Gay Dad Life

From IKEA to Ellen: The Story of the Gay Dad Family Triplets

Justin Ruehs and Adam Smeets tried for two and a half years with three surrogates before finally getting pregnant. Then they learned they were expecting triplets.


The arrival of Harper, Collins and Emmett in June has been celebrated in the media worldwide. Even before then, the family first made news when they won an IKEA Facebook contest for a "room makeover." The homewares company filmed a video of the expecting dads receiving a fully-furnished baby room.

Next, the news caught on that they may have been the first gay couple to have triplets using both of their DNA—a claim they prefer not to make because most countries do not report those statistics, so it's impossible to know for sure.

And recently, the pair appeared on Ellen after a close friend wrote to the comedian about their story. On the show, Ellen DeGeneres had a personalized "Our Daddies Were on Ellen" triplet stroller rolled out onto the stage for them. She promised to cover the family's diaper costs until the kids grow out of diapers. And the photo service company Shutterfly added a gift of $10,000.

"Ellen was a whirlwind of excitement," Justin says. The attention has brought both encouragement from around the world and some unwanted attention.

"National TV is a bit scary, especially when you know Ellen's audience is so big. We wanted to make sure that we not only represented our story, ourselves, our family, but that we were also a good face for LGBTQ families," Justin says.

"What's really been upsetting is that a lot of international outlets—and even some local—are running stories about us that we didn't even know about," Justin says. Some publications have, without permission, used a frame from a local TV story that shows Emmett's face.

"I don't have a chance to tell them, 'You're not allowed to run my child's photo.'"

Adam says he was particularly affected by strangers' speculation about whether or not the couple deserved the gifts, arguing that there are other families out there with more need.

"No one knows the volume of work that has had to go in to make this happen," he says. The couple’s pregnancy expenses increased the moment they learned they would have triplets — each child carries an additional surrogacy fee—and continued to grow with the high-risk pregnancy and complications with the surrogate’s health after birth.

"That $10,000 isn't even 10% of what we owe," he says.

Even though the birth of their children made news around the world, the couple hesitated to tell anyone when they first learned they were expecting. A miscarriage last year had left them weary of sharing the news too soon.

"We told our families a year prior when we were pregnant—and it's just really hard to make the calls back and say you're not pregnant anymore," Justin says. "I think with the triplets, we just wanted to focus on making sure that everything was going right — making sure that they were healthy, making sure that they were growing right."

They told their employers first, out of necessity. They would need to save up the whole year's worth of time off and use it all at once to stay home with their newborns as long as possible.

Then they told their immediate family and each of their best friends. And so although only a few people knew it at the time, they quietly began preparing to grow their family.

"We've learned through the process you have to be joyful when you're to be joyful," Justin says. They moved to a home in the suburbs that was more affordable for a big family than their downtown Chicago home. When they found a good sale on baby clothes or diapers, they would stock up.

The couple welcomed three healthy babies in June.

"In the beginning, because they were born early, they had to eat every three hours," Justin says. That would take about an hour. Then they would need to go down for a nap.

"Then you would have, like, an hour. You could go take a quick nap or get one thing done."

Around the clock, the couple worked together like a team — a very sleep-deprived team — to keep the newborns fed, bathed and their diapers changed. Adam's parents came to live with them temporarily to help.

They began early sleep training after two and a half months. Now the babies "work" during the day, practicing with tummy time, sit-me-ups or play mats. They still eat every three hours while the sun is up.

"About six in the evening is the witching hour for the kids, so we'll kind of take them for a walk in the neighborhood," Justin says. The family walks for about an hour and returns for the babies' final feeding before their eight o'clock bedtime.

They only eat again at four in the morning. Though the feedings are fewer, they're still logistically complicated with two parents and three babies.

First, for that early morning meal, they'll grab the two most in need of feeding. Then, while one dad feeds the third kid, the other heads to the kitchen to sterilize bottles.

"We'll use that 30 minutes to get our housework done for the day," Justin says. "I think it would be impossible for us to go through a day without a schedule. Because if we didn't, we would always be feeding, we would always be changing diapers."

The couple has returned to work and relies on a nanny four days a week and Adam's parents on Fridays.

"It's a new type of exhaustion where you're just kind of zombie-like. You have to function, so you do," Adam says. “We’re now eight-o’clock-bed people and five-o’clock morning people, which I never thought I would be."

The babies are now old enough that they watch their dads as they walk around the room. All the late nights, exhaustion and financial woes fade away, if just for a moment, when one of the babies looks up and smiles at their daddy.

"That's kind of your first reward, when they start smiling at you," Justin says.

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Gay Uncles

Gay Uncles are an Essential Part of This Gay Dad Family's Village

It takes a village to raise a child, and this village includes many gay uncles

In November last year, Ottawa-based husbands Matt Ottaviani and Rej Gareau (whose story we shared in July) became first-time dads through surrogacy. They were overjoyed to welcome their daughter Andy and become a family of three.

But as many of us know, raising a child isn't always just about the nuclear family. The African proverb "it takes a village to raise a child" is a commonly repeated phrase, and rings very true for many families. Matt and Rej are no different, and when they shared their story last month, one thing jumped out to us: the important role Andy's guncles play in her and her dads' lives.

In honor of Gay Uncles Day today, we reached out to Andy's many guncles to learn first-hand how their relationship with the family affects their lives. Here's what they had to say.

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Gay Dad Life

Need a Sitter for Your Kids? Gays With Kids Reviews UrbanSitter

Back-to-school is already here for some of us, and if you're looking for a sitter to help out with school runs, after-school pick-ups, and the occasional date night, check out our review of UrbanSitter.

Instagram @davidcblacker

We moved from New York to Boston the summer of 2017. Along with the Manhattan skyline, our beloved Broadway, and late-night cookie deliveries, we also left behind our sitters — two sisters who had become more like family.

After settling for several months into our new home and neighborhood, we realized we hadn't had a dads' night out since our move. Our kids were still too young to leave alone at night, so I began what I presumed would be the tedious task of finding a sitter.

The first thing I did was to leave a post on our local parents' Facebook group. The dad of one of our daughters' classmates told me about UrbanSitter, a website and mobile app that he'd had success using to find last-minute sitters a few times. He also mentioned that within the app, I could see see babysitters and nannies recommended by parents at our kids' school in addition to local parenting groups.

While I appreciated the tip, I let him know that I was really hoping for a direct referral. But when none others came from the — other than a couple of middle schoolers looking for their first sitting jobs — I decided to give it a try.

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Move over Modern Family, there are some new gay dads taking over the small screen! Big Bad Boo Studios is bringing their animated series The Bravest Knight to Hulu. The series is based upon a children's book called "The Bravest Knight Who Ever Lived" by Daniel Errico, and it follows the life of Sir Cedric - now grown and married to Prince Andrew - as he regales their adopted daughter Nia with tales of his knighthood journey as she trains to become a knight herself.

"We are so excited about The Bravest Knight, its values and our partnership with Hulu," said Shabnam Rezaei, the director of the series and co-founder of Big Bad Boo Studios. "They understand how to push the envelope with authentic storytelling."

"I immediately fell in love with the idea of a girl wanting to work hard and make something of herself," Rezaei continued. "I also have a nephew who has two dads, so it's a very personal issue for me. I want him to have role models when he's watching TV. I want him to feel like having two dads is completely normal. That's what this show is going to do for him."

Errico's book was first realized as an animation when Hulu created a short film based upon his writing and were interested in exploring the concept of a full series. "I watched the eight minutes on Hulu and at the end the prince and the knight get married and I was in tears," says Rezaei. Rezaei then stepped in to create all new art work including new character design by Tim Linklater and backgrounds by Sarita Kolhatra. Together, they created a kickass bible and pitched the series to Hulu and were successful.

Diversity and inclusivity is celebrated throughout The Bravest Knight, reflected by its casting choices. Nia is played by Storm Reid, from "A Wrinkle in Time," and her dads Sir Cedric and Prince Andrew are voiced by T.R. Knight and Wilson Cruz respectively. The star studded cast also includes Wanda Sykes, Bobby Moynihan, RuPaul, Steven Weber, Teri Polo, AJ McLean, Jazz Jennings, Maz Jobrani and Christine Baranski as the formidable Red Dragon.

"With so many wonderful stories yet to be told, we hope that The Bravest Knight stands as an example of the undeniable strength in inclusivity, and the inherent joy in all forms of love and identity," said Errico, the author of the original book.

The first 5 episodes were released on June 21, and there are 8 more planned for release before the end of the year. Be sure to tune in!

This is the Main Title Song for Big Bad Boo's Hulu Original Series "The Bravest Knight". The song is performed by Justin Tranter and composed by Michael Plow...

Entertainment

Single Gay Dad Featured on Season Three of GLOW

Actor Kevin Cahoon joins the Gorgeous Ladies of Wresting in Vegas as a single gay dad — and drag queen — on Season Three of the hit Netflix show

For a couple of years now, Hollywood has been obsessed with gay dad characters (and who can blame them?) But the latest show to get hip to a story line featuring gay man raising kids is Netflix's GLOW, which explores a female wresting troop in the late 1980s.

But GLOW is helping represent a gay character that rarely gets time in the limelight:the single gay dad. In Season three of the hit comedy — which stars Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, and Marc Maron — actor Kevin Cahoon joins the case as Bobby Barnes, a single gay father who plays a female impersonator. (80s divas only, of course — Joan Collins and Babs among them)


"I've never done female impersonation," the openly gay actor told OutSmart Magazine, "so I tried to learn really quick. You will know them all; I was very familiar with all of them. There were plenty of talk shows and performances on YouTube to study. I learned that their breathing was very informative."

A single gay dad AND drag queen on television? It's about damn time if you ask us.

Read the full interview with Cahoon here.

Politics

Utah Court Rules Gay Couples Can't Be Excluded From Surrogacy Contracts

The Utah Supreme Court found in favor of a gay couple attempting to enter into a surrogacy contract.

DRAKE BUSATH/ UTCOURTS.GOV

Earlier this month, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that a same-sex couples can't be excluded from entering into enforceable surrogacy contracts, and sent a case concerning a gay male couple back to trial court to approve their petition for a surrogacy arrangement.

As reported in Gay City News, the case concerns Utah's 2005 law on surrogacy, which was enacted prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. As a result, the content of the law is gendered, saying that surrogacy contracts should only be enforceable if the "intended mother" is unable to bear a child. When a gay couple approached District Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox to enter into a surrogacy arrangement, he denied them, arguing that the state's law only concerned opposite sex couples.

"This opinion is an important contribution to the growing body of cases adopting a broad construction of the precedent created by Obergefell v. Hodges and the Supreme Court's subsequent decision in Pavan v. Smith," according to GCN. "It's also worth noting that same-sex couples in Utah now enjoy a right denied them here in New York, where compensated gestational surrogacy contracts remain illegal for all couples."

Read the full article here.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Working:​ One Father's Plea for Gun Reform

One gay dad's plea to our leaders to enact sensible gun control

My articles on GaysWithKids aspire to be lighthearted, helpful and humorous. This one won't be any of those things. Because I'm feeling heavyhearted, helpless and sad. Last week I woke up to news of yet another mass shooting. This time at a family-friendly Garlic Festival in northern California. I don't know if it's because this one hit so close to home, or if it's because the headline included a picture of the innocent 6-year old who was among those killed, but I am overcome with emotion. But mostly I am angry. And I don't know what to do with my anger.

Then, just a few days later came two additional horrific mass shootings that stole the lives of at least 32 more innocent people, many of them children. And then there's the "everyday" gun violence that plagues American cities like Chicago, where guns injured another 46 people this past weekend alone… creating so much turmoil, a hospital had to briefly stop taking patients.

How does one verbalize the collective sadness felt around the world? One can't. And that's why I am asking everyone reading this article to commit to getting involved in some way, to help end this epidemic once and for all. Even though the solution is so obvious, we can't allow ourselves to become numb to mass shootings. Because becoming numb isn't going to save anyone.

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Politics

Gay Russian Dads Forced to Flee Moscow

Fearing the Russian government might take their adopted kids into custody because of their sexual orientation, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev fled Moscow

A married couple in Russia, with two adopted children, were just forced the flee their home in Moscow for fear that the authorities would take their children away, according to German news site Deutsche Welle.

Trouble started last month after investigators in Russia opened a criminal inquiry into the proceedings that had allowed the gay couple, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, to legally adopt the two boys —adoption by LGBTQ people in Russia has typically not been recognized. The government became aware of the adoption proceedings after the gay couple brought their 12-year-old son to the hospital, who was complaining of a stomachache. The boy was fine, but after he mentioned offhand that he was adopted and lived with two fathers, the doctor called the police.

Andrei and Yevgeny granted an interview with Deutsche Welle after escaping Moscow, but on the advice of their lawyers have yet to disclose where they are currently located. Here is a quick recap of that conversation:

"In connection with the 'propaganda of non-traditional values,' the state representatives are accused of having neglected their duty of supervision," Andrei said, when asked to explain on what basis the Russian government might take his children into custody. "This means that lesbian couples could even have their biological children taken away because, through their lifestyle choices, they propagate "certain values."

Yevgeny also explained the events that led to the couple's harrowing escape "I was alone in Moscow at that time. A week after Andrei and the children had left the country, there was a knock on my door, but nobody called 'police, open up.' After half an hour the violent knocking stopped. My parents' home was searched. They were looking for the children and our Danish marriage certificate because we got married in Denmark in 2016. My friends then got me out of the country."

Read the full interview here.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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