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One gay Chilliwack couple's journey to fatherhood
For Justin Mallard and Brett Rancourt, being fathers seemed like an impossibility.
“It’s probably one of the hardest things we both went through on our own—before we even met each other—about accepting being gay,” says Mallard.
But when the couple first started dating five years ago, they immediately talked about having children despite the obstacles—both real and perceived.
“You can’t change who you are,” continues Mallard. “You have to just embrace it and accept it, and then work toward the things that you really want.”
Their two children, Jordyn and Sawyer move in their cradle swings nearby, evidence that persistence paid off.
The one-month-old twins were born prematurely which prolonged their hospital stay. Now they nap, bundled in their new home with two sleep-deprived, but elated fathers in the room.
Their journey is a well-documented one. Mallard started a blog in November last year called Love and Science—Our Modern Family, tracking their process of becoming parents in great detail.
The online account of their lives has gained them a lot of attention in the Chilliwack community, which Mallard says has been instrumental in the couple achieving their dreams.
“I’ve been out here for almost five years now and it’s been absolutely incredible,” he says. “The support, the love, the friends out here are amazing.”
In fact, their dream was started in motion by one of those community members, Raylene Bussinger.
She and Mallard have been co-workers since the Vancouverite moved to Chilliwack to live with Rancourt, so she knew about their hopes.
“I just piped up and said, ‘Well if you ever need a surrogate I’ll do it for you.’” says Bussinger.
The mother of three and her husband had already decided they were finished having children of their own.
Bussinger says she wanted to give Mallard and Rancourt the opportunity to also be parents.
“Anybody, no matter if they’re in a same-sex relationship or not, should be able to have that opportunity,” she says.
But even with a surrogate secured, the couple still faced an important hurdle.
“Obviously in our situation, we need an egg,” says Rancourt laughing.
Eggs can be difficult to get in Canada because commercial donations are prohibited in the country.
With no donor, their only other option would be to go to the U.S. and pay $30,000 for each attempt, according to Rancourt.
“We got pretty down about that and we got to the point where we almost weren’t going to go through the process anymore,” he says. “We needed to be able to afford the kids when they came.”
Their surrogate, Bussinger, then came to the rescue, approaching her friend Lisa Wooldridge with the idea of donating.
“I knew their story, I knew what they were trying to do and that they’re wonderful people,” says Wooldridge.
She already knew Rancourt from their baseball league and Mallard had sold her a car.
So Wooldridge agreed to be the egg donor, not only drastically lowering the cost of the procedure, but also increasing the odds of conception.
“It’s not a simple process to bring an egg donor, surrogate and future parents together socially, medically and biologically,” says Dr. Beth Taylor, co-founder and co-director of Olive Fertility Centre.
But with Bussinger’s and Wooldridge’s cycles coincidentally matched up, they were able to start with their medication on the first visit to Olive.
Of 16 retrieved eggs, 15 were fertilized, and both of the embryos transferred to Bussinger’s uterus successfully took.
All that was left to do was wait.
Demystifying gay families
After Bussinger gave birth to Jordyn and Sawyer, Wooldridge went to see the new family at the hospital.
“Seeing how excited Brett and Justin were, it just confirmed why I did what I did,” says Wooldridge. “I’m so happy that I was able to help fulfill somebody’s dream.”
In the same spirit, Mallard and Rancourt are barely stopping to take a breath, juggling their lives as new parents while engaging with the new community that has grown out of the blog and the connections they’ve made during the surrogacy.
They say many of the same-sex couples who want families aren’t aware of their options.
So the new fathers are offering guidance and support to people across Canada, trying to help them move in the right direction.
“Which is so rewarding for us because the feeling we have being dads is the best feeling anyone could ever ask for,” says Mallard. “And to be able to help another couple have this feeling…”
Dr. Taylor of the Olive Fertility Centre is also trying to help spread awareness and create a welcoming environment to diverse families.
“Mainstream media has helped to demystify gay families,” she says. “There are more and more gay families with children who are role models, and the entire field of fertility medicine has opened up possibilities that didn’t exist just a few years ago.”
Rocking quietly in the living room of their new home, Jordyn and Sawyer aren’t yet aware of the role scientific advances had in their creation. Nor do they know about the community that came together to support their fathers, donate eggs, carry them, and give birth to them.
Mallard’s blog tells that story.
But when they’re old enough to read between the lines, the siblings will find that it was their dads’ pride, determination and love that gathered all of those elements together to bring them into this world.