Terry, 41, and Michael, 47, business owners of travel service company VIP2GO and custom merchandise website TerryTale, met in 2002 at Salvation nightclub in South Beach, Miami. They describe their first year together as "love-filled excitement" and spent it traveling the world together. Yet fatherhood was never far from their minds, and the topic of kids was brought up very early in their relationship.
2002: Terry and Michael, Palm Springs
"I always knew I wanted kids," said Terry. "It would've been a deal breaker if my partner did not want children."
Thankfully, Michael felt the same way. Unfortunately at the time, same-sex adoption was illegal in Florida so they had to put their plans on hold.
2010: Boston wedding
"Although we always knew we wanted a family," said the dads, "It was intimidating and challenging because of laws, cost, etcetera."
But the moment the law changed in Florida in 2010, they signed with a private agency for a newborn open adoption. It was another two years before Terry and Michael became dads to a baby girl in December 2012. They were present for the birth. Terry cut the umbilical cord and stayed in the hospital room with the birth mother for the next three days.
2011: Michael (left) and Terry's couple photo for the birthmother
"I changed every diaper and fed every bottle," remembered Terry. "'OMG, I'm a Dad' went through my mind countless times throughout that experience: in the most amazing, nerve-wracking and loving way possible!"
Michael also reflected on the time he first felt like a dad. "You are just numb with the joy and amazement of childbirth," said Michael. "Then when you hold your child for the first time and feed her... the love and reality hits you like a brick wall, and you are like 'I AM A DAD! Whoa!' Just a wave of total happiness."
2012: Kyler with Terry, just a few days old
Their daughter, Kyler, is now 4 years old.
The dads started the process of adopting another child from foster care in early 2016. Around 6 months later they were matched with 4-year-old Kylo. Kylo's adoption was finalized earlier this year on April 28.
2017: Kylo's adoption finalization
Initially it was each others' adventurous nature, love of life and great sense of humor that drew Terry to Michael, and vice versa. And although these qualities are still vital to their relationship, now it's their selflessness, patience, and ability to put the kids first that keep them together after 15 years.
What do they miss about live B.C. (Before Children)? Both dads chimed in with "travel" and "money," two things many of us can relate to. Oh, and "quiet time."
What they don't miss?
"I don't really miss the gay social bubble," shared Terry. The family has recently moved out of the gayborhood and into a much more family friendly suburb of Orlando.
Michael admitted that it was nice being able to go out on a whim, but what he enjoys now is different. "Now, seeing Walt Disney World or Ice Shows or trips through their experience," said Michael, "I get more excited than [they do]!"
2017: Kylo's first trip to Disney World
What do they think of the progress gay men have made in the realms of rights and equality in parenthood?
"As a community, we have gained so much in a relatively short period of time," said Terry. "But, we certainly have a ways to go."
"When we adopted our daughter, we hired an experienced attorney with LGBT adoptions (and paid a small fortune) for peace of mind if something were to go wrong."
And although they're no longer the only two-dad family around, they were certainly the first in their kids' school and playgroups.
"I will say being the first helps affect change, whether it's changing forms from "Mom and Dad" to "Parent 1 and 2" (government and private), or changing the mind of someone who had doubts about two gay men raising a child."
2016: Kyler's 4th birthday party
Michael still notices the looks their family gets from strangers, as though they're trying to figure out who the dad might be, or where the mom is. But he said the best thing is when his son or daughter says directly and honestly that they have two dads.
"The kids own it," said Michael proudly. "And we love it!"
The dads shared these sound bites of truth for others considering fatherhood:
1.It's not easy.
2.You have no control when it's going to happen.
3.There's never the right time.
4.Make time for yourself and your spouse/partner
5.Give yourself a break!
6.Your child will drive you crazy at times. And that's okay.
7.You will never know true, unconditional, pure love until you have a child.
And after 15 years together, and two kids along the way, these guys know love.
2016: Back to Palm Springs
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