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#DearFutureDads: Advice From New Gay Dads

Dove Men+Care recently shared their "New Dad Care Package" with a few new gay dad families, demonstrating their commitment to dads from the very start of the fatherhood journey

As any dad knows, the first few weeks of fatherhood are a blur. Our lives are turned upside down as we settle into new routines that revolve around our new child. No more visits to the gym, nights out with friends, or shopping for anything other than the most basic of needs. That's why we're grateful that Dove Men+Care recently shared their "New Dad Care Package" with a few new gay dad families, demonstrating their commitment to dads from the very start of the fatherhood journey. Complete with a few Dove Men+Care and Baby Dove products and available in hospitals across the U.S., the program equips dads with the basic personal care tools needed to care of themselves and their new families during this busy and exciting time.

We're also grateful to the new dads below, each of whom shares advice with expectant dads on what to expect during the early days of fatherhood.


“Wouldn’t trade it for anything.” – Dads Chris and Zac with baby Jett

Chris and Zac originally planned to become dads through surrogacy, but after following another couple's adoption journey, they reconsidered their path. "It was so moving and humbling," explains Chris, "that after a year, we decided to move forward with adoption. Seven months later we became dads to our son, Jett."

The dads are thankful that they didn't encounter many obstacles during their journey, nor have they afterwards –– even as a two-dad family living in Salt Lake City, Utah. Rather, they've felt nothing but love and support. When Jett's adoption was finalized on May 2, 2018, the dads shared that there wasn't a dry eye in the courtroom.

Prior to becoming dads, both men were determined to take time off from work for Jett's first year. While their employers have allowed the time off, it is unpaid leave. So the dads had to spend considerable time saving and accumulating days off. (Dove Men+Care is a huge proponent of paid paternity leave; read more here.) But they share that the time spent caring for and bonding with Jett has been extremely rewarding, so they encourage dads-to-be to to consider taking extended leaves as well.

Being a full-time dad can be overwhelming, especially at first. So Chris and Zac want to stress the importance of open and honest communication between the dads. While they’re focusing their energy on being the best they can be for Jett, they also realize that trying to be a super dad is impossible. Says Chris, "We're learning to take a moment, breathe, and then readjust our expectations."

The dads heartily agree that they definitely wouldn't trade this for anything!

“The corny stuff parents always say like, "I never knew I could love someone so much," are actually true!” – Dad Michael and his baby girl

Earlier this year, Michael became a first-time dad to his daughter via surrogacy.

How his life has changed! Michael shares that he's found a level of patience he never knew existed. He spends a sizable chunk of his time planning their days, and he's learned to reset expectations as to what he can realistically accomplish in any given day, week or month.

Michael's top priority is his family, and being Daddy to his little girl is everything. "I didn't go through all I did just to have a child and then not spend time with her!" After her birth, Michael received one week paid family leave and took another eight weeks of unpaid leave.

Although his company was very supportive and tried to help, Michael believes that there needs to be mandatory leave in the US, regardless of gender. "I fully understand that as a dad (or dads) there isn't the need to physically recover from having a baby, but that doesn't mean the baby needs any less time or attention."

With his daughter at daycare during the week, and Michael working, he can happily report that he doesn’t feel that he's doing it alone. "I've got an amazing set of friends, coworkers and family that have been incredibly supportive and helpful; I'm grateful for them everyday."

And Michael's message to future gay dads? "If you decide it's what you really want, then don't let anything stop you. Keep going. Pick yourself up and keep trying. Take one next step at a time. It's unbelievably worth it."

“Savor every moment; the crying, the diaper changes, the spit up and everything in between. It goes by so quickly.” – Joselito and Anthony with baby Alyana

For Joselito and Anthony, who met through mutual friends at a Lady Gaga concert, the decision to adopt was an easy one.

“We both come from biologically separated families," said Joselito, "but we were so welcomed by our adopted and guardian parents, that we always had a strong desire to make things right with our child."

Two years after they began the adoption process, and after a number of connections with birth mothers fell through, their dream came true. Daughter Alyana was born January 4.

"To hold her in our arms was priceless." Joselito was very shaky and nervous the first time he held her, and Anthony was in shock and disbelief. "We couldn't believe we were holding our daughter."

Because it took two years for Joselito and Anthony to become dads, in many ways they had lots of time to prepare. They both took time off to take care of Alyana, which was incredibly precious to the dads. They wanted to be able to connect with her during her early stages. "It meant that we got to witness important milestones, such as crawling, learning to walk and even the babbling," says Anthony. "It means we get to know who she is from day one," adds Joselito.

Despite the initial challenges to become dads, Joselito and Anthony are besotted with their family of three, and have a few words to share with future dads: "Be strong and never give up; and remember the biggest weapon in the entire process is to be patient and to always remain positive."

"Caring for a child is the most selfless act you can do. It gives us purpose and we only wish we could spend more time with her." – Mauricio and Stephen with baby Isabella

Both Mauricio and Stephen come from large and close-knit families. Shortly after they met, they discussed wanting children and becoming fathers. Mauricio's parents are going on 45 years of marriage; Stephen's family all reside next door to each other in West Virginia. So for them, fatherhood was never a matter of "if," it was "when." They began their journey in the summer of 2015 and this April, Mauricio and Stephen became dads through open adoption to baby Isabella.

Now that they're dads, Mauricio and Stephen agree that everything has changed. “You relinquish all your control in order to dedicate your life to this little creature," said Mauricio. "However, the outcome is rewarding beyond words."

The new dads are experiencing sleepless nights and exhaustion beyond belief, but Isabella makes the toll worthwhile. And the shares sense of purpose is unlike anything they've ever known, helping to make their bond with each other even stronger. "The choices you make are no longer impacting the two of you," says Stephen, "but now there is this little third person who depends 100% on you."

Part of parenthood is figuring out how to care for your new child, and the dads are fast learners. "It's the most selfless act you can do," says Mauricio about taking the time to care for Isabella. "It's unconditional love and devotion for someone you have barely known."

"We enjoy every second we spent with Isabella," adds Stephen. "It gives us purpose and we only wish we could spend more time with her."

The dads definitely see more kids in their future. And they have some thoughts for new dads to consider, like preparing for the upheaval of a new routine, and surrounding yourself with loved ones who can help out. "Be realistic about the time off needed, it is hard work!" said Mauricio. Yet, despite the hard work and literally everything changing in their lives, new dads Mauricio and Stephen are rocking fatherhood and are besotted with their daughter Isabella.

“As hard as it is, we love every moment of it.” – Johnny and Sebastian with son Vaughn

Together 11 years, baby fever began to sprout for Johnny and Sebastian halfway through their relationship. After embarking on their surrogacy journey over three years ago, they welcomed their son Vaughn the day before Valentine's Day this year.

"So much about our lives has changed," says Johnny. "From the moment we wake up, our attention goes directly to our son. We plan our day around him, and we talk about our future plans in a very different way."

Bonding with their son during his first days of life was incredibly important to the new dads. "Having a child through surrogacy, as wonderful as it is," shares Johnny, "one can also feel a bit distant and disconnected since the process was done remotely with our surrogate who lives in a different state."

Like most new parents, they were nervous about the long sleepless nights that were to come but they both felt it was critical to be available and present to really bond and understand their new son.

The new dads admit it's certainly been a challenge at times – juggling a newborn, jobs, and their own expectations – but they're loving every minute of it.

"Life has been amazing," adds Sebastian. "We appreciate each day and each moment. Watching our son grow and develop is a gift; our capacity to love has definitely grown."

The new dads are making sure that they find time for themselves as both the journey to fatherhood, and actually being new fathers, is very emotional. "Be prepared to be drained and tired," is their message to future dads. "Being a father is an amazing gift," adds Johnny. "Whether you try surrogacy or adoption, there is no 'right way'... in the end, it will all be worth it."

Happy Father's Day to all dads, new, old and aspiring!

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Gay Dad Family Stories

Sister Act: How Four Siblings Helped Joey and Rob Become Dads

The husbands *also* received help from Men Having Babies, a nonprofit helping gay men become dads via surrogacy.

"I first learned about Men Having Babies while searching the internet for insurances that covered surrogacy," said Joey Guzman-Kuffel, 40, a Marriage and Family Therapist. "As I researched our surrogacy options the Men Having Babies link popped up. When I clicked on their link, I learned that this awesome organization was bringing awareness to men wanting to have babies and the possibilities to do so."

Joey and his husband Rob Kuffel, 47, Protocol Officer for the US Navy, have been together seven years after meeting via OKCupid.com. They chatted for a week via the app, then graduated to a phone call which lasted 3-4 hours. "I always knew that I wanted to have kids and knew that I needed to be with a partner that wanted to have kids as well," said Joey. Rob felt the same way. The two were married in May 2014.

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Surrogacy for Gay Men

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Come this Friday to hear how Men Having Babies and other advocates plan to pass surrogacy reform in NY

Three MHB members lobbying in Albany, with Senator Brad Hoylman, who led the passage of the Senate version of the bill

Since it's very first meeting in the form of a 2005 support group for biological gay dads and dads-to-be, Men Having Babies (MHB) has been advocating and educating folks on surrogacy. This has taken place in the form of many elements including conferences for those considering surrogacy, their Gay Parenting Assistance Program which helps fund many gay men undertaking the expensive surrogacy journey to fatherhood, and their extensive directory and review system on surrogacy agencies and clinics.

MHB has recently moved further to make their conferences a meeting place for committed surrogacy and gay parenting supporters, including parents, surrogates, researchers, professionals, and policymakers by creating the Advocacy and Research Forum for Surrogacy and LGBT Parenting (ARF). The program provides opportunities for formal and facilitated discussions about topics and developments relevant to parenting through surrogacy and / or by LGBT parents.

Now, in the aftermath of the stalled Child Parent Security Act (the CPSA bill), which was set to reverse the ban on compensated surrogacy in the state of New York, Men Having Babies have gone a step further. As part of the ARF initiative, this Friday November 8 in New York City, Men Having Babies welcomes folks to join them at an open to the public event: The Case for NY Surrogacy Reform.

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Paternity Leave Pledge

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On October 22, a group of "Dadvocates," including gay dad-to-be Rudy, will join Dove Men+Care and PL+US on Capitol Hill to advocate for paid paternity leave for *ALL* dads

When Rudy and Andy were first together, gay marriage wasn't legal. Now they've been happily married for five years and are expectant dads! But the fight for equality isn't over, and advocating for paid family leave continues.

On Tuesday, October 22, Rudy will join Dove Men+Care, Paid Leave for United States (PL+US), and a group of "Dadvocates" including Alexis Ohanian (co-founder of Reddit; Serena Williams' husband), for a "Dads' Day of Action" on Capitol Hill. This group of fathers, which includes two same-sex couples, will share their unique and urgent stories with key members of Congress to press the importance of federally-provided paid paternity leave.

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Gay Dads Forced to Flee Russia Find Refuge in Seattle

After fleeing Moscow last spring, this family of four has started new lives for themselves in Seattle.

For almost ten years, Andrei Yaganov, 45, and his husband Evgeny Erofeev, 32, managed to live a fairly ordinary life in Moscow, Russia. The two men both held down respectable office jobs. And their two sons — Denis and Yuri, now 14 and 12 respectively — went to daycare and school without issue. Despite being headed by a same-sex couple in a country with notoriously aggressive laws and attitudes towards the LGBTQ community, the foursome went about their lives just like any other family.

Adoption by LGBTQ couples, like same-sex marriage, is illegal in Russia. But the couple managed to circumvent the ban by having Andrei adopt as a single parent. Andrei became only the third single man in Moscow, he was told during his placement process, to do so.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

'A Gay Man's Wife': One Couple's Co-Parenting Journey

The podcast 'A Gay Man's Wife,' explores how one woman makes her marriage to a gay man work for her — and their family.

Guest post written by Michael and Tawyne, hosts of A Gay Man's Wife

Michael: Growing up, I always knew I was different. I knew that what my family perceived as normal wasn't who I was. Only when I hit a certain maturity in my teenage years did I understand that I was gay. Still, I didn't know what that meant for me at the time. When I was 16 I met Tawyne (15) and immediately felt something that I didn't quite understand. She was wild like a tornado and captivated me. Throughout the first year of our friendship we fell in love.

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Politics

Supreme Court to Hear Major Case Concerning LGBTQ Foster Care Parents

The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether cities are allowed to exclude tax-funded adoption agencies from foster care systems if they refuse to work with gay couples.

In 2018, city officials in Philadelphia decided to exclude Catholic Social Services, which refuses to work with LGBTQ couples, from participating in its foster-care system. The agency sued, claiming religious discrimination, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit unanimously ruled against the agency, citing the need to comply with nondiscrimination policies.

The case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, follows a 2018 Supreme Court decision regarding a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. In that case, the court narrowly ruled that the baker bad been discriminated against, on religious grounds, by the state's civil rights commission. It did not decide the broader issue: whether an entity can be exempt from local non-discrimination ordinances on the basis of religious freedom.

The court — whose ideological center has shifted to the right since the addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh in fall 2018 — may choose to do so now. Advocates quickly called on the court to consider the potential impact on the more than 400,000 children currently in the foster care system:

"We already have a severe shortage of foster families willing and able to open their hearts and homes to these children," said Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project. "Allowing foster care agencies to exclude qualified families based on religious requirements that have nothing to do with the ability to care for a child such as their sexual orientation or faith would make it even worse. We can't afford to have loving families turned away or deterred by the risk of discrimination."

"It is unconscionable to turn away prospective foster and adoptive families because they are LGBTQ, religious minorities, or for any other reason unrelated to their capacity to love and care for children," said HRC President Alphonso David. "We reject the suggestion that taxpayer-funded child welfare services should be allowed to put discrimination over a child's best interest. This case could also have implications for religious refusals that go far beyond child welfare. The Supreme Court must make it clear that freedom of religion does not include using taxpayer funds to further marginalize vulnerable communities."

The court may choose to override a 1990 decision, Employment Division v. Smith, which created the current standard for carving out religious exemptions. In that case, the court ruled that laws that target a specific faith, or express hostility towards certain beliefs, are unconstitutional — but this standard has long been abhorred by religious conservatives, who think it doesn't offer enough protections for religions. If the court does overrule Smith, it could have far-ranging consequences. " As noted on Slate, "it would allow anyone to demand a carve-out from laws that go against their religion, unless those laws are 'narrowly tailored' to serve a 'compelling government interest.'"

The four members of the court's conservative wing — Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh —have all signaled an openness to reconsider Smith. The ruling's fate, then, likely rests in the hands of the court's new swing vote, Chief Justice Roberts.

For more, read the full article on Slate.

Gay Dad Life

Dads Tell Us Their 'Gayest Moment Ever' as Parents

We may be dads — but we're still gay, dammit! And these "gayest moments ever," sent to us from our Instagram community, prove it.

Did your child know all the lyrics to Madonna songs by age 3? Do your kids critique all the red carpet lewks from the Tony Awards? Do you often have baby food, diapers, sparkling white wine, gourmet appetizer, and fresh cut flowers in your shopping cart — all in one trip? If you answered 'yes' to any of the above, you just might be... a gay dad.

We asked the dads in our Instagram community to share their gayest moments as a dad, ever, and their responses were just as hilarious as they were relatable.

Here's a great way to start the week...

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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