Kate Elazegui: Emily gave birth to our firstborn, Reid, and I delivered Eddie four days later, so we have two newborn baby boys.
Emily Kehe: We started talking about having kids a couple years ago. I just thought it was important to be married before having kids. I wanted to do things in a little bit more of a traditional way.
Kate: Pretty soon after our marriage, we began looking into fertility clinics. I remember our first consultation very clearly. We went in and I declared, “Isn't this great? We have two of everything! Two vaginas! Two uteruses!” I was kind of joking about it. But they're very, very serious. Dr. [Hey Joo] Kang just looked at us both and asked how old we were. Emily is three years younger than me so at the time she was 36. Dr. Kang turned to Emily and said: “So you are the one.” That's how they think, statistically. And it made me think: What's wrong with me? I mean, it‘s human nature to think that there's a chance.
Emily: Kate hadn't really seemed interested in it up until then. I have always felt like my life wouldn’t be complete if I didn't have a baby and I always really wanted to go through the process of carrying and delivering one. I was getting older, too, so there was a little fear that I wouldn't be able to at some point. But that's not something I would want to deny anybody.
Kate: Emily was so surprised the night I said, “I really think I wanna try.” Just because I hadn't talked about it before doesn't mean that I didn't feel it. I just sort of never — it had never been presented as a decision I had to make. But when push came to shove, I really worried that I might regret not trying.
Emily: Selecting the donor was fun but it’s a weird process, like online shopping or dating. You pick the color, you pick the size, you pick what they majored in in college. Our donor was a poet, so he wrote a poem. We probably know more about this guy than we know about each other. Kate made a binder and then came up with a scoring system, gave each guy a certain number of points — I don't know, it was crazy. We bought a lot of him. Enough for her and me. It was like over $10,000, a crazy amount of money. But it was a romantic night: wine and the laptop for sperm shopping.
Kate: We named the donor Keanu because we thought he looked like Keanu Reeves in his baby pictures. He was a cute kid, very adorable. He's half Asian, half Caucasian. We’d joke after the babies were born, “Clearly, he got Keanu’s lips.”
Emily: After that, Kate tried to get pregnant for six months. It was rough. Every month you get your hopes up.
Kate: It's very tedious; you have blood tests so they know your cycle and they basically do sonograms almost every day for a week. They're watching your eggs, literally timing to the moment they think one will drop. As an aside, I did not realize how many women have fertility issues. I mean, we don't necessarily have fertility issues, we're just gay. We just didn't have a penis. But seeing the same women there every day — so many women in New York City are trying to get pregnant and struggling and it’s so hard to talk about. It’s sad that we can’t be open about it.
I felt like the process was way too clinical. When we went in to have the sperm inseminated, I wanted it to be a little bit more festive. Poor Dr. Kang, she's this great woman and she's so serious, God bless her, but I was like, “Do you mind telling me when you're about to shoot the sperm up there? Because I have a song picked out to help and I want to play it at the exact moment.” I picked “Eye of the Tiger.”
Emily: After months of inseminations, she decided to give it one last go and do IVF. Her insurance had run out, so we knew we were going to have to pay for it out-of-pocket and that was a big decision, because it's a lot of money. But it just seemed like we had to try everything. When we were halfway through all that, the doctor said, “Well, this is Kate's last time and it's probably going to take Emily a while …”
Kate: We were like, “What? Have you lost your mind?” I think she wanted us to have a positive result so badly, so she basically was like, “Why not start Emily now? Because it might take a little while, so it's better for her to get started, sort of get revved up.” And I had this conversation with her, like, “What if we both get pregnant?” And she said, “Oh the chances of you both getting pregnant are so slim.” I don't know why, we were just like, “Ah, okay.” It had taken so long for me and Emily was sort of wanting to try, she just wanted to know she could get pregnant. We were so impatient.
Emily: So I went to do just the first round, which was blood tests and sonograms, just to sort of see how I operate, establish my hormone levels, see what kind of follicles you're going to produce on your own. Initially, Kate had to go get inseminated two mornings in a row. And for this round, for me, she just had me do it one morning because they wanted to see what would happen and that was it, I did it once.
Kate: We didn't know how fertile she was. Emily is the poster girl for womanhood. Her body was like, boom! Dr. Kang called two weeks later and said, “I did not expect that to happen. You're pregnant.” That day was both totally amazing and really sad for me. I didn't really tell Emily, but I felt very sad inside. That was one part I couldn't really share with her because I didn't want to take away any joy and I didn't want her to feel guilty. I wanted to be so happy, and I was happy for us. I was. We called our family and her parents and her brothers. The really hard part was that I was still mid-cycle, I was still doing drugs, I was still giving myself injections, and here was my wife, who did it without any help. She got pregnant on the first try.
Emily: I felt a little guilty. It didn't change the experience because obviously I knew how happy she was, but I did feel a little bad that it was so easy for me. Kate was in the middle of her IVF cycle so it didn't make sense for her to stop and also I was only two weeks pregnant — anything could have happened. I could have had a miscarriage. Who knows?
Kate: So then they harvested my eggs. And they select one sperm out of the hundreds of thousands. They pick the best swimmer out of the group and they put it in a petri dish and they see if it fertilizes. Many times, it doesn't. The hardest part is waiting for the phone call. Dr. Kang called me and said, “I have great news.” Of the five eggs that they took out of me, three of them fertilized! So this is also where a hard decision has to be made: The more that they put in you, the better chance of pregnancy, right? But remember, you could have multiples. I'm five-one and 105 pounds. She told me in the beginning, “I'm not going to put more than two in you.” Because she didn't think that I could carry more than that. But that morning, she suggested we do all three. She really wanted me to get pregnant. She didn't say this to me, but I knew she wanted to give me all the chances. I also think because Emily got pregnant she didn't want me to feel sad.
Emily: Exactly three weeks after we found out I was pregnant Kate called me at work and was like, “Guess what?” I fell off my chair. I was sitting on the floor, alternating between laughing hysterically and hyperventilating and crying. It was so overwhelming. I mean obviously, I was so happy for her, but I was like, Holy shit, what are we going to do? My co-worker knocked on my door asking if I was okay. “Are you laughing or crying?” I was like, “A little bit of both.” I was on the floor.
Kate: We were like, “Oh my God, we just overshot this. We can't live in a one-bedroom apartment with two babies!” We made a phone call to a real-estate agent, came out to Maplewood, New Jersey — we had read that it was a progressive place — we drove around with the real-estate agent for one day and made an offer on a house.
Emily: I really loved being pregnant. It was very easy for me. I felt good, I was very happy. I didn't have any issues at all besides the fact that my feet grew so much that I had no shoes. Everything has been very easy for me and nothing has been easy for her. I've really had to try to not feel bad about that because I don't want to feel sorry for her. It's not that I don't have sympathy, of course I feel deeply for her, but I didn't want that emotion to be a part of either of our pregnancies. And I didn't want to not have a great pregnancy because I felt bad about it.
Kate: The pro and con of having your wife, another woman, go through pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood in tandem with you is that you can't help but compare. My pregnancy was about three weeks behind Emily’s. She would experience something and then a couple weeks later, I would, too. There were things that were very similar and then there were things like, “Whoa, wait a second, why are my nipples like this and yours are like that?” And I do not want to sound bitter because I am not, but it has felt like I always get the short end. Everything has just been a little bit harder for me. She loved being pregnant, and I didn’t enjoy any of it. The whole pregnancy I had way more complications. I had gestational diabetes. I was worried. I was anxious. I had to watch my diet. I had an exercise regimen.
That said, we didn’t really complain to each other. I think the cliché of pregnancy is that the wife gets to complain a lot. But what was the point? You complain because you want sympathy. You want the person to be like, “Oh, baby, I’ll take care of you.” We couldn’t do that. There was no energy left to be sympathetic. The pros of it were that we both felt the same things, we had someone who understood, but there was no sympathy. There was empathy but no sympathy. There was no “Awww, honey. Sit down and let me rub your feet.” Because, fuck, I have to rub my own feet, too.
Emily: There were obviously times when you’d think, God, it would be nice if somebody could lift those boxes. This is when 1-800-husband-4-rent would have come in handy. My brothers were coming over to help and Kate’s sister and mother but the everyday stuff — we were both like, “Oh, we're so tired, I wish someone was here to cook for us.” There were moments where it would have been nice if one of us wasn't pregnant. But the camaraderie, just having someone understand exactly what you're going through was incredible. We really were in this together. If we were at a party and it was nine o'clock, I'd be like, “My feet hurt, can we go?” And she'd be like, “Yes, my feet hurt, too.”
Kate: By the eighth, ninth month we were both being very careful with each other. We were both hormonal and we definitely had moments where we lost it with each other. If we argued about something it was amplified times ten. Usually, it was stuff about family. We didn’t really get mad at each other, we got mad at situations and then we couldn’t really control it.
Emily: I was ten days late and nothing was happening and I was getting so frustrated, and I was huge. We were just sitting around waiting for the baby. We had different scenarios planned out. Kate had written in these little books the steps. For example, when Emily goes into labor call the doula, etc. We had about 24 different plans: What if it happens in the morning? What if it happens during rush-hour traffic? If it’s a weekday, do we go to the hospital as soon as we start having contractions so we don’t get stuck in traffic? I don’t think we had a “plan” — we had options.
Kate: I had been so diligent about packing our luggage. I had two of everything — what if we went into labor at the same time? Yoga ball, peanut ball, water bottle — everything they suggested, we had. Emily had a doula because I was just so worried that I would not be physically able to help her. I was scared I wouldn’t have endurance. We had heard so many stories — you could have an 18-hour labor — and I knew that there was no way I could handle that. Emotionally, that did make me feel bad. That really is part of being a supportive partner when your wife is going to have a baby.
Emily: My doctor said that if I didn’t have the baby by December 9 they would induce me. I really, really didn’t want to be induced. I had my heart set on everything happening naturally. Then the morning of the ninth, I woke up, felt contractions and I thought my water had broken.
Kate: Her dad drove us to the hospital with the doula. I made sure she had everything she needed. Emily was amazing. She did 19 hours without an epidural.
Emily: Around 11 that night, I couldn’t do it anymore and asked for the epidural. They were like, “Okay, you’re five centimeters dilated and it will be an hour per centimeter so you will probably have the baby at 5 a.m. tomorrow. You can have a good night’s sleep.” So we sent everyone home.
Kate: Then it was just Emily and I. We dimmed the lights and we thought, Let’s just lie here in quiet for a few hours. I asked if she wanted to use the peanut ball. It’s like this peanut-shaped inflatable thing that you can put between your legs to help you open up. So I sort of hobbled over and got that. We were chatting to each other. Emily wasn’t in any pain. Then we had this quiet moment together where we said a prayer. I prayed, Let her have strength and courage, let this be a healthy delivery. I said amen and on cue the doctor walked in. She checked Emily, and she was like, “I feel a head.” Right now? Nobody is here! It was just us. All along I was worried that I was not going to be able to help deliver my baby. But there was no doula, so I held her leg and she pushed and I counted out loud for her and by the third push I could already see his head.
Emily: I got him out in nine pushes — he was over eight pounds. It was so quiet and it was just us in there and it was a peaceful moment. I think it was exactly how I wanted it, even though I didn’t know I wanted it that way.
Kate: The policy is that they don’t allow people to stay overnight unless you have a private room and we didn’t have one because frankly it was $900 a night. But nobody told me to go home because I was pregnant. Nobody gave me a hard time, they were like, That other mom is pregnant!
Emily: We were in the hospital for two days. Reid was perfectly healthy, and I was healing fine. Because of our unique situation — Kate was in the hospital with me sleeping upright in a chair! — they let us go a little bit early because it would be more comfortable for us to be at home. So we went home and we were home for one day. I had NOT slept. They tell you that your hormones won’t allow you to sleep that much and it was true, I did not sleep. I think I had three solid hours of sleep since I gave birth. We were home for a day, and my mom was with us, and the next morning I was nursing Reid and Kate came into the room at like eight in the morning and said, “I think my water just broke.” I was like, Shut up. After you give birth, you feel like a truck hit you. Everything hurts, you have been stitched up, your uterus is sore. But in that moment all of that went away. I was awake. Nothing hurt anymore. We snapped into action. Packed the go bags and loaded up the car and I drove us into the city. I think I trusted my driving more than anyone else’s.
Kate: It was like the passing of the baton. To be honest, I am pretty sure because I was so in this hyperdrive during her labor that that’s what kick-started my own labor. My mom and my sister were on their way to see Reid. I called and said, “Why don’t you just go to the hospital because, actually, I am in labor!”
Emily: Reid slept in the waiting room with Kate’s mom the whole time. It was hard leaving him. I would go and check on him, but I also knew that it was really important to be there for Kate. Kate was pushing for two and a half hours, so that was a lot rougher. I was trying to be physically supportive but at the same time it was really hard for me to do those things because I had given birth three days before. So her sister took over that physical part. I think it was harder for Kate because she had just watched it and then had to go through it.
Kate: My mother had already told me: Just be prepared you probably aren’t going to have the delivery that Emily had. Also, we overestimated that Emily would have the energy to help. My labor was a lot harder and it required so much more pushing and breathing and all this stuff that she wasn’t totally able to help me with because she had just given birth. At one point during the delivery I just said, “Can you just talk to me and step aside and let my sister be the one to help me?” She felt sort of hurt, I think.
Emily: In the middle of her pushing I looked down at my shirt and realized that my milk had come in. I was leaking, the whole front of my shirt was drenched. And there was really nothing I could do about it right then.
Kate: They were very scared I was going to have to have a caesarian because it was taking so long and I was already high risk. I was getting really tired and finally the doctor said, “Okay, let’s turn off the epidural.” I was having a hard time pushing because I couldn’t feel anything. I didn’t know where to focus. Within 20 minutes I was able to feel something. It was like focus. Push. I was able to get the baby out. There were some complications: The umbilical cord was very close to his neck.
Emily: The cord was pressed against his head and he was blue. It was the scariest thing I have ever seen and I tried to hide the look on my face because I was terrified and I didn’t want Kate to see it but they took him and whisked him away and put him in the warmer and called the NICU and it was a very scary moment. He was the tiniest little thing.
Kate: Within a couple of minutes I heard the baby cry and I knew that was a good sign. Five minutes later, I was holding him.
Emily: After everyone was settled I went to the hospital room with Reid and we were just going to stay there. I was so sure that the four of us were going to spend the night in the hospital. All I wanted to do was settle into that chair and rock Reid to sleep and watch Eddie sleep in his little bassinet. I had that picture in my head for so many hours. Just the four of us finally being a family of four. But the nurse came in and said, You can stay but the baby can’t stay here overnight. It’s hospital policy you can’t have other children in the room who aren’t hospital patients. But he was a patient yesterday, it was a unique situation. We still had to leave. I had to take Reid and leave and get him back in the car. It was midnight. At that point the hormones kicked in and I was super-emotional. It was like all the physical pain, fatigue, and hormones came rushing back in that car ride home. But then the next morning we got back and it was the four of us there. We were past all of that unknown stuff. There were months and months and months of not knowing what would happen. And when it was over, it sort of didn’t matter how it happened. It was over and we had healthy babies. We made it.
Kate: I’m having a harder time breast-feeding — of course! Surprise, surprise, my boobs are duds. Eddie wasn’t getting enough milk and Reid is chubby already. The doctor and the lactation consultant told me I have to supplement Eddie with formula. That’s hard to hear when, right next to you, you see a mother feeding very easily. Emily has super-milk. No joke, she will pump and in five minutes she has filled two bottles. I pump and I get an ounce. It’s so sad. You have to have a sense of humor about it, otherwise I would be so depressed. I do think: Why is this so much harder for me? But what’s amazing is that she’s able to nurse Eddie when I can’t. For her, she’s able to bond with Eddie in a better way than I can with Reid. She has Eddie on her breast at least three or four times a day. He’s latching on to her. He knows her. For me and Reid, it’s harder. The trials and tribulations of a mother who doesn’t have milk! I have to nurse, give a supplement, and then go pump. That’s a 45-minute process every couple of hours. There’s really no break for me. But I want to be able to feed both babies and also I want to help Emily! I don’t want her to be the only one who has to nurse both babies. I think there’s guilt on both sides even though we don’t talk about it. I feel guilty that she has to take on this responsibility. I think she feels a bit guilty that she’s able to do this with such ease and finds pleasure in it. There’s a little bit of inadequacy that I feel. But again I am trying to have a sense of humor about it. I have nicknamed her “moomie.” Oh, boys, your “moomie” is here!
Emily: Because I have been able to breast-feed both of them, I have had a lot of time one-on-one with both of them, so I feel equally bonded with them. Obviously, it’s a bit different with Reid because he’s biologically mine. I guess I look at him and think, I made that! I mean, Eddie looks EXACTLY like Kate, really, he’s a miniature version of Kate. He looks very Asian and Reid looks very white. You can tell whose child belongs to who. The boys have totally opposite personalities. Like Eddie is like this beautiful, delicate little flower and Reid is kind of like a frat boy. He's three pounds heavier, which is a huge difference in babies — they really don't look like they're the same age. Reid's a little gassy, good at burping. He punches the air all the time. He's a dude. And Eddie's this quiet, old soul. So it'll be interesting to see if those really are their personalities. Reid sleeps for four hours at a time, Eddie sleeps for about an hour. Also, Eddie's almost a month younger, even though they were born four days apart. He's still developmentally three and a half weeks younger.
Kate: Your maternal instinct is to take care of the baby you gave birth to. It’s definitely a challenge to bond with them both. Intellectually, we have to remind ourselves that there’s another baby. Of course I love Reid, but I’m getting a lot more time with Eddie because I’m breast-feeding him. So what happens is you’re bonding with the baby you delivered because you have to, and then you look over and remember that there’s another one. You have to remind yourself this is your son, too. That was always my fear. Because having a baby at the same time was not going to allow for the same bonding time for both parents with each baby. I think we expected to have a month to spend with Reid and then by the time mine came we’d spend time with Eddie. I do hope that this dissipates but you have to fight against the favoritism that you start to feel. Actually, that’s not the right word. It’s not a favorite. You are just partial to one because your job was to carry it for nine months. For me personally it’s really hard taking care of two babies. So I don’t get enough time with Reid.
Emily: We take turns with tasks like laundry, cooking, all that sort of stuff. We divide it up. Kate’s mom stayed here for a while, so we have definitely had help. Her mom cooked a bunch of food and put it in our freezer and did the laundry. It has been a blur of feedings and sleeping and trying to shower. The only reason we know when it’s day versus night is based on when they sleep. We both try to take a nap during the day and then we take shifts at night. Reid doesn’t feed as often and he sleeps for longer periods whereas Kate has to feed Eddie every one and a half to two hours. So she sleeps in smaller increments and takes more naps. I can do a feeding for Eddie so she can get a bit of a longer sleep. Every night at seven we discuss what we will do: Would you like to go to sleep now and I’ll cook dinner and you come down at X time? We negotiate and play it by ear. I also know that this is just the norm now. I know this is how I will feel for the next few years — so get used to it.
Kate: I think because we had nine months of teamwork, we know how to read each other. I can tell when Emily is more tired than me. Or she may be like, “I have more energy, I will make dinner.” We had nine months of doing that for each other. I can’t even imagine if she had to go back to work and I had two babies at home. I would lose my mind. I am a hard worker but this is the hardest thing I have ever done. To me, that highlights the ridiculous nature of maternity leave and the fact that men don’t get leave. It’s a freaking team. I don’t know how women deal when their husband has to go back to work after two weeks and they are left alone with this child. The father should have time to bond with the baby and the mother shouldn’t feel like it’s her job to do everything. If Emily were a man and I was having a hard time breast-feeding alone at home by myself, I would be very depressed. It has made me so aware of how hard it is for mothers. At least Emily and I — sure, two babies is a lot — but we have four boobs, two moms, we have the same leave. We both know we can help each other. I have my best friend doing it with me.
Emily: We are both off until March, which is great. We are looking for a nanny, we are on the hunt for someone to either live with us or maybe not. We are starting the search now, we both kinda have to go back to work full-time. There are moments where you think one baby would be so much easier right now — I hear about people having one baby and I’m like, Psh, one baby? — but I wouldn’t give up what we did for anything. Yes, we may have had slightly more relaxing pregnancies if one of us hadn’t also been pregnant but I was thinking about it the other day: I don’t even remember what it was like to be pregnant anymore. I can’t remember the feeling. I guess I remember loving to sleep but that’s really the only thing I remember. But that’s because I am sleep-deprived now so the idea of sleep is just so heavenly.
Kate: Only last week did we realize that we hadn't actually been able to hug or sleep close to each other for six months! It was a very strange thing to actually hug each other in bed again. We've been married only two years, but I think this has made us closer faster and more intimately than couples married far longer. The most important thing we've mastered is allowing only one of us to freak out at a time.
Emily: I mean, I have never been pregnant any other way so I have nothing to compare it to, but I think it was a really great way to be pregnant. We will not do this again! I mean, I keep joking, “Oh, well, when we have another one …” But NO, this is enough. We have a family now. Two boys is all we can handle.