And babies make six: as their quadruplets approach their first birthday, Thomas Dysarz and Michael Meehan are redefining what it means to be a family in Kentucky – Pride 2003
Taylor, like so many older sisters, is inquisitive and stubborn. Michael was the first to say “Da-da.” Tristan is the one with dimples. And Jacob, both the youngest and the tallest, is also the family flirt.
It has been nearly a year since Michael Meehan and his partner, Thomas Dysarz, introduced the world to their three sons and one daughter, believed to be the first set of quadruplets born to a gay couple. Since then, the babies in this one-of-a-kind family have developed into four happy, healthy, and decidedly individual little people who just happen to love splashing in the bathtub together.
“It was exciting,” says Meehan, 37, an attorney and the kids’ biological father. “We found out we were having quadruplets in February , so we had time to get ready. That meant buying lots and lots of stuff–four car seats, four cribs, tons of clothes.”
Conceived through in vitro fertilization and born to surrogate mother Brooke Verity on July 26, 2002, about nine weeks premature, the children spent the first month of their lives in a hospital intensive care unit. “They were about 2 1/2 to three pounds each at birth, and they had so many tubes in them,” Meehan says. “We were only allowed to hold them for short periods of time once a day. I would hold two of them and Thomas would hold the other two.”
“We were both in the delivery room. It was the first time that had happened in this hospital,” says Dysarz, 32, a hair-stylist. “Everyone knew the kids were being born to gay parents, and they were really good to us.”
Verity has visited the children since their homecoming, but she is not involved in their day-to-day life. “We’ve become really good friends with her,” Dysarz says. “She knows she’s Aunt Brooke, and she’s comfortable with that role. She’s told me that when she comes to visit it’s like visiting any other friends and their children.”
For the most part, the goodwill toward the family, who live just outside Lexington, Ky., in Winchester, has flowed steadily over the past year. “People from all over sent us gifts,” Meehan says. “A local man clipped all the newspaper stories about us and sent them to his gay son and his partner in California and asked, ‘When are you going to make me a grandfather?’ The couple sent us four outfits.”
And when antigay minister Fred Phelps and about a dozen of his family members staged a protest outside the Catholic church where the quads were baptized last November, the community came out in full force to support Meehah, Dysarz, and their children. “The city held a counterrally. About 4,000 people showed up at the arts center, and the mayor spoke in support of us,” Meehan says. “There were also about 100 people outside the church protesting against Phelps.
“The priest took some flack for the baptism. But he wrote a letter to the congregation explaining why he was doing it, and people supported the decision,” he says. “People from other Catholic churches around Lexington came for the mass. Even [the local congregation of] Phelps’s own Baptist church was with us. No one joined his protest, and I’m sure he thought they would.”
Another person who came out in support of the family was Verity. “At first she did not want her name in the press,” Dysarz says, “but she made herself available when Phelps came to town.
“I realized that people weren’t judging us. People welcomed us,” Dysarz adds. “They don’t see us as a gay couple; they see us as a family. And Lexington is very family-oriented. We’re an alternative family, but we’re still a family.”
But they have also received criticism, and some of the most intense has come from an unexpected source–other gay people. “The Lexington Pride Center threw us a baby shower, but another part of the community was not supportive. They said having kids was wrong because we can’t give them a mother. I was shocked that any gay person would say that,” Dysarz says.
“We were just trying to become parents,” Meehan adds. “We weren’t trying to make a political statement.”
Dysarz’s parents have also been less than supportive of his new family. “Telling your mom and dad you’re gay is hard,” he says. “Telling them you’re having kids is even harder. So far my parents have resisted seeing the kids.”
Meehan and Dysarz, who have been together for nearly six years, agree that their new additions have had a huge impact on their relationship. “Everything is focused on the children, and with multiples it’s just so much of everything,” Dysarz says. “We make our formula by the gallon. We’ll probably go through 30,000 diapers between now and the time they’re out of diapers.
“It takes a lot of patience,” he continues. “Our relationship has to be put on hold. Sometimes it’ll be a week before we can even say hi to each other.”
Yet the two have absolutely no regrets about their choice. “We both knew we could be great parents,” Meehan says.
And while the challenges of bringing up baby four times over might overwhelm even the most parental among us, it is just the beginning for Dysarz and Meehan. “Thomas is working with our surrogate, and she is pregnant again,” Meehan says. “She’s due in January, and right now we know it’s at least two babies.” The couple will have to wait until later this summer to confirm exactly how much larger their family will grow.
With four growing kids already underfoot and at least two more siblings on the way, Meehan says he and Dysarz are staying calm and doing the only thing parents of a growing brood can do: “We’re going to start building a bigger house.”
DeLaMar also writes for Parents, Family Circle, and Maxim magazines.
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