Sean and Josh Szeps are parents to twins through surrogacy.
This is an adapted excerpt from "Not Another Parenthood Guide," Coterie's limited-edition book.
The book has personal stories from the Coterie community about their paths to parenthood.
I was raised Roman Catholic. It was a huge part of my childhood. I quite enjoyed it, but I had a lot of internalized homophobia that I carried with me through most of my life.
A big part of that was my inability to see a future that involved me being extremely happy. As a gay child, I had visions of a lifetime of lies. I told myself: "I'll be closeted, marry a woman, and have children with her. If I'm not able to fake it till I make it, I'll become a priest."
When I came out and was accepted by my family, and when we walked away from the church, I realized that everyone would love me the same and I'd be able to be happy. I didn't have to lie.
When I moved to New York at 21 and met Josh, I didn't want children. There had been too many people telling me that I wasn't welcome in that community for me to want to be a part of it.
It took six years of living in a city that was supportive, diverse, and multicultural to see a different kind of life.
We went through surrogacy
At that time, we thought adoption was the only option for gay people, so we started going to adoption agencies and seminars to learn everything we could. During that journey, a girlfriend from university reached out and asked if we had ever considered surrogacy. She told me she was carrying a baby for someone else from a different country. My mind was blown. I didn't know what surrogacy was.
From that moment on, it was hard to see another option. We continued down the adoption journey, but a year later we got a phone call from a female member of my family who said, "I'd like to give you my eggs." That was the beginning of when my entire life changed. That was the greatest gift that I could have ever been given.
We were placed with a surrogate from Minnesota, a mother who already had three children. We first talked to her and her husband on Skype. They were excited about the possibility of helping another family, specifically a gay couple.
On September 10, 2017, we got a text message: "I think I'm going into labor." We had already packed all our bags. We started driving to the airport and got the first flight out.
When we landed, we were an hour away from the hospital. She was going into labor, and we were getting texts from her husband. We were about six minutes away when we got a text: "You have a son." Then a minute after that, "You have a daughter."
I continuously look back at those times and look at my children and think, "I can't believe that I'm living a completely 'normal' life that I never ever thought was possible." It's completely because of two selfless women. It's beautiful.
A big move and a big diagnosis
My husband was offered a job in Australia, and we moved when the twins were 2 months old. I moved to a new country and culture that I didn't understand. I think people anticipate that moving to another predominantly English-speaking, developed nation is going to be the same. No ma'am. It's completely different food, entertainment, and news sources. People act differently. On top of that, not having any friends and leaving my job to be a full-time parent were traumatizing.
I was diagnosed with postnatal depression six months after the kids were born. I completely lost myself for the first four months that I moved here. I was set on being a perfect stay-at-home father and was sure I was going to be great at it. Then nothing turned out that way. I was bad at it.
I was angry at my husband for making us move across the world. I missed my mom. I lost my sense of identity. I hated talking about kids. All anyone wanted to know was how the kids were. No one cared about me. No one wanted to talk about politics or entertainment. It was like all of a sudden, I had become a void of a human.
I lost the plot, and I spiraled. The good news was that my husband put his hand up and said, "I think we need to get some help."
I woke up after six months of treatment, therapy, and support from Josh's parents, and I decided I needed to get back into advertising. I needed to find that connection to who I was in a new country. I raised my hand and said, "I can't be a stay-at-home father." From when they turned 1 until they turned 4, I was obsessed with being a stay-at-home parent and being like all the moms that I knew. When I realized that script wasn't relevant to me, then the rest of the journey, of rewriting and deciding what worked for me, was fun. It was fun to say: "You know what? I can't be a stay-at-home parent, so I'm going to go back to work."
I feel like there's a script, and we all fall prey to it. A lot of my journey, of being so unhappy to the point of needing help and then coming out on the other side, was realizing I don't have to play that game. All parents have the ability to decide what's going to work for them. You're allowed to say: "This is what I want to be a part of. This is what I don't."
"Not Another Parenthood Guide" was published on November 3 by Coterie. Copyright 2021.
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