This week's #GWKThenAndNow gay dads have been together for almost 25 years!
Michael (Poppa) and Edward (Daddy) Baldwin von Brunow live in Whitinsville, Massachusetts with their three sons, Robert, James and Sammy. They also have a 19-year-old daughter, Janessa, who lives on her own. In June the dads will celebrate their 22nd wedding anniversary! Here's their story.
It was 1991 when Michael walked up to Edward in the Midnight Sun club in San Francisco and straight into his heart. Originally from Texas, Edward was now living in San Francisco. Michael was living in Martinez, California at the time, working for a family business that owned and operated senior living centers. As their relationship blossomed, the men moved in together and realized they shared a common desire to become dads.
Still living in California, they soon became foster parents, eventually welcoming over 14 foster children in and out of their home. This experience taught them that they really wanted to become forever dads, so they investigated their options for a permanent family.
"Surrogacy was not our style," said Michael during an interview published by MARE (Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange) in 1996. "And we thought about international adoption, but we knew that there were plenty of kids here that needed a home.”
In 2001 the couple relocated to Massachusetts, a move motivated by wanting to experience four seasons and a desire to be closer to New York City.
After moving, they immediately contacted a local adoption agency in Massachusetts to update their home study and begin the adoption process.
A couple of years later, in 2003, Michael and Edward first saw the children they knew they were meant to adopt. They were looking on the MARE website and saw a sibling group of four. Sammy, James, Robert and Janessa were then 2, 4, 5 and 6, and living in separate foster homes. The men fell in love with the children they saw in that photo, and quickly called their social workers to organize visits.
In January 2004 the four siblings moved in with their new dads. After the initial excitement of being reunited and living together wore off, it actually took the kids some time to get used to one another again. But the family had two more major things to celebrate that year: Michael and Edward's commitment ceremony on June 9 and the adoption finalization in October.
One of the most challenging aspects for Michael and Edward was having to explain to their kids why they were in foster care. So the dads made sure each of their kids knew that they were loved and that they were all part of each other's forever family.
Michael and Edward's advice to other gay men considering adoption is to be prepared for difficult periods, and to understand that the rewards far outweigh those trying times. "If there are two of you, you need to present a united front," shared Edward.
Today, Michael and Edward are happy at home with their sons as they finish high school. Robert is heading to college, James has plans to go into the Navy and Sammy enjoys computer animation, planning to make it his profession.
Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you're part of a gay dad couple together for at least ten years and you'd like to share your family story in a future #GWKThenAndNow column.