By: Joey Uva
Being connected and conscious of it can be difficult at times; it can also be something to look forward to when you know you have limits.
My younger brother and his family moved to Texas last summer. My brother has been in the Air Force for over twenty years and was being transferred again. Over the past few years we have gotten use to them being in Arizona –it wasn’t southern California, but it was only a five or six hour drive and we could make a road trip of it. Sometimes we would drive to see them and sometimes they would come out to us. I remember when my brother was called to active duty in Afghanistan in the summer of 2008 to work on a medical base in the middle of the conflict. It was a difficult time for his wife, the kids, and us. My brother and his wife mostly communicated through emails and phone calls. Phone calls where limited to five minutes per day and that was a privilege my brother got on the medical base; most active duty get one phone call per week. Trevor and I spent time that summer visiting my sister-in-law and the kids while my brother was away. Now that my brother and his family are in Texas we keep up through phone calls, Facebook, and Skype. I wish we could be near each other and spend those weekends together like we did over the past few years, but that’s not possible right now. Sometimes you have to be thankful for technology because it allows you to stay connected.
I recently had a very dear friend ask if I would print off my posts from The Next Family so she could read them because she doesn’t use a computer. She is nearing eighty and using a computer is just not something she does. I printed everything, placed it in a large manila envelope, wrote a letter and mailed it off. About a week later I received a call from her thanking me for the package. It made me think, not many people write letters anymore as way to stay connected. I think a letter is so very personal. I recently wrote someone a letter and they were surprised because I still write in cursive. I have recently heard that cursive writing is being eliminated in many schools because it’s simply not used much anymore due to typing, technology, and how we connect now. I find that sad. I guess times change.
I remember being at the park one summer afternoon when Grace was four years old. I was pushing Grace on the swing and there was another little girl sitting on the swing next to her but she wasn’t being pushed. I was kind of baffled because her mom and dad –a celebrity couple (I won’t say who) –were standing there both busy on their cell phones –the dad leaning back on the swing set and the mom standing in the sand with her back to her daughter. Maybe I just happened to arrive after this little girl was swinging, but she looked like she had been waiting. I smiled at the little girl and gave her a few pushes between giving Grace a push. When her mom got off her cell phone she thanked me for pushing her daughter on the swing. How disconnected, I thought. Even with two parents there, they couldn’t manage to work together and ended up letting their cell phones disconnect the whole family.
Trevor and I are lucky to have friends who share our desire to personally connect through game nights, dinners, hikes, and other gatherings. We use Facebook, cell phones, texts, and emails but truly enjoy face-to-face personal time with our friends and family whenever possible.
When we have the time to connect face-to-face, we should take it. And if that’s not possible, thank god for technology.
By: Chris Coyne
The financial cost was really adding up. We traded in the sports car for a huge SUV that could shlep around all the gear we were sure to need for the girls. We purchased two cribs, car seats, and enough diapers to get us through the first year, thanks to diapers.com. We were planning to have a shower after the girls were in Los Angeles, but our baby momma encouraged us to go ahead and have it. She almost made it seem like we did not trust her word. So our great amazing friends threw us a shower –at our house of course! Most of our family and friends came. It was a great day to celebrate our becoming fathers.
The time had gone by so quickly. It was early June and we were talking to our birthmother every day. She was in and out of doctor appointments for stress tests and to check her water and stuff like that. She told us over and over it was sure to be any day and we did not want to miss it! Our attorney advised us to go to New Jersey as soon as we could because she was getting close to her actual due date. So we did. We thought we might have some more time to get to know our baby momma a bit and tour around New York. We booked economy hotels by the day because we had booked a more expensive extended stay hotel with two rooms and a kitchen for after the birth. We were going to have to stay in New Jersey for a couple of weeks for post placement reasons.
We had dinner with the birthmother and her family the first day we got into town. She seemed more anxious this time, more than she was on our first meet and greet visit. She chatted a bit more and shared more about doctor visits and her anxiety about giving birth. She did not want to have a C-section but the doctors really did not want her to deliver vaginally. She was very direct and open in front of her kid! It was really uncomfortable. We were both exhausted. Not just tired from the trip, but being around them took so much energy. It was hard smiling when we were seeing some of the stuff we were seeing. You go into something like this with your own ideas about how things might work out. You know you are in a way helping the birthmother by raising her child(ren) but in a way you feel like you are rescuing a child from a really bad future.
We went into the city the next few days and our baby momma sent us a few texts updating us on doctor appointments and telling us we are going to be wonderful dads. It was clear that we had jumped the gun and gone out to New Jersey way too early. My mom had flown in for the birth of her millionth grandkids. She was also tagging along from place to place. We ended up crashing our good friend’s apartment in Brooklyn for a few days. She was not using it and it was really nice of her to let us all stay there.
As the days went by we heard less and less from our baby momma. We did not call her much but we called the hospital every morning to see if she had delivered. We were beyond excited, very cranky, and just tired of New York…and not really thrilled about having to stay in New Jersey for two weeks post delivery. We headed to Queens for a bbq on June 15th, Jon’s 34th birthday. His cousin was visiting her in-laws and she invited us over. We chatted about how excited we were and we tried to act like normal people but we felt off. Something was not right but we did not know what it was.
We tolerated each other a couple more days in the tiny Brooklyn apartment. We had lugged so much stuff to the east coast it was killing us. The car seats were bulky and they seemed to always be in the way. We had a huge duffle bag filled with everything “baby” that we might need and more than we would ever use. June 18th was our wedding anniversary and Jon and I “celebrated” with Thai food. We promised not to let the tension ruin the night but it did. We stared into space or at our phones most of the meal.
The next morning we called the hospital, just like every other morning. This time the nurse told us that our baby momma had delivered. We had planned this moment so many times but all we could do was question. Why didn’t she call?
By: Christopher Coyne
“I need to set the record straight. I am sure you guys are worried but I cannot change my mind. I chose you to parent these girls because I can’t and I know you will be the best parents for them.”
These are the first words our baby momma said to us after the match. We had booked the first flight out to JFK and we were so nervous to meet our Birthmother we did not say a word to each other on the flight out. We both read our books like it would be the last time we ever took a flight minus two babies that would need every second of our attention. The previous night neither one of us slept a wink. I tossed and turned wondering if she would eat her words and change her mind the second she met us. I was so excited and nervous I was at a loss for words when we met her.
She was wonderful. She was really pretty, super smart and she had great teeth! Her husband drove her over and he seemed to do most of the talking for all of us. Our baby momma’s daughter sat on her crowded lap and bounced around like it was a wild ride. There was an obvious boundary separating us from them. They were a family and we were the guys across the table who wanted a family but needed their help. She handed us an envelope that contained all of her ultrasounds. It was amazing to see the girls on paper. It was a huge surprise to see her pregnant belly move and morph while we chatted about anything but the pregnancy. We refused to bring up the subject because we thought it was insensitive to talk about it in front of her child.
We parted ways and it seemed everything went really well. We flew back home and realized our lives would never be the same. A panic was setting up inside me. We were about to become parents to two girls. Daddy’s little girl will have a whole new meaning when our little girls have two dads! How are we going to get them back to Los Angeles? How are we going to fit two huge heavy car seats in our little sports car? What do we do about the dogs? Is our house big enough? How do you feed two babies at the same time? The sleepless nights were going to begin way before the girls ever made it to our house that is for sure.
As the days came and went more and more questions piled on. We looked online but we did not find much. Our first resource was one of Jon’s gay friends and his partner who had twins via a surrogate a year before. Jon called and barraged him with a million questions. His advice was to front load as much as possible. A neighbor had advised we join the local twin network, West Los Angeles Parents of Multiples or WLAPOM. We went to a meeting and we realized we were a bit over our heads. The best thing that came from that meeting was an introduction to Tere Throenle. She and her wife had boy/girl twins (a new term for us) and she was amazing. She had some sort of a role in LAPOM (by the way it should be LAMOM –Mothers of Multiples because we were the only dads). During the meeting she was emailing and texting me all sorts of useful information. This is when I learned a very important lesson in life. If you do not know something ask a lesbian!
By: Chris Coyne
I am not really sure if I was the one who pushed for adoption or if it was Jon. I am sure we both questioned if it was right along the way. We breezed through the home study. It was a bunch of paperwork, fingerprinting, a doctor’s visit, and a crappy autobiography. I would say the more you put into it the more you will have to explain later. After you send in all your paperwork you have to visit with a social worker a couple of times to make sure your house is fit for a little person and to screen you out if you are some kind of a bad person. I felt the pressure when we were in the middle of it. Looking back, I know I should have eased up a bit. I was so worried the social worker was looking for something wrong with us that I was a wreck. I cleaned the house like a mad man the day before she came over. I had a checklist of what the social worker was looking for. I put our Tylenol in a box with a key. I put up smoke alarms in all the rooms. I even got the huge fire extinguisher. At the end of it we received a certificate stating we had completed a home study.
We found an agency that was close to us and highly recommended by friends of a friend. They were a very happy and lucky gay couple who “matched” with a birthmother (“baby mama”) a few weeks after they contacted with said agency. We put together a “Dear Birthmother” package filled with a cheesy letter from us and a bunch of pictures we had taken over the last few years together. We were told by the head of the agency that we were sure to match in a few months. Wow! Months??? This was great news and we started to get really excited.
Every month we would get an email from the agency. The email was designed to let us know that the agency was indeed working hard. They had presented our profile to such and such on this day and they had matched with another couple. As the months piled on we started resenting the monthly emails and eventually asked them to stop sending them to us altogether. At first it was so exciting to go through the names and dates but then we realized that these women were not choosing us. It was hard.
After a year and a half of waiting and wondering we received a phone call from our case worker. A woman had chose us but she had one question for us. She needed to know if we were vegan. She wanted her child to be raised by a gay vegan couple and we had not specified this in our “Dear Birthmother” letter. Well, no, we are not vegan, but we were willing to drop meat, dairy, and our leather couches for a match. This was passed on to the birthmother but we never heard anything back.
A few months after the vegan woman we were contacted again by the agency. It’s funny, looking back. Some of this is hard to explain. This time it was a young woman who lived in New Jersey. She had chosen us out of 126 prospective adoptive parents. She had a three-year-old and she was expecting identical twin girls. It is impossible to write how excited we were at this moment. We were going to be fathers. We were going to have twins! This woman had chosen us to parent her unborn children. This was going to be the ride of our life. We spoke to the birthmother on the phone later that afternoon. It was an akward conversation. When we got off the phone we were sure we had messed it up. After the call our attorney called us and we had matched!!! She was 35-weeks pregnant and she was sure she would not make it full-term. We were on the next flight to New York.
By: Joey Uva
A couple weeks ago I wrote about being a teenager and having a very sad and lonely Christmas. It was the kindness of an unknown person who left a Christmas tree on my car one night that gave me hope and got me through a very tough time in my life.
After I wrote that blog, I had several individuals ask me, “Have you ever given anyone a Christmas tree or thought about making that your tradition?” I have done various things to give back to those less fortunate than myself, but I have never given anyone a Christmas tree during the holiday season. I immediately called Trevor; we discussed whom we could give a Christmas tree to and agreed that this is something we must do. The first email I sent was to the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Youth Center. I knew they had a facility for homeless youth. In my email I provided a brief bio and a link to the blog.
About three hours after I sent my email I received a call from a nice young lady named Corri letting me know that they received my email and would love to have a Christmas tree for the Youth Center. We talked about the size limitations of the tree, getting the tree fire retardant as that was a requirement, and scheduling a delivery date. After a couple more emails and phone calls, it was set; Trevor and I would now be donating a Christmas tree to the Youth Housing Center. The tree was to be delivered on December 9th at 4:30pm.
As I sat there thinking about donating the Christmas tree, I thought, they probably don’t have any ornaments, lights, a tree skirt or stand. I sat down at the computer and drafted an email to some of our very close friends. I explained about my most recent blog, the email to the center, and the donation of the tree. I asked my friends to help me make this bigger by donating lights and ornaments. No sooner than I could walk away from the computer did I start to get responses that they would love to help. Trevor and I have some really amazing friends. I really feel you get what you put out there, and our friends show me that every single day. Trevor and I spent the next few days scheduling times to pick up the lights and ornaments; some friends dropped them off directly at our house to save us a trip. I went to the store and bought a nice tree skirt. It was all set; we had everything the Youth Housing Center needed to decorate a tree.
It was December 9th, Trevor and I were on our way to buy the Christmas tree for the center. We arrived at the Christmas tree lot and found the perfect tree. We had the tree loaded onto the top of the car and headed to the center with the tree, ornaments, and lights in tow. We arrived at the Youth Housing Center and parked. Trevor and I entered the building and went to the front desk. I announced myself to the guard, why we were there and asked if he could phone Corri. There was a man standing there who introduced himself as the director and said that Corri was stuck in a meeting but he was there to help us with the tree. He said the youth were all very excited as they were told a tree was coming at 4:30pm and some of them were waiting by the windows. I got a little emotional but kept my composure. I told myself, don’t cry Joey! I told him we also had our friends donate lights and ornaments, and now they had everything they needed. The director kept thanking us and said he was planning on trying to buy stuff for the tree but now he did not have to, he thanked us again. We went to the 2nd floor where the Youth Housing Center was located; we went into the living room to put the tree, ornaments, and lights down. Within a couple minutes we were surrounded by youth and staff members with smiles and comments of thanks. It was really great. The coordinator offered us a tour of the facility; they have a full chef’s kitchen, living room, and dining room. The bedrooms hold four beds (bunk beds) each, and each room has its own bathroom. The coordinator said they try to make it as home-like as possible and that they will be having a homemade Christmas dinner –and now they will have a tree too. The youth planned a little decorating party for the following Saturday morning.
As I said before, I have never been able to say thank you to that unknown person who gave me that Christmas tree. Well 27 years later, On December 9, 2010, I was able to say “Thank You” in the very best way possible. This was more than a Christmas tree; this is how it was supposed to be.
By: Chris Coyne
By: Joey Uva
When I was seventeen I had the loneliest and hardest Christmas of my life. I lived in a small town in Oklahoma and had moved away from home in my junior year of high school. After I moved out, my dad moved away with my younger brother. I was now pretty much alone and worked full time at night, went to school during the day, and had very little money. It was a godsend that my job allowed me to eat for free; it was one less expense I had to worry about.
Thanksgiving had just passed and l was lucky enough to get to spend it with a friend of mine; her mom and dad were always very kind to me. Christmas was now about two weeks away and I had no money for a Christmas tree or gifts and felt extremely lonely. I knew this Christmas was going to be very difficult for me and different than any other I had experienced. I can honestly say it was one of the saddest and loneliest times of my life.
I took what money I did have and bought a box of Christmas cards to give to those people who were in my life at the time. It was a cold and snowy December night and I had to go to the post office to mail out my Christmas cards. I bundled up, got my cards, got in the car and headed to the post office. I parked right in the front of the post office as I was the only person there so late at night. I went into the post office where the front entrance was always open so you could drop off mail. I got my stamps and sat at the counter placing the stamps on my envelopes so I could drop them in the slot. I finished up and headed back outside into the snowy cold night. I opened the door to the post office and started walking down the steps. As I approach my car I noticed something on the top of it. I got closer to my car and there sitting on top of it was a small Christmas tree. There was no note, no card, no sign of anyone. At first, I didn’t know what to feel; I began to cry as I realized that there was someone out there who knew where I was in life, what I was going through and valued me as a person. I took the Christmas tree home and the next day I bought a couple cheap boxes of Christmas ornaments and put them on the tree. It was still a lonely Christmas but this gesture from a loving and unknown person gave me hope and the glimmer of light I needed to make it through.
Today, every single year, some time at the beginning of the holiday season that memory floods my mind and I get a little emotional and tear up. I am not really sure when it will hit, it doesn’t last long and it can be anywhere. Today I decided to write this because that memory just hit me. The thing is, I don’t cry because I remember the loneliness, or the sadness, or the lack of money; I cry because that memory still gives me hope and shines as bright today. With all I have now –my partner, daughter, family and friends –that memory still means as much today as it did back then.
I have never been able to say thank you to that unknown person, to give them a hug or write them a thank you card. But, do know this: I think about that act of kindness every single year. It never fails. I love the holiday season so much and you, whoever you are, remind me of that every year. It may have seemed like a small act of kindness at the time but it was much more than just a Christmas tree. Thank You!
By: Chris Coyne
Jon and I dated for a year before we moved in together. He had quit his job and entered business school right when I met him. I was working for a struggling media company based in the valley. My job offered lots of flexibility so we hung out most weekends. During a summer break Jon took an internship working for his family’s company based in South Florida. He was gone for six weeks but he turned down a better internship in London because of me. The day he returned we were shopping for a place for all of us. Jon, my dog Toby, and I crammed into a crappy one bedroom apartment in the WeHo ghetto above Sunset. Jon referred to me as his “roommate” to his parents and brothers any time they called. They rarely visited but I began to feel like Jon’s dirty little secret. I knew he was conflicted. We would talk for hours about how he was raised. I thought I understood his feelings concerning coming out of the closet. I never expected him to come out of the closet. I never expected anything because he was so amazing. He treated me so well. I felt like a better person for knowing him. I like to think of myself as a secure rational person but I gained that knowledge after we met. I did not have a positive person in my life who told me I could do anything. He built up my self-esteem to the point where I was more secure about who I was.
You see, I came out of the closet when I was 25. I was married to my high school sweetheart at 19. I knew I was gay but I also had a very religious upbringing. She was, and is, an amazing person. I was a mess after our ugly divorce. I thought I could live a normal life. In my mind I had built this false future. I thought we would have children and buy a house with the white fence and we would live happily ever after –despite the fact that I knew I was GAY! I had repressed the feelings. I had never acted on them. I thought I was sure to burn in hell for eternity if I acted on the feelings. Anyway, after the divorce my older brother was in a horrible car accident. I moved up north for a few months to help take care of him and his two kids. I lived on a boat in a small harbor and I was really depressed. I felt like had nothing to live for. One day I woke up and I called one of my very best friends who had moved very far away. I told her I was gay. It felt amazing to say those words. I spent the rest of the day calling friends and family members basically telling everyone I was gay. I never looked back, but most of my insecurities remained into most of my adult life –until I met Jon.
A few weeks after I moved in with Jon he went home for Thanksgiving. He told his little brother he was gay. The next thing I know, Jon’s parents are on a plane, flying to California to meet me. I was freaking out!
I never expected Jon to come out. He is the oldest of four boys and comes from an uber-conservative Mormon family. I thought it was not possible, but he did. His parents came to our crappy apartment and his mom gave me a huge hug. His dad slapped me on the ass and welcomed me into the family! His little brother provided huge comic relief. He was eighteen at the time and he has an amazing way of breaking the ice in any akward situation.
Our relationship changed so much after that visit. I was no longer Jon’s dirty little secret! I was his boyfriend and it was amazing! His family opened their hearts to me the second I met them. I did not know this was even possible. I was in a real relationship with the man of my dreams.
By: Chris Coyne
My mom was shocked, or so she said, when I told her I was gay. One of the first questions she asked me was shocking. She asked who the woman was going to be in a gay relationship. I explained to her that in a gay relationship it was two men and there was no woman. She stared at me a bit confused and I felt like I did not answer her question. Now I am pretty sure she was asking a different kind of question. I think she was asking me about my sexual role in the relationship. As far that is concerned I will tell you what I told her, “it’s none of your business and do not imagine me in a sexual way and I will try to do the same.” I stay out of my mother’s bedroom as she should stay out of mine. Right?
Cut to now. Jon is the bread maker and I am the bread baker. I cook, clean, do all the shopping, drop off the dry cleaning, and change the gross majority of our beautiful son’s stinky diapers. I am not implying that Jon does not do these things. He has been known to wash a dish or two or change an occasional poop-filled diaper, but rest assured, he will mention that one diaper that he had to change that exploded all over CJ’s car seat which should be enough to get him out of any smelly diaper as long as I am around.
During the week I sing our little man through his Little Maestros music class, jump and jiggle through gymboree, and coax his chunky little butt up the stairs so he can go down the slide a few hundred times a day. I love every second of it. I was made for it. I would never try to explain what Jon does. I know he works hard. I know we are doing well in our roles and I know he is happy doing what he does, what ever it is he does.
We both enjoy our down time. Jon gets to go to the office five long days a week. He provides a roof over our heads, food on our table, and everything we need to live in our current lifestyle. In exchange, I do not expect him to do much around the house. I expect little, but I get so much. I get to spend my week with the most amazing little boy I have ever met. Jon gets up with the baby on the weekends and lets me get out of bed when I am ready. I wake up to the most amazing sounds of the two people I love most enjoying life at its fullest.
Again, Mom, there is no woman in our relationship. I may be a bit wife-ish, but that is who I am.
By: Joey Uva
This one is for Grace, for our Star Student. Here’s the story, what Grace decided to do, the adventures, and what we sat down and journaled together.
Last Friday when I picked up Grace after work she was accompanied by a basket with Marley and Mikah Meerkat. There was also a binder with instructions and pages to journal in. Grace was the Star Student for the week and got to bring Marley and Mikah home with her for a week of adventures. Grace’s kindergarten class is the Mango Meerkats. I read the instructions to Grace to make sure we knew what we could do and what must be followed. The Meerkats were not to be near food, not kicked around and had to travel in their basket but could be taken on any adventures Grace wanted.
Highlights from Grace’s weekend adventures with Marley and Mikah:
Congratulations to our daughter, our Star Student!