A photo capturing the moment BJ Barone’s son Milo was born, via surrogacy, went viral. It was later used, without permission, by European politicians to support their campaigns against surrogacy and LGBT families. He tells us about his journey to fatherhood…
BJ Barone, 36, lives in Toronto with his husband Frankie, and their son, Milo, two. He talks us through the highs and lows of becoming a dad through surrogacy…
“Frankie is a fantastic father and an amazing husband. He is always there to support me, to push me, and he makes me want to be a better person. When you see him take care of Milo, you really see the loving, caring person he is.
When we first met (on the dance floor), we had the same shoes on, which was a definite icebreaker. Frankie complimented me on my shoes and the rest is history. We hit it off right away and I ended up driving up to Toronto from Niagara every chance I got. We had the same interests and I loved that he loved spending time with his family. Frank was the first guy I had met that I knew I wanted to get to know better.
We both love kids, spending time with our own nieces and nephews, and we talked about having one (or more) of our own. Frankie always knew he wanted to be a father; it took me a little longer to come to that realization. It was one of the things we discussed when we started dating. Frankie told me soon after we started getting serious with one another that he was serious about having a child. I personally didn’t feel ready, physically, mentally, and financially. But in 2012, I signed my contract with the school board and then said to Frankie, “Ok, let’s do this!” Then we began the process of surrogacy.
Soon after we met, Frank signed us up for the “Daddy and Papas 2B” class at the 519 community centre here in Toronto so we could both learn more about the different ways we could become dads. After a lot of discussion, we felt with surrogacy we could have more control than that of the adoption route, but we soon realized that no one really has control over the whole baby making process! We felt surrogacy was the right path for us to take and we never looked back.
There are not that many surrogates out there, and as soon as a woman’s profile becomes available, she quickly becomes matched with intended parents. It is somewhat like a dating game
Finding a woman to carry our baby was the hardest part in this journey. We signed up to surrogacy websites where profiles of egg donors and surrogates are listed. Finding an egg donor was the easy part for us, we were lucky someone we both liked wanted to match with us. Once we found the egg donor, we began our search to find the woman who would carry our baby. There are not that many surrogates out there, and as soon as a woman’s profile becomes available, she quickly becomes matched with intended parents. It is somewhat like a dating game.
During the process of looking for our surrogate, we spoke to many women who could potentially be our surrogate. Some we talked to on the phone and some women we met, but no one seemed to fit the bill. This was a very stressful time for us and it seemed we would never find the right woman.
One day Frankie emailed a woman named Kathy back. A few months earlier when Frankie had messaged her she had told us she was matched with another couple, but we thought we would try again and see if things had changed. Kathy told us that things were not working out with the couple she was matched with and that she wouldn’t mind talking to us. We emailed back and forth at first, and then chatted on the phone and finally we set up a day to meet with her and her family.
We drove up to Kingston (about three hours from Toronto) and met with Kathy and her husband Kris, and their two children, Jordan and Layla. We spent the day with them, and things just clicked. We got along great, the kids loved us and they felt like they were already a part of our family, and we theirs. The next day, Kathy called us and said she would love to help us create our family.
We are forever grateful for having that moment Milo was born captured in the photo that went viral. The picture was taken literally within seconds of him being born. He is still attached to Kathy in it! The picture shows such raw emotion that any parent has when their child is born. And I feel that a lot of people can relate to it, whether gay or straight. It’s that unconditional love you have for your child the moment you meet them. That bond is so overwhelming and you can see it in Frankie’s face.
We spent the day with Kathy and her husband at the hospital. She was in labour for about six hours and Milo’s actual birth happened so quickly. I remember Kathy saying that it was starting to burn down there (she had chosen to have Milo naturally, with a midwife and no pain meds at all), and our midwife Heather said, “It is time!” Then I remember Milo’s head start to emerge and Heather screamed, “Shirts Off!” Frankie and I both took our shirts off, and literally seconds later Milo was born.
He was placed on Frankie’s chest and I wrapped my arms around both of them. We both immediately began crying. This was something we both wanted so badly and we couldn’t believe that our son was here. It was very surreal. It was the most incredible and most scary moment of our lives. We will never forget it.
I like to think of myself of being a dad, and not necessarily a gay dad. That said, being a father is the best thing in the world. I feel like my life has purpose now. The fact that I can teach Milo things, watch him grow and develop, and nurture him. I think the most important thing is that Milo has taught me to be more patient and appreciate life a little more.
An advantage, in my opinion, is that in our house there are no gender-based roles. People sometimes ask, “Who does the mommy jobs?” Which I think is absolutely ridiculous in the first place, that there are even “mommy jobs”. Regardless of gender, in any household, the duties need to get done, so it doesn’t matter who does it.
After Milo was born, and all the attention we received from the photo, many people told us that we should write a book about our adventure to parenthood. We thought it was a good idea, but we were busy with a newborn and put that idea on the back burner.
The way others may treat Milo definitely has crossed our minds because he has two dads, but it is not a major concern of ours
In March of this year, our photo was being used by politicians in Europe to support their campaigns against same sex families, and we felt that this was the perfect time to write our story and help educate the world that all families are created differently and that family is about love.
We felt that the story should be told through Milo’s perspective and told in his voice because it is his adventure on how he became a part of our family. It is a children’s book, so it is told in simple language that any child can understand. Milo’s Adventures is also appropriate within current Health Curriculum in schools so it can be used by educators to help discuss surrogacy to their students. Parents can also read it to their children to show and teach them that all families are created differently.
The way others may treat Milo definitely has crossed our minds because he has two dads, but it is not a major concern of ours. Toronto is a progressive and accepting city, and we have not encountered any issues in our community. Milo currently goes to a day care that is very diverse and inclusive, and he will continue to go to school there when the time comes. There are many same sex families, families of mixed races and inter-faith families, so the fact that he has two dads doesn’t worry us.
Unfortunately bullying exists, and it doesn’t matter if you have two dads, or two moms, or a mom and a dad, or whoever makes up your family, kids can tease and be mean to each other. We will teach him that other kids may not like our type of family, and that’s ok, just be respectful of them and walk away from people that do not like you.
We will for sure be open to Milo about surrogacy. He has two dads, so he is going to ask at some point where he came from! There is also his book written about him so I think he will have some idea of how he became a part of our family. We’re still good friends with our surrogate, Kathy, she is a part of our family. We will always continue to have contact with her and her family, and Milo will know that she is a very important person to us.
Advice that I would give to other gay couples or gay singles who are thinking about starting a family is this: if you can; do it
We are raising Milo with the same morals and values that our parents taught us. Respect one another, accept everyone, love each other and be kind to everyone. Be patient with others and respect their differences. We are all different and that is what makes us awesome.
The only thing that I think straight couples could learn from us is that gender doesn’t have to have a particular role when raising a child. We share all the parental roles between us.
Advice that I would give to other gay couples or gay singles who are thinking about starting a family is this: if you can; do it. It is the most challenging and rewarding thing anyone can do. You will grow so much yourself, and watching your little one develop is the most incredible thing in this world.
I would say one of the things we were told as soon as we had Milo was don’t take advice from anyone. After saying this, if there is any advice I could give anyone is go with your instinct. You know what is best for your child, and you. What works for them and what doesn’t work. Many people like to offer advice. Smile and nod. Say thank you. Then do your own thing!”
Main image credit: Lindsay Foster Photography