Gay Dad Family Stories

How One Failed Adoption Turned Into Two Successes for These Dads

Joe and Roberto were heartbroken after a birth mother decided against working with them. But fate (and perseverance!) would soon change their luck — twice over!

Adoption was always the first choice for Joe Motowidlak and husband Roberto Martinez when it came to starting a family. They went the private adoption route, ended up with two different attorneys and had two very different adoption journeys, that lead to two daughters born within a couple of months to one another. Although Joe and Roberto wouldn't change a thing, they consider themselves incredibly fortunate to have the family that they have and are the proud dads with full hearts to their two infant daughters.

Joe met Roberto over 10 years ago when he was working at the Animal Kingdom in Orlando. When the two met, they were both in relationships, but it was clear the attraction was there from the start. Roberto's relationship ended first, and when he heard about issues occurring in Joe's relationship, he made it clear to Joe that he wanted to be the first person Joe called if it did indeed end. "And I did," said Joe. "Two days later we went out on our first date, and we've been happily together ever since!"


Joe, 34, and Roberto, 39, were legally married in Connecticut in 2014, and had a commitment ceremony - which they consider their wedding anniversary - on February 13, 2015.

When the dads first started researching their options to become fathers, they already knew adoption was the right path for them. "We had decided that we had a lot of love to give, and what better than to give it to a child who was in need of it," said Joe. They started their journey in 2017 through the private adoption route and began moving forward with a birth mother the following year in June who was due 25 December 2018. "We talked to her on Google voice, sent her birthday gifts, the whole nine yards," said Joe, explaining their relationship with the birth mom. "In November we flew out to California to meet her for the first time and we hung out all weekend."

After the husbands returned to Florida, the birth mom became very distant. "She did a complete 180 without any explanation why," Joe continued. "Our lawyer told us to get out there well before the due date as the baby was likely to come early because [the birth mother] had gestational diabetes."

The dads-to-be flew out on December 2 only to discover the baby had been born November 30, 2018. A few days went by, and they were able to meet baby Mia for the first time at a local Red Robin. The dads were allowed to hold her when they met. Sadly, after that meeting, the birth mom cut continuous contact with the dads. "We stuck around waiting for some sort of answer, as it was very touch and go with any sort of movement forward," remembered Joe. "One day the birth mom would respond, and other days she wouldn't. After about two weeks of this, she told the lawyer she didn't know if she could do it. So we flew back. It was the hardest thing ever. For five months we had a daughter on the way, and now, we had to start all over again."

Joe and Roberto had a very difficult Christmas as they had believed they'd be sharing it with their little one. Packing up the baby supplies was even harder. But they decided the only thing they could do was get back into the process. "I didn't want to wait, and neither did Roberto."

A few days into the new year, they hired a different lawyer whom they found to be amazing. She helped them realize that the baby in California wasn't theirs, and she had a very comforting demeanor about her, which the husbands knew they needed.

Within a couple of weeks, they were matched with a birth mom in Arizona, who was due on February 12. But a week before they were due to fly to Arizona, the birth mom from California called Roberto in a panic: she was in danger of losing the baby to CPS due to circumstances in her life.

"She wanted us to come to get the baby," said Joe. "She had changed her mind... again." The husbands had 24 hours to decide. "Go for just one, or go for two. Mind you, at any time the mother can change her mind up until she signs her papers. Roberto called me at work and told me she had phoned, and I lost it. It was like our baby had risen from the dead. People told us when we left California to put this behind us and never look back."

They decided to go for two.

Joe and Roberto hoped on a plane, flew to California and got Mia on her two month birthday. They had to wait in the state for a little over a week until they were cleared to travel, then they drove with Mia to Arizona to welcome their second daughter, Elena. For Elena's birth, they were allowed in the room and were able to cut her cord. "The birth mom was as sweet and accommodating as can be." They waited until they could travel, then the new family of four flew back to Orlando.

"After we had the failed placement with Mia, I felt stupid," said Joe. "I didn't think I could put myself out there again like I did. We were very open, and honest with her birth mother, but in the end, it unfortunately wasn't reciprocated. I felt like I couldn't let my guard down like I did again. Our new lawyer, Cheryl Payne, who placed us with Elena really played the dual role of counselor and lawyer. To this day I think she was the only person who really treated us like people, and not a dollar amount or a number. That is what helped me move on. Roberto was very different and matter of fact about everything. He was very much my rock during that hard time."

Both of the family's adoptions are open and they have contact with both birth mothers. "As you can guess, our relationships with each mother is different, as our initial experience was different," elaborated Joe. "We keep in contact via text and Facebook, and make sure they are aware of milestones in each girl's life. We take each interaction one day at a time, and always act in the best interest of the girls."

Today the forever family of four live right behind the Magical Kingdom and every day get to watch the fire works and hear the train whistle blow every morning. The girls are constantly mistaken for twins as they're so close in age. "Orlando is very open and accommodating," says Joe. "People are more confused when they ask us if they are twins, and we say 'no, they're sisters and they're 10 weeks apart.' And then just walk away casually."

The dads have three simple words to others pursuing fatherhood: "Don't give up. We have talked with several dads who have been through failed placements, and if they kept at it, they eventually became dads. Don't be afraid to put your heart into the adoption process either. It will be hard, and it will get messy, but at the end of the day, if your heart is in it, it will be full at the end."

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Gay Dad Life

"Worth Every Blood, Sweat, and Tear": Congrats to Gay Dads on Recent Births and Adoptions!

Wishing all of these gay dads whose families expanded a lifetime of happiness! Congrats to everyone in our community on their recent births and adoptions!

Gay men go through a lot of ups and downs on the path to parenthood. It can be one of the most emotionally draining times in our lives. But as each of these families who are celebrating births and adoptions this month agree: it's worth every hardship.

Congrats to the dads whose families grew this month!

Keep reading...
News

Indiana Court Says Couples Using Sperm Donors​ Can Both Be Listed on Birth Certificate — But Ruling Excludes Male Couples

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the case, a major victory for LGBTQ parents — but the Attorney General may appeal to the Supreme Court.

On Friday, a US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling from a lower court that said that both parents in a same-sex relationship are entitled to be listed on the birth certificate — previously, the state of Indiana had required the non-biological parent within a same-sex relationship using assisted reproductive technologies to adopt their child after the birth in order to get her or his name listed on the birth certificate, a lengthy and expensive process not required of straight couples in the same situation.

It's a double standard LGBTQ parents have long been subjected to in many states across the country. So this represent a major win. As reported by CNN, this ruling "takes a lot of weight off" the shoulders of LGBTQ parents, said Karen Celestino-Horseman, a lawyer representing one of the couples in the case. "They've been living as families and wondering if this was going to tear them apart."

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals deliberated the case, according to CNN, for more than two and a half years, which is one of the longest in the court's history.

However, because all the plaintiffs in the case involved female same-sex couples using sperm donors, the ruling left open the similar question of parenting rights with respect to male couples. Indiana's Attorney General, moreover, may also appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

We'll be following the case closely and be sure to keep you up to date. For more on this recent decision, read CNN's article here.

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.

Surrogacy for Gay Men

Dads Talk About Surrogacy Process in New Video for Northwest Surrogacy Center

The Northwest Surrogacy Center interviewed some of their gay dad clients for a video to celebrate their 25th anniversary of creating families through surrogacy!

Last year, Northwest Surrogacy Center celebrated 25 years of helping parents realize their dreams. And they celebrated in style by inviting the families they've worked with over the past two and a half decades to join them!

At the party, they took the opportunity to film queer dads and dads-to-be, asking them a couple of questions: how did it feel holding your baby for the first time, and tell us about your relationship with your surrogate.

Watch the video below and get ready for the water works!

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Surrogacy for Gay Men

Campaign to Legalize Surrogacy in New York Heats Up with Competing Bills

Two competing bills — one backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and another by Senator Liz Krueger with stricter provisions — are aiming to legalize surrogacy in New York.

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York is once again attempting to legalize commercial surrogacy in the state, which is still just one of three states in the country to forbid the practice.

"This antiquated law is repugnant to our values and we must repeal it once and for all and enact the nation's strongest protections for surrogates and parents choosing to take part in the surrogacy process," Governor Cuomo said in a statement in announcing a broader effort called Love Makes a Family. "This year we must pass gestational surrogacy and expedite the second parent adoption process to complete marriage and family equality."

Keep reading...
Change the World

Your Marriage Should Be Gayer, Says the New York Times

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage: a History," lists the many insights LGBTQ marriages can offer straight ones.

According to a fascinating op-ed in the New York Times this week by Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage: a History," turns out the people convinced marriage equality — legal across the United States for five years now — would usher in the complete breakdown of civil society should be more worried about the health of their own marriages.

In the article, Coontz details the results of research that followed 756 "midlife" straight marriages, and 378 gay marriages, and found same-sex couples reporting the lowest levels of physiological distress — with male gay couples reporting the lowest. The reason for this, the author said, is pretty simple — misogyny. The idea that men and women should strive for parity in a relationship is still a fairly new idea, Coontz said, and traditional gender roles are still pervasive. Gay couples, meanwhile, are free from such presumptions, which often results in happier, healthier relationships.

The most interesting findings in the research relate to parenting. While gender norms tend to be even more emphasized among straight people once they have children, with the bulk of the childrearing falling to mothers, same-sex couples — once again freed from the stereotypes of the male/female divide — parent more equitably. As the author notes, "A 2015 survey found that almost half of dual-earner, same-sex couples shared laundry duties, compared with just under a third of different-sex couples. And a whopping 74 percent of same-sex couples shared routine child care, compared with only 38 percent of straight couples."

When it comes to time spent with children, men in straight marriages spent the least amount of time and the lowest proportion of "nonwork" time, with their children — while men in same-sex marriages spent just as much time with their children as women in a straight relationship. "The result?" Coontz writes, "Children living with same-sex parents experienced, on average, three and a half hours of parenting time per day, compared with two and a half for children living with a heterosexual couple."

Straight fathers devote the least amount of time — about 55 minutes a day — on their children, which includes things like physical needs, reading, playing, and homework. Gay mothers spent an additional 18 minutes each and straight mothers an additional 23 minutes. Gay fathers spent the most time with their children, the study found, an average of an additional 28 minutes a day.

Taken together, straight couples spend an average of 2 hours and 14 minutes on their children. Lesbian moms spend an additional 13 minutes, while gay men spend 33 more minutes than straight couples.

One factor, the author notes, that can help explain this difference is this: gay parents rarely end up with an unintended or unwanted child, whereas a full 45% percent of pregnancies in straight relationships in 2011 (the last year data is available) were unintended, and 18% were unwanted.

But right. Gay people shouldn't be parents.

Gay Dad Photo Essays

How Single Dads Are Celebrating Valentine's Day This Year

Valentine's Day is not just for lovers! We caught up with 8 single gay dads to see how they plan to celebrate Valentine's Day with this year.

Valentine's Day is not just for lovers; it's also a day to celebrate our loved ones. And that's exactly what these single dads are doing.

Within our community, GWK has a large group of admirable, active, and awesome (!) single dads and we want to honor them! On Valentine's Day, they and their kids celebrate their family unit in the sweetest possible ways. We asked the dads to share these moments with us, and, where possible, one of the most heartwarming things they've experienced with their kids on Valentine's Day to date.

Hear their stories below.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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