By Anthony Romeo
It’s the time of night in New York City when the neon lights are casting a purple pallor over the low-hanging clouds, wispy violet tendrils inching through the avenues, before another sun goes to sleep in a sleepless city. And I’m not watching it at all, because I’m watching a baby try to poop.
This must be one hell of a poop. I can see the furrowed brow of concentration and force, coupled with the scrunched cheeks and tightened fist of determination. This baby is about to accomplish something enormous, and I can’t turn away.
These things have been happening lately, you see. I just find myself captivated. Whether it’s a baby in a grocery store who can’t stop putting the broccoli in his mouth or the little girl at the rink in a hockey jersey in her Dad’s arms, smiling at me as an entire period of hockey passes by without my knowledge.
Our neighbor’s 11-month old baby is the light and the joy of living in our duplex. He hugs me, and tugs on my facial scruff, and always beams when he sees me. He sat on my lap for the entirety of his first musical. We immediately steal our friends’ babies and hold them until we are forced to give them back. Maybe steal is a harsh word.
If I had ovaries, I think it would be safe to say they’ve been aching. I want a baby. I want a baby very, very badly. All around us now, as my husband and I slide handsomely into our thirties, our friends are having babies. I’ve always been less interested in trends and more focused on what feels right for me individually.
I am so excited for my friends when I hear about their pregnancies. I have amazing friends, beautiful, loving, caring friends. And they’re going to make amazing moms and dads, I’m sure of it. Far be it from me to begrudge a woman her vagina. But there’s that part of me that wants a baby so badly for myself, for my husband. To make our family happen. We want to experience every moment of our baby’s life, from the first time we feel a tightened grip around our pointer fingers to the first diaper change, first word, first anything and first everything.
We started looking into the adoption process. In approaching my 30th year, I’ve lost the ego that tells me I need to have a child that is biologically mine. I will take any baby. I don’t care if the baby is Black, white, Asian, chubby, skinny or a jerk. Do you hear me? If you have a baby and it’s a jerk, I will take it. Pack his stuff in a box, I’ll pay for shipping and handling.
Well, the adoption research didn’t take very long, as it turns out. $2,500 for a home study. $1,000 for a home study update. $3,000 for pregnancy-related expenses. $3,000 for travel. $6,000 for out-of-state agency fees. $2,000 for “finalization expenses.” $1,500 for additional attorney fees. $150/hr. for birth parent counseling. $150/hr. for pre-adoption consultation. $150/hr. for private adoption information meetings. With specific agencies, there is a $20,000 child placement fee.
That’s at least $39,000. Thirty-nine thousand dollars. So ultimately, if we’re able to find a child who never needs to eat, wear clothes, go to school, leave the home or have any substantial quality of life, it looks like we just might be able to afford this.
If “Toys ‘R Us” sells toys, then logic would follow that “Babies ‘R Us”… nevermind. I already checked.
Maybe surrogacy would be easier, you might suggest. No, $80,000 is not easier than $39,000. Both are batsh*t crazy.
Real life is different than television. Couples like us are different from the couples on “Modern Family” and “The New Normal.” Money has to be earned, and that is hard.
We do not have, and will not have, an extra forty grand, or eighty grand just lying around. Can we afford to have a baby right now, in terms of the costs of living and providing for a newborn? Absolutely. Do we have the time to take care of a newborn? Absolutely. Do we have jobs that allow us the paternity leave to be there as our child grows up? Yes, we do. Are we ready? Mentally, emotionally, are we ready for our entire lives to change and adjust to a new life in the house? Yes. A thousand times, yes. And because our marriage is now legally recognized at the state and federal level, nothing is standing in the way of our having a family protected to the fullest extent of the law.
But unless Oprah or Ellen or Angelina Jolie is going to pay for a baby for us, we’re left watching for one sailing through the air from Rosie O’Donnell’s Koosh Launcher. Santa has left me disappointed every year. Let me appeal to you here, faithful reader. Looking past the insanity of adoption fees, here are the qualifications that I think make us fantastic candidates to be parents.
Me, Dad #1. (Or maybe it’ll be Pop? Daddy? Something cute our baby calls me that I can’t even imagine right now?) Here’s what I bring.
1.) I know every lullaby ever created. I am the best shower singer in theseUnited States. I have seen literally hundreds of Broadway shows and am prepared to sing that baby to sleep every single night of its life until it’s thirty or I’m dead.
2.) I have been a hockey fan for 20 years. I will care too much that my son or daughter is also a Devils fan. That child’s first Halloween costume will be in a hockey jersey. And there will be facepaint.
3.) Happiness and celebration matter to me. So there will be Christmas decorations and Halloween decorations and Easter decorations and the happiest of birthday parties and celebrations for good report cards and celebrations for Arbor Day because trees matter and on President’s Day I might dress up as Thomas Jefferson because it will make my child laugh and all I want in this world is to have a child that is mine and to make it laugh.
4.) I don’t know how to do girl’s hair. I will probably never know how tobraid, but I will happily send my daughter to school with a sloppy braid, because I will try so hard. Hmm, maybe that’s not my best sell. You know what, we have friends who will do her hair.
My Hubby, Dad #2 (Pop might be a better name here, he does wear old hats really well, and that feels like a “Pop” thing to do.)
1. He can cook anything, from anything, and it will be the most delicious dish you’ve ever eaten. I will only eat French Fries, but he will teach our child about being what other folks call “healthy and nutritious.”
2. He is a teacher, and he cares more about children than I could possibly imagine. He has dedicated his life to children, and if he works half as hard at being a dad as he does as a teacher, our child will be President. Unless we end up adopting that jerk baby we discussed earlier. Then maybe he’ll just wind up in the Senate.
3. He can parallel park better than anyone I’ve ever met.I feel like this is something that might not get covered in a home study for adoption, but my husband will out-parallel-park your husband eleven times out of ten. So I’m pretty sure our baby will be a great driver, and a responsible parker.
4. He is a good man. Good men make good fathers. This is a no-brainer.So, there it is. These are among the many and varied reasons that I think we will be good parents, should be parents. Our parents can’t wait to spoil a baby. This would be the first grandchild in our family, and I think you all know what that means.
There will be too many family members passing around the new baby, too many stories about what we were both like as babies ourselves. Too many toys, shiny plastic celebrations of a new beginning. And there will be embarrassing photos trotted out, like this one.
My body and my head and my heart feel like they can’t wait to be holding a tiny bundle of baby-love in my arms. But I have to wait. For something, I suppose. A magical stork in a cabbage patch, a family who hears about two dads-in-waiting or an overhaul of the costs of the adoption system that makes adoption affordable for two dads with a lot of love and a lot of hope. For now, we have our cat. And as much as he puts up a fight when it’s time to put his pajamas on, it’s the best we can do. It is all we can do. It’s just a little less fun to see him poop.
Until then, we’ll find happiness in unexpected places. Grocery stores, hockey games, our friends’ homes. And their babies. Every tiny smile and giggle we’re lucky to share. Someday our prince or princess will come. And we can’t wait to be part of it. Even if waiting is the only thing we can do.
(Author’s Note — All babies pictured in the above article are otherwise spoken for, with parents who will not give them up, no matter how hard I try. I’ve even offered chocolate. They aren’t budging.
Thanks to the parents of Baby Max and Andie Lynn for use of the adorable pictures.)
You can follow Anthony on Twitter
Last night we celebrated our friend’s birthday and enjoyed an evening of fun, frivolity, and meeting new people. Fun and frivolity are always goods, but meeting new people is always a crapshoot. You just never know what you’re going to get.
Well last night we got lucky. We spent almost the entire night with two different lesbian couples. One couple was about 3-4 months away from being ready for the adoption journey. We reminisced about parenting classes, the paperwork, the birthmother letter, and the home study. That seems like ages ago, but I was happy to give my words of caution. Having experienced the loss of a child after 24 hours in my home, I might have a unique perspective on the whole adoption thing. While the end result of my adoption journey was a beautiful healthy baby that is now a really great 6 ½- year old, I still find that I get a pang of worry for those embarking on this endeavor. Hopefully through the stories of my ups and downs, the new parents of today can have a little easier go of it. In some ways little ole me might be a kind of trailblazer.
Just when I’m up on my high horse, I meet the second lesbian couple and realize that I am speaking with true pioneers who took risks in the past that those of us in the current can hardly fathom.
Jane and Mary (not their real names) have been in love for 38 years. Jane had a son from her first marriage to a physically and emotionally abusive husband. The ex-husband is out of the picture, and the son didn’t turn out so well due to the collateral damage of divorce. In fact, although they live in the county next to his, they have no contact with him.
They brought a daughter into this world with the help of a gay friend with premium sperm, a turkey baster of some sort, and a cooperating uterus. Since it was illegal at the time and the place they were living (i.e. the United States of America), they had to suffer through a clandestine pregnancy and birth before presenting their daughter to the world.
They were finally able to consummate their relationship last year with a fabulous wedding attended by 800 of their closest friends. They are supremely proud of their daughter, who is successful in her business and out & proud in her own gay life with her own loving wife who is now pregnant with their first child, a baby girl.
Most of the night was spent learning about the great pains they had to go through in the workplace, in their daughter’s school, and even their own back yard. They remain completely amazed how things have turned around in this country, and how much easier it is to live as an out gay person. Alen and I had to confess that we often forget that we are actually a gay couple, not because sex after children has dwindled to a trickle, but because we perceive so much support from those around us, namely family, friends, and neighbors. We realized after we left the party that we owe our perception (and in most case reality) to all the Janes and Marys of the world who came before us and made today easier for us to survive. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
By Meika Rouda
When I was in college I attended my first pro-choice rally. We wore t-shirts with slogans like “U.S. out of my Uterus” and “Uncle Sam Stay Out of My Pants”. We went to Washington D.C. and marched for women’s rights.That was twenty years ago. While abortion is still a right that we need to fight for, reproduction freedom has changed greatly. There are several new debates on the table, things that are complicated and raise intense moral questions. For example, how many fertilized eggs should be implanted into a woman? We all remember the horror of Octomom who now says it was a mistake to go back for IVF treatments when she already had 6 children. Um… yeah. Wasn’t there anyone in the fertility to clinic to talk to her, make sure she was stable mentally and financially before they implanted her with multiple embryos? What about sperm donors, should there be a limit to how many times a donor is used for fertilization? What about the concern regarding cross-pollination of half siblings, meeting and falling in love and having children of their own? What about donor eggs? And what about age? Should we limit the age that women can undergo IVF? Is it natural for a 50 year old woman to be pregnant? How does the later age of motherhood affect the current population of children?
All of these reproductive questions makes abortion seem like a simple issue. You either believe in the right to choose or you don’t. While artificial reproductive technology is a pandora’s box of topics to be considered. There are clinics that will perform low cost abortions to those who need or want one but there are no low cost clinics for IVF in the U.S.This is a business with very little ethical boundaries for right and wrong. So while we feel entitled to having our own “natural” children with completely unnatural procedures, we think little about the repercussions of those actions on our bodies and our society. In the past 35 years, since the first “test tube baby” 5 million children have been born through artificial reproductive technologies. In 2009 in the U.S., 60,000 babies were born through IVF and the number has been steadily increasing each year. There needs to be regulation in place to make sure parents and children are cared for responsibly. While women are still fighting for the right to choose and new laws are being placed constantly restricting a women’s right to an abortion, no one is governing reproductive clinics. We know Octomom and Kate Gosslin have regrets and yet the people who will suffer the most will be there children. The science has clearly gotten ahead of the ethics. IVF is something that has been accepted by society as the new normal yet abortion is still a major battle in the U.S. Does anyone else think we may have our shirts on backwards?
By Meika Rouda
I haven’t been writing much this year. A slow spell of overwhelm came over me and I found it hard to muster the energy to write. It felt selfish of me, a purely indulgent act when so many other things needed to get done. First off are the kids, they need, well, everything. Food made, butts wiped, shoe laces tied, booboo’s kissed, nightmares scared off, hugs and kisses and books read constantly. Then there is housework, the laundry, the bills the groceries and the dinner to be made for my husband not to mention the bonding dinner time conversation so we can continue having a loving relationship even though I just want to go to bed and read a book alone. The writing was for me and me just isn’t a priority right now. I don’t mean to sound like a martyr but I realize I am always in a rush, not just on a daily basis to get the kids to school or be at an appointment on time but in a rush to make things happen. I want to finish my book and move on with other projects. I want to see The Next Family Anthology come to fruition and be published. Everything feels like it needs to happen now or else. Or else what? Maybe rushing isn’t what it is about? Right now I need to think about my family, my son’s multiple doctor’s appointments to treat his self control issues, my daughter’s gymnastic classes, my husband’s demanding job and allow myself a stint on the sidelines. I haven’t exercised in ten months and the lines on my face are growing at an alarming rate but still I am grateful that I have this life. That these children who tirelessly need things are my children. I am grateful to have this time to be with my kids even if they drive me crazy sometimes. I know that my time will come, my time will come.
By Jason Holling
Waiting can seem like an eternity. While we wait to be matched, Justin and I have decided to focus on getting the nursery setup and networking so others see our profile. While we expected ups and downs in the adoption journey, I do not think we were fully prepared for some of the emotional highs and lows. And while we do not want to stop this ride by any means, we know there are still more to come on this roller coaster.
In our adoption classes prior to our profile going live, the agency helped to prepare us for the ups and downs that would soon come and we started to be contacted. I remember watching a video in the class that took place at the birth of a baby and the ups and downs the birthmother went through as well as the adoptive parents in the waiting room. Justin grabbed my leg as I wiped away a tear thinking of the emotional struggles both sides were going through. The story ended well and the baby had a safe home.
Justin and I have had some leads since our profile went live. While these have not worked out, we know our birthmother is out there still. I remember hanging up the phone with Justin after the initial phone call in the middle of the night. We were both on an emotional high as we hung up and sat on the floor of the nursery next to the crib talking about how excited we were. Could this be real? Could we be daddies in just a few short weeks? Then looking around the nursery in a panic at all the things we would have to do still to get ready. But then the lows come when we realized later that week it was someone that made up a story of having a baby just to make someone else feel horrible. Luckily we have our agency to help figure out what is real and what is a scam. Justin and I joked that the silver lining is that we are no longer nervous when the 800 number for the adoption rings and a potential birthmother is on the other side of the line. And what that person did to us was build our confidence for the next call that we know will come any time now!
Another component that helps us with the wait is networking. Networking is a huge component of getting noticed and finding a birthmother that is looking for a safe and secure family to place her child with. And many times it may be a friend who has a friend that knows someone considering adoption. Since going live in May, Justin and I have focused on networking and getting our profile out for potential birthmothers to see and connect with us. We have been using Facebook as one of the tools to tell people about our journey which has been a great way to connect with families that have adopted, birthmothers that have already placed, and people that are supporting our journey. Facebook has been hands down the best method for connecting and interacting with people in the adoption process. The messages and posts of successful adoptions from others give us hope and encouragement! We have had so many people write us stories and offer help it has been overwhelming at times.
So while waiting is hard, we know the emotional roller coaster we are on will be worth the wait in the end. Everyone that writes us to encourage us on our journey, we write back and thank. We are truly grateful for having so many supportive and loving people in our lives. Each time our blog is read, profile viewed, or someone adds our page on Facebook it gives us hope that our family will grow soon.
We are an approved family with Independent Adoption Center. Visit our profile and Dear Birthmother Letter at http://www.jasonandjustin.com.
By- Trey Darnell
The short five minute ride to the Abilene Fairfield Inn & Suites was a breeze. Harper did not even notice that she was riding solo in the back seat. It was the first and only time of the trip that she didn’t have company watching her every move. The hotel staff was waiting patiently for our arrival. Before we even opened the car door, several staff members were peeking out of the lobby. Hoping for a quick peek of the new arrival.
As we made it to the room with our cart full of bottles, diapers, luggage, baby clothing and everything else that would fit into the Honda Pilot, we were met with a pleasant surprise. The entire hotel staff had signed a banner that said “It’s a Girl.” They had even filled the room with pink balloons and pink flowers. We were in awe of the amazing hospitality that we had received from the hotel staff. It felt like Texas had rolled out the red carpet and welcomed us with open arms.
This would be our first night alone with Harper and our first chance to settle into our new roles as parents. For those of you that have adopted or are in the process of adopting are aware that you are theoretically babysitting until relinquishment documents have been signed and the termination process is complete. For an agency adoption, there is no reclaim period in Texas and the relinquishment documents cannot be signed until 72 hours after the birth of the child. Our counselor would be traveling to Abilene from Houston and had scheduled the meeting to sign all the documents at three o’clock the next afternoon. A world record for holding your breath? I had it in the bag.
Matthew and I had already planned to stay through the weekend and leave on Tuesday morning. It is not uncommon for an adoptive family to leave town immediately after the relinquishment documents have been signed, but we chose to wait five days after. It was necessary to us to spend as much time as possible with Mercy and Dylan (birth parents) and the rest of the birth family. Matthew and I wanted to reassure the entire family that this was not a goodbye. It was a new beginning. We are very committed to the idea and meaning of an open adoption.
(Thursday August 22, 2013)
The day had arrived that could make us dads. The hotel graciously offered a vacant suite for our counselor to use to obtain signatures on the relinquishment documents. Mercy and Stacie (Dylan’s mother) came to the hotel a couple of hours before the meeting. While Stacie and I talked about everything from food to medical insurance and the Army, Matthew got carried away with the digital camera. It seemed like every couple of seconds the sound of the camera shutter echoed through the room. I have never been a fan of getting my picture taken. My mother has an infatuation with pictures, so I blame her for my dislike. She can go to a two hour birthday party and take over 1,400 photos. What is the saying? You marry your mother. Matthew had so much fun. The results were phenomenal. Check out our Facebook page for all the photos.
Cindy, our counselor from the Independent Adoption Center, arrived and quickly asked who wanted to go first. My heart started to beat faster. I felt nauseous. My mind couldn’t think straight, and every possible outcome was playing out in my head. Cindy reentered the room and summoned the next person. All this was happening very fast. After what seemed like only four or five blinks of an eye, she returned and asked Matt and I to sign two forms. Two forms that officially made us dads!
Cindy posed for a couple of pictures, asked if we had any questions, gave a hug and left. I was effective in holding my composure as plans were being made for later that night. Everyone gave hugs and said a quick goodbye as we would see them in just a couple of hours. The hotel door seemed to slam shut, and Matthew started to do his quirky happy dance. We hugged each other and hugged Harper and then one of us asked “Now what?”
What would any person in the trenches of the social media world want to do after a moment as monumental as this? A Facebook status update of course! I quickly typed up a statement and added a picture. Before I pressed the post button, we began to worry about Mercy. While we were overjoyed, we wanted to be respectful of Mercy and the rest of the family. We agreed that we could tell our parents that they were officially grandparents and give them permission to share the good news with family but not through Facebook.
As the afternoon quickly faded away, we headed to spend the evening with the birth family. It is hard to describe the feeling of being a new parent. Amazing! We wanted to ask permission to share the news with our friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. After popping the question about making a post on Facebook, Mercy and the family said they were somewhat disappointed that we hadn’t shared the news already. A world record for fastest Facebook status update? I had it in the bag.
Over the next several days, we spent as much time as possible with Mercy, Dylan and the rest of the family. We even watched the MTV Music Awards together. How could we miss *NSYNC’s reunion in honor of Harper’s birth? I think I squealed (inside) five or six times during the 90 second performance. Another great aspect of our relationship with Mercy and Dylan is the similarities in our music taste. Off topic side note. Over a year ago, I had just arrived in Denver, Colorado. It had just been announced that Whitney Houston had died. While checking into the hotel, I mentioned the news to the 19 year-old front desk employee. She had never heard of Whitney Houston. What? Really? Bodyguard? No? A world record for living under a rock the longest? She had it in the bag.
The weekend quickly ended and we were less than 24 hours from leaving Abilene. We had decided to schedule Harper’s one week appointment with the pediatrician that administered care in the hospital and decided to invite Mercy to join us. Later that evening, Mercy, Dylan and Liz (Dylan’s sister-in-law) invited us to their home and cooked a wonderful southern meal. During dinner, I could feel the emotions starting to rise to the surface. Excitement of starting our journey home and the sadness of saying goodbye to Mercy and Dylan were at their highest. Abilene had come to feel comfortable. As the night came to an end, we made plans for our final goodbye before checkout the next day.
(Tuesday August 27, 2013)
Mercy arrived at our hotel a couple of hours prior to checkout. Our plan for the first leg of our trip home was to drive three hours to Dallas and spend a couple of days. Slowly making our way to the Texas and Arkansas state line while we waited for Texas and Tennessee ICPC (Interstate Compact for Placement of Children) approval. Mercy and Harper were able to have some alone time while Matthew and I loaded the car with all of our stuff. Over the past week, we had undoubtedly acquired more stuff. The Honda Pilot had no room left. Before the trip would be over, we would return something for the lack of available space.
As checkout time came and went, we began to say goodbye. It felt as if we were slowly inching closer to the door. Matthew and I wanted to reassure Mercy that we would be back soon. This was the beginning of a new journey for all of us. We inched a little further to the door. All three of us hugged with Harper sandwiched in the middle. Tears were clearly flowing. We had made it to the door and said the last of at least 15 goodbyes. Mercy walked slowly to the elevator and pushed DN, the door closed, and we feel apart. We were delighted to leave Abilene, but we felt as if we just broke the mother of our child’s heart. This will be a moment that I will never forget.
It is very possible that we sobbed for 15 minutes leaning up against that door. In my mind, it felt like the all so common scene from the movies where you see a person on both sides of a door crying, and neither one of them know what is happening on the other side. After we captured our composure, we snuck out of the hotel so the staff wouldn’t see us leave. The car was loaded to the brink, and we were ready to say goodbye to Abilene. This time I road in the backseat with Harper.
Our next stop? In-N-Out Burger …
Monday August 19, 2013 started just like any other Monday for Matthew and I. It was business as usual and we were still anxiously counting down the days until the arrival of Baby T-Rex. Travel plans were being finalized, and the last days of work were being scheduled. Only 23 days until the due date. Everything completely changed with four text messages.
Reading those four text messages and then reading them again created feelings of anxiety, excitement and stress. The baby is coming tonight? Seriously? We are over 1,150 miles away. My first phone call was to Matthew while he was at work. He answers and I can only muster up a three-word phrase. “Leave work now!”
The next hour included packing clothes, stacking up bags and crates that would go into the car, checking on available flights to Texas, calling our parents and waiting for Matthew to make the 30 minute drive home from work. We had already experienced what we referred to as our practice drill, so we were prepared to leave as quickly as possible. From the time we received the phone call until we were pulling out of the driveway, took 90 minutes. As the garage door was closing, I thought to myself the next time it opens we would have our daughter with us and be a family of three.
We had barely driven 50 miles before the reality of how long it was actually going to take us to get to Texas set in. The GPS said we still had over 17 hours to go. I quickly started calculating a more accurate time using an average speed of 75 mph. With Matthew driving, I calculated an average speed of 80 mph. Is this an admission of guilt? We could make it in 15 hours.
The discussion began of how to pass the time as quick as possible. Matthew and I have talked about listening to an audiobook several times, and what better time than now to try one? A quick stop to the audiobook aisle at a Barnes and Noble in Knoxville, Tennessee and I was already over the idea. What book do you choose? I haven’t heard of half the books that were available. One of the few books we recognized was The Help. $49 later and we were back on the road to Texas. Disc 1 Track 3 and I was already lost and had no idea what was happening in the story. Who is Skeeter? We went to see the movie while it was still in theaters and I couldn’t even keep up with someone reading the story to me. This was going to be a long trip.
The miles seemed to pass slowly and the chapters of the book even slower. We both constantly checked our phones for an update from the labor and delivery floor at Abilene Regional Medical Center. The current plan was to induce the expecting mother at 8 o’clock the next morning. Our GPS said if we continued to drive through the night we would arrive at 9:15am. Everything appeared to be happening in our favor. Then we get a text message saying that they had “broken her water”. What? No way. We had just driven through Nashville, Tennessee, and we still had hundreds of miles to go.
Less than two hours later we were speeding toward the Tennessee state line, and we didn’t even realize that we had received these two text messages.
The baby is here? Really? We are dads? OMG! We needed to stop driving and pulled off I-40 in Jackson, Tennessee. Matthew and I decided to fill the car up with gas and get something to eat at the McDonald’s gas station combo. The television in the McDonald’s was on The Weather Channel, and they were airing a documentary of “The Miracle on the Hudson”. Being a pilot, I normally would be thrilled and excited to watch something about aviation, but this time I was so sick to my stomach and trying to process the magnitude of what just happened.
The phone vibrates and it was a small image. This had to be a picture of our daughter. I hold off looking at the picture until Matthew sits next to me in the booth. We click the image and it gets bigger. There she is! The very first picture of our daughter!
After discarding the half eaten fast food, we hopped in the car and began trying to process everything that was happening. Matthew drove around to the back of the building and the tears began to flow. Our world had just changed forever. Letting the reality of what happened to sink in was difficult. There was definitely some sadness for missing her birth, but we were happy and very excited. It was hard to believe baby Harper was finally here. We both really wanted to be at the hospital with her mother Mercy and her father Dylan but were elated that both mother and baby were fine. Dylan survived the birth as well.
Matthew and I want to share that special first picture with you. World meet Harper Wade Darnell
Born August 19, 2013 at 8:24 pm CDT
5lb 9.6 oz
18.5 inches long
We are now dads and we still have 10 hours to go! Exhaustion has set in.
To be continued…
By: Jason Holling
We knew we were ready to become fathers when we started strolling down the baby aisles at Target to look at all the cute cribs, toys, and baby clothes. We had reached that point in our lives where we both were stable in our careers and relationship to welcome and care for a child. Even when we made the decision that we were ready to adopt, we held off purchasing things because we just did not know how long we would wait (which Justin had an issue holding me back from all the cute baby items!). And the thought of seeing the room made into a nursery but no match was disheartening to us. But something came over us once our profile went live with our agency, Independent Adoption Center (IAC). Something we can only describe as a nesting bug.
While the biggest issue has been the desire to get the nursery prepared, we have also been compelled to take on home improvement projects that have not been a priority for years as well as clean out closets and other spaces in our house. Justin will probably say it’s more me that has lost my mind and caught the nesting bug (but I see him getting into my purchases just as much!). It started off innocent with us researching a baby monitor and using a gift certificate I had gotten from a friend. Then it got triggered again when we saw a cute diaper bag that was designed for dads.
Soon after those first two purchases, Justin had a little surprise when he pulled into the driveway after work. He had to wade through boxes delivered from UPS to get to the front door. I had gotten a little carried away on my day off with some fun nursery items. I still remember getting that call from Justin about the boxes and him wondering what I had bought. I heard him struggling to pull the biggest box into the house from the front porch. I laughed nervously and then told him I bought a few things for the nursery from online. I’m surprised he did not turn off my credit card that night!
Waiting for a birthmother to call us is the hardest part for me because I am a planner. I like to know when, where, what and be ready for all situations for what ever might come my way. So waiting and not knowing is the hardest part for me. That planner in me will be great when I a dad and preparing for our child’s sporting events, band, and other activities, but does not help during this phase of the adoption process.
We decided to make the nursery right next to our room and have started cleaning out the space that was a guest bedroom. Giving away and selling the furniture that we did not need to make room for a crib and diaper changing table. Being able to do things like setting up the nursery or doing home improvement projects to get ready for the day we have a child in our arms is important to take our minds off the wait ahead of us.
When Justin tells our friends and family about the boxes he found that day, they all laugh and tell us to stop buying so they can throw a baby shower when we adopt. I know there will be plenty more to purchase and spoil our child with when the time comes, so we are not worried. The nesting bug hit us so we are ready with a safe spot for our baby when the time is right.
Read more about Jason and Justin’s journey to become parents on JasonandJustin.com.
In Tennessee, gay couples can’t adopt, right? Well, it’s not that simple. The process for GLBT couples is often long, with extra and often invisible hurdles. While a heterosexual couple can adopt as a couple, one member of a same-sex couple must adopt as a single parent. A second legal process secures guardianship for the second parent. Further, many adoption agencies are religious, with doctrinal commitments that leave same-sex couples with few options.
Matthew Smith and Trey Darnell are like any other couple who want kids. “We both wanted to be fathers before we met each other,” Matt said. “I always wanted to have kids and surrogacy just cost so much money and I put it out of sight, out of mind.” As a couple, given the adoption roadblocks, their focus initially centered on surrogacy, often prohibitively expensive. In the end, however, research showed Matt and Trey that even “in conservative northeast Tennessee, adoption was possible.”
But possible is one thing, realistic is quite another. As they moved to the first stage of the process, a home study, they faced cold facts. “No local social workers would even do the home study, not even from Knoxville,” Matt recalled. In the end, a social worker from Nashville agreed to make the 4-hour (each way) trek.
When they had an approved home study in hand, Trey and Matt finally revealed to family and friends their journey toward parenthood. “Our moms were so excited,” Matt said. “Both of them worried we’d never have kids, and Trey is an only child, so his mom thought she might never have grandkids.”
Concern for what lay ahead, clouded that excitement. This was, after all, just the beginning.
Matt and Trey needed an agency, and many refused to work with gay couples, while others refused to promote them actively to birthparents. In effect, as Trey put it, “They were willing to take our money, but not to work actively to place a child with us.” Then came a rejection that spoke to every fear and internalized barrier: “birthparents looking to make an adoption plan for their child through Bethany are overwhelmingly looking for more traditional, married couples to place with.”
Disheartened, Matt and Trey traveled to Atlanta for an information session with the Independent Adoption Center (IAC), an agency recommended by the Human Rights Campaign. That weekend coincided with Atlanta Pride, and the discovery that IAC had a booth at Pride was a boost they both sorely needed. IAC represents nearly as many same-sex couples as heterosexual couples and would “promote [Matt and Trey] as a couple alongside others.”
This helped Matt and Trey realize that they had done exactly what those social barriers promoted. “We were being harder on ourselves than we needed to be. We accepted the stereotype that it would be harder for us and that no family would choose us.” Once they got past this internal block, Matt said, “Our experience showed us that there is a right birth family for every adopting family and reality wasn’t nearly as hard on us as our own self-image. We came to terms with the fact that you don’t have to be a traditional family to be the right family.”
The couple proceeded to IAC’s weekend intensive program about adoption and the legal hurdles, and then IAC helped them develop a “Dear Birth Mother” introducing themselves as a prospective family. Approval of this letter by IAC, a few months later, meant that Matt and Trey “went live,” were put through matching processes and submitted for consideration by birth mothers.
During the waiting game, the couple opened up about their path to adoption in the Johnson City Press. Though nervous about possible responses, the article led a local lesbian couple in the area who had already been through the process to contact them. They introduced Matt and Trey to a local attorney who would handle their case. Perhaps more importantly, they shared their experiences with adoption and parenthood with the young couple, and continued to be a source of support along the way.
Their path to adoption has been winding and expensive as many programs that help with the costs of adoption simply don’t help same-sex couples. Tennessee’s legal barriers make adoption harder for same-sex couples. Increasingly, however, national and local groups advocate for and work with same-sex couples in Tennessee.
Currently, there is at least one local agency, Jewish Family Service (JFS) of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, that will help same-sex couples through both the initial adoption process and the legal proceeding legalizing the second parent’s status. JFS provides adoption services to Jewish and non-Jewish couples.
Matt and Trey remain positive in reflecting on their experience. “We want people to know that it may be hard, but if you want it bad enough and work hard, there are ways to adopt. It may not be fair, but having to work this hard shows how much we want to be parents, and what we’re willing to put into raising a child.” Most of all, they want to share that, even in Tennessee, where the barriers are so high, if you put yourself out there and work for it, “you’ll be amazed by the support you get, the positives outweigh the negatives and keep you going.” If things are ever going to change in Tennessee, Matt believes we have to “keep spreading the positives about same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption: it’s a good thing and it’s attainable.”
All that positivity and hard work hasn’t been for nothing: if all goes well, Matt and Trey will be welcoming Baby T-Rex (it’s a nickname, we promise) home in the next couple of weeks!
Congrats to Matt and Trey on the addition to their family. This is an article that was written about them by Out and About Nashville . We look forward to your upcoming blogs.
By: Jason Holling
I know my headline is going to cause some controversy with heterosexual readers. And I do not mean to imply that a heterosexual parent is a bad parent by any means. But I have been thinking a lot lately about a family with two dads, such as Justin and myself, and what we have to offer that would make us good parents. Being equal to our heterosexual parenting counterparts, we both are college educated, have a nice house, decent jobs, attend church every week……but what sets us apart is we are a non-traditional family. Instead of one mom and one dad, we are two dads!
Digging into articles on the internet helped me better understand what the medical professionals felt about a non-traditional family and if it was a good situation for a child to be raised. There are countless articles on the internet about same-sex households raising children. The ones I read basically boil down to the child is no better or worse off than those with a traditional mom and dad household. The child’s mental health, social skills, and learning ability are all similar to those of their counterparts with a heterosexual family. So I kept contemplating what else could it be that would make a gay couple better parents. And what I came up with is there are two key areas. One is the desire to be a parent and commitment to provide a stable and loving home for the child with many opportunities. The second was the extra things brought to the table in a non-traditional family like tolerance, caring, and compassion for others that the child sees through our relationship.
An interesting fact that I found was that 50% of pregnancies are accidental along heterosexual couples. Try as Justin and I might, there will never be an accidental pregnancy in our household! We make a decision to be parents. Justin and I researched ways to grow our family through adoption and surrogacy. And when we landed on adoption, we submitted our usually private lives to a battery of interviews, fingerprints at the state police, medical exams, and reference checks. We as potential adoptive parents are very motivated and extremely committed to adopt a child and make sure they have every opportunity in the world available to them. As a gay parent, we can’t wait to attend every sporting event, every band/choir performance, and teach our child everything we can about the world. In a nutshell – we can’t wait to experience everything about being a parent!
A second reason that I think gay parents make better parents for a child are the things we bring to the table that heterosexual parents may not. Like open-mindedness and tolerance, compassion, and tolerance for others in different situations then them. One article on the internet interviewed a man that had been raised by two lesbian women. He said he was a more well-rounded and tolerant of a person and felt it was directly related to being raised in a nontraditional family. The child observes the relationship and how respectful and loving the parents are and incorporate that into their life and how they treat others that are different from them. If Justin and I could send one child out into the world that was loving and caring for other people…..that would be the greatest success of us being dads.
So my final thought is that children don’t have to have a mom and dad to grow up right to be a good person – they need two fully committed and loving parents. And that’s just what Justin and I plan to be. Two loving dads that raise the most well-rounded and compassionate child we can.
Read more about Jason and Justin’s journey to become parents on JasonandJustin.com.