San Diego Will Halm spreads his hand over the bulging sphere of Elizabeth's stomach. His eyes search the ceiling as he feels for movement.
"He turned right around yesterday," says Elizabeth (last name omitted for privacy). "That hurt."
"Can't feel any kicks yet," says Halm.
"Daddy's getting anxious," says Elizabeth.
Both daddies, says Halm, are anxious.
Luc, the already-named baby boy growing inside Elizabeth's womb, is destined to enter a family of two daddies and no moms. That's because Halm, 46, lives with Dr. Marcellin Simard (also 46), and Elizabeth is bearing the child for them. She's one of the few surrogate mothers willing to carry children for male gay couples.
Young Luc looks set to become a poster child for the fight for gay rights. Halm will not say whether he or Simard is Luc's biological father, but it's likely he'll be asked the question a lot: last month Halm, a Los Angeles attorney, became chief executive of Growing Generations, a surrogacy agency for gay and lesbian couples based in Beverly Hills.
Today a Japanese TV crew has come to the San Diego home of Elizabeth and her husband Daniel. The crew was alerted by a June 25 New York Times story. Surrogacy, says the Japanese TV director, is not commonly accepted in Japan. You can see this is going to be another "only in America" story.
As they set up and clip a mike on Elizabeth, her five-year-old son Daniel Jr. comes up and lies against her. He puts his head on her tummy.
"Who's in there, Daniel?" his mom says.
"Will's baby," says Daniel, matter-of-factly.
"And...action," says the director. The camera rolls.
"What you are doing is not usual," the reporter says to Elizabeth, kneeling beside the camera. "Do you think that American society now is going to welcome a child from a homosexual couple?"
"I don't think society will ever be ready," Elizabeth says. "And that's a sad thing. It's happening, but I don't think that society in general is going [to accept] this kind of thing."
Elizabeth will get about $15,000 for her nine months' labor, but she says she's not doing it for the money. "If you broke it all down it would be less than minimum wage. So no, money isn't a factor." According to Growing Generations' literature, a 40-week pregnancy is roughly 6720 hours; $15,000 works out to less than $2.25 an hour.
So why did she do it? "My sister is a lesbian," Elizabeth says. "She had fertility problems. Five years ago we discussed my being a surrogate for her. But then she was diagnosed with leukemia. It just wasn't a good time. And I thought, 'Well, if I can't do it for my sister, why can't I do it for someone else?' My husband and I have four kids. We don't plan to have any more. And I enjoy being pregnant."
In 1996 Elizabeth bore a child for a heterosexual Israeli couple and then was approached by Halm and Simard, who wanted her to have a baby for them.
That was a problem for her husband Daniel. "When she said, 'a gay couple,' I'm thinking of the Hollywood stereotype movie tight-shorts queen-type of homosexual prancing around. Then Elizabeth said, 'Why don't we just go meet with them and see what happens? If it doesn't work out, we won't speak of it again.' "
Daniel has come home for lunch. He's in camouflage uniform. He has the tanned face, straight-back bearing, and crewcut of the professional military man. He didn't mind the idea of surrogacy per se. "I'm not a hard-core fundamentalist," he says. "If Elizabeth is willing to do this for a couple that can't do it, that's fine. To me there is no greater joy in a relationship than being a parent, raising your sons, raising your daughters. And it takes a certain individual to be a surrogate. Someone with a strong will. Emotionally strong. Elizabeth has all that."
Still, when Elizabeth raised the idea of providing a child for Halm and Simard, Daniel said no. "The thought did cross my mind.... What are two gay men going to be able to provide for a child when it comes to a life? But then I sat down and reconsidered my thoughts because my first wife was bisexual herself. I had experience with the emotional ups and downs, the support you have to give her desires, and how you deal with that in the household."
"And my father and mother were married," cuts in Elizabeth. "We were 'normal,' and yet I have a sister who's lesbian."
"So [we've had] firsthand experience in dealing with [homosexuality]," Daniel says. "It's not something strange or foreign."
In the end Daniel agreed to meet the gay couple who wanted to rent Elizabeth's womb. It was a dinner.
The clincher, Daniel says, was the surrogate-born daughter Halm and Simard brought with them, two-year-old Malina. "I just fell in love with her," says Daniel. "And I realized that these two men weren't the stereotypical comic-strip image of homosexuals. One of them was a lawyer, the other was a cardiologist. You could see both were excellent parents. And this daughter of theirs was just...adorable. I realized then that if these two men could put as much time and effort and love and care into this girl, then if Elizabeth wants to carry a baby for them, I'm all for it. It isn't about them being gay, it's about them being excellent parents."
Daniel's military buddies sometimes have a hard time understanding. "They think it's unusual. Helping out someone with a child is far beyond the normal. And then when you bring up the gay issue, it's 'Oh my goodness. Now you're really crazy!' "
* * *
Baby Luc's birth in September will mark a significant moment for Halm and Simard beyond parenthood. It will telegraph victory in their eight-year battle for the right of gays to become parents just like heterosexuals.
"Before we had our daughter Malina," says Halm, "I could find no agencies that would work with gay couples. There were a lot of medical practitioners as well as mental health professionals who didn't know how or didn't want to work with gay couples. My partner and I made every mistake in the book. And they were costly mistakes. They cost years. There wasn't really anyone who could help us. We connected with women who were really not suitable candidates, who after a couple of attempts at artificial insemination dropped out of the process. There wasn't a commitment. We were fairly desperate. In the end two of our friends helped create our daughter."