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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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

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Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of excerpts from Joseph Sadusky's new book, Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad. The book contains many stories about my life as a dad, as well as lessons learned, and we're excited to share several excerpts from the the book over the course of the next few months. Read previous installments here!

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The Inuit Custom Adoption Program Helped These Dads Form Their Family

After learning about the Inuit Custom Adoption Program from family, Keith and Kevin knew it was the way they wanted to become dads.

Keith Willey, 49, and his husband Kevin Kablutsiak, 42, who live in Ottawa, Canada, first met online in 2010. The couple had their first date soon afterwards in a coffee house and, "haven't looked back since," said Keith. They married on May 22nd, 2016.

Keith, who works as a Policy Advisor with the Canadian Federal Government, and Kevin, who works as the Director of Communications with the Canadian National Inuit Organization (ITK), always knew they wanted kids together, and talked about it early on in their relationship. Still, as gay men, they weren't sure that option would ever be available to them.

"I grew up in the UK in the 1970s so I assumed it would be impossible to have children," said Keith. "I always assumed that I would have to lead a life sort of in the shadows and in secret. Attitudes were so different in the 70s to how they are now that I simply believe that we thought it would be impossible to have a child."

The option materialized for the couple, however, when Kevin's sister, pregnant at the time, approached the two men about adopting her baby through the Inuit adoption process. They knew they couldn't pass up the opportunity.

"Kevin is Inuk and adoption, particularly inter-family adoption, is common in Inuit culture," said Keith.

The Inuit Custom Adoption Process was originally used in the small Inuit societies in the arctic, Kevin explained. It's primarily (though not exclusively) intended as a path for adoption within families. The process is legally recognized by the Canadian legal system.

As Kevin went on to explain, Inuit custom adoption was traditional used to support survival within, what were until quite recently, people living a nomadic lifestyle. It is, in essence, a deeply loving and selfless tradition of giving the gift of life to a carefully selected couple, most often with the guidance of elders (usually the matriarch within a family). If a couple couldn't conceive, for instance, others would sometimes offer their help. Similarly, if a couple lost a child, the grieving parents might be given a baby to help ease the ache of their loss. While most Inuit parents have zero intention of custom adopting their children to other families, adoption continues to be an established method in Inuit regions.

Through this process, and with everyone's agreement, the two men legally adopted Kevin's sister and her husband's child from birth. They named her Abbie. "Kevin's sister and her husband came to stay with us in Ottawa prior to the birth so Abbie was in our care from the moment she was born," said Keith. "She got to come home with us the day after the birth with the legal process taking around 11 months to complete from start to finish."


As far as their parenting styles, the couple say they've drawn on each of their pasts. "Both Kevin and I had somewhat difficult childhoods and have spent a lot of time working through and dealing with childhood trauma," Keith said. "As a result, we are better parents and we continue to look after ourselves and each other as we continue to grow in parenthood."

Though the couple come from different cultures, they said they've had no difficulty developing a parenting approach that works for them both. "I don't think either of us raise Abbie in the same parenting style that we experienced," Keith said, "We both talked and agreed on our approach before Abbie was born and we work well together as a parenting couple."

The result is a parenting style that incorporates some elements of both of their backgrounds, Keith said. "Inuit culture tends to shower children in love and we certainly do that," said Kevin. From English-style parenting, the couple have also borrowed the tendency of English parents to be "pretty obsessive," Keith said, about routines, such as scheduling meals, naps and bedtimes.

Though life was good before Abbie joined the family, "now it's fantastic!" Keith said. "I feel like being a parent was what I was put on this earth to be." Because neither man ever expected to become fathers, moreover, both say they look at parenthood as a privilege rather than a right — a helpful perspective they suggest to other gay men considering fatherhood. "Parenthood is an amazing gift," Keith said, "But remember it's about them, not you — and they deserve the best start in life we can give them."

Though fatherhood came to them somewhat unexpectedly, Keith and Kevin say they couldn't be happier with the way things turned out. "When I reflect on our life together, and where we both came from, it is incredible to me that we are now married, content, and parents to our wonderful panik," Keith said, using the Inuktitut word for daughter. "We are totally blessed."


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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.

Gay Dad Family Stories

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The effort stalled last year after opponents, including several Democrats, successfully argued that the bill didn't go far enough to protect women who serve as surrogates — even though it included a surrogate "bill of rights," the first of its kind in the country, aimed at ensuring protections.

"Millions of New Yorkers need assistance building their families — people struggling with infertility, cancer survivors impacted by treatment, and members of the LGBTQ+ community," the Family Equality Council said in a statement about the victory. "For many, surrogacy is a critically important option. For others, it is the only option. Passage of the Child-Parent Security Act is a massive step forward in providing paths to parenthood for New Yorkers who use reproductive technology, and creates a 'surrogate's bill of rights' that will set a new standard for protecting surrogates nationwide."

Opponents, led by Senator Liz Krueger, had once again attempted to torpedo legalization efforts this year by introducing a second bill that would legalize surrogacy in New York, but also make it the most restrictive state in the country to do so. "A bill that complicates the legal proceedings for the parents and potentially allows them to lose their genetic child is truly unfortunate," said Sam Hyde, President of Circle Surrogacy, referencing to the bill's 8-day waiting period. He also took issue with the bills underlying assumptions about why women decide to serve as a surrogate. The added restrictions imply that "they're entering into these arrangements without full forethought and consideration of the intended parents that they're partnering with," he said.

The bill was sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman, an out gay man who became a father via surrogacy, and Assemblymember Amy Paulin, who has been public with her experiences with infertility.

"My husband and I had our two daughters through surrogacy," Holyman told Gay City News. "But we had to travel 3,000 miles away to California in order to do it. As a gay dad, I'm thrilled parents like us and people struggling with infertility will finally have the chance to create their own families through surrogacy here in New York."

"This law will [give intended parents] the opportunity to have a family in New York and not travel around the country, incurring exorbitant costs simply because they want to be parents," Paulin said for her part. It will "bring New York law in line with the needs of modern families."


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