This is the story of Baby Love. Baby Love isn’t her real name; it is the name we chose for the purposes of this story. One reason we are going to call her Baby Love is that her parents would like to give her a choice when she grows up to keep this story to herself. More to the point, we are calling her Baby Love because three people took every ounce of their love, from the far corners of New York to the depths of Texas, to bring Baby Love into this world.  If you stick with the story, you will hear about the moment Baby Love was born.

Keep reading... Show less

Our family belongs to a gay synagogue, so most of the parents who attend the children’s services with their kids are gay. One Yom Kippur our rabbi asked for a show of hands. “Who has two moms?” she asked. “Who has two dads? Who lives with a grandparent or an aunt or uncle? Who has only one mom? One dad?” And so on. The kids kept on raising their hands, one group after another, sometimes giggling, sometimes saying something proud like “ME!” Finally, rabbi Weiss asked: “Who has a mom and a dad?” All the (mostly gay and lesbian) parents in the room raised their hands. And then it hit me: while we are trying to provide our children with alternative views of families, the families we grew up in are almost always the traditional nuclear mom-and-dad model; for most of us, this was and still is our parenting experience.

In our family there are two dads, and a daughter and son (twins) who turned 3 just a few months ago. When I’m asked, it is very easy for me to affirmatively state: Our kids have two dads or, as we say at home, an aba and a daddy. But people always wonder, and people sometimes (especially kids) are brave enough to ask: Do they have a mom?

Technically they don’t, our kids were born with the help of a gestational surrogate, which means that we received an anonymous egg donation which together with our sperms was used to create embryos, which were subsequently carried by our friend, who served as the children’s surrogate. Over the years, friends, family and many strangers have suggested that one of these two women must be “the mother.” We answered politely that we call one the egg donor and the other the surrogate, but mostly they seemed unsatisfied by these answers. Usually I think this is just a matter of educating them on our family structure, but sometimes I do attributed it to being insensitive, homophobic, dad-phobic, or mother-centric depending on the person asking and his or her tone. Many people think it is just fine for a same-sex couple to have kids but still believe that a mother is necessary for the healthy development of a child. Others have pointed out that children born using anonymous sperm or egg donation will always wonder about their genetic parent, and that we are depriving them of a right to know their biological mother.

My friends in similar family settings have tried to address these issues in many admirable ways: I have seen fathers asking their children, “Do you have a mom?” just to demonstrate how the kids answer so clearly, “No, I do not; I have two dads!” Others have created strong bonds with women in their lives that the children could identify with as the equivalent of a mother figure: an aunt, grandmother, the surrogate herself, or sometimes a caregiver. When asked, many of us will gladly point you to solid research indicating that children of same-sex couples are just as happy and healthy as children who grow up with a mother and dad. I would be grateful if someone could show this information to my 3-year-old, who was at that moment extremely unhappy about a variety of things: from not being able to play on my iPhone to having to take a bath.

For example, in her book “Modern Families: Parents and Children in New Family Forms,” Dr Susan Golombok says that children of same-sex couples do just as well as children in traditional families. The problems some children face come from outside the family rather than within it and depend very much on where they live. She argues that schools should make an active effort to combat the stigmatization of children in different families. Dr Golombok is currently carrying out a study of children with gay dads who were born with the help of a surrogate. The study should be completed this summer, and the very much anticipated findings will be available shortly after.

In spite of these positive research results, it’s hard not to wonder about the effects of growing up without a mom, and not only that, but with no mother ever having existed. My husband Eric sometimes points out that women used to die in childbirth with terrible frequency, and that even his grandmother never knew her own mother because of this common tragedy. While she was raised by her father and grandmother, she still knew that a woman who was her mother had at least lived at one time and had been known by the people in her life. Our kids wouldn’t be able to imagine a mother. The idea of our kids having nothing but a void where a mother would normally be sometimes kept me up at night.

Asaf and Eric with their twins

A few months ago our children started using the “M-word”: mommy this, mommy that. Their pretend play always involved a mother, and when my 3-year-old wanted to do something she knew I wouldn’t approve of, she pulled this one: “My mommy told me I could do it!” One evening I decided to follow the advice of our parenting coach Shelly MacDonald and to play them a story-on-tape at bed time. Of course, she meant I should carefully pick a pre-screened, preferably educational, story. But it was late, and I made the mistake of just finding something on YouTube. That something was Cinderella. About three minutes into the story, Cinderella’s mother dies and her father marries another woman “because he wanted them to have a mother.” Well, no good deed goes unpunished, and my attempt to exit the room early one night turned into my having to listen to this story and then spend a long time explaining it to them.

Another day I decided to read to them Cory Silverberg’s book "What Makes a Baby.” I should have learned my lesson by now about introducing topics just before bed that need to be followed by a time for our children to process and ask questions. So here I was again, way past even my own bedtime, trying to explain and make sure no one went to sleep with open questions.

One challenging day in our home, and we didn’t need a reason beyond the fact that we had two tired dads after a long week at work and two 3-year-old children who needed our attention, Eric, in a moment of painful honesty, said, “We need a mom in this family.” That shocked me for a moment, but then I thought, Maybe he’s right. I think we are excellent parents, but does our family need a mom?

I know this may be an unpopular thing to say among my friends, as many of them have fought the social and legal system to allow two fathers (or single fathers) to become parents. Doubting our capability to provide our children with a healthy environment to grow can destroy years of hard work to achieve parenting equality. So, I asked Eric what he meant.

Eric lost his mother to cancer the week that our two little embryos, who later grew to be our children, were implanted in our surrogate’s womb. His mom, Maggie, who would have loved our children so much, never got to meet them. But more than that, Eric hasn’t had the chance to have his mom around as he became a father, and now, all of a sudden, it hit him: He needed his mom.

So here we are, two loving dads with kids who are now talking nonstop about the mother they do not have (who will let them stay up all night and eat ice cream for every meal, of course). We have the research that supports same-sex parenting. We have one dad who very much misses his own mother. And now comes Mother’s Day.

I love reading and rereading Liza Mundy’s article “The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss,” published in The Atlantic. Here is a piece:

"The belief that gay marriage will harm marriage has roots in both religious beliefs about matrimony and secular conservative concerns about broader shifts in American life. One prominent line of thinking holds that men and women have distinct roles to play in family life; that children need both a mother and a father, preferably biologically related to them; and that a central purpose of marriage is abetting heterosexual procreation. During the Supreme Court arguments over Proposition 8, Justice Elena Kagan asked Cooper whether the essence of his argument against gay marriage was that opposite-sex couples can procreate while same-sex ones cannot. ‘That’s the essential thrust of our position, yes,' replied Cooper. He also warned that ‘redefining marriage as a genderless institution could well lead over time to harms to that institution.'”

Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse