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.

Our Misconception: Chris and Candace Wohl

Our Misconception: The Story of Candace and Chris Wohl
by Jalen Smith

Earlier this year we had the pleasure to sit down with The Wohl Family as they shared their story and long journey to parenthood through gestational surrogacy.

Candace and Chris are a married couple living in Virginia that has struggled to conceive. Candace underwent 5 IVF cycles between a 2 year period, after 6 failed IUIs.

“Each bead represents a shot,” Candace told ART of Infertility’s Maria Novotny, when showcasing a piece of her artwork. The process of having a baby has been a process hard physically, emotionally and financially for the family.

Chris and Candace chose to string a bead for each shot Candace endured.

Chris and Candace chose to string a bead for each shot Candace endured.

“We were judged and told by family and friends to not fundraise, that this issue should have been kept private, we were even told to just adopt.” said Chris. The couple’s story is a popular one within the infertility community and was featured on an episode of MTV’s “True Life” in 2013.  “It was such a seesaw of emotions, from hope to despair from hope to despair,” said Candace. “There was point where we wouldn’t let ourselves get our hopes up just to be let down again.” MTV did a good job of capturing and telling the emotional heartache involved with infertility. “It was hard for us to watch as we had to relive our last failed IVF.”

The Wohl family eventually found hope in surrogacy. In March 2013 the couple began to start the process to pursue other means of child birth. After finding a surrogate in June 2013 the couple then began the contract signing process and had to wait an additional six months for pregnancy insurance clearance. “The waiting was hard for us, the not knowing if it would work out this time.” In October 2013, they transferred their two remaining embryos to their surrogate.  The following month, the couple received the news that they were pregnant, the beta was positive.

Candace wanted to tell her husband the good news that they were pregnant in the best way possible. She shared with us the story of the dusty onesie. “After my first IUI, I was confident and I went out to buy this onesie and card to share with my husband that we were pregnant.” Similar, to those other vulnerable yet monumental moments in life like marriage, she wanted this moment to be special. She wanted it to last. After 6 failed IUIs, Chris had still not seen the onesie, not until that celebratory day in November 2013. “It was one of those things that I held onto, I couldn’t let it go, I’m glad I didn’t because I was fortunately still able to share it with him.”

“It brought it all home to me that she really has endured so much” said Chris after hearing and seeing the dusty onesie story for the first time. The fact that she had kept it for so many years and had taken so many “beads” was a telling story of their struggle for him.

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Chris and Candace with the dusty onesie.

“What people don’t understand is we were trying to adopt, there were a lot of people that didn’t agree with surrogacy when it first came out,” said Candace. “We realized early that we had to get tough skin.” To share their story of surrogacy was at first difficult, while the Wohl family can be considered well known members of the community now, the option to choose this route to start their family was troublesome for them.

“If you would have asked me 7 years ago that we would be doing this, I would have not believed you,” said Candace. At the time the couple was in full belief that they would be able to carry a baby to term but years of surgery and failed treatments denied these hopeful parents time and time again.

When the parents to be accepted surrogacy it did come with lots of doubts and concerns for the future. For Candace is was like watching a quarterback play football and she was watching from the sideline. “You hope they can break the tackles, you hope nothing gets in their way on the game winning drive but all you can do is cheer them along.” Candace said. It was a very vulnerable place for her to be, in one in which all she could do is watch and place her hopes for motherhood in the hands of someone else. Chris and Candace were in the room with the surrogate while she was giving birth. Candace held her leg while she pushed and Chris cut the umbilical cord. While their daughter’s birth certificate did not initially feature either of their names, they immediately bonded with her.

Many forget to mention the struggles infertility have on men or many feel the struggles of infertility are not a man’s right to feel bad. The couple briefly talked about this in their sit down with us. After all, it was his wife’s body. But Chris during his sit down with us shared his thoughts on the process. “I was the parent too” Chris said. “My gender is a strong yet vulnerable one, I could never know her full pain but I was there for her the entire ride.” Chris felt that taking a back seat was not an option for him.

Ultimately the couple’s fears of lack of emotional connectivity, lack of compassion from doctors and guilt were lost once their daughter was born in 2014. “All of the worries I had were lost once she was here, I never felt closer to anyone,” Candace stated.

The Wohl family fought a lot on their journey to parenthood, it was never easy, but what they want to do now is educate others. Educate hospitals, doctors and lawyers so that the next couple does not have the complications they did. “It all starts with education,” Candace closed.

To learn more about the Chris and Candace’s story read their blog at ourmisconception.com

#startasking about Parenting after Infertility – Candace’s Story

Today, we’re taking a bit of a risk and giving you a news feed full of stories reflecting on the joys and struggles of parenting after infertility. We wouldn’t normally post so many stories in one day (that’s the risky part). However, when we interview people who have “resolved” their infertility, even if decades before, a theme that comes up time and time again is the long lasting effects of infertility. Having a child, whether through treatment or adoption, means becoming a parent. It’s not a cure for infertility. 

So, we’ve invited several parents after infertility to share their experiences with us today. First up, Candace Wohl of Our Misconception. Candace is an amazing infertility advocate and it was through her sharing her own story on MTV’s True Life, that I was able to really start grieving my own traumatic IVF procedure and subsequent miscarriage. I’ll forever be grateful to her for sharing and am honored to bring you more of her story through our first post of the day. This post does contain an image of a child.

Elizabeth

Parenting After Infertility 

by Candace Wohl

For National Infertility Awareness Week I thought I would expose a raw topic that some of us really do not talk about. We are even more ashamed to mention it. Somewhere tangled and twisted in the kudzu vines of our infertility, we hold it in. Funny how I am so open to talk about everything from my broken lady bits to reproductive injustice but this, THIS topic is hard.

For the first time, I had been asked to share my thoughts on something I am terrified to talk about. The ART of IF wanted to #StartAsking about parenting AFTER infertility. Not the beautiful bouncing baby part, but what people may not know.

It took 7 years before I became a mother through the gift of surrogacy.  I remember waking up at 12:22 am on my first Mother’s Day to the cry of my baby in tears, asking for “momma.” It was the first time I heard it and I felt like I had waited my whole life to hear that one single word. I sat in the rocker for hours that night sobbing tears of joy as I held her while she slept thanking the powers that be that brought us together.

The next day I felt guilty.

There is so much more to peel back and reveal about the aftershock of infertility that tends to happen to the 1 in 8 that finally become moms.  Many think once you get to the other side of the ever evasive Promised Land of Motherhood, that everything, the heartache, the desperation, the loneliness will vanish. When your miracle baby is placed in your arms all is washed clean and the curse is lifted like a passing dark cloud.  For me, I can say that some of this faded but it was still there.

Wohl-Family-0039We openly fundraised and shared our story. My infertility was no secret and our financial infertility was what stood in the way of us having a family.  Strangers, friends and family did everything imaginable to help us. The birth of our daughter was one of hope and beating odds and she was a headline baby. Shortly after our daughter was born, I started feeling an overwhelming sence of pressure. It was all internal, not once provoked by anyone. There was this irrational and totally self-imposed expectation to be the flawless Donna Reed example of motherhood. This is what I have wanted for so long right? I felt like everyone was watching every move I made from how I interact with her to what type of diapers she wore, things like choosing homemade baby food versus jarred, I even stressed over the type of cleaner I would use in the house.

There were so many people who wanted this for us and there are millions, (7.4) who want to be in our shoes.  Infertile guilt sets in. These thoughts play in my head daily:

How can I be frustrated at 3 am when I’m covered in vomit? Someone right now is praying for this.

My kid just pinched the living crap out of another kid at the park, the other mom probably thinks I do not discipline because she is an only child and I am a parent after infertility.  

I feel like a horrible mom for handing over our daughter on a bad day, as soon as my husband comes home from work so I can leave the house for an hour to decompress.

I wanted this so badly and I am failing everyone around me.

These thoughts, this great feeling of social pressure, although I know is self-induced is part of my infertility. I don’t quite fit in with the fertile moms at the playground because my perspective is different. I don’t always fit in with the women who are still working on their first set of double lines, because I do have a child now and I am afraid to share my joy because I was once there and understand the painful uncertainty. It’s a lonely feeling.

For those who know me, I am really positive person.  I’ll take a steamy pile of poo and figure out how to make it into a less-steamy, more gold-like poo-casso. That has not left me. But I am scarred both physically and mentally. The infertility PTSD is there, just repressed now that my whole world was changing. I am able to finally hit the play button on my future which I had felt had been on pause for so long. Still though, that song that was on repeat for so many years titled, “You can’t have a baby because something is wrong with you” still plays in my mind.  With that playing and a new song, “Don’t be anything less than 100% grateful and a perfect mom … this is what you prayed for” it can sometimes be tough to remember that, being human means not being perfect.  It means messing up every once in a while, listening to that voice that says, “Damn, I just washed those sheets.”  Being human means, I/we are capable of feeling all of these emotions, no matter how contradictory, at one time. I am glad ART of IF decided to #StartAsking about Parenting After Infertility, they exposed this other side of me that I thought it best to just hide under my bed of feels.   Although this isn’t the fairytale painting of a picture for this very broad topic of parenting after infertility, I know it is the painting I am supposed to be a part of and I wouldn’t change a single brush-stroke in it.

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