Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Notebook Magazine - "Devoted Dads"

January Edition of "Notebook" Magazine featuring an article entitled "Devoted Dads" with Rodney, Jeff and Ethan Chiang-Cruise.

Rodney, Jeff and Ethan, 11 months

Attorney Rodney Cruise and his partner, Jeff Chiang, want the same things for their baby son, Ethan, as most parents. "Love, understanding, acceptance; that's what we will give Ethan, " says Rodney. "We want our son to grow up knowing he is loved unconditionally - and we'll support him to become a happy, successful, well-balanced person, gay or straight, with his own family one day if he chooses".

Rodney says his mother loved and supported him through his difficult early teenage years when he first realised he was gay. Similarly, he wants to be there for his son whatever needs may arise. "From about the age of 17, I knew I wanted to be a parent some day and I knew that being gay was going to make it more difficult. But I had a lot of things I wanted and needed to do first. Then, when I met Jeff in late 2000, one of the first things we talked about was having children. It was so exciting to meet a man who shared the same aspiration".

Over the next five years, Rodney and Jeff considered all sorts of parenting possibilities, including co-parenting with a lesbian couple, adoption, fostering and surrogacy. Adoption is not legally possible for gay couples in Australia, unlike many Western countries. The couple felt fostering was too temporary, and co-parenting wasn't ideal because Rodney and Jeff wanted to be full-time parents. After watching a documentary about a gay couple from Melbourne who achieved parenthood through surrogacy in the United States, Rodney and Jeff realised they had found a way.

"We registered with a surrogacy agency in the US and started saving madly for what was ahead". The agency found them a "gestational surrogate": a woman who is prepared to undergo IVF treatment using a fertilised donor egg and carry the pregnancy to full term. "The egg was from a donor and the sperm was from both of us. Then we waited to see if any eggs fertilised", recalls Rodney.

Rodney and Jeff's dream to have a child then moved forward progressively and effortlessly, as if it was meant to be. In January 2006, the pair flew to California to meet Kelly, a 29 year old mother of two from Ohio, who had agreed to act as a surrogate. The Australian couple bonded easily with the warm down to earth Kelly and her husband, Mike, and were only too happy to return to California a few months later for the first IVF treatment. Two weeks later, Rodney and Jeff's phone range at three o'clock in the morning. "We go the news that we were pregnant, " says Rodney, beaming with delight at the recollection. "We were so lucky to be successful on our very first go."

Nine months later, Rodney and Jeff checked into the local maternity hospital in Ohio with Kelly and her husband to await the birth of what they knew by then, would be a son. Everyone was ragged after Kelly's 13 hour labour, but when Ethan finally arrived everyone hugged each other with joy, including the hospital staff. "The Ohio medical team were incredibly supportive; we were so desperately excited to have a baby, says Rodney.

Today, Rodney is back at work full-time and still finds himself constantly thinking about his son in between legal work. Jeff works part-time and both dads feed, bath, change nappies, and get up in the middle of the night when required. "We both want to be involved; we both want to be the best parents we can be. Ethan doesn't have a mum - he has two dads, but most of all he has two parents," says Rodney. Ethan also has an 'auntie' in Ohio, of course, who has become a firm family friend.

Rodney and Jeff don't foresee Ethan having a tricky childhood because of the unusual circumstances surrounding his birth. "The issues that make our lives more difficult are not social," explains Rodney. "What is most frustrating is the institutionalised discrimination that occurs as a result of Australian law. This country simply does not recognise Ethan, Jeff and I as a 'family' in the normal way". The couple have recently applied for a Parental Responsibility Order from the Family Court, which will grant them the right to make major decisions about the care of their child. It is not exactly the same as parental status, but it does prescribe who is responsible for Ethan, and most importantly, it grants equal rights to a non-biological father who is part of a gay couple.

"If Ethan is admitted to hospital, for example, and needs urgent treatment, we wouldn't be able to make critical decisions about our son's wellbeing as a result [without a Parental Responsibility Order]. There are thousands of same-sex parent families in Australia who suffer this discrimination and in all cases, it's the children who suffer. But who knows? Perhaps Jeff, Ethan and I can lobby for things to change," says Rodney.

For the time being, Rodney and Jeff enjoy being a family , and like most proud parents, they're wide-eyed with pride and love as they watch their smiling boy learn to cuddle, communicate and crawl. "We won't hide anything from Ethan, "says Rodney as he, Jeff and Ethan snuggle together on the living-room sofa for a group hug. "We will always tell him everything he wants to know".

[Link: Original Article]

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