By Brandy Black
The Next Family has launched a new video series called “The Next Living Room” in which my wife and I will be addressing various topics of discussion around family. We would love your input and suggestions for future shows. It is a 2-3 minute video that will run once a week. Today’s topic is “the other mother.” How do you describe yourself? Lesbian dad, the other mother, non-bio mom, or are you like my wife, see what she has to say.
Justin and I started our journey for adoption a little over a year ago. We have talked about what a roller coaster the journey has been. We have had hurdles with agencies accepting us as an LGBT couple even though we have been together over 10 years. We have had people call and scam us about being a birthmother and then not even being pregnant. But we hit the greatest obstacle on our journey yet…. the words “some assembly required”.
We bought several items to put in the nursery such as a toy chest, Pack and Play, and a baby sleeper. Thinking it was a rainy Sunday and we would assemble them for something fun to do together, we dumped boxes of parts out on the floor. Hours later, and I emphasize hours, we have a toy chest assembled with the drawers in backwards! We held out the instructions that have no words, just drawings of screws and wooden pegs with an arrow pointing to another piece. I think Justin even said at one point “are you sure we are reading this right side up?”.
Now keep in mind we are both smart people. I have an engineering degree and should be able to figure this thing out in a heartbeat. But we sat there in our pile of screws, pegs, side A’s, and front panel’s for hours putting together these simple pieces. It got me chuckling that in order to be a parent you really need to be part daddy and part engineer to figure out how to assemble the nursery.
One of the best things we did when we bought the crib last summer was paid the deliverymen to assemble it. For $20 they would deliver and assemble it. Money well spent in my eyes. Justin probably agrees, because I am sure we would be divorced if we had to put that together ourselves. Or we would have 5 screws left worried if our crib would fall over!
Just wait until years from now when our child is waiting for Christmas or their birthday. The daddy engineers will be in the family room assembling their toys. I know the “some assembly required” is going to get more complicated with a kid hovering over us waiting for the toy to be done – and it will be worth every moment of agony assembling when we see the joy in our child’s eyes playing with the toy. Tonight the hopeful dads and part engineers sit together in the nursery dreaming. We are blessed and hopeful of things to come. Keep us in your thoughts this month.
Read more about Jason and Justin’s journey to become parents on JasonandJustin.com.
By Rob Watson
When my sons were very little, about three years old, there were times when I would sit back and just marvel at them. Here were these incredible little boys exploring and reacting to the world around them. Since my sons are “almost twins”, only four months apart in age having been born to different drug addicted mothers, they experienced most things at the same developmental level.
Because each had his own individual personality, the reactions and interactions became unique and fascinating. As they grew, they seemed to depart from things that were generically baby gestures, to behaviors that were characteristic of them themselves. They were becoming their own people with personalities.
This was both exciting and daunting for a parent to observe. On the one hand, it was the watch of time and change interceding far too quickly, and at too great a rapid pace. On the other, it was the biggest thrill I could imagine: seeing my two sons emerge and become who they would be. I could not wait to meet and know, and love them.
I remember one morning when the boys were three years old, a cold Sunday, when I was orchestrating activities with them. Jesse, for no apparent reason, came over, grabbed my face, pulled it toward him, and gave me a kiss on the cheek. My partner happened to be snapping pictures and he caught the moment. I look disheveled, and the lighting in the picture is bad, but to this day, it is my favorite photo of all time.
Jesse, the generously affectionate young man he was becoming, had emerged for his first moment from the blond little toddler. Knowing who he is now, it was a thrill to see the glimpse of him then. Watching my sons develop from babies into the men they will be is my greatest life’s honor.
Not all parents relate to this joy of children developing into themselves as I do, particularly when those parents are homophobic and the child’s emergence is indicating that he or she may be either gay or transgender. In those cases, things can get very ugly, very fast.
The “American Family Association” founder James Dobson declared that starting as early as age five, children might show some sort of inclinations, and he prescribed parental actions to make the children change their instincts.
One such parent was Oregon mom, Jessica Dutro. Her little boy Zachary was not reacting to things in as masculine a way as she expected. She thought he would become gay. “He walks like it and talks like it. Ugh.” She wrote to boyfriend, Brian Canady, and she instructed Brian to “work on him”. They both worked on Zachary. Until Zachary was dead.
Jessica Dutro is an abusive woman. Her behavior towards her other kids shows that fact. The blend of homophobia with those abusive tendencies made her deadly.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a requiem to Fred Phelps, a man who personified hatred. His life was a failure, and my final message to him was one of pity. Today, I write a requiem to Zachary. He was not hatred, he was sweet and energetic. He was killed by hatred. There is no pity in this message. I am angry.
Good bye. We, the world, have failed you little one. You came to us, bright and full of promise, and we left you in the hands of one who did not appreciate your brightness, and in fact, she sought to make you suffer for who she thought you might be.
I am sorry. I did not cause the force that killed you, and in fact, I fight it daily. You are dead, however, and for me, that means that I did not fight hard enough, not nearly hard enough.
You were killed by homophobia, my child. It came through the hands of parents, through the very hands and arms that should have been there to grab you, and hold you and love you. It was the force of homophobia that killed you however, not just those physical blows that delivered it. While your parents embodied that hatred, it was not created by them, it had been given to them in many ways from the world around them.
I am sorry you were born in a world where too many voices tell you not to be you. No one should have to fight for the right to be themselves, least of all, a four year old child.
I am sorry you were born into a world where so many feel that the ability to physically make a child is more important that the ability to love and nurture one. Where people are writing court papers vilifying parents who do not physically procreate, they should be writing briefs condemning parents who do not love. Birthing a child is merely bringing it to life. Loving a child is truly giving it a reason to live.
I am sorry you were born into a world where people believe in misinterpreted Bible passages and tired dogmas. They hold onto them only so they can rationalize hating something they don’t understand. Something they see in you, even in your innocence.
I am sorry for all the beauty, magnificence, talent and life that you represented that is now gone. I miss the adult you were to become: the father, the artist, or the hero. I mourn the children you did not get to raise and the better world you did not get to help build.
A man named Fred Phelps died a few weeks ago, two years after you did. He lived his life being hateful, trying to get people to be more homophobic. He failed and his efforts made people not want to be like him. Homophobia lost. You lived your life being loving, and your efforts made two people hate you. Homophobia still lost however, because I will never ever forget you.
I pray that your short life is held up as the horrible cost of the homophobic mindset. That mindset is not an opinion. It is not a right to religious beliefs. It is a deep and ever present danger that kills the innocent. I pray that your life robs homophobia of its glory and helps shame it into non-existence.
Nothing will replace the life we lost in you. You were our child and we allowed our world to inspire your fate. You deserved so much better.
With you in our hearts, little man, I promise you, we will do so much better. We will shut this intolerance, this indecency down even harder. We can’t give you back your life, but through your memory, we can take back our own lives and this world.
We have the power to make this world one of love, fairness and peace. You have reminded us why we need to do that for all the future little boys and little girls just like you. We owe it to them. We owed it to you. We will not fail again.
To listen to a podcast where the author delivers the requiem, please go to: http://outinsantacruz.com/firefox-cookies-and-zachary/
TNF: Tell me about your family.
Henry: Our Son is nearly 2 ½ , he is the light of my life and just the sweetest, goofiest little person I know. Our Family consists of our boy Ben, my Husband Joel and I. Joel and I met in 2005 and were legally wed in Boston, October 10, 2009. I still remember when the Reverend that married us said “May their family tree be fruitful,” we had only discussed having children casually although we both loved the idea of being Dads. It would not be until later in 2010 when they stopped enforcing the Gay adoption ban in our then home of Florida that we really began to pursue Parenthood. We initially thought that adopting through our state made the most sense for us, neither of us felt that using a surrogate was that important. Our feelings were that there were already babies in need of homes, we did not feel the need to create a new life. Joel and I were part of the first openly Gay and Lesbian group going through the process of becoming Foster Parents in our county. It was our hope to adopt via Foster Care but that did not work out for us. We were blessed with two incredible placements, two beautiful babies but they were both reunited with their biological families. Somewhere during our Fostering journey we were privately introduced to a young lady that was 5 months pregnant with a boy. She wanted to give the baby up for adoption and after a few meetings decided that we were the perfect couple. The process was difficult, the climate for Same Gendered adoptions was/is not the warmest in Florida but we had an incredible law team in our corner and shortly after Ben’s October, 2011 birth we became the first Same Sex couple to jointly adopt a baby in Broward County Florida. When the Judge said that we had now paved the way for other families like ours to be created I nearly burst with happiness. That was a perfect day.
TNF: How did you meet your husband?
Henry: I met my Husband at work, I broke the cardinal rule of “no fraternizing” and honestly it was the best bad thing I have ever done. We moved in together pretty quickly, rather organically. We kind of just woke up one day and said, “wow, when did all this happen?” One day just magically turned into the next and we are now heading towards 9 years together.
TNF: Do you feel different from other families? If so, how so?
Henry: This is an interesting question, we are quite conservative and traditional in values. We do not live in a very “Gay” area. The majority of our friends are actually either heterosexual or Lesbian so all in all we are quite a regular family. Having said that we are still a two dad family and although we have never faced obvious discrimination, we are still highly visible in our community and often approached with curiosity, albeit it lovingly it still plays as a constant reminder that we are indeed different.
TNF: Is it tough being a gay couple where you in Durham? Do you feel accepted?
Henry: We feel extremely accepted here in Durham NC. We live in a pretty cool blue bubble in an otherwise red state. We are actively involved in LGBTQ parenting groups here so our Son see’s lots of different types of families. I am also working with some wonderful people who are hoping to finally open a LGBTQ Community Center here in my town. My function will be to hopefully oversee the parenting programs, offering resources and help to the parents in our community. I will also offer guidance for those wanting to become parents either via Fostering, Adoption or Surrogacy. We will also offer a place where children of LGBTQ parents can gather, find fellowship and thrive. When Ben was born I created DADsquared, it was initially meant to be a place where Gay Dads could gather and help one another, It has grown into one of the largest on-line communities for same gendered families and those hoping to grow their families. I hope that much of what I have learned with DADsquared along with my training as a life Coach can translate into my role with the Durham Community Center.
TNF: What has having a family meant to you?
Henry: There really are no words. I grew up wondering If I could ever be a happy, self-loving, well-adjusted Gay man. I never dreamt that in my life time I would see doors opening that would not only help me marry the man of my dreams, but to also be able to experience the honor of being called Daddy. It’s quite something. My Mother passed away in 2004, she never met Joel and never got to see me this happy. I know that as Ben was making his way through the heavens to join us she got the chance to hold him and kiss him, I know he met his Abuela somewhere out there and that gives me great joy and peace.
TNF: Tell us a bit about your site and why you created it?
Henry: As I said above, when Ben was first born we felt a bit alone, we did not have many similar families around us and I just wanted to see others like us. It began with the Facebook page and grew into the actual Website. We have so many wonderful members that share their experiences and resources with each other. We have an awesome group of Pro’s that we work with like great Attorneys, Doctors and Adoption Agencies that have literally helped us help others create families, how amazing is that? We have also helped bring families together, we help people locate other families around them that they did not know existed. When I get photos sent to me of a new baby or of two families that have met because of DADsquared with smiling faces looking back at me because “Johnny has two dads just like me,” I literally at times burst into tears. Sometimes in life we ask ourselves, “what is my purpose in life?” “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Well luckily because of my involvement with DADsquared, my family and my Coaching practice, I no longer ask myself those questions.
Thank you Henry and Joel for sharing your story with us. What a beautiful family! We love Dadsquared!
This guest post is by Mercy Verner, a birthmother.
I made one of the hardest decisions of my life. It started a little over a year ago. I found out I was pregnant. I stared at the test, as if it would change. I realized that it was not going to change, and I immediately freaked out.
I didn’t know what to do. I knew I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t take care of another human being. At least, not in the way that I wanted to. I wanted my child to have more than what I had growing up.
I decided that that is what I needed to do. I needed to give my child a better life than what I could give. I went through all the options associated with adoption. I browsed many adoption websites and a few places, but none of them seemed right.
Then I stumbled across a website that dealt with same-sex couples and I learned about open adoption. I looked through the possible adoptive parents and one couple – Matt and Trey – stuck out from the rest. They looked a bit goofy, and they seemed truly happy with each other.
I explored their profile and watched a video about them interviewing their cat about being a big sister. It reminded me so much of my family, and right then and there I knew that they were the perfect couple.
As our relationship with them began to grow, they felt like part of the family. Months had gone by and things were going the way I wanted them to. I was almost ready(ish). In my head, I knew exactly what I needed to do, but my heart was aching. Emotionally, I wasn’t ready at all.
Then the contractions started. I was so scared. I wasn’t ready to let go. I just wanted to keep her in there and never let go. Unfortunately, the reality set in. I was at a regular check-up after being in inactive labor for eleven days.
As the doctor checked me, she spoke those few words that I definitely did not want to hear just yet. She informed me that I would be having a baby that night. I was freaking out, and trying to stay cool at the same time.
It did not work that well. I didn’t have anything ready. I made my way up to labor and delivery; it became even more overwhelming. I laid in that hospital bed, trying to sort out my thoughts, and waiting for the nurses to give me an update about how everything was going.
I thought that I couldn’t do it; it just seemed to surreal. Then the father walked into the room and it somewhat reassured me. He had been there through the entire pregnancy and I was so happy to have him there.
It was a hard pregnancy, with many decisions. I don’t know how I could have made it through all the craziness of pregnancy without him. In a few short hours, we welcomed our daughter to the world. August 19, 2013.
I spent that night with my daughter. I could hardly sleep. I woke up with every little sound she made. The next morning I was awaiting the arrival of Matt and Trey. It felt like an eternity for them to get to the hospital.
They finally arrived and I was so glad they had made it and were there with me. I spent the next week with all three of them. During that week, the father and I had to sign the final adoption papers.
That was the hardest thing to do. Just hearing what was happening. It was easier just to not talk about it. As I signed them, I began to panic. I tried my hardest to stay strong. I wasn’t about to let myself be selfish, especially when it came to my daughter.
I kept telling myself that I love her and that this is the best thing I could possibly ever do for her. As they left my hometown and we made our goodbyes, I could feel my heart breaking. I didn’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t want to go.
I knew that I would see them again soon. I was so skeptical. I thought that we would hardly talk. Oh boy, was I ever wrong. I talk to them all the time, and whenever. We Facetime when we can and I receive pictures of her almost daily.
I get to see my daughter grow up, I truly love the concept of an open adoption. It helped that I could still be mom. It definitely is hard but it is something that is a day-by-day challenge. I absolutely love my relationship with Matt and Trey and especially my daughter.
I was so scared that this would be a nightmare, but I was wrong. My family has grown so much more.
Rainbow Families DC is offering a special opportunity for LGBT parents, family members and their children, as well as prospective parents, to come together for a day of learning, networking and fellowship.
The 2014 Family Conference by Rainbow Families DC presented by CT Fertility and Pink & Blue Surrogacy and Fertility, LLC. will take place on Saturday, April 26 from 8:30 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. at Georgetown Day School (4200 Davenport St NW high school campus) in Washington, DC.
The conference’s keynote will be provided by Judy Gold, Emmy award-winning actor and comedian.
The 2014 Family Conference will bring together hundreds of parents and families, expert panelists, service providers, businesses, schools, and others interested in connecting with the Rainbow Families DC community. A full day of diverse workshops will be available to conference participants, as well as discussion groups, social networking opportunities, and a resource fair featuring information and tools in a variety of topic areas of importance to LGBT parents and prospective parents.
The conference will offer four learning “tracks” for participants:
- Paths to Parenthood which includes discussions about donor insemination, surrogacy, and adoption options, as well as considerations for raising children across racial and cultural boundaries;
- Educating Our Children, Changing Our Schools will address family diversity in K-12 learning environments, how to navigate and build a relationship with your school as LGBT parents, and how to equip children for middle school;
- Supporting Our Families includes being a dad in a “Mom’s World,” advice on parenting techniques, and topics related to multicultural families; and
- Legal, Financial, and Legislative Hot Topics covers how to ensure children have two legal parents and basic financial planning for the LGBT family.
The conference also includes a fun and nurturing day of activities designed for children. Kids’ Camp, for kids 2.5 years old through elementary school age, is a full-day of engaging and age-appropriate activities led by energetic volunteers and a group of outstanding activity providers from some of the best programs in the DC Metro area. These activities will be presented alongside COLAGE, for children in middle and high school, which offers unique programming for youth with LGBT parents, run by adults who also have LGBT parents.
Online registration for the 2014 Family Conference is $40 per person for Rainbow Families DC members and $50 for non-members through April 24th (if spots remain available) at www.rainbowfamiliesdc.org. Registration for kids’ activities must be made online and are $25 per child for members and $30 for each non-member child. On-site registration will be available beginning at 8:30 A.M. on Saturday, April 26 for adults only; no on-site registration will be available for Kids’ Camp.
If you are an LGBT family in DC and want to learn more about the 2014 Family Conference, check out Rainbow Families DC
Vladimir Putin is used to winning. He is undisputedly a winner from the recent LGBT confrontation-free Olympic Games. He now has his eyes set on the Ukraine and he has taken control of the internet in Russia. The biggest snowjob was not the white wet stuff on the ground in Sochi, it was the year of neigh saying by the Olympic and Russian authorities about treatment of gay people in the former Soviet Union.
Last week came news that Mr. Putin has been nominated in another contest—for a Nobel Prize due to his influence on the conflict in Syria.
As a dad, more than as a gay man, the idea of Putin getting any kind of an award is unfathomable. His treatment of LGBT people is horrific, with gay men being hunted, humiliated and abused, as seen in the film Hunted.
Then there are the million children. Putin and his policies are one of the single greatest forces of child destruction in the world.
It is estimated that across Russia there are about one million un-parented children living in poorly managed foster care homes, and many living is overcrowded orphanages. The abuse of these kids is legendary. According to a Human Rights report, the children are force to stay still and not move, be tied to furniture, lie in urine soaked sheets, stand en masse in wooden pens even in winter, be beaten, starved and ignored. When the children reach 15 or 16, they leave the system. A UNICEF report estimates that a third of them then live on the streets, twenty percent become criminals, and ten percent commit suicide.
The children who have been rescued from this squalor are among the most damaged of the world’s orphans. Parents worldwide have reported how the children they receive into their open arms are ones with all hope and vigor drained from their beings. Saving them is a long process.
Journalist Mary Gold described her own experience when she got her daughter who had been in a Russian foster care home, ““We have since heard horror stories of dreadful conditions in some homes, of babies with dummies taped into their mouths for hours on end; of children who are still being bottle-fed at the age of eight and haven’t been taught to walk or talk. We discovered that our baby had left her cot only to be washed. She had never breathed fresh air — the room in which she was confined was stiflingly hot — and neither had she seen her own reflection. When we collected her four months after we first met her (the time it took for the adoption process to be completed), she was 17 months old but still weighed a pitiful 17lb.”
Russian doctor Vera Drobinskaya told the BBC last year that she discovered conditions in the one orphanage were so bad that “at least 41 children had died over 10 years, apparently of neglect.”
A group in Russia is charted with a desperate band-aid mission. The group called Russia Without Orphans has targeted Moscow where they estimate there are 18,000 orphans. Their goal is to create a solution for the 4000 of those kids who are not placed in foster care homes. The perk of the program is that the people who sign up for it get a state funded apartment in which to raise the kids. The requirements are that the participants must take a minimum of 5 children “of which at least three teenagers over 12 years or children with disabilities”.
This is a situation that calls for a massive international relief effort. Putin’s government is not the least bit interested. Rather than establishing means to better care for parentless kids, they seem fixated on minimizing the potential international parent candidates by propping up homophobia. The parents from the United States have been banned for over a year. CNN also reported, “Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree banning foreign same-sex couples — as well as single people from countries where same-sex marriages are legal — from adopting Russian children…The portion affecting singles appears to stem from concerns Russian lawmakers have publicly expressed that single prospective adoptive parents could turn out to be gay and enter a same-sex marriage in their home countries.” This action closed down prospective adoptions from over a dozen countries. Whether blinding bigotry drives this policy or whether LGBT abuse is a smokescreen to distract the world from Russia’s social failures is open for conjecture.
As a dad, I need to speak up. Will I be listened to? Probably not, but if I don’t sound out on this, I can’t expect others to either. If no one does, then a million children will stay trapped, abandoned, and facing a horrific present with a destructive dysfunctional future.
Dear President Putin,
I am the dad of two kids. You are essentially the father of a country and one of the most powerful men on earth. There are days that I am not sure I have the power to make my kids clean their room. Yet, I have the audacity to write to you and offer you advice to your horrifically failed systems regarding the Russian children. I also represent the one community who could be your greatest resource for help, the world’s LGBT families.
I write because I can. I write because we come from two different worlds. My sons enjoy the Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass stories. To them, they are pure fiction. For you and I, they seem to be an allegorical reality. I come from this side of the looking glass, from atop the rabbit hole. You rule the other side—the one where the leaders wear the picture of a big heart while screeching for their subjects to lose their heads.
Here is why I am writing to you. You are a child abuser. You are nominated for a Nobel prize, but you abuse the children of Russia.
Your children services infrastructure has failed and the children it tortures are among the world’s most traumatized when they emerge from it. That is, if they are lucky enough to emerge from it at all.
Meanwhile, in your through-the-looking-glass logic, you attack gay families and call us child molesters. A University of Cambridge study showed that gay dad lead families are the most likely to come to the rescue of kids like the ones you have trapped in a hopeless and bureaucratic system. An Australian study, the most comprehensive and accurate of its kind, shows that kids raised in LGBT families fair BETTER than they do in heterosexual ones.
It is inconceivable therefore that you shut the door to countries who allow such families to adopt. Even in the United States a few decades ago where LGBT couples were not allowed to marry anywhere, they were still allowed to be foster care parents in most of the states of the union. While the anti-gay forces towed their party line that marriage was for only for heterosexuals with children, they were pragmatic enough to know that they needed our families to take kids who would otherwise suffer with neglect.
Down the rabbit hole, such logic does not seem to exist. Instead, you insist that children either suffer in groups, or are put in your “best case” scenario, that in our country would itself be considered substandard. I know what these kids really need because my two sons are special needs kids. They would not be OK in Russia.
Both my sons were adopted as babies from drug addicted heterosexual parents. They are now eleven years old, born four months apart from each other. My oldest has had therapy to help him process language, to understand sequences and conceptual ideas. It was only a year ago for example, that he could understand what the words “yesterday” and “tomorrow” meant since the actual days they represent change…daily. He had to be taught things that most kids will learn by osmosis.
My other son has severe issues with the ability to focus and used to write everything as a complete mirror image of itself. He too had to be taught…everything. We had to teach him how to turn things around, and make them right.
This is just what I am pleading for you to do in your own country. Turn things around and make them right. I am hoping that the dad in me can reach the dad of a country in you. To that point, one of the things I have learned as a dad is that you cannot do it all alone. At times, it is OK to ask for help. That has been true for me. It is obviously true for you.
You cannot solve your orphaned children situation alone. Forcing even three special needs kids into a home with two other kids and an adult paid to parent them, is not the answer. While it is better than children chained to a bed, it is still far from the minimum those children require for healthy lives.
My sons just returned from a three-day science camp. As I cuddled with my son Jesse in a pile of stuffed animals, he told me about his adventures. He rested his head against my chest and I could feel his world in this teddy bear pile, get as safe and warm as is humanly possible. I gently kissed his head, as my mind wandered to the idea of a Russian Jesse, alone, shut down, with no daddy in sight. My heart breaks knowing there are a million Jesses in your country.
You need help. Rather than restricting your adoption policies, you need to open them wide. Rather than rejecting families who do not biologically procreate, you need to embrace them.
Magic can happen on this side of the looking glass—if you reach out for help, you will get it. If you confront the situation as it really is, and let the world know you need one million families who are willing to love the most needy kids on earth, those families will step up.
They will forgive you, and they will be there for those kids. They will love them, nurture them and heal them. People will call them heroes, but they will consider themselves to be the lucky ones, because they will have the privilege of loving. I am not speaking in theory. This is characteristic of hundreds of LGBT foster families I know.
If you reversed your policies, and emerged from the “Wonderland” world, making things right-sized and no longer backwards, then these families could do what they were meant to do. Others would look at them and tell them how they all deserved Nobel Prizes for their work.
They would not accept those accolades, however; they would want the prizes to go instead to someone who made it all possible.
They would want to give the prize to you.
It has been many weeks since I have been able to blog about our journey as two dads. In November, I had surgery on my right wrist and found myself in a cast for a couple months. After too long of an absence, it is time to resume sharing our story with The Next Family. We left off with our return home from Texas with one-week old Harper.
It only took two weeks in Harper’s life until everything took a sharp turn toward the unknown. It started as a normal Friday that included a pediatrician appointment. Harper was jaundice, and we had been treating it with a bilirubin blanket at home for several days. On this Friday, we were hoping to get the good news to stop using the bilirubin blanket, but the day didn’t proceed as planned.
Over the period of a week, Harper had been undergoing daily blood tests. Over a three-day period, her hemoglobin level had dropped to a critically low level. We were instructed to proceed to the hospital for a blood transfusion. Before the hospital intake was finished, Harper was transported to the children’s hospital a half-hour away.
After arriving at the children’s hospital, Harper was taken to a private room where many doctors and residents surrounded her. We were asked question after question. Inquiries were made about the medical history of the birth family. One of the positive aspects of an open adoption is the availability of the health history of the birth parents and birth grandparents. In one of my obsessive moments, I had scanned all of this medical information and had it readily available on our smartphones.
Before our second intake of the day was complete, it was determined that Harper would be transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). We were a total emotional wreck. We were scared, confused and speechless. My parents had met us at the first hospital and travelled with us to the children’s hospital. Harper was taken out of the room to receive an IV, and Matthew and I had reached the point where we needed some alone time. My parents gave us a hug and reluctantly left the hospital.
Within a few moments, Harper was returned to the room. She had an IV inserted into her head. Band-Aids were stuck to both arms where attempts at starting an IV had failed. As the staff left the room, Matthew and I fell apart. Even to this day, seeing pictures of Harper like that is very emotional. It was the toughest thing I have ever experienced.
Before we had a chance to process what we were experiencing, Matthew’s parents arrived at the hospital. Matthew’s half-sister began to tear up as she saw Harper with all of the tubing and chords monitoring her vitals. We politely asked Matthew’s parents to leave the hospital and allow us to support each other and Harper. It was an emotional moment for everyone involved.
There was one positive outcome of this intimidating experience, solidifying our new family unit. It was one of the first times in our lives that we had to turn to each other for support and not rely on our parents for comfort in this moment of uncertainty. It was now our time to claim our position as the parent and be strong for our daughter. Over the next four days, we continued to stand strong for our new family.
The first night in the PICU, Harper was under two enormous blue lights for the jaundice. Her red blood cells were breaking down at an alarming rate, and the cause was unknown. Harper was not producing enough red blood cells to replenish the red blood cells that were being rapidly destroyed. She would need a blood transfusion while the physicians worked to determine the cause. Until all the tests were completed, Harper was not allowed to eat.
One of the most difficult things in life has to be caring for a sick infant. She was so hungry and crying for food. There was no possible way to explain to her what was happening. She was connected to several different monitors. The bilirubin lights required her to be blindfolded. She was connected to a pump that was administering the blood transfusion. We were unable to pick her up and hold her. The only method of comfort came in the form of a small dosage of a glucose solution called Sweet-Ease. The Sweet-Ease provided a couple of drops of sugar and purified water to calm her when she cried. It provided only a few minutes of peace for Harper.
Harper underwent a heel stick every couple of hours over a four-day period to monitor her hemoglobin levels. In the end, she only needed one transfusion. Harper is currently six-months old and is under the care of a St. Jude’s hematologist. We still do not have an explanation for the rapid destruction of her red blood cells. This past week, St. Jude withdrew a fair amount of blood to send to the Mayo Clinic for genetics testing. It is my understanding that part of the testing will simulate a sickness to see how Harper’s blood will react when she is battling a common illness. It is actually fascinating stuff. We are still waiting for the results. Several months of blood test have indicated that her body is now producing enough red blood cells to maintain what is considered a normal level. We are very hopeful that the current test results will be negative and point to an anomaly. In this case, no news is good news. Harper provides every indication that she is a happy and healthy little girl.
I was never very good at science and math, my specialty was in the arts, history, and english (like many a young gay person). So maybe it should come as no surprise that when it comes to family, blood and chromosomes don’t necessarily hold as much weight to me as compassion, support, and love do. Unfortunately for many, family does not go beyond their genetics, the birth was the first and last act of parenting, and blood is the only connection to siblings and distant relatives. we joke about the hassle of keeping up with grandma (when some of us would just rather just keep up with the Kardashians), fuss over family reunions, and dread going to holiday gatherings like it’s jury duty, but we’re still expected to support those who may not support us solely based on the fact they are kin.
Well, I’m here to tell you water CAN be thicker than blood. No, no you’re still thinking like a scientist, believe you’re an artist, that you have a blank canvas in front of you. Create the world you want to live in, incorporate all that aims to crush you, transform it, and end up with a masterpiece that is all your own. Can’t you see it? Your life surrounded by friends and loved ones who care for you, who genuinely show concern over your well being, not because they feel obligated, but instead because they love you as much as you love them.
This isn’t to say you should run away, running away never really solves anything, but don’t stand by just to be stepped on. You don’t need to give all your positivity and love into supporting someone who doesn’t give a damn about you and isn’t willing to seek help. Give a damn about yourself, only then can you really help others. Kindness and love come when we least expect it, so hold on to that, cherish it and don’t let those who treat you well slip away. Family does not just mean a mom, a dad, 2.5 kids, a dog, and a white picket fence. Family is a single mother trying to support 3 kids while working 2 jobs, family is 2 unmarried men in love adopting a beautiful little girl and caring for her deeply, family is a group of boys unrelated by blood, but brothers in every sense of the word, family is deciding who you want to surround yourself with in order to create a happy and safe life.
You’re an artist now, you don’t have to be limited by labels, old archaic standards, and unrealized dreams. YOU can define, you can create, you can live… feels liberating doesn’t it?
Photo Credit Daniel Hartwig
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a new YouTube video designed to provide useful tax tips to married same-sex couples. While it may look like it’s something the 80s left behind and doesn’t want back, could this new tool actually be useful?
According to the news release we received from the White House Office of Communications, the video is the latest addition to an online library featuring short IRS instructional videos covering more than 100 topics ranging from tips for victims of identity theft to taking advantage of the new simplified home office deduction. These videos have been viewed more than seven million times.
Following last summer’s Supreme Court decision invalidating a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the IRS ruled that same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, are now treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.
Take a look at the video and let us know: is it helpful to your family and situation?
Brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian
Photo Credit: Money Blog Newz