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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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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Transracial Families Series

How This Transracial Family Creates a 'Safe Space' to Talk About Their Differences

Kevin and David know they can never understand what it's like growing up as a young black girl — but they strive to create a 'safe space' for their daughters to talk about the experience

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

Is adopting a child whose race and culture is different from your own something that us queer dads need to talk about? Share our experiences? Learn from others? We've been hearing from our community, and the answer has been a resounding, "yes."

With over one-fifth (21.4%) of same-sex couples raising adopted children in the United States today (compared to 3% of different-sex couples), it's highly likely, at the very least, that those families are transcultural. According to April Dinwoodie, Chief Executive of The Donaldson Adoption Institute, Inc., all adoptive families are transcultural. "All, in my opinion, adoptions are transcultural because there are no two families' culture that is exactly the same, even if you went as far as to get very specific about the family of origin and the family of experience and almost make it cookie-cutter … no two families operate the same."

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Gay Dad Life

Movie Night: My Favorite Family Tradition

As his sons have gotten older, the movies have morphed away from cartoons and towards things blowing up — but movie night remains his favorite family tradition.

Editor's Note: This is the next 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 his 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!

Of all of our traditions and rituals, probably the most consistent and longest-lasting one was movie night. Sure, we read the heck out of Harry Potter. But our capacity for watching Harry Potter? We're talking Quidditch World Cup here, folks.

In its early version, movie night looked like this: During the week, I would order a movie and a cartoon from Netflix—back when "Netflix" meant "mail." On Saturday night—and I mean, faithfully, every Saturday night—we would order a pepperoni pizza (which Mark faithfully took the meat off of—I'll get to food later) for delivery and then sit and watch our cartoon and movies while eating. The kids had a say in the movie, but I got to pick the cartoon. They watched enough of their own cartoons on the regular, and besides, this gave me a great opportunity to introduce them to the wonders of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Josie and the Pussycats.


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Gay Dad Life

Happy Mother's Day From Gays With Kids!

To all of the women who have supported the journey of gay, bi and trans men towards fatherhood — thank you, and happy Mother's Day

Mother's Day can be complicated holiday for many gay, bi and trans dads and their kids. Choosing how, when — or even if — to celebrate the day is a uniquely personal decision. But no matter how we've become dads, women have helped us achieve our dreams of fatherhood. And for that reason, we've loved celebrating all of the women who have supported our journeys to fatherhood, in ways big and small, over the years. Check out some of our favorite photos, essays, articles and more below!


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Become a Gay Dad

Webinar Series: Becoming a Dad During a Pandemic

Gays With Kids launches a webinar series with surrogacy, adoption and foster care experts — to explore family planning options for gay, bi and trans men in the age of the coronavirus.

Gay, bi or trans and considering building or growing your family? Gays With Kids is offering FREE webinars led by industry experts in surrogacy, adoption and foster care to give you up-to-date insight on how the coronavirus affects family building. There will be lots of time for audience Q&A, so come prepared for this webinar with your specific questions on starting or continuing your surrogacy journey.

Register via the links below!

SURROGACY

Thinking About Becoming A Dad? Explore Your Options in our Surrogacy Webinar Series.

Come discuss: surrogates, egg Donation, IVF, and embryo creation with leading surrogacy and fertility experts.

Please register for just one of the following 3 surrogacy webinars

Monday, May 4, 2020
4:00-5:00pm PT / 7:00-8:00pm ET

  • Dr. Guy Ringler, California Fertility Partners
  • Victoria Ferrara, Worldwide Surrogacy
Register here (pre-registration required)
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Wednesday, May 6, 2020
4:00-5:00pm PT / 7:00-8:00pm ET
  • Dr. Jerald S. Goldstein, Fertility Specialists of Texas
  • Sam Hyde, Circle Surrogacy
Register here (pre-registration required)
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Friday, May 8, 2020
12:00-1:00pm PT / 3:00-4:00pm ET
  • Dr. Mark Leondires, Reproductive Medical Associates of CT
  • Kristin Hanson, Simple Surrogacy

Register here (pre-registration required)

ADOPTION & FOSTER CARE

Thinking About Becoming A Dad? Explore Your Options in our Adoption Webinar Series.

Come discuss: matching, placements, home studies and finalizations with leading experts in adoption and foster care.

Please register for just one of the following 2 adoption / foster webinars
Tuesday, May 12, 2020
3:00-4:00pm PT / 6:00-7:00pm ET

  • Monica Baker, Spence-Chapin Services to Families & Children
  • Rita Soronen, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
  • Molly Rampe Thomas, Choice Network
Register here (pre-registration required)

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Friday, May 15, 2020
10:00-11:00am PT / 1:00-2:00pm ET

  • Monica Baker, Spence-Chapin Services to Families & Children
  • Rita Soronen, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
  • Molly Rampe Thomas, Choice Network
Register here (pre-registration required)

Gay Dad Life

Top Memes From Parents Sheltered in Place with Kids

Perhaps the ONLY good thing to come out of the coronavirus crisis... hilarious parenting memes.

Very, very few good things have come about since the start of the global coronavirus pandemic, but one of the tiny silver linings — and one of the only ways most of us parents sheltering at home with our kids are staying sane — is this: parenting memes.

We've rounded up our favorites below. (If you know who originated some of these, please let us know so we can give credit!)

Enjoy!


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Fatherhood, the gay way

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