Extraordinary personal stories to be featured at this year's NY Men Having Babies seminar

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One of the most popular segments of our annual seminars has always been the personal stories panel, featuring parents, surrogates and egg donors. The panel on September 22 will be no exception, with two two-times surrogates, one of them was introduced by the first parents she helped to the second couple at a Men Having Babies workshop several years ago. The other was a gestational surrogate, then an egg donor, and then a traditional surrogate as well. By sheer coincidence both women are just completing their doctoral studies…
Jessica Szalacinski (in the top picture with the two NY couples she helped make parents), a transplant from New Orleans to Nashville, gave birth to her first surrogacy child in 2009, and her second in 2011. “I knew that I’d be changing the lives of David and Alex, and then Matt and Art, but I couldn’t have imagined how this process would forever change mine. Through the joys and the journeys, I am forever grateful these couples have come into our lives and have become our extended family.” Jessica lives with her husband, a police officer, and her son, a high school senior, along with a brood of mutts, and is currently finishing her Ph.D. in linguistics. “My Ph.D. studies didn't begin until my second trimester with my first surro baby,” she recounts. “I actually didn't think it was attainable until I had a ‘living expense’ check in my hand, the only thing ever stopping me from continuing after my Masters.”

David and Alex (see picture to the right) echo Jessica’s feeling about the transformative nature of the process, and especially the relationships that were forged along the way. “When Alex and I began the journey of becoming parents we couldn’t have imagined the incredible world of individuals that this journey would bring together. From caring medical and legal professionals who literally and figuratively held our hands through some of the most trying and celebratory times, to the wonderful community of surrogacy families -- and especially to the amazing Ms. Jessica who entered into our lives with love, warmth and a commitment that was simply astonishing. Of course being parents, we believe our daughter is the most special person in the entire world -- but objectively what we can say is that by her very existence she has brought together people with whom we are so pleased to share this experience.”

Art Halpern (at picture with his partner Matthew and their son Asa), one of the dads Jessica helped, will also be on the panel. “We always dreamed of creating a family, but we knew we could not do it alone,” said Art. “We needed our wonderful families, our exceptional friends, and extraordinary individuals like Jessica and our donor to realize our dream. The process started four years ago when we attended the Men Having Babies Expo with nothing but our hopes and dreams and questions in tow.” Art and Matt ended up being introduced to Jessica by the first couple she helped, David Milch and Alex. “Like any epic journey, ours was not without challenges: false starts, disappointments and a lot of waiting,” said Art. “But on the night of a sweltering day in June, our son arrived without complication - eight or so determined pushes by his heroic carrier and he was here, declaring his arrival in our world with a wonderful, triumphant wail. We are still just learning how to be parents: consulting our own parents, our friends, our doctors, our books, and our instincts. Our son has brought us more joy and purpose than we ever could have imagined.”

Also on the panel is Lisa Regula Meyer from Ohio (in the picture with her husband and son, and one set of fathers she helped), a mother of one and also a nearly graduated biology doctoral student. “Having never really planned to be a parent until I unexpectedly became pregnant almost seven years ago, I nevertheless ended up helping to create 4 families through egg donation, and both gestational and traditional surrogacy,” said Lisa. The parents Lisa helped are two gay couples, one from Massachusetts, and one form upstate NY. Her own son was born in 2005, and parenting was a truly life changing experience. After a year, and still determined not to have another child of her own, she began to explore surrogacy. “I grew up with discussion of surrogacy, as my mother very much enjoyed pregnancy and had easy births.” After researching and finding an agency, two embryos from her IFs in the Boston area were transferred, resulting in a healthy a little girl born in July of 2008.

After this experience Lisa found herself eager to help create families. No ready for another pregnancy immediately, she decided to pursue egg donation. She donated eggs to two couples, both of which resulted in healthy boys (one in 2008, the other in 2009), and one couple later using the frozen embryo to have another healthy boy in July, 2012. “While both egg donations were anonymous, in late 2011 my first egg donation recipients asked to learn a little more, and that egg donation has since become a known donation,” said Lisa.

When Lisa was ready for a second surrogacy, she decided to pursue traditional surrogacy independently. In the summer of 2010, she met intendant fathers from upstate New York through their ad on Surrogate Moms Online, and that fall a successful insemination lead to the birth of a healthy girl in July 2011. After both surrogacies, Lisa pumped breast milk for about six months, the first time donating to the Mother’s Milk Bank of Ohio, the second time shipping milk to the new baby. “As an ecologist and educator with a deep interest in human rights, I believe that all children deserve the best possible situation in their personal homes, and on our shared home of the earth. Balancing these principles requires a respect for all individuals, and honoring all families regardless of how they come about. “

You can read more form Lisa at her personal blog, at The Next Family, and several other venues.