This past October, Lyndsie and I welcomed a beautiful baby boy, our son Eddie. He came into our lives, took his first breath, and ever since he has showered us with enough belly laughs to make his father blush. The three of us have lived happily ever after. The end.
If only it was that easy to realize that ending.
For years, we wanted our own family but we struggled with unexplained infertility, a challenge that weighs on thousands of couples every day. (Fact: Infertility affects one in eight couples). We wanted answers and exhausted our resources in that search. We were consumed by the hope that tomorrow was finally going to be the day that we could celebrate good news. We had so many tomorrows that it was impossible for us to know that, on an equal number of todays, we were absorbing each other's sorrow so that neither of us had to carry the burden of not knowing if having children would be possible. Looking back, we needed each other to survive a day-in, day-out struggle to understand why this was happening to us. Hope was faint, but hope was there nonetheless.
We saw doctors in Chicago.
We saw doctors in Ohio.
We saw doctors in Colorado.
And finally, we saw doctors in Florida.
In between our heartbreak and shoulder shrugs from medical professionals, we depended on a constantly renewed belief that the next consultation, the next test, the next procedure, or the next phone call would deliver good news. Most of the time, there were more questions than answers. And even when we did get answers, they were frequently devastating. We had become accustomed to expecting bad news, grieving in our own way, picking ourselves up, and moving on to the next possible treatment.
Infertility can make any couple feel lonely. Not in the most literal sense, but because sometimes you feel like you can talk to your family and friends about anything, except for this. It is never easy and, frankly, exhausting to only have bad news to share when asked. Very often, failures remained our secret. In time, we discovered that revealing our disappointments did not cost us any control of our situation. In fact, we felt empowered and we found enormous relief and empathy in couples with comparable difficulties. Opening up about a perceived vulnerability is a personal decision and one that we did not come to lightly. And, while we are glad we did, we regard anyone's choice to maintain their privacy as more important than the one we made to speak up.
There is just not enough space here (or your time that it would demand) to explain every step of our long walk to parenthood, but we have shared our experience privately and publicly, and will continue to do so. There is a short version that I will disclose here. After years of anguish and a constant commitment to each other that we would try "one more time," we had a breakthrough. Thanks to medical advancements and the expert care of the doctors and staff at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine, our hope was no longer simply an idea. It had become something we could see. In our minds, we were going to have a family. In vitro fertilization (IVF) and, eventually, surrogacy had taken our hope and, in return, given us the opportunity to have our own biological child. My genetics. Lyndsie’s genetics. One embryo. Carried by a bold and fearless woman who has since become family to us. My wife’s courage and our surrogate’s grace revealed to me the strength of humanity and the power of compassion. If either quality was not present, we would not have our family. It is that simple. We will be forever grateful and honored to live among the known and overlooked heroes whose bravery paved the way to making Eddie's life possible. He is only five months old now, but I can't comprehend our lives without the adventures that we have already shared. Imagining that I would have never known my sweet Eddie is a heartbreaking reality to consider.
Every infertility experience is unique. But because we met so many people along the way who were similarly situated and fighting the same battle, we know that the emotions are the same. We made the commitment that if we could help just one couple by talking about our experience, it will be worth sharing every detail. We did that before we met our son and we will be doing it long after he wants us to drop him off a block from school.
We were lucky. Our fortune to hold our little boy and the privilege of being his parents is not, and will never be, lost on us. We were the recipients of such incredible care and kindness. Our happiness does not erase the memories of each couple we met along the way who may or may not still be searching for answers. We have wondered for years how we could ever play a small part in raising awareness for this fight or how we could repay so many strangers, friends, and family members for the stability they provided us. So, we found ways to make ourselves available to couples going through a similar struggle. And then we identified and partnered with the organizations whose purpose is to support those that want to start (or expand) their families but can’t. Overwhelmed with gratitude, we feel it is our responsibility to give back to the agencies, attorneys, medical professionals, and the infertility community that lifted us up when confusion and isolation brought us to our knees.
This is not just a personal pursuit for me. Beginning last year, I dedicated my professional life to protecting the rights of intended parents in surrogacy arrangements and all of the individuals who give of themselves to help those who want a family. In addition to representing intended parents, surrogates, and donors, I have committed to advancing the policy causes that endeavor to preserve and advance reproductive rights. That means protecting the assisted reproductive technology movement while also advocating against irresponsible legislation that could make fertility treatments like IVF illegal.
Currently, in matters of surrogacy, there is no uniformity in the way that the law views a parent's relationship with their own biological child. Some states, like Illinois and Florida, are permissive states and surrogacy-friendly. But others, like New York and Michigan, forbid compensated surrogacy and even subject those entering these agreements to criminal penalties. Lyndsie and I were comforted and blessed by an attorney who was a calm and reassuring hand in a complicated, inconsistent, and evolving legal environment. My commitment is the same - to provide counsel and protect the rights of all parties to third-party reproduction agreements.
This is not a solicitation. I am sharing this with you because it is important to us that we are a confidential resource to others who don’t know where to turn. My mission is simple – I was once an intended father, but I will forever be a champion of assisted reproductive technology, its developing law, intended parents, and all of the selfless individuals who help make families possible. The law is complex, but it doesn’t have to be.
Thank you so very much for reading this. My continued hope is that as men and women struggle privately with infertility while managing the burning desire to have a family, they will eventually know an environment where the law will not stand in their way.