Jewish LGBT dads tell story of surrogacy, love, and family

BJ and Frankie holding newborn Milo LINDSAY FOSTER PHOTO
BJ and Frankie holding newborn Milo LINDSAY FOSTER PHOTO

Milo’s Adventures: A Story about Love was launched to coincide with Pride Month and the natural evolution of life for first-time fathers, Frankie Nelson and BJ Barone.

Back on Pride Day 2014, photographer Lindsay Foster captured worldwide acclaim with her emotional photo taken immediately after the birth of baby Milo with Nelson and Barone embracing bare-chested. It went viral, stirring hearts and engendering criticism.

Milo is celebrating his second birthday today – June 27. He is described by his daddies as a joyful child who loves to laugh and has a big personality. Milo is being raised Jewish. His Hebrew name is Moshe, after his great-grandmothers Mary and Helga.

“Milo knows I am Papa and Frankie is Daddy. He knows we are his parents. It’s our normal – it’s our family,” Barone said.

Book cover
Book cover

Nelson and Barone, both teachers with the Toronto District School Board, take their notoriety in stride.

“The spotlight of getting to speak for other gay dads is something both of us feel strongly about. It has given us a voice for being proud and being out, and running Gay Straight Alliances,” Nelson said.

“It just fit. Taking on this newly found platform, and making something good of it,” Barone added.

The book, written from Milo’s perspective, tells the story of surrogacy, love and becoming a family.

Debbie Donsky, Milo’s godmother, is a childhood friend of Nelson and co-author of the book.

“I have known Frankie since he was 10 years old. He always wanted to be a daddy, and he never thought that would be possible. The more we create models for what’s okay and what’s acceptable, the more normalized it becomes and the less kinds of pain people have to experience. This is the reason we wrote the book,” said Donsky, an elementary school principal with the York Region District School Board.

Donsky designed all the illustrations in the book and, exhibiting deep emotion, she explained the front cover drawing.

“The cover comes from a photograph that Frankie and BJ took when they announced they were pregnant. The photo: two pair of Gucci shoes and a little pair of brown shoes that happen to be BJ’s when he was a little boy. Their birth announcement: ‘Daddy, Papa and Baby To Be Makes Three!’ So I drew the cover based on that,” she said.

“There are a lot of wonderful children’s books about diverse families, but we didn’t see one touching on the surrogacy process,” Nelson said.

“We wanted to make sure it helped to answer questions for kids about another way to have a child,” Donsky added. “The book begins with lots of different families who need help. It can be two men, two women, a man and a woman, a single dad, or a single mom – all of whom want to have children, asking how they do this and how to go about it.

Milo, Frankie

“The illustrations show that this is not just about gays – it is for everyone who needs support with fertility and providing hope. Frankie and BJ have given hope to so many people,” she said.

The fathers have created a website, a place for gay dads to find information about surrogacy, and a place to blog about their own little family.

The CJN asked what the best part of being a daddy is, and BJ blurted out, “The kisses and cuddles.” Frankie added, “With Milo’s arms outstretched reaching up for our unconditional love. There is nothing better.”

Milo’s Adventures: A Story About Love is available online or at Glad Day Bookshop, 598A Yonge St., or Book City, 348 Danforth Ave.