as well as to check out a house we would rent for the first three months of their life, while our surrogate Megan so generously agreed to pump milk for us. Her doctor told us that he was expecting the twins to come out by July 11, their 38th week of gestation. He said that if we got back there by last week of June, we'd be fine. I decided to book a flight even earlier than that, leaving Manila on June 18. However, on June 17th, Father's Day, as I was serving dinner to my dad, I got a message from Megan that she was having contractions. We talked, and we both thought that the doctor would just give her the drug to relax that and put her on bed rest, but an hour later, I was told that the doctor decided we were better off just deliver the babies, as they were very well developed for 34 weeks, and he didn't want to give them unnecessary medication. So my dad watched my partner and I stuff clothes into a bag and head straight to the airport. I flew that night, and Dustin flew out the next day. The twins were born just as my plane was taking off, and it took me 23 hours to get to their room in special care, but I made it within their first 24 hours of life.
What makes your proudest of your family?
I'm not ready to be proud yet. We have the delightful and challenging task of bringing up these babies, educating them, and then letting them go. I'll be proud when I see that they grow to be conscientious and respectful individuals who find the great joy in life. But I guess for now, I should be proud about how incredibly committed my partner is to this family, as well as thankful to all my friends and family that have taken turns visiting us and helping with the babies.
Tell us one thing you wish for the future with your family and gay rights in the Philippines.
In my country, gay people having kids through surrogacy will always be an even smaller minority than in the US. But I know a few people who have kids through previous marriages, or through unofficial adoptions. If we do a good job to our children, we will be shining examples that love and responsibility have nothing to do with gender, orientation or religion. As with the US, the more that people identify themselves as gay and show that they are productive members of society with nothing to be ashamed of, the more that governments will have to recognize our rights. And badly written tv shows aside, family is family, love is love.
REMINDER: If you'd like your own family featured on a Family Friday, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember that family is what we make it, so if your family is you and the pack of LGBT folks who you'd go to the mats for, send them over. We want to see them, too.