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Modern Family Thinks My Family is “Creepy”

I guess there’s one episode of “Modern Family” I won’t be showing my kids after all.

In this week’s episode, Mitchell, Cam, Phil and Claire all got really drunk, and Claire came up with a crazy proposition.  What if she donated an egg, Cam fertilized it and a surrogate carried the baby?  Then her gay brother and his partner could have a child who was related to both of them.  It sounded so beautiful.

It was all very familiar to me, because my partner Drew and I had the exact same idea a few years ago.  We debated it and dismissed it, but then Drew’s sister Susie came to us independently with the same suggestion.  What if she gave us her eggs?  Hmm… what if?

On “Modern Family”, the notion didn’t seem so perfect once everyone had sobered up.  They decided not to go through with it.

As for Drew and me, our twins will be two and a half years old this Friday.  They were conceived using Susie’s eggs and my sperm and were carried by a surrogate.

I always knew the decision Drew and I made (not to mention Susie) wouldn’t be right for everyone.  So why, when it wasn’t right for a group of fake people on a TV show, did it feel like such a punch in the gut?

As the episode, titled “Aunt Mommy”, unfolded, the characters used words like “creepy”, “inbred” and “freak show”.  I turned to Drew and said, “They’re talking about us.”

It’s hard to accept that anyone might judge our family because of the way we created it.  Harder still to see that judgment coming from such a progressive, gay-positive TV show.

And it hurt.

We never get reactions like that when we tell people our story.  It doesn’t matter if they’re close friends or complete strangers.  They always remark about how wonderful it is, how moved they are by Susie’s gift and how lucky they think our kids are.  That’s what they say to our faces, at least.  Who knows how they really feel?

I will say that there was nothing that came up on “Modern Family” that we didn’t ponder ourselves before we decided to have kids in our nontraditional way.  And, given more than 22 minutes to ponder the topic, our soul-searching ran a lot deeper.  We went through all the same emotions and fears – Was this creepy?  Was it fair to Susie?  To Drew?  To the kids?  Drew’s own brother told us that having a baby with Susie’s eggs would be “effed up”.  That alone almost made us reconsider.

We kept talking about it, though.  We wrote Susie a heartfelt letter laying all our feelings bare.  We flew her out to LA to have therapy with us.  We obsessively dissected every angle of the scenario we were creating:

Would Drew feel like less of a dad because we used my sperm and not his?

Would Susie have trouble watching us raise a child she was biologically bonded to?

Would the kids feel that Susie was their mom and Drew their uncle, because that’s what biology seemed to suggest?

How would the world see us?  Would people be uncomfortable with our story or, worse, with our kids?

I wish I could say that talking everything through brought us complete clarity, and that’s why we decided to go ahead and make our babies together.  But that’s not true.  We knew that making a baby this way would be messy, that we were venturing into uncharted territory.  We feared we were doing the wrong thing.

We also thought there would be something very special about our family.  We liked knowing that we could someday tell our kids the unique, incredible story of how they were born.  We imagined how special they’d feel knowing what Aunt Susie had done for them, how wonderful it would be to create life out of such a pure gift of love.

Drew’s brother came around eventually.  Susie convinced us that she was emotionally prepared for what lay ahead.  And in the end, with our families’ support, I guess we rolled the dice.

As a result, there are two tiny human beings who live in my house.  They fight and cry.  They sing songs from their dads’ 80s mixes and songs they’ve made up in their heads.  They pour yogurt in their hair.  They make us laugh.  They cost a fortune.  They’d eat cupcakes 24 hours a day if we let them.  They hug and kiss and say, “I love you.”  They’re ours.

And they wouldn’t be here if not for my love for Drew, and Susie’s love for her brother.

That doesn’t make the doubts go away.  In some ways, it makes them worse.

Every day, I feel guilty that Susie doesn’t get to be our kids’ mommy.  I see bits of her in our children – their features and their personalities – and I feel like she deserves more than our arrangement provides her.  I struggle wondering about the pain she must feel when she says goodbye to them, when Drew and I make different parenting choices than she would and about the tiny sting she must feel when the kids call her “Aunt”.

I feel bad for Drew, too, like I got something that he didn’t get, a bond he might not feel quite as strongly as I do.  I worry that the kids will treat us differently when they’re old enough to understand how they came into the world.  I fear that they’ll view Drew as less of a dad.

I fear for my kids, too.  Have we doomed them to being outsiders, anomalies of nature the world will never fully appreciate or understand?

These aren’t issues we addressed and resolved.  They aren’t emotions that will ever go away.  They’ll be with us forever.  It’s the path we chose, and a bit of ambiguity was part of the deal.

I don’t know how my family will evolve over the next 5 or 10 years or how my kids will feel as they grow up.  But I know they’ll always be loved.  If there’s one thing I can do, it’s to make sure they know that.

… and also, to do my best to educate everyone else.  As long as anyone out there thinks we’re “creepy” or a “freak show”, I need to keep sharing our story.  (Say what you will, but we’re not inbred.  Susie isn’t even my sister-in-law, let alone my sister.  Drew and I aren’t legally married.  Thanks, Prop 8.)

My family may not seem normal to everyone else, but it’s our normal, and if it wasn’t how we were, we wouldn’t be us.  I never have a moment of regret for how our kids came into the world.  I’m grateful for it every day.  We’re not perfect, and at times things still get a little messy, but we’re a family.

I guess, in the end, a post-Modern one.

139 comments on “Modern Family Thinks My Family is “Creepy”

  1. Lovely for two children to have two loving parents. In Australia we have a saying “She’ll be right Mate” and I’m sure it will be. Your family is different to mine but mine is different to others and so on. But your family does make interesting reading thanks for sharing it with us.

    • I’m sorry that Modern Family used language like that about the idea of creating a family in the way that you did. You and Drew and Susie gave each other and your extended family a wonderful gift, the gift of those two sweet children. Families form in all different kinds of ways, and your blog helps everyone (including, probably, you yourself) see how ordinary and recognizable the day to day living of one slightly unusual family is. Anyone who can’t recognize aspects of themselves in your great stories (and rejoice in the obvious love that you all share) isn’t paying attention. Thanks for sharing with us!

      • Thanks. It makes me hopeful to think that blog readers are so positive about our family. The “creepy” thing is a natural reaction, just like when Drew’s brother felt that way. (He could not be a more supportive and loving person, btw.) I’m glad that people who know us best – and who read about us most :) – can appreciate how we got past “creepy” and saw something beautiful in creating a family this way.

    • Thanks. I’m glad people are interested in hearing about our lives. It’s bound to open some minds… and in so doing, make the world a better place for my kids. It’s win-win! I really appreciate your comment.

  2. My first honest reaction to reading about how you decided to create your family was “what a neat idea!” I think it’s great that you’ve found a way for both of you to be related to your children, and I’m sure the fears you listed should prove unfounded in the future. More power to you!

    • Thanks so much. I think what unnerves some people about making brother-in-law, sister-in-law babies (for lack of a better term) is the thought of doing it themselves, and it’s definitely not for everyone. To be honest, I have a sister, too, and when I thought hypothetically about using her eggs and Drew’s sperm, it made me a little uncomfortable. I don’t think we ever could’ve done that, and my sister has said she wouldn’t have felt comfortable with it either. Maybe part of it is that my sister already has kids of her own. For some reason, with Susie, it just felt more right. The dynamic between the three of us was just perfect to make this work.

      • jerry, i don’t know you or have previous knowledge of your family, but your brother’s and the show’s reactions mystify me. you are far from unique in the way your children were conceived hell, i was adopted my my father’s cousin, since my natural parents were both abusive drunks. trying to figure out my family genogram give me a big fat headache, but that’s about the only negative in the real world. i think that makes my adoptive father wither my second cousin or first cousin once removed, i always forget which is which.

        if one is going the surrogacy route, i can think of nothing more special and more more loving than knowing that in one way or another these children are “flesh of your flesh” in biblical terms, or more scientifically, their dna would show them as related to both of you.

        a saying i learned in aa, what other people think of me is none of my business. or as bette midler put it, fck em if they can’t take a joke.

      • Thanks for sharing your own story. Families are pretty messy, not just mine or yours, but pretty much all. Still, they can be highly functional if they’re built on love. Wasn’t that supposed to be the theme of Modern Family? And I love how you quote both AA and Midler. Clearly, you’ve learned from the best! :)

    • Yes, but it was hard not to feel judged by the show. The producers probably didn’t give much thought to actual families created this way. (I’m sure there are very, very few of us.) But it made me a little sad to think that a show that’s done such wonderful things to promote tolerance could in any way spark intolerance against my family, even if inadvertently.

      • That’s what I felt – Modern Family has done so much for so many families and the understanding of gay parenting – how could they get it so wrong. If they had talked about it not being right for them, and why, that would have been the right way to do it. But to put negative connotations on WHY it was not rigt for them, that’s where they crossed the line.

        There is no guide to parenting or who can make babies. What is the “right” way for me is not going to work for other people. It’s a personal decision.

        I’m glad that you are so cognizant of your sister-in-laws feelings because those will always be growing and changing.

        You are blessed to have each other and we are blessed to have you. Thanks for opening up your life and encouraging dicussion.

      • Yes, I agree. Evolution is not fair especially socially. I deal with this every minute I am awake. And even in dreams I still can’t escape the reality others create for me. Read my blog, and you will understand. I am learning minute by minute to tolerate even intolerance. I believe we are all connected. You write very well. I am drawn to your stories because I can sympathize. You don’t have to agree. You don’t have to read any of my posts or comments. Television is a distortion. I knew this by about 8 years old. But somewhere, there is still something that we can connect with, however small that connection is. What are your thoughts?

  3. I suppose, like every other show, Modern Family needs to polarise and shock in order to receive the attention they need to sell advertising space. Even if they are generally pro-gay, that means that they will sometimes, inadvertently or on purpose, use thoughtless polemics. I am very sorry you were at the dismissed end of this episode, and, as all of your followers will confirm, you are in no conceivable way creepy or weird. As was said before, I actually find your arrangement wonderful, a token of family love.
    I know, this will not take away your worries, or Susie’s, but if you look at the millions of eggs a woman grows, and how many of them never get the chance to live, it is actually kind of strange to think of an egg as ‘your child’. Same goes for sperm. I mean, hubby and I often joke that in the process of trying to make a baby, we are actually ‘killing’ millions of her brothers and sisters.
    Don’t let a stupid slip in an otherwise great show make you doubt your decisions, or even worsen your worries. You are doing the right thing because you love your children and your partner. Period.
    And now you will have to excuse me, I will have to tend to my ‘inbred’ child. After all, he was conceived with my husband’s sperm, and in our wedding vows we said: ‘What yours is, is mine.’ Do the maths. Ewwww!

    • Ha! Thanks, Sandra. I could never really doubt my family now that my kids are here. I love them so much and couldn’t imagine life without them. It just hurt to hear those words from a show I think so fondly of. It was like overhearing a friend say something mean about you behind your back.

      I’m glad you and your husband have such a progressive view of reproduction. I agree. But I also don’t begrudge anyone the right to feel possessive over their eggs or sperm. Everyone is free to do with theirs as they wish – to share them, keep them to themselves or decline to use them at all. We are incredibly fortunate that Drew has such an amazing and generous sister.

      I don’t mind that these TV characters decided a setup like ours wouldn’t work for them. They’re different people (and not even real people, of course). I just wish they hadn’t used such hurtful language. But that’s why I blog – and they just encouraged me to keep at it and keep changing minds.

  4. I thought of you two as I was watching last night’s episode. I’m thinking… “Uh-oh. That sounds a little familiar….”

    That must have hurt. It’s probably my favorite sitcom ever, but that episode definitely hit a couple of wrong notes. Your kids are very lucky to have the dads and the aunt they do.

    • Thanks, Al! I’m also a huge Modern Family fan, which is why it hurt, of course. It doesn’t change my opinion of the show, and I imagine the people involved would feel terrible to know that the way they wrote the episode did anything to hurt a real-life family in a similar situation. I just felt like I needed to respond. I’m still a fan and overall, they’ve done far, far more to promote tolerance toward families like mine than they have to make us feel like outsiders. I’ll keep watching.

  5. Lucky kids to have come from such love. Lucky you to have such supportive family. And lucky world to have a family that is bringing such intentional love to this earth! Your kids might wonder but at least every direction they look they’ll see and feel love!

    • Well put, Bernadette. I’m pretty sure my kids will understand and respect our family as they grow up. I just hope they don’t see this episode someday and feel hurt by it… or that their friends see the show and agree with the characters. Mostly, I feel protective of them… like a parent should. :)

  6. I was so excited when I saw the promos because I thought they were going to replicate your story. And throughout the whole episode, I kept thinking they would all come around and realize that using Claire’s eggs was a viable option. I even started to nitpick the storyline to come since it didn’t make sense because Claire’s eggs were probably not good candidates due to her age. But now I’ll miss nitpicking that storyline.

    You should write the cast and/or the writers. Ha, or call if you know them. I may just have to tweet Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

    • Yeah, I also thought they’d end up dismissing Claire as a candidate because of her age, not because the idea weirded them out. Someone else already tweeted JTF with a link to the post, but feel free to do so, too!

  7. Stop watching TV…..

    Who cares where kids come from as long as they end up in the hands of loving parents, such as yourselves.

    We’re in the millennium here…screw the weird , creepy people who can’t see past their small minds…

  8. I thought of you as I watched this episode and wondered what you thought. Thanks for another great post.

    If every family was started with as much love, preparation, care and intention as yours the world would be a much better place.

  9. I definitely thought of your family last night while I was watching. But it seems to me that you and your partner and a lot more chill than Cam and Mitchell, and from what I have read of your story, Susie is nothing like Claire. I hope you all weren’t too offended. When they were coming up with the idea (while drunk) I was laughing hysterically. However, I totally think that your situation is VERY cool. What a great way to ensure that Bennet and Sutton really are a part of both of you.

    • Thanks, Lizzie. We are definitely different people, all 3 of us, and I know that the way we created our family isn’t right for everyone. That doesn’t change the fact that it was right for us. Susie actually texted after the show and said the same thing you did – “We’re so much cooler than them”.

      The tough thing is that we have so little precedent for what we did, we really weren’t sure how the world would react. And it was rough getting that kind of reaction from a source we so admired and enjoyed. I’m so proud of my family, though. No TV show will change that.

  10. Every family is different. Opinions differ on a LOT of things. Judgment, however, is not fair. Anyone who is not in the situation does not know enough to make a judgment of it. And family is family. And yours is beautiful. And if that’s weird or creepy, then whatever.

  11. Wow, I am disappointed with the writers of that show. What were they thinking?

    My partner and I have discussed doing this in the future. We’ve thought of all of the angles you’ve mentioned. There wouldn’t be a huge target audience, but a book about this experience would be meaningful – have you considered laying out the experience for others to learn from?

  12. i started to cringe a little inside watching last night’s episode as the “weird” and “creepy” comments kept coming. the writers/producers must know that many gay parents have used a brother or a sister as a donor to have kids. it definitely seemed unnecessary in making the point that they were not comfortable with the idea, and alienating to viewers who have chosen that option. it’s particularly disappointing when a gay positive/inclusive show goes about the business of othering certain lgbt folks. i know i was personally bummed out about a comment mitchell made in one episode that made light of trans people.

    • Yes, it’s disappointing. I’m sure that was a real life-inspired plotline, because we’re not the only family who have done this. I know sitcom characters are supposed to be flawed people – part of what makes them funny – but when they use language that derides other LGBTs, I’m not sure middle America is getting the message that this is just Mitchell or whoever speaking. It tells people, “Oh, I guess it’s OK for me to say things like that about trans (or whatever) people.” Very unfortunate.

  13. I’ve never heard of that TV show and probably wouldn’t watch it if I had because I really don’t care much for TV. Let’s face it, TV shows never have the time or the guts to really explore a sensitive topic like why/how to make a baby.

    I think making a baby is a messy endeavor no matter who the couple (or whatever) are. Where people mess up is when they assume that they can think through ever possible scenario and thereby avoid all the potholes so they can somehow raise perfect little children. But life happens. Kids are composed of random possibilities and they enter the world with random potentials. The best parents can plan for is to try to be financially solvent and to love and respect each other and their kids. There are no roadmaps for success or appropriateness….in my humble opinion.

    • Thanks for the comment. I agree with you about the complexities of making families. I’m actually a huge TV fan, though – and a huge fan of Modern Family in particular. It’s very popular, very influential and has done amazing things to open people’s minds about different kinds of families. It’s what TV does at its best… and it’s also why it hurt so much to see them be so closed-minded this week.

  14. As many of your posts do, i was brought to tears–in a happy way–in a contemplative way–here is what i think–if half the parents in this world thought as deeply as you all did before conceiving their kids wouldn’t the world be a better place? i think so–good for you

  15. My stomach turned as I sat watching the show realizing that they got it all wrong. I wanted to cry knowing how magnificent your little family is and how your little ones look so happy in every picture you post of them. How can anyone judge something that they obviously know so little about. It is unfortunate that some feel that there is only one appropriate formula for love, or family, or marriage. If there is a higher power, they must be smiling right now knowing that this world is a better place because special people make totally unselfish decisions that create beauty in this otherwise ugly world.
    Keep writing Jerry!
    Grace

  16. Biology has some pull, yes, but I don’t think they’ll view your husband as less of a father because it wasn’t his sperm. My son’s bio father is complete crap (always behind on his child support, never took care when we were together etc), and my current SO does so much more for him. They play and bond and he really cares. One day my son will see the difference in the two, and be glad he has a “real father” around.

    This is one time I think nurture beats nature. Kids love the people that love him, not the half of genetics they came from. :)

    Your story is awesome.

    • Thanks, Andrea. I know you’re right, but it’s good to hear it. Ironically enough, your family’s situation has been covered quite nicely by… Modern Family. They’ve shown Manny’s bio dad to be kind of a loser, yet he still ends up looking like a hero to the kid, which really hurts Jay. You may see some of that with your kid’s bio dad – he’ll be blind to the guy’s flaws at times – but in the end, you’re right. He’s going to know who really loved him and took care of him, and who his “real father” is. Thanks for sharing your story!

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  18. I really loved your story and had just watched the episode as well. Me and my partner have also had this conversation and would like to go this route when we are ready for kids. I too also felt hurt by the “freakshow” comments. I just couldn’t understand how this show, of all pro-gay shows, would be so unforgiving of those comments. Especially when this seems, at least to me, a highly discussed option among gay couples. Again, thank you for sharing your wonderful and beautiful story.

    • Thanks, Cynthia. Glad to hear you’re considering similar options. Don’t let the show – or my occasional conflictedness – dissuade you. I love my family, and I’m proud of how we made it. If you have any questions along the way, I’d love to help! Good luck!

  19. Hi, here via a tweeted link, I have 2 friends who share your story, the sister of one donated the eggs and the non related Dad the sperm, that was almost 15 years ago and the family is happy all around (well, there are the usual teenage issues), there were some issues with some parents when the kids started school, one kid was removed from the school because the parents couldn’t accept a family of 2 Dads, the rest fortunately gave it a go (and have no regrets).
    Good luck with your family, to me it’s not creepy or wrong

    • Thanks for sharing that. I’m glad your friends made it work and so happy to hear that the kids are doing well. Society still has some catching up to do, but the more people are open about who they are and what makes their family, the faster we’ll get there. :)

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  21. Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you. As a lesbian trying to navigate the initial steps towards parenthood, finding this blog may have rescued my/our sanity from the brink. Phew.

  22. “And in the end, with our families’ support, I guess we rolled the dice.”

    Isn’t that sort of the same as everyone? I’m a single gay lady in my mid-twenties, currently looking into my pregnancy options. The thing that keeps striking me is how overwhelming the pressure is to do things perfectly. Friends, and even acquaintances don’t hesitate to say “well have you thought of this?” or “you wouldn’t want to do THAT, THAT would be messed up!” when I talk about my plans. Meanwhile, for the last five years, straight friends have been making babies in all sorts of different situations, some less than ideal, and they are congratulated for pulling themselves together and making it work. A few months ago my dad flat out said to me “you’re going to marry a man before you have kids, right? don’t you think children need strong male role models?”

    I think the way you created your family is beautiful because it worked for you, and because you took time to consider it carefully. I’m sure as they get older, your children will feel messed up about some of the choices you’ve made for them (all kids do at some point!) but it seems unlikely it would be such a carefully made one.

    I don’t know, even the most “progressive” show is just entertainment at the end of the day. I can totally see how that would be difficult to watch, though. I recently watched the old “lesbian wedding” episode of friends, and found myself thinking the entire time “oh my god. all these jokes are about me.” Not the best feeling ever…

    • Very well said, Katherine. Gay families are definitely held to a different standard, mostly as you said, because there’s always so much planning involved. There’s never an, “Oops!” moment, after which everyone just has to make the best of it. Just do what’s right for you. You’ll learn when you become a parent that everyone judges every parenting choice you make. Having them butt their noses into your pregnancy options is a good warm up. Now’s the time to practice saying, “Thanks for your opinion, now buzz off!” :)

      • Thanks so much! I am getting better at it already. At first I was honestly surprised that even close friends, that I think of as progressive and share so many opinions with, have such strong opinions on what I “must” or “must not” do.

        I love reading about you and your family. :)

      • Katherine, many women choose to have a child on their own, lesbian or otherwise. If it is what you want to do, do it! I was raised by a single mom. She was straight, but she was judged for every decision she made from the moment she got pregnant to the day she died. You can’t please everyone. You can only make the right decisions for your life. I am married, and have a 9 month old daughter. I am judged constantly by family and friends for the decisions I make every day in raising our little girl. Just this weekend my mother-in-law threw a tantrum because I gave my daughter steamed broccoli for dinner. You would have thought I was feeding her Mcdonald’s. She was afraid my daughter was going to choke. Unless these people are going to be up with you at 3 am changing diapers they have no right to comment on how you make a baby. I wish you courage and strength in your journey to become a parent and even more so once that baby is in your arms.

  23. Jerry, believe me when I say that my forthcoming opinion is not biased by our friendship.

    I finally caught the Modern Family episode last night. Here’s my take:

    Sit-coms are sit-coms because they don’t really evolve. The plot may hint that a main character is going in a whole new direction (be it Sam Malone selling the bar or Cindy Brady running away from home forever), but by the end of the 22 minutes, things in the sit-com universe always return to status quo.

    In the MF episode, the writers came up with the whole Claire egg donation thing. Great! they thought. Let’s run with it. But, afraid to mess with the formula of a show that already has stellar ratings, they had to manufacture a way to return things to normal in the last 15 minutes. Hence the whole “creepy” and “Appalachian” plot twist.

    Both Tineke and I found it VERY manufactured. I rolled my eyes when Gloria came out against it. So out of character for her.

    When I first heard of your arrangement, my thoughts were, how PRACTICAL, how FORTUNATE. And I imagine anyone not homophobic would have similar thoughts.

    The whole incest creep out thing–if it even exists in the real world–is just silly and another manifestation of homophobia.

    Riddle me this: Two brothers. Both married. One is infertile. Maybe as a result of a war injury. He asks his brother to donate sperm to artificially inseminate his wife. Is that is not a story that America would embrace? If Modern Family called that scenario creepy, the network would get so much hate mail. Yet genetically, is it any different from yours? Sure we removed the gay factor, but in Modern Family that wasn’t the issue.

    Anyway, let your kids watch the episode some day. Let them pick it apart, prove it wrong, see how sometimes even a good show can go wrong.

    – E

    • Thanks, Eric. Someone paid attention in film school! ;)

      You’re right, of course. They had to find a way to dismiss the storyline, with as much finality as possible. That’s all they were really doing. On some level, it’s not fair to apply politics to sitcom formula. I’ve bristled in the past when an “interest group” has complained about an offhand remark that Chandler or Kramer made, thinking they’re taking it all a little too seriously. Then again, it’s a show that’s made “modern family” its theme, and in that sense, it came off as awfully regressive.

      In the end, I’m not trying to tell one of the best writing staffs on TV right now how to make their show. I just wanted to post my personal reaction and to let other people know that I’d appreciate a little more open-mindedness about my family than Modern Family showed.

  24. First, thank you so much for sharing your story. Modern Family is one of our favorite shows but this past week’s episode left my wife sobbing and me with a pit in my stomach. After the episode I scoured the web looking for outrage but found only your amazing story. Ours is different of course, we are a happily married heterosexual couple who don’t have to deal with the horrible inequality issues that plague the LGBT community but your story touched me and I wanted to share ours.

    My wife has stage four endometriosis and is unable to produce viable eggs. After many IVF trials her fraternal twin sister stepped in and selflessly donated her eggs and now we have two beautiful twin baby girls. We love more than life itself. I never considered anyone objecting or making fun of our situation but when Sofia Vergara’s character Gloria said “It’s a freakshow” it cut me like a knife. I was hurt, protective of my children’s feelings, heartbroken for my wife and horrified that others might take this view on my family. It’s our business of course and I am one to preach “Who cares what people think” but what struck me was a television show based on tolerance and unconditional love from one’s family would take such a caustic and insensitive tone towards an issue that is becoming more common than not.

    We talked about donor eggs but when her twin sister offered hers it was a no-brainer to us. We spoke with a psychologist but never gave it much thought as to her sister being an aunt-mommy (which is the title of the episode – mean) nor my sister-in-laws son being their half-brother. My wife has struggled and still struggles with the notion our girls are not 100% hers. They are of course, it takes more than just an egg to be a mom. She carried them, gave birth to them, and genetically it’s the closest thing and best possible outcome but it’s still difficult and always will be. I love Modern Family and want to continue watching but now every time I see it I know I’m going hear “freakshow” and “creepy” in the back of my head. I don’t know if I can continue, it sincerely hurt my feelings and crushed my wife. I expected this from Family Guy but not Modern Family.

    Thank you again for sharing and for opportunity to do the same.

    • Thanks so much for writing and sharing your family’s story, Steven. It really makes me happy to hear of other families created under similar circumstances to ours. Your email did more to cheer me up than 1,000 episodes of a TV show ever could. Sounds like your wife and my partner have something incredible in common – a really loving, generous sister.

      It makes me even madder at Modern Family. They didn’t need to use such hurtful language. I hope the creators hear stories like ours and realize that there’s something beautiful — and wonderfully modern — about intrafamilial egg donation (I just made that term up).

      I hope you and your wife can get past the show’s insensitivity. I’m so appreciative for my family that if a little small-mindedness is the price we pay, then so be it. I’m sure you can relate.

      All the best.

  25. De-lurking to tell you that I watched Modern Family this past Wednesday and thought it was a beautiful idea!!! They were being so silly with their sober reactions, and I felt I’d have reacted more like they did when they were drunk! I actually cried watching that scene, as goody & drunk as it was. It was such a dumb episode and kind of a step back from what I thought they were trying to accomplish with their “progressive” families. IMHO. I love the way you and Drew have decided to incorporate both of your genes. I’m sorry you have these fears and doubts. I’m a straight woman with a daughter who is biological to both my husband & I and we have tons of fears and concerns and what ifs surrounding raising her. We all have them, as parents. Sure, they’re different concerns & fears but we have them nonetheless. I think you made a beautiful decision! You’re a true modern family! :-)

    • Thanks, Nissa! We’ve received nothing but support from our friends and loved ones – and now from blog commenters, too. So far, Modern Family is the only dissenter. :)

      I think you’re right – whatever doubts I have are just a variation of the doubts every parent has.

  26. I hope that, much like the show Parenthood, Modern Family will continue this story arc, and come around to “right.” What I mean is, Parenthood has an adoption story arc, in which a couple is looking to adopt. At the beginning, they say some pretty ignorant things about the process (that, as an adpotive parent really rubbed me the wrong way), but you come to realize as the show progresses that they are simply nervous, anxious, and speaking in a flip way couples often do. They’re learning and growing.

    It is my genuine hope that Modern Family has a similar progression. If not, though, it is no reflection on you. You have a beautiful and special family, one made all the stronger by your unique journey; one that can never be diminished by the ignorance of others.

    • I wondered if Modern Family was going to pursue that story arc beyond this week’s episode. It certainly would be bold, but somehow I doubt it. Like every sitcom, they need to play things safe to keep a mass audience happy. Ultimately, like you said, I don’t need a TV show to validate my life. I love my family, and that’s what matters.

  27. Found your post while googling this episode to see if anyone had similar thoughts on the subject – so glad to hear of your wonderful family and see many similar stories! I groaned the second the subject was broached at their dinner table, because I knew they were going to do the campy, sitcom formula (“the thought of someone else raising MY egg”) and they actually took it one step further with ignorant comments on inbreeding (no), Appalachian (no) and creepy (no, no, no). I told my husband that I needed someone to explain to me why anyone would have a problem with this (still waiting, by the way). I would do this for one of my brothers in a heartbeat. You have an awesome sister, but you don’t need me to tell you that. ;)

    • Thanks, Jen. I definitely don’t need you to tell me how awesome my sister-in-law is, but I do appreciate hearing your kind words about my family. Sounds like you’re a pretty awesome sister, too. :)

  28. Late to the party here…as Michael and I just started watching Modern Family on my Kindle Fire in the evenings (no TV in SF). Saw the episode, Aunt Mommy, you wrote about, just last night. My first thought was, “Um…maybe this is based on their family…” But with a different ending. Someone knows someone who knows you…. Regardless, my take-away was just this: Yes, life is messy and complicated and incredibly hard at times (to make the right decisions). But those two adorable children you photograph and post pictures of in their highchairs, holding hands spontaneously at lunch, would simply not exist if you and Drew and Susie hadn’t taken that leap of faith that it would all turn out okay. Good for you! And it will, of course! It already has…Deborah Simms aka mom to Julia H

  29. I think that it is sad situation that makes any parent out to be “creepy” or wrong for making a decision to give unconditional love to a child. To chose to give of ourselves selfishly is what being a parent is all about. You and Drew have clearly made these decisions with an open heart and an open mind. Sutton and Bennet are two of the luckiest children in the world to be loved by parents who will teach them what matters most in the world – love, acceptance, support and kindness. Keep up the good work and pay no mind to what Hollywood, or any other person/corporation/politician/religious nut has to say about the choices you have made for your family.

    • Thanks, Meiko. Ultimately, I can deal with other people’s judgment. I just hate to think that my kids will have to endure it – and that there are people out there who will contradict what we’ve always told them – that our family is beautiful and amazing and something to be proud of.

      • It is unfortunate, but there is no avoiding judgement in life. Until this country changes drastically, there will be ignorance and prejudice every where. I think it is our job as parents to arm our children with self confidence, love and tolerane. I completely understand your concerns, I have them as well. Your family is amazing, full of love (it is obvious from reading your blog) and no one can take that away from you.

  30. Clearly I’m late to chime in on this, but I just watched the episode tonight and stumbled across your site while searching to see if anyone had made comments on the web about the poor treatment of this idea on the normally progressive show. When they first started talking about the idea of Claire donating eggs I thought it was brilliant and had a lot of storyline ideas so I was disappointed to see them dismiss it in such an uncaring way… I actually thought the “Appalachian” comment was pretty funny, but then they went on and beat a dead horse with the “inbreeding” and “creepy” comments in an unnecessary way. As others have mentioned, I found it totally out of character for Gloria to disapprove and I was kind of surprised Haley went for it – I was expecting an “ew” from her. The whole thing was just a little off. I’ve known families that were formed using a sibling’s sperm or eggs for one reason or another and they were never creepy. In fact, People magazine had an article years ago about a woman who conceived using a turkey baster and carried a baby for her sister (who was infertile) and everyone was applauding her willingness to help her sister and brother-in-law have a family. Maybe it wouldn’t work in the context of the world they are creating (Claire is pretty controlling, after all) but families come in all shapes and sizes; that is the over-arching theme of the entire show and IMO the writers dropped the ball on this one.

  31. Thank you for sharing your story. I was moved when they proposed the idea on MF and was sorry they used the language they did and that it was hurtful to you and your family. I think it’s beautiful you were able to do this.

  32. Wow. I just started following your blog, and let me tell you, you inspire me. I’m so sorry that your situation was made fun of on tv. I think it’s beautiful. Your children are so lucky to be brought into a family that shows that kind of love to one another. My brother is gay, and he would make a wonderful father. If he ever decided to have children, I hope I have the strength to do what Susie did for you and Drew. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Thank you so much for this sweet comment. It made me so happy! Glad you found the blog, and I hope you’ll keep reading! You sound like a great sister to have, whether or not you donate your eggs someday. :)

  33. (I’m sorry if my English is bad or not correct, but I try my best as a Norwegian! And I think you understand what I am writing)
    Well, I for one think your family is wonderful! I don’t know you in person, but how can a family with two parents who love each other, and their kids, unconditionally be creepy? How can it be a freak show? Your kids are adorable, and they are blessed to have two parents who love them and care for them. Let me just say that there are some straight couples who shouldn’t have been allowed to have kids in the first place, but yet, that’s sometimes more acceptable than a family with two gay parents. I am glad that you are so open about the way you created your family, maybe those who judge to easily will open their eyes and she that all you are is a loving, wonderful family.

    I read an article in a magazine that comes with our newspaper on fridays, and it was about sperm donation. I was actullay a bit shocked by the way it was written. As a gay girl who wishes to become a mother some day, I felt hit by the article. I have to say that things may change in sooo many ways until the day I eventually will start a family, but anyway. I thought about all those couples (straight and gay) who might have felt hit by the article if they read it, just like you watching “Modern Family” (a show wich I personally love, just a bit sad they had that episode. I will be prepared when I see it, because I “know” a family like that – you guys). The article discussed the ethics around sperm donation (which is OK in itself, but it’s not OK when it starts to talk down on the familys who has been created by using a sperm donor), and it was all about how it’s not right to the guy who donates sperm, because he will never be able to know his kid(s). And that it’s not a good thing that couples can create their family as they want, on behalf of a stranger. And that it’s not a good thing for the kids, because they will never know their “real” father and so on. But they talked to a guy who is a sperm donor, and he said, and I qoute, that he is not the father to those kids. He is not doing it to create a family of his own, he’s doing it to help all those couples who’s not able to have kids without sperm donation. If he wanted a family, he would find a partner of his own, and together they could start a family. I’m glad that he said all the things he said, because when you use a sperm donor, it is not because you want to start a family with the donor, but because you’re starting a family with the person you love. And the kids will have parents who loves them, and they will grow up in a home. In a family. How can that be a bad thing?

    Well, I hope you understand what I’m trying to say to you. I really want you to know that I think you guys are great! I read everything you write, and I usually comment on everything (almost) as well. You are truly an inspiration to me, and I actually look up to you. I wish I could meet you in person, but I’m fine “knowing” you through all this technology ;) You wrote such a great comment back to me once, where you told me to find people who will love me no matter what and who cares for me still, when I come out of the closet. I really liked your words, and you helped me in a way. You’re a rolemodel to me, because I know that I can find my love in this world and get the family I want. And that that will be just as “normal” as any other family. Thank you. Yeah,well, that’s what I really wanted to say to you :)

    • Thank you so much for this comment. It makes me feel so good to know that people are reading my posts and are encouraged to start families of their own. Being a parent is amazing – and the best thing I’ve ever done with my life, so if I can spread that joy to other people, then I’m so glad I have this blog. Your English is better than that of a lot of people who comment here, so no need to apologize for that. :)

      Just like other commenters have said, your parents are the ones who raise you. It’s not about biology. It’s natural for kids to be curious about their sperm or egg donor, but the article you read sounds like it went too far. It’s certainly not a reason not to have kids with a donor. Love is what matters most to a family – you can explain to your kid(s) how they were made when the time comes.

      Best wishes to you. No doubt you will be a great mom when you’re ready. You’re already putting so much thought into it!

  34. Not sure if this has been said before (you have a lot of comments), but I will input my 2 cents and hope it gives insight.

    I saw that show and did not take away the same that you did. Obviously part of it is because it does not mirror my life, but on some level it might in the future if we find out my eggs aren’t that great (we are starting IVF in June.) If that occurs, then I have already put serious thought into asking relatives about their eggs. (Would love some tips if that time should ever come!)

    So I’ll try to come to my point quickly – I don’t really think they were referring to everyone that makes those types of decisions, only in the context of the characters in the show. A big part of the show is based on Claire and Mitchell’s controlling issues (among others) and the show isn’t really built on the complexity of real life. I think it’s safe to say that Claire would be the first to go postal out of the entire cast in any given situation.

    Think of all the words they use to describe each other or how you perceive the characters. They are for those characters alone and do not parallel to real life people (or at least they shouldn’t). While yes, it was ignorant and short-sighted of the writers to not think of these things, I don’t think the sentiment carries over to how people will view you. I laughed at that show and didn’t think twice of it. I hear of real stories of people building families this way, and I think it is awesome.

    Most people I know want to first try to have a baby that is genetically theirs. While that’s not possible for everyone, it’s still something most of us initially try for. With that in mind, I think you will realize that very few people are going to think anything is “weird” or “freaky” with your decision. And the very, very few that do – screw ‘em; most of those people are weird anyway. :-)

    • Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. I think you’re right that people in general are more understanding than the characters on the show were. It just hurt to have that sentiment come from a source that’s been so positive in the past about gay parenting.

      Ultimately, my kids will be respected and appreciated for who they are, and in that regard, I know they’ll be just fine. How they came into the world will only be a footnote. :)

  35. I’m a first-time reader, and I’ve gotten through four posts so far…love your blog! I actually saw this episode before I read this post, and then I read a post of yours detailing how your family and how it came together, and I thought, “Like they almost did on Modern Family!”

    I’m sorry that episode made you feel like this…I’m sure whoever wrote it just had never come across a family that was made this way, and they didn’t know how to treat the situation. At least, I hope that’s all it was. Honestly, when they were discussing that possibility (while drunk) I teared up a little (I’m pregnant and a little overly-emotional) because I thought it was such a sweet, beautiful gift for Claire to offer. I’m happy to see that this does happen, and that I’m not the only one who thought it was loving and sweet, and not weird! :) All the best to you and your family!

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  37. Thank you for writing this post. I love Modern Family and I got excited thinking that they were going to have another baby (like your family). But when I saw the episodes several weeks ago (even though I am a heterosexual female with a husband and two “regularly conceived” children) I felt like it was a gut punch. I thought Claire was being irrational (as she often is) and that Mitchell was being self-homophobic (as he often is). So … in the end … the two really acted like their characters and they were not sending that message out to the whole world that everyone who does this is “creepy.” For them, only for them, and (as we know from many other episodes) they are not always right. Love your blog. So glad your children have loving parents. Blessings to you.

  38. Yeah, Modern Family routinely pisses me off too when it comes to the whole Cam+Mitchell family. For one, they are AWFUL parents. Between Modern Family and “The Kids are Alright”, I understand why conservatives question our ability to properly raise families. One top of that, it is impossible for Lily to be adopted from China because of it’s discriminatory laws. Modern family refuses to address the legal and social obstacles of being a gay parent and instead displays it as a cute and obnoxious commodity. Like being a gay parent is something that can only ever be laughed about when you’re not cringing at the thought of it. I’m eagerly waiting for the introduction of gay characters that are humorous, but still good, relatable, honest characters -not just hurtful stereotypes tossed around for a good laugh and an eye-roll.

    • Shit, Vietnam, sorry. But my complaint still applies. Vietnam does not allow same-sex joint adoption, not does it allow single homosexuals to adopt. Cam+Mitchell had to lie their asses off to get her.

  39. Just ran across this post. I have very dear friends who did the same thing, but for us ladies – A was the bio-mom and B’s brother was the donor. We considered that, but wanted a better genetic chance for our kids (between congenital crap on my side and other on her side). And I agree so much with the PP. Modern Family still makes it a joke – gay families are a cute little side show, with none of the actual struggles. Even the finale, with their last adoption falling through, was played for laughs. Meanwhile, we couldn’t have been the only gay couple watching in tears and heartbreak – because it happens to us, every day. And it hurts.

    That said, I’m anxious to keep watching The New Normal – still lots of laughs, but WOW an affectionate gay couple, a (so far) realistic but positive experience of the journey to parenthood. I didn’t think it was possible.

    Also, love the blog so much!

    Daddy Lady Bio-Mom. :)

  40. I love how open and honest you are. About life. About your feelings. What a wonderful gift you give yourself, and your family in putting them into words. I’ve often thought about offering my eggs for my brother and his partner, should they decide they want children. Those thoughts have been increasingly prevalent lately… and then I stumbled onto this post. (ok, not so much stumbled onto since I read your words on a regular basis, but still…) So far they feel their nieces and nephews keep them busy enough/involved enough. But should that day come… thank you for giving our family something else to relate to as the new normal!

  41. Jut wanted to say seeing your story on the today show and then reading it on your blog brought me to tears. Twice. I was lucky to have inherited my son from my previous relationship. I read your story and all I want to do us scream to the nay-sayers and bigots who would condemn you: “you say what you will, but if you want proof of Gods pure love for acts of pure and unselfish love from mere mortals, look no further than this family. Susie heralded might never have been able to have kids. Yet, she gave herself out of pure love for the love of her brother. God’s way of proving his love for us was not only blessing you and Drew with twins, but Susie with a child of her own when she least expected it. Want proof of God’s love? Want proof that live conquers all and makes all possible? There it is. Thank you and Drew and Susie. Thank you for showing the world what real love really is and the miracles it can work. I will always have you and your family in my prayers and hopes. Know that you are not alone!

  42. I just saw you guys story this morning while watching the Today Show. All I would like to say is, thank you. Your story touched me so deeply that I instantly had to find out more which brought me here. I have tears steaming down my face as I type and my heart feels as though it will burst. Being in “an-other-than-‘normal’-family” myself this really hit home. I truly wish you, your partner, your children, Susie and you’re surrogate all the best in your lives. Thank you again for sharing your story.

    • Thanks, Cassandra. Your comment made me really happy. It’s so good to hear that others can relate to my family and our story. Best wishes to you and your family as well, and thanks for reading!

  43. I just found your blog and am loving it! Please don’t even think about your children feeling Drew is ‘less of a Dad’ or go down any road like that. I was adopted by two wonderful parents, I mean I won the Lottery. THEY are my parents, not whomever ‘gave birth to me.’ I thank whomever she was because it brought me my parents. But I have no desire to search for them. So nurture trumps nature every time.

    30 or so years later, it was my turn in a way. I married my husband who had full custody of his then two little girls (4 and 5) from his first marriage. Their ‘biological mother,’ Dipshit, as we affectionately called her- dropped out of the picture very soon – her choice. So we raised them, I’m Mom and I would kill anyone who would try to hurt them (of course they are 25 and 26 now). There’s no feeling for me and I think for them, that they are not ‘biologically’ mine at all. So moot, so not even worthy of discussion.

    You’re a family, and that’s all that matters. I appreciate your approach to raising your beautiful kids- it was very similar to how we raised our girls. Wasn’t always pretty, they didn’t always like it- nor did others, but they turned out even better than we had ever hoped! Enjoy the ride!

    • Thanks so much for this comment! I loved hearing your perspective, and I couldn’t agree more. Being a parent has really helped me to see that it’s up to us to define our own families. We can’t let society (or its most closed-minded members) define them for us, because we’re all different, and as long as there’s love, there’s nothing wrong with that. Best wishes to you and yours.

  44. I think you have a fantastic family….because those kids are LOVED by so many people. And that, in the end, is what matters.

    My family is the “average” family–mom, dad, 2 kids (I did need fertility meds but thankfully not for long). But I CAN tell you that at least for us, we are always questioning if we are raising our kids right….parenting, discipline, education, family, you name it, my OCD has gone 10 rounds with it. I realize that some of your issues go far deeper than mine. But I think every good parent questions how they are raising their kids. So in that, you are perfectly normal ;)

  45. Hi! I’m a new reader, and for whatever it’s worth, I think your family arrangement makes perfect sense! You both have a genetic link to your kids, and I think that’s a-maz-ing. Genes aside, the MOST important thing is that you love each other and your kids. That’s really what makes family <3

    • Thanks. I think I mentioned in this post that everyone — and I mean everyone — we know has been so supportive and loving toward our family. That’s why I felt so blindsided by the Modern Family episode. Overall, we feel very lucky. :)

  46. I realize that this post is over a year old, but I’ve just been introduced to your fabulous post by way of my husband, who is carrying our baby-to-be. When this Modern Family episode aired, I was offended by these judgments, too. K and I were actively preparing to start conceiving our child(ren). We, too, were going a non-traditional route. I feel like those of us who are blazing such trails are merely doing what feels right to us in order to expand our families. Kudos to you!

  47. New reader :) Let me say, I LOVE your blog! I saw this episode, as I’m a “oohh it’s Wednesday night, little guy you are in bed by 8:45 so I can watch my show” Modern Family lover.

    I hope the show gave some people an idea … hey so and so would be great parents and we know they’ve been trying to adopt/conceive/etc. Maybe, just maybe, this will put a thought into someone’s head that donating their egg/sperm would help their loved ones become parents. No questions asked, I would donate an egg or two (or more) to someone who wanted it, especially a sibling. I know from having my little guy there is no way I could surrogate, but eggs, all yours.

    What your sister in law did is amazing and honorable! I hope our children’s generation don’t see this as “weird” “gross” “creepy” or “inbred”. Much love to you and your family!

    Jennifer

  48. Got a little teary eyed reading that one. It’s amazing the lengths that people go to have babies: IVF, adoption, your story, etc. As you are, I’m so glad you made the choice to start a family (so I could have this blog to read ;)

    • Thanks! I may be judgy of a lot of the things people do once they have kids, but I try not to judge the WAY people have kids. Anyone going to such great lengths (and expense) to have a family clearly wants their kids, in a world where so many kids were never wanted in the first place.

  49. That really stinks that they portrayed it that way. I think that what you have is almost a perfect scenerio for two dads to have. The babies are biologically linked to both of you, as well as your rightful children which is really cool. Sometimes people don’t think about what they are saying and it is the worst when its aimed at you or your family. I don’t think my daughter has any idea that homophobia even exists, but she does know that artificial colors can harm her body. That seems so reasonable and realistic! She knows to trust her intuition about people, not to judge them for their lifestyle choices. And I hope that if she ever does come across discrimination about anything, that she will always be confidant in the truth.

    • Thanks — well put, and it sounds like you’re doing a great job raising an open-minded daughter. I’m still a Modern Family fan and watch it every week. It’s funny and overall, it’s been a great thing for same-sex parents.

  50. Oh I’m so late to this party I don’t know if you’ll even see this comment….but I just wanted to say US TOO! We are trying to create our family pretty much exactly the same way. My beautiful wife has a wonderful brother that is our (my) donor. It seems perfect to us, and our whole family has made no big deal about it at all. It’s not remotely incestuous or creepy. We feel so lucky that our baby will have a mixture of my and my wife’s families DNA. It’s as close as we can get to creating a child of our own.
    However we are currently dealing with the possibility that it may not happen for us, as although I’ve conceived twice, I lost both babies at 12 weeks gestation. We live in New Zealand and my wife is from the Caribbean, so we fly her brother out here for 5 months at a time to try. His second trip is just about up, and I haven’t conceived again, so we are in a quandary about what to do. (His sperm doesn’t freeze well, so we cant use a clinic to store it.)
    I’m devastated at the fact that we may need to find another donor. Especially as I’ve had, what I see as a baby carrying my wife’s blood, growing inside me twice. To now have to consider an unrelated donor is hard. Especially as there are very few black people living in NZ, so finding another black donor will be nearly impossible here.
    I’ll be following your blog now as it is the first one I’ve come across in the same situation as we hope to be in!

    • Thanks for sharing your story. We had a tough time conceiving our kids, too. It looked for a while like we’d have to give up our dreams of having my sister-in-law donate her eggs. But it worked out in the end. I’m hoping things work out for you, too. :)

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  53. I think Drew, Susie and yourself are three very brave and kind people, who obviously have so much love for one and other, to go through so much to get your little family. Your children are very lucky to have parents like you guys.

  54. This post made me a little weepy. I was a surrogate for a gay couple and gave birth just a month ago to their twins. At the hospital, their egg donor (a friend of theirs) came to visit, and as we all crammed into the guys’ room to pass around the babies and take pictures, I was in awe of the wonderfulness of it all. I thought, These babies are loved by so many of us! How lucky they are! And this is true for your family as well. How lucky to have an aunt like Suzie. I bet she feels pretty darn lucky herself.

    • Thanks so much for this comment, Ali. I feel exactly the way you do. Our kids are loved by so many people and we have such a wonderful story to tell them about how they came into the world. You should be very proud of the amazing gift you gave to those dads and to their kids. I’m sure they will all be very grateful for you for the rest of their lives.

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  56. Pingback: 8 Surprising Facts About Egg Donors — Everyday Feminism

  57. I am shocked that the show showed them reacting that way. I don’t think this is such an unusual arrangement, is it? It seems to be fairly common for lesbian couples to use sperm from one of their brothers; how is this any different?

  58. I’m devastated at the fact that we may need to find another donor. Especially as I’ve had, what I see as a baby carrying my wife’s blood, growing inside me twice. To now have to consider an unrelated donor is hard.

  59. At the hospital, their egg donor (a friend of theirs) came to visit, and as we all crammed into the guys’ room to pass around the babies and take pictures, I was in awe of the wonderfulness of it all.

  60. I just stumbled upon your blog and I love it. We have an adopted son and our entire extended family has considered him to be an integral part of this family, even though he looks very different than us. When a child is surrounded by love, whether it be from biological family or not, he/she is one lucky kid. You and Drew have won the lottery!

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