Editor’s Note: I was privileged this week to attend an intimate fundraiser to support the production of a new independent documentary film called, “The Guys Next Door.” This film drops you into the world of Erik and Sandro, a gay couple and their two daughters. I wrote this article because I felt Rachel’s story- which is the story of birthing Erik and Sandro’s children- was so amazing. I still do. And after meeting Erik and Sandro and the children, I feel even more strongly that their lives and stories are just as important. I am thrilled to be a part of supporting this documentary.
If you want to learn more and support the film, click here.
Here is the original article:
Rachel Segall is a 43 year old mother who lives in Newton with her three lovely children and her wonderful husband Tony. They belong to Temple Beth Avodah, are attentive and loving parents, and are involved in their children’s schools. If you met Rachel on the street, on the playground, or in Starbucks where she gets her green tea, you would just think she was a really nice, ordinary Newton mom with a beautiful smile and an earthy flair. But Rachel is no ordinary woman.
You see, Rachel made it possible for a loving couple to have a child of their own by acting as a surrogate. Yes, you read that right- she had a baby for them. Rachel blew me away, and I thought we could all be reminded that people like Rachel exist, right here and right now, in our own community.
Rachel met her friend Erik (as well as her husband Tony) when they were all undergrads at Bates College. Rachel admits she had a little crush on Erik then, and why not? Erik was a great guy and a wonderful friend. Everyone loved him: he was great to talk to, he was kind, and he had a great sense of humor. Yes, girls, we all know the next part of this story….it turned out, Erik was gay. Erik, Rachel and Tony remained friends after college. When Rachel and Tony fell in love, married and started a family, Erik was a constant. He became like an uncle to Rachel and Tony’s children.
Erik met his partner Sandro, an Italian from Sardinia with a smile that lights up a room, much later on, and I’ll get to that. Before Erik and Sandro had even met (about nine years ago) Erik got a call from Rachel, who had just finished watching a news show about how costly and difficult it was for gay couples to have children. “This may sound crazy,” Rachel told Erik, “but when the time is right, I would be happy to have a baby for you.” She asked him to file that information. She didn’t run this by Tony first. She just knew Tony and her children would be supportive if the time ever came. She knew that she loved and had an easy time being pregnant. She knew things would just work out.
And she was right. Erik and Sandro fell madly in love. Over time, they decided they wanted children, and Rachel remained certain that she wanted to help them make this possible. Tony and the children were on board, as Rachel intuited, and the rest is history. Before long, Erik and Sandro were choosing an egg donor. Legal issues were discussed and documents were signed. Eggs from the donor were fertilized with sperm from Erik and Sandro, and were transferred to Rachel. Rachel became pregnant.
On the day of Rachel’s 18 week check up and ultra sound, Erik and Sandro got married in Newton City Hall. Ten people, including Erik and Tony, Erik’s parents, brother and sister in law, and a bunch of friends, all showed up at the appointment at Boston Ultrasound, where they learned the baby was a girl. Rachel’s brother in law was the OBGYN. They were surrounded by love that day, and that is how it has been ever since.
Rachel Maria, a healthy and glowing baby girl, was born on August 14, 2010.
“How did your mother take it?” I asked first, thinking that my own mother might not have been exactly receptive to the idea. “She was nervous at first,” Rachel admitted, but mostly because she was concerned over Rachel’s health. She came around quickly. To Rachel’s mom: you are awesome.
“How did your kids deal with this?” I asked, surmising that my own kids would have taken the first bus out of town. Rachel said none of her children (including her preteen daughter) were freaked out, or even embarrassed. After all, the fertilized egg was transferred to her, nothing whatsoever to do with sex. Actually, the kids thought it was pretty cool; they liked being a little funky, a little hipper than your run of the mill Newton family. To Rachel’s family: you are really, really cool.
“Was it hard to give up the baby?” I asked Rachel. She explained that this baby was never hers, either biologically (because of the donor egg) or psychologically. The birth and giving over the baby was one of the happiest moments of her life. She knew she would always be part of this child’s life, like an aunt, and that her children would be like cousins to this baby.
“What about the weight gain? What about your body?”- I just had to ask. For someone a tad obsessed by weight, I honestly could not imagine dealing with the weight gain without the hefty prize at the end. Rachel did not look at me like I was a nutcase, she simply smiled with understanding. “It takes awhile, but you lose it,” she said. “It was so worth it.” To Rachel: you are the most selfless person I have ever met.
Now I am no biblical scholar, but how can you hear this story and not think of biblical Rachel, who for years was unable to conceive. Biblical Rachel, who, as the story goes, actually used a surrogate to have her first two children. Hearing this modern day Rachel story, how can you not think that there was some karma involved? How can you not believe in the goodness of regular people? How can you not believe that everything will work out all right when ordinary people are perpetuating love? How can you not believe in their optimism?
But that’s not the end of this story, not at all.
At age 42, Rachel again acted as a surrogate for Erik and Sandro, and on January 20, 2012, Rachel gave birth to another beautiful baby girl, Eleonora Francesca.
“Lots of people do really remarkable things,” Rachel told me, feeling embarrassed by my attention to her story, “and I have a really easy time being pregnant”. I know all that is true, but this story hit me hard. It is not often I get to meet someone that has so profoundly changed the lives of friends for the better, in such a selfless way, and it was so….well, so life affirming! So Rachel, like it or not…I have to end it this way….
Is this woman remarkable, or what?