Dustin and Yaser met at their condominium pool 6 and a half years ago. Dustin was new to the building and they began chatting. Fast forward to 2015, the two married on November 14. They're also the proud dads to daughter Lucy whom they adopted in 2016. Not long after, they learned Lucy's biological mother was pregnant with her brother, due mid-February. In Dustin's own words, here's his family story:
There comes a point in some people's lives where they begin to think about starting a family. Yaser and I had discussed this several times but really had no idea how to begin the process. From the reading we had done online we just knew that it could be a long, costly process, full of unknowns. In 2016, we decided to interview a few adoption agencies to see what our options were and how the process works. It didn't take long for us to realize we were right: the process is long and costly with a lot of unknowns. Before deciding on an adoption agency to work with, we decided to start our home study and then take it from there. Little did we know that things were going to happen so quickly.
We did an online search and decided to call an agency in the Tampa Bay area. The social worker answered and went over the process with us. She then asked us to share some information about ourselves and what we are looking for in regards to adoption. Unbelievably, she told us that she had been contacted that very morning by birth parents who were specifically looking to place their child with a same-sex male couple. What are the chances of that happening?
She asked if we would like to be considered and we immediately said yes. She met with the birth parents the next day and they decided to move forward with placing their child with us. Their child was a precious little girl who had been born 6 weeks prematurely and was still in the NICU. It wasn't long until we were completing our home study and meeting with an adoption attorney and birth parents to complete the paperwork. It was such a whirlwind but it was all worth it when we finally met our little girl, Lucy, in the hospital on July 18, 2016. She was only 4 lbs and had gorgeous red hair. We spent 6 weeks by her side while she was in NICU. She had some drug exposure and her heart and lungs were still developing. The nurses were so kind and they taught us everything that we needed to know about how to take care of her. Lucy is now an extremely active 19-month-old who is meeting all of her developmental milestones.
In September 2017, we received a call from our adoption attorney and she had some big news. Lucy's birth mother was pregnant again! She wanted to know if we would be interested in adopting again. We totally weren't prepared to go through the adoption process so soon after Lucy but we just couldn't separate these siblings. We also thought it would be wonderful for Lucy to have the support of a biological sibling. We decided to do everything that we could to make the adoption possible.
However, this adoption was much different even though it was the same birth parents, attorney and social worker. Unlike our adoption with Lucy, the birth mother this time was only a few months along in her pregnancy and needed support. The State of Florida allows "reasonable expenses" to be paid to birth mothers but "reasonable" is very vague. The birth mother can also change her mind at any time during the pregnancy and can't sign any consent forms until 48 hours after the child's birth. This sets up a stressful dynamic in which the adoptive parents have absolutely no guarantee that they will be able to adopt the child, even if they support the birth mother throughout her entire pregnancy. In our situation, the birth parents also struggled with homelessness, addiction and criminal history. Yaser and I, with the help of the social worker, were able to find them a place to live and we paid for all food, clothing, transportation, rent, utilities and anything else that they needed.
On February 9th, 2018, we traveled to the hospital for the birth of our son, Alex. We spent time with the birth parents and couldn't believe the day had finally come! At this point we were concerned about the health of the baby since we had suspected continued drug use and the mother had little prenatal care. The birth mother was also experiencing preeclampsia. Alex was born at 9am that morning and was taken to the NICU right away with some respiratory distress. The next day we were told that he had multiple drugs in his system and was experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Yaser and I would hold him while he cried and had tremors. It was heartbreaking to see him this way.
Exactly 48 hours after Alex's birth, the birth mother signed the consent form and was discharged from the hospital. As you can imagine, it was such a relief when she signed. Alex is still in the NICU and we are having to travel several hours back and forth to visit him. He is getting better each and every day. We can't wait to bring him home to meet his big sister Lucy.
No two adoption stories are ever the same. Although it was sometimes an emotional roller coaster, we knew that the goal was to bring Alex home and keep him with his sister. We are blessed to be able to grow our family and give these children a good life that they may not have gotten otherwise. Without even being conscious of it, we know that we are also providing an opportunity for others to interact with same-sex parents. We want others to know that we love our children just as heterosexual couples do; we want to protect them, love them and give them opportunities that we may not have had.Dustin and Yaser are trying to raise money to help cover the unexpected costs of their second adoption, Lucy's brother. Visit their GoFundMe page here.