Gay Dad Life

How We Met Our Daughter's Birth Family

A gay dad talks about the first time he met his daughter's birth family

We had been in the adoption process for two years. Throughout the waiting period we dealt with a few ups-and-downs, including an emotional scammer. We just kept telling ourselves, One day we'll be parents. It WILL happen.

One regular Saturday we received a notification telling us that our adoption profile was marked as "favorite" by a prospective birthparent. Anyone could mark 100 profiles and then narrow it down, so it wasn't a huge deal. The past few times I felt somewhat rejected. We didn't make the cut… why? The feeling reminded me of dating apps. But, on this particular day I didn't worry.


Next morning, another notification. Someone wrote a message! We expected yet one more email from someone in Cambodia with a baby for us - as long as we transferred a moderate sum of money (do people still fall for that?)

I read the message. My skepticism dissolved. A young woman, due in four weeks, was looking for someone to parent her baby girl. She was very straight forward. No additional drama. "You should read this," I told my husband. He read it with caution to shield himself from disappointment.

A few email exchanges later, and she seemed legit. Could she be? It seemed too good to be true - not perfect, just good. We scheduled a phone call for the next day.

Zoe with her birth grandmother (left) and adoptive grandmother, Leo's mom (right)

It was hard to focus on anything else until the call. We exchanged a few emails. When we didn't hear back right away, we read our original email again. Did we say something wrong? We tried to imagine how many ways we could be misunderstood. Did we sound too needy? Too emotional? Too cold? And then there came the reply - we worried for nothing.

When we finally had the phone call, the conversation felt incredibly natural. We arranged to visit them in Atlanta the coming weekend. In the meantime, she talked to our agency. They told us everything checked out. We packed our bags, and trusted our guts. Atlanta, here we come!

Any similarities to online dating ended when we arrived. We got out of the car, so nervous. We never felt anything remotely similar. Was our child's birthmother just behind that door? Would she like us or would she change her mind once she met us? Our adoption profile showed us in our best light… would we disappointed her?

Too many questions. For all we knew, she could have given us a fake address. We had no time to overthink this. We rang the doorbell… or knocked - it's all a blur now. A barking dog greeted us. A man, birth mother's dad, held him back. The dog calmed down. He seemed friendly.

I remember thinking, Alright, the dog likes us. Now on to the rest of the family.

Top: birth mother and adoptive grandmother; Bottom: birth grandparents, Mark with Zoe on his lap, and Leo

A young woman greeted us. She was pregnant - super pregnant. I froze. All I could muster was, "Oh my God!"

She was real! Could this be the birthmom to our child?

We hugged. Her mom came running from the kitchen, nervously shouting in a heavy German accent, "We've never done this before!" We admitted to the same. Everybody broke out in laughter.

Brunch was delicious. We tried to appear calm as we talked. Everything felt very natural. We expected it to be awkward but it wasn't. We shared a lot in common with the family. They were from Germany. We all spoke a mix of German and English, which is what my husband and did at home anyway. My husband and I exchanged looks every time they said something that reminded us of our families.

While this was going on, and everything felt too good to be true, my internal questions continued. Were they feeling the same connection? Or were they just being nice? We trusted that what they said was what they meant. On the other hand we wondered... should we show them how excited we felt? Or should we play it cool?

We knew nothing was for sure until after the birth. We didn't want them to feel pressured. We didn't want to sound cold. But, we also didn't want to look like we couldn't handle our emotions. We wanted them to know us for who we were. At the same time, we didn't want to do anything that could change their minds. Too many polarized thoughts! So many mixed emotions. We had to trust the process. What was meant to be would be.

Leo, Zoe and Mark

Next, to add to the craziness, they told us that the baby could come early... as in that Tuesday! And, they wanted to take us for a 3D ultrasound. "If you are going to be her parents, you should have this experience," they said. Would we actually get to see our baby that day? Both, the excitement and the uncertainty felt like an incredible tug of war.

Somehow, on our way to the ultrasound our nerves settled a bit. Everything felt so right. During the 20-minute long ultrasound, we were mostly figuring out what we were actually looking at. We joked and laughed. At first, the baby covered her eyes with both hands, but later we were able to see her cute little face. What a moment! Then it looked as if she made a "Lady Gaga Monster claw" with her hand. At the end, they let us hear the heart beat. Everybody cried.

After the appointment, my husband and I went to a coffee shop while the birth family went back to the house. We threw our emotionally exhausted bodies into big comfy chairs. We made a list of what we needed if we became parents in… a few days?? Our friends immediately started contacting everyone with kids to see if we could use their baby stuff. Throughout that afternoon, we received texts informing us we had a stroller, a carseat, newborn clothes… We stopped at Babies R Us. It was so surreal. We had no idea what we needed. Where to start? We must have looked pretty overwhelmed.

During dinner with the birthfamily, we laughed a lot and at times teared up. Mostly, we just tried to keep it together.

As we returned home, we wondered if it was possible to get ready for a baby in so little time. Turns out that yes, it was.

Show Comments ()
Change the World

'Homosexuality is Wrong' Utah Teacher Tells Boy Who Gave Thanks for His Two Adoptive Dads

The substitute teacher went on to say two men living together is "sinful." She was fired shortly after.

To anyone with a heart, the moment should have done nothing more than bring a tear to the eye. Last week, just before the Thanksgiving break, a substitute teacher in a fifth grade class in Cedar Hills, Utah — just south of Salt Lake City — asked her students to name something they were thankful for this holiday season.

"I'm thankful for finally being adopted by my two dads," said Daniel, one of the boys, when it was his turn.

Rather than grab a tissue to dab her eyes, or ask the classroom to join her in a hearty round of applause to celebrate Daniel finding his forever family, the teacher took it upon herself to impart her personal religious beliefs onto the young boy. "Homosexuality is wrong," the teacher said in front of the class, adding that it was "sinful" for two men to live together.

The teacher, fortunately, was fired from Kelly Services, the substitute staffing company that employed her, quickly after the incident, but the moment is nonetheless receiving widespread attention in the press — no doubt in part because one of the boy's dads, Louis van Amstel of "Dancing With the Stars," posted a video clip to his 76,000 Twitter followers with the title: "Our child was bullied."

"It shouldn't matter if you're gay, straight, bisexual, black and white," he said to the New York Times in a follow up interview. "If you're adopting a child and if that child goes to a public school, that teacher should not share her opinion about what she thinks we do in our private life."

Louis also revealed that the moment may not have come to light were it not for three of his son's classmates, who told the principal about the teacher's bigoted comments. His son, Daniel, didn't want to report the incident for fear of getting the teacher into trouble.

Louis expressed thanks that the staffing company responded as quickly as it did following the incident — and also stressed that his neighbors and community have rallied behind he and his family in the days afterward, offering support. He wanted to dispel stereotypes that Utah, because of its social conservatism and religiosity, was somehow inherently prejudiced.

"It doesn't mean that all of Utah is now bad," he told the Times. "This is one person."

It's also true that this type of prejudice is in no way limited to so-called red states, and incidents like these happen daily. LGBTQ parents and our children are subjected to homophobic and transphobic comments in schools, hospitals, stores, airlines and elsewhere as we simply go about living our lives. These moments so often fly under the radar — many classmates don't have the courage, as they fortunately did in this case, to report wrongdoing. Some administrators are far less responsive than they were here — and most of us don't have 76,000 Twitter followers to help make these moments of homophobia a national story.

All that aside, let's also get back to what should have been nothing more than a heartwarming moment — Daniel, a fifth grade boy, giving thanks to finally being legally adopted into a loving family.

Entertainment

Amazon's New "Modern Love" Series Includes Episode on Open Adoption

The episode is loosely based on the New York Times "Modern Love" essay written by sex columnist and activist Dan Savage.

In 2005, Dan Savage, the gay sex columnist, contributed one of the most talked about essays for the Modern Love column in The New York Times. Better known for his acerbic wit and cutting political commentary, Savage exposed a more vulnerable side in this piece, sharing the highs, lows and everything in between that comes from the experience of pursuing an open adoption.

His son DJ's birth mother was experiencing what Savage called a "slo-mo suicide": homeless by choice, in and out of prison, and surrounded by drugs. Though Savage has chosen an open adoption so that DJ's birth mother would be a presence in his son's life, she often disappeared for months and sometimes years at a time without contacting the family, leaving their young son with lots of questions and no satisfying answers.

The piece ends on a heartbreaking note, with Savage simply seeking some sort of resolution. "I'm starting to get anxious for this slo-mo suicide to end, whatever that end looks like," he wrote. "I'd prefer that it end with DJ's mother off the streets in an apartment somewhere, pulling her life together. But as she gets older that resolution is getting harder to picture."

At the time, many interpreted Savage's story as a cautionary tale for those considering open adoptions. But in 2016, on the Modern Love Podcast, he asserted that was not his intention: "DJ's mom is alive and well," Savage said. "She's on her feet. She's housed. We talk on the phone occasionally. She and DJ speak on Mother's Day and on DJ's birthday." He added that he "would hate to have anyone listen to that essay or to read it — which was written at a moment of such kind of confusion and despair — and conclude that they shouldn't do the kind of adoption that we did," Savage said. "I think that open adoption is really in the best interest of the child, even if … it presents more challenges for the parents. So I encourage everyone who's thinking about adoption to seriously consider open adoption and not to be dissuaded by my essay."

Now, Savage's piece is getting the small screen treatment as one of 9 episodes included in Amazon Prime's adaption of the column. The episode inspired by Savage's essay, "Hers Was a World of One," contains some departures from Savage's original story — Savage's character, played by Fleabag's Andrew Scott, adopts a daughter rather than a son, for example, and the episode concludes closer to the upbeat note struck in the Podcast version of hist story than in the column.

Either way, we welcome any and all attention to the complexities of open adoption. Check out the episode (which also randomly includes Ed Sheeran in a couple scenes) and tell us what you think!

News

Adopting Dogs Improves Gay Couples' Relationships, Says Adorable Study

In what may be a "pre-curser to parenthood," 56% of gay and bi couples reported spending more time with their partners after adopting a dog.

As part of what may be the most adorable study you never knew you needed, pet-sitting website Rover.com found that gay and bi couples who adopt dogs reportedly boast stronger relationships as a result — 56% of gay and bi couples said they spent more time with their partners after adopting a dog. More than half of participants also said that owning a dog can help prepare couples for children.

Interestingly, gay and bi couples were also more likely to prepare for potential difficulties in their arrangements — 21% of gay and bi couples reported setting up a "pet-nup" agreement to determine custody of their new pup in case their relationship didn't last. Only 12% of straight couples, in contrast, did the same.

"You can outline the practicalities of what would happen in the event you split from your partner whether you have joint or sole custody," Rover.com dog behaviorist Louise Glazebrook told Australia's QN News. "It's a real tragedy to see breakups results in dogs needing to be re-homed.

There was, however, one clear downside to pet ownership mentioned in the study — 17% of respondents said they have less sex now that they're sharing a bed with their pup.

What to Buy

A Gift Guide for LGBTQ Inclusive Children's Books

Need some ideas for good LGBTQ-inclusive children's books? Look no further than our gift guide!

Every year we see more books released that feature our families, and we're here for it! We're especially excited for the day when diverse and LGBTQ+ inclusive books are less of "the odd one out" and rather considered part of every kids' everyday literacy.

To help us reach that day, we need to keep supporting our community and allies who write these stories. So here's a list of some of the great books that need to be in your library, and gifts to the other kids in your lives.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Broadway Performer's Surrogacy Journey Briefly Sidetracked — for One Very 'Wicked' Reason

"Broadway Husbands" Stephen and Bret explain the exciting reasons they had to hit pause on their surrogacy journey — but don't worry, they're back on track!

In the latest video of the Broadway Husbands sharing their path to fatherhood, Stephen and Bret explain their hiatus for the past 4 months. The couple have big news to share including a relocation, a job announcement, and the fact that they're getting ready to restart their journey (which they had to take a brief pause from since September).

Watch their video to find out their latest news.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Family Stories

These Gay Dads Lost Everything After Hurricane Dorian — Except Hope

The couple, who live in "Hope Town" in the Bahamas, lost everything after suffering a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian this past summer.

Max Bethel-Jones, 52, had traveled to more than 120 countries over the last 30 years working with the United Nations, but had never been to the Bahamas — in 2015, he decided to apply for a private teaching job as a special needs teacher in Freeport on the island of Grand Bahama.

Just weeks after his arrival, he'd get a whole lot more than another pin in his map of visited countries when he attended a social event at Freeport Rugby. "My object was to ogle the local male talent but several women had other ideas," he said. One woman was particularly insistent, he said, but after a couple of drinks she got the hint that he batted for the other rugby team. "She promptly told me there was someone I should meet."

Keep reading... Show less
News

Gay Dads Told One Must Identify as 'Mother' to Enroll in Daycare

The Israeli gay dads told one must identify as mother — like a "normal couple" — in order to receive financial assistance for daycare.

Israeli dads Guy Sadak Shoham and Chai Aviv Shoham were trying to enroll their two-year-old twins in daycare when they were told by a government official that one would need to identify as the "mother" in order to be cleared.

According to Out Magazine, the couple was attempting to apply for financial aid to help pay for the costs of preschool when a government bureaucrat called them to discuss their eligibility.

"I understand that you are both fathers and understand that you both run a shared household, but there is always the one who is more dominant, who is more the mother," the government said, according to an interview on the Israel site Ynet (translated by Out Magazine). "I am just asking for a written statement in your hand which of you is the mother. From the point of view of the work, which works less than the father. Like a normal couple."

The official, apparently, said she was beholden to rules set for in the Ministry of Economy.

"It is mostly sad and a little disturbing," one of the dads told Ynet. "These are concepts that we consider the past. We do not necessarily come up with allegations against this representative, she is ultimately subject to the guidelines and as she said, they are the state. It is also sad that the state's definition of a mother is someone who works less and is at home with the children, and that we must choose which of us meets that definition."

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, fortunately, issued an apology following the incident, and promised to update its protocols. "We will emphasize that the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs practices explicitly treat all types of families and grant equal rights to all," the ministry wrote in a statement, an apology that was called "insufficient" by Ohad Hizki, the director-general of the National LGBT Task Force.

"The Ministry of Labor and Welfare must sharpen its procedures immediately to prevent recurrence of cases of this kind, as other public organizations have been able to do," he said.

Read more about this story on Out Magazine.

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse