ANN ARBOR – In June 2020, Adam and Doug Taylor’s dreams of becoming parents came true when they welcomed their son Jeremy through surrogacy at University of Michigan hospital.
The road to parenthood was long and arduous for the Taylors, who endured three years filled with major expenses, setbacks and several court procedures.
That all came to a halt when a childhood friend offered to become a surrogate for the couple.
“He makes it all worth it,” Adam said in a release. “People keep asking us what we want for Christmas. I just tell them this is it. We already have it.”
After receiving multiple messages from people curious about the surrogacy process, Adam decided he wanted to commit his time to helping others through the process as the first mentor for Michigan Medicine’s new patient support group for same sex couples undergoing the surrogacy journey.
“We want to bring visibility to families like ours,” Adam said in a release. “It’s hard to imagine being a gay father when you have no models or examples to look to.”
Under Michigan law, paid surrogacy is prohibited.
Finding a surrogate
After receiving viable embryos from an anonymous egg donor, the Taylors had to find someone who would agree to carry their baby without compensation or they would have to go out of state.
Luckily for them, a woman who attended elementary school with Doug in Fenton, Rebecca “Becky” Fritz, reached out after following their journey on social media.
“I was very lucky to have a healthy, easy pregnancy with my son, so I didn’t mind being pregnant again. I wanted to help if I could,” Fritz, whose own son is four, said in a release. “At first when I told my husband, he wasn’t so sure. I told him I was just going to learn more.”
Fritz said the more she talked with Adam and Doug, the more she understood the gravity of their situation.
“I just couldn’t think of a reason to say no,” she said in a release. “We think our son, Owen, is the best thing that ever happened to both of us. He’s the most awesome thing in the world. Why wouldn’t we want to help someone else have that too?”
After doctor visits, necessary legal steps and navigating insurance coverage, Fritz agreed to do it -- with her husband’s blessing.
“It was the best gift,” Adam said in a release.
After finally finding a surrogate, the Taylors were faced with another hurdle: parental rights.
Since Adam was the child’s biological father, under state law Doug would have no legal parenting rights unless he adopted the baby after he was born.
A former lobbyist, Adam was familiar with the legal landscape and with the help of an attorney, obtained a court order to guarantee that both of the fathers’ names would be on the child’s birth certificate.
“We were extremely lucky that we finalized everything through the courts before the pandemic,” Adam said in a release. “It allowed both of us to be present during all appointments and at the birth, have full parental status and ensure security in our family trust. We were able to skip a long second parental adoption process for Doug.”
In June 2020, after a long and arduous journey, the Taylors and Fritz were finally in the delivery room at Michigan Medicine.
“It was such a surreal experience,” Fritz said in a release. “You’re going through all of the emotions and adrenaline and hormones. I remember them putting Jeremy on my chest and watching Adam and Doug. They were in complete awe. You could tell right away they were just head over heels. And that was what it was all for. It just made everything worth it.”
Helping others through a unique process
After hearing about the Taylors’ experience, volunteer coordinator for the Office of Patient Experience at Michigan Medicine, Melissa Cunningham, reached out to them to see if they’d be interested in becoming mentors for other same sex couples going through a similar experience.
They both agreed and now help lead the peer mentor program.
“I’m thrilled that this new program will provide support to families in our LGBTQ+ community,” Cunningham said in a release. “Adam and Doug have been true trailblazers both within our health care system and in the state of Michigan. I’m grateful to them for helping us launch this program and to all of our amazing peer mentors who volunteer to help other families.”
While a step in the right direction, the Taylors say there’s more work to be done to advance benefits for gay couples in Michigan, including parental leave and making the court process for guardianship more streamlined.
“Journeys like ours are still so new and being challenged in so many parts of the country,” Adam said in a release. “We hope that sharing our story helps others behind us.”