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The Love Issue

‘It Felt Like A Miracle’

‘It Felt Like A Miracle’


When couple John Hatch and David Henderson became the surrogate fathers of Cynthia and Lucy Vandenberg’s children, they became part of a family that lives in two houses — two blocks from each other.

Photography By Benedict Evans

Clockwise from top left: Cynthia Vandenberg; Lucy Vandenberg; John Hatch; David Henderson; Rae, Cynthia and Lucy's bichon frise; Devin Vandenberg; and Nicholas Vandenberg

Nj-lesbian-couple-loveCynthia Vandenberg,Communications Specialist

When we moved to this neighborhood in 1999, John and David were already living here, and we just knew them peripherally. One night we went with a whole bunch of gay men to see Carmina Burana in Philadelphia, and then at dinner, I happened to be sitting next to John. We were chatting, and I said I was bummed because my biological clock was ticking, and we'd been trying to find a father, and we thought we were going to have to go with a sperm donor. And John said, "Well you never asked us!" And I said, "Really? Can you let us know in three days?" That was at the end of 2002.

When I told co-workers at my old office that we were going to do this, they were like, "Don't become a Lifetime movie!" And I was like, "Oh my God, you're right." So I went into this thinking, I'm gonna make this work, so I don't become one of those movies! Another moment I remember was when David, who wasn't initially going to be one of the biological fathers, came back and said, "Yes. We're going to do this, and I'll be the father of the second child." He was in.

Lucy Vandenberg,Policy Advocate

We had all these different conversations, at our house and their house, back and forth, just talking about it and talking about what it would all mean: "What do you have in mind? What would this look like? How do you feel about religion?" It evolved from there. John and David have always been really good at communicating and being honest. Even if they weren't perfect at something, they've always been clear and reliable.

Cynthia [who got pregnant first] had doubts it was going to happen, because she was trying for a whole year, multiple times. She even tried the turkey baster method, meaning John had to run over in the middle of the night with his...stuff. But that period was sort of a blessing because it allowed us to get to know each other really well. Over time, Cynthia and I both realized that we really do love John and David -- not romantically, obviously, but we really do. We have a really intentional family, and we work on it all the time to make sure it's strong. That requires that we each make sure our own relationships are solid. Because it all has to work -- no part of it can fall apart.

Nj-men-love-couple-lorezJohn Hatch,Architect

Going to the fertility clinic as a gay man was hilarious. I knew enough to bring my own, you know, materials. I arrived at one appointment very early, and there were about 15 women, and in my head they were all looking at me like, What the hell are you doing here? And then it turned out I knew one of them, and I was like, "Leslie! Oh my God."

For a long time I'd wanted to have kids, but by the time I turned 40, I'd sort of mentally given up. When Cynthia started telling this story about how she and Lucy wanted to have kids with gay dads involved in the kids' lives, and they'd gone through enough that they were just going to go to a sperm bank, I was like, "Don't do that! We'll do it!"

I had, of course, not talked to David at the time. It's one of those things that I usually do -- I agree to something I think is a good idea, and then David is like, "What? Now, wait a minute." But I really wanted to have kids of our own, and I remember feeling weird about that -- like I should want to adopt. And the moment Cynthia said something, it felt like a miracle. The way I've always looked at it is that Lucy and Cynthia did not have to let us do this with them, so I feel incredibly lucky that they did.

David Henderson,Architect and Real Estate Developer

At first, I had to get past my resistance to change, and the thought that being a full-time parent would upend everything. But when opportunities arise, you either seize them or you don't, and with Lucy and Cynthia, maybe another opportunity never would. So ultimately, it was simple: Yes. Of course.

It was very special when Nicholas was born, because he was genetically mine. And, you know, I could have these thoughts, like, You should help out a kid who needs a parent, and adoption is a good thing, but when it comes down to it, it means something that a child is yours. I look at him and I see me. In fact, the baby pictures of me and him are almost identical. And just the process of him being born was unforgettable. Cynthia had a cesarean, but Lucy did not, so I got to go into the delivery room and give Nicholas his first bath. The nurse gave him to me, and I was terrified I was going to drop him, but she just handed me the sponge and I bathed him.
It was amazing.

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