Sierra Dehmler is Illume Fertility’s Content Marketing Manager - and also a fertility patient herself. Combining empathy gained on her personal journey with her professional experience in marketing and content creation, she aims to empower and support other fertility patients by demystifying the fertility treatment process.
One of the most beautiful parts about family-building is that no two stories are exactly the same. There are so many different paths to parenthood: IVF, surrogacy, adoption, egg/sperm donors, IUI, embryo donors...the list goes on.
Here at Illume Fertility, we are proud to offer family-building options for all. With the support of resources like our Gay Parents To Be program and our expert third party reproduction team, we know all of our patients are in great hands as they navigate their own unique path.
Nothing brings us more joy than seeing the families we've helped thriving and enjoying life together. Two of our LGBTQ+ parents, Tim and Steve, shared their amazing story with us - from how they met, to how (and when) they decided to have kids, to their surrogacy experiences and beyond. We're so grateful to them for opening up to our community, and we're excited to share their journey with you.
Let's start at the very beginning! Read on to hear their story in Tim's own words.
First Comes Love...
Steve and I met in the summer of 2012 through a gay bowling league. The first week of the league, Steve was in the lane to the right of me and caught my eye (how could you not notice his adorable swoop of ginger hair?) Despite my terrible bowling, he agreed to go out on a date with me.
On that date, we quickly found out how much we have in common. Although we met in NYC, it turned out that we grew up 45 minutes apart from each other back in New England (we are both from Boston suburbs.)
We are both left-handed...both from Irish-Italian families...both the youngest child...both have exactly 22 letters in our names...you get the gist. On that first date, when I asked about his family, Steve spoke about his brother and parents with such love that I could tell he was very family-oriented.
On Deciding to Have Children
Fast forward a few years... the topic of kids had come up from time to time. Steve definitely wanted to have kids, that much was clear. But if I hadn’t wanted them, I don’t think that would have been a deal breaker for him - yet I knew he yearned to be a parent.
Over the years I heavily pondered whether I possessed the burning desire to be a parent or not. It’s a major decision and not one to be taken lightly (it’s not like getting a goldfish). I had watched my sisters become mothers and what a magical (and exhausting) experience it was for them and weighed the pros and cons.
Ultimately, though, I knew in my heart that I wanted to have kids with Steve. I knew that he would be an amazing dad and that it would be incredibly fun to raise a family with him. If I had married someone else, today I could very easily be childless (and have quite a bit more disposable income!) but now, I honestly cannot imagine my life without Ben and Lucy in it.
Then Comes Marriage...
We got married in 2015 and enjoyed the newlywed bubble. On our first wedding anniversary, we went out to dinner and I said, “Ok, so where are we at with this?” We agreed that we 100% wanted to have kids, but not for at least another year - so we used that time to do research.
We contemplated both adoption and surrogacy and ultimately decided that surrogacy was the path that we wanted to take. We began reaching out to the gay men we knew who had gone this route to ask them questions and get any advice they had to offer.
There are so many moving parts to coordinate: the egg donor, the surrogate, the attorney, the reproductive endocrinologist, et al. It was a lot to digest and understand, so we spent that year learning as much as we could about the process.
Finding an Inclusive Fertility Doctor
Over sushi on our second anniversary I asked, “Ok – where are we at now? Ready to start?” One couple we knew had highly recommended Illume Fertility (and Dr. Mark Leondires specifically), so a few weeks later we were in Norwalk sitting across the desk from him.
What really struck me at that initial meeting was how incredibly passionate he is about his work. It was important to me to work with a doctor and a clinic that really embraces the LGBTQ+ community and it was immediately clear that Dr. Leondires truly derives joy from helping us grow our families.
Wondering how to choose a fertility clinic?
Our Journey to Becoming LGBTQ+ Parents
Because we got a lot of help along the way from a lot of people, I try to pay it forward by talking to anyone who is interested in surrogacy. I will answer as many questions as you can throw at me!
I had a Zoom just last week (with a former co-worker who had reached out) where I shared my spreadsheet of all the various costs (because I think that was the biggest unknown we had going into the whole experience).
But I always stress that I don’t think our experience was typical…we were very lucky at every step along the way (and we had an amazing team helping us out, both at Illume Fertility as well as at our surrogacy agency, Worldwide Surrogacy, led by Victoria Ferrara.)
Sixteen months after our first meeting, our son Ben was born. When he turned 1, we re-engaged both Illume Fertility and Worldwide Surrogacy and began the process again, and our lucky Lucy was born this past St. Paddy’s Day – 2 years, 2 months, and 2 days younger than her big brother.
What does life look like these days?
We are still settling into life as a family of four. Some days, it feels like a lot. There are moments – usually when there is a hungry newborn yowling and a rambunctious two-year old clawing at you for attention - that we wish our family lived closer so we could drop the kids off at grammy’s or auntie’s house and have an hour or two of peace and quiet. But the other 90% of the time, we are overjoyed.
Watching these children grow up is truly a magical experience. Ben is almost 2.5 and he is getting very verbal. He is a little sponge. Every day he says a new word that I didn’t know he had ever even heard.
He is VERY into construction vehicles, mail trucks, fire engines, and Paw Patrol. Lucy is at the point now where she is actually making real smiles (not gas smiles) and it just melts your heart when she coos at you.
What's next for your family?
Steve and I are both vaccinated and we are excited to get back out into the world a bit. Half of Ben’s life has been in COVID quarantine (Steve stays home to raise the kids, so neither kid has ever been in day care). With the population slowly getting vaccinated (and the nice weather allowing for outdoor activities), I’m loving getting to reintroduce him to parks and playgrounds and other kids!
We are thankful every day for our healthy beautiful kids, and to the amazing people who made them possible – our egg donor who gave them their beautiful blue eyes and chin dimples, the two incredibly selfless women who each gave up a year of their lives to be surrogates for us, as well as the entire staff of Illume Fertility (shout out to my girl, Nora Bolger, who dealt with my ENDLESS emails with questions) and Worldwide Surrogacy.
Advice to Other LGBTQ+ Parents-To-Be
If I had one piece of advice for someone contemplating gestational surrogacy, it would be to make sure to get to know your surrogate very well before you finalize your “match.” We got incredibly lucky both times and both of our surrogates cared for our babies as though they were their own.
But the surrogate/intended parent relationship is tricky – because on one hand it is a business transaction (with a lot of money and a very long, detailed legal contract involved) and on the other, it is an incredibly personal relationship.
Get our step-by-step guide to how it all works:
This is someone you’re going to be talking to regularly for at least the next year (and hopefully much longer) that you are trusting to care for the most precious person in your life…so you just want to make sure that you are both on the same page about everything. (For example, I asked that neither color their hair during pregnancy. Was that neurotic? Maybe. Did it give me peace of mind? Yes. But you want to ask those questions BEFORE the bun is in the oven.)
Other than that, just try not to get too stressed out about the whole process. It can seem overwhelming and daunting at first, but if you have the right team by your side, they will guide you through it.
Editor's Note: Thank you to Tim and Steve for sharing their amazing journey to Ben and Lucy and their perspective on surrogacy and parenting with us. We're so grateful to each and every person that lets us tell their story (and be a part of it).
If you're looking for fellow parents-to-be on a similar journey, check out our free, virtual support groups - we even have a group specifically for LGBTQ+ Parents To Be!
We love seeing all the beautifully diverse families in our community. If you'd like to see more Illume Fertility family stories, be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook!