At 37, Joseph Tito was a jet-setting successful film and TV director and producer living his dream. One early morning, he awoke in his Dubai hotel and realized he wanted more out of life. He wanted a family. He documents his fatherhood journey on his blog The Dad Diaires that chronicled his surrogacy journey as a gay single dad and, now, his parenting adventures raising twin girls.
Nazca Fontes, founder of ConceiveAbilities, had an intimate chat with Joseph on our new show All Things Conceivable: A Surrogacy Podcast about his journey to become a father through surrogacy, the hurdles he navigated as a single gay man and why he felt so strongly to share his story with other men like him dreaming of starting their own families.
NF: How has the decision to become a dad and now raising twin daughters changed your life?
“How hasn't it changed my life? I always said to myself that by the time I'm 35, I wanted to be a dad. I didn't know how, what, where, when any of that, but I kept saying that to myself and then 35 came and went. I was executive producing and directing all over the world and traveling and so that window just passed. When I was turning 37 and I said, okay, I don't want to be a 60 year old with a toddler. I looked into all the, all my options and as a gay single man at the time, there was really not that many options. Adoption was extremely difficult, so I looked into surrogacy and that's kind of how my journey began.”
NF: What was the one moment in time that sparked your action to become a father?
“I was lying in bed in a seven star hotel in Dubai. I was very fortunate. I was making great money and I had everything I wanted and could travel anywhere. But it just seemed empty and lonely. You work your whole life to try to be successful and try doing what you love. And then when you do it and you get to a point like that you start feeling like there has to be more to life than your career. That's when I realized, it was now or never. At the time I did have a partner, so I called him and said, “I want kids. We've been together for four years and we're not getting any younger. And so let's start this.”
NF: And was your partner on board?
“With his words? Yes, but not with his actions. As a gay man, you have disposable income, you can pick up and go whenever you pleased. So to change that lifestyle to that of a traditional family, is a very difficult decision for him. He went along with it initially. I documented the whole journey through video. I went through five embryo transfers, so it was a long, painful journey. As I was editing all my stuff, I realized that I was doing it by myself and he wasn’t into it like I was.”
NF: So during your journey, this partnership became an individual journey as a single man?
“There was never really any partnership in the journey. Financially, it was all me and when it was time to go to Kenya to meet my surrogate, he declined because he was busy with work. After that and many other signs I said to him, “Listen, I don't think this is something you really want. Maybe we should break up and maybe I'll find someone who wants the same thing.” In my head I thought he would profess his love for me and realize he wanted to be a family. But he didn’t and our relationship ended. So, I was dealing with a third failed embryo transfer, which really gets to you, and dealing with that breakup as well.”
NF: You wrote in your blog on The Dad Diaries that a lot of gay men didn't understand your desire to become a father. Why do you feel that?
“My friends still don't get it. They have asked why I would change my lifestyle especially since having a kid is a lot of work. You have to put yourself aside and for a long time and live for someone else: your children. Since I didn’t have the traditional pressures to have a family, they have had a hard time understanding why I would want that.”
NF: How important has support been as a single parent going through a surrogacy journey?
“My parents were my biggest supporters and absolutely amazing. I first spoke to my mom about adoption and then surrogacy, she was beyond excited. I was kind of keeping it quiet from my dad. Then one day I called and he came on the phone and he was just so excited about the whole thing, I felt very supported. I went through five embryo transfers. After the fourth failed embryo transfer, I felt like maybe this wasn’t what I should be doing in my life. Maybe God doesn't want me to be a dad. I had a lot of people also on social media that were against a gay man going through surrogacy. All those things started taking a toll. Without my parents, honestly I don’t know where I would be. Throughout the surrogacy journey and after the girls were born, my parents have been and are my greatest support.”
NF: Did your parents have reservations about you as a gay single man going through surrogacy?
“My mom was always amazing with me when I told her I was gay. My dad came around. I think for them, the biggest fear was that I would be alone and I would have nobody to share my life with and to support me. I think the decision to start a family put those fears away for them and that's why they were so supportive. They were also excited that I chose surrogacy and that my genes were passed down, but mostly they were mostly happy I was creating a family, because family is so important to them.”
NF: The Dad Diaries earned an award as a top YouTube channel for single dads. Why is it so important for you to be a voice in your community?
“I started The Dad Diaries because I'm in film and television and I was going to document my journey into fatherhood regardless. And also for my girls to see when they hate me when they're teenagers, so I could show them what I went through to have them. Joking aside, there wasn’t a lot out there for me when I began my surrogacy journey. There were a lot of countries where surrogacy as a gay man or gay couple is just not even allowed. I found a lot of research on women who are infertile who choose the surrogacy route. Even in Canada, the first IVF treatment is free, so there's a lot for women. I found that as a gay man and as a single man, I didn't really have that. I couldn’t find resources and information that helped me navigate all of the questions and fears I had about the surrogacy process. Since then, I've learned about more surrogacy agencies that will help you from a to Z that I didn't even know existed. Now, there is professional help out there for sure that can help guide you through the surrogacy process and I want to share what I’ve learned. Building the community has been amazing. I get numerous amounts of emails daily from single men and gay men asking questions. They just want someone to listen to them and they just want someone to tell them that it's going to be okay and that it will work out. For me to be able to be that person for someone that I didn't, it just makes it worthwhile for me. ”
NF: If you could change anything about your surrogacy, what would it be?
“I wouldn't change anything because I have my girls, but that aside, I would definitely change the agency I picked. It's all about your agency. They will make it easier or harder on you. The agency I chose felt very much like a business that was only concerned with the money. It lacked human connection and didn’t seem to be concerned with my individual experience or acknowledge that each journey is unique. Each one is a person and not just a client, especially when you're talking about babies and someone's dream. I just found it very cold. My advice to anyone thinking about surrogacy is to carefully choose the best surrogacy agency for you that has a good reputation for its support and service throughout the process. ”
NF: What lessons have you learned that could help other single men embarking on a surrogacy journey?
“It takes a village for sure. Get all the help you can. I'm the type of person that tends to try to do everything by myself. If you're going through surrogacy, and I know it's easier said than done, you have to let it go, trust the process and ask and accept all the support you can get."
NF: I love your Instagram. How has becoming a father to your twin girls changed your life?
My life revolves around my family now. It’s more inclusive. My friends are different now. My best friends that I had before disappeared because they just don't get it. My family has changed. I have a partner now. I spend more time with my extended family. I used to direct a TV show for 18 hours a day on set for a month at a time and not miss a beat. Now I'm just always exhausted. I never seem to get enough sleep and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The other night, the girls slept at my mom's and we wanted to take one night to sleep and just wake up when we wanted. And I woke up still at the same time, because after two years your body is up and I just had this feeling that I missed them so much. It was crazy how much I actually missed them and it was literally one day that I didn't see them. People asked me if I would change being a dad? Would I not have twins? Maybe my life would be easier, but I couldn't imagine my life without them.
Have you gotten involved with surrogacy to help a gay family member or friend? Share your story with us in the comments below.