The night before leaving for Panama, both men relaxed in the living room of their quaint two-bedroom Fort Lauderdale home as they recounted the years of leadup to the next morning's flight. Buddy, their mini-Dalmatian, rested on the couch, blissfully unaware that his canine antics would no longer be the center of their lives.

"It's really cerebral still. I don't think emotionally it's hit me yet," Andy said that night. "We're just really anxious at this point."

The expectant fathers had two binders heavier than newborns full of the paperwork and research they had prepared. Instead of spending the gestational period feeling the baby kick, Andy and Todd mulled over egg-donor and surrogacy contracts with lawyers and spoke to a gay couple in Miami who had undergone the same process months earlier.

Nurses monitored Annabelle Rose for two days after she was born.
Photo courtesy of the Bludworth-McNeill family
Nurses monitored Annabelle Rose for two days after she was born.
Todd and Andy were relieved to have both newborns home from the hospital.
Courtesy of the Bludworth-McNeill Family
Todd and Andy were relieved to have both newborns home from the hospital.

"I was sick the whole nine months. No, even before that," Todd said. He experienced his own nausea that was not limited to the morning.

"Todd's a worrywart. It's pretty much a miracle that I got him to do this," Andy said. If Todd is the worrier, Andy is the researcher, but both have the enviable quality of appearing well-rested even after a long day's work. Andy, 42, listens pensively and speaks in a manner both engaging and self-aware, while Todd, 38, draws people in with a wide smile and big hugs. "Put it this way, I'm the brains of the relationship. Todd's the heart of the relationship," Andy said. "That's just how we are."

Two large rolling suitcases sat by the front door, the way an expectant mother keeps a prepared overnight bag. Both pieces of luggage brimmed with bottles, diapers, clothes, and supplies.

The nursery in the next room gave way to their almost palpable anticipation. Two matching yellow ducky robes hung in the corner. Above the crib, two colorful wooden cutouts with animals arranged around them read "Samuel Robert" and "Annabelle Rose." A plush rocking chair sat in the corner, waiting, and a soft carpet with zoo animals warmed the tile floor.

Throughout the process, they had a lot of firsts, decorating the nursery, buying bottles, seeing a 3-D sonogram. They admitted neither of them had ever even changed a diaper. "Ne-ver," Todd said, laughing. Their first baby shower, their own, with about 120 people, was shortly before Halloween with the theme "It Takes a Village People." Andy estimates that having twins required the direct help of about 45 others, not quite an intimate experience.

Less than a three-hour flight from South Florida, Panama is poised to increase in popularity as a destination for reproductive tourism. Surrogacy in India has already become so popular that a Today Show segment referred to it as a "commercial industry often described as 'wombs for rent,' " but it's a smaller, more understated industry in Panama.

Exact numbers are not recorded, but a State Department official noted an increase in Americans traveling abroad for what is called assisted reproductive technology. The State Department must verify that children born from surrogates are biologically related to an American citizen in order to issue an American passport. The department's website has a page dedicated to international surrogacy that details risks, including that a disreputable clinic substitutes genetic material and the children bear no relationship to the prospective parents. This scenario, while extremely unlikely, could render the child stateless, neither an American citizen nor a citizen of the birth country.

Websites warn that in Panama, largely a Catholic country, same-sex couples may be turned down, but like the couple from Miami, Andy and Todd were never questioned or treated differently.

Laws governing surrogacy in the United States vary from state to state, but Florida law explicitly favors the couple who commission the process and excludes gay couples by not recognizing same-sex marriage. Even so, certain in-state in-vitro fertilization clinics have a loose "don't ask, don't tell" policy, but others do not. Still, Panama is a significantly less expensive option and provides a degree of separation throughout the process.

As many couples do, Andy and Todd began their search for an egg donor online. They interviewed several women by phone, but one stood out to both of them, an American living and studying in Canada. The young woman, who is now 24 and asked that her name not be used for this article, reached out to them through a blog they had created to document the process of starting their family. After corresponding online and talking on the phone, Andy and Todd traveled to Montreal to meet her at an Ethiopian restaurant that she suggested.

"Loved her, absolutely loved her," Todd said, impressed with her confidence and lighthearted personality. The day after meeting her, they called and said they would love for her to be the biological mother.

Months later, after she had taken daily hormone pills to stimulate egg production, Andy and Todd flew her to Panama for the egg retrieval, a process by which a long instrument is inserted into the cervix and an attachment removes the eggs. Andy and Todd rented her a condo in the same building as their own and grew close to her over the ten-day trip. They admired her free spirit as she went through the process without hesitation, and they appreciated that she would answer their questions without them having to ask.

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16 comments
Juantampabay
Juantampabay

Mephisto are you planning to change you sexual orientation? Are you straight only because your parents didn't allow you to be gay? Why other will change who they are just because anybody can create a family? You comment really don't make any sense. Do you think this civilization need somebody with your mentality? I don't think so. Many like you need to disappear from the phase of this earth to make this civilization better. Your ideas are clearly based in fear and hate. Thanks God most human don't think like you. There is a good change going on in the world and you are not included. Jeez I feel better now.

scratch-n-snatch
scratch-n-snatch

i read only a paragraph cause i was afraid the title would leave me w an infestation

Tempting_33064
Tempting_33064

Who cares about them being GAY....I am totally appalled at the title that the MEDIA has given the babies..."GAYBIES"...That is appalling, they are BABIES just like any other BABY, with ten fingers, ten toes, etc. Our children are dealing with labels every day, and as parents we try to help them thru life battles. Peer pressure is so evident in our society, and now the MEDIA has just created yet another label for children to deal with, to me that is DISGUSTING and DISCRIMINATORY!!.

lkpdmd
lkpdmd

I love this story. "I get so emotional, baby, every time I think of it, it, it!"

Mnichols
Mnichols

What a wonderful story of the true meaning of family. In a world of over 6 billion people, there is no right way of having a family. These children will be raised in a loving, caring home. What can be asked of more than that?

Mephisto
Mephisto

Why would you subject a child to a gay lifestyle and risk a normal child being persuaded to be a freak of nature???

Mephisto
Mephisto

What planet are you on???? GAY is the right way to raise a family???? If we all thought that way there would be no civilization in about 75 years!!!! How "right" can that be??????

Ashley
Ashley

You have a distorted view, dude. A gay lifestyle? What's any different than subjecting a child to a straight lifestyle? And what do you mean by "lifestyle" anyways? I have plenty of gay/lesbian friends that do the exact same things that I do. Are you suggesting I never procreate? I think ignorant people such as yourself are the real problem in society because you are the ones continuing to spread prejudice onto your offspring.

Sighhhhh
Sighhhhh

You think the kids are gonna 'catch' the gay?

You better put on your SARS mask if you plan on walking around South Florida! The gay is spreading!! OH MY GOD!!!!

LawyerJoe
LawyerJoe

This guy is a plant to spark conversation. Nobody could be so stupid.

Str8 Guy
Str8 Guy

Youre a dumbass Mephisto. Maybe if everyone were gay for 75 years the earth might be able to generate back of its natural resources and morons like you might become obsolete.

BerkshireBuddy
BerkshireBuddy

Mephisto - go lay down. Todd and Andy are better suited as parents than most straight people I know. Sexual orientation has no bearing on the situation. Anyway your comment makes no sense whatsoever -- obviously if you can create a child through surrogacy there's no threat to civilization. Did you even graduate from high school?

Tony Konrath
Tony Konrath

Nearly all of here in Key West think that this really is one way of raising a family. Gay men and lesbians have been raising kids since... well forever! Look at the history books. Every civilization that has demonized GLBT people has collapsed very quickly. I might even speculate that the quality of a culture is determined by how accepting it is of difference in its people.

NS2010
NS2010

YOU ARE VERY NAIVE Mephisto... children can only be so lucky to have a warm and loving home wth two wonderful parents! There are many straight couples out there that have no business being parents! Just because you're straight doesn't make you a better parent!!! YOU are a freak of nature and ignorant at that!

Lindyhabi
Lindyhabi

Who said gay is the right way to raise a family? It is A Way to raise a family. The post was just stating that in this world there types of families. Get with the program, or get out of the way. No one has the right to deny a family to anyone....now, go read a book to your children...and stop preaching hate...

 
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