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meet jack

baby makes 4

meet jack
katherine nadeau

Completing this family circle

As the cold winter months drew to a close and spring opened up a new world of possibilities, Jackie Grant found herself nesting.

She cleaned closets and reorganized rooms, she directed renovations including the installation of new flooring and appliances – or “extreme nesting” as partner Laura Birnie puts it.

“I’m just a wee bit anal,” says Jackie with a grin at Laura who quickly but affectionately agrees with Jackie’s self-assessment.

Jackie and Laura were preparing to welcome their first child together and they wanted everything to be perfect.

Their son, Jack, arrived in perfect health May 16 with two moms to love him, Jackie’s daughter Cassidy, 6, thrilled to have a little brother, and a big, loving extended family – in every way, the best possible outcome for the new arrival.

And so it should be; the planning for their little boy pre-dated his arrival by years.

Jackie had been considering the best way to add to her family when Cassidy was just a toddler and had started working her way through the adoption process as a single parent. In fact, Jackie was two years into the process but with she and Laura becoming more serious she didn’t want to have to start the process over again as a couple.

That was when they started to discuss the possibility of producing a baby instead of adopting one.

Jackie had spent 13 years in the casino industry, most recently in Risk Management at Seneca Casino, and had left to study nursing at Niagara College. Laura is an accountant at Deloitte so the first decision was quickly made. “The first thing we needed to decide was who would carry; Laura didn’t want to so that was pretty easy,” said Jackie.

Then they began to research donors online to find a man willing to provide his DNA but not be a part of the child’s future.

Laura and Jackie took their time, asked questions, looked over medical backgrounds and considered cultural and ethnic similarities.

They finally found someone they considered a good choice, with “nothing too concerning in his medical history,” said Jackie.

The potential donor and his wife had experienced fertility issues of their own and had used a donor egg to produce their child. He said it was their own happy outcome that motivated him to step up as a donor – he wanted to give someone else a chance at parenthood. Jackie convinced him to show them a photo of his child.

After months of conversation they decided to meet.

“We felt comfortable but the final decision would be made after we met, face to face,” said Jackie.

They estimated when Jackie would be able to conceive, determined a date accordingly and drove the distance to meet him.

It proved to be a successful meeting – and an auspicious one.

“The conversation was comfortable, he was just a normal guy,” said Laura.

“He was the kind of guy that if you met him on the street, you could see becoming friends,” added Jackie.

So with faith and a healthy dash of courage they took the leap. The donor provided a container of semen, his best wishes for a successful conception and a promise to return if necessary.

Jackie was so excited she began testing within three days.

“In fact we didn’t think it worked and got in touch with him to make arrangements to go back,” said Jackie.

“Jackie called me at work and said she was going to take the test one more time before we headed out,” said Laura. “Then I heard Jackie say ‘oh my god, I’m pregnant!’ I think everyone in the office heard me yell.”

“I said ‘don’t tell anyone else until I come home, I want to be the first to hug you’,” added Laura.

Jack Elliot Birnie-Grant, weighing in at 8 lbs., 9 oz, was born about 38 weeks later. He bears a very strong resemblance to Jackie. He was named in loving memory of Laura’s late father, named John but known as Jack. His big sister Cassidy plans to teach him to play hockey and lacrosse.

Jackie and Laura are also planning a fall wedding to celebrate and commit to a life they plan to spend together.

As for what they will tell Jack in the future about how he came to be, they have decided to deal with that as his life unfolds.

For now they will do what all new parents do: take turns getting up in the wee hours of the morning, change countless diapers, and cherish their little boy.

Options for becoming parents

Same-sex adoption is legal throughout Canada, but same-sex couples still face unique challenges when trying to start a family this way. Public adoptions through the Children’s Aid Society or similar agencies are open to anyone over the age of 18, with no cost aside from bureaucratic processing fees. However, public adoption of a newborn may take several years, in some cases nearly a decade.

Domestic private adoptions are arranged through provincially approved agencies. They have a shorter waiting time, but typically have fees in the $15,000 range.

Both public and private domestic adoptions potentially raise concerns of birth parents seeking contact with their child. Because of this, and because most children available for domestic adoption are adolescents and teens, most Canadians seeking to adopt pursue international adoption from countries like China, Russia, or Korea. However, these options are often closed to gay couples.

Gay adoption is legal in only 14 countries. Legislation to bar the practice is occasionally debated. And gay adoptions are obviously illegal in countries that ban homosexuality.

Some gay couples have worked around the issue by having only one partner apply as a single adoptive parent but some countries now require single applicants to sign an affidavit stating they are not gay.

Other gay couples use sperm donations or surrogacy. Both these options have challenges of their own, thanks to the Human Reproduction Act, which puts limits on sperm banks and surrogacy arrangements in Canada.

Lesbian couples can make use of sperm donations, either arranged privately, or through a fertility clinic. Fertility clinics and sperm banks screen donations and provide medical and psychological support to the couple throughout the process.

Surrogacy, a process whereby a woman carries and delivers a child for someone else, has been used by some male couples. This process involves a surrogate mother using her own egg or a donor egg, fertilized by a sperm donation. However, this practice is illegal in Canada, meaning that any contracts or agreements made between the surrogate mother and would-be parents are indefensible in a court.

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