Father Times Two: A Gay Couple Can Also Give Birth to Genetic Offspring


Yediot Achronot, April 6, 2001

By Eytan Amit

Translation by Susan Hendel


Ron Dayan, an Israeli, came for graduate studies at Columbia University in New York and fell in love with Greg Poole, a Canadian; they got married, bought a house, and raised a dog. Up to this point, a simple story. The two wanted children, so Barbara, Greg’s sister, suggested fertilizing her eggs with Ron’s sperm. They found a surrogate, who carried twins for them. Nowadays, a gay couple can also give birth to genetic offspring.


On the 22nd of January 2001, the twins were born. The father, Ron Dayan, chose the name for the son – Tomer. The other father, Greg Poole, chose the name for the daughter – Elinor. To avoid confusion as the children are growing up and start learning how to speak, the parents decided that from the moment of the babies’ birth, they will call Ron “Aba” [Hebrew for “Father”] and Greg “Daddy.”

And what will happen when the children ask “Where’s my mother?”

Ron and Greg answer the question in unison: “We will tell them, ‘You don’t have a mother; you have two fathers.’ And when they get older and understand how babies are made, we will tell them about Aunt Barbara, who donated her eggs. If they press, we will also tell them about the surrogate who helped bring them into the world.”

Sounds complicated? This is certainly no ordinary story: A gay couple – an Israeli man and a Canadian man – fell in love and got married. They wanted children of their own, not adopted and not from an unknown woman. They wanted their children to carry genes from both of their families. Greg’s sister volunteered to help them, and she donated her eggs, which were fertilized with Ron’s sperm. They found a different woman to serve as a surrogate, and on the second attempt, the sister’s fertilized eggs were successfully implanted in the uterus of the surrogate. Thirty eight weeks later their twins were born, a boy and a girl.

Like on Oprah Winfrey

Ron Dayan (37) still remembers the moment he decided to tell his parents –Moshe, his father, who works in advertising and public relations, and Debbie, his mother – that he is gay. Ron was in Israel during Passover, on vacation from his studies in political economics at Columbia University in New York. “I had a boyfriend in the States and I was happy,” tells Ron. “I decided to come out of the closet and to tell my parents. They took it very well. They said, ‘It’s not a problem. It’s OK. We love you.’ I was the one who had to stop them and say, ‘Wait a minute, stop and think about the problems.’ My mother said to me, ‘It’s OK. I’ve seen things like this on Oprah Winfrey.’”

Ron’s father, Moshe: “The day after Seder night, Ron said that he wanted to talk and suggested that we go for a walk. “Ron sounded hesitant. ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, but I want you to know that I am gay and I’ve decided to come out of the closet.’ We hugged him and said. ‘It doesn’t matter. You have always been and will always remain our son.’ We stood in the middle of the park, three adults hugging each other. There were no tears. After a long silence, my wife said, ‘The one thing that saddens me, Ronny, is that I won’t have grandchildren from such an intelligent, beautiful, and sensitive son as you.’ Ron said, ‘Don’t worry, Mom, I promise you that you will have grandchildren from me.’ At the time, this sounded impossible to us.”

What did you talk about in the conversations you had with your wife afterwards?

Moshe: “I was quiet and withdrawn. If I felt anger, it was towards myself. I asked myself what I had done to make him afraid to tell me sooner. My heart ached over the suffering he’d been through all the years during which he hadn’t told us. I blamed myself for projecting an uncompromising macho attitude in my home.

Ron tried to fit himself into the image of straight masculinity. “I came out of the closet very slowly. During my 20s I started to think that I might be bisexual. I had girlfriends. I thought that I was in love, but the truth is that I fell in love with the concept of love. I wanted it to happen. But it didn’t, not physically. I wrapped myself in a lie. Until 1991, when I came out of the closet in the States, I didn’t have any role model in Israel. Unlike today, there were practically no places for gay men to go besides certain parks... From my perspective, Tel Aviv at that time was no better than Tehran.

“I don’t know to what extent I came to New York in order to come out of the closest, or whether coming out of the closet was a result of coming to New York. But after I came out, it was a relief to discover that it was a lot easier for others to accept my homosexuality than it had been for me. I didn’t have doubts after that about who I am, and I didn’t have any more thoughts about bisexuality.”

After completing his graduate studies, Ron began to work for a high tech company. Today he is the founder and CEO of Complete-e Strategies, located in Midtown Manhattan. The company provides consulting to traditional old economy companies on how to use the Internet to develop and increase profitability.

Ron can allow himself a smile when he reflects on his life. Looking back, he believes that it was the desire to have children that kept him in the closet for so long. “But I wanted to live with someone I love, and not with someone who I was lying to,” he says. “It’s impossible to establish a family on the basis of lies, on something that is rotten at the foundation.”

We Need Another Six or Seven More Embryos

Greg (35) finishes feeding Tomer and Elinor in the couple’s Sherman, Connecticut home - a town of 3,000 inhabitants tucked in the woods. He passes one of the babies to the care of his sister, Barbara, who is visiting, in order to take part in the interview.

Yes, he remembers how he met Ron in 1994 in a gay bar in Montreal, on Canadian Independence Day. They left the bar together, and six weeks later Ron had already met Greg’s parents at a dinner at Barbara’s home. The romance deepened over weekend visits in New York and in Montreal. Greg traveled to Israel to meet Ron’s parents. “Up until then, I hadn’t known a thing about Israel, Judaism, or Hebrew,” Greg says. In July of 1995, a year after they met, they moved in together in Ron’s apartment in New York. Greg, who had previously been working in Montreal as an instructor in the nursing program at McGill University, found work in New York as an assistant director of nursing in a nursing home in Riverdale.

On the 13th of October 1996, the two were married in Montreal in the presence of friends and family members. The husband of a reform rabbi performed the wedding ceremony. (“They didn’t have a problem that we were two men, but they did have a problem the Greg wasn’t Jewish at the time.”) A half-year later, they hosted another reception in Tel Aviv, which was also attended by Uzi Baram, a cabinet minister and Ron’s former boss. Since then, Greg has gone through a conversion. “We celebrate the Jewish holidays, go to synagogue, and live according to Jewish tradition,” he explains.

Barbara (37), Greg’s sister, is the one who suggested donating her eggs to be fertilized by Ron’s sperm. In February 1999 she was touched by the sight of her brother playing with a friend’s infant son. “It suited him so well,” she says. “So I went to him and I said, ‘You can use my eggs to make a baby.’”

The idea had been forming in her mind over a period of time. “I had been considering it, but until then I hadn’t talked to them about it. I knew how much they wanted a child and I dreamed that I helped them to have one. But in the dream, I was the one who got pregnant. When I saw Greg with the baby, I told them about the dream. Greg answered, ‘No, we don’t want you to do this.’ So I suggested that I donate my eggs.”

Greg had also thought about it before, but hadn’t brought it up with Barbara. Ron: “We considered a regular adoption, but it is very difficult for a gay couple to adopt a baby, unless you are willing to take a six-year old with considerable problems. In my mind, that’s more than being a parent, it is a life mission. We also thought about traditional surrogacy (direct insemination with Ron’s sperm)” Greg: “From our perspective, what happened was the best possible scenario: Ron’s sperm, Barbara’s eggs, and a different woman to serve as a surrogate. We wanted a blood tie to both of our families, and we achieved that.”

Why was this so important to you? Was it to please your parents?

Ron: “It didn’t come out of a desire to please our parents or because of the promise I’d made to my mother that she would have grandchildren from me. Children give a feeling of continuity and when these children are of your blood and their cells carry your genes, it is a stronger feeling. Also, we wanted as much as possible to diffuse the concept of ‘mother.’ By taking eggs from Barbara and implanting them in the surrogate after they were already fertilized, we split the issue of ‘who’s the mother,’ and made it easier for the surrogate to give up the children. We were very bothered by the thought that a conventional surrogacy is like buying a child from the surrogate. In our arrangement, she only ‘rented’ us her womb, and didn’t sell us her child.”  Also, Greg and I wanted there to be a balance between us in our biological connection to the children. This way, there couldn’t be a situation in the future in which the children belong more to one of us than to the other. In a heterosexual couple, this question doesn’t exist.

From the start, Barbara defined her place in the family that was being formed. She identifies herself as the twins’ aunt, and that is how she feels – not like their mother, biologically, or emotionally. “These babies have two fathers,” she emphasizes. “I am just the donor. When my donation was finished, my role came to a close. The decisions they will make are their family decisions, and I am not a part of that. Greg is really the mother.”

Ron acknowledges that after Barbara suggested donating her eggs, he and Greg discussed the possibility between them, and then afterwards with Barbara. “We had to make sure she was completely comfortable. We know her determination and her strong character. We recognize it, and we admire it. We talked with her again before the donation, and she assured us that after the eggs were extracted, her role would be complete.”

Did you consider the possibility that Barbara would be the surrogate?

After she told us that she had had dreams of carry a baby for us, we told her that we wouldn’t even consider putting her through carrying a baby for us for nine months. In truth, we also didn’t want it. If she had gone through a pregnancy, it is possible that it would have been difficult for her to separate from the child. From the moment that we began to talk in terms of egg donation, we felt more at peace with the possibility. Egg donation would create less physical and emotional ties than the experience of pregnancy and birth. Barbara was prepared to help us, and we felt completely confident that she would not develop maternal feelings towards the children.

Closing the Circle

After Barbara volunteered to donate her eggs, Ron and Greg went to consult with the rabbi at the gay and lesbian synagogue in New York, who encouraged them to move forward with their plan. Ron: “We found the surrogate with the help of Circle Surrogacy, a gay parenting and surrogacy agency in Boston that is run by a gay lawyer who, with his partner, is raising two children conceived through traditional surrogacy. The same surrogate, in fact, carried both children.

“The agency only works with surrogates who already have children of their own. This is to minimize the possibility that the surrogate will want to keep the baby. The surrogate we found is a married woman with two small children. She and her husband live in New Hampshire. “Our surrogate promised from the start that she would not seek to maintain a connection with the baby after its birth. This was very important to us.”

During the weeks preceding the fertilization, the surrogate received two shots a day and went twice a week for check-ups at a Boston hospital to prepare for the implantation. Barbara, also, in Quebec, Canada, had to give herself fertility injections. But the first implantation failed to take. “Ron and I thought that’s it, we won’t do this any more,” Greg tells. “It was very expensive, and Barbara was getting ready to get married.”

But it was Barbara who would not be discouraged, and who encouraged them. “We have two frozen embryos left from the previous time,” she said to them. “You need another six or seven, and we’ll do this again.” This time, they asked their doctor to implant four embryos, not three as they had the first time. Ron: “Barbara and her fiancé arrived at the hospital. Greg and I went into the side room to give them my sperm. Greg’s mother was also there as we took the brown bag with my sperm and rushed it into the room where they were extracting Barbara’s eggs to fertilize them. The whole family worked on these babies.”

Three days after the eggs were fertilized, four embryos were implanted in the surrogate’s uterus. In May, 2000, while Ron was on his way to airport to catch a flight to Israel, Greg informed him that the pregnancy had taken. A few weeks later, they were informed that they were expecting twins.

Ron: “The period before the birth was long and difficult. Three weeks before, at one in the morning, the surrogate called to say that her labor had started. We rushed to the hospital in New Hampshire, a four hour long trip. When we arrived, it turned out that is had been a false alarm. This story repeated itself two more times in the next three weeks. It became like the story of the boy who cried wolf. On the fourth time, they put off calling us until after her water had broken. We rushed to the hospital, ran to the birthing room, and just as we arrived the nurse came out of the door with Elinor in her arms. I was the first one to hold her. Tomer had complications – he was a breach birth, and came out ten minutes later. Greg held him first.”

Did the surrogate see them again after that?

“Absolutely, she saw them again. When the babies were born, their wrist band identification had the surrogate’s name. Fifteen minutes later, when they brought them to us, they had already changed the bands to our names. We had a separate room at the end of the hallway, and the surrogate’s room was at the other end. She stayed at the hospital for 48 hours, while we only stayed with the babies until the next morning. During that day, we brought the babies to her room. Her mother, her husband, and her two children were there, and her six-year-old son held Elinor at his hands. We took photos, and there was the feeling of a circle closing and the completion of a mission. Her children knew that the new babies were Ron and Greg’s children and not their siblings.”

Have you seen her since the birth?

We certainly have. This wasn’t a situation in which we just took the children and sent her a check in the mail. She and her husband visited with us for a weekend. We formed a friendly and fair relationship. As time passed, though, the connection has loosened quite a bit, but this is exactly what we wanted and expected would happen.”

The two estimate their expenses for the surrogacy and the birth of the twins at about one hundred thousand dollars. Thirty thousand to the hospital in Boston and other clinics, twenty thousand on medications, treatments and checkups, twenty thousand to the surrogate, about twenty thousand on lawyers, and another few thousand on assorted expenses.

Ron: “From the start we knew that the method we’d chosen was the more expensive one, but it appealed to us, and it gave us extra peace of mind. We made the prospect that a bond would be created between the surrogate and the babies less likely.”

So this option is really only available to rich people, then?

“On reflection, it is indeed a very expensive affair. We hadn’t realized that the costs would be as high as they ended up being. We had expected to spend about half as much. Ironically, if I had declared that Barbara is my partner – not even my wife – we could have cut our expenses considerably. The hospital would have cost less, medical insurance would have covered some of the costs, and we wouldn’t have required four lawyers to deal with the matter. There is certainly legal discrimination against gay couples.”

Two Fathers of Twins

Ron and Greg are not much different than any Yuppie couple raising babies. The twins will spend weekdays in Riverdale, New York, and weekends at their home in Sherman, Connecticut. In a way, they appear to be the embodiment of the American Dream: a loving couple, smiling babies, a supportive family, two houses and a dog. Greg does the laundry, mows the lawn, and clears snow from the driveway in the winter. Ron works more away from home, sends Greg e-mails from work, and shops for the babies on the Internet. Greg is a little scattered; Ron is the practical type.

The twins will take a combined family name – Poole-Dayan. On their birth certificates, Ron is named as the twins’ father, since he is the biological father. According to a new law that came into effect in October in the state of Connecticut, a person can adopt the child of his same-sex partner. They will then be issued a new birth certificate that lists both of them as the children’s’ fathers. Everything that can be taken for granted among straight married couples involved complications: for gays, there is no parental leave, and some of the legal protections of marriage in terms of property and family life can only be roughly approximated through establishing mutual powers of attorney, an expensive and complicated procedure.

Ron hopes that by being parents, they will make a small contribution to breaking down stereotypes. Gay couples are a common sight, but there still are not many gay parents. They plan to attend parent meetings at the children’s school together. They expect that other children will be puzzled by their differentness. Greg: “We will have to prepare them for this, to explain to them why they don’t have a mother, but instead two fathers.” Ron: “If they go to school in New York, it won’t be such a big deal. If they go to school here, in Sherman, Connecticut, we will need to talk to the teachers, and maybe even to the other children at the school.”

As of yet, they have not experienced any hostile reactions in Sherman. The judge that handled the adoption papers was friendly. The bank clerk who witnessed the signing of their power of attorney was so excited for them that she practically had her co-workers giving them an ovation. Greg: “This is why we live in the Northeast, in a state with a liberal senator like Joe Lieberman. I wouldn’t be able to do something like this if I lived in Alabama.”

Until now, it is a story wrought with issues. Maybe in the future, it will be a banal story. Greg and Ron hope that their twins will grow up in a world that pays no special attention to a person’s sexual orientation and where people are free to be themselves. “Straight,” “gay,” “lesbian” – it really doesn’t matter to them which the twins will turn out to be. They will be satisfied with “good people.”


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