When Flavio and Matt met in their first year of medical school, they instantly had a connection. They began dating, then stayed together throughout medical school and beyond.
When they discussed their future together, becoming parents was a future goal. They both knew they wanted to be fathers, even when they were children. After medical school, they saved diligently to make their parenting dreams a reality.
Ten years after they met, they were ready. Due to rigid Illinois surrogacy law in 2007, they were unable to pursue growing a family in their home state, and traveled to California.
The surrogacy agency they worked with in California catered specifically to gay couples, and had found a surrogate from Ohio. Flavio and Matt flew to California to meet with the surrogate and her husband, who had flown in from Ohio.
Upon meeting with the woman who would serve as their surrogate, they felt a special connection. When determining a surrogate and intended parent relationship, all parties have only 48 hours to decide whether or not to work together. Both Flavio, Matt, the surrogate, and her husband all agreed that same day to work together.
Using sperm and donor eggs, fertility specialists in California created embryos and on the second embryo transfer, the surrogate became pregnant.
Matt and Flavio were diligent in nearly all doctor appointments in Ohio during the pregnancy, even though the drive was nine hours round trip.
Nine months later on December 13, 2007, their baby boy Kaiyen was born. Kaiyen means “long-hoped-for child” in Yoruba.
“Meeting Kaiyen for the first time, face-to-face, was truly surreal,” explains Flavio. “Everything about him — how he smelled, how he looked, how he cried — mesmerized us then, and still does today.”
Flavio recalls holding Kaiyen soon after his birth. “The nurse came in and said, ‘Dad, it’s time to give your son a bottle.’ I remember becoming tearful for a brief moment and then feeling like this was the best day of my entire life and I was the luckiest man in the world.”
A year and a half later, Flavio and Matt decided it was time to give Kaiyen a brother or sister. They had remained close with their surrogate, and by this time, the laws in Illinois regarding surrogacy had improved significantly.
Able to pursue treatment much closer to home, they met with Dr. Beltsos of Fertility Centers of Illinois. Initially, they used embryos that had been frozen from the previous IVF cycles. Unfortunately, they were not successful in becoming pregnant, so their previous egg donor graciously agreed to donate for them again. Additional embryo transfers did not succeed either. Matt and Flavio were growing a bit worried, even fearful that their hopes to expand their family would not become a reality.
But Dr. Beltsos was not ready to throw in the towel just yet. She advised them that while they couldn’t change their embryos, because they wanted their children to be biologically related, they could try a different surrogate. After much thought, Flavio and Matt made the emotional decision to work with a different surrogate in Illinois based on Dr. Beltsos’ medical recommendation.
Meeting with their new surrogate, they felt lucky to have an immediate connection again. In fact, this surrogate and their previous surrogate shared many similarities. This made the decision to work with their new surrogate much easier.
After doing a fresh cycle and transfer with new embryos, Flavio and Matt learned their surrogate was pregnant.
They were present for nearly all of the doctor appointments, and felt the kicks as their baby grew.
On August 25, 2011 their baby boy Tavi was born. Although Matt and Flavio had been in delivery rooms as physicians before, this was the first time they were there as parents. Both excited and nervous, they held hands and waited until they saw Tavi’s face.
Tavi looked so much like his brother — adorable nose, chubby cheeks with dimples. In that moment they knew that every ounce of hard work; every dollar spent; and every second of worrying, doubting, and losing hope had been worth it. Tavi’s name means “a good man” in Aramaic.
It was very important to Matt and Flavio that Kaiyen be a major part of Tavi’s birth. Kaiyen bought Tavi a gift, and within a couple hours of Tavi’s birth, the two met. The picture of Kaiyen holding Tavi has been a family favorite since. Kaiyen is a sweet older brother, looking out for and encouraging his younger sibling.
Flavio and Matt have remained close with both of their surrogates. Their surrogate from Ohio tries to visit every year with her family. Their second surrogate is nearby so visits are easier to plan and more frequent. They feel so honored and lucky to have met these wonderful women and their families. Their surrogates changed their lives forever, and they feel forever grateful to them.
For others who want to have a family, they share words of encouragement.
“The road ahead is not necessarily easy, but every bump and hurdle along the way is worth it,” says Flavio. “Professionals like Dr. Beltsos make a huge difference along the way. Feeling like someone else is on your side, looking out for you, making sure things are done correctly relieves a lot of the anxiety and second-guessing.”