Camera operator Julien Zeitouni always new he wanted to be a father. Thanks to surrogacy, he now has a baby girl.
As a single and gay man, Zeitouni was not always sure how he would be a father.
“I always knew that I would be a father one day,” he said. “I grew a bit older, my clock started ticking and I started seeking different options on how to achieve that goal.”
Zeitouni, 44, settled on surrogacy via in vitro fertilization, but realized immediately the financial burden it would take on him. Once realizing that surrogacy can cost $100,000, the New Yorker started saving up a decade ago by taking every gig possible on different television projects.
“I was very shocked by the six figures minimum,” he said. “I had to have a plan to save the money for it to be able to do that.”
With the help of nonprofit BabyQuest, Zeitouni found financial aid for the process.
After the pandemic shut down the entertainment industry shut down, he started collecting unemployment benefits.
Saving money became even more of a priority to make his dream of fatherhood come true.
“I think I was still confident that I would be okay, but it was definitely stressful,” he said.
Additionally, the clinic shut down for two months. Both Zeitouni and his surrogate had to sign a waiver before undergoing IVF once it reopened.
“Thankfully it worked,” he said, “but I was not allowed to go to any visits.”
He tried to stay involved as much as he could with the pregnancy due to COVID restrictions, but eventually, all the strife became worth it.
His daughter Adele, named after French novelist Victor Hugo’s daughter, was born in February this year.
“It’s been amazing to see her grow every single day,” said Zeitouni.
Being miles away from his family as a new father is bittersweet, however. The French native FaceTimes with his family abroad, and he hopes they reunite post-pandemic to meet his daughter.
“I’m trying to share as much as I can,” he said.