The other day I asked my husband “What do you remember most about life before the babies?” It didn’t take him long to say, “Naps. I miss naps.” I smiled in agreement. It was late, the twins had just fallen asleep and we were watching a Star Trek: Voyager rerun to relax. Relaxing these days means falling asleep on the couch before the opening credits finish rolling, then dragging ourselves to bed by the time Captain Janeway foils the Borg Queen’s plot and the Delta Quadrant sighs in relief.
My husband Derek and I got married legally in Washington, D.C. on April 24, 2011, but in my heart we got married the day I met him, in an airport in China six years prior. We were both Peace Corps Volunteers, I was in the group a year a head of Derek’s and by cosmic grace I accidentally ran into this new group of volunteers in an overcrowded airport. I had just landed from a dream trip to Tibet where I did not find enlightenment and was in awe when I saw this group of enthusiastic Americans. They looked so clean and healthy; their teeth sparkled wildly like diamonds. When I saw Derek, as clichéd as it sounds, it was love at first sight. From that moment it was my mission to woo him. It took some convincing, but almost ten years later, here we are.
Before China, before I had a husband, before naps were a high commodity, I was a teacher for fifteen years and loved it, but nothing beats being a stay-at-home dad. Despite all the tantrums, the permanent marker drawings on the couch, the early morning wake-ups, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But the road to parenthood was difficult. We had always wanted to be parents and because we live outside of the States surrogacy was the only viable option. We found an agency that we felt comfortable with and after several attempts, Derek and I were pregnant. We were over the moon. We had a name picked out, we told our parents, and I had started to buy baby clothes. We did everything that expecting parents do. Then, a few months into the pregnancy, our surrogate had a miscarriage.
Although it wasn’t my body, although I didn’t feel the presence or absence of that baby inside me, the pain was all the same.
Our surrogate was fine, and we decided to put everything on hold. I remember folding and refolding the baby’s clothes and blankets imagining her dark eyes, a round face, what her skin would have felt like against mine. This loss was so piercing; the thought of doing this again was heartbreaking. I can’t remember much else about his experience. According to my husband, I hardly spoke for months.
But Derek was persistent and we decided to try once more. I was less than happy and this time kept everything to myself. Later that year our doctor said we were pregnant. Not only pregnant; we were definitely having twins and there was a strong possibility we could have triplets.
When I heard the word “triplet” I felt hope and joy for the first time. My mind fast-forwarded to a hit reality show: me as the dashing, in control Latino stay-at-home papi with a never-fading tan, my stunning husband the worldly diplomat always in a freshly pressed suit and tie, and my children Oxen, Boundary and Falcon engaging in all sorts of shenanigans, having play dates with Prince Henry, and eventually becoming a boy band sensation.
Needless to say, none of that came true. My husband is a diplomat, my tan is pretty good but I am far from dashing or in control.
Further along in the pregnancy the doctor detected two heartbeats, not three. Our babies, Luna and Leo, were born premature but otherwise completely healthy. (See family photo above, from left to right: Gilberto, Luna, Derek, and Leo.)
Because of Derek’s job, we move around a lot. By the time Luna and Leo turn 3 years old this January, they will already have lived in three countries. I feel that blogging will give voice to the uniqueness of our experiences as gay dads, let other gay families know that they are not alone, and maybe, get a laugh or two.
Not too long ago I was buying art for Leo and Luna’s room and came across a very simple but vibrant painting of a little girl, her eyes closed, a bunch of colorful flowers in her hair. The corner of her mouth lifts slightly as if she has just finishing giggling. It made me think of the baby that we had lost; the baby we named Violeta. I bought the painting; it hangs in our living room. It reminds me that we are just like any other family – lives marked with loss, bliss, expectation, and laughter. We learn from those experiences and carry them with us wherever we live. I hope that when you read about our experiences you will learn from them and carry them with you as well.