“As a gay dad, do you ever get harassed for raising your child without a mom?”
That’s a popular question many gay dads are asked, and my answer is YES—but we’re not harassed by the people you’d expect.
So far, we’ve never encountered any problems from straight people. When we’re out with our son, it’s very common for strangers to ask us, “Are you his dads?”. We always smile and tell them yes, and they say something nice, such as, “Well he’s so cute” or “Congratulations guys.” Heterosexual strangers have always been very supportive of us.
But within the gay community, it’s a different story. At some point, almost all of our friends have made a joke about one of us breastfeeding, or called one of us “mom.” Some friends are persistent about it too, teasing us almost every time we see them. (Time to get new friends, perhaps?)
This is an ongoing problem that many gay dads deal with. If you go to any gay parenting forum, you’ll find that a lot of men report the problem, and really hate it. We have a dream to be fathers and it may take years to accomplish. When we finally get there, we just want to enjoy the title of “Dad”, and yet the people who are supposed to be part of our own community want to force a maternal stereotype onto us.
Two men really are raising a baby—without a mom. We’re not “playing house” or being “mom substitutes.” We’re two dads.
I’m working on clear and concise ways to convey the point to gay people when they make a mom joke. When you have a baby there in your arms, usually squirming or grabbing nearby objects, it can be a challenge to make a firm point to someone. This will be a work in progress.
I’m not sure where the last few months have gone, but winter seems to have faded into spring, the trees and flowers bloomed, and in the blink of an eye, our son has grown from a tiny, sleepy newborn into an active, talkative little boy.
As I write this, he’s on his play mat, cooing up a conversation and practicing his grip with his rattles. He can’t speak words yet, but he is learning how to express how he feels. He recognizes faces and acknowledges us when we talk to him.
It was an indescribable feeling the first time he responded to my voice. I said his name, he turned his head and looked right at me and smiled. He knew his daddy was talking to him. He captures our hearts in new ways every day.
I guess I need to come up with a way to reference him on my blog. I don’t feel comfortable using his name. I don’t know if it matters, but I don’t want to share it (at least not yet). So I’m going to just call him “niño,” which is Spanish for “boy.” It has a nice sound to it.
Daniel and I are enjoying Daddyhood with our little Niño. He’s sleeping through the night now, so we’re not sleep deprived anymore. And we’re enjoying the journey of finding out who this little person is growing up to become.
That’s the latest news from our home.
It was another day of being childless.
I was feeling particularly pessimistic about the future prospect of us ever having a child. Daniel and I had been working with adoption agencies for three years out of the five years we’d been together.
“I think God’s lost our address,” I said to Daniel. “This has gone on forever. Do you realize we’ve spent over half of our marriage trying to start a family? Maybe it’s just not in the cards for us. Maybe we should just give up and accept our fate. We can start focusing on life with just the two of us. Take all the money we’ll save and travel the world. Be extravagant. Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be for us. Not every couple is meant to have children.”
With sad eyes, Daniel nodded. He’d been wondering the same thing.
Then a phone call came, and everything changed. A newborn baby boy was waiting at the hospital for us. Our dream had come true.
We’re so happy with our little guy. Our hearts are filled with love. The adventure is just beginning and we’re ready for the ride.
Six months later…
It was the end of summer. We were so happy to announce the news that we were matched with a birth mother and were going to be adopting her baby boy when he was born. The days and weeks that followed were filled with baby showers, books about parenting, shopping for tiny clothes, comparing baby formulas, meeting with pediatricians, and an obsession with the scent of baby powder (because it smells like heaven).
Autumn came with all its glory. I imagined crisp mornings walking through the park with our baby in his stroller, as the leaves blended from earthy shades of green to fiery crimson. I began an evening ritual of reading Winnie the Pooh stories to an empty crib—just for practice. I imagined that I was sending my loving words out into the universe, and somehow miraculously, our baby would receive them in his mother’s womb.
Two weeks before the due date, the mother disappeared. Daniel and I panicked, although panic isn’t a strong enough word. I can’t convey the helpless feeling of being at someone else’s mercy, not knowing where she was and if our unborn child was alright. Sleep was a novelty. Daniel was able to stay busy at work, but I couldn’t function other than just sitting on the couch watching Netflix like a zombie.
Our agency assured us that it’s normal for a mother to freak out right before she gives birth. It was possible that she just needed space to make peace with her decision. But they also told us it’s possible she had changed her mind, which is always a risk with adoption. We knew the risk, but nothing can prepare you for the shock when it actually happens.
The due date came and went. Many things happened in between, and I suppose none of those details matter now. We didn’t come home with a baby, so this particular little boy wasn’t meant to be ours. His mother has a long history of problems. Her other children were already in foster care, and we suspect it’s just a matter of time before that baby ends up being taken away too.
All of it was preventable. We were offering a stable, loving home for the child, and for reasons we’ll never know, his mother bailed at the last minute. If she were a responsible, trustworthy adult, maybe the sting wouldn’t hurt so much. But we know this poor child will suffer, and it breaks our hearts.
The half year that followed was filled with sorrow. Therapists compare it to a miscarriage. Although the child wasn’t biologically ours, we still went through many of the mental and emotional steps of preparing for bringing a baby home. And then we didn’t.
We spent one year year working with a private agency on this adoption. We spent two years before that working with the foster system. Adoption is a broken system all the way around, and it rarely ever focuses on the health and well-being of the children, or the families who are dedicating their whole lives to adopting a stranger’s child. It’s a terrible system.
We always heard horror stories of couples waiting five years to be placed with a child. We thought that was ridiculous. How could it take half a decade to have a child? But now we understand. The system moves slowly. There are set-backs. Cases fall through the cracks. Birth mothers disappear after months of coordinating details.
Then there are those lucky few. Those couples who adopt a baby within one week and seem to live a charmed life. We know several of them. They look at us with such pity. “What are you doing wrong? I don’t understand why it’s taken you three years?” they say to us. I’d like to sucker-punch them, but I just smile and say, “It’s different for everybody.”
I’m not looking for advice. God knows there has been no shortage of family and friends who think they have some clever plot on how we can expedite things. We know they are just trying to help. But there is no quick pass to adoption…
We don’t need another person telling us what to do. We just want people to hear our story, understand that we’re hurting, and offer us a hug or pat on the back. That’s all anyone can really do.
I hope that a child is in our future. Until then, we move forward.
It was Sunday night and Daniel and I were folding baby clothes. Little socks and shoes, mittens, bibs, onesies. I couldn’t believe how tiny they were. This is really happening, I thought to myself.
We’ve been matched with a baby boy for adoption. The whole thing feels like a dream, after nearly two and a half years of ups and downs, set-backs and near-misses. Adoption has been the hardest thing we’ve ever gone through, and yet all the hurt and disappointment melted away as soon as we got the good news. It’s all coming together now and the wait will soon be over. He hasn’t been born yet, and I will have to keep many details private. But later this year, a baby will be born and we’ll be bringing him home. We’re so happy!
I look forward to sharing stories of our new life as fathers: the funny moments, the sweet moments, and the moments of sheer joy. Daniel and I are going to be Dads.
Each night before bed, I go into the nursery and think about the baby boy who will be there some day soon (we hope!). It’s my favorite place in the world now. The colorful walls make me think of a childhood escape into a wonderland, and that’s exactly the emotion Daniel and I intended to evoke when we painted it.
Just a few months ago, it was a cold, musty smelling room where the occasional guest spent the night and odds and ends got pushed into corners and drawers, stacked on shelves. It’s where insignificant objects went to disappear, but now it is a place of life. No detail is without meaning, because the little boy who will grow up there will mean everything.
Right now I feel like I could burst open with tears. There’s so much love in my heart for a human that hasn’t even been born yet. But I feel like his presence is drawing closer. He might be out there right now, growing inside someone’s belly.
Tonight I counted the stripes on the wall. There are 17. It makes me think of the years of his childhood. I could cross off each one in my mind, and then when his 18th birthday rolls around, there will be no more stripes to count. He will be a young man. Maybe that’s why I feel like crying. 17 is so few. I won’t be ready for him to grow up. I know that for certain, even though he isn’t here yet.
It’s interesting how this long adoption process has changed me. I feel so mature in some ways, yet so scared and vulnerable in others. One way or another, this little boy is going to make a man out of me. I will have no choice. I will have to be brave and be strong, be the adult, because another human being will be counting on me. Nobody warned me about this feeling. I didn’t realize that when my parents were raising me, in their early 30s, they probably felt way too.
But I’m getting comfortable with the concept. It’s put everything else into perspective. I’ve stopped caring about many stupid things. I hardly notice what’s on TV anymore. I feel disinterested in politics or news, or any of the madness taking place outside of our home. I hardly care what anyone thinks about me or says about me. I know what truly matters now…and that’s all that matters now.
It’s a quiet confidence that I can only describe as being “Dad.” And it just occurred to me right now as I wrote it. Yes, maybe that’s what I feel. I’m going to be a Dad, and I really can’t wait.
In any case, it’s almost 4 A.M., so this Dad should get to bed. Perhaps I will dream of our son tonight. I dreamt about him a few weeks ago. Maybe it’s a sign that he’s alive; that his heart is beating and his brain is forming, and he’s sending little subliminal messages that he’s out there.
Daniel and I are ready when he is.
Daniel and I have made good progress with preparing the nursery. We haven’t been matched with a baby (we’re on a waiting list), but we wanted to go ahead and get things ready in advance, as our lives will change rapidly with one phone call.
The walls are painted and we’re working on getting furniture. We love it so far. It really makes things feel official, having a space set-up for our future son. Very exciting!
Sometimes I just got in there and think. It’s a happy place, imagining what the future holds.