Family Spotlight: Matt & Trey
AT A GLANCE
Names and ages: Matt (27) and Trey (34)
Professions: Nurse (Matt) and commercial airline pilot (Trey)
Relationship status: Committed partnership of six and a half years. Married in Baltimore, Maryland October 18, 2013; however, marriage not legally recognized in their home state.
Child: Harper (8 Months)
Location: Johnson City, Tennessee
Always wanted children: Yes
Process to becoming parents: Domestic open adoption (long match)
Advice or insight for other parents: “Know it is possible.”
Favorite playtime activity: Dancing and singing
Child calls them: Dad and Daddy (hopefully)
Parents interested in pursuing domestic open adoptions are often quick to realize the vast range of experiences they may face during their process. Not just in match length, or post-birth contact but also with regard to the dynamic relationships they might find themselves in with birth-mothers, or even birth-families. Fundamentally, when natural conception is taken out of the equation, becoming a parent becomes a tricky sequence of transactions both monetarily and beautifully human. For Matt and Trey, the process was unexpectedly emotional as their bond with their birth-family grew and, continues to grow, with 8-month-old Harper bringing four families together.
“We didn’t really know what to expect, but we wanted a relationship with our birth family,” explains Matt. “Of course our ultimate goal was to have a child so we were willing to accept anything we got. We just got lucky with Harper’s family,” he added.
The couple labored over the decision to adopt for several years before taking the leap from interest to undertaking. “You have to go through a process of ‘How are we going to get there?’ It seems like you start talking about it like, ‘We’ll do it when we accomplish this, move into a house or have x amount in a bank account.’ It seems like the more you talk about it the more you put another hurdle you have to accomplish,” Trey said about their decision-making process. Then Matt chimed in, “You can always find something that you have to do beforehand. It was just one of those things where we finally said, ‘We’re just gonna do it! We’ll never have enough money, we’ll never have enough time, we’ll never have enough whatever.’ We just did it – and we’re so happy.” “All you gotta do is make the jump,” Trey added.
Sometimes a jump is metaphorically a few feet and other times it feels more like a death-defying leap of faith across an immense chasm. “We were worried about how it was going to happen in Tennessee. Wondering, ‘Oh, can we adopt?’ ” Trey recalls. It was a valid question given the conservative nature of their home state. If you were to measure their jump in obstacles, it was quite far; accepting the legal restrictions in guardianship, finding a social worker willing to work with them during the process, and finally, signing with an out of state adoption agency that was invested in positive outcomes for same-sex couples. “[At points] the excitement we had was deflated and we were back to the question of, ‘Oh, can we adopt?’ ” Matt acknowledged. Despite their difficulties however, the process to this point only took them two months time.
From there, they worked on their profile for prospective birth-mothers. This was the tool these mothers would use to pick which applicants they were interested in learning more about. For this reason, they took their time making it feel real and authentic. It was their intention to allow the prospective birth-families to imagine how their child’s life would be with them by simply being who they were. They went ‘live’ with this profile through their agency two months after signing. Not long following this, they were connected with Harper’s mom and were exclusively matched.
“It’s a lot like dating,” Matt says about the process. Truly, the story between Matt, Trey and Harper’s birth mother sings with a synergy of cautiously optimistic compatibility akin to a budding romance.
It started with Matt and Trey purchasing small prepaid phones to text with her as opposed to relying on telephone calls through the 1-800 number the adoption agency was providing them to communicate. It was a wise decision that ultimately made them much more accessible to a teen, who, like many teenagers of today, is much more comfortable texting than talking on the phone.
“She was really, really, nervous to call so she actually had the birth-father’s mom call us,” Matt recalls about the first phone contact they had with Harper’s birth-family. Trey and Harper’s birth-grandmother spoke for about an hour that day. They continued texting with Harper’s birth-mother via prepaid phone allowing her to become increasingly comfortable with them. Eventually, they did speak to her on the phone. You can tell that Matt and Trey made every effort to make themselves approachable. As she opened up more, the pair ditched the prepaid phones and gave her their real cell phone numbers, so texting would be even easier.
So it was by texts and a handful of shy phone calls, that a truer picture of a girl with a big heart became increasingly clear. Being involved early on in the pregnancy, the situation would be classified as a long match. Communicating daily, it was easy for them to become invested in both her and her family.
Two months after they matched exclusively Matt and Trey traveled to Texas to meet with Harper’s birth parents. To help facilitate, the agency they worked with was also present during their initial meeting. Even with the mediation-like nature of meeting, the chemistry between the parties seemed clear. The couple spent the next few days in Texas with the birth-family when they were surprised with a barbeque. “They had grandparents and parents and sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles and cousins there. There were probably close to 30 people in all, all of whom were excited to welcome us as part of their family!” said Matt. Still reeling with appreciation, the two recount the details of the remarkable and unexpected showing of support.
Three months after the barbeque, Harper met her dads for the first time. The couple rushed from Tennessee to Texas to meet their new daughter. Matt and Trey’s experience during the 48-hour period following Harper’s birth was tense. It was during this time Harper’s mother could have chosen not to terminate her rights and the entire journey would need to be started again. Matt recounts, still exasperated, “Here we [were], new dads, taking care of a baby in a hotel room with no family around – just the two of us. We had no clue what we were doing and we were completely worried about whether or not she was going to be ours officially.”
Harper’s mom gave no indication that she was not confident in her decision to terminate her rights, but Matt and Trey were also wrangling their own emotions. The closeness to the birth-family, cultivated during their long match, allowed them to see both sides of the situation. “When we got Harper it was so difficult to feel happy or excited with having a new family because it felt like we were tearing another family apart,” explained Matt. Indeed, it was a vulnerable situation whose gravity could not be predicted, only felt in the moment.
A few days after arriving in Texas, worst case scenarios were put to rest when Matt and Trey officially became parents. Of course they felt for Harper’s birth-parents as they signed away their rights; however, both sides were also elated for the potential of Harper’s future and how the parties involved would remain well connected through her.
Matt and Trey are still in consistent contact with Harper’s mom and text on an almost daily basis. They also send photo updates and Facetime with her regularly. It truly feels like an integrated family, right down to the duplicate stuffed foxes Matt and Trey thought to give to both Harper and her birth-mother, so when they send photos of Harper with the fox she has a tangible point of reference and something to help her feel connected.
They are planning a visit to Texas soon to visit the birth-family. While this was a stipulation of open adoption agreement, it is something the couple are thrilled to comply with. Both their parents are hoping to come along too. The grandparents are already connected to Harper’s birth-grandparents over Facebook and love sharing their excitement about Harper. “It really has become an extended family,” says Trey. It does seem clear that everyone involved just wants Harper to feel loved, no matter their connection.
“[For us] there’s nothing negative about adoption,” Trey said with calm conviction when asked about how the pair plan to tackle future conversations about her adoption. They don’t intend to have the adoption conversation with Harper because she will know her birth and adoptive families. A situation that feels like it will come naturally given the connections created. “We feel very lucky for our experience and how it worked out for us. Not everyone has the same kind [of positive experience],” added Matt.