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Gay couple loves challenge of fatherhood
by Ross Forman

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On a late April day in 2002, life partners Marv Pollack and Barry Taylor got a frantic phone call from Pam Benziger of California.

Benziger was the surrogate mother for their first child and, though she wasn't due until the third week in May, her water broke. So Pollack and Taylor bolted to the airport, bound for Los Angeles. They weren't able to get on the same flight, but both made it in time to be in the birthing room as Benziger gave birth to Molly, now 7. ( Pictured: From left: Marv Pollack, son Hudson, daughter Molly and Barry Taylor. Photo by Ross Forman )

Pollack and Taylor reconnected with Benziger a few years later for their son, Hudson, now 4.

Father's Day now truly is a blessing for the Lincoln Park couple of 14 years.

"On Father's Day, we're grateful for having a family; it's a great day to celebrate," said Pollack, 56.

Taylor, 45, a civil-rights attorney and the legal director at Equip For Equality, added: "Father's Day is an official day to celebrate that we are a family, that we've been able to have a family. Growing up as a gay man, that wasn't something I was sure I could have. So sometimes I think becoming a parent is a miracle. It's a very special day to commemorate something very meaningful to us."

The road to parenthood for Pollack and Taylor started with Taylor. "I've always wanted to be a parent; I guess it's just part of my DNA," Taylor said. "I've always envisioned being a parent, but wasn't sure how I was going to be able to work that out being gay."

They talked at length about becoming parents. They did hours of research on the topic, went to parenting meetings and talked with many people about the subject.

"We spent a lot of time talking about it because it is a big commitment and it's very important for both partners to be committed to being parents," Taylor said.

"I'm really, really glad that we came to the conclusion that parenting was for us; the kids have really added a marvelous dimension to our lives," Pollack added.

Their surrogacy was coordinated through Los Angeles-based Growing Generations, the first surrogacy agency dedicated to serving the gay and lesbian community.

"I think it's very important for partners to make sure that they are both committed. It's a huge responsibility, a long-term commitment," Taylor said.

Pollack added, " [ Potential gay parents ] should be mindful of the responsibility involved because it will re-focus your life. But I will say, don't hesitate to do it. It's a real blessing."

Pollack and Taylor have adopted a very simple, straight-forward approach—with the kids and truly anyone who asks. Their world is based on honesty, period.

Take, for instance, the time Taylor was pushing Molly in a stroller at a park. A lady said to Taylor, 'I guess it's mom's day off.'

Taylor replied, "No; our kid has two fathers."

"From the beginning, we have always been very specific and very factual about our family; we chose to not ignore those questions or not answer them. I think people appreciate our honesty," Taylor said.

Pollack said that people have been "amazingly accepting." In fact, they really have not had anyone question them. Rather, they get great support from everyone. That includes great support in the kids' schools, in their social network and even at airports. "We've never really had any negative response, which actually has been a little surprising. We were prepared for some [ negative ] questions and comments," Pollack said. "One of the factors that we really hadn't expected was … having kids is very mainstream, so a lot of our social life is with other parents of other kids, which has been a very broadening experience. And most of those parents are straight. And it's not what I was expecting."

The fathers said that, as far as they know, they are the only gay parents at Molly's school.

Molly is aware of Benziger.

"Molly understands that, in order to have a baby, there needs to be a woman involved, and Pam carried her in her tummy for us," Barry said. "She doesn't perceive Pam as a mom or anything like that.

"When the question of her mom comes up in school, she's just very factual about it, saying that she has two dads. I think we're in a new generation. Sure, gay families are not everywhere, but certainly more and more families are comprised of same-sex couples, so it's not as radical or as poorly received as it might have been even 10 years ago."

Molly and Hudson, who spend their Saturdays these days playing soccer along the lakefront, have "very different personalities," Taylor said, and Pollack agreed. "Molly is very deliberate; she is very analytical. Hudson is very funny, very active.

"They play very well together; they have a strong affection for each other."

Pollack and Taylor said they are done at two. "We're very pleased with where our family is right now," Taylor said. "Father's Day is a very meaningful day for both of us. While I was the catalyst for us becoming parents, Marv certainly has embraced parenthood."

Pollack added, "The kids are still a little young to understand Father's Day, but I'm sure as they get older, it will be a meaningful day for them too."

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