Launch Point

Ben Holladay-McCann shares some of the challenges he and his husband face as gay men building their family. Read how they decided which option was best for them and how creating art is playing a role in their quest to become parents. Thanks, Ben, for sharing your story!

Launch Point
by Ben Holladay-McCann

From a young age, I knew that fatherhood was something I aspired to. The fact that I’m gay never phased me or stood out as an obstacle to achieving that dream. Sure, I knew it would be a challenge — the scales are tipped in favor of heterosexual people – though I’ve always been of the mind that any journey worth dreaming about is a journey worth taking, no matter the odds.

Ben (right) with husband Erik. Photo by Kendra Stanley-Mills.

Erik, my husband, shares my dream of raising children together. At first, we had explored the idea of adoption, which, though an awesome and noble avenue to take, can prove hugely challenging for LGBT folks. Most countries outside the U.S. will not adopt to gay parents. In a strange twist of happenstance, the governor of Michigan signed legislation permitting faith-based adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT parents not long before we relocated to Colorado. Our home state is not unique in that regard, as several other states allow the application of the petitioning couple to be denied based upon nothing more their sexual orientation.

Though adoption was quickly removed from the table, we uncovered a new and more fundamental truth that lived deep within us; holding a genetic relation to our child was of greater importance to us than we had first known. With that in mind, having a child through IVF via gestational carrier as the path to parenthood was the only logical option for us.

Making the decision to pursue that route was the easy part, though it is not without its own unique set of challenges. Like so many others, our biggest roadblock was attached to the price tag. I remember staring slack-jawed at the full sum once everything had been tallied up. The total cost of IVF treatments is positively eye-watering. Resources to lighten the load do exist, though the majority are geared towards heterosexual couples. Most applications for grants or financial assistance list “husband” and “wife” on the form, rather than “partner’s name”. Even “Parent 1” and “Parent 2” would work in a Suessical pinch.

To complicate matters further, information about LGBT-inclusive adoption agencies can be tricky to find. Surely you can understand our sheer joy when we found an aptly named organization that exclusively helps gay men who want to have a child through IVF – “Men Having Babies”. Using the tools on their website, we poured over all available information and researched many different organizations nationwide before selecting InVia Fertility, out of Chicago. With that important line crossed off, we could turn attention back to the elephant in the room: how make this happen financially. As money savvy as we fancy ourselves to be, our piggy banks wouldn’t provide enough of a springboard on their own. We had to broaden our sights to help make this dream real.

Ben and Erik, surrounded by loved ones. Photo by Kendra Stanley-Mills.

Education is an important component of any fundraising effort, and we are not unique in that regard. As a part of this process, we have sought to bring awareness and information to our friends and family. Try as we have, however, some have made the assumption that adoption, rather than IVF, is the end goal. On more than one occasion, well-intentioned people have asked “what country will you adopt your child from?” or “have you met the birthmother yet”? We are surrounded by people brimming with excitement for us to become fathers, though some may be unaware of the complicated nature this road holds for us. Launching a crowdfunding site hosted by YouCaring.com has provided an effective platform to keep our loved ones up-to-date on our journey while serving to dispel any mysteries surrounding IVF and what that looks like for us.

Ben’s passion for knitting is helping build his family. Photo by Erik Holladay-McCann.

More creative means of capital generation are also supplementing our crowdfunding efforts. I have been a knitting hobbyist for years, though this new adventure of ours provided me the push to begin selling finished works and patterns of my own design, under the brand “NoahNoa Crafts”. Though a seemingly unusual brand title, it was born from the love that my husband and I have held for the name, Noah, for years. When translated from its original Hebrew roots, it embodies “comfort”, while its feminine variant, Noa, signifies movement. It only seemed a natural fit, as those are two qualities I love most about knitting, and hope to model to the children we bring into the world. While getting a small start-up such as this off the ground can be time-consuming and occasionally stressful, it is ultimately rewarding, which is not entirely different from parenthood.

Follow Ben and Erik’s family building progress on You Caring and shop NoahNoa Crafts.

Anxiety, Infertility, and Peace through Art and Meditation

by Elizabeth Walker

Several years ago, I was sitting in my therapist’s office having a discussion. I don’t remember what we were talking about but I was likely sharing some recent stressful situation when she responded with something like, “I think that we can attribute this to your anxiety,” to which I replied, “Anxiety? I don’t have anxiety.” She looked extremely skeptical. That’s when it clicked, “Oh! You’re right. I DO struggle with anxiety.”

The truth was, being anxious and on edge was something that was so normal for me, I didn’t even recognize it as such. My mind never stops. I’m always thinking about what’s coming next, always running potential scenarios through my head. Worried about what might happen if I choose to do A instead of B. It’s distracting, stressful, and my infertility diagnosis only made it worse.

So, I became devoted to setting aside time in my day for meditation, hoping it would calm my mind. Usually it was before bed at the end of the day or during my commute to and from work. (I carpooled at the time. I do not recommend this if you are driving!)  It wasn’t easy at first. I found that guided visualization seemed to work best for me but would still find myself distracted and thinking of everything but what the calm voice inside my ear buds was instructing me to. However, with practice, it became one of my favorite times of the day. Even better, before long, I didn’t even need to actually listen to the audio recording. I could just think about it and get relief!

The CD cover for Anji's Meditation for the Fertile Soul.

The CD cover for Anji, Inc’s Meditation for the Fertile Soul.

One of my favorite meditations throughout this journey has been one by Anji, Inc, called Finding Stillness. It’s part of a collection called Meditations for a Fertile Soul. Part of this guided visualization focuses on finding your own place of peace within your body and imagining what it looks like. Mine is on my left side, just behind my lower ribs and is a pearlescent periwinkle. I began to imagine this place any time I felt the anxiety taking hold of me. It helped tremendously.

After some time, I wanted to create a physical representation of that space. I love creating little shadow boxes because they are small and don’t overwhelm me like a large, blank canvas sometimes can. So, I created this “Place of Peace” using a small cardboard box (think the kind jewelry comes in), a wooden frame, water color paper, paint, and feathers. place-of-peace_3118My ultimate goal in this infertility journey is to feel peace. The feathers represent that lightness that I hope to feel when I have reached some resolution, whatever that may be.