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The story of a Wisconsin same-sex couple's path to parenthood

Jake, Nick, Bonniejan, Nora
Medical College of Wisconsin
Parents Jake and Nick are photographed with Jake's best friend Bonniejean, who carried baby Eleanor.

Father’s Day was this past weekend, and for husbands Jake and Nick from Sun Prairie, Wis., this Father’s Day was particularly special — it was their first with their daughter Eleanor.

For many LGBTQ couples, the path to parenthood is different than for heterosexual parents. For Jake and Nick, they went to the Gestational Carrier Program, which is a part of the Reproductive Medicine Center at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin to help start their family.

Jake, Nick and Elenor
Jake, Nick and Elenor

Jake’s best friend volunteered to be their gestational carrier and the three of them worked with Dr. Kate Schoyer, a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at Froedtert, to bring Eleanor into their world.

All three of them joined Lake Effect to share more about their unique path to parenthood. Jake explains how their journey began:

"We knew we wanted to become parents. And we didn't know necessarily if it would be through surrogacy [or] through adoption. But we knew very little. So we started the process very early to just do information gathering. So that's about it. We didn't really know much," he recalls.

The couple had been together for almost 10 years before they decided that they wanted to finally become parents. It was not until Jake's best friend Bonniejean came to them and offered to be a carrier for their baby that they decided to try it.

Schoyer says that Bonniejean was evaluated separately from Jake and Nick. Bonniejean was a gestational carrier for Jake and Nick because she carried an embryo created with egg from an anonymous donor, who also underwent strict evaluations before donating. This method is different than surrogacy, which is where the carrier undergoes an insemination with someone's sperm utilizing their own egg. This whole umbrella of family building is referred to as third party reproduction, according to Schoyer.

"We have a multiple step process in our clinic, where we encourage patients to consider creating embryos first and then pursuing the gestational carrier part. They had a great situation and such a great story of having a best friend from forever, who was willing to be their carrier. So it was very easy, truthfully," she says.

The process wasn't as difficult as the couple thought it would be, says Nick. There's obviously a big financial piece that goes into the process, but the couple says they paid in advance by making payments every couple of months.

Nora at 8 months old
Nora at 8-months-old.

"It wasn't just a one time upfront payment so we were able to budget our mortgage and other other expenses to kind of make that work to fit in those extra expenses that came with surrogacy every couple months or so. And through the whole fertility process with Froedtert," says Nick.

Nick and Jake noted that working with Froedtert helped the family find the pieces they needed. The hospital referred them to needed resources and walked them through the entire process.

Jake advises same-sex couples who are thinking of starting a family for the first time to take the process one step at a time — and assures that the path to parenthood is doable.

"We just can't say enough amazing things about Froedtert ... It just it feels like a long shot, but you know, we're proof that you can have a beautiful baby even if you're the same-sex couple," says Jake.

Corrected: July 5, 2022 at 1:09 PM CDT
We previously misspelled Bonniejean's name as Bonniejan.
Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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