Dad Life

"All You Need Is A Suitcase Or A Drawer"

Note from Brian: We first came up with the concept for Gays With Kids after becoming Levi's dads, and this post from March 2014 was the first story we published. We believe this story provides great advice to those who find themselves becoming new dads with little to no advance notice: All you really need is a suitcase or a drawer!

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“We have a three-day old baby boy in Brooklyn in need of adoptive parents.”

That call was enough to stir away the remnants of a fairly decent hangover earned during a particularly indulgent Memorial Day weekend on Fire Island. It was 2009, and Ferd and I had returned home to our apartment in Hell’s Kitchen on Monday night. I’d been working from home for several years by then, so when I got the call late Tuesday morning I was in our living room trying to get back into work-mode. The laptop was turned on, but I was mostly tuned-out languishing on the couch.

We planned to start our family through adoption, but our hopes of adopting were growing dimmer over time, especially after experiencing one particularly painful false start. So we began to investigate other options, which eventually led to surrogacy. Only a few days before that Memorial Day weekend we signed a contract with a surrogacy agency accompanied by a sizeable non-refundable deposit.

I hung up from the adoption agency with the expectation that they’d get back to us in the next day or two with confirmation that this newborn baby would be ours.

The last of the cobwebs still lingering in my brain from the weekend’s activities were completely swept away as my mind whirled into overdrive with excitement. Ferd and I couldn’t fathom that it was all happening so fast! Barely able to contain ourselves, we did have the presence of mind to agree that it was best not to share the news until there was certainty. Neither of us wanted another instance of having to explain to family and friends that things didn’t work out, again.

So I waited almost a full hour before bursting it out to my parents, my siblings, and a couple of my closest friends. “I think we’re going to be dads,” I told them during succeeding phone calls, swearing each to secrecy. “Please don’t tell anyone until I tell you that I've heard back from the adoption agency.”

The next day we received confirmation that the baby was ours, he was healthy, and that we should plan to pick him up from the hospital the very next morning on what would be the fifth day of his life.

I panicked.

During the past couple of years I had spent considerable time imagining what it would be like to bring home our very own baby. In each scenario I contemplated the circumstances of how the baby entered our lives differed, but one thing remained consistent throughout: By the time we became dads, I knew we’d be fully stocked and prepared.

We’d have a crib set-up with requisite mobile hanging over the top and pull-down musical animal strapped to one side. We’d have a matching dresser, crib, and rocking chair. Closets would be overflowing with all the clothes and necessities to bathe, dress, and keep our baby warm, clean, and comfortable until we no longer needed diapers or a crib. The certificates we earned from the recent baby first aid training course would provide us with confidence that we could respond to any emergency that may arise. Finally, I imagined we’d have lots of help from doting grandparents and extremely qualified baby nurses.

But none of this planning had taken place, so we had absolutely nothing even remotely related to the caring of an infant. There had been no infant CPR course, and neither of us had spent any time with a newborn. Further, long-distance travel kept my folks and Ferd’s mom unable to join us for several days. We couldn’t even find a baby nurse available to help us until after the first couple of days.

So I panicked.

I could not believe that this innocent child not yet a week into this world would be completely entrusted to our care. I seriously wondered how our adoption agency could be so irresponsible as to leave him with us.

Editing my thoughts, I did vocalize my concerns with the agency that we were a bit ill-prepared. The response I got didn’t allay my fears. “All you really need is lots of love. And a suitcase or a drawer.” The latter, of course, was meant to act as a temporary sleeping place.

Ferd took the adoption agency’s advice to heart and remained extremely calm. His serenity freaked me out even more. Not only was I dealing with a negligent adoption agency, but now I also had to contend with a naïve co-parent.

Ignoring the agency’s advice, the first thing we did after learning we’d be bringing our son home the next day was to head to Buy, Buy, Baby, a super-store for everything baby, ironically located in Chelsea, Manhattan’s gay-borhood.

We set out to purchase at least a few urgent things to prepare for our permanent visitor’s arrival the next day. Two hours, three clerks, and several thousand dollars later, we left the store with an incredible assortment of boxes, bags and baby wazzits that were soon delivered to our unsuspecting doorman.

I’ve got a life-time's worth of experience calling in experts for help, from contractors to architects to painters to gardeners to tutors to dog-trainers. And so while I felt better that we had the necessary supplies, I knew that we needed an actual person, a baby expert, to assist us with getting Levi through the first 48 hours before help would arrive.

I recalled walking by a new storefront not far from where we lived called Bump to Baby, so I walked over. The friendly clerk provided me with a list of doulas.

Fortunately, Ferd and I were avid Frasier fans or I would have had no idea what a doula was. But I immediately recalled the episode from the final season during which a very pregnant Daphne and Niles had hired a doula, a woman to help guide them through a natural childbirth. We didn’t need help with the childbirth, but we did need help with holding, feeding, burping, bathing, swaddling, and diaper changing. I figured if a doula worked for Niles, who was incidentally played by gay actor David Hyde Pierce, then a doula would work for gay dads Brian and Ferd.

The doula arrived at our apartment door early the next morning. She arranged for a car service to take us home from the hospital, showed us how to change a diaper on a life-sized baby, and reminded us to take our adoption paperwork, baby carriage, and a change of clothes for Levi to the hospital, all of which were pre-requisites to taking him home with us. Most importantly, she kept us calm.

In hindsight, even if we had time to prepare for Levi’s arrival as I had imagined so often in my daddy daydreams, the truth is that nothing could have properly prepared us for the enormity of bringing home our very own baby. From the first moment I set eyes on Levi, I rightfully sensed that this baby boy would have a profound impact on my life too huge to be able to comprehend at the time. My dormant paternal instincts were immediately awakened, and all that mattered was that Ferd, Levi and I were now a family.

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With everything going on in our country, I think saying that it has been a crazy year is an understatement. It has been emotionally difficult and draining at times for many. This year brought so many new changes that it is hard to wrap our minds around some of them. The daunting feeling of uncertainty looms over our heads as we march forward into this unfamiliar territory led by someone we do not particularly trust.

With that said, one thing will not change- the holidays. For my family, this time of year brings cheer, joy, hope, and optimism for the new year to come.

I have always had one golden rule when it comes to decorating our home for the holidays: the current holiday must pass before decorating for another.

Recently, our two year old, Alli Mae, had started to develop an appreciation for all that Christmas brings. The way she lights up and gets excited when she sees Christmas decorations made me think for the first time in my life, what if I changed things up this year? Decorating earlier will also help attenuate the political frustration that this year brought. That coupled with the amazement that our little girl has for Christmas makes a strong case for decorating for Christmas early. Sure, there are diehard Thanksgiving fans that grumble at the thought of Christmas coming early and I am sure they will give this a healthy eye roll and, if so, that's ok. We are not replacing Thanksgiving... we are enhancing it.

We will most definitely continue to teach our children the meaning of Thanksgiving and to enjoy the symbolic feast that comes along with it. The white pumpkins I usually put out for Thanksgiving really made a statement when I mixed them with the Christmas attire. I was quite surprised and impressed by the final outcome!

These days, one of my primary goals in life is to create an environment for my family that is happy, healthy, and nurturing. I want them to get excited about Christmas, both the true meaning and the atmosphere that it brings. When my children walk into the house, I want them to be transported into a bright, cheerful place that they will always remember. Perhaps it will even inspire the way they celebrate the holidays with their families (and our future grandchildren) in the future. The world can be a harsh, cold and scary place, especially lately it seems. I would be lying if I said I didn't do this for myself, too. I am. For the first time in my life, I am worried for the future of our country. I am terrified of the direction we as Americans are taking and worry it is setting a precedent for what the future will be like for my family. Mass shootings seem to happen monthly now, yet there continues to be a lack of response by Congress to create solutions. Bigotry and racism, masked by patriotism, also plague our society. I know I am speaking of sore subjects, but all of these reasons give me the motivation for welcoming the Christmas season earlier.

I do have faith that in time, competent leaders will emerge and will steer us in a direction that will help fade our fear into the bold and lionhearted society that we are. We as LGBTQ families need to comfort one another. Lets extend our hands to each other. Let this holiday season not be about the "correct" time in which we decorate for Christmas, moreover lets make it about coming together as a community that lifts each other up. Lets protect each other. Lets embrace each other for all the we are, all that we bring and all that we stand for. Let us not be silenced- and pushed into a corner but let us lead by example- while showing our children who their parents are by being respectful and tolerant and warmhearted as we welcome this Christmas season.

Erik and Douglas' two daughters, Ella and Alli Mae, who recently turned 2

May you and your family have the most beautiful and happiest of holidays, regardless of when you choose to welcome Christmas. I pray that 2018 will bring each of you happiness, patience, resilience and with time, we will get there, together!

I would love for you to follow our family's journey on Instagram, Nolapapa.com and like us on Facebook.

Arejay Encinas and his husband Mauricio Camargo wanted to become foster dads so they could help a child find a loving home. The two live in Tucson, Arizona, and were married February 2015. A little less than two years after their wedding, they received a call about a newborn who needed to be fostered. They said yes immediately. In October 2017, the little boy's adoption was finalized. This is the story of two dads and their moving letters to their son Dylan on the day they became a forever family.

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In October this year, James and Andrew took their eldest Olivia (Liv for short) to Disney World for her 2nd birthday.

"We were going to wait under her adoption day," said James, "But she has a real affinity for Winnie the Poo and Belle from Beauty and the Beast ... She loved it!"

Andrew and James have been together a little over 10 years, and they currently are fostering two children, 2-year-old Liv and 5-month-old Brandon (Bran for short).

"We have always wanted to be dads from the moment we met," said James, who was also adopted through foster-care. "That is how I was adopted and it seemed to be the best fit for our family."

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November is National Adoption month, and in the US, around 16,000 same-sex couples are raising more than 22,000 adopted children.

In honor of National Adoption Day, Saturday 18, 2107, we heard from a few of our families on how they celebrate their kids' "forever family" days.

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Welcoming a child into your home though foster care or adoption can be an exciting, but also challenging, time. However, there are several things you can do to help make the transition smoother for the new child and your family.

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In March this year, we shared the story of Michael and Wes, their eldest daughter Katie (and wonderful big sister) and their newborn Talulah. Apart from the sore backs attributed to their age as new dads, Michael and Wes have loved every minute of it. (Watch Talulah's 1st year video below.)

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As celebrations sweep across Australia, the LGBTQ community, along with their allies, rejoice in the results of the marriage equality vote. Despite the controversial campaign that surrounded the plebiscite, love won. And won big! An overwhelming 79.5% of the population took part in the survey (12.7 million people), and in every state and territory, the majority voted "yes," with 61.6%.

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