Originally Published June 4, 2019
Ryan and Brandon Bolton met in a bar in Chicago in early 2012. Brandon, a professional hair and make-up artist, was touring with a show and happened to go to the same bar that Ryan used to frequent. They eloped in August 2012 and were married in New York.
In June 2013, they moved to Florida, where they began researching their fatherhood journey. "We were going to attempt surrogacy, but the costs were too high," said Ryan. "Adoption was something that was feasible." The husbands decided they needed to get a few puzzle pieces in place before signing, and Brandon was touring on various shows while they saved. They eventually moved forward, signing with their first agency, Adoption Center US, in January 2015.
During their home study, their social worker asked if she could recommend them to another agency, Legal Person, so they could work with two simultaneously. The dads-to-be were more than happy for the recommendation and were excited to move their journey along as quickly as possible.
"We knew we wanted a baby and figured that using more than one agency doubled our chances of getting one soon. We'd heard stories of people waiting for years and we didn't want to fall into that," said Brandon.
In September 2015, they were matched with a birth mom through Legal Person. Brandon and Ryan jumped at this opportunity to become dads, and in January 2016, they welcomed their eldest son Derek.
Then, two days after bringing Derek home, they received a call from Adoption Center US.
"Anita (from Adoption Center US) called us and said there was another baby that needed a home and thought we would be a great fit," said Ryan. "We kept her on speaker phone, wrote notes back and forth and finally Brandon wrote "yes/no" and he circled yes, so did I and that was it. We knew he was meant to be with us and I got to go meet him the following morning."
Parker joined the family just days after his big brother.
Initially, the dads only had to get a second car seat to accommodate their quickly growing family; they had everything else. "We had talked before about all of this and decided we ultimately wanted two children. This decision fast-tracked that, but we felt it was meant to be."
Brandon and Ryan knew that kids were going to be part of their lives together from day one, and were fortunate that everything "just kind of fell into place." That hasn't meant the transition from couple to parents of two kids almost the same age has been easy. "It is very hard and takes a lot of patience," shared Ryan. "Not that there aren't a million amazing aspects, there are. Every stage comes with it's own set of challenges and if you're looking to start a family, just brace yourself for that. Don't look for one phase to be done, thinking that the next will be flawless. I think knowing what to expect - as much as you can - really helps."
Brandon and Ryan's three-and-a-half-year-old sons Derek and Parker have taught them a lot. "I didn't know how intensely I could feel about protecting someone until we met them." Brandon (Papa) and Ryan (Daddy) are completely in love with their two kids and wouldn't change a thing.