My name’s Logan and I’m a 34 year old ER nurse in Kamloops, BC. I have a husband, a Golden Retriever, and most recently, a baby boy! I moved to Kamloops in 2013 to embark on my nursing degree and within a month, I met Anthony. Anthony is an absolute dreamboat and would later become my husband. Kamloops, with its population of 100,000, has always had a big city feel to me and so when I moved here from my quaint hometown of Williams Lake, I was mildly intimidated by the size, the vibe, and the hustle. And as if it was right out of a romantic comedy (rom-com as I fondly refer to them) Anthony was no Joe-Blow, but rather Mr. Kamloops himself. A well-known, distinguished man around town having opened his first business on the main street in his early 20s, a heavy-hitting fundraiser and event producer, all-around diehard philanthropist, and possibly one of the most social well-liked humans in Kamloops. So it was in complete paradoxical-kismet that Anthony and I met on a raunchy dating app; after all, I do most of my shopping online. He would be mortified to know that…ANY of this… was included in this blog post but alas, it is me behind the keyboard and not he. Besides, his prominence is simply the result of his pure kindness, generosity, and remarkable ethics. But enough about Anthony, because the true star of this story is our son, Spencer.
From Strangers to Husbands
Television in the bedroom? Nuh-uh. Eat meals at the dining room table? Of course. Big wedding and children one day? Obviously. Early on in our relationship, Anthony and I had the less-than-invigorating compatibility conversation where within a matter of minutes we discovered our relationship had a fighting chance! I attribute our successful relationship to our alignment of values; we agree on a lot, and we communicate and compromise on the rest.
As I mentioned, we started dating in my first year of university. After completing my second year, I moved into Anthony’s house. The summer between my third and fourth year, Anthony proposed to me during his annual backyard BBQ; an intimate gathering… of 125 of our closest friends and family. I thought I would be the one to propose. I wanted to be the one to propose. And although forest firefighting over the summer months paid well, by the end of term I had about $300 to my name and my most valuable asset was my Pathophysiology textbook. So when Anthony asked for me to marry him and presented a stunning bracelet, I shouted, “Holy shit, OMG YES yes yes yes!!!!”
And the next summer, on August 12, 2017, we got married in downtown Vancouver. We had 330 people on our guest list (no joke) and I cannot begin to describe how much of a party we had… maybe google “Anthony + Logans Wedding” on Youtube or Vimeo for a guided tour.
So now I’m a nurse and am done with school. We are married. We bought a house downtown Kamloops with room for children… So let’s have some!
Surrogacy – Stigma, barriers, and glass is half full
Anthony and I both wanted children and it took very little discussion to realize this would be achieved through surrogacy. We discussed adoption but decided we wanted our children to look like us. I recall each time a friend, family, or colleague said something to the effect of, “Why surrogacy? Why not adopt, there are children in need?” And the cringe-worthy sensation that shuttered through my body. It is not the sole responsibility of same-sex couples to adopt. Consider the intent versus the impact of the statement. No one suggested we adopt with the intent to hurt our feelings, but the impact was just that; it implies that same-sex couples deserve offspring with a biological connection, less than their heterosexual counterparts – just some food for thought.
While the general concept of surrogacy may be well understood, most people, myself included prior to my own surrogacy journey, know very little of how surrogacy actually works and who is involved. It’s a truly fascinating process and one that I am more than happy to share my experience with. There is often an assumption that Anthony and I paid our surrogate thousands of dollars to carry our child. Or that the surrogate is the biological mother of the child-to-be. But these are both common misconceptions.
I will outline our journey through surrogacy, our expectations, our assumptions, and our outcomes. Anthony and I underwent what is called gestational surrogacy. Gestational surrogacy involves the following components: egg donor, sperm donor, and surrogate. Traditional surrogacy is when the surrogate carrying the child is also the egg donor, so essentially that mother gives up her child as part of the plan. Our egg donor is someone I’ve known for a long time, and believe it or not, Jillian Harris inadvertently helped us locate our surrogate! All parties involved have a couple of sessions with a reproductive psychologist. The egg and sperm donors undergo genetic screening. And the surrogate undergoes a physical exam by a fertility doctor and is ideally a woman under the age of 40, otherwise healthy, has had one successful pregnancy, and is done having children themselves.
Access to a fertility clinic involved our family doctor writing a referral. Unfortunately, you cannot self-refer so you need a family doctor or nurse practitioner to start. The nearest fertility clinic for us is Kelowna Regional Fertility Centre; we are very fortunate to have access only two hours away. Dr. Katherine Wise became our fertility specialist and Bonnie was our nurse navigator.
It wasn’t until our first visit to the clinic that I realized, not everyone at the clinic is as excited to be there as I was. As gay men, Anthony and I knew that in order to have children with a genetic connection, a fertility clinic would be involved. But it was during our first visit to the clinic that I could feel the uncomfortableness, the possible fear that prospective mothers and fathers felt. By taking a step back, and adjusting my lens to a distal view, I can see how some heterosexual couples may have feelings of shame or inadequacy by needing to access fertility services. This realization and awareness of the differential in fertility clinic experiences is a sobering reminder to both be sensitive when discussing one’s infertility and/ or fertility as it may be triggering to some. It also brings to light the works we have to do to help normalize the need to access fertility treatments.
Anyways, back to our journey. Our goal was to have two children, one that is my genetic offspring and another that is Anthony’s, and to not know which one is which. Our children would then technically be half-siblings as they would have the same egg donor; but in our family, we’ll just call them siblings. Jillian knew a lady in Kelowna who had previously been a surrogate for another same-sex couple, Indra. She put us in contact with Indra, who had a friend named Victoria who had expressed interest in being a surrogate for some time. Victoria is a married mother of three and when asked said, “I want to get pregnant and bring another baby into the world, but not bring another baby home.” Anthony and I had an excellent feeling about Victoria from the beginning and were relieved when she reciprocated a similar sentiment. And after meeting, we got the wheels in motion with the fertility clinic and they began their assessments and tests.
One of the assumptions that Anthony and I had about surrogacy and the services that the fertility clinic offered was that there would be some kind of a bank. An egg bank. A surrogate bank. We didn’t know, but we thought at some point we would be rifling through a catalog in a doctor’s office reading profiles and looking at headshots of prospective help in the process of making a baby. This is the source of our first letdown in making a baby; it was 100% up to the two of us to find an egg donor AND a surrogate. And if we wanted to have more than one child, we would have to find two surrogates. We left the clinic feeling defeated at the prospect of the impossible task that lay ahead. Bonnie, our nurse, explained to us that we likely expected an egg bank because there’s such a thing as a sperm bank. But compared to eggs, sperm is inexpensive and hassle-free to collect. While retrieving or harvesting eggs is expensive, requires several weeks of medications prior, and comes along with some risks. But, where there is a will there’s a way. Anthony and I made a list of young ladies we knew who exemplify the two most important qualities in a human; being rich and pretty. KIDDING. But we did make a list and I cold-called a few of our female friends and straight up told them what we were looking for. As a side note, this is becoming my identifiable trait; I don’t think twice about having seemingly impossibly difficult and uncomfortable conversations. I just say it. And no, it does not always work out. But back to the prospective egg donors, they declined although not without some serious thought.
Another assumption that Anthony and I made was that we would be exempt from any required psychological assessments. And it therefore came as a surprise to us when our fertility clinic let us know that everyone involved in surrogacy would have a formal assessment; intended parents (Anthony and myself), egg donor, and surrogate. I said to Anthony, and basically, anyone who would listen, “We are nice, normal, well-adjusted people. I’m almost offended that the clinic requires an evaluation of us by a psychologist.” But after several one-hour sessions with our psychologist, I not only acknowledged the error in my assumptions but came to truly appreciate the work we accomplished. Dr. Towil is our Reproductive Psychologist; a PhD prepared clinical psychologist who specializes in and studies reproductive psychology. She was never assessing our fitness to be parents but instead facilitated discussions that would open our minds and ensure Anthony and I had considered some of the “what ifs.” For example, she encouraged us to consider something she called “levels of transparency.” Children born via surrogacy have a unique story, one that is not captured in traditional discussions about the Birds and the Bees. Levels of transparency essentially refers to how honest we, as intended parents, want to be with our child in regards to how they were created. There’s no right or wrong answer; I could tell my kid that the stork dropped them off if I want. But Dr. Towill’s job was to create a space for this conversation to occur and to facilitate alignment between Anthony and myself. She was very professional and graceful and it was only after a direct question that she answered, “The research shows children objectively have the most stability and success with full transparency.” And that is our plan. We will start with a framework using a metaphor while the children are young, something about daddies wanting a baby but not having all the ingredients. And that making a baby is like making cookies. And so we had to borrow some ingredients from a friend… some ingredients like an egg perhaps!
It wasn’t until I was visiting a long-time friend, one who I hadn’t seen in a while, that I brought up our plan to have children. After telling my story she said, “Well I would carry your baby.”
I was floored. And honored. “That’s incredibly generous of you, but because you haven’t been pregnant before, you aren’t eligible to be a surrogate. Besides, what we need to start is an egg donor,” I replied. “Well then I’ll donate my eggs,” she compromised. Only a handful of my family and inner circle know the identity of our egg donor. We are very close friends and both agreed that ultimately, discretion was the right move. Therefore I cannot describe her in great detail but I can say that she checked off every box on our list. And then continued checking boxes we didn’t know existed.
Egg retrieval is a very controlled and fascinating component of the process. Cessation of any contraceptives or removal of an IUD, reproductive psychologist, blood work and genetic testing, and finally medications and egg retrieval. Dr. Towill, our reproductive psychologist came into the picture again, this time asking questions like, “How would you feel if ten years from now you do not have a family with children like you want. Would this have any impact on your relationship with Logan and Anthony?” Or, “What if you (egg donor) and Logan and Anthony end up having children of similar age? What if they play on the same soccer team or are in the same class at school?” Again, no right or wrong answer but instead just thought-provoking conversations. Once Dr. Towill gave Dr. Wise the green light on our egg donor, we were able to begin the medications. Several medications were used all with different functions. Some stimulated the follicles and caused over-exaggerated growth while others prevented ovulation. There were also several ultrasounds during this time. When the eggs were ready, Anthony and I flew to Vancouver with our egg donor as the egg retrieval happens at the main clinic, Oliver Fertility Centre. The retrieval was a huge success and we harvested 23 eggs. Immediately after retrieval, the eggs are fertilized with our sperm.
Sperm collection happens in the same clinic in Vancouver. I recall the strict rule of not ejaculating for three days prior to collection. Anthony and I each received a plastic specimen cup and the nurse asked if we would like to share a private room to provide a sperm sample. I couldn’t think of anything less romantic; we politely declined. I was guided from the main waiting room down a hallway to a small room with a door… and a lock. In the middle of the room was a medical-grade recliner; one of the green or blue vinyl ones. With a roll of exam-table-paper secured at the head of the chair cascading along the front of the chair along with the seat and down the leg rest. The chair was positioned to view a flatscreen TV mounted on the wall. Graciously, the TV was preloaded to pornhub.com.
We each made a deposit and submitted the specimen cup after triple checking our name and date of birth had been labeled correctly on the cup. In the laboratory, they would have fertilized every egg with our sperm. After which, the goal was to grow the embryo to the day five blastocyst phase and then freeze. We were forewarned that at each step along the way, a percentage of embryos would be culled.
When all was said and done, we were left with nine embryos; five of Anthony’s and four of mine. We were very pleased with this. And in October of 2020, we flew Victoria to Vancouver to transfer our first embryo. It was also around this time that we began considering where our second child would come from. Anthony’s sister, Ashley, had been giving this some serious thought along with her husband, Steven. And we were elated when they agreed to be our surrogate!
Surrogacy – Miscarriage and loss
Miscarriage is a loss. And different people handle loss differently. Often miscarriage is a type of disenfranchised grief where those grieving the loss are not given the space, time, or acknowledgment they need to recover. The miscarriages that Anthony and I experienced through our surrogacy journey did not affect us significantly. I’ve thought a lot about this and I don’t know if it’s because the losses were always very early in the pregnancy? Or if it was because of the very nature of surrogacy, Anthony and I are somewhat removed. We’re not only in a different city than the person carrying our child, we’re in a different relationship. It’s not our wife or partner who miscarried, it’s someone else. Regardless, miscarriages suck for the intended parents AND the surrogate. But each time we got back on the horse and tried again. Victoria had her third embryo transfer in June of 2021 and on February 19, 2022, she gave birth to our son, Spencer. I would like to describe our journey that day as intended-parents while a surrogate delivers your baby but I feel that is a blog post all on its own. But in short, Victoria is a living saint who exemplifies grace, patience, and selflessness. And as an ER nurse who is used to seeing some gnarly things in the hospital, being an active participant in such a glorious process and catching my beautiful baby boy reinstated my love and hope for all things human.
Because our surrogacy journey was becoming quite the saga, spanning several years, we took the motto of full steam ahead in regards to embryo transfers. When Victoria, and later Ashley, were both cleared to be surrogates from both a medical and psychological standpoint, Anthony and I were keen to arrange an embryo transfer ASAP. So as I mentioned, in June of 2021, we had a successful transfer with Victoria, and in November of 2021, we had a successful transfer with Ashley. That’s right! Right now, as I cram to finish this article before the deadline, as my husband and almost-four-month-old sleep upstairs like babies, my sister in-law is carrying baby number two who is due July 24, 2022! Two babies five months apart. It’s almost like it was on purpose.
Again, describing what parenthood is like, what it’s done to me, and how I’ve changed is another article on its own. It’s reorientation. It’s prioritization. And it’s perspective. It’s a new definition of love. It’s 1000 paradoxes and inconsistencies scattered about that band together to create the most chaotic affinity to another human being ever.
This text and these thoughts are my own and in no way are representative of anyone else. I make an honest effort to use inclusive and respectful language. I apologize in advance if I define a “family-unit” poorly or make assumptions such as saying parent versus guardian or other somebody, it is not my intent and I am eager to learn and grow.
Timeline of our Surrogacy Journey
- First appointment at Kelowna Regional Fertility Centre – Spring 2018
- Egg retrieval – June 2020
- Victoria transfer #1 – October 2020
- Victoria transfer #2 – December 2020
- Victoria transfer #3 – June 2021
- Birth day – Spencer Feb 19/22
- Ashley transfer #1 – July 2021
- Ashley transfer #2 – September 2021
- Ashley transfer #3 – November 2021
Since this article was first published, Team Jilly is thrilled to share that Anthony and Logan have welcomed a second baby! Their children are now 10 and 15 months old!