Grayson was born in the middle of May 2010. Two days later, Marty Forth and Patrick Sinclair went to meet their son and bring him home from a hospital just a short walk from their Manhattan home.
“You show up at the hospital to pick up your kid and you have to have a car seat,” says Marty. It felt absurd to bring a car seat with no car, but the law requires it. “So, we showed up with the car seat and it clicked into the stroller and we walked across Central Park to our home. It was the best walk across Central Park ever.”
Other than the car seat, they hadn’t bought a thing for the baby room – they’d been warned not to. The mother had 30 days to change her mind and keep her baby. “No one acted like it wasn’t the real thing for those 30 days, but it was in the back of their minds,” he says.
Meanwhile, Grayson’s birth mother was composing a letter to her son’s new fathers. The young woman had hidden her pregnancy from her family and asked Marty and Patrick to simply send photos and letters as Grayson grew up – she didn’t want contact with him as part of the open adoption arrangement.
But after two days in the hospital with her baby, she had changed her mind.
“She had sent us a long email saying after spending two days in the hospital with him, letters and pictures weren’t going to be enough,” Marty says.
The couple agreed to involve her in Grayson’s life – and, naturally, in theirs. Now, she is practically part of the family. Though she has only slowly revealed the truth about her pregnancy to her own family members, she spends time with Marty and Patrick’s.
Both men had known they wanted kids since before they met, and that they wanted to adopt. They pursued adoption through a New York non-profit agency, Spence-Chapin. The organization specializes in open adoptions, which allow the birth mother to remain in contact with the adoptive family at a level agreed to by both parties.
Though the application process was rigorous – “It’s like getting into college” – they would be connected with an expectant mother without the often protracted foster-to-adopt process, and much more affordably than at many for-profit adoption agencies.
The application process required taking an educational course with other prospective parents, attending monthly meetings and completing a so-called “adoption book” for the expecting mother to read when considering an adoptive family.
“The final project, if you will, is you have to write this single-page letter to the mother, and that’s the first thing they see when they open the book,” Marty says. “They read the letters, they pick two or three of those they want to see, and then you’re contacted and they give you information about the mother, and you choose if you want to go ahead.”
Only then would the birth mother receive the adoption book.
“The first meeting was a little jarring: Everybody has to tell their infertility story. We had been warned about that,” Marty says. “We didn’t want to be flippant, but, ‘We’re gay; we can’t have kids.’ That’s our story.”
Though they were the only gay couple in the class, they would later learn that worked to their benefit: The birth mother who chose them specifically sought out a gay couple to adopt her child.
By February 2010, Marty and Patrick’s application was ready to enter the selection pool. They didn’t have to wait long. The third mother to request their book chose them, and just a few months later, Grayson was born.
Many of the couple's gay friends back home were unsure what to do with a kid in the mix. ”There are guys who don’t want to have brunch on Sundays with a kid,” Marty says. “[There’s] this belief – which is an odd belief – that you have to become a new person in the gay world, so you have to become a ‘gay dad’ rather than just a ‘gay guy.’”
But, he says, their priorities have changed, too. “You now care for this young person, and your life changes. A lot of things take on a new meaning, like holidays.
Their world has changed, and one of those changes was rediscovering old, forgotten joys. “I don’t know if I forgot or what, but Cheerios are amazing and I missed them. Grilled cheeses – all kinds of rediscovering. Watching movies you watched when you were a kid.”
Their family inspired other gay men they knew to consider the possibility. They've even had the opportunity to offer guidance to other gay couples pursuing adoption.
One evening in mid 2014, when Grayson was 4, Marty, Patrick and Grayson’s birth mother met for dinner. Each had something to tell the other. She was thrilled to let them know she had told one of her siblings about Grayson, a step in the direction of telling her whole family.
The couple’s news was troublesome for her: Patrick had accepted a position in Hong Kong and the family would move there on New Year’s Day 2015. Nonetheless, they remain steadfast in their commitment to involve her in their lives.
“We put her into our expat package and she is a member of our ‘immediate family’ who is flown over every year,” Marty says. She visited them earlier this year, and they’ve just returned from a visit to the States, spending time with her and their families.
The family has found a strong network of gay families in Hong Kong, including a group called “Rainbow Families.” Their first Sunday in Hong Kong, the group met near their house for brunch. The entire family was there!