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
In a new study, it has been discovered that children of lesbians have higher self-esteem and lower conduct problems than those of heterosexual couples, according to the study.
“By controlling for variables that might otherwise impact child outcomes, this study provides further evidence that raising children in families headed by same-sex couples is not a significant predictor of adolescent-parent relationships or of a child’s psychological adjustment,” Henny Bos, principal investigator of the study and former UCLA School of Law professor said.
The study looked at 51 Dutch children (25 girls and 26 boys) matched in age, gender, education and birth country, born to lesbian parents through artificial insemination.
Each child filled out questionnaires to figure out their relationships with their mothers, psychological adjustment and substance use.
According to the study, the kids of lesbian parents had higher self-esteems and lower conduct problems than those with heterosexual parents. This means, according to the study co-author Dr. Nanette Gartrell that “child and adolescent outcomes have more to do with the quality of parenting than the sexual orientation of parents.”
The conservative Christian group, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) believes that gay relationships are bad for children.
“Marriage encourages mothers and fathers to remain together and care for the children born of their union,” the filing said. Splitting up, “would powerfully convey that marriage exists to advance adult desires rather than serving children’s needs.”
However, last year the Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families found that children of gay couples are “thriving in terms of health and familial wellness,” after conducting the world’s largest study comparing same-sex parents to heterosexual parents.
This story was brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian
Photo credit: purple sherbet photography
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
TNF: Tell me about your family.
Travis: My husband and I have two children, twins -a boy and a girl- who are 5 weeks old. We have a 6-year-old Bassett Hound mix named Sadie. I met my husband, Curtis, on March 13th 2007. He proposed Valentines Day 2009. We were married March 13th 2010 and then we had what we called a (re)wedding March 13th 2013 after Washington State voters upheld the state law legalizing full marriage equality.
We adopted Sadie from the Humane Society in 2008.
Our twins, Eleanor and Thomas, were born in November of 2013 after years of planning and preparing. We are so blessed and so thankful.
TNF: How did you meet your husband?
Travis: We met like many gay couples meet: online. I actually sent him a message on Gay.com (back when that was a thing) saying that I thought he was hot. We chatted over several months, but could never work out our schedules to meet in real life. So we both thought it likely wasn’t going to ever happen. Then by accident I went to a choir concert where a group that he sings with was performing and realized halfway through that the guy I was looking at on stage was the guy I had talked to, but never met, over the last few months online.
I went home and sent him a message saying I had seen the concert and that he was indeed hot and we should go out. By fate we both had the next evening open (March 13th) and so we met for sushi.
One funny story I often tell about our first date is about kids. I have always known I wanted children. But at the age of 29 still not having found someone to share my life with, I was convinced I’d be a single dad. So when I found this first date with Curtis going so incredibly well, I didn’t want to waste his time (or my time) by progressing any further if he wasn’t interested in kids someday too. So after dinner I told him I wanted to be a dad and if he didn’t want to be we probably didn’t need to order dessert.
We ordered dessert and we’ve been together ever since.
TNF: Do you feel different from other families?
Travis: We live in Seattle. We have a huge community of wonderful and accepting family and friends. We know families with two moms, two dads, a mom and a dad, just a mom and just a dad. We know families created through adoption, surrogacy, remarriage, and cohabitation. We care about our kids’ futures, their safety, and their happiness. We worry about the glorification of violence and the sexualization of everything in the larger culture. All the same things families of all kinds worry about. So on an everyday level we do not feel different.
But when we step back and we look at who we are and how we got here we do feel different. In college in the 90s I remember giving a speech about marriage equality and getting lots of great feedback from classmates and teachers. But no one really believed it would come to pass, at least not in our lifetime. Yet it has, thanks to hard work and sacrifice. It starts by being out to your friends and family members, then at work and in your neighborhoods. We did that. We have always ‘just been’ who we are. We changed hearts and minds day-in and day-out and that can be scary and exhausting. But so worth it.
But we didn’t stop there. When Domestic Partnerships went before lawmakers and then voters in Washington State we were vocal about what it would mean to us. We told people why and how it would protect our family. We literally marched in the streets.
When marriage equality made its way through the same process my husband gave money and we again told those around us why it mattered. I agreed to go on conservative talk radio and take calls live on the air to defend our marriage and tell our story in the hope that it would humanize the issue to those who might otherwise not believe they know a gay family.
Then the time, planning, and money that has gone into bringing our twins into our family has been a massive effort. I’ve often said that a couple of underage cousins somewhere in the backwoods can slip and get pregnant without intending to, but we moved heaven and earth to expand our family and somehow we are the ‘threat’ to the family unit?
No one can question the commitment we have to our children and to our family. No one can wonder about how deep our love goes. We were intentional about our family. We planned and we prepared. We faced setbacks and we fought on because we knew we wanted to be dads. Our love is no accident.
So in that sense we are different from many other families. I hope that we are able to help our children fully understand how we are the same as other families and how we are different. I hope that we are able to share with them the pride we feel at the struggles we have overcome and the battles we have fought to be a family. We live in an amazing time and I will always be grateful for that. I hope we are able to share that gratefulness with our children.
TNF: Is it challenging being a gay couple where you live? Do you feel accepted?
Travis: It is not tough being a gay couple here [in Seattle]. We are blessed to be surrounded by an incredible community willing to stand up and in an overwhelming majority at the ballot box affirm that our marriage and our family is equal. That’s an incredible feeling.
TNF: What has having a family meant to you?
Travis: It is all we have ever wanted.
The Next Family caught up with Gabriel Blau who is the Deputy Director of Strategic Advancement at Family Equality Council, a national organization advocating for and connecting LGBTQ families. He is married and has a son. I was able to chat with him about life as a dad, how he met his husband, and his job at Family Equality Council.
TNF: Tell me about your family.
Gabriel: My husband and I have been together for over ten years. We had a big wedding with our family and friends in 2006 and then we were legally married in New York in 2011. We were one of the first gay couples to legally marry in New York City. In 2008 we were able to welcome a child into our family; our son is now 5 years old. We adopted domestically –a private adoption in the United States.
TNF: Did you have any challenges?
Gabriel: The greatest challenge was getting the information we needed to make the decision and to understand the process. But we were lucky to not face any serious challenges. We were fortunate enough to work with the right people -both at home and where our son was born- people who had experience working with an LGBT couple.
TNF: Was it was a tough decision?
Gabriel: It was as difficult and as easy as it is I think for most families. There’s a lot to consider. Certainly there’s access; we couldn’t leave it up to “chance”. We both wanted to have children. It happened a lot faster than we expected so when we began the process, we assumed it would take much longer. We knew a lot of people who had a great deal of difficulty adopting, or it took a long time so we were prepared for that timeline. But it happened a great deal faster than that. And it was the best decision we ever made.
TNF: How did you and your husband meet?
Gabriel: We met back in 2003 and it was through a series of coincidences that ultimately brought us to be with the same group of friends on the same night at a synagogue in New York. We’ve been together ever since.
TNF: Do you feel any different than other families?
Gabriel: That’s a complicated question. We’re very lucky to live in a community and in a neighborhood in New York where there is a lot of diversity. We deal with the same issues most families deal with: hectic schedules, school, playdates, balancing work and home life, the stresses of being responsible parents in general. There are times that we’re reminded that we’re “different”, whether it’s by gendered forms that ask for “mother and father”, by comments or questions from teachers or other parents, or by assumptions being made at the doctor’s office. But because we are personally very lucky we are able to see these moments as opportunities to learn and grow and to make our community and family beautiful. We are a fairly visible family, which can create other challenges, but I think that’s less on being LGBT. We’re very conscious of being LGBT. In other parts of the country we really do feel different but we’ve worked to build a community that is supportive where we have a diverse group of friends…I think that community aspect is really important. Most parents that I speak to really appreciate those opportunities no matter where they live. They realize when they are in a situation that they are with other LGBT families they really start to feel different, it’s important for their children to be in those environments and they feel secure…it’s a big part of the work that we do at Family Equality Council. We have over 150 parent groups we work with across the country; we have experiences like Family Week in Provincetown every summer -this past year we had over 1500 participants there. It’s an important part of the work of building community and building support systems.
TNF: You referenced schools, teachers, doctors, assumptions being made. Do you feel accepted generally?
Gabriel: In New York, generally we do, yes. There are moments when we have to explain things. But you explain and you move forward. That’s an experience that we don’t want everyone to go through, and so we hope by us going through it, we are helping those doctors, providers, teachers, etc. know how to speak to other parents, not just LGBTQ parents but all parents, to not make assumptions about family constellation and family creation. We don’t face it often but it happens. In our work we see LGBTQ people across the country, facing issues in more severe ways – like not being able to be out, like LGBTQ parents not being able to rely on a school to get the protection they need for their kids. It’s a very real issue. It’s something that is as important to correct as the legal issues we have to work on. Going through life always having to explain who you are, to be treated the way our families are being treated. It’s not the American dream, it’s not what we strive for in this country.
TNF: Are you seeing a change now that gay marriage is legal in 15 states? Are things getting better?
Gabriel: Things have been continually getting better. The movement has been working very hard to make these changes. Throughout the country our families are still facing the same issues they faced last week and the week before. Certainly the national conversation is turning in a direction that is more positive and we’re seeing more legal equality. But, we’re seeing it in marriage -we haven’t seen it in other areas. There are a lot of other areas that we have to deal with. Let’s not forget that, even with the momentum we’ve had, we have equality in 15 states, that leaves us still with 35 states –and that’s just the issue of marriage equality. Our LGBTQ families across the country are still not able to have legal relationships with their own children; they don’t have access to culturally compentent care; 42% of children report being harassed because of their family constellation. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has not passed yet. It was a great vote in the Senate but it is not yet the law of the land. These are the issues affecting our families everyday. LGBTQ families are more likely to live at or near the poverty line. They are hard working families trying to do well by their children. Second-parent adoption is not even available in certain parts of the country, so, assuming you can even do that, it’s a whole process you have to go through. It costs money, takes time, and, frankly, can feel very demeaning.
Every single parenting study comes to the conclusion that stability is a critical factor in successful parenting. How can we expect our families to do the job they are fighting to do if our country can’t provide them with basic stability –that they are not going to lose their jobs, that if they break up, one of the parents won’t lose his or her relationship with their child, that they won’t lose their housing, that their children will be protected in their schools?
TNF: If you could pick one goal that is close to your heart while you are at Family Equality, what would that be?
Gabriel: I’m going to give you two: the top goal is to achieve social and legal equality for our families throughout the country. And the specific issue that is always at the top of our priority list is family security, the parent/child relationship. There are a lot of components of that but we need to secure it; it’s absolutely critical. So that will always be at the top of our agenda. We are working now in 15 states, and we always hope to increase that. There are limited resources and it takes time. This work is not just about a single bill, it’s about creating a culture that puts family first.
TNF: What has having a family meant to you?
Gabriel: It’s meant everything. It’s the greatest thing in the world. Our son is everything to us. He’s what drives our work..I’m the luckiest person alive…I can’t imagine being any happier.
For more information on Family Equality initiatives, check out their website and see all of the services that they provide for LGBTQ. Some of the outstanding programs they have include Family Week, Families in the Midwest, Outspoken Generation, and Pearls of Wisdom.
Thank you Gabriel for taking the time to speak with us. You have a beautiful family and we wish you much success.
TNF: Tell me about your family.
Jaime: Arianna and myself were married on November 27th of this year. I have a son with my ex-partner which whom I share joint custody with. Jaidin is 2 ½ and was born with down syndrome. She was the birth mother but I have legally adopted him and I am on his birth certificate. Arianna has taken over the role as stepparent but she doesn’t look at him as her stepchild; they love each other the same.
TNF: How did you meet your Arianna?
Jaime: Not many people know this, but we actually met on Instagram. It happened by accident really. Neither one was out looking for the other, we just happened to fall into the lives of each other. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and I couldn’t be more thankful for social media lol.
TNF: Do you feel different from other families?
Jaime: No, we don’t feel different from other families. We aren’t different. We share the same love and bond as any family does. We face discrimination at times but we try not to let it bother us. We get the usual stares but we have become used to it. We figure people are just curious about our family; we are two lesbians with tattoos, raising a child, and the child has down syndrome. That intrigues people; it is not something that you see on a daily basis.
TNF: Where do you live? Is it tough being a gay couple where you live?
Jaime: We live in Chester, Maryland; we are on an Island surrounded by water and super nice people. We thought that moving to a small island, kind of in the middle of nowhere, that we would have issues but everyone has been so nice and accepting.
TNF: What has having a family meant to you?
Jaime: It feels amazing having a family, having something to work harder for, to fight for. We are so happy with our family and cannot wait to add more little ones.
TNF: Have the current changes in marriage laws had any affect on you?
Jaime: The laws have had a positive impact on us because we are now allowed to be married in Maryland. We can live the same way a straight married couple will live. Not to mention, that it makes having kids a lot easier!
Thank you Jaime and Arianna for sharing your story with us. Congratulations on your recent marriage!
By Brandy Black
Our daughter is in Kindergarten now. The immense change that has already transpired this year blows my mind, our conversations have evolved in ways I’ve always dreamed of and I’m so proud of the girl she has become. I worry, everyone knows this, about protecting my kids from the evils and misunderstandings of the world. I would do anything to ensure that none of my children feel hurt or pain even though I know this too is one of life’s little gifts.
I do know, however that life will be a bit more complicated for my children because of the parents they have. Even though the country is changing rapidly and laws are slowly embracing LGBT families, we are not safe from bullying and discrimination. My wife and I are lucky to live in a city that is rather accepting of a two mom family and we rarely face outward discrimination but there will always be an opportunity to educate those around us. I correct people daily that make the assumption that I have a husband or my children have a daddy. I don’t mind this, it is understandable that they jump to that conclusion, I often wonder if I inadvertently do the same. But what I am most grateful for is those around us that are thoughtful and understanding of families like mine.
I went to our first parent/teacher conference for grammar school. Our 5-year-old has two teachers. Both teachers referenced me as Mama and Susan as Mom, they had taken the time to get it right, to know that those words have significant meaning. Susan could not be with me (thank god for the voice memo app on my iphone so that I could record it) and my daughter’s teacher seamlessly referenced her in conversation as my wife. I volunteer at school once a week and one day in class the teacher was talking to the children about their parents and she said “Mommies and Daddies or Moms and Mamas” and I actually laughed, which I realize wasn’t the best reaction especially considering how happy it made me but I was genuinely surprised. All of these simple choices in wording can make a family feel like they have made the right choice in schools, friends, colleagues etc. It is the simple use of parent/parents in place of Mommy or Daddy that are inclusive rather than exclusive.
Our school has a dance coming up called the Daughters’ Dance. This is inclusive rather than the exclusive title it had in previous years “Father Daughter Dance.” I was told that a child with heterosexual parents had a best friend that had two moms and she felt that Father Daughter Dance did not fairly represent her BFF’s family, she petitioned to the school to have the name changed. And so they did. From what I understand it wasn’t that they were trying to be exclusive it simply hadn’t occurred to them. These things are simple, and sometimes take a little thought that perhaps not all parents are the same, perhaps there is only one parent in the family. It has been a work in progress but awareness and understanding makes all the difference in the world.
I realize living in a big city like Los Angeles can make life much easier for two moms than raising a family in a rural part of the United States, I know that there are families that struggle to be understood by those around them. I spent quite a bit of time with the Executive Director of Family Equality talking about the laws that need to change, the support that is lacking for the LGBT community and the challenges that we face but I don’t want to forget to celebrate the wins that happen every day. The teachers, friends, doctors, colleagues, and even strangers that make my day by bending down to my daughter and saying “You’re a pretty lucky kid to have two moms.” It’s not that my kids are any luckier than anyone else, it’s that they are just as lucky.
By – Trey Darnell
It is now past midnight, and we have crossed into Arkansas. My excitement, or lack thereof, for The Help has not changed. I find myself constantly checking the CD info display. Disc 5 Track 13. Sigh! We can barely hold our eyes open and decide to stop in Little Rock for a brief nap and a refreshing shower. The plan was to hit the road with an early start to Abilene, Texas. As my dad would say, “bright-eyed and bushy tailed.”
Matthew falls asleep before his head even comes close to hitting the pillow. I find myself watching the multiple LED lights flashing on the two smoke detectors in the hotel room. Why do they need two smoke detectors in a hotel room? I try covering my head to block out the light. As I lay there trying to breathe with my head covered, I catch myself wondering if I can still see the obnoxious flashes. I can.
6am. After what seemed like an eternity, the alarm sounds, and it is time to start the day. Excitement and nerves were overpowering as we were anxious to meet the new baby girl. We started the day with 500 miles to go, and I immediately wonder if Matthew has forgotten about The Help. No luck! Disc 6.
Arkadelphia…Texarkana…Dallas…Abilene. 8 hours later we can see Abilene Regional Medical Center. So close but the wait continues. We had just missed a four-car accident. The road is blocked, and all traffic has stopped.
Room 3107. How hard can it be to find room 3107? We press “3″ and the elevator doors close. The doors open and we enter what feels like a ghost town. It almost felt like a scene from The Walking Dead. Where are the walkers? Is this a dream? We press “1″and the elevator doors close.
We violate the guy code and ask for directions. Down the hall, after the cafeteria turn right and continue forward to the two sets of elevators with the baby picture on them. Since we are gay, we say forward rather than straight. We press “3″ and the doors close. The elevator makes the worst sound, and we can see where someone scribbled, “Help Me” in the film on the elevator door. Oh my!
The dreaded hospital experience has started. For those of you that have adopted or are in the process of adopting, are well aware of this unpredictable part of the journey. I have to admit that we were very worried about what we would encounter during the hospital stay. A same-sex couple adopting in Texas doesn’t sound positive.
Walking down the hall to Mercy’s room, we were anxiously greeted by many of the nursing staff. They were eager to give us our armband that would allow us unrestricted access to the baby. They tried to contain their excitement while asking us about our drive from Tennessee. I refrained from mentioning The Help. One of the nurses finally apologized and stated that we probably wanted to meet the little girl. We did! As we walk quickly down the hall, in my mind it was the slow animated run to Chariots of Fire playing in the background, Dylan’s mom appeared in the hallway. Her smile immediately put us at ease.
We walked into the room and see Mercy sitting on the bed with Skeeter. Wait a second. Skeeter is from The Help. Mercy is holding the smallest little human I have ever seen, sweet little Harper. We immediately hugged Mercy and everyone in the room before we laid our eyes on the new baby for the first time. It is hard to explain the emotion or the feeling of that moment. I can only think of one word to describe it. Lovely!
As the next several hours passed. We were able to feed, diaper, cuddle and kiss everyone in the room. Mercy had been cleared for discharge that afternoon, but Harper was going to stay the night so the staff could monitor her temperature. The hospital gave Matthew and I our very own room so we could have our first night together with Harper as a new family. They even asked if we were going to snuggle in the bed. Reminder we are in Texas.
It didn’t take long for our protective instincts to kick in. You might be thinking for the baby, but it was actually for Harper’s mom. Mercy was ready to be discharged, and she requested some time alone with the baby. With the constant visitors, she had not had the chance to have any mother and daughter time. Everything was moving in a positive direction until the nurse shift change. Within fewer than ten minutes, everything quickly turned to chaos.
The night shift nurse entered the room and asked who had the car seat. She then said she needed it at that moment. A few minutes later, the baby was being wheeled out of the hospital room for a two-hour car seat test. We pleaded with the nurse asking for her to delay doing the check until later that night. Matthew chases the nurse down the hall to explain the circumstances. No luck. Emotions had reached the breaking point. The lack of sleep accompanied by the magnitude of the adoption plan were not the best combination. Mercy was discharged without having what she really needed, alone time with her baby.
Just a few minutes past midnight, the nurse brought Harper into our room following her successful car seat test. Matthew sat straight up in the bed and said, “About what happened earlier tonight” and I said ” Oh #%*@!” The nurse was apologetic and explained the circumstances. Matthew quickly let her know that she was telling the wrong person.
Mercy decided to get a good night sleep and visit the next day. We offered her our room for a chance for her to spend some alone time with the baby. It was our goal to make sure that she had everything that she wanted or needed while in the hospital. She was our main concern at this moment.
Matthew and I decided to get some fresh air and something good to eat that hopefully did not require ordering from the vehicle. You can never go wrong with Panda Express. I think the nerves made my appetite a little less than stellar. There had been a constant knot in my stomach since receiving the text message a day earlier saying Mercy was headed to the hospital. Less than two hours later, we received a text message saying we could come back. Disc 8 Track 7. Ugh. This book is never going to end.
After arriving back at the hospital, we get the good news that Miss Harper was being discharged. We decided to let Mercy pick the outfit that she was going to wear out of the hospital. Mercy carefully evaluated all of the options and made her selection. What a relief. She chose the outfit we wanted her to wear. Another indication that we were a good match.
We, as Harper’s posse, made our way out of the hospital with bags, blankets, pillows, diapers, formula and a car seat. The nurse made sure Harper was buckled into her car seat and secured into the vehicle. We hug everyone and quickly make plans for dinner later that evening. As we begin driving toward the hotel, we get a Facebook message from my mom asking which one of us sat in the backseat. Wait. What? We both were in the front. I can’t believe we missed this monumental right of passage. Disc 9 Track 4. Ugh!
To be continued…
By: Rob Watson
“Necessity is the mother of invention” goes the old saying. When there is a problem or an issue in play, a creative solution is often about to be realized. This point is nowhere more valid than in the area of LGBT couples having children and starting families.
According to a recent study by Cambridge University, the ease by which a couple can procreate seems to dictate the primary avenue by which they pursue the creation of family. Heterosexuals who often have to guard against unwanted pregnancy choose a wanted pregnancy as their primary route to familyhood. Lesbian couples do not have to fear unwanted pregnancies, but if they can solicit a sperm donor, an apparently readily achievable task in many cases, they too initiate pregnancy. Gay men have a tougher challenge, as a participating womb and body for nine months—to say nothing of labor and health risks—are far more difficult and costly resources than male reproductive material. Therefore, according to the study, they pick foster care or adoption as their likely method.
I am frequently called upon to recount the choices I made in creating my family. The last such conversation took place at a kids’ party attended by many of my son’s schoolmates. One of the fathers was chatting me up, knowing I was a gay dad, and his curiosity was apparently killing him. I graciously volunteered that the boys had been adopted through the local foster care program.
“Oh, cool,” he said. “I assume there was a screening process.”
“Oh, absolutely,” I responded. “They did a complete background check on me. It was very thorough.” A strange look crossed his face.
“No . . . I didn’t mean on you. I meant on the children. To make sure there were no mental issues or drug exposure.”
My eyebrow raised slightly, and even though I caught his drift, I proudly proclaimed, “No, they don’t screen out children . . . and my boys both had drug exposure. That was not a problem.” At that point, it became obvious that the man was interested only in the parenting of “perfect” children, and he did a quick mumble and moved on to the hors d’oeuvres table.
It left me wondering, who out there will step up for the “nonperfect” kids, kids already created and in need now? Who will be the parents of the kids who got dealt a raw deal at birth and are facing major challenges before their lives have even begun?
It has been suggested to me that LGBT parents would be the perfect class to do this. We, who get to really think out the process by which we are going to become parents, have the opportunity to step up. We can help not only ourselves, but these kids who are in need. We can influence the world, which is currently too eager to discard these kids and ultimately turn them in to serious drags on society as adults. Should this be a mandate for us?
Certainly, parents such as Clint and Bryan, who saved ten kids, are among the most moral on the planet. I dearly wish and pray that it was easy for us all to do what they have done. Unfortunately, it is not.
Like the deep longings that drive us to fall in love and partner, the longings to be a parent are equally complex. Those longings are not often driven by selfless altruistic motivations and energies. If they were, the people who would be loved, pursued, and married most would be the saintly, good, honest, and upstanding—regardless of their physical appearance. Gyms would not turn out the most likely to be sought after. Sadly, that is not the case, and the great love stories do not end with the hero taking up into his arms the person he most admires but to whom he does not feel physically attracted.
Parenting is similar. Some people need to see traces of their biological family in their children’s faces. Some need the comfort that a biologically made child cannot be taken away. Some do not have the stomach to navigate the foster care and adoption systems, neither of which was designed to be parent friendly.
Like romantic relationships, no matter what the motivation or catalyst that creates the bond, the real morality occurs in the development, and sustainability, of the relationship itself. Parenting is a tough gig. It is not easy to be ready and present for another human being’s needs day in and day out, for decades. It is about selflessness and the pursuit of unconditional love. The desire to be a good parent is in itself moral. Take the example of Markus K, who acted as a sperm donor for many lesbian families. He may not have done a thing to ease the pain and loneliness of the world’s orphans, and he added to the earth’s seven billion population with kids he will not be involved in raising. What he has done, however, is to forgo any intimate long-term relationship for himself in order to visit and be there for any of his progeny who may be interested in seeing him. Even through his brand of parenting, he has achieved selflessness.
So, if you want to have children and want to do it in the most moral way, find out which method is the one to which you can fully commit yourself. Find the one that inspires you to be the most diligent and dedicated parent possible. Find the one that makes you a better person. You will then have done the “moral” thing.
And if you want to be a real hero, go the extra mile. Help answer the question my friend at the party left me with: Who will adopt the millions of orphans worldwide who are already here, not perfect, and need us? Who will take that into account in their family planning? Who will make the process easier and readily available for LGBT families and inspire the foster care/adoption path? Who will make a real difference?
I hope it is me. I hope it is you, too.
We could be weeks or merely days away from making the trip from Johnson City, Tennessee to Abilene, Texas for the birth of Baby T-Rex. The distance between these two cities is 1,128 miles and when you are on “baby time”, there are no easy planning and travel solutions. Blogs, books, lists, parenting forums and workshops do not prepare you for getting a phone call saying the expecting mom is at the hospital with contractions, and you are over a thousand miles away.
Thursday afternoon, we received a phone call signaling labor could be imminent. It seemed as if clothes, baby clothes, diapers, cameras and cats were flying in every direction. The car was packed full with what felt like half our house and a car seat securely in place. Everything was happening extremely quickly. Anxiety and excitement was in complete control.
As we entered the last five weeks of pregnancy, Matthew and I had worked through options that were available that would allow us to get to the hospital as quick as possible. We had tentative travel plans that would put us into Abilene a week before the due date. If the baby decided to make an appearance sooner? There was an alternative plan in place for that. One of us would be on the first available flight, and the other would drive. A plan for the cats, mowing the lawn and anything else we could think of had been thought of. We would have everything packed and ready to go in a moments notice, well we would in mid-August. We were behind the curve.
This past Thursday, travel by air wasn’t an option, so we both buckled in and began the 17-hour drive to Texas. We received text updates throughout the evening. An extreme effort was being made to make it there as quick as possible. I would swear that the odometer was not working correctly. The miles were slowly ticking off. Our late night turned into the early morning. As we reached Memphis, Tennessee we decided to stop and get some needed sleep.
As the sun rose on a hot and humid Friday morning in west Tennessee, we all had experienced a false alarm. The expecting mom had what was referenced as a stalled labor and received medication designed to stop contractions. Everyone was grateful that she was resting comfortably and getting some much needed sleep. Matthew and I took a deep breath, smiled, and buckled in for our trip home.
After arriving back in Johnson City and unpacking the car, we began to make lists of things that we needed and created a staging area in our guest room for everything that will make the trip with us. Bags and containers were unpacked and repacked more efficiently. The false alarm was a little drill that we were able to learn from. Without question, it was an exhausting 24 hours, but we were able to make sure that we are better prepared for the next call. Matthew and I are ready to leave at any given moment.