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'This is something new for men' | Same-sex Texas couple shares process on how they created their family

The North Texas couple went through a long, expensive process to have their twins, but they're an example of the rise in families with LGBTQ+ parents.

DALLAS — Dr. Rene Pena and Brady Byrnes met each other at a Pride party in 2009. About a year and a half later, they got married on January 1, 2011. 

It was a commitment ceremony followed by a special New Year’s Day celebration with friends and family.

“We always joke that we had a commitment ceremony on 1/1/11 and probably half of America got married on that date,” said Byrnes. “We have two dates because we got married again when it became legal.”

On June 25, 2015, the Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalizing it in all fifty states. Two months later, the couple got married again.

Dr. Pena and Byrnes built a life together in North Texas, both working high-powered jobs and, like many couples, they had a desire to have children of their own. 

They are now the proud parents of toddler twins, but the journey to fatherhood was not easy.

“You have to decide: Being a same-sex couple, are we going to adopt? Go through surrogacy? And what are the ramifications and legal processes that you have to go through?” explains Dr. Pena.

“We are kind of the unicorns in the community, but I would say it’s becoming more common,” said Byrnes.

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More same-sex couples are raising children as societal norms change to end discrimination and increase options to have a family.

According to the Family Equity Council, 63% of LGBTQ+ people planning families expect to use advanced reproductive technology, foster care, or adoption to become parents.  

Biologically for same-sex male couples, the road to pregnancy is expensive and it comes with more legal and financial hurdles.

“For us, it started with finding a really great lawyer because we are a same-sex couple and we need to make sure that we have legal rules and regulations in place for ourselves and for the kids,” said Byrnes. “They were instrumental in making that process easy to contracts for the egg donor, to the surrogate, to even filing for birth certificates immediately after they were born.”

Dr. Julian Escobar, a fertility specialist at Conceive Fertility Center in Dallas helped the couple plan their family, guiding them through each step toward pregnancy. He has seen an increase in same-sex male couples who would like to become parents.

“This is something new for men,” said Dr. Escobar. “Brady and Rene are an awesome couple, and they knew what they wanted from the get-go, but they didn't know how to get there. That is where I step in.”

Dr. Escobar is known as the “baby maker,” with a tremendous amount of success stories from singles, heterosexual couples, and same-sex couples. He believes parenthood is the ultimate human experience that should never be denied based on sexual orientation.

“It is a complicated process, but I think people see that they can have a completely fulfilled life, that they can live their life, that they can be true to themselves and be happy and not have to give up being a parent."

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The first step toward pregnancy for a same-sex male couple begins with an egg donor, which can cost about $20,000.

“We selected an agency and they mailed us a big package with hundreds of egg donor profiles,” said Dr. Pena. “You have to make a decision if you want a Caucasian, African American or Latina woman, do you want brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes."

“I found myself judging people I didn’t know, and we were very uncomfortable with that," said Byrnes.

The search stopped soon after when a close friend agreed to donate her eggs. Through the process of in vitro fertilization (IVF), embryos were created by both dads, who then had to find a surrogate. It is another legal and delicate process that can add up to nearly $150,000.

“We had to select a gestational carrier because legally, the egg donor and carrier cannot be the same person. It's another lump sum of money that we paid to an agency to find a surrogate who chose us," explains Dr. Rene Pena.

“It was definitely not a family that I thought would be open to carrying a baby for a same-sex couple and we couldn't be more politically different, but they are now oddly a part of our extended family, " said Byrnes.

The family, a surrogate from Temple, Texas, welcomed the twins into this world with love and compassion. That's what Dr. Pena and Byrnes want the most for their children. Without love and compassion, humanity cannot survive.

“We are 'Daddy' and 'Papa' and that is what they know us as and that is their reality and they’re thriving children.”

"When they go off into this world, I want them to know we gave them unconditional love and to love other people."

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