I always wanted to be a mom; I was one of those little girls who already had names for their future babies and thought about their stories. I never doubted I would accomplish this dream, but there were many more challenges than I expected. I had to get a lot of help to have my two girls, but becoming a mom is the absolute best thing I have ever done.
When I first met my wife Natalie, we were both 19 years old and in college. I heard her talking in her Australian accent across the room and when I turned around, I'm pretty sure it was love at first sight.
After 10 years together, we decided it was time to start our family. As a lesbian couple wanting to have kids in the early '90s, we knew we'd need a little help. It was unusual at that time for gay and lesbian people to start families and many doctors refused to help us. My own OB/Gyn suggested I "have sex with a man in a one night stand" in order to get pregnant.
When we finally found a doctor who would help us, we thought our biggest hurdle was behind us. But after 18 months of in-office inseminations, I still wasn't pregnant. We were frustrated, but we never gave up.
Natalie and I turned to an "underground network" of other lesbian couples who were also trying to figure out how to become parents to be able to achieve our dream. We would hear about lesbian couples who were getting pregnant at home and we would literally knock on their door to ask them how they did it (this was before Facebook, Google or social media!).
We got and received tips from each other and became a tight and supportive network of women all with motherhood on our minds. We became pioneers by necessity. We found a fresh sperm donor and tried at-home insemination. Two weeks later, it finally happened!
I do not recommend this method as it has legal and medical risks but it speaks to the desperation that we felt at the time for something we wanted so badly that was not happening.
The moment our first daughter was born, the moment I became a mom, is the single best moment of my life—and even when we'd faced roadblocks along the way, I never doubted I would have that moment.
A few years later, we did another at home insemination using the same fresh sperm donor (again—not recommended!). Natalie carried our second baby. Now, we were moms to two amazing little girls.
I've always wanted a big family, so when Natalie and I started trying for baby number three, we were excited about the possibility of a house filled with children. But on my 39th birthday, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was actually the mammogram ordered by my IVF doctor, for reasons unknown to him to this day, that saved my life.
Although my tumor was small, my doctor told me that an IVF pregnancy could be very dangerous and even deadly. At that point, I had a choice: sorrow, despair and anger, or determination, intention and gratitude. I chose the latter three.
I realized I couldn't make all of what I was going through disappear, but I could face this the way I'd faced things in the past. I could fight it or I could choose how I lived with it.
While I had found a way to build my own family, I wanted to share what I had learned with others who were facing the same challenges I once did. It makes sense to me now that I would devote my life to helping others achieve the dream of becoming a parent, but it was my own experiences with assisted reproduction that lead me in this direction.
I met a new father who had faced similar challenges in creating his family but had finally cobbled together a team of doctors, a surrogate and an egg donor to have a baby. He started helping other people do the same thing, and I told him to call me if I could ever help in any way. Two weeks later, he did call—and today, I've been helping people have babies for over 20 years.
That was the start of Growing Generations, a full-service egg donation and surrogacy agency. We have helped thousands of people—single moms and dads, gay and lesbian couples, people struggling with infertility, and people like myself—post-cancer or illness—to become parents, and give them that same moment of joy that I felt when my daughter was first placed onto my chest after she was born.
Today, my girls are grown and living on their own, but my favorite job is still "mom," and I am so grateful for the challenges I faced in this process because it allowed me the opportunity to help others achieve their dreams of having a family.