Cat Cora Describes Her Unusual Path to Parenthood

09/09/2010 at 04:00 PM ET
Caje and Cat — Courtesy Working Mother

The road to motherhood was filled with twists and turns for Cat Cora and wife Jennifer.

In a new interview with Working Mother, the Iron Chef America competitor reveals that the couple — who used a common sperm donor — each had eggs harvested just once, and now have four little boys to show for their efforts.

Arriving at their family of six wasn’t as direct as that, however!

“The doctor implanted Jennifer and me with each other’s eggs,” Cora, 43, explains. “So she gave birth to [3-year-old] Caje, but he’s my biological child. I carried [13-month-old] Nash, but he’s Jennifer’s biological child.”

As for 17-month-old Thatcher, Cora says the verdict is out!

Jennifer was impregnated with two embryos: one her own, and one Cora’s. And while the couple “may find out medically one day” who Thatcher’s biological mom is, Cora says the couple — also moms to 6-year-old Zoran — had more pressing concerns after welcoming each son.

“As a same-sex couple, we had to go back and legally adopt them,” she points out. “Even though Nash was her biological son, Jennifer had to adopt him. Same with me and Caje.”

Adding that “there were lots of papers to file and lots of legal expenses,” Cora feels it’s a process that needs to be simplified. “Hopefully someday same-sex couples won’t have to go through all of that,” she adds.

The “shots and shifting hormones” of IVF proved challenging for both women, and Cora reveals she even suffered a miscarriage along the way. “The first three days of the pregnancy were euphoric … This little embryo was growing,” she recalls. “Then I lost the baby. I cried for a week.”

Starting over from scratch “was devastating” and “traumatizing,” but Cora says it ultimately gave her a perspective she wouldn’t have otherwise had. “I honestly think it’s a good thing I got pregnant on the second try.”

While some women wouldn’t choose to welcome two children so close in age, Cora says the timing for Thatcher and Nash’s births was just right.

“We knew we wanted to have four kids,” Cora explains, “She didn’t want to wait, and she got pregnant quickly. After she did, we decided I shouldn’t wait … It would be easier to raise two young babies together, almost as twins. Jennifer could breastfeed for me when I was on the road.”

Theory clashed with reality, however, when Cora returned to work — a time in her life she calls “excruciating” — and handing Nash off to nurse proved harder than she ever imagined.

“I was breastfeeding and loving that deep, deep connection,” she confesses. “I worked from home in Santa Barbara for a few weeks but was back on the road about four weeks after Nash was born. If men were the ones to give birth, maternity leave would be a lot longer. And the population would be a lot smaller.”

FILED UNDER: Kids , News , Parenting

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Showing 52 comments

1003 on

Maybe this has already been discussed/mentioned somewhere, but who gave birth to Zoran and who is the biological parent?

Brooke on

Jennifer gave birth to all but Nash.

jessicad on

What a beautiful story!

klutzy_girl on

That’s pretty interesting!

Luna on

This article really enlightened me. I had no idea that if one partner was inseminated with the other partner’s egg, an adoption would need to take place. I truly feel that same sex couples deserve more rights, as Cat feels. In my opinion (which is just my opinion and no need to start an argument over) I feel that if a situation like Jennifer and Cat’s occurs where both partners have a part in bringing the child into the world, they should both be listed as parents, no adoption needed. Cat and Jennifer sound like loving, devoted, fantastic parents and those four boys are extremely blessed.

Gigi on

I had no idea either that same sex parents had to legally adopt the child if it was not biologically theirs. I think it is clear that these women love their little boys and that these children have wonderful parents.

Jenn on

Luna, it’s more than the parent who gives birth to the child is the one who is automatically considered to be the child’s parent, and in this case, because they are same-sex parents, the other mother had to do second parent adoption. It’s nothing to do with biology. (In some states, the same has to be happen with surrogacy, where the biological parent has to adopt the child, after the surrogate surrenders their parental rights).

It really is ridiculous, especially since in straight couples, the husband, regardless of paternity, is automatically considered to be the legal father of any child born to his wife during the course of their marriage. Why it can’t be the same in a homosexual couple in a committed relationship, I have no idea.

alice jane on

I’m blown away that each woman would need to adopt a child that was biologically theirs. Am I reading that wrong? I can’t believe the processes these women went through, but they’ve made a beautiful family and I’m very happy for them and their boys!

Raisa on

Alice, some of the children aren’t biologically related to both parents. So the parent that was NOT biologically related to one child had to adopt that one child, but the other parent did not have to. It ended up working out that Jennifer carried a couple of Cat’s biological children, so Jennifer had to adopt those, but Cat carried one of Jennifer’s so Cat had to adopt him.

AH-G on

Raisa, you’re wrong. The mom who HAD the kid didn’t have to adopt him, only the mom (who was bio mom, but didn’t carry and give birth to the kid) did. And I agree…these laws need to change! They make no sense in today’s world.

alice jane on

It’s such a strange concept for me to wrap my head around, honestly. I understand that Cat or Jennifer would adopt the children that are not biologically related to them, but that Jennifer could carry Cat’s egg, and Cat still has to adopt that child, is crazy to me. I definitely agree with Cat, those laws need to be looked at.

Ellea on

I have a question. If a surrogate carries a child using the eggs of the would be parent, do they also have to adopt the child from the surrogate?

izzie on

what a crazy but beautiful story! i love hearing stories about parents (heterosexual/homosexual/single) who want a family so bad that they’ll do whatever it takes for one. i love how they carried each others’ eggs. i always wondered why lesbians didn’t do that. i love cat cora!!!!! what an inspiration they are:)

Steph on

um, Jenn, where do you live?! cos that sounds absurd! Here in Australia there is no automatic rule that the husband is legally the father of a child born in a marriage. That just sounds so strange! And I agree that the laws surrounding this issue need to change worldwide 🙂

kssomom on

Does it really matter who the biological mother is? I mean, really? As long as the children feel the love around them, life will be good and that would be the last thing those children think of when the day is over!!!! All they need is to be loved and treated equally and they will grow up knowing that they had the best parents they could ever have!!!!

Luna on

alice jane- I totally agree. If an adoption would have to take place, which I don’t feel it should have to but anyway, I’d think the parent that was not biologically related would have to adopt. But Jenn is right, heterosexual couples face nothing of the sort.

Rew on

Actually, even the biological mother has to adopt her child in a second-parent adoption. For same sex couples, both parents must adopt their child simultaneously, which means that the biological parent must relinquish parental rights, then they both adopt together. It generally takes a year, requires FBI background checks (including for the biological mother), and can cost upwards of $10,000. And even this legal right isn’t permitted in many states in the US.

This is absolutely not the case for heterosexual couples.

Sara on

DC has changed the law, recently. If you (non-birthing mom) are married or have a domestic partnership and your partner gives birth you are listed as the other parent immediately. DC changed the law because a husband doesn’t give birth and if his wife gives birth, he doesn’t have to adopt.

My friend just finished her second parent adoption for her adorable little girl and the law became official 3 days later. It would have saved her thousands.

Mary on

I am not sure that you have this right. My sister gave birth to her son 13 years ago. Her partner had to legally adopt him. Never did my sister relinquish her parental rights. Her background was never checked as she was his biological mother and it is so stated on his birth certificate. His birth certificate was amended when he was “legally adopted” by his other mother. My sister has many other friends that went through second parent adoption and never hava I heard that the biological mother had to relinquish her parental rights.

Ellen Smith on

It seems gimmicky to me that they chose to be impregnated with each other’s eggs. I’m sure they considered it some sort of “bonding” experience, but I think it’s very immature.

Jordan on

Great article.
Gay parents/partners should have the same rights as straight couples. Government is too high-handed where they are concerned. (PS. for the record – I’m straight, conservative and raise southern Baptist – And I’m all for equal rights for gays couples).

I think it’s really cool that they switched eggs.

Kristin on

Ellen, why on earth is that immature? Who are you to judge? If they thought it would be a nice way to both be close to the child, then that’s their decision, and theirs alone. She didn’t open up about this for you to judge their decisions.

Kimber Christian on

Ellen – how is bringing a child into the world “gimmicky”? If you don’t have something nice to say – don’t say anything at all!!!!

Alexa on

Sara, DC wasn’t the first to do that and that’s not always recognized as legal outside the area issuing the birth certificate. A custody order from a judge (even with a couple still together) or a second parent adoption is still the only way to protect your rights when you travel.

kiki on

Ellen has just as much right to her opinion as the rest of you have to yours. Just because you disagree doesn’t mean she shouldn’t comment.

Ellen Smith on

I can express an opinion that isn’t positive. I didn’t say that I hated them or their children, or that I didn’t wish them well. I just find it odd that they felt the need to swap embryos.

Kelly on

There was actually a similar instance quite a few years back here in South Africa. A woman was impregnated with the fertilised eggs of her life partner and gave birth to twins. She wanted to register their birth with both her and her partner as parents, rather than go through the process of adoption. They wanted the tacit assumption that the husband is deemed the parent of a child born through artificial insemination extended to same-sex life partners. This was before same-sex marriages were legalised in South Africa, which happened in 2006. They won their case and the Act was amended. Obviously now it’s less complicated – after 2006, a child born of any marriage would be deemed the natural child of both partners, unless expressly stated otherwise. There are rules regarding the availability of medical records in the case of artificial insemination though, but that’s about it. No real restrictions.

Megan on

Ellen, I’m curious – why do you feel swapping eggs is immature or odd? It’s an interesting comment to make.

Terri on

That is so cool that they carrie each other’s eggs. I bet they made them feel even more bonded through the pregnancies.

CandyCane30 on

I think that maybe because Cat lead such a busy live with the restuarants and shows; it may have been easierat the time for Jennifer to be pregnant. Maybe Cat was at a place where she wanted to experience pregnancy for herself now that her career was more established and returned the favor of Jennifer carrying her biological child. Seems like an attempt and fairness to me. To each his own. I love Cat. She rocks!

Teg'smommy on

unforntunatly there is alot of incorrect information on this post. As a parent who recently went through this I can tell you it doesn’t matter if you are a same sex couple or not if you use a serogate to carry the child you must complete an adoption to legally be the parent of that child. Even if both adopting parents are the biological parents. The laws state that the woman who gave birth to the child is the childs legal mother until an adoption occurs. Our daughter was born in sept of 2008 and it took until march of 2009 to complete the adoption. It’s all about the government making money off the adoption process. It is a very time consuming and expensive process. I would do it again because being a mom is the best thing I have ever experience but the process needs to be simplified because it just adds stress to parents who should be spending that time and energy caring for their child.

Ellen Smith on

Megan – I feel that it is immature and gimmicky to swap eggs for two reasons. The first is that it is unnecessary – why are all of these permutations pursued to bring forth a live birth? The second, and this is more philosophical on my part and extension of the first reason – “just because the mountain is there doesn’t mean you have to climb it.” If I chose to get pregnant and knew my best friend wanted to get pregnant at the same time I wouldn’t say “Hey, let’s gestate each others embryos.” Now granted, we wouldn’t be partners like Cat and Jennifer, but still, I think it’s a tad over the top to be swapping embryos, especially when there’s no medical need to do so.

Sarah K. on

Hate to be debbie downer, but unfortunately those laws are there for a reason. Namely, to protect the rights of the biological parents. So in adoption – any adoption – it is really hard to convince a court that one or both biological parents deserve to have their rights terminated. I do agree that ideally the process should be made easier for same-sex couples, but there are a lot of complications with drafting laws that get it right. There are now so many different ways to create a family, that wording the laws properly is next to impossible.

For example, even with heterosexual people, if mom is married to someone who is not the father of her child, bio dad needs to file a paternity suit and jump through all kinds of hoops. In New York only a step-parent can adopt a child without terminating the rights of both parents. Meaning boyfriend may have raised girlfriend’s child, but he cannot adopt without having girlfriend’s parental rights terminated.

Same problem with heterosexual couples that choose surrogacy. Are both parents the biological parents? Is one the biological parent? Is the surrogate? Or, none of them? Did they get the embryo from a bank? Or a friend? Planning for every situation that could arise is difficult given today’s technology, so the laws address only the most general common occurrences. It’s a flaw, but it’s a hard one to overcome.

Sorry for the rant!

Nostalgic on

Ellen … it’s not about the “medical” need to swap embryos. It’s about their desire to carry each other’s child – to have one another’s baby. It is what heterosexual couples do, isn’t it? I would say this need is a psychological and emotional one.

Kat on

Ellen, it is also to gives both women a bond to the child. One has the experience of the child growing in them, while the other gets to provide their genetic material. In a way they are both the biological mother.

CC on

“It seems gimmicky to me that they chose to be impregnated with each other’s eggs. I’m sure they considered it some sort of “bonding” experience, but I think it’s very immature.

– Ellen Smith on September 10th, 2010”

“Megan – I feel that it is immature and gimmicky to swap eggs for two reasons. The first is that it is unnecessary – why are all of these permutations pursued to bring forth a live birth? The second, and this is more philosophical on my part and extension of the first reason – “just because the mountain is there doesn’t mean you have to climb it.” If I chose to get pregnant and knew my best friend wanted to get pregnant at the same time I wouldn’t say “Hey, let’s gestate each others embryos.” Now granted, we wouldn’t be partners like Cat and Jennifer, but still, I think it’s a tad over the top to be swapping embryos, especially when there’s no medical need to do so.

– Ellen Smith on September 10th, 2010”


First let me say a head of time forgive me if I sound a bit harsh, because I’m going to try not to be, but both your comments left a really mad taste in my mouth….

1) What they did is neither immature or gimmicky
2) What Cat and Jennifer did is nothing like saying to a best friend “Hey, let’s gestate each others embryos.” Cat and Jennifer are in a committed relationship. (maybe not tectonically married by the laws of the country… yet)

Your comments just make you sound ignorant, but I’ll give you the benefit of doubt, that maybe you don’t understand everything that a same-sex couple has to go through… Laws do not benefit same sex couples.. While the laws may be changing same-sex couples have a lot of loops to jump through, that a heterosexual couple wouldn’t have to, because their relationship isn’t recognized by the law yet.

Let’s just say Cat and Jennifer didn’t do everything they did, and tragically something happened to Jennifer (And I pray to God that nothing ever does). Even though the kids are Jennifer and Cat, Jennifer’s family could come in and claim the kids (the one’s Jennifer gave birth to), because Cat wouldn’t have a legal right to them, and would end up having to go to court, and she may or may not win… If you don’t think that could happen, let me tell you it can, and it has….

Maybe you should think before you speak next time. If you don’t understand the topic, it’s better to ask questions, then ending up sounding ignorant.

bevvie on

What the point of the egg switching? I didn’t understand.

Ellen Smith on

Response to all above:

1. Heterosexual couples contribute an egg and a sperm to make any embryo. Only the woman bears the child. Thus, gestationally speaking, she is bonding with the child while the husband is mere genetic contributor, until after the baby is born and he can physically bond with the baby (and yes, he probably bonds with it emotionally during the pregnancy, but that is not the issue at hand).
2. The could equally adopt each other’s biological children without the embryo swap.
3. Again, I still think it’s gimmicky, especially because I fail to see how they couldn’t bond with the child of their partner, especially in a committed, loving relationship.
4. FYI to other posters: I am not a lesbian hater, child hater, etc. I am also a liberal who views technology as an enlightened tool in reproductive matters and medicine in general.
5. I am sure regardless what state the child is born in there are legal ramifications to knowing or not knowing who is the child’s biological mother and father. The more convoluted the route to pregnancy, the more complicated the assignment of parental rights and authority.

Cheryl on

C.C., Ellen doesn’t sound ignorant. She just has a different opinion than most posters….a serious crime around here, I know!!!

mama d on

I agree with CC, Ellen does sound a little ignorant and really judgmental. They did what was right for thier family…period. And it should end there because what they did and do with their family does not effect any of you.

Jenny on

I have to agree with Ellen on this one. She’s explained her reasons pretty clearly to me. Everyone has a right to their own opinion on the matter. Just because some posters don’t agree with her point of view, it doesn’t make her ignorant.

Nina on

How ironic,you don’t need a man to have/raise a family.However you need a man’s sperm to create that family.I think these people should just adopt.I don’t agree with this lifestyle.

Luna on

Ellen- I get what you are saying, honestly I do. But I think that I can put some more logical reason behind their decision to carry each others’ embryos. In a heterosexual parntership, the male and female both have a part in creating the embryo. Then the child is born from the woman. In a homosexual female partnership, if if one person’s embryo was not placed in the others’ body, only one partner would be part of making the baby and bringing it into the world. They could want to both be a part. Just a thought. But you’re entitled to your opinion.

CC on


I think they also did it this way, so that they are both a part of the child. As you stated heterosexual couples contribute an egg and a sperm to make any embryo.. While the father doesn’t carry the baby, he is genetically a part of the baby.. While Jennifer/Cat getting implanted with Jennifer/Cat’s embryo doesn’t make the baby genetically part of her, it does give her a bond… When the kids are old enough to understand, they can explain that while biologically Cat/Jennifer is your mom, I carried you for 9month and gave birth to you, so you are just as much a part of me as you are your other mom…

CelebBabyLover on

Cheryl- It’s not a crime to have a different opinion on here. What people are doing is disagreeing with Ellen….and just as we the right to our own opinions, we have a right to disagree with other people’s opinions. No one is saying Ellen doesn’t have a right to her opinion!

Anyway, at this point, I think Ellen and those of us who disagree with her need to agree to disagree. She has her opinion and we have ours…and I don’t think either side is going to change the other’s opinion. 🙂

CC on

Just for clarification I didn’t call Ellen ignorant…. I said her comments made her sound ignorant…. For all I know Ellen could be a very intelligent person, but just lacking knowledge on the topic…

(for those of you that doesn’t know what ignorant means)
lacking in knowledge or training; unlearned: an ignorant man.
lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact: ignorant of quantum physics.
uninformed; unaware.
due to or showing lack of knowledge or training: an ignorant statement.

While I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I am also entitled to mine. Second just because I don’t agree with her doesn’t mean I can’t have a conversation with her. The only way we are ever going to understand where another person is coming from is by talking with them. In the end we still might not agree, but at least we know why they feel the way they do.

ecl on

They probably swapped eggs for legal reasons. That way the biological mothers doesn’t have a greater right to the child than the non-carrier, non-contributor. The problem in this instance is that the law has not kept up with technology so gay/lesbian/surrogate parent issues are very legally unclear.

alh on

Alright, everyone. If Cat and Jennifer wanted to swap embryos, so be it. It is their decision, not ours. We are ALL entitled to our opinions about it, but they are just opinions, not facts. Ellen Smith simply stated that she felt, in her opinion, that it was gimmicky. Ellen is entitled to that opinion whether we agree or not. Everyone else who disagreed with Ellen are just as entitled to their opinions. We all have a right to state how we feel about a certain situation. Why can’t we all be mature adults and say something like “Interesting concept Ellen, thank you for sharing it. I happen to think it sounds sweet, not gimmicky, but to each their own”. Anyway, let’s just all be mature wne we leave our opinions here.

Vicky on

Team Ellen!

minnie on

I do kinda agree with Ellen, simply for the fact it sounds a lot more dangerous to swap eggs, and obviously I know absoloutly nothing about this medically, than to just have a baby yourself, and spend time bonding with it after its born.

I can see CC’s point that this way it is more “normal” in the sense both parents are contributing something, but would/havent they created greater risks by doing this way to please their own desires rather than the easier way? Obviously it worked out fine for them and their kids, everyone is healthy, but what if the choice in moving the eggs about, had hurt either mum or baby? I mean they could have lost all their eggs potentially?

And Sarah K has hit the nail on the head, the laws are so difficult because same sex couples being parents is a relatively new thing, the laws just havent had time to adapt, so whats currently being used is something that wasn’t designed for this type of circumstance.

W.S on

It is gimmicky and but it sure makes great press doesn’t it!!

As a doctor I can tell you from what I have read about these births most credit has to be given to science-lab,test tube etc.

However in any natural physical loving relationship whether it is a heterosexual relationship or a lesbian relationship it is usually only one member of that partnership who becomes pregnant and delivers the infant. Both members of the union are not pregnant at the same time.

Think about it! Most of us living in the world today are the product of heterosexual relationships.

Do you think that even if one of our fathers or a man today secretly wanted to give birth and/or experience the sensation with his wife- the birthing, labour pains,nursing – do you actually think if given the opportunity they would do it at the same time as their wife was going through the similar process? Wouldn’t they want to support their mate through her process, have that end with one birth, and start their own process?That’s what makes these births so gimmicky and fodder for the press.

Carl on

This is a beautiful article. What a nice family. Strange choice of names though.