Two Dads are Better than None

The adventures of two very adorable gay men trying to become fathers in a crazy ass world

Ryder Henry was born June 3, 2011 about 2:30 pm at 7lbs, 7 oz.

This was, hands down, the single most amazing experience of my life and Greg feels the same.

Hello. Is this blog on?


It is especially weird and frightening to see mass devastation in a place you've
A) Been devastated in and
B) Are about to go to for work in two weeks
I'm not sure about that last statement since plans may change, but it has been weird and hard for me to see images of a place I care about get destroyed. Greg felt the same way when Katrina hit, I did not. I think it's amazing that as humans we can get so attached to places and a culture. Those who know me know that I have worked in Japan a combined length of 7 years. I just returned from a rather grueling 4 month stint. It was great to be back in Japan and let's just say that the food made it easy to gain weight, too easy to put on 10 pounds, but I digress.

Seeing this horrible footage of lives being swept away. And I have been down streets like that, I have looked at it and thought these places quaint litte towns. I heard that are expecting loses of life in the ten-thousands...heart breaking.

I have checked on those I know there and they are OK, but still is kinda horrifying to watch and personally upsetting.

Having been through the Kobe quake in 95 with the Japanese, I can say this, they have a lot of GANMAN, or endurance. To have GANMAN means to persuvere and that is something they are really good at.

Keep them in your prayers,

Their Bodies, My Babies

Jeff Riedel for The New York Times
Melanie Thernstrom’s children, Kieran (left) and Violet.
Melanie Thernstrom and her husband, Michael, set out to make a baby.

What they created instead was a complex and unconventional family.

As she writes in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, it took five adults to bring two little children, Violet and Kieran, into the world.

Melanie calls her babies “twiblings.” It’s a word more usually used to describe siblings who are extremely close in age, which, until very recently, could only mean children born nine months to a year apart. But, using an egg donor (who she calls the Fairy Goddonor), two gestational surrogates (Melissa and Fie) and Michael’s sperm, Melanie’s son was born five days before her daughter. A Google search shows that she might well be the first one to use the term quite this way. And her new twist on the word is just one more reflection of how we continue to find previously unthinkable ways to use reproductive technology to change the mix and meaning of parenting.

As Melanie writes:

For many couples, the most crushing aspect of fertility treatment is not all the early morning blood-draws but the haunting feeling that the universe is telling them that their union is not — in a spiritual, as well as a biological, sense — fruitful. But I knew Michael and I were a great couple — I had pined so long for the elusive feeling of rightness, and now that I finally had it, I was damned if I was going to let biology unbless us. And I knew if we let biology become Mother Nature, we actually would be damned.

We forged ahead. I wanted to find carriers who would be like female relatives — women with whom it was fun to shop for baby things and who would give us advice on actually caring for the babies and make it all seem doable. While this desire seemed natural to me, I was surprised by how differently other people saw it.

“You won’t have anything in common with the carriers,” a director of a Los Angeles agency (which we decided not to work with) insisted dismissively. The gestational carriers at their agency were mainly white, working-class women, often evangelical Christians — “the kind of girls you went to high school with,” he said, managing to give “high school” an ominous intonation. He waved his hand. “You may think you want to stay in touch now, but trust me, once you have your baby, you’re barely going to remember her name. I call it surrogacy amnesia.”

Many intended parents do feel uneasy at the idea of too much intimacy with their carriers and are willing to pay the hefty agency fees to “manage” the surrogacy and maintain distance between them. But for us, the idea of not being close to the carriers seemed much more alarming, like something from “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Moreover, the only true safety in surrogacy lies in trust. What real remedy could there be if, for example, your baby was born with fetal alcohol syndrome?
Readers might remember that this is not the first time gestational surrogacy has been the subject of a cover story in the magazine. Two years ago, Alex Kuczynski wrote about the birth of her son using her own egg, her husband’s sperm and the womb of a stranger named Cathy. The article caused a firestorm, mostly because readers saw Alex as distancing herself from Cathy, viewing her as a vessel whose services were purchased. As Alex wrote of her relationship with her surrogate:

I searched the literature for a way to understand our relationship, one that is unprecedented in the history of human association. No writer or psychiatrist or medical ethicist offered an easy answer for how to behave. When Cathy told me that she considered the couple for whom she gave birth a year earlier as close as extended family, I wondered: Do we all have to have Thanksgiving together? If so, for how many years? And which husband carves the turkey?
Jeff Riedel for The New York Times
The surrogates, Fie (left) and Melissa (right), with Kieran and Violet.
Melanie’s story shows that there is no one way to navigate these new emotional waters. (The addition of the surrogates’ voices — literally — to the article this time around is but one hint of that.) All parents are different; all families reflect those differences; throw reproductive technology into the mix and everything is amplified. Taken together, the two articles show that there are endless ways to blend love and science.

As Melanie writes:

I ONCE FELT a prick of an unpleasant emotion. It was the week the Fairy Goddonor came to Portland for the egg retrieval. Over tapas one night, I watched her and Michael laughing and suddenly felt unhappy. I poured myself more wine, but instead of dispelling the feelings, it made me feel more alone. “You were so quiet at dinner,” Michael said as we got into the car. He turned to look at me. “Are you not feeling well?”

“Is it weird that you’re having babies with her instead of me?”

“I’m not having babies with her. I’m having babies with Melissa and Fie.”

The conversation dissolved into laughter. That was the thing about our conception: there were too many players to be jealous of any one. And once we made the decision to have children this way, and put away regret, I felt happier embracing it than just tolerating it. There was even something I liked about the idea of a family created by many hands, like one of those community quilt projects, pietra dura, or a mosaic whose beauty arises from broken shards. If it takes a village to raise a child, why not begin with conception? When I tried to think about why I don’t want to have donor-and-surrogacy amnesia, it isn’t that it seems unfair to them (although it is), but that it erases our own experience of how our children came to be. At a basic level, the fact that our children originated through the good will of strangers feels like an auspicious beginning.

Oddly, the very aspects of third-party reproduction that others found threatening, I found reassuring. I wanted to avoid what I think of as the claustrophobia of the nuclear family. I wanted my children to have as many other influences as possible — to have other people teach them how to set up camp or shoot a basketball, as Melissa might; or how to say, “Thanks for the food; can I be excused from the table?” in Danish, as Fie insists her children do. I don’t know what the future will hold, and perhaps we will lose touch with them — we all agreed anyone can close the door at any point. But I hope not. If you consider third-party reproduction to be simply a production detail in the creation of a conventional nuclear family — a service performed and forgotten — then acknowledging the importance of outsiders could make it all seem like a house of cards. But if you conceive of the experience as creating a kind of extended family, in which you have chosen to be related to these people through your children, it feels very rich. At the twiblings’ first birthday party, there were lots of people who cared about them, but Melissa and Fie and their families were the guests of honor. And although the Fairy Goddonor was not there, we thought of her and sent her an antique gold charm of an angel hovering over a crib.

Tonight I stood on top of a hotel in Shizuoka Japan and looked at the
stars and made a few prayers in the direction of a cross next to a
wedding chapel. I wish that I could say we have a baby on the way, but
unfortunately that is not the case yet. It has been more than two
months since I put anything up here. Two long and emotional months to
say the least. I hope it is, as they say, darkest before the brightest
light of day. We could totally use some light.

Back in August we made our 2nd attempt with our surrogate. Our first
failed but we pressed on. We had heard about other couples giving up
on surrogacy because they just could not handle the emotional roller
coaster of it all. At the time I wondered why they gave up, now I
completely understand. Perhaps that is why I have not put many
thoughts about this personal journey up here. Going through this makes
you feel raw, vulnerable and alone at times. In August we attempted
again and within a week of my 40th birthday we learned that we were
pregnant. Those few days were some of the happiest I remember in a
long time. We knew that a positive home pregnancy test meant that we
were far from out of the woods. We had bought an expensive bottle of
wine months ago that we were saving to open once we learned of the
positive pregnancy. The past few months I could not wait to open that
bottle of wine. A few days after we attempted we got a call from our
surrogate. As soon as I heard the tone in her voice, I could barely
contain myself. She had called to tell us that she was pregnant and
that we were going to be fathers. I was so overcome with emotion that
I could not even speak to her so I handed the phone to Greg and wept
with joy. It was truly one of the happiest moments in my life.

We were cautious who we told this to; only immediate family. And for
days all we thought or talked about was how excited we were, what the
next nine months would be like, etc. That was on August 25th, two days
after my 40th birthday. Things had been hectic at work as well. I had
finally closed a deal for my company doing some work back in Japan.
Since I speak Japanese I had found some software project management
work that would require me to be in Japan for a few months. Greg was
not happy about me being away for such a long time, but he knew that I
had to do what I had to do. I was relatively excited to go back since
I had not been to Japan for years and I like the language, culture and
food a lot. I feel a special closeness to Japan and Japanese people to
tell the truth. So I had planned and booked a flight to Tokyo on Sept.
7th that would have me there working for a couple of months. After the
great news of our pregnancy, I only thought of the travel and how when
I got back we would be that much closer to being dads. We had a nice
family dinner the night before I left and as I tried to fall asleep I
had so many thoughts bouncing through my head.

Then we got a text. It was about 11pm and I had to get up in few hours
and leave for Tokyo. As I fumbled towards the night stand and read the
text, I wanted to believe it was all just a bad dream, but I was awake
and the words were there in front of me. In spite of the positive
pregnancy results and the few weeks that I had passed, our surrogate
had texted us to say that unfortunately she got her period and it was
just a chemical pregnancy. And just like that, it was over and I felt
devastated. Greg was too once he found out, but I took it especially
hard. As I tried to sleep on the 14 hour business class trip to Tokyo,
when the cabin was dark and the business class seats around me were
fully declined, I cried for awhile. This was not how it was suppose to
happen. Our poor surrogate was heart broken to have to deliver this
news to us. I felt like the floor had fallen out from under us. After
years of planning, talking, tons of money, lawyers, tests, jumping
through adoption hoops, failed adoptions, failed surrogacies,
attempts, plane tickets, coordinating, diet, exercise, coordination
and a ton of emotions, we were no closer to having a family. Life only
gives us as much as we can handle I guess, and I was at the end.

The next day I was busy acclimating back to Japan, trying to forget
our bad luck and oddly enough I was thankful that I was away from it
all, away from my partner, family and surroundings so I could forget
about it, lick my wounds and try to press on. The past few months I
also connected with an old friend I knew from back in Japan who lives
in Seattle. He and his partner had just had a baby girl via surrogacy.
We had also befriended a very nice gay couple who had just had a baby
via surrogacy too. Their words have helped. Sometime it feels like you
are the only person in the world doing this. Sometime it feels like
God has a bad sense of humor I guess, because this felt like a sick

I am writing this from my hotel room in Japan. Being here has been fun
I guess, but a distraction and way to get away from my feelings about
this. In a bit over a week I will go back home and we will try again
soon I hope. I don't know how couples (straight or gay) can keep
trying for so long. Since there are no ovaries in our house, it takes
a lot more time, money and coordinating to even get to try. Such is

I am trying to remain hopeful, through all the shitty adoption
agencies, lawyers mess we must fumble through to have a family. The
hardest things can be easy sometimes (love, job, house, health,
security) and the easiest things for some can be hard for some
(marriage, starting a family).

As I stood on the roof looking at the mountains and stars tonight and
really just wished for one thing and you probably know what that is. I
miss Greg and if anything this long absence has made me realize how
much I love and miss him. But the break has also renewed my strength
in how much I want to have a family. I know life is unfair. I know
that people do not think I should be able to marry the man I love or
that some hateful Christian might say that the failed pregnancy was
just god's way of saying that gay couples should not have a baby. I
don't believe that. I only want the same things everyone else wants
and I will NOT give up until I have them. I do not care of it takes
the rest of my life, but I WILL finally reach my dream of the two
things that everyone else takes for granted; married with children.
That is all that I want. All the other stuff is gravy.

I am writing these personal thoughts here so that I can look back on
them some day and remind myself of how painful and hard those two
things were to achieve and how I will never take them for granted. God
bless us, and please hurry :-).

As a kid who grew up watching this show, I found this very interesting..

Medical Billing
[Via: Medical Billing

Sometimes if you really stop to think about, life is a total trip at times :-)

-It is kinda weird to me that I am almost the big Four-OH
-That I work for a 日本企業
-That Greg and I are trying to have a baby with a surrogate 
-That we have been together over 9 years 
-That I love my life, friends, family and even home so much

If you had asked me where I thought I would be when I turned 40, I never would have guessed this.

"I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, And in short, I was afraid."

So after years of planning, many ups and downs and lots of money, we have arrived at the races!! Today will be our first attempt to inseminate our surrogate. I have not updated this much because we had a lot of steps to get through to even arrive at the attempts, but suffice it to say we have located an awesome surrogate, signed contracts and today she will arrive for a few days of (ahem), well you can imagine. Or maybe not.

I am not sure why everyone is so intrigued by *HOW* we will be making a baby, but they are. It is not like I ask straight people, "So when you made your son, did you give it to the old lady doggie style?" Maybe I should ask that when I get the question next time.

Anyway, it has  been a tough road to get to this point. My only hope is that we are successful.

And for the record, we are not having a baby to try and be like all the straight people. We are having a baby because we want to. After 9 years together, I would say we are pretty securely attached to each other.  Too bad so many couples jump into kids so quickly. In any event, there was never a baby more wanted than the one we are trying to make. Wish us luck and God's blessing. We are off to the races!

I am getting close to my target weight thanks to diet, P90x and limiting sugar and carbs
Sept 09 - June 10

Step 1
Eat a diet that is balanced with lean protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Avoid fried foods or foods with high fat contents. Your body will absorb the fat you eat, making it difficult for you to increase muscle tone and appear toned. Managing your diet doesn't necessarily equate to weight loss although some weight loss may occur.

Step 2
Do cardio exercises three to four times per week for 30 to 60 minutes at a time. If you have minimal fat, cardiovascular activity will help to maintain your existing muscle tone and strengthen your cardiovascular system. If you have some fat to lose, cardiovascular exercises are essential for losing fat as well as strengthening your cardiovascular system. In order to appear toned, you have to minimize the fat on your body. Otherwise, you may be toning muscles that can't be seen because they're hidden behind a layer of body fat.

Step 3
Drink plenty of water. It is recommended that you drink eight 8-oz.glasses per day (64 oz. total or approximately 2 liters). Try to drink an additional four glasses per day (or an additional liter). Drinking water works as an internal cleanser that washes away fat and impurities on the inside of your body the way water cleans your body externally.

Step 4
Do strength training exercises three times per week. Lifting free weights or using the weight resistance machines in a gym are a good way to tone. If you prefer a more simple routine, there are exercises you can do to tone that don't require any equipment Once you become accustomed to doing strength training, you can consider an alternate form such as Pilates to keep things interesting.

Read more:

Blah, that's how I feel about the whole "f-booking" thing as I have heard it called. Yet I keep this app on my iphone and check it several times a day. We are literally becoming a society that is wired every waking moment. Our kids are addicts. Imagine raising a college kid and them not having a smart phone or a facebook account..they would rather die I am sure.

Greg and I were looking on Myspace last night and it reminded me why I was glad to commit myspace suicide. Stick with one group contacting medium and use it, I thought. After seeing some of these pages I was glad I had done that. They are too confusing and everyone has a "unique" page. I think it may be dying a slow death.

But remember I am here to bitch about f-booking. And oh how it annoys me. Why do I care what someone I know from third grade is doing in Wisconsin. And the old 80/20 rule applies here too. 80% of all posts will be from 20% of your users. My best friend is on Facebook and I do not think we communicate any more or better. Yet he does not update much and I do. Or do I? Maybe there should be a counter that says "OK, enough updates from you. Ya know, it is not all about you sometime." And I stare at a facebook page and that somehow gives me a view of the world around me? Not hardly. I guess I feel connected, but really my close friends and family are the ones I care about the most. I quickly built three circles in my privacy settings: family, close friends, and acquaintances. There is far too much shit going on in my world and too many things asking for my attention. We were laughing recently about Greg's brother and fiance communicating through facebook while sitting 2 feet from each other on the sofa. Sad, but funny that we have all come to this.

I would like to impose the following suggestions:

1. Pics of your kids is allowed 1 times per week
2. No drama. I know it won't happen because we are suckers for cat fights, but I can dream.
3. Self promotion in excess makes you appear vapid and somewhat self centered, but who is not?
4. I do not give a $hit about any games you play. Period.
5. Some of you need to have your submit button disabled. I do not need to know every significant detail of your mundane life. I know you are leaving a record for future generations to examine, but maybe none of us are THAT interesting. And the ones who are that interesting we all know about.

Now I have to save this so I can update my facebook page.

In a little over a month since I last updated this we have been going through a slightly different path: surrogacy; only this time we were the ones who backed out based on professional advice.

Interestingly, this one does not feel as upsetting as the failed adoption. And I am guessing it is because, thankfully, no life was ever created.

For those unfamiliar with this segment of the baby business, there are 2 types: Traditional and Gestational. For traditional surrogacy, the woman's own egg is used. For gestational surrogacy, a third party (typically and unknown egg donor) is used and another woman carries the child to delivery.

In March after our failed adoption, I met what I thought would be the perfect traditional surrogate. We opted to go the traditional route because 1) it was much cheaper and 2)we were not as concerned about who the mother was, just that she was healthy and would relinquish rights when asked.

I met this potential surrogate, let's call her Khris, on this surrogate website and thought she sounded great. She was local in Texas (important for cost and legalities), had already had a child (never do surrogacy on a woman's first baby) and had what I thought was a stable life and support network. Also, she was willing to go the traditional route, which very few surrogates are, since it would have been her genes in the mix.

While poking around on this website, we met a gay couple who had been attempting to have a baby for TEN years. Yes, that is right, 10 freaking years! The good news is that they finally had their baby and their friendship was the one good thing we managed to get out of that failed surrogacy. These two had spent a lot of time and money and had gone through several failed matches, so we felt an immediate connection. They had also given us advice on how to proceed with Khris.

The gay people I know who are parents are some of the best parents you will ever meet and the reason why is that they try to do things right and learn from others. So we learned very early that in spite of the cost and time, we were going to do this right, which meant before proceeding with this seemingly perfect surrogate we were going to go through all the right steps: hire a good attorney, get background reports and have a psychologist who specializes in surrogacy evaluate her. If everything came up rosy then we would proceed with the *ahem* insemination.

I will tell the story of how our relationship unfolded so that other couples can possibly learn from us. I believe there are 2 ways to learn things: From experience and from others. Experience is the best teacher but also the most expensive. Really smart people learn from watching other who do it right.

Going the independent route is scary, so when Khris said she wanted to be our surrogate, we made it very clear that we would do this the right way. After exchanging emails and phone calls the next step was for us to meet her and family, so we did one weekend and drove down to San Antonio. Our hope was to get to know them a bit and see what we thought. We had dinner with them one night and breakfast the next day and we left feeling like they might be OK. There was nothing special or extraordinary about the couple and their baby. They were a bit reserved I thought and not *quite* what I had hoped for, but as Greg pointed out, they really are just providing a service (albeit the most important one in the world for a couple) and who were we to judge another couple from the outside, right?

So we were left thinking "maybe" and she was very anxious to start (flag #1). Oddly enough, they did not want us to see their apartment, but I understand that, so we headed home excitedly thinking of all the steps we had to go through. Medically, she was fine. That was really the first important thing for us; that we feel medically confident that she is fertile and can carry a healthy baby full term, so I got her on insurance and started having her screened. All the steps are also telling because only a woman REALLY interested in "seeing someone fulfill their dream of starting a family" would jump through all the hoops needed, so to her credit, she was willing. She was 33 and had told us that she wanted to donate her eggs too but had been rejected "because of her age" (flag #2). As I got to know them, they seemed like a nice young family. Her fiance was in grad school and she stayed home and took care of their 9 month old. He was on scholarships I guessed, but I did wonder *where* their income came from, but I could not really pinpoint that (flag #3). We gave them a bit of slack since we are in a recession and hey, maybe they were doing it for financial reasons but really wanted to "help" us. We presented ourselves as an open book. One of the fist things they got about us was a 20 page report from a licensed social worker stating why we be good parents. For me, I was very much about giving them EVERYTHING about us, and in hindsight probably a bit too much, since this report told our salaries, net worth, savings etc. Yet oddly enough, when I inquired about their financial stability, suddenly that was something they were not really comfortable discussing (flag #4). Fair enough. I can accept that. They looked clean and presentable and would never begrudge someone for struggling to get by.

Next I lawyered up (did I tell you how much I hate lawyers?) and started working on a contract (albeit an unenforceable one through the judicial eyes of Texas) but still, contracts gave you a path and outlined expectations. We got the background check from police back and there were a *few* more items on both of them than we had expected (2 arrests for him and 3 arrests for her, Yikes!). Dear reader, far be it from me to judge. I too have a thing out there as well from when I was young too, so I am going to be quite forgiving when it comes to that. Hey, we all screw up and anyone who has not spent at least one night in jail is pretty boring in my book. So as I inquired about each incident, the excuses seemed odd and I could not quite piece together what had really been done wrong in some of the arrests. Also, she had plenty of chances to tell me about these but waited until after we met to come forth with these items in her past. That caused me to start questioning her honesty (flag #5). I was expecting 1 item so when I got the report back from my lawyer, I was a bit miffed to see 3 arrests for her and 2 for him. I think this is where I started to have my doubts.

When you are trying to start a family like us and have been put through the emotional and financial wringer like us, you learn to accept a lot. Her excuses sounded plausible and I was all about giving people another chance. As I said earlier, I was no angel when I was young, so I could forgive someone with an item or two on their wrap sheet. Once all this had been spelled out, my legal counsel warned me that she too was concerned (major flag #6) and she was a paid professional who focused in surrogacy, so she had seen a lot.

Uh oh, this was not going in the direction I had hoped. The next hoop for them to jump through was the psychological screening for both of them. By this time our relationship was becoming a bit strained. She seemed too anxious about all this and called, emailed and texted me too much (flag #7). I never quite trusted her emotionally, but she sent poems and wanted to chat with me so we would "bond". Part of the "journey" doing it this way is the connection you have with this person.

After we presented the contract to them, they wanted to use a very expensive attorney that we had to pay for. This hacked me off a bit since even my lawyer does not bill at $300/hr, but ultimately I said OK, but very quickly I was getting concerned. If I am paying for your lawyer and he or she is better than mine, I am quite the dumbass, right? (flag #8).

By now we decided the psychologist was going to make or break this. And I wanted to be sure that this person knew all the same details I did, so I communicated all the facts I had to the psychologist.

A short word about the social workers and shrinks in this process: They are worth EVERY penny and are the best money you will spend. In our failed adoption it was not the attorneys or the mother or anyone who could give us clear direction but rather it was this little California social worker who told us what we needed to know "the father does not want to terminate his rights". So with the psychologist, her job was to tell us a) what her true motives were b) how fit she was emotionally for this and c) any likelihood that she would try to keep the child after birth. Anyone doing a surrogacy will tell you that THIS is the biggest fear any couple has.

I received a text from them after the meeting that said they had been asked to leave the psychologists office by security. WTF!! Are you kidding me? When I got the text I thought the whole thing had just blown up. Obviously if your surrogate and her partner are asked to leave the psychologists office by security, they are not fit to carry your child. Turns out, they thought it would be "funny" and they wanted to "joke" with us. We asked a lot of people about that stunt and no one said it was funny. Not even remotely. Interestingly enough the fact that they thought they did so well they could joke about it and the fact that I so quickly believed it is actually quite revealing. In my mind it was totally plausible that they got into a shouting match with a psychologist. (Flag #9)

The next week I received the nail in the coffin. Flag #10 came from a licensed psychologist who specializes in evaluating these young ladies to see if they are for real. She told me what I feared; that there were red flags all over both of them. After much time and money, I finally got the answer I needed to hear in my myopic state: run away from them! In summary, it turns out that their motives were actually based more on their financial situation than anything else ( I had feared this as well) and that they both had, how shall I put this, a bit more psychological baggage than we had hoped. Many things did not add up and in the end, they had taken us for a bit of a ride, even though they "promised" early on that they would not hurt us. And actually maybe it was our rejection that hurt them. Come to find out that as an "independent" surrogate, she would have NEVER been accepted by any agency. After all the dirt came out, it became very apparent to us that we had funded their little experiment and they had both failed horribly.

Once Greg and I made the decision and told them, their response was actually quite telling. They were not really sad or devastated emotionally, just belligerent and insisting they get all these reports. This failure was actually easier on us emotionally than the adoption, obviously because there was not a life out there already that we hoped would be ours.

Dear readers, especially the same sex couples pursuing a child, please learn from my mistakes. The take aways here in surrogacy are as follows:

1. Trust your instincts. If you do not feel a level of trust between you and a surrogate, DO NOT PROCEED. The TRUE surrogates are the ones who do this to help people, not because they need cash. In fact, if a surrogate is too focused on the compensation, walk away, else you stand the chance of being held emotional and financial hostage by someone carrying your most precious cargo in the world.

2. Hire professionals! ESPECIALLY if you are dealing with these independent surrogates. The money we spent on the lawyers and psychologists was well worth it. Many want children so badly that they are blind to the faults of these people. Professionals provide logical unbiased decisions.

C'est la vie. We will be fine and I am sure that we will meet our child one day, it just sucks that you have to wade through so much shit to do it.

Live and learn, hopefully from the mistakes of others. Now let's see if we can still find that perfect match. Maybe next time we will try gestational surrogacy, so wish us luck!

We have not given up yet!

In January 2010 we were matched and got VERY excited. We were starting to think we really might pull this off and then the floor fell out from under us. This is a letter I wrote to a support group of sorts and switched to a surrogacy approach after that had failed...

Greetings Everyone,

We are new here and just wanted to introduce ourselves and tell you our story so far. We are a same sex couple living in Texas and have been together for almost 9 years. The last two years we have seriously discussed having a family and we officially started our journey about 9 months ago. Needless to say, we have had some bumps in this journey and are trying to remain positive.
A couple of years back we thought about co-parenting and even went so far as to meet a young lesbian and discuss this, but because of ours jobs we did not want to be tied to one area and deal with the complications of two families for our child. We then discussed the option of surrogacy, but once we looked at the cost, we realized that it was very complicated and expensive. It also seemed somewhat selfish when we thought about babies needing to be adopted.
Rewind about 16 months ago, we decided to start the adoption journey. We did tons of paperwork, saved money and discussed it with friends and family. We did our homestudy and signed contracts with an agency (really more lawyers) in California. California is one of the few states that allows same sex couples to adopt jointly at the same time, and that was important to us. This agency in California put us in a pool of potential parents, mostly straight but some gay, with the hopes that we would be selected by a birth mom. After thousands of dollars and 7 months, we have not been picked by any birthmoms, which has been disappointing for us.
After our homestudy was done, we were introduced to a facilitator in California through the gay-friendly woman who did our homestudy. Her model was a bit different. You choose who you want to be presented to and if the birth mother agrees, contracts are signed, money changes hands and you start down the road to being a parent. In January we were delighted to find out that a young woman in California had accepted us as the adoptive parents of her child. We were thrilled that things were actually happening. Even before we signed contracts, the facilitator encouraged us to give the birthmother some "gift" money in good faith as she was struggling, single and had a child to take care of. Being naive, we did so since we felt that our life was in this person's hands to some extent. Contracts were signed, 20k was wired to a slew of attorneys, trusts were set up etc.
We very much wanted to have a close and open relationship with our birth mother and were anxious to get to know her. After we were paying clients through this second avenue, they gave us her details (name, phone number etc). We called several times and left messages and she did not really return our calls. That is when I became suspicious. We had read and read about adoption and new that most birthmothers were very interested in getting to know the prospective adoptive parents. This young lady did not, so my partner convinced me she would just want minimal contact, which we were fine with. We gave her a lot of money through a trust to pay back rent, buy cell phones, get food and clothes, all the while she missed doctor appointments for a June birth. This whole time we had not even gotten a "hello" phone call or a return of our messages. While this was going on we spent thousands of dollars on another attorney trying to get the presumed father to waive his rights. Imagine how upset we were when we discovered that once presented a letter by an attorney, he OPPOSED the adoption, even though she told us he would not. The presumed father was separated from the mother for months and in a religious halfway house of some sorts. The attorney also showed us a letter she had written to him months ago WHERE SHE LIED AND TOLD THIS MAN SHE HAD MISCARRIED HIS CHILD! Needless to say, we were devastated. Just like that, the whole thing fell apart. The thousands of dollars we had spent on attorneys was gone as well as all the money we had “gifted”. And we did not have any malice towards this man if he truly wanted to father his child.
This all happened over the last month. We have been licking our wounds and trying to be hopeful, but it is hard when you feel as though you have been used and it seems like everyone has their hand out asking for money in the adoption process. So far our experience with adoption has been disheartening to say the least. You feel like your fate is in these other people's hands and you have very little control. The lesson we learned is that you must terminate the father’s rights before you go too far down the process with a birthmom.
We are still getting a few potential birthmothers from this facilitator we paid, but many of these women who are even open to gay couples are felons, former drug users and one woman who was gang-raped (and we know this is not her fault at all, but we wanted to know more about the father's medical background). I apologize to all of you for venting, but this process has taken a toll on us both mentally, financially and in our relationship. If anything, we are even more determined to make a family now, so that is why we are here, with the hope having a bit more control over this situation. We truly believe that somewhere out there is a child waiting for us.
We are here looking for a traditional surrogate mother, hopefully not too far from Texas, who would be interested in perhaps working with us. We are very honest and open and want to find someone who is the same. We have already been hurt once, so we are a bit apprehensive still, This would be an open situation meaning the surrogate would use her eggs and our sperm and there would be some contact throughout the years, but we would want the surrogate to terminate all legal rights. We both love our mothers very much, so you have to believe us when we say that we would want our child to know who his/her mother is.
Again, I apologize for venting, but I wanted to see if others had any advice or suggestions or maybe someone has been through something similar. Our apprehension about going the surrogate mother route is that it will just be about the money, that we will get our hopes up and it will fail, or that we will be misled by doctors, attorneys or women struggling through this recession like everyone else. As a potential parent going these routes to start a family, you sometimes feel as though all people see are dollar signs, so it can cause you to lose faith. We are trying hard not to, The thing that appeals to us about the traditional surrogacy route is that we truly want to get to know the mother and develop a relationship with her, since this whole journey is based off that. Thank you everyone for listening. Hopefully our dreams will come true in the next year or so. Until then, we will try to keep our faith in humanity. Wishing you love and luck and please contact us if there is any sincere interest.

signed hopeful daddies,

Brent & Greg

The takeaway for other gay couples trying to adopt here is:

1. Lawyers, adoption agencies and facilitators are out there and happy to take your money and sell you hope or the "promise" of a match (cha-ching - $20,000)
2. Verify that assumed fathers will terminate their rights BEFORE you enter into ANY agreements. This is really tricky since these agencies and facilitators "hook" you with a match that requires thousands of dollars to get the BMs (birthmothers) details. If you are matched, tell them that you will pay for a social worker to speak with the presumed father first and verify that he is indeed onboard. Spend the $200 to have a state social worker do this and save yourself the heart ache and loss of money.

So I have officially repurposed my blog. I have changed some settings to make it more private and have decided to tell our here goes.

Some Background:

We have talked seriously about starting a family since 2007. Since we are missing one critical part of that (duh - a uterus!) we looked at several options over the past few years. Here were some of our initial thoughts

- surrogacy - too expensive
- co parenting - looked into it, quite hard to pull off with 4 parents. Leaves you tied to one place
- foster parenting - first of all, gay couple get no love from the state in becoming foster parents. In many ways we are treated like 2nd class citizens or "backups" for special needs kids. Plus the thought of attaching and having to give a child back to a shitty mother/father!?? Are you kidding? No thanks.
- Adoption - sure. Why not?

A pic of my niece being silly. We got to spend some Uncle/Niece time together. Love this little girl!

Preface: We planned this cruise back in March 2009 when the economy was in the dumps. They were offering great prices on balcony suites for 2 week cruises through the Mediterranean, and since everyone was convinced they would take no vacations, the prices really dropped and we took the bait. Little did we know that they would give us an upgrade to a penthouse for a minimal charge two weeks before. This is our 5th cruise and by far the BEST we have every experienced. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed doing it. I hate to sound like an ass, but I doubt that is possible. :-)

Why can't I go?

Sunday August 23 2009 – DFW to London, All aboard the Norwegian Jade

We arrived in London Saturday morning and took the train to our hotel. It was not easy hauling the luggage through the tube, but we did it. We stayed in Kensington and after arriving I found some free wifi
across the street. We had some delicious Indian food and checked out a local boy bar. We were not interested in staying out too late since Sunday was the big day..the start of our cruise! Sunday morning we woke up at 6:30AM and grabbed some coffee near the station from a Starbuck’s. Oddly enough, there were no English coffee shops open this early on a Sunday. I worked out in the hotel gym and then we took a car to Waterloo station to get on the train to Southampton. We were a little worried about missing the train, but I got some wine from Harrod’s and we were all set for out 2 hour train trip to South Hampton. When we arrived at the port we were REALLY excited and got escorted to our fabulous penthouse at the front of the ship. We had champagne and the butler explained the services we get. The room was amazing and we love looking out the front of the ship and could see the world coming at us. Today is my 39th birthday and truly a wonderful birthday, the best ever! My wonderful husband and I are in robes looking out at the fog as we head south. He has ordered a prime rib dinner for my birthday and I am having a cigar while we get ready. I feel like I am in heaven!!! We are having dinner in Cagneys and tomorrow we spend the day at sea heading towards Vigo Spain.

8/24 – Day 1 - At sea

It was a bit cold and windy as we headed towards Spain, but I woke up and had a nice workout. I then signed up for some fitness thing during the day at sea and we went to breakfast. We must have forgotten the notice about time change because we showed up for the VIP breakfast and were too late. One of the benefits of cruising at this level is the private breakfast rather than the huge buffet. The food is basically the same but it has a few made to order items (I had eggs benedicts almost every day!), but we get to sit down in a private room overlooking the ship’s pool and order our food. The water was a bit rough and Greg felt a bit sea sick that first day. Still, we ended up going to the meet and greet and after Greg went back to the room and I wandered the ship and started planning our meals and wrote down movies I wanted to have the butler deliver during our stay. We took naps and woke up and laid out on the deck
over the pool. Days at sea are nice and relaxing because you do not get off the ship and we were about to become very busy, so we enjoyed the day, Actually we ordered room service for lunch and then picked up a book from the library. We came back to the penthouse around 5 and relaxed and dressed for dinner and a cocktail party beforehand. I had lobster for dinner and then drinks in one of the lounges over the pool. Around 11PM I grabbed some food for a late snack and went to bed. Great day at sea! Tomorrow is our first port, Vigo. We are planning to take in the sights and enjoy.

8/25 – Day 2 - Vigo Spain

Woke up at 7 for a beautiful sunrise as we came into Vigo. We took pictures as we came into the port and as the sun came up we realized just how awesome this was. We had coffee on the balcony and I went and worked out for a bit before we headed off to breakfast. We have a great coffee maker in the room so we don’t have to wait for room service in the morning. We are situated in the front of the ship below the bridge and have a living area that looks out in front. Above us is the bridge. I can look up and see the crew. I tell Greg that if I catch them sleeping I will certainly be knocking on the window. It is nice to sit on the balcony and look out or read and see all these great ports as we come into them. I have also noticed late at night and early in the morning just how clear the sky is. The stars and even a planet or two look simply beautiful from out here in the middle of the Mediterranean. We finally got to eat at Cagney’s for breakfast. After a good sweat on the treadmill and a shower, we went there and had breakfast made for us. The main breakfast buffet is nice I think, but it is very busy and there are a lot of people, so it is nice to sit down and get served. I had some eggs benedicts as usual and made our dinner reservations with the concierge before heading into Vigo. She told us how to skip the long lines at dinner by using a separate entrance and her name. Brilliant! They think of everything. We had decided that we would walk around Vigo all day. Many of the excursions on this itinerary are expensive, and since we have not seen any of these cities before, we have decided to do a lot on our own. Vigo is a huge port city surrounded by mountains and tons of cute little houses all over the mountainsides. We sail through customs and
are given maps. We decided to walk around the town and admire the beautiful old Spanish architecture. We went into a Catholic church during morning mass and admired how quiet it was and the tall old ceilings. The streets were quite steep, so we got a bit of a morning workout as the shop keepers put their wares out for us to peruse. After walking a bit we found the main shopping street called Principe and decide to head up to the park and castle that overlooks the port. As we walked around I admired how attractive the Spanish people were and just how surreal it felt to actually be in Spain. One of the reasons for this trip was because neither one of us had been to Southern Europe. We had traveled a lot, but these countries were only places we had seen in pictures and read about in books. The Spanish seemed like very passionate people with a strong sense of family, history and culture. Being from Texas, we tend to think of Mexicans as a close offshoot to the Spanish, but I am surprised at how different the cultures are. As I am typing this now it gets a bit cold on the penthouse balcony so I decide to sit in the living area and watch all the lights. One nice thing is that I can pull the shears around the bed and give Greg some darkness to sleep in. Small touches like this make it a really great room.

Anyway, back in Vigo we got to entrance of the park and low and behold I can get a free wifi signal on my iphone. I have not checked email or face book in a couple of days and I am pleased to get lots of birthday wishes from dear friends and I get to see pictures of my Niece’s first day of kindergarten. We have a smoke and upload some pictures, one of which we took there of me overlooking the port. Technology can truly be a fun way of sharing. We walk up lots of steps to the top of the castle and I am amazed at how fragrant and wonderful the vegetation in the park is. The castle was not a residential one, but one built for protection many many years ago. We walk around and get some great shots from the top looking down onto the port and the cruise ship. It is getting close to lunch and the nice thing about doing this on our
own is going at our own pace. We decide to head down into town to find a café for lunch. We check out a few shops and admire more buildings. We found a “cafeteria” for lunch called the Luces de Bohemia with tables for us to sit outside and watch all the Spaniards go through their daily lives. The waiter speaks very little English which we find refreshing so we attempt what little Spanish we know. Greg has the Carne empanadas and I have the pollo bocadilla (chicken sandwich) with 2 glasses of vino blanco. They gave us some nice little tapas to eat as well but later we discovered they charge us for these. This is not like On the Border where you get free chips and salsa we learn. We get no wifi, but enjoy seeing all
the people kiss hello, give their beunos dias and walk by. I notice the postal carriers wear all orange there which I find funny. We had read some reviews that mentioned Vigo had nothing to offer the tourist and we laugh because nothing could be further from the truth. After a 25 euro lunch ($36 was a little steep for what we had, but what can you do?) we are not sure whether to tip and leave 2 Euros just in case we are supposed to. We buy a few things on the Principe shopping street, mostly at H&M since we don’t have many of those stores in the US. On the way back to the harbor we share a café con leche and then head
back to the port. I wanted to buy a bottle of wine and Greg wanted to get some magnets. I also wanted some new headphones to use for working out since my old ones seem to slip out a lot. We get back on the ship around 4pm and head to our penthouse. We sit on the balcony and listen to music as we watch the sailboats go by and have a couple of cocktails. The sun is shining and we decide we can actually get a little suntan maybe. After we set sail, we admire the islands in the port and decide to take naps before our 8pm dinner reservation. Greg wakes me up about 15 minutes before we should be there, so I jumped in the shower and we both had a glass of wine before dinner. We ate in the Grand Pacific dining room and Greg has steak and I have pork. The food so far has all been outstanding and the service is great as well. We score a table for 2 next to the window where we can watch the sunset. Greg orders a nice sauvignon blanc and I have a boring chardonnay. Desert is chocolate mousse and cappuccino as usual. As always, the chocolate desserts are amazing. We go out on deck 6 and walk around the ship to admire the view. Greg was annoyed because his jeans were not allowed in the dining room but other patrons are allowed in wearing what can hardly qualify as appropriate dinner attire. We take in the view as the sun goes down and by now it is after 10. We stick our heads into the theater and watch 2 minutes of a marionette show, hardly entertainment in my opinion since I am not a huge fan of the shows on
a cruise. I think the shows are for the same people who complain about there being nothing to do in Vigo; the tourists who must be entertained. I head back to the room to relax. Another perk we get is access to a full DVD library so I order Good Luck Chuck and watch a comedy on the flat screen TV.

8/26 – Day 3 - Lisbon Portugal

As I finish typing this I can see Greg standing outside watching Lisbon or “Lesbian” as we jokingly call it get brighter. It is still mostly dark outside and we are about to go under a bridge, so I want to take photos and get ready for an amazing day in Lesbian. After enjoying the sunrise from the balcony yesterday I went to work out and came back to get ready. We were slow getting off the ship because of all the pictures we took of Lisbon as we came in. After a delicious omelet in Cagney’s we decided to explore Lisbon and opted to take a taxi into downtown for 12 Euros. Lisbon was very different than other
cities, more edgy, rough and slightly sketchy. Once out of the taxi in the main square we had 2 people walk up and pull bags of weed and hash out of their pockets and offer it to us. We respectfully say no thanks and I warned Greg to keep his murse (man-purse) close to him and watch for pick pockets. We decided to see the castle and walked up a bunch of steps through some winding streets after we bought our hop-on hop off bus tickets. These got us a discount for the castle and we walked up and took some great shots of the city down below. We walked around inside the old stone walls. The streets were paved with cobblestone and it was quite rustic and charming in that area. We walked down the hill and Greg went into an old church. We went to the main square to catch the sightseeing bus. It was getting
warm now and we got on the top deck but the front was covered. Greg can tell you all the main stops we passed and the audio tour explained the history and culture of Lisbon. There were some great buildings
and Greg snapped a lot of photos. We ended up back near the port and taking shots of a beautiful monastery but opted not to go in. We found a little place to eat and by now it was after 3pm. We had a delicious Portuguese seafood lunch with beer and wine and decided to get some branco wine (not blanco, but branco in Portugese) to take back and Greg also got a magnet. We were a bit stressed getting back on the ship and were quite sweaty when we boarded. I decided to jump in the pool and it was cold and very refreshing, but also salty.

Back in the penthouse I had cocktails and laid out while listening to music as we went back under the bridge. After a nap we went to their Mexican restaurant for dinner and found it quite good. I had lobster
tacos and Greg had a burrito. We chatted with the waiter about Mumbai of course had dessert and coffee. We walked around the ship afterwards and saw a teenage dance party by the pools. We laughed about showing the kids a move or two but decided against it since the wine had made us a bit tipsy. Back in the room I was tired and watched a movie while Greg read in the living room.

8/27 – Day 4 - Cadiz Spain
We are watching the sun come up in Cadiz as I type this and are looking forward to a day in Cadiz!. We pulled in early in the morning and found it to be a great city to navigate in one day. We pulled in and instantly fell in love with its charm. After a workout and a breakfast in the room, we got off the ship and again decided to explore on our own. We have enjoyed exploring things ourselves rather than rely on group excursions. It is cheaper and we find it more relaxing. We walked around this lovely Spanish city with its narrow roads and cute buildings on either side. The streets were barely wide enough for one car. We saw a roman amphitheater and Greg checked out a Cathedral. We also managed to find some free wifi and instantly went about sending updates. We also managed to find a decent little camera for about 50 Euros and then decided on eating lunch near the flower market. Greg got to have paella and I had some fish. I also picked up a cheap belt. After lunch we decided that we wanted to check out the little beach on the other side. It was a ten minute walk and we stopped and bought a bottle of white wine to have on the beach. We did not bring towels or umbrellas and the sun was getting hot. We were lucky enough to find some to rent for 5 Euros a person. The person watching on the beach was fun. There were plenty of topless women and the Spanish men were easy on the eyes as well. The beach was not great and there were some old castles on either end, but they did not look like much, so we opted for a few hours of beach and sun, clad in our skimpy bathing suits. After a nap, I got in the water and got a slight surprise from a jellyfish. It did not hurt that much and luckily went away soon. We were allowed to return late to the ship, so we slowly made our return but not before popping into an old Spanish convenience store for a bottle of wine to sneak back on the ship. After we returned, I sat on the penthouse balcony as it faced the city. I sipped cocktails and thought it was one of our better ports so far. Until now I have liked
Vigo and Cadiz the best. Friday we will see Gibraltar.

After wine and cheese on the balcony we decided that a short nap (our ritual it seems) was in order. We had dinner plans for Jasmine that night and wanted to see the show Shout. Dinner was great. We each had sake and an assortment of dumplings. Again, the food was amazing. After dinner we had the cappuccino and espresso while Greg had a flight a flan (three different types). It was quite good as was my chocolate cake with green tea ice cream. We caught the 2nd half of the show and really found it
surprisingly good. Afterwards, we picked up some small things in the gift shop and went to the casino for a bit. We played for maybe an hour and in the end only ended losing about $50. Greg is holding on to the 50 in chips he managed to keep and will use them later.

8/28 - Day 5 - The Rock of Gibraltar

Right now we are in the port of Gibraltar and it is very dark outside and I can see many ships in the port. I can see Africa on the right and Europe on the left. There is a thick fog all over and we are hoping
for a beautiful day!! We woke up with a view of dark clouds over the rock of Gibraltar. I snapped some photos and even managed to see several dolphins swimming near the front of the ship. After my workout we made plans to go to the top of the rock and take in the view. Gibraltar was by far the busiest port we had seen. There must have been more than 30 ships around us. Looking up, the cliffs were high and steep and fog rolled in and covered everything. We did the usual breakfast in the VIP
dining room and made a reservation for Shabu shabu at 8pm, one of my favorite Japanese delicacies. After a 2 euro shuttle into town, we walked around this oddly British city and strolled down the main street. This is a great city for deals on alcohol and cigarettes, all cheap and duty free. We walked to the cable car and stood in line for about an hour. The view of the bay and the barbary monkeys are what tourists know this port for. We went up to the top and the view was amazing. While climbing the steps off the cable car, Greg looked up to see a monkey perched right there on the corner. He yelled out “Oh Shit” and almost pissed his pants, I promise. I would have given anything to get a picture of that! We took a few pictures but did not want to get too close since they are known to be very aggressive especially if they think you have food. The views were amazing. From one side we could see the mountains of Morocco in
Africa, which was quite cool to at least see Africa with my own eyes. We picked up some souvenirs and headed back down for lunch. We ate fish and chips at a place called The Angry Friar and were served by
some very British wenches who served up pints to the tourists. We checked email and decided to head back to the ship. We picked up some vodka, smokes and chocolate and were surprised by how cheap it was, or maybe we were just confused since it is hard to keep track of all the exchange rates. They accepted sterling pounds and Euros the people who lived there were quite diverse, truly a mixture of languages. We got the goods back on the ship without a hitch (thanks to the rumrunners) and decided to jump in the pool after making cocktails. We sat on the top deck and admired the view of the rock while Greg read and I ate ice cream. We went back to the penthouse and hung out on the balcony listening to music, having drinks and taking it all in. After our nap, we overslept a bit and woke up after 8pm. No worries though, we simply called the concierge and moved the reservation to 9. Back in the Jasmine, we had them bring us the pot for shabu shabu. I had not had any good shabu shabuu since Osaka Japan 10 years earlier. It was amazing and I went to town boiling all the meat and veggies up. Greg had the ginger flan and I had tapioca for dessert. Back to the casino for a bit of entertainment, Greg won a bit and held onto his chips for the next night. I lost some playing blackjack. We were tire and so headed to the “penthouse” as Greg has instructed me to call it. I fell asleep during a movie as usual. All in all, we had a great day.

8/29 – Day 6 - Granada (Malaga) Spain

We woke up at 6am. I am sitting outside having coffee and typing this as the sun comes up over the mountains of Malaga. Today we are doing a full day excursion and have asked Henry our butler to bring us breakfast. Off to shower and shave! As we come into Malaga it is still dark and got a few nice shots. We got up early for our excursion since we were leaving for the Alhambra at 9am. We had breakfast in the room and loaded onto the bus once off the ship. We saw some sights in Malaga and drove through the Spanish countryside. I fell asleep since it was about 90 minutes to get there.The Alhambra was amazing. Lots of details and the structures were quite impressive. The guide explained the history and we took lots of pics. We went into town afterwards and had lunch and strolled around the streets. It was hot but very nice to check out a non-port city since we were about 2 hours inland. We arrived back at the ship and had cocktails again on the balcony( our ritual). Then we showered and ate at Le Bistro, the French place. It was amazing. Afterwards a couple of spins on the roulette table and we were beat.
The next day is a day at sea and we are looking forward to some down time.

8/30 - Day 7 - Day at Sea – Sunday I think, I don’t care really.

We slept in late and I ate breakfast at the buffet. Days at sea are relaxing after the busy week of sightseeing. We got up and ate a great lunch at Cagney’s. Greg had sliders and I had a turkey burger with a pineapple slice on it. We strolled around the ship some more and even decided to sign up for
another cruise. We get $100 credit and $250 towards our next cruise, so we signed up and have to take one again within 4 years (yeah, I know we are suckers, but we are having a GREAT time). I am sure it will be sooner than 4 years. I attended a seminar in the fitness area yesterday on increasing your metabolism while Greg got another book from the library. Later on we attended a cocktail party with the folks from
the message board. We even gave a few of them a tour of the penthouse and they all loved it. We had dinner at the Italian place with a bunch of the people were from our excursions yesterday as well. They were all lovely people and we had great conversation. The ship seems to be a pretty good mix of British, German, Spanish, Americans, Canadians and Italians. There are so many languages though, it is hard to keep track. The food was really good and of course I had dessert. We
went back to the room and hit the bed. The next day would be Italy,Olbia to be exact. We met a nice Puerto Rican couple from New York and decided to go with them to the beach in Olbia. That would be our relaxing beach day we decided.

8/31- Day 8 - Olbia Italy, an island called Sardinia off of Italy.

We woke up and I got up early as usual and took pictures as we sailed into the port. Olbia was a beautiful little port and the mountains jetted out all around this place. We decided to go to the beach with a nice couple we met at dinner last night. They spoke Spanish and I was surprised at how well the Italian taxi driver could communicate with them. The beach was great (albeit a tad crowded and lots of people (mostly Africans) would come up and try to sell you crap) and there were plenty of topless women and naked kids. The Italians see nothing wrong with little girls (less than 8) swimming topless and little boys under 5 seemed to have the cultural OK to play on the sand in their birthday suits. Whatever, not my culture, so who am I to judge. Hey we sported our speedos and no one cared one bit. Back in the US, I am not sure if we would have worn those. Around 2 we headed back towards the ship and bought some Italian liquor (Grappa it was called, quite strong and obtained from a special kinds of grapes). It tasted more like scotch than wine to me. We went to the Teppanyaki place for dinner that night. Greg knows I am not a huge fan of teppanyaki because everyone thinks it is Japanese food but it really is not. It was like Benihana’s, but it was good. I am just over watching a guy with knives catch shrimp in his hat and make volcanoes out of onions. All in all, our first day in Italy was a success. Now back to get some shut eye as the ship rocks us to sleep.

9/1 – Day 9 - Naples

After coffee, sunrise pics, a run and then breakfast we went into Naples to take the train to Pompeii. Naples was slightly dirty and the trains were kind of dirty and old I thought. Pompeii was fun but lots
of walking around in the hot sun for hours. Greg loved it and walked around like a little archeologist and soaked it all in. I walked around with my umbrella trying to stay cool and sweating. It was interesting but HUGE. There was a lot to see and it was crazy to imagine that this whole city had been buried by ash and simply forgotten about for many years,. We decided to see Sorrento since it was only an hour by train and take the hydrofoil back into Naples. The train was delayed leaving by 30 minutes and it was HOT. We went to Sorrento and had a great lunch, best pizza I have ever had and Greg totally agreed and he LOVES pizza more than me. We bought magnets, took more pics and took the hydrofoil back to the ship. Sorrento was a lovely city and I think what we imagine when we think of picturesque Italian cities. Once on the ship we jumped in to pool to cool off and took naps back in the room. For dinner we ate some amazing sushi and I gambled a bit while Greg slept. The next port in Rome and I am smoking a cigar thinking about how much fun I am having. These days are fast paced, and it is a shame we cannot enjoy each longer, but I will gladly take a penthouse view with steaks and wine for dinner as my preferred way to see the Mediterranean.

9/2 – Day 10 - Rome (actually the port was Civitavecchia and we took a LONG train into Rome)

We arrived in Civitavecchia and had coffee on the balcony. The port had 4 other cruise ships in it and we were at the end of the pier. I worked out and came back to the room and gave than had a quick breakfast at Cagney’s. We opted to take the train to Rome and see a few sites, but we would have to hustle. The train was long and a bit hot. We did a hop on hop off bus and took shots of the coliseum
and got off near the Vatican. It was really neat inside, so after that we ate pizza and had beer and wine outdoors and tried to relax some. These last 2 ports had been quite hot, and I think the heat was catching up with us. We jumped back on the train and did some shopping by the port. The walk back to the ship was hot, so we jumped in the pool. As usual, we had cocktails on the balcony as we left. Most nights we chatted with neighbors (who happened to be from Texas too) and that night we ended up having a little party on our balcony. Lots of alcohol was consumed, so we decided to have steak and lobster in the room because we were tired and a bit drunk. I fell asleep watching TV and thinking about Livorno. Rome was a busy day and my only regret was that we were not so far from all of it. 4 hours on a train can really cut into your sightseeing.

9/3 – Day 11 - Livorno Italy (Florence, Pisa & Lucca)

We are pulling into Livorno’s port and I have not given any thought as to what I want to do that day. We have planned for this trip for months but honestly you can only plan so many ports and we are definitely “seat of our pants” kind of guys. I wake Greg up and plan the day (or explain or lack of plans and ask what he wants to do). We had no plans so the concierge suggested we rent a car and see Lucca and Pisa, so we did it and it was quite the adventure. We took a shuttle through a very busy commercial port and asked the tourist guide where to rent one. It was a bit hard to find and they had one car left; a fiat. I
have not driven one since I was 16 and I was floored to get the chance to drive a fiat through the Tuscan countryside. Greg was nervous about driving in Italy, but it was fine. They gave us good directions so we took the highway through the hills of Tuscany. It was truly lovely and a once in a lifetime experience. We arrived in Lucca and found it to be a great little village surrounded by a wall. We found it very cute
and quite picturesque. This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. We bought some souvenirs and ate some delicious pizza margarita with bruschetta. We walked around and took more photos and I got some gelato, the real stuff that was creamy and loaded with fat. Back to the car and a short
drive to Pisa, we took some obligatory shots of the leaning tower and then a nice drive back to the port. After drinks on the balcony we met the neighbors for martinis in the bar and then they were kind enough
to treat us to dinner at Cagneys. Great food and great conversation, we finished around 10:30 or so and went back to the penthouse to contemplate that our dream cruise was slowly winding down.

9/4 – Day 12 - Cannes France

I awoke to the sound of the anchor being put down and snapped some pics of the French Riviera. We tendered in this port which meant we had to get on boats in groups and go to the shore. This was our shortest port since we were only there until 2pm, so we decided to walked around and window
shop. Cannes is a very lovely and high dollar resort. We are now relaxing on the
balcony about to float to Barcelona. It has been a wonderful vacation, one of the best and we are sad to see it end. Barcelona is our last stop. We get off and have one day in Barcelona before we have to head back home. Greg threatens to barricade himself in the room and I do not want it to end either. Can you blame me? We have been eating like kings, having our asses kissed and seeing the most amazing cities in the world. We decide to order room service since we have to pack and think about getting off. We buy the neighbors some beer and a bottle of wine to say thanks for dinner. We are sunburned, we are tired, We are sad. L

9/5 – Day 13 - Barcelona Spain
We got off the ship after one last breakfast in Cagney’s and said goodbye to the wonderful staff and paid our gratuities. We said bye to the friends we made and took a taxi into the city. The driver found our hotel and we relaxed a bit before doing some shopping. We walked around Barcelona and I found it very clean and a truly modern city. I am not sure what I was expecting, but you could tell that for the most part these people were proud of their city. Greg wanted a bag, so we looked a few places for that and then had some tapas to eat. We decided to take the subway to Sagrada Familia, a massive, privately-funded Roman Catholic church that has been under construction since 1882 and is not expected to be complete until at least 2026. We stopped for more tapas and took in the local culture. After a nap in the hotel, we decided to go out and see some of gay Barcelona. The city is definitely a late night place, but fairly easy to navigate, clean and safe. They poured huge drinks at the bars but charged accordingly I thought. We almost fell off our barstool when we opened one of the local gay rags and there was a huge article in Spanish called Dallas Texas. Greg and I read it and could actually understand it quite well. It was so funny that we were reading all about traveling to Dallas from a gay bar in Barcelona. Perhaps that was a hint. We took a taxi and had to wake up very early to get to the airport. We had completed the most amazing trip ever and were definitely looking forward to sleeping on a plane and getting back home. As we flew from Barcelona to London and from London back to Dallas, we slept with thoughts of our fabulous trip and the feeling that our desires to travel had been satiated for a while. Of course once we got back, Greg reminded me that we have to plan for our next cruise. We only have 4 years to plan and I am afraid I may have set the bar too high. :-)

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We are a committed gay couple of almost 10 years who are trying to start a family of our own. This is our story.

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