By Jason Howe
An exploratory brush at the tip of my nose. Half-asleep, I’m barely aware and don’t respond.
Once again, more insistent, it makes its way into the opening of my nostril. Still no response.
Then it comes: not just an I’m-stopped-at-a-signal-and-I-don’t- think- anyone-is-looking scrape of the septum; not just a I’m-driving-on the-101-and-no-one-is-near-up-to-the-cuticle foray into the nostril; this is a complete violation of my sense of self, up past the point where cartilage meets bone, past where fingers are naturally meant to reach. At least adult fingers.
“Olivia, STOP!” I mumble, and gently extricate the diminutive digits before they reach my sinuses. I open my eyes. The soft, grey light of a June morning is filtering through the shutters and two enormous black eyes are staring at me expectantly, ready to experiment again with the next round of “what does Daddy do if I poke here, pinch there, prod this?”
Olivia has been awake since 6:30, sitting upright near my head. Over the past week or so, she and her fraternal twin Clara have been waking early, either fussing until we acknowledge them or babbling to themselves in ever-increasing chorus of “bababa. BehhhhhDAH. Ba-DAH! Ba-DAAAAH! BLA BLA BLA DAH!” Partially because we love cuddling with them, but mainly because it to work like a snooze button on that toddler alarm clock, we’ve been responding by bringing them into bed with us. Sometimes they sleep — and lo! for my husband, Adrián, henceforth “the Spaniard,” it worked – he and Clara are sleeping blissfully beside me. But I chose chubby Olivia when we pulled them from their cribs, thinking she’d be more likely to sleep than her more athletic sister. I chose wrong.
Two toddlers anxious to hop in their parents’ toasty bed. Two parents trying desperately not to start the day any earlier than necessary. It’s a struggle repeated millions of times every day across the country. Except that the two parents in question are both men in their late forties; the babies born via an egg donor and surrogate mother literally on the other side of the planet. Oh yeah, and my 81-year-old mother is asleep on the living room sofa just outside our bedroom door, forced from her own bedroom by an addition project that should have been finished before the girls were born last year (the original game plan had her staying with her sister in Palm Springs, so don’t start…).
And we’re not alone. A good half of our male couple friends are in various stages of having children of their own. When did public perception of same-sex couples take such a hard left down Main Street? Many who follow these things point to the late 90s and credit shows like “Will and Grace” for showing folks in Terra Haute and Amarillo that not all gay men do drag or keep cans of Crisco in our bedside tables (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), and that most of us are, well, dull. As proof we have “The New Normal,” a show so insipid, silly and such old news that the only people who noticed its cancellation was the utterly ineffective hate group “One Million Moms,” which claimed credit for the show’s demise, rather than the fact that it, you know, sucked.
But at least people, not the least among them likely Prop 8 case swing vote U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, now realize that same-sex couples have families of their own. At oral arguments in March, Kennedy commented “There’s some 40,000 children in California… that live with same-sex parents, and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case, don’t you think?”
Well, no disrespect to Justice Kennedy, since we know it was a rhetorical question, but DUH. Proposition 8 and its even viler cousin, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, are now being punched more full of holes than the Starks in last week’s “Game of Thrones.” Clara and Olivia deserve the same protection under the law and respect from society as any couple’s children. I’m pleased Kennedy seems to agree.
Once we had our girls safely home, I remarked to the Spaniard “that was easy.” Of course, it was anything but: saving for the expense of surrogacy while living in my mom’s extra bedroom for two years, our own furniture, books and music packed in a storage space; two trips halfway around the globe to a clinic in New Delhi; twin girls born seven weeks early who spent the first three weeks of their lives in a neonatal intensive care unit; as well as the aforementioned construction project that only now is underway. But after a lifetime of thinking I’d never be a father, it was easy: only two years to bring two people into the world where there were none before. All I really needed was to believe it was possible.
California law protects and even encourages the right of same-sex couples to become parents, and like any child, our daughters would not exist if those parents had not brought them into the world. Now the law needs to similarly recognize that every child, regardless of the composition of his or her family, has the right to the protection, stability and respect that only marriage provides.