These Two Dads are Their Daughter's Biggest Advocates
Seattle dads Richard and Brian met while playing rugby in San Francisco. They married on May 9, 2010, and have been together for 14 years. Richard, a United States Coast Guard, and Brian, a rugby player, always wanted kids. In 2015 they adopted their daughter, Emerson, through open adoption.
Richard with Emerson in a carrier, and Brian. Whistler, December 2015
Choosing a Path
Although Richard and Brian did look at other paths to fatherhood, their first choice was always adoption.
"Neither of us felt any burning desire to have a biological child, and providing love and guidance to a child that was already in need appealed to us," explained Richard and Brian.
They researched the different types of adoption and agencies, and were excited when they discovered Open Adoption Family Services (OAFS) in the Pacific Northwest.
"They embodied values that drew us to work with them," said the dads. "They were pro-choice, inclusive, diverse, and their priorities were centered around the birth family's needs, which included open adoption."
Richard and Brian's wedding, September 2010
After deciding that adoption was their preferred path, Richard and Brian began to take their next steps, beginning a thorough vetting process that all prospective adoptive parents must go through in the state of Washington. At first, they were resentful of the perceived "hurdles" when they saw how easy it was for most of their straight friends to become parents. They were good people, successful at their careers and financially stable---why were there all these barriers? But then they became thankful for their rigorous training.
"Confronting these issues forced discussion that at times delved into both the vulnerable and revealing," explained the two dads. "Unexpectedly, we discovered more about each other than we had in the 10 years prior. At the end of the journey our desire to be parents was emboldened and our approach on how we would parent together in sync."
At the end of a year's worth of visits and interviews, Richard and Brian felt ready for fatherhood.
Emerson is born, January 2015
A Baby Needs a Family
When they were first notified that a birth mother had selected them for placement, the excitement was tempered by the higher-than-average chance that the newborn could have some developmental issues, both physical and mental disabilities. Even though the dads knew that many adoptions come with these risks, they had always dreamed of holding a healthy newborn.
Faced with this reality, they needed to ask themselves some very real questions: Were they capable of raising a child with special needs? Would one of them need to quit their jobs and stay home full time? What would they need to sacrifice? In hindsight, Richard and Brian believe these questions could seem selfish and petty, but they needed to face reality.
After a lot of discussion, advice from friends and family, and many sleepless nights, they concluded that this child was going to need parents regardless of her condition.
"We were the ones selected in part because we had financial and logistical resources to give her a good home and could provide additional help if she needed it," they explained.
The goal of adoption was not centered around Richard and Brian becoming fathers, it was to provide what was best for this child. With that in mind, they jumped in with both feet.
Hiking August 2016
Having a Daughter
Now 2 years on, the dads say Emerson matches or exceeds her peers in every measure.
"She's teaching us so much about what it means to raise a daughter," said the dads. "In some ways, she's a typical little girl. In others she's a complete outlier. She loves purple and Frozen. but lights up when she sees airplanes and trains. At bedtime, she wants her grey Audi R8 car and her baby doll."
Due to the current political climate, Richard and Brian are even more fiercely proud to be raising a confident, strong girl who will be empowered to speak her mind and defend her convictions.
"It is imperative and urgent to raise a girl who believes the opportunities available to her are the same as the 2-year-old boy down the street," said Richard and Brian. "We've become more aware of society's outlook of girls and women and we want to ensure even at the toddler stage, she doesn't feel limited by her gender or singled out for having two dads."
Backyard fun, June 2016
Both Brian and Richard are very close with their own immediate and extended families. Brian grew up within 5 miles of all his relatives in a small Kentucky town, and Richard comes from a large Filipino family. Their love and support is hugely important to them, and they wanted to ensure Emerson felt that, too.
"Her 2-year-old mind comprehends and loves Mommy while at the same time understands Dadda and Daddy are raising her," Richard and Brian explained.
Emerson sees her birth mom nearly every other month, and Richard and Brian share photos weekly. They believe their daughter's birth mother benefits greatly from this relationship and has no worry about the status or security of Emerson.
"Emerson's relationship with her mother and her birth family is not a threat to her relationship with us," said the two dads. "Her mother chose us to raise her and we, in turn, feel responsible, to do our very best."
Veterans Day, November 2015