Personal Essays by Gay Dads

No, My Kids Don't Have a Mom; But I'm a Dad Who Learned From the Best

When his mom passed, Bradley Pounds couldn't imagine becoming a dad without her by his side. "But storms pass," he said, and "dreams endure."

A month before our first child was born via surrogacy, I came home late from work to find my husband sitting on the sofa in the dark. The blue light from the television lit up his face. His eyes were puffy; he'd obviously been crying.

Given the timing, I was surprised to see him in that state. This was our victory lap. Here's our story in a nutshell: After a nightmarish surrogacy journey failed a year prior, burning through 19 embryos and $50k with no results to show for either, we had opted to lay this project down and lick our wounds for a few years. Then, an incredibly generous woman stepped forward and offered to donate her eggs for no compensation. We took this as a sign that we were meant to get back in the game. We decided to throw a Hail Mary pass and try again, and this time we found ourselves working with an excellent reproductive clinic and surrogate sent straight from heaven. It all clicked, we got pregnant on the first try.


Bradley and his mom

This time around, it wasn't just an easy pregnancy but a fairytale journey of awe and anticipation. In the weeks prior we had FIVE baby showers -- one at church, one at each of our jobs, one for family, and then the fun boozy one with friends. (We didn't have to buy a single diaper until Jake was seven months old.) We were on top of the world.

I sat down beside my husband and asked him what was the matter.

"Our kids . . . they're not gonna have a Mom."

My heart sank a little bit. The 'no Mom' bridge is one that gay dads have to cross early in our parenting journeys, so it would be pretty nuclear if he was still stuck on that point a few weeks before delivery. I pressed him for more. He wasn't experiencing regret about our decision to bring a child into the world; he was certain about that. No, it was another sadness altogether. It was grief. He was mourning the loss of the mother that Jake would never have.

Shannon and his mom

Shannon and I both grew up the sons of devoted, joyful mothers. Shannon's mom is soft-spoken, agreeable and friendly. I think she's Jake's favorite person on the planet, with Shannon and I competing for a distant second place. Most of my friends have tenuous relationship with their mothers-in-law. Not me. I've repeatedly asked mine to just move in with us but she won't take the bait.

I struggle to find words to describe my own mother. She was special. She was magnetic in a way that she refused to acknowledge. People said she was the prettiest woman in town, which would only elicit a giant eye roll from her before she swiftly changed the subject. It's true, she was gorgeous -- but I think what people really meant is that she put them at ease; she made everyone feel seen and encouraged.

The two of us were incredibly close. My mom turned 18 on a Tuesday and had me the following Sunday. We grew up together. We were friends, and my favorite thing to do was make her laugh. I can remember being four years old and dictating my first story to her at the kitchen table. She helped me write before I could read. Her hands were soft and her eyes were bright. She smelled like a thousand flowers.

Bradley and his mom

When I was 29, my otherwise healthy mother went to see her doctor for a backache. She left that appointment with a diagnosis of metastatic liver cancer, and we buried her three months later. She was 47. After mom died, I put my dreams of becoming a parent on a shelf. I couldn't imagine doing it without her there to teach me how to change diapers or listen to me whine on the phone about being sleep deprived. When I pictured what fatherhood would look like, it always involved her standing beside me. If I couldn't have that, I wasn't sure I wanted to be a dad at all.

But storms pass, life returns to normal and dreams endure. Jake was born in 2017, followed by our daughter earlier this year. We named her Laura Ruth, after our moms. We've surrounded them with positive, loving women in important roles in their lives. They know their surrogate and their egg donor, and they're blessed with a few dozen aunts, grandmother figures and friends who love them and provide positive role modeling. I've learned that moms tend to rush in and fill the space left behind by one of their own, in a way that I'm not sure that dads do.

The truth is that our kids don't have a mom. They have a couple of guys with rough hands who, on their best days, smell like Tide. But we can make them feel seen and loved, and know that for us they are the sun in our morning and the stars in our night. We can be gentle and nurturing. We can give them safety and closeness. Because we learned from the best.

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Become a Gay Dad

Curious About Covid 19's Impact on Foster Care and Adoption?

Leading industry experts answer questions from queer men about the impact of Covid-19 on the adoption and foster care processes.

Recently, GWK hosted a series of free webinars with leading experts led by industry experts in the fields of adoption and foster care to learn about up-to-date insights on how the coronavirus affects family building. The presentations left lots of room for audience Q&A, to allow participants to get their individual questions answered — there were some common questions raised during each webinar, however, so we've put together a quick video of our experts answering some of the top concerns from queer men interested in pursuing surrogacy.

Our team of experts include:

Have other questions about the impact of the coronavirus on adoption or foster care that you'd like our experts to answer? Be sure to email us at dads@gayswithkids.com.

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Surrogacy for Gay Men

Top 5 Questions About Covid-19's Impact On Surrogacy

Leading industry experts answer questions from queer men about the impact of Covid-19 on the surrogacy process.

Recently, GWK hosted a series of free webinars with leading experts led by industry experts in the field of surrogacy to learn about up-to-date insights on how the coronavirus affects family building. The presentations left lots of room for audience Q&A, to allow participants to get their individual questions answered — there were some common questions raised during each webinar, however, so we've put together a quick video of our experts answering some of the top concerns from queer men interested in pursuing surrogacy.

Our team of experts include:

Have other questions about the impact of the coronavirus on surrogacy that you'd like our experts to answer? Be sure to email us at dads@gayswithkids.com.


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Transracial Families Series

How These Dads Address White Privilege within Their Transracial Family

The "white savior" complex is real, said Andrew and Don, who are raising two Black children.

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of ongoing posts exploring issues related to transracial families headed by gay, bi and trans men. Interested in being featured as part of the series? Email us at dads@gayswithkids.com

Andrew Kohn, 40, and his husband Donald (Don) Jones, 47, together 13 years, are two white dads raising two Black children in Columbus, Ohio. Do they stick out? Sure. Have they encountered racism? They say they haven't. "I keep waiting for the moment so that I can become my best Julia Sugarbaker," said Andrew. "I think because we're a gay couple with Black kids, we're the other-other and people don't really say things to us. We have never had people touch our kids hair or do something that was inappropriate."

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Children's Books

New LGBTQ-Inclusive Children's Book Asks: What Makes a Family?

A new children's book by Seamus Kirst follows a young girl's journey of emotional discovery after she is asked which of her two dads is her "real dad."

Editor's note: This is a guest post from Seamus Kirst, author of the new LGBTQ-inclusive children's book "Papa, Daddy, Riley."

Throughout my life, I have discovered that reading provides an almost miraculous way of changing the way I think.

There is no medium that better offers insight into the perceptions, feelings and humanity of someone who is different from us. Through reading we become empathetic. Through reading we evolve. I have often emerged from reading a book, and felt like I was changed. In that, even in this digital age, I know I am not alone.

As children, reading shapes how we see the world. The characters, places, and stories we come to love in our books inform us as to what life might offer us as we grow up, and our world begins to expand beyond our own backyards.

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Gay Dad Photo Essays

Interested in Foster Care? These Amazing Dads Have Some Advice

As National Foster Care Month comes to a close, we rounded up some amazing examples of gay men serving as foster care dads, helping provide kids with a bright future.

Every May in the United States, we celebrate National Foster Care Month. With over 437,000 children and youth in foster care, it's our honor to take a look at some of the awesome dads in our community who are opening their hearts and their homes, and providing these kids with a bright future.

Thinking about becoming a foster parent? Check out these resources here, and visit AdoptUSKids.

Meet the Foster Dads!

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Transracial Families Series

This Transracial Family Relies on a 'Support Group' of African American Women

Puerto Rican dads Ferdinand and Manuel are raising a daughter of Jamaican descent — and love to find ways to celebrate their family's diversity

Our second feature in our transracial family series. Read the first one here.

Ferdinand Ortiz, 39, and his husband Manuel Gonzalez, 38, have been together for 7 years. In 2017, they became foster dads when they brought their daughter, Mia Valentina, home from the hospital. She was just three days old at the time. On December 13, 2018, her adoption was finalized.

Mia is of Jamaican and African American heritage, and her dads are both Puerto Rican. When Manuel and Ferdinand began their parenting journey through the foster care system, they received specific training on how to be the parents of a child whose race and culture was different from their own. "We learned that it's important to celebrate our child's culture and surround ourselves with people who can help her be proud of her culture." However, as helpful as this training was, the dads agreed that it would've been beneficial to hear from other transracial families and the type of challenges that they faced.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

How the Shut Down Opened Me Up to Being a Better Dad

David Blacker's dad used to tell him to 'stop and smell the roses' — the shut down has led him to finally take the advice

"Stop and smell the roses." It was the thing my dad always said to me when I was growing up. But like many know-it-all kids, I didn't listen. I was determined to keep my eye on the prize. Whether it was getting good grades in school, getting my work published, scoring the next big promotion, buying a house or starting a family. For me, there was no such thing as resting on my laurels. It has always been about what's next and mapping out the exact course of action to get me there.

Then Covid.

Ten weeks ago, I — along with the rest of the world — was ordered to shelter-in-place... to stop thinking about what's next, and instead, focus on the here and the now. In many ways, the shut down made me shut off everything I thought I knew about being content and living a productive life. And so, for the first time in my 41 years, I have literally been forced to stop and smell the roses. The question is, would I like the way they smell?

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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