One Gay Dad's Personal Hell: A Trip to Disney with 10-Month Old Twins

His husband's birthday wish was also his own personal worst nightmare: a trip to Disney with 10-month old twins

My husband's 41st birthday wish was one of my greatest nightmares: a family weekend at Disney. With our twins growing like weeds, it was bound to occur sooner or later – my husband loves Disney and I, well, avoid it like the plague. It's been a wild year and it happens faster than you can change an explosive diaper. Since becoming dads our lives have transformed completely, but I never expected to feel, dare I say, a glimmer of joy in the Not So Happiest Place On Earth.

My babies are ten months old. Somehow they grew from wishful thinking into a crawling, teething, no-refunds reality. I remember the afternoon Chris and I made our first official surrogacy decision. It was late October of 2015 and we did what most Floridians do during the onset of those cold winter months – hung out at the beach. Two bobbing heads within a gilded ocean of aluminum ripples, we treaded water as conversation naturally drifted toward our shared desire to have children.

That September we married in Chris's hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, followed by a two-week honeymoon in the Mediterranean. We'd been together for five years and recently purchased a new home. We were riding high on waves of romance, enough to make some people puke.

So there we were, treading water however many feet offshore, sunbathers appearing as small silhouettes in the distance. Beach umbrellas, brightly colored bathing suits, lounge chairs scattered along orange sand in the horizon.

The concept of growing our family was abstract. We had vague ideas how it could happen, limited knowledge on the process or any real facts. We were unsure of adoption versus surrogacy – what route to take. It was one question after another after another, all leading to a big black hole of unknown, which is scary shit.

But there in the ocean, for the first time, we had a serious conversation about our future as parents. We knew the timing was not right, wanting to save money and make sure our careers were steady. So we agreed to pursue our family in April of 2016, with no rhyme or reason to the month other than it gave us the time we needed.

I remember that moment in the ocean like yesterday.

Fast forward – May 2017. Connor and Olivia are born. Holy shit.

Fast forward – March 2018. Our first family trip to Disneyland. Holy shit.

It happens in an instant. One moment we're newlyweds on a cruise in Greece, the next minute we're a family of four stuffed in a room at Animal Kingdom Lodge with two cribs and an unspeakable amount of baby crap piled everywhere.

It's not only amazing how quickly life changes, how fast miracles can manifest; but also how adaptable humans are. I knew nothing about surrogacy – I mean, I knew so little that when April 2016 rolled around, panic ensued because we didn't know how to start. Didn't know who to trust, who to call, let alone how two dudes make a baby. It's like a crash course in some foreign language, but a really hard one like Mandarin. I honestly have no idea if Mandarin is hard to learn, it seems like on of those untouchable languages. But within months I felt like a surrogacy expert. And months later I'm magically a dad and the feeling of panic reemerges because I have no idea how to be a dad. Now ten months later we're towing those two nuggets to Disney for the weekend, which if anyone has done that vacation with two infants, you know it's no easy task.

First off, I hate Disney. Rather, I dislike Disney greatly. Hate is a finite word that reminds me of black hair dye – painfully permanent and never looks good on anyone. I'm not a cartoon enthusiast, not really a happiest-place-on-earth kinda guy. The thought of strolling around a manmade tourist nest is pretty much a personal nightmare. But it was Chris's birthday and he was over the moon to show our twins Disney, so I did my husbandly duty while remaining cautiously optimistic.

People say it's a joy to experience a place like Disneyland through your child's eye. I dunno, maybe. In our case they slept through half of it. We went on the merry-go-round and teacup ride, exposed them to new sights and sounds, encouraged those little nuggets to go wild. But mainly it was 2 days, 4 parks and about 17 miles of walking, according to my step-counter. It's true what they say, life before kids becomes a distant blur. Somehow we forget what it's like to not be parents because suddenly everything, and I mean absolutely everything, revolves around your children in some way. Right down to the inner strength you muster up despite the well running dry, just so they can experience as much as possible. Even if that means carrying a 20 pound baby in one arm while pushing a stroller, sporting a backpack and holding a stuffed animal while enduring mile fourteen. Oh to wild and free, sailing Greece with no thought other than where our next port will be.

Back to Disney.

Post merry-go-round diarrhea diaper change, we sat under much needed shade to rest. Throughout the day I noticed strollers by the hundreds, but now noticed the visibly exhausted parents behind them. My eyes opened to a sea of strung out, sweaty, 20 and 30-somethings all trying to keep their shit together. Dilapidated dads and limping moms who seemed fairly composed despite battling thousands of people, sing-along music, screaming kids, blazing heat and being pulled in every direction.

A mother sat next to me, avoiding a large streak of chocolate ice cream smeared on our bench. Her husband took the kid for a diaper change, she parked their stroller, slung an overstuffed kids backpack off her shoulder and plopped down. Blonde hair tussled across her face, she pushed a bead of sweat from her forehead and caught me staring. I smiled because I knew exactly how she felt, and she smiled back because she knew exactly how I felt. It was then I realized we're part of this amazing community of parents, a comradery I couldn't have understood until becoming one. My eyes opened to a sea of exhaustion and suddenly I didn't feel so alone. The woman's husband walked out the bathroom with their daughter under his arm, followed by my husband, our son glued to his chest. Freshly changed diapers and recently chugged bottles mean we're golden for a few hours.

As hours passed and miles accumulated, snapshots were imprinted in my head. Little moments that make me smile even while writing these words. Like our son overjoyed by a large stuffed monkey at Animal Kingdom – one he now cuddles with at night. A stuffed animal intended for his twin sister but he's a savage when it comes to toys. Or all of us relaxing on a lawn in front of Cindarella's Castle in Magic Kingdom. Or Olivia's unbridled excitement at seeing animals roam free. Connor perched on Chris's shoulders to watch a parade. Mental snapshots that bring me back to my own childhood, moments I so vividly remember in my parents photo albums. Old 4x6 photographs of our family together in Disney, my dad holding me with a joy only he could truly understand.

And I become overwhelmed with emotion at the realization I'm the same age as my father in those photos. The same age with my children as he was with me in Disney, creating similar photographs but with entirely new memories from a very different perspective.

I am the father now.

And it hits me like a train that this is only the beginning. There are miles and miles of memories ahead, years of snapshots and milestones and mess-ups and laughter that I can't begin to imagine. Connor and Olivia will one day look back on these photographs of Disney the way I did many times growing up. They will see much younger versions of their two dads, blind to the future ahead. Blind to whom these babies will become by the time they can look back at those photographs. They'll see the still memories of our Disney vacation and it will mean much less to them than it will ever mean to us. Until they themselves step into the role of parent. Until they realize that sharing this journey, watching their children grow into little people, watching their spouse transform into a parent, seeing their own parents become grandparents, realizing we've all been here before. Until then only we can understand the development of a true family bond, only we can understand the unspoken bond amongst strangers. The support from those who are going through the exact same shit; the ones who reach into their diaper bag and give you a Number 3 when you realize you're out. Who will offer a simple smile because they know you know and you know they know.

While I may still not be a Disney enthusiast, I will happily endure a few days in the Not So Happiest Place On Earth so my family can run wild in the alleged Happiest Place On Earth, because our shared experience is what makes it awesome. The many stories ahead are worth every grueling, loving step through Disney. It's why we made a decision not so long ago, two newlyweds floating in the ocean, to become dads. To show our children a life of love and adventure.

Plus I was able to watch Chris bask in the sweet glow of saccharine laced birthday cheer so.... husband points for me.

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Gay Dad Family Stories

This Couple is Using 'Wheel of Fortune' Winnings to Help Fund Their Adoption

Need to raise money for your adoption fund? Why not try your luck on Wheel of Fortune like these guys!

Doug and Nick Roberts connected three and a half years ago via a dating app, and on their first date, the two immediately felt a connection. Doug, a psychologist, and Nick, a neuroscientist, were married 18 months later. Today the couple live in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and they're ready to start their next exciting adventure together: fatherhood.

The husbands would like to have children, and Nick has always wanted to adopt. "We considered surrogacy, and may consider it in the future as we expand our family," said Doug, "but right now, it is cost-prohibitive. Adoption was easily the right choice for us as we begin to grow our family.

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Change the World

4 Tips for Using Instagram to Connect with Gay Dads Offline

We asked gay dads who have successfully met up with other LGBTQ families offline for some of their tips

Last week, we ran a story about several gay dads who did the unthinkable: meet other gay dads IRL after connecting on Instagram! We get MANY questions from gay dads wondering how they can meet up with others in their area, so we decided to dig a bit deeper this week to get their advice. What can gay dads do to meet others off the 'gram?

1. Be kind — share others' excitement in parenting!

From @twinlifedads Ben and Andy:

"Be kind. That is absolutely it. Be kind to each other and don't be afraid to reach out. Respond to each other when you can. Share in excitement for each other. There is no reason to bring someone else down who might be excited about how they are parenting."

2. Drop a couple comments and likes before reaching out!

From @brisvegasdad Tim and Nic:

"I think drop comments now and then on their posts and instastories and see where things land. Chances are, if you're commenting on a post and it is a heartfelt response, they'll click through to your account, look at your photos and connect with you. And that's when the magic happens - you can introduce yourself, talk about your lives and how things are being a parent... and after a while, if you're in the same neighbourhood, you meet up and grow your friendship organically. That being said, I'm obsessed with Bobby Berk from Queer Eye and his husband Dewey Do - if they ever had kids, I'd probably be completely unsubtle and leave strange awkward comments on their instaposts saying, 'GAY DADS MEET UPSSSSS'."

3. Go in with no expectations

From @stevecsmith Steve and Ben:

"I always try to reach out without any expectations – mostly just to provide a positive comment. I like to leave it up to the other parents to comment or message back before suggesting meeting up or a playdate. Every family is different, so how each person is going to respond is different too."

4. Keep trying!

From @theconways13 Ricky and Jeff:

"Reach out to other families, start a light friendly conversation. Get to know each other and let conversations happen organically. If they lead to a play date great! Our first experience in meeting another lgbt family (not through ig/gwk) was very awkward cause there wasn't a whole lot of conversation happening before hand. The conversations leading up to the play date will help make the first play date with the family go a lot smoother and fun. Don't be afraid of not connecting with the other families. If it isn't successful the first time, continue reaching out to to other families- don't let it deter you from reaching out to others."

Gay Uncles

Gay Uncles are an Essential Part of This Gay Dad Family's Village

It takes a village to raise a child, and this village includes many gay uncles

In November last year, Ottawa-based husbands Matt Ottaviani and Rej Gareau (whose story we shared in July) became first-time dads through surrogacy. They were overjoyed to welcome their daughter Andy and become a family of three.

But as many of us know, raising a child isn't always just about the nuclear family. The African proverb "it takes a village to raise a child" is a commonly repeated phrase, and rings very true for many families. Matt and Rej are no different, and when they shared their story last month, one thing jumped out to us: the important role Andy's guncles play in her and her dads' lives.

In honor of Gay Uncles Day today, we reached out to Andy's many guncles to learn first-hand how their relationship with the family affects their lives. Here's what they had to say.

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Utah Court Rules Gay Couples Can't Be Excluded From Surrogacy Contracts

The Utah Supreme Court found in favor of a gay couple attempting to enter into a surrogacy contract.


Earlier this month, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that a same-sex couples can't be excluded from entering into enforceable surrogacy contracts, and sent a case concerning a gay male couple back to trial court to approve their petition for a surrogacy arrangement.

As reported in Gay City News, the case concerns Utah's 2005 law on surrogacy, which was enacted prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. As a result, the content of the law is gendered, saying that surrogacy contracts should only be enforceable if the "intended mother" is unable to bear a child. When a gay couple approached District Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox to enter into a surrogacy arrangement, he denied them, arguing that the state's law only concerned opposite sex couples.

"This opinion is an important contribution to the growing body of cases adopting a broad construction of the precedent created by Obergefell v. Hodges and the Supreme Court's subsequent decision in Pavan v. Smith," according to GCN. "It's also worth noting that same-sex couples in Utah now enjoy a right denied them here in New York, where compensated gestational surrogacy contracts remain illegal for all couples."

Read the full article here.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Working:​ One Father's Plea for Gun Reform

One gay dad's plea to our leaders to enact sensible gun control

My articles on GaysWithKids aspire to be lighthearted, helpful and humorous. This one won't be any of those things. Because I'm feeling heavyhearted, helpless and sad. Last week I woke up to news of yet another mass shooting. This time at a family-friendly Garlic Festival in northern California. I don't know if it's because this one hit so close to home, or if it's because the headline included a picture of the innocent 6-year old who was among those killed, but I am overcome with emotion. But mostly I am angry. And I don't know what to do with my anger.

Then, just a few days later came two additional horrific mass shootings that stole the lives of at least 32 more innocent people, many of them children. And then there's the "everyday" gun violence that plagues American cities like Chicago, where guns injured another 46 people this past weekend alone… creating so much turmoil, a hospital had to briefly stop taking patients.

How does one verbalize the collective sadness felt around the world? One can't. And that's why I am asking everyone reading this article to commit to getting involved in some way, to help end this epidemic once and for all. Even though the solution is so obvious, we can't allow ourselves to become numb to mass shootings. Because becoming numb isn't going to save anyone.

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Gay Russian Dads Forced to Flee Moscow

Fearing the Russian government might take their adopted kids into custody because of their sexual orientation, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev fled Moscow

A married couple in Russia, with two adopted children, were just forced the flee their home in Moscow for fear that the authorities would take their children away, according to German news site Deutsche Welle.

Trouble started last month after investigators in Russia opened a criminal inquiry into the proceedings that had allowed the gay couple, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, to legally adopt the two boys —adoption by LGBTQ people in Russia has typically not been recognized. The government became aware of the adoption proceedings after the gay couple brought their 12-year-old son to the hospital, who was complaining of a stomachache. The boy was fine, but after he mentioned offhand that he was adopted and lived with two fathers, the doctor called the police.

Andrei and Yevgeny granted an interview with Deutsche Welle after escaping Moscow, but on the advice of their lawyers have yet to disclose where they are currently located. Here is a quick recap of that conversation:

"In connection with the 'propaganda of non-traditional values,' the state representatives are accused of having neglected their duty of supervision," Andrei said, when asked to explain on what basis the Russian government might take his children into custody. "This means that lesbian couples could even have their biological children taken away because, through their lifestyle choices, they propagate "certain values."

Yevgeny also explained the events that led to the couple's harrowing escape "I was alone in Moscow at that time. A week after Andrei and the children had left the country, there was a knock on my door, but nobody called 'police, open up.' After half an hour the violent knocking stopped. My parents' home was searched. They were looking for the children and our Danish marriage certificate because we got married in Denmark in 2016. My friends then got me out of the country."

Read the full interview here.


Happy Gay Uncles Day! Hug the 'Guncle' in Your Life Today

Yes, Gay Uncles Day is a silly, made up holiday — but underneath all the smiling photos of gay men with their nieces and nephews is an important message.

It all started three years ago in August: the Internet lit up with the hashtag #GayUnclesDay, accompanied by countless adorable pictures of gay men beaming for the camera alongside their nieces and nephews. And just like that, another fake holiday was born.

But National Gay Uncles Day is not just another silly social media antic — beneath all the smiling pictures is a message that is at best aspirational — from gay men who dream of parenthood but haven't been able to make it happen for themselves —and at worst, for the many gay men not allowed in the lives of their siblings' children, a reminder of how far we have yet to go.

So yes, it's a silly, made up holiday — but one we're more than happy to support. So a very happy Gay Uncles Day to us all!

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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