Aug 17, 2007
V 35 Issue 33

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Two Men having a Baby
Two Men having a Baby
by Liz Meyer - SGN Contributing Writer

Two Men and a Baby: Jamie and Eric Pedersen, used to scrutiny of the public eye, prepare for toughest challenge yet - fatherhood

I'm meeting Jamie and Eric Pedersen at the coffee shop where they had their first date.

Our appointment is a funny set-up, in several ways. One of the men on this, a most unorthodox coffee date, has tackled law school and politics, and currently serves as the representative for Seattle's 43rd Legislative District. His spouse, a recent retiree, once managed to tame even the surliest of adolescents as a successful high school teacher and assistant principal. They're married, they share a beautiful restored Victorian home on Capitol Hill, and they're regulars at their church.

And then there's me, a 24-year-old self-described frat boi. I'm a bachelorette, and I rent a tiny room in an old house. As I size Eric and Jamie up, I realize my priorities right now may be a bit more, hmm, "sophomoric" in nature than theirs. For instance, the shiner and jock attire I'm sporting at the interview (both courtesy of my one true love, Gaelic football) stand in stark contrast to the polished polo shirt look that both Eric and Jamie have apparently mastered.

The potential for awkward pauses during this interview is great, needless to say.

Now, the three of us are sitting at Victrola to talk babies. Not just to discuss how babies are cute or how we all might eventually want them around someday, but to talk about how the Pedersen family will be having one. Any day now, no less. We might as well be talking about hedge funds; it'd be just as much my area of expertise as the current subject.

I feel like a voyeur, hearing two strangers tell me the intimate details (down to the very last, umm, drop) of how they donated sperm and worked with an egg donor and a surrogate mother to conceive this baby. Yet, for as surreal as the experience is, I am moved as I play witness to Eric and Jamie's reenactment of "A Baby Story."

Their baby odyssey fascinates me. The near-misses. The method of finding a donor. The first ultrasound. All of those details of their daily lives over the past few months that, though a world away from mine, represent those things I also hope to find, even if it will be way, way, way down the road: love, security, and building a life with someone.

The Pedersens' journey began five years ago at Victrola, when they discussed having kids on their first date. In the literally hundreds of trips I've taken to Victrola over the years, I've certainly never once thought about family planning while there. Now, as I hear terms like "viable egg cells" and "in vitro fertilization," (IVF) I have a vision of all of my subsequent trips for a caramel latte being accompanied by an interrogation of a date over her family's medical history.

"We got engaged four years ago on a trip to Paris, and got married three years ago in our church," says Jaime. "That's when we started talking about how to make it happen."

I'm not surprised to hear that the pregnancy process was a little more complex than the couple simply talking it over. They explain how, in the midst of remodeling their 1909 house in the summer of 2005, then-Rep. Ed Murray called Jamie and encouraged him to run for the house seat he was abdicating to run for the senate. Eric's one condition in backing Jamie's run for office was that they'd start working on the baby the day after the primary.

"True to his word, on September 20, 2006, Jamie contacted the egg donor agency we'd decided to work with," Eric says.

I ask the couple how they decided to go with this method. Their answer is fairly straightforward: they wanted children that were biologically theirs.

It gets me thinking about having my own kids some day. I realize I still hold onto the naive idea that things will just kind of fall into place. It's a bit of a reality check, then, to hear just how much planning has gone into this venture.

They explain how they had to research not just potential donors and surrogates, saying "yay" or "nay" to them based on internet profiles, but also doctors and IVF clinics. They describe how everyone involved in the conception, from the egg donor, to the surrogate mother, to they themselves, had to undergo a series of long and expensive series of medical tests to ensure a healthy baby. They also tell me how nothing could happen until legal logistics were set in stone.

Finally, they describe how, after they flew the egg donor to San Diego and both men fertilized 8 egg cells each, they were ultimately left with just one viable egg cell to implant into the surrogate.

"Everything had been working for us well up to that point," Jamie says. "Normal practice is to put two fertilized eggs into the surrogate. If you put in two eggs, you have a 70% of getting one healthy baby, and a 30% chance of having twins. After all of this and tens of thousands of dollars, we have ONE viable egg. With one, you have a 10-30% chance of things working."

Their description of having just one viable egg cell to work with marks the only point in the interview when either Eric of Jamie acknowledges that there were serious hardships in the pregnancy. Perhaps I've caught them at an especially good time, when the hardest is basically behind them, and they can now just wait for a call saying the surrogate is going into labor (they'll need to hurry; her first labor took two hours, and after that, she gave birth to twins in just 20 minutes). They're also on a bit of a baby shower and meeting other parents-to-be high. However, they seem nothing more than genuinely thrilled that their son, Trygve, will soon be here, and almost brush off the trying times during the pregnancy as mere annoyances.

It heartens me to hear, too, how apolitical they want their very personal experience of having a child to be.

"From my perspective, and knowing that we're relatively visible, the thing that's important to me is that we're identified as a healthy, loving family," says Eric. "Albeit it's a non-traditional family, but it's based on traditional values like love and respect."

Eric adds that little Tryg will march in Pride parades the rest of his life, and Jamie talks of taking his son to family day during session. For the most part, though, the Pedersens have absolutely no interest in their child becoming the next Great Gay Hope.

Now, they wait. They head back down to San Diego in a couple of days, ready to drop everything for that call announcing their baby is on his way.

And then? Well, to tie this back to my original point of how ironic it is that I'm the one interviewing these proud papas-to-be, I suppose I could say that Tryg's arrival will mark the exact point where the Pedersens' lives and my own most diverge. They'll continue onto pre-school, t-ball, and all those other fun, hyphenated parental pleasures, and I'll continue realizing the dreams of living out my second adolescence.

However, what seems to be the more likely result of our brief coffee shop chat is this: I'll come to the conclusion that even a frat boi can appreciate the excitement of this time for the Pedersens. And as I happily bike back to my house, momentarily adopting a philosophy nearing Precious Moments levels of sap, I'll recognize the universal beauty of birth, and feel that I will be a very minor part of welcoming Trygve Cochran Pedersen to the world.
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