Jesse Tyler Ferguson says marriage equality made him 'think broader' about his future: 'Why not fatherhood?'
Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of childrearing.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson is perhaps best known for 11 seasons of playing Mitchell Pritchett on Modern Family. On the show his character is married to Cam (Eric Stonestreet) and the two share an adopted daughter, Lily. In real life, Ferguson is married to producer and actor Justin Mikita, and the couple are parents to two boys, Beckett and Sullivan, who were born via surrogate. “We both decided to be married for five years before starting that process,” Ferguson says — and now he’s sharing with Yahoo Life just what his journey to fatherhood was like.
“I grew up in a time where marriage equality was not a thing. When I met Justin he was fighting on the frontlines for marriage equality and it was through him that I realized, OK, yeah, marriage is possible,” the 47-year-old actor says. “Then I started thinking, let's think broader — why not fatherhood?”
In 2020, seven years after they were married, Ferguson and Mikita welcomed their first son, Beckett. “We decided on surrogacy because Justin is a cancer survivor. He went through chemotherapy at a very young age and his parents had the foresight to actually bank his sperm,” Ferguson says. “So we really wanted to honor that thoughtfulness.”
Ferguson adds that a big part of their road to becoming parents was learning about the surrogacy process. “It is a very intense thing,” says the Tony winner. “That relationship that you develop with this angel on earth who’s basically going to carry these children for you, it’s a very intense, very intimate relationship. We’ll be forever grateful.”
When they decided to have a second child, Ferguson’s sperm was used and in 2022 the couple welcomed a second son, Sullivan. “The most challenging part for us is just my schedule. We had Beckett during the pandemic, so we had all the time in the world, and now it's that juggling of my schedule and also not feeling guilty about working. I really want to set the example for my children that you need to do what makes you happy, and my career makes me incredibly happy.”
With both boys, Ferguson and Mikita fed their newborns Enfamil, which is why they decided to formalize the relationship and partner with them. “That is the formula that we were given in the hospital, so that’s what we took home,” Ferguson says. “Enfamil [Enspire Optimum] is the only leading brand with lactoferrin, which is an ingredient naturally found in breast milk, so I was like if we can get as close to what it would be if we were able to breastfeed, that’s a great thing.
“There are so many people who have to look for alternate means to feed their children, whether they're a same-sex couple or whether they have a problem producing milk,” he adds. “I just really trust Enfamil. It's been really wonderful for us — we had a great experience with it with Beckett — so why not stick with what works?”
As for other parental advice he’s willing to share, the actor offers this: “You’ve got to give yourself a break. The days are not going to go smoothly all the time and you have to allow yourself to be frustrated. And that's OK.”
With respect to advice specifically for parents going the surrogacy route Ferguson says, “Don't overthink each step because you can really get bogged down with the details and there's a lot of stuff you have to figure out. Don't make snap decisions, but also don't sit in those decisions for too long because there's going to be another big decision right around the corner.”
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