Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad's Adoption Journey Amid a Global Crisis

Erik Alexander writes about a personal moment of happiness — the birth of his son — amid a world gripped by the COVID-19 crisis.

COVID-19 has shaken the whole world to its core. From one part of the globe to the other, it has all but stopped life as we know it. This scenario seems all too reminiscent of something that the American South will never forget. Living in New Orleans, Louisiana we are accustomed to dealing with evacuations and disasters because of hurricane season each year. From June to November, we are on alert. As you can imagine, Hurricane Katrina's lasting effects really taught us how to deal with disaster prep along with recovering from the aftermath.


When Coronavirus first appeared on our radar here in New Orleans, I was personally shaken. Not only for me, but for my family. My husband is a physician at one of the main hospitals here in the city. Our two daughters are aged 4 and 2, and I am a stay-at-home dad. They go to nursery school for a few hours during the week but most of the time I am at home with them. Then the public schools closed down, as did most of the nurseries so we got even more time together.

Many people through the years have asked me what it was like to experience Hurricane Katrina. There really has not been an event equivalent to compare it to. That is, until now.

As the mammoth storm churned towards us 15 years ago, everyone panicked and prepped as fast as they could. Pandemonium and fear spread through New Orleans just like this virus. The only difference is today, there aren't devastating winds or floods. Instead, the fear turned into stocking up on whatever you could so you wouldn't have to leave your home.

I watched other countries very closely before this virus was found here in Louisiana. I saw the panic in the streets and the death that followed. I knew I needed to act fast before the greedy bought everything in sight.

I am a planner and I like to be in control. I think it is partly why I feel the way I do at the moment. I literally planned our family's next moves over a week before the mandated 'stay home' orders were given. While people were calling me "Chicken Little", I made sure that our family had everything we could possibly need. Well, except for one MAJOR life changing variable.

Our son was to be born in the middle of this nightmare. My husband and I frantically tried to complete his nursery and buy the essential items from the hardware stores before our 'lock down' order was issued. Along with prior preparations of food and essential items for the family, I felt it was incredibly important to get the necessary items for the new baby. I feared panic stricken people would buy everything in sight along with the essential baby care items. I just knew we would be under mandated closures when he was born so I bought the diapers and baby formula weeks ahead of time. I really felt like I was in front of this thing. I planned. I was ready. And then my husband told me how bad the virus had actually gotten. It was like the gulf winds shifted. It was apparent that COVID-19 was about to strangle New Orleans.

Each day that went by, more and more people were diagnosed. We saw this in Italy, and in New York City. But those places were much bigger than New Orleans. All of a sudden, people were dying in numbers that doubled from the day before. Hundreds became thousands that were infected. It quickly became obvious that New Orleans and the state of Louisiana for that matter was the new epicenter for this outbreak.

Hospitals were inundated, especially my husband's. Ventilators were almost depleted in a matter of one weeks time. Face masks were vanishing. Eye shields and gloves were almost gone. P.P.E. (personal protective equipment) was suddenly rationed and in many cases disappeared, stolen or extremely hard to come by.

From home, we saw local news outlets reporting that faculty were told to reuse face masks and even sterilize them so they could continue to fight this battle on the front lines, even without their armor. Grown men were scared. And many were breaking down.

Douglas has always been my voice of reason. When I get too hyped up, he is always there to calm me down. In the beginning, when I started my rants about Coronavirus, he didn't stop me. This time he wasn't 'devil's advocate.' Even when friends and family made it seem like I was overreacting, Douglas listened. I will never forget one conversation we had right after COVID-19 started to spread rapidly here in the city. We were finishing up the baby's nursery one night when I told him I had been watching the images coming out of Italy and they were highly alarming and at the rate it was spreading, it seemed certain it was going to happen here. I was waiting for him to correct me, but instead his eyes got big.

He got quiet. He regularly does this when he wants to collect his thoughts. Then he said, "There is nothing we can do. The box has been opened and it cannot be closed. This will be the next pandemic in the next 24-36 hours. Most of us will get this virus. And if we all don't get it, we will personally know someone that has had it or has died from it. Lock downs will not stop it. Our hospitals will become overwhelmed. And there is nothing we can do."

I was shocked. He is always optimistic. He is the yin to my yang. But that night, he was brutally honest. Twelve hours later, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a "global pandemic."

That's when the angry tides started turning and the ominous silence fell when I walked outside. I was SHOOK. But I had to keep my cool for my family. My girls depend on me. On us. I can't let them see my fear.

All of a sudden I became their teacher every day along with being 'Papa'. I try my best to keep it fun and new. I print out activities and educational things to keep their little minds learning. I research arts and crafts for them. And then we go outside and play different games every day so this isolation doesn't get monotonously boring.

All of a sudden, it was like my heart stopped. Douglas told me the main hospital was running low on manpower. Some started to get sick. And some were just overwhelmed by the tsunami of patients coming who had fallen ill from the virus. This whole time I had been so thankful for him being a psychiatric resident during this viral circus. Then, he broke some news. The hospital started pulling residents from all the other specialties to fight this virus on the front lines in the Emergency Department. It didn't matter what specialty. My heart sank into my stomach. I felt ill.

Sure, I get it. He is a doctor. That is what you "sign up for." But let me stop you. No. That is not what he signed up for. He had a calling to help the mentally ill and the addicts from drugs and alcohol to get sober. He wanted to help them get off the street, get cleaned up and lead a productive life. Fighting in the epicenter of this pandemic without proper equipment could be a death sentence. I would absolutely feel more inclined for him to help if I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he had the life saving P.P.E. he needs to stay healthy. He needs it and his family at home needs it. WE NEED IT. As the hours ticked by my anger grew. As I said, I like to be in control. I quickly saw that we were falling into a tailspin that couldn't be stopped.

Just as I started to feel hopeless, our phone rang. My mouth dropped to the floor. Our birth mother was in labor! Douglas quickly rushed her to the hospital. After the doctors examined her she was quickly admitted. We had been through this before multiple times with our previous birth mother. I just knew she was going to be sent home prematurely. But this time proved to be different. They told Douglas he was allowed to stay the night, but unfortunately, due to Coronavirus, I had to stay home.

Last night, Douglas got to be at the hospital for the birth of our son and officially go on "paternity leave" for over a month! For me, it was like my husband was rescued from the front lines of a viral massacre. An unforeseen force directed us into a perfectly beautiful and peaceful scenario just as hopelessness gripped our future and the walls seemed to be closing in all around us.

Then came Shane.

Our baby boy was born at 11:36 pm weighing in at 7 lbs 6 oz. He is the most beautiful boy I have ever seen. Although I have yet to hold him. Smell him. Or see him. It is now 10:43 p.m. the following night and Douglas should be home in about an hour's time. I am ecstatic. I feel so peaceful and happy. Yes, right now, the world outside is terrifying. But inside our hearts are overjoyed, filled with euphoric gratitude to know we are blessed beyond belief.

We would love for you to follow our journey!Follow us on Instagram@nolapapaLike us on Facebook/NolapapaKeep up with the blog at NolaPapa

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Race

How a White Gay Dad Discusses Racial Issues with his Black Sons

In light of the recent killing of George Floyd by the hands of police in Minneapolis, Joseph Sadusky shares two excerpts from his book that deal directly with issues around raising black sons.

Editor's Note: In light of George Floyd's death, this month, author Joseph Sadusky — who has been sharing excerpts from his book Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad each month —will share two posts that deal directly with issues around raising black sons. This is the first, titled "White," which looks at general questions that come up for a white dad raising black boys. Read previous installments here.

It may be presumptuous for a Caucasian gay man to claim to feel terrified and heartsick at the shooting of Trayvon Martin. But upon hearing the news that day in 2012, this is exactly how I felt.

The horrible truth is that there are many incidents of racial violence toward black males that I could use as starting points for this topic. But the specific case of Trayvon Martin—whose only crime was being a young black male wearing a hoodie, walking in a neighborhood where he had a home—has a particular resonance for me. Whatever the legalities of George Zimmerman using a gun to "stand his ground" if he felt his life was threatened, the simple truth is that he chose—against the direction of law enforcement, whom he contacted for support—to follow an African American male who had every right to be walking those neighborhood streets, however "thug" he might appear.

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Become a Gay Dad

Curious About Covid 19's Impact on Foster Care and Adoption?

Leading industry experts answer questions from queer men about the impact of Covid-19 on the adoption and foster care processes.

Recently, GWK hosted a series of free webinars with leading experts led by industry experts in the fields of adoption and foster care to learn about up-to-date insights on how the coronavirus affects family building. The presentations left lots of room for audience Q&A, to allow participants to get their individual questions answered — there were some common questions raised during each webinar, however, so we've put together a quick video of our experts answering some of the top concerns from queer men interested in pursuing surrogacy.

Our team of experts include:

Have other questions about the impact of the coronavirus on adoption or foster care that you'd like our experts to answer? Be sure to email us at dads@gayswithkids.com.

Surrogacy for Gay Men

Top 5 Questions About Covid-19's Impact On Surrogacy

Leading industry experts answer questions from queer men about the impact of Covid-19 on the surrogacy process.

Recently, GWK hosted a series of free webinars with leading experts led by industry experts in the field of surrogacy to learn about up-to-date insights on how the coronavirus affects family building. The presentations left lots of room for audience Q&A, to allow participants to get their individual questions answered — there were some common questions raised during each webinar, however, so we've put together a quick video of our experts answering some of the top concerns from queer men interested in pursuing surrogacy.

Our team of experts include:

Have other questions about the impact of the coronavirus on surrogacy that you'd like our experts to answer? Be sure to email us at dads@gayswithkids.com.

Here is a breakdown of the Top 5 Questions About Covid 19's Impact On Surrogacy. These are highlights taken from our live webinar series we held featuring: G...

Transracial Families Series

How These Dads Address White Privilege within Their Transracial Family

The "white savior" complex is real, said Andrew and Don, who are raising two Black children.

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of ongoing posts exploring issues related to transracial families headed by gay, bi and trans men. Interested in being featured as part of the series? Email us at dads@gayswithkids.com

Andrew Kohn, 40, and his husband Donald (Don) Jones, 47, together 13 years, are two white dads raising two Black children in Columbus, Ohio. Do they stick out? Sure. Have they encountered racism? They say they haven't. "I keep waiting for the moment so that I can become my best Julia Sugarbaker," said Andrew. "I think because we're a gay couple with Black kids, we're the other-other and people don't really say things to us. We have never had people touch our kids hair or do something that was inappropriate."

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Children's Books

New LGBTQ-Inclusive Children's Book Asks: What Makes a Family?

A new children's book by Seamus Kirst follows a young girl's journey of emotional discovery after she is asked which of her two dads is her "real dad."

Editor's note: This is a guest post from Seamus Kirst, author of the new LGBTQ-inclusive children's book "Papa, Daddy, Riley."

Throughout my life, I have discovered that reading provides an almost miraculous way of changing the way I think.

There is no medium that better offers insight into the perceptions, feelings and humanity of someone who is different from us. Through reading we become empathetic. Through reading we evolve. I have often emerged from reading a book, and felt like I was changed. In that, even in this digital age, I know I am not alone.

As children, reading shapes how we see the world. The characters, places, and stories we come to love in our books inform us as to what life might offer us as we grow up, and our world begins to expand beyond our own backyards.

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Gay Dad Photo Essays

Interested in Foster Care? These Amazing Dads Have Some Advice

As National Foster Care Month comes to a close, we rounded up some amazing examples of gay men serving as foster care dads, helping provide kids with a bright future.

Every May in the United States, we celebrate National Foster Care Month. With over 437,000 children and youth in foster care, it's our honor to take a look at some of the awesome dads in our community who are opening their hearts and their homes, and providing these kids with a bright future.

Thinking about becoming a foster parent? Check out these resources here, and visit AdoptUSKids.

Meet the Foster Dads!

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Transracial Families Series

This Transracial Family Relies on a 'Support Group' of African American Women

Puerto Rican dads Ferdinand and Manuel are raising a daughter of Jamaican descent — and love to find ways to celebrate their family's diversity

Our second feature in our transracial family series. Read the first one here.

Ferdinand Ortiz, 39, and his husband Manuel Gonzalez, 38, have been together for 7 years. In 2017, they became foster dads when they brought their daughter, Mia Valentina, home from the hospital. She was just three days old at the time. On December 13, 2018, her adoption was finalized.

Mia is of Jamaican and African American heritage, and her dads are both Puerto Rican. When Manuel and Ferdinand began their parenting journey through the foster care system, they received specific training on how to be the parents of a child whose race and culture was different from their own. "We learned that it's important to celebrate our child's culture and surround ourselves with people who can help her be proud of her culture." However, as helpful as this training was, the dads agreed that it would've been beneficial to hear from other transracial families and the type of challenges that they faced.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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