The most challenging part of this has been the powerlessness of it all. The fact that no matter what you try to do, you are at the mercy of so many things beyond your control. It can be infuriating, depressing and it is definitely exhausting. But let me take a step back and start at the beginning…so you know where I am coming from.

I have always wanted to have kids – pretty much ever since I was a kid, myself. I never ever imagined I wouldn’t someday become a family. It just felt natural and normal for me as part of life’s journey. When I fell in love and got married (at a very young age of 21!) to my wife in the 1990s, having a family was always part of our plan. Sometimes  life goes in new and different directions…and by the age of 24, I had decided my heterosexuality (and my marriage) was no longer right for me. I came out to my wife, my family, my friends and embarked on a very different path. Being gay has  integral to who I am and I could not be more proud to be part of the LGBTQ community in all its richness & diversity amid all the adversity and hatred we still experience every single day. Gay parenting has become another flashpoint nowadays (more on that later).

Obviously my new path meant the journey to fatherhood would be more complicated…and so it was. Decades would pass before I finally felt I was in a stable enough relationship to make the first steps. I didn’t think I could be a single dad and felt I wanted to have a partner who was equally ready. While I had many wonderful relationships through my 20s and 30s, none would end up ideal or suited to start a family. By the time I was 40, I began to feel the passage of time and that hard decisions and hard choices were needed. Otherwise this dream of mine would stay just that. But what to do? Where to go? Who to talk to? How to pursue my parenting goals? As with many aspects of gay life, there was no guide book or map…I didn’t know any gay dads, none of my friends had expressed any interest in being a parent and there really didn’t seem to be any resources that I knew of off-hand to reach out to. So what to do?

The first breakthrough came in 2015 when I heard about a course offered locally at Toronto’s LGBTQ community centre, known as the 519. It was called ‘Daddies & Poppas 2B’. This was held one night a week where gay men could learn about parenting by those who had been through it. It was a tremendous experience to meet other men who were curious about becoming fathers. During the course, we interacted with one another about this new frontier. We got to meet gay dads, fertility experts, surrogates, lawyers, those who were co-parenting and kids of LGBTQ parents. It was the final step I needed to convince me that this is what I truly wanted. 

But as good as that course was, nothing could have prepared me for the challenges I would face in the years ahead. 

By the time I was actually ready to move forward to the next steps, in other words: in a stable relationship and financially able to do it, it would be late-2019. 

And how to start? To say it’s daunting is a major understatement. Where do you even begin? I remembered the name of one of the fertility agencies that had attended my community centre class and so I called them up for a consultation. The relationship I was in at the time was still fairly new and so instead of going with my partner, my mother agreed to come with me. The clinic was very slick and modern and very professional. I met with one of their consultants who outlined their packages what they offered, and of course the fees involved. it struck me just how expensive the whole process could potentially be. Even if successful on the first try, you were looking at potentially $100,000. I decided to shop around in the next few months and in February 2020 went to another clinic For another consultation. It felt like a better fit, and this time my partner came with me. And so we began the process.

One of the hardest parts of this whole is realizing and remembering that it’s not just you as the intended parent who is involved here. There are so many other players on the ice so to speak. People with their own lives, their own family, their own jobs, different events that come up different priorities and things, of course can always shift and change in terms of their individual lives, almost from the outside. We encountered a lot of setbacks. One of the first parts of the equation is choosing agencies to work with. An agency to help find you an egg donor and then an agency to help find you a surrogate. It strikes me in retrospect that it was never properly explained to me just how challenging that would be. How time-consuming it would be, and how, through the laws of supplying demand, there were many many more would be parents than there are would be egg donors or surrogates. It was my first experience in the so-called hurry up and wait situation that would repeat itself time and time again over the ensuing years.

No sooner did we choose an egg donor agency then we arrived at the challenge of trying to find the right egg donor. Again, this is a situation that the vast majority of people never find themselves in. Who do you choose? What should you be looking for? How accurate are the profiles you read over? Much of the information is self-reported by the would be donor, is it all accurate? How will you ever know? It started to feel a little bit like you are operating in the dark with not a lot of information to go on, crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. We had a lot of false starts on the egg donor side and eventually after about six months, we finally found an egg donor who seemed right for us. She was experienced and had done it before. We had a first set of embryos created at our fertility clinic and then it came time to find a surrogate and again it was back to an agency trying to match with a surrogate out there. It involved putting together a personal profile. What to say about yourself? How much to share? Whether to be serious and professional or light and funny? What do you do in the video you are asked to record? How personal do you get? It’s all very strange and an experience that I had never been through and that, fortunately, most people will never have to go through. 

We did our best to come up with a video that accurately reflected us, our relationship, and why we wanted to be dads. And eventually after many months of waiting and hoping, we were finally connected with a surrogate. At this point it was 2021. We fostered a good relationship with our surrogate over the next few months who we got along with very well. Unfortunately, after four failed transfers over 6 months nothing worked. All four were unsuccessful. We felt defeated, she felt defeated. All that effort for nothing. By the spring of 2022, we were left in the awful situation where we had to say goodbye to our surrogate (upon the advice of our doctor) try and find a new surrogate as well as create brand new embryos (we didn’t have any left).

That meant literally starting all over from square one. We had to find a new egg donor and we had to find a new surrogate. That process would take another year…bringing us into 2023. We finally found a new egg donor after a number of setbacks, some egg donors ghosted us, others seemed perfect but medically were not viable, others had financial expectations that didn’t seem legitimate.

We eventually also found a new surrogate not through our agency but rather through friends who had worked with her before. Unfortunately, after fostering relationship with her for about 10 months, at the last minute, she pulled out saying for psychological and physical reasons, she couldn’t be a surrogate again. She also failed to pass the medical clearance of our fertility clinic.

That meant we had to find a third surrogate to work with, and we went back to the agency to see what the options were. Months and months went by and there were no viable options given to us. Finally, in early 2024 we again found a surrogate through our own private efforts that seem to be a good match.

She has recently been medically cleared and now we are waiting to do our first transfers using eight new embryos that we had created at our fertility clinic.

If we are finally lucky and the stars finally aligned, we may have a successful pregnancy in early 2025. That would mean a process of more than five years. One fraught with significant psychological and emotional impact as well as a financial burden well in excess of $150,000.

It’s been told to me many times by many people that once we are holding a little baby none of this will matter and  I think that’s totally true. I have a number of gay friends who have successfully become parents with far fewer challenges and far faster. It’s hard to know why it didn’t work out like that for us. We followed all the advice, ticked all the boxes, explored all the options, never gave up. 

But it’s clear to me now why some couples do –

For psychological, financial or other reasons. Sometimes it’s just too much to bear or afford.

It’s still hard sometimes not to get resentful or bitter. But as we all are set to begin all over again with a new journey and a new surrogate,

I am trying to be as zen as possible about it.

And trying to share my story with as many would-be LGBTQ parents as possible so they can go in with their eyes fully wide open.