Emily and Rachel’s Story
From early in their relationship, Emily Pagano and Rachel Prehodka-Spindel knew that they each wanted children. They fell in love in college, stuck together through graduate school and cross-country moves, finally settling in Connecticut to be closer to their family on the east coast. Now they have an active two-year-old named Dylan and twins on the way. Life is busy and happy.
Although fully committed to each other, “marriage just wasn’t for us,” says Rachel. They bought a house together in East Hartford, laying down roots, then started the serious conversation about bringing children into their family.
“Around Thanksgiving of 2017, the timing felt right,” says Emily. “Our parents were in their 70s, and we very much wanted grandparents to be part of our kids’ lives.” The couple discussed ways that each of them could have a biological connection to their child and decided on reciprocal in vitro fertilization with Rachel providing an egg and Emily carrying the pregnancy. They researched the legal ramifications and knew that only Emily’s name would be on the birth certificate when the child was born.
“We knew that an unmarried male partner attending the birth of his child could be named as the father on the spot,” said Rachel. “And even though we knew I would be left off the birth certificate, it felt like a gut punch at the moment, in the hospital, with Emily holding our newborn.”
They had a small scare when Emily experienced postpartum hemorrhaging. Her eyes met Rachel’s, and they both knew that Rachel would have no medical decision-making ability with newborn Dylan — or any legal rights at all.
Luckily, Emily recovered quickly, and they have had no medical crises since. “We’re aware that we’ve been privileged. All of our providers have been great. Both of our families are very supportive. The issue just hasn’t been forced yet, and we hope the laws can change so that it won’t be.”
It’s a doubly relevant concern now that Rachel is carrying twins conceived using Emily’s eggs. The couple is excited about this new phase in family life and is preparing Dylan to be a big sister. But with a pregnancy that is considered high-risk and children with different birth mothers, they have a lot to figure out — for example, health insurance.
Both Emily and Rachel have excellent insurance from their employers, but the whole family can’t be on one plan. They have to pay for two plans — one for Emily and Dylan and one for Rachel and the soon-to-be twins. Emily has also had more difficulty navigating her FMLA leave. She’ll be granted leave after the babies’ birth, not as a parent, but “in loco parentis” — acting as a parent when she is actually a parent.
“We want security for our family, and for families like ours that may face obstacles that we haven’t,” says Rachel. Emily adds, “In the eyes of a child, you’re just their parent. We want the law to see us that way, too.”