By Rob Watson
As a gay dad, I have heard the words a thousand times. “A child is better off with both a mother and a father”. The statement always baffles me. Certainly, no two sets of parents of any make up are identically equipped, so is the theory that any opposite sex parents are better than any same sex parents?
The anti-gays claim that to be the case. Right wing spokespeople have gone so far as to declare that even orphanages are superior to same sex parents. The Catholic Church has previously declared that same sex parents were doing “violence” to the children in their care.
I don’t believe my life supports the concept. I have two sons. Each was born to a heterosexual couple and due to personal issues, each of them would have died had they remained with their birth parents. That is not conjecture, that is fact.
Drug addiction plagued all four of my sons’ birth parents. With the life I was able to give them, my sons are happy, healthy well adjusted eleven year old boys.
Sadly, in the most devastating of ways, a couple of mothers in Iowa will have no such happy ending. Rachel and Heidi McFarland had a baby boy named Gabriel since his birth. Within days of when the adoption was to finalize, the sixteen year old birth mother changed her mind. Rachel and Heidi became what the Des Moines Register called “former adoptive parents “.
I know the taste of that crushing and painful experience. On the road to adopting my two sons, there were periods of time when one of each of their adoptions were called into question. Should I have lost either of them, I would have dearly wanted to believe that the child I was losing was going to the possibility of a good and happy life, even if I was not privileged to be his parent. In my loss, the love I felt for my child would have placed him first beyond my own desires.
Surely this was the case for the moms of little Gabriel. The moms had spent every waking moment with him caring for his every need, from the moment of his birth to the moment where they lost him. Ultimately, that didn’t matter.
“We had been scrutinized, our life style has been scrutinized, the people in our lives have been scrutinized, we had to have letters of reference for this home study, to make sure we were…adequate as parents,” said Rachel. “And, they never had to have anything when they took him back.”
Little boy Gabriel went back to the “a child is better off with a mother and a father” ideal, to two teenagers. It was under a teen boy’s care, while the birth teen mom was running errands, that Gabriel lost his life. He was alone when he was found.
His moms heard about his death… by listening to the news.
Gabriel did not die because his moms were lesbian. His death was not the byproduct of homophobia. His fate was not because of a violation of any legal custody issues. His story is bigger than any of that. His story is about love, sacrifice and the true meaning of being a parent. His story is one that brings the bigoted preconceived notions around same sex parenting to its knees.
When I heard the story of Rachel and Heidi, I wept over what had happened to them. This is my letter from a dad to two moms.
Dear Rachel and Heidi,
I will not pretend that I know what you are going through. Even though I possess the over abiding love for my two sons, and a distant but constant fear that something bad could ever happen to them, I have never experienced the pain I can only imagine you feel today.
You are both such magnificent women, and you have experienced what is arguably life’s most ultimate loss. I wish I could say that my note here was one to cheer you, or even give you comfort. Sadly, it is not.
This is a note that validates your pain, anguish, horror and sorrow. There are those in this world who see you as bystanders, mere caretakers who were there for a few months and then cut loose. I know the truth. You are mothers who have lost a great and significant love. You lost Gabriel, in a deeper, more profound way than anyone else.
You were the parents who held the hope and promise for a little boy, and he was blessed by your wonderful glow. Life is precious and fragile, and the disastrous events that happened were made possible by just a few childish decisions by two people who had no business being parents at all. Again, we, the world, need to see that procreating a human child and being his parent are not one and the same thing.
I desperately wish I could make this better for you. I want that I could have that kind of power, because this is exactly a situation in which I would use it. But, I don’t and I can’t . You are in my thoughts and prayer. I put out the hope that the love you have within your family can carry you through this loss, and eventually deliver your next child, who will be so fortunate and blessed to have you.
Your little Gabriel was born deaf in one ear. You fitted him for a hearing aide. There was a fear he might become entirely deaf. You both started to learn sign language.
In the end, there was no one in your family that was hard of hearing. It was the world. The world did not recognize that a love and dedication strong enough to put your child before your own needs earned you the right to motherhood. This is your tragedy and loss,. You gave our world clarity. You have defined true parenting more clearly than it has been understood before.
I fill my heart with love and solidarity. You are not “former”, you are not “adoptive”. You are real moms in every way that counts.
In a few weeks, it will be Mothers Day. On that day, I will buy two roses to honor you. I will look on them and think of you, as you are:
Gabriel’s Moms, now and forever.