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Gay dad talks adoption, surrogacy and deciding on these lifetime commitments

Father’s Day is tomorrow and Norman Tipton, father of three, knows his children are planning a surprise for him alongside their grandmother.

Fourteen years after welcoming his first child, he looks back at the family he is raising. On paper, he is doing it all by himself: gay single dad by choice. But, as the famed saying dictates -- “It takes a village to raise a child” — so it must take a whole lot more to raise three.

“I don’t know how I would do it without my family,” Tipton said. “For me it’s critical. I’m very fortunate and blessed.”

The children – Norman Phillip Tipton, 14, and twin girls Aurea Marie and Shirley Tipton, 8 – currently spend their summer mornings at their grandmother’shome.

Tipton is an adjunct professor at sociology department at San Diego State University, which is also his alma mater. After SDSU, he attended the Thomas Jefferson School of Law. His primary job is being an attorney.

Tipton said he always knew he wanted a family, and at age 36 – once he was “financially and emotionally mature” – he began the process of adoption with the San Diego County.

“You have to reach maturity because it’s a lifetime commitment,” Tipton said. “Be the right age to part out with a lot of your social life— at first, all of it; your whole world is brand-new babies” Tipton said.

Coincidently, after about nine months of wait, he received a call from the county about a male newborn in need of adoption.

“That happened very, very rapidly,” Tipton said. “I had 48 hours to prepare. I didn’t have anything for a baby.”

Four years later, he decided to expand his family. Tipton’s first option was to adopt again, but the county suggested an alternative form: surrogacy.

“They said, ‘look, the fact that you got a healthy newborn was a fluke,’ and it was,” Tipton said. “They normally don’t handle those; they handle older kids that have been taken out of parent’s home.”

The process was different. Tipton said adoption requires a more thorough background check, but was practically free. Surrogacy cost him about $60,000. According to Tipton, there are not as many questionnaires in the surrogacy process.

“It’s a commercial enterprise where they are looking to make money of it,” Tipton said. “They don’t ask you things any more than Ralph’s asks you, ‘Do you really want that milk?’”

Like in many in vitro fertilizations, the fertility drugs and the implantation of multiple eggs resulted in multiple embryos: fraternal twins.

Tipton said that during the surrogate mother’s pregnancy, he would attend doctor and ultrasound appointments with her, but the relationship did not continue and the surrogate mother has no relationship with the girls today.

“I’m friends with her on Facebook, and she periodically likes pictures of the girls or offer congrats on their birthdays,” Tipton said. “I’ve not spoken to her since the girls were born. It’s not that kind of relationship; most people don’t continue that ongoing relationship. At the end of the day, it’s a business transaction with everybody.”

Norman Phillip just graduated middle school and is both excited and nervous about entering high school, Tipton said.

“I envy him because he’s everything I was not in high school: athletic, fast -- smart. I think he’s going to have a good time,” Tipton said.

The girls are moving up to the fourth grade. Currently, they are summering alongside the newest member of the Tipton family, their new puppy, and just like they asked where their new Yorkshire Terrier came from, sometimes the girls ask how they’re family was created, inquiries to which Tipton said he replies with age-appropriate questions.

“I tell them that families come in all shapes and sizes and colors,” Tipton said. “You know, ‘aren't we lucky to have our family?’”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the six states that allow surrogacy for couples and individuals are Arkansas, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Washington.

Norman Phillip also asked about his adoption.

“I told him it means nothing because it’s just a process that families are built on,” Tipton said. “It doesn't make anyone any less of a member of a family or any more of a member; they’re just family.”

Tipton’s older sister was also adopted by his parents.