When they learned they would finally be adopting a newborn, Nathan and Daniel did what any respectable expecting parents would do: They got serious about Pinterest.
Inspired by a photo they found on the site, the couple from Nashville, Tenn., painted one wall of the nursery in primary color blocks. To complement the wall, Daniel’s mother made a multicolored pillow and comforter for the crib.
“It was just amazing,” Daniel says. “We were completely prepared to bring home a baby in October.” After several years of searching, waiting and coming close to adoption only to face rejection after rejection, the moment had finally arrived. Surrounded by supportive family and friends, they threw a baby shower and made final preparations for the baby.
“As we drew closer to the due date, we had booked the flight and we flew to get our son,” Daniel recalls. The couple boarded the plane with baby carrier in tow.
But when they arrived, the expecting birth mother was nowhere to be found. On the brink of labor, she had simply disappeared. Nathan and Daniel flew back home to Nashville with an empty carrier, devastated.
“We were actually advised not to have a baby shower until we brought the baby home,” Daniel says. “But you get so wrapped up in the excitement that everything is like, Ah, that’s not going to happen.”
The couple learned their situation wasn’t all that uncommon. “Birth moms change their minds or they just disappear like ours did. And so, some families will take some time to grieve. But we decided, you know, What’s the point of waiting?”
Prior to entering the matching pool for newborn adoption, the couple had spent several years pursuing adoption through the foster care system. Once, they came close to adoption but learned the child faced challenges which they were not prepared to deal with as parents. Many more times, they were considered but a family who lived closer to the child was selected instead.
“Every time, it was just devastating,” Daniel says. “You get your hopes up and you think this is it but it doesn’t happen. It’s really difficult to remain detached from the process because, after all, this is your family.”
So when, in October 2014, they arrived back home in Nashville still childless, there was no question in their minds that they wanted to jump right back into the matching pool.
“We decided, We are going to open every door we can. We knew our child was out there somewhere,” Daniel says. They continued the search for a newborn and re-entered the foster system pool.
They put their house on the market in hopes of buying a larger home in a neighborhood with better schools.
Soon, they were once again approached regarding a foster child, this time a 5-year-old from another state. “We thought it was a perfect match for us,” Daniel says. When they were again passed over for a family in the child’s area, Daniel and Nathan became discouraged − so discouraged that they decided to give up on pursuing adoption altogether.
Nathan went out one February day for some “shopping therapy.” Instead of finding the distraction he thought he needed, Nathan ran into a couple of moms and their babies. He saw a dad walking hand in hand with a child. After the stress of the past months, those encounters were enough to cement his fear that he would never experience the joy of parenthood himself.
“He said, ‘You know, that’s just not going to be me. It’s just not going to happen for me,’” Daniel says.
That very night, the couple received a call from the adoption agency. The last time they had been chosen for adoption by a birth mother, they’d had six weeks’ notice. This time, the baby had already been born and was waiting for them at the hospital, and once again, in another state.
“They said, ‘How soon can you get here?’” Daniel says. They scrambled to find flights, but found nothing online. They explained the situation to the airline over the phone, but the earliest available flight was on Monday. On the other line, the adoption agency said Monday simply would not work – after all, it was Saturday and the birth mother had already left the hospital.
So, Daniel (photo above, holding their son) and Nathan (photo above, center) packed their suitcases, got in the car and set off on a 15-hour road trip.
“We left our house at one o’clock in the morning and drove straight through,” Daniel recalls. “We went straight to the hospital.”
At five o’clock the next afternoon, they met their son. At that moment, all the turmoil they’d experienced on their path to adoption faded away.
“When we first saw our son, everything just … it didn’t even matter, you know. It was just the best thing,” says Daniel. That was four months ago. “We are so happy to have our family complete. Our son is doing well and is the most amazing little guy,” Daniel says. “We have certainly learned adoption is not for the faint at heart, but it is all worth it in the end!”
This isn’t Daniel’s first go at parenting: He has two adult daughters from his first marriage.
“I certainly don’t have the energy I used to have. I am rocking and bouncing and − my knees aren’t the same as they were 20 years ago,” he chuckles. But raising a child as an openly gay man, with the man he loves, has proven to be an entirely new experience for him.
“Having a child with the person that you love and raising a family together − to me, it’s like the best thing in the world. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”