We Are Dads! Our First Child, Dorian Alexander Kennon-Green, Was Born!
First, the summary: Aaron and I are ecstatic to share with you that our son, Dorian Alexander Kennon-Green, was born in mid-April. After a gestational surrogacy journey that began several years ago, it all paid off when he came into the world in perfect health, weighing 7 lbs. 5 ounces. As I have told friends and family, he was born with a head full of hair, and, to our great fortune and blessing, a temperament that is sweet and patient. It has been one of the great joys of our lives to get to know him.
Now, on to the details …
Getting You Up to Speed on the Kennon-Green Family
As you may remember, our original plan was to have our first two kids be born days or weeks apart from each other. They’d essentially be raised as twins but each would have been carried by a different “Gestational Carrier” or “Gestational Surrogate” (which means the surrogate is not genetically related to the baby, all of whom were created with our DNA and that of an egg donor) to minimize the risk of complications both for the incredible women who were helping us build our family and for the babies themselves.
When the pandemic shut down the world, nearly all medical procedures were temporarily suspended. This included IVF. Although it was only for a brief moment – and had they persisted, constitutional challenges would have inevitably followed in the Federal and state courts – this meant that our embryo transfers were delayed and one of the two original surrogates would not be available to carry a baby for us, requiring us to be matched with a different surrogate for that pregnancy.
Rather than hold up the process and wait to re-align both attempted embryo transfers, we decided to proceed with Dorian’s attempted transfer at the first opportune moment. Thankfully, it took on the first try and the pregnancy was flawless. Equally as amazing, we were re-matched with a second surrogate who got pregnant right away with our second baby so Dorian’s brother is due to be born in November, a mere four months or so from now! That means the kids will ultimately be seven months apart in age despite being conceived on the same day.
Temporarily Living in, and Working from, Washington State
One of the biggest logistical challenges of the pandemic was that Dorian was born on an island north of Seattle, Washington. As we approached his birth, there were rumors that The White House was contemplating using emergency powers to ban certain travel between states as new variants of the virus had begun spreading. We could not take the risk of our child finding himself stranded, and us unable to get to him, so we came up with a solution. For a period spanning from March through May, we rented a private house relatively close to the labor and delivery unit. Doing this allowed us to travel to Washington, remain isolated from others (recall this was before vaccinations were made available to the general public so most of society was still at risk) while setting up a remote work area for Kennon-Green & Co., connecting back to our facilities through a secure VPN and some other solutions that were put in place as part of our disaster recovery plan back when the firm was established.
We originally flew out of John Wayne Airport on a Delta flight in early April (we delayed our departure to wrap up some things) specifically because Delta was keeping the planes at a fraction of capacity. Since we booked two first class tickets on the same itinerary, we were allowed to sit next to each other. We had N95 masks, other masks on top of those, and, once we got on the plane around other people, clear shields on top of those. We were also pumped full of Vitamin D. While it may have been excessive, and looked absurd, if any one of these things reduced the chances of getting infected by even the tiniest, most improbable margin, we considered it a cost worth paying since we were not going to miss the birth of our first child.
Once we arrived in Seattle, we picked up an SUV we had rented ahead of time and began the 100-or-so mile drive (because we were headed to an island, we had to go up and around then come back down, making the trip much longer than it would have been otherwise) to the house.
When we finally made it to our new temporary place, we were thrilled. Our host, a retired woman named Hazel, was absolutely incredible. Everything was clearly labeled so we didn’t have to interact with anyone in person and she even left a gift bag with things like clothes and a blanket for the baby! We mapped out how we were going to live and work, ultimately converting part of the kitchen, the entirety of the dining room, and several other parts of the house into our remote offices, unpacking computer equipment, setting up our encrypted connections, getting the phone network running, etc. Before we did much, though, we took a trip to the local Walmart, which was still open, and stocked up on coffee, snacks, and other supplies.
One of the best parts about the place was the backyard. It turned out to be an absolute godsend because in the weeks leading up to Dorian’s birth, several things happened simultaneously. Firstly, the firm continued to experience explosive growth so we were handling an influx of new private clients. Secondly, a series of events unfolded on Wall Street that gave us an opening to accumulate meaningful amounts of stock in a specific company we had been stalking for awhile, having clients either buy it out right and/or write derivatives in exchange for what we considered absurdly rich premium income. The result was often long days meticulously going through accounts, examining tax lots, determining who had money, where, and how much they could afford to commit, then firing off trade tickets all while staying on top of developments that seemed to be changing by the minute. I loved every minute of it – and it provided a welcome distraction to thinking about the call coming in at any moment so we would need to rush to the hospital – but there were times when it was exhausting, especially if I found myself in a position with a client who had nothing but large unrealized gains, no expected future contributions, and we had to determine whether or not to liquidate portions of existing stakes … something I find anathema if I still like the business but will do if I think the intrinsic value differential justifies it. Following some of these 15 to 18 hour days, I’d look at Aaron and, usually towards twilight when it was getting dark, go out to the backyard to pace around for awhile, letting the cold and the mist wake me up a bit. I found it comforting.
We also drove around the area. The park around the famous Deception Pass was gorgeous! The whole area was beautiful, as a matter of fact …
The Birth and Staying in the Hospital
Dorian finally arrived one day after his official due date. The surrogate, her husband, her doula, the doctors and nurses, and Aaron and I were all present in the room. It was wonderful. We could not have asked for a better or more perfect experience given what was going on in the world and even now, it’s impossible for us to overstate our gratitude to everyone involved. The surrogate made birth look easy. Her husband took photographs and kept notes for us so we’d have the timeline for his baby book. I wish I could say more, and share photographs, but for privacy reasons I can’t.
Several hours later, we and our son were transferred to our own room a few doors down the hallway. Those few days are a period I’ll remember for the rest of my life. He was so tiny, and we were learning to feed and care for him all while being exhausted to a level that every new parent understands; a kind of exhaustion that you feel in your bones when all you want is sleep. We tried to sleep in shifts.
Getting Ready to Return to Southern California
After we were discharged from the hospital, we needed to stay in the area for at least seven more days before Dorian was cleared to fly back to Newport Beach. We returned to the house and, at this stage, I got back to work for Kennon-Green & Co., which had somehow managed to get even bigger, while Aaron primarily took care of the baby’s immediate needs (feeding, diaper changes, etc.), cooking our food, and getting us ready to leave. It was really nice because we had ordered a bunch of meal kits shipped to us so we didn’t have to risk exposure at a grocery store until full immunity kicked in for us – ah! I forgot to mention that shortly before the surrogate went into labor, we were able to get the first of our Pfizer vaccine shots while we got the second one back in California a several weeks later – so that was nice.
We also did something we usually only do a few times a year: We ordered pizza and had it delivered. I think we ate more pizza during that month than we had in decades. Part of this was because the firm seemed like it was on steroids so I wasn’t available to do the cooking when Aaron was changing a diaper or visa versa. We were getting multiple calls or e-mails from people wanting to start private client relationships but I was primarily focused on getting more trade executions out on the aforementioned security we were having existing clients buy like crazy – our loyalty and attention must always prioritize existing clients over the firm’s growth – which started to frustrate me because I shouldn’t need to make those kind of trade-offs. We had a lot of discussions about when, how, and precisely what it looks like when we add employees since I should at least have an executive assistant by now.
Sleep. All We Wanted Was Sleep.
At this point, the exhaustion had started to catch up with us. Being so far from home – and all the preparations we had made for Dorian’s arrival, being away from the physical infrastructure of Kennon-Green & Co. – all of it was at a point we couldn’t tolerate it much longer. We had a serious discussion, and came extraordinarily close, to calling our moms and telling them there had been a change of plans and we needed them immediately. We agreed we’d decide in the morning.
Flying Back to Our Careers and Lives in Southern California
Fortunately, it didn’t come to that – for the first time since he had been born, we actually managed to rest a little. Suddenly, everything seemed much simpler and easier. Aaron and I talked and realized we had several things that needed to be solved:
- We both needed to be back in Newport Beach as soon as possible to handle multiple client meetings, deploy the rest of the capital that was flooding in to buy the security we were purchasing so aggressively, process some of our time-sensitive quarterly work-flows including private client statement reviews, and settle into our day-to-day routine. Saving myself a couple of days of travel time could literally result in millions of dollars in outcome differential so time was of the essence. That’s how quickly things were moving with the security we had been buying.
- We had to minimize the risk of COVID for all of us. It was absolutely vital that none of us were infected and we did not, yet, have full immunity from the vaccine. Multiple pediatricians warned us that between the potential 100-mile (by the time you factored in going around the islands) drive back to the Seattle Airport, the waiting in the terminal, the being on the plane, etc., especially with us having a newborn, a lot of random strangers were likely to walk up to us and try to speak at close distances; that we were going to have to be aggressive to the point of rudeness. They kept emphasizing this.
These were not insurmountable problems. The solution was simple. I reached out to someone and shortly thereafter, a day or two later, a corporate car service came and picked us up, we pulled up to a tarmac to a waiting Hawker 400XP that was going back to John Wayne Airport. (Even better, they knocked 15% to 20% off the charter price if we were willing to leave around 5 p.m., so of course we took the discount.) I had managed to make it to 38 years old before paying for private aviation but it was the right decision. Very few outlays have ever given me the utility that flight did, at that moment, under those conditions.
I was really amazed by the massive backlog of ships off the Pacific Ocean once we got down towards Los Angeles. The global supply chain dislocation is extreme. Starting at about one minute into this video, you can see how many building-size ships are just … parked, waiting, out in open water because they can’t dock.
Here, I tried to get a picture, too … it doesn’t even scratch the surface, it just kept going on and on and on as we flew by …
We finally flew into Newport Beach and Irvine …
… where Aaron’s parents were waiting on the tarmac with their car to meet their grandson, pick us up, and take us home.
For Privacy Reasons We Won’t Be Posting a Lot of the Kids’ Lives
Aaron and I have talked a lot about this and we feel strongly that kids shouldn’t have to grow up with their whole lives online. As a result, we are going to be extremely selective about what we share, and when we share it, except to people we know in real life such as friends, family, clients (including many clients who are friends and family). The reason we are making this announcement is because so many of you who are part of the community have wished us well on our journey, including a lot of folks who want to become parents and have been looking into gestational surrogacy.
That means that while Dorian – and his future brother who is set to be born in November, as I mentioned a bit ago – will make an appearance on the site every once in awhile, it won’t be often. That is something we want to give them as parents; the opportunity to develop, learn, and grow up in private, just like we were allowed in our own childhoods. Sticking to this may be difficult, at times, because he has had an outsized influence on every element of our lives. For example, we have a major announcement concerning Kennon-Green & Co. that will be happening in the next few days and it is largely because of Dorian and his brother.
To Answer a Question I Know Is Coming …
Finally, the answer to a question that I know a lot of you are going to send me privately: The first stock we had him purchase was Berkshire Hathaway. If, God willing, he lives a long and healthy life, 80 or 90 years from now he will be able to say, “Yeah, I’ve owned that company so long that Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger were still alive and running it when I first became an owner.” That would be like someone shortly before my birth saying they had owned shares of Standard Oil since John D. Rockefeller was in charge.
We both love being dads. We’re astonished at how neither Aaron nor I can really contemplate our lives before he arrived – and that is saying something as tomorrow is our 20 year anniversary!