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Egan Orion's path to fatherhood, welcomes baby Wylie

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The devoted Dad with his son and the family dog Oke enjoy much deserved, and rather rare, quiet time — Courtesy photo
The devoted Dad with his son and the family dog Oke enjoy much deserved, and rather rare, quiet time — Courtesy photo

A lot of people know Egan Orion as a former candidate for Seattle City Council, an LGBTQ activist, and executive director of Seattle PrideFest — but now they can add "father" to that list.

Wylie was born prematurely and spent time in the NICU, but now he's happy and full of baby giggles.  

On Feb. 2, 2024, baby Wylie was born in Idaho Falls to a surrogate mother through in vitro fertilization, and the proud papa welcomed the bundle of joy with open arms. Coming into the world just a bit early, Wylie stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for a month but is now healthy, smiling and giggling in the charming way that babies do.

"He was born around 2:30 a.m., and I was on the 11 a.m. flight to Idaho Falls," Orion recalled. He went back home and planned to return two days later but caught a bad cold, which prevented him from going into the NICU.

"That was a very difficult period. I was making calls every morning. The doctor on duty, all the nurses and people working in the NICU gathered around, and I was on speaker phone to get reports on how Wylie was doing and to ask questions."

He is thankful that Wylie's surrogate mother was there every day as she recovered from her C-section. A labor and delivery nurse, she is still engaged in Wylie's life, as Orion became very close to her and her family. He wants his son to know everything about his birth, including his gestational carrier.

Orion arrived back from his first visit to see Wylie just in time for his baby shower.  

Orion soon recovered and as Wylie received care in the NICU, he traveled to Idaho Falls and back, putting his faithful yellow Labrador retriever Oke in a boarding facility and juggling his two jobs in Seattle all the while.

"When I was well enough to go back, I focused my visits [on] skin-to-skin contact," he said, "bonding with him, changing his diapers, and feeding him. Babies born early take time to learn the basic mechanics of eating — suck, swallow, and breathe — and my time with him in the NICU was a crash course in his care that a lot of parents don't get with a term baby. Once he figured it out, I took him home."

That's when the real fatherhood experience began — with bottle feedings every two hours of the day and night. Orion was lining up an au pair, but in the meantime, he wanted the first few weeks to be only him and Wylie.

"I just wanted to be able to focus on the care of my kid and to go through that fire of sleeplessness, exhaustion, and learning what he needs. I wanted to have that intensive experience."

Until his au pair arrived a couple weeks ago, his family and friends pitched in to help, as did a couple of temporary nannies.

"I'm so grateful that my village has shown up for me and Wylie. Support is crucial for a single parent and the child, too," he said. "Being a little older has helped me tap into the networks I've spent 30 years growing."

Orion said his mom and dad fully support their son, bringing love from both his birth and chosen families.  

Changing times
Orion spoke of how he had always thought about having a family, but the ways and means weren't there when he came out in 1990. There were no same-sex marriage role models, because marriage equality was still decades away, and having kids was not a part of LGBTQ culture. As he got older and times changed, his dream of fatherhood became more of a reality, like it has for our community across the country.

"I think the push for same-sex marriage really got people thinking about same-sex couples wanting the same things as opposite-sex couples in terms of the ability to raise a family safely and to be allowed to come into the hospital and be treated exactly the same as an opposite-sex partner," Orion said.

It was just in 2019 that new legislation legalized commercial surrogacy in Washington state, thanks to Sen. Jamie Pedersen, who sponsored the bill to amend the Uniform Parentage Act our state adopted in 1973. The pandemic disruption stalled development of a surrogacy network here, which is why Orion had to turn to Idaho, known as the "unofficial surrogacy capital" of the US.

Cost is another barrier for LGBTQ surrogacy or adoption, and this is not lost on Orion.

"I sit in a very privileged position to be able to afford to do this. Lots of people struggle to even imagine coming up with these exorbitant fees," he said. "I wish that there were organizations that existed that could help provide funding for financially strapped individuals or couples who want to have kids either through adoption or the IVF process."

And Orion says he is not done yet. "I am planning on having a second child next year or in 2026. Then that's it for me."