Originally published October 10, 2019
Celebrating gay, bi and trans fatherhood is what we do on Gays With Kids. We rejoice in whatever paths our community took to become parents. But many of those journeys come with heartbreak, sometimes for the intended parents, and sometimes for the biological family from whom the adoption or foster placement occurs. With an open adoption, the adoptive and biological families come to an arrangement which best benefits the child, and that's when something truly beautiful can occur. This isn't always possible in every scenario, but when it is, we're exceedingly thankful. Can a child ever have too many family members loving them? Not likely. This was husbands of five years Edward and Andrew Senn's experience.
Edward and Andrew, 30 and 40 years old respectively, are both church musicians - organists and choir directors. The two met when Edward attended a concert at the church where Andrew was working. "I was too shy to meet him so we became Facebook friends," explained Edward. "Messaging on there turned into extended phone calls and then our first date on July 1, 2009." When the two began dating, it didn't seem like becoming a dad was necessarily something Andrew saw in his own future. So Edward had to work his magic and Andrew soon came around.
With both adoption and surrogacy being prohibitively expensive, they linked up with a private agency - Haven Adoptions, Inc. just outside of Philadelphia where the husbands live - that were in the process of beginning to train and work with foster parents. "We were part of their second group of trainees," said Andrew.
They began the home study process in March of 2016, and became approved for placements in August of the same year. They were soon contacted about a placement. "We had a brief placement of twin girls that were four years old shortly after we had been approved," said Andrew. "Then we took a break as it was a difficult process, the 'loss' aspect, when that placement ended."
Then on March 15, 2017, their case worker sent them information about two little babies - a boy and a girl - that were still in the NICU and only nine days old. "It was foster case with an uncertain future, but we decided those little babies needed us!" The dads took a leap of faith. This was the start of their forever family of four.
"Anthony and Arabella were both discharged from the hospital with us and never in their biological parents' care," explained Edward. However, the dads did meet the twins' biological mom and dad in the hospital at each discharge and they were very kind to the then-foster dads. Unfortunately, since that time, their biological father has been incarcerated as of May of 2017 and they haven't heard from their biological mom since November of that same year.
Around the time of the twins' first birthday, Andrew and Edward began building a relationship with their paternal grandmother. Having a relationship with Anthony and Arabella's biological family was important to the dads so they wanted to open the door, so to speak. "Slowly but surely, Grandmom has become part of our family, and the twins adore her," said Edward. "She babysits, helps on weekends, and the twins also have sleepovers at her house. She's a resilient woman who has experienced a lot of tragedy in her life but still has the ability to love and care for anyone that will let her."
In January of 2019, Edward reached out to the twins' dad in prison and this has turned into a wonderful, friendly relationship which everyone agrees will also continue to benefit the twins as they grow up.
On July 9 this year, after 28 months of fostering Anthony and Arabella, their adoption was finalized. The paternal grandmother attended the adoption hearing and even threw a party for the forever family at her house following the hearing with all of their friends and family.
"Adoption is one of those experiences where one side experiences incredible joy while the other side experiences incredible loss," said Andrew. "We're grateful that [their biological father] and his mom both realized it was the best situation for us to adopt the twins, particularly since they knew we were willing to keep them involved in the twins' lives. It's been a very special type of open adoption."
The Mt. Airy family are blessed with a huge support network, both from their family and friends, and their churches. "Prayers, love, support, incredibly generous hand-me-downs…the list goes on!" said Edward. "The twins are fortunate to have so many people in their lives that love and dote on them - and we're lucky to have so much kindness and support in our lives."
The dads also decided to keep their twins' names, Anthony and Arabella, as given to them by their biological parents. "We never imagined changing them, though we had quite a few people suggest we should," said Edward. "They're gorgeous names and to us represent the love their parents had for them when they were born."