Fathers know best

Posted on 17 Jun 2016 at 6:45am

Dallas gay father to talk about his experience having children at Men Having Babies conference this weekend

Men-having-babies

Shawn, left, and Michael Wetson became dads through surrogacy.

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

Michael Wetson and his husband Shawn had been together 10 years before they had their children.

“We waited until it was safe and reasonable,” Wetson said.

They considered adopting, but they were in their 40s and didn’t want to possibly spend years taking in fosters — and then losing them — until a child was available to adopt. So they found an agency in Dallas that connected them with an anonymous egg donor and a surrogate to carry the fetuses.

They thought of having one of their sisters as the egg donor, but Wetson said they were too old. They considered other possibilities before choosing an anonymous donor.

Once the two men decided which of them would be the biological father, they looked for a complimentary egg donor — someone with physical attributes and interests similar to those of the non-biological father. They chose a younger donor, a college student, because that increases the chances of viability on an earlier try.

Two fertilized eggs were implanted and the Wetsons had twins — a boy and a girl.

“One looks like one of us and one looks like the other,” Wetson said. “It’s just the way it happened.

Before the children were born, the couple decided to change their name. Michael’s was Wetter and his husband’s was Thompson. They combined them to form Wetson. Michael Wetson said changing their names so that they’d have one family name was a harder decision than whether to have children.

Although their children were born before marriage equality came to Texas, the Wetsons went to court in Dallas County and received a second-parent pre-birth order — the first issued in Dallas and possibly the first in Texas.

“We went to the hospital with a legal document saying we were the legal parents before they were born,” Michael Wetson said.

They did a DNA test ahead of the birth to prove which of them was the biological father and to prove that the surrogate mother was not related to the children.

The original birth certificate only listed the biological dad, but after the marriage equality ruling last year, the Wetsons added the second father to the document.

“Surrogacy laws are very good in Texas for married couples,” Michael Wetson said.

Michael Wetson said his children are amazing and that parenthood has “given me great appreciation for my parents.” He said he expected surrogacy to be expensive, but what’s shocked him is the cost of daycare.

He and his husband have been surprised less by an increase in expenses and more by a shift in spending. Rather than spending money on going out to dinner, they spend money on diapers and formula.

They haven’t encountered any discrimination as two dads raising twins in the suburbs, but they’ve also avoided potential problems. One pediatrician they interviewed might not be as welcoming of children with two dads so they chose another, and their list of possible preschools didn’t include any religious schools.

They’ve heard people say, “Oh, it must be mom’s day off,” when they’ve seen the men out with their children.

Michael Wetson will be featured on a panel during an all-day conference on Sunday, June 19 organized by Men Having Babies. A.J. Edge, with Men Having Babies, said the conference is designed for all men thinking of starting a family. In addition to men who have started their families through surrogacy, informational resources from 25 providers will be on hand to discuss the process and answer questions.

Among the issues they’ll explore is whether to use a known or anonymous egg donor and the advantages of each.

Cost can be the prohibitive factor for male couples who want to become fathers, but Edge said Men Having Babies encourages cost-saving best practices. There’s even an assistance program, discounts, pro bono services and cash grants available.

With a number of agencies from around the country attending, Edge said his organization will even suggest what you should be looking for in an agency and what questions to ask to decide if you’re a good fit.
Edge said the information could be useful to people early in the process of becoming parents or those already in the process.

Men Having Babies takes place from 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. on June 19 at Wyndham Dallas Suite-Park Central, 7800 Alpha Road. For more information and to register, visit MenHavingBabies.org/dallas. The cost is $15 in advance or $20 at the door.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2016.

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