Well, I made it. 2016 is almost here and a few months ago, I wasn’t even confident I’d make it this far. By goddammit, I did, and I plan to be here for many years—decades—to come!
On this day a year ago, if you told me what the new year would bring me, I would never believe you. If you told me I would be moving from Tennessee to California, that I’d become a father, and that I’d survive cancer… No way. I’d say you had me confused with someone else. There’s no way that would be my life you were describing. But it was, and it is.
As we say goodbye to another year, I am thankful for the love and support of family, and friends, and even the kindness of strangers, who have touched my life in some way and helped me on this journey.
I’m excited to begin a new year with a fresh perspective, and I really hate to say it… But please, please let this just be a boring year. I just want to live in the Golden State in peace and good health with my husband and son, and other then the excitement of watching our little baby grow up, I hope there are no major events to report a year from now.
Happy New Year to all, and to all a good night.
Ten years ago today, I was moving from Raleigh, North Carolina to Nashville, Tennessee. Now on the decade anniversary, I’m in California with my husband and our baby, making plans to move here.
It’s been humbling to reflect on all the places life has taken me and all the ways I’ve changed and grown since I was 23. Now at age 33, I feel excited and ready to begin the next chapter.
I love my life and the family we’ve created. I love this state and can’t wait to be a citizen of my favorite place on earth.
California, here we come!
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.
Well it’s official! Daniel and I are now legally married. Although we had a wedding ceremony in April 2011, we made a trip to San Francisco earlier this month to make it legal.
Here are a few photos from the court house:
Happy holidays, all! I have so much to tell you…
The first bit of news is that Daniel and I are getting married (again) next month!
We had our wedding ceremony in Tennessee in April, 2011. It was the happiest day of my life. Unfortunately because of Tennessee’s discriminating policies, we were not able to register to make it “official.”
When you’re gay, you kind of trick yourself into believing that’s fine. It has to be, right? It’s just a piece of paper, labels don’t mean anything, blah, blah, blah… It’s the only way to convince yourself to sleep at night.
It’s been nearly a year since Daniel and I began the journey toward adopting a son. It has not been an easy year, and we do not have a son yet, but we are continuing to be optimistic and move forward.
I would like to share some tough lessons we’ve learned so far. If you’re thinking about adopting in the U.S., you may not like the things I’m going to say. My intention is to give the honest, unfiltered truth and not sugar coat it. But don’t be disheartened, please. I believe the best rewards in life are the ones you have to work for.
The child’s race: It really is a black and white issue
I would estimate that 80% of the children available for adoption in the U.S. are black. I would also estimate that 80% of the couples looking to adopt are white. If you are a white couple hoping to adopt a white child, I’m here to tell you that your options will be limited. When you do find a white child that you are interested in, be aware that a dozen or more other white couples are also pursuing him or her.
Be upfront about what race you feel comfortable adopting. Don’t beat around the bush and say you might be open to a black child if you really won’t be. I can’t stress this enough. Be honest. Case workers are overworked and underpaid. You are wasting everyone’s time if you aren’t honest, so if you want a white child, just tell them you want a white child.
The softie in you is going to contradict this. A part of you is going to say, “Well maybe I could adopt a child of another race.” If you feel this way, I strongly encourage it. There’s obviously much more to a child than the color of his or her skin. But again, if you don’t feel you can honestly see yourself with a child of another race, don’t do it. Adoption is not the time to solve all the world’s problems. Focus on what kind of child you really see yourself with.
There are quite a few children of Hispanic descent, particularly in Texas, so if you can at least broaden your horizons to include them, you will have more options.
The age range will change
There are two groups of children for you: 0-12 and 13-17. In the beginning, you will think it’s 0-2. Everyone can spot a couple who’s new to this when they say they want a cuddly new baby, fresh from the womb. Forget about it.
If you want a “younger” child, your options are 0-12. To be more specific, it’s really 8-10. That’s what it’s going to boil down to.
You see, it’s all part of a cycle. These children weren’t just born into adoption. They were part of a process. From 0-4, their crackhead mother was trying to take care of them and possibly flying under the radar of child protective services. But once the child is old enough to start pre-school, they are in the public more. Teachers observe that they are neglected, abused, underfed, and that’s when they report the parents.
During the ages of 5-7, the mother will go through a little song and dance where the child is taken away temporarily and the mother is told to get her act together. She will get sober for a few months, get the child back, and then the cycle repeats a few months later. Finally, by age 8, it becomes clear the mother isn’t fit to be a parent and she isn’t going to change. Parental rights will be terminated and the child will be available for adoption. That’s where you come in and that’s why the child will probably be between 8-10.
Foster care is a slow moving machine, so the children may be stuck in the system for months, even years. It’s very sad. I don’t have an optimistic spin to put on it. The best I can say is that the foster family is doing its best to give the child love and attention while they wait to be adopted.
If you’re looking for an older child, a teenager, you’ve hit the jackpot. There are many, many options for you! Actually that’s sad too because it shows just how many kids have fallen through the cracks of the system. Sorry. But there are some really wonderful children out there who just need someone to give them a chance.
By that stage, they’ve put up some walls and it won’t be easy to get close to them. But it can be done, and once you establish trust with them, and show them that you aren’t going to give up on them, you can receive their endless love and devotion. You may even have a tighter bond with that child than some biological parents have with their teenagers. This is a child who knows how bad things can be, and how good they have it now, so it really opens up an opportunity for a special relationship with your adopted child.
The bottom line is to not get hung up on age. You may find an older child who you really connect with. Our case worker once pointed out that older kids and young teens have an identity and you really get a sneak preview of what kind of person they are becoming. A baby is a wildcard.
Out of state adoptions are sometimes a joke
When we first started out, we were very excited to have access to numerous databases of children in all 50 states. But we eventually discovered that this is mostly just for show.
Have you ever worked at a company where you knew someone was going to get promoted internally, but the job position was still posted online for the public? Same concept. You know those people sending in their resumes don’t stand a chance.
Most of the out-of-state cases we’ve been involved with ended up choosing a family in that child’s region. It’s not impossible to get chosen, but it’s significantly more difficult. You’ll really need to be a great match for the child to get case workers to consider you.
Homophobia is alive and well
Most states allow ONE single person to adopt a child or TWO married people (legally recognized marriage, that is). If you’re gay and live in Tennessee like we do, only one of us gets to adopt the child. The other person gets listed as an occupant of the house, which gives no legal protection at all. Classy.
Later on down the road, we will have the option to go to court and file a second parent adoption. It’s possible, but the whole thing is complicated, maddening, and unfair.
Also, even though some states can’t technically discriminate because we’re gay, we do get passed up often. Kentucky is one of the worst. They can’t even be bothered to acknowledge us when we inquire about a child.
Utah will flat out write you back and tell you “NO” because their state ONLY adopts to couples who are legally married. That means even a man and woman can’t adopt unless they are legally married.
If at all possible, consider the foster route
Foster care seems to be the most consistently reliable way to get matched with a child for adoption. The problem is that it’s horribly unpredictable.
9 times out of 10, the child is just going to be placed with you temporarily. You’ll bond, get attached, only to have to that child taken away and returned to their drug addict parent. If that parents falls off the wagon again, the child may once again be brought to your home 6 months later. If you’ve had the child once, you are more likely to get picked again since you know their history.
Of course there are some perks to fostering. You get to take care of a child who is going through a difficult time and be their safe haven. So it’s not all bad. However, if you’re looking for something permanent, it can certainly be a bumpy ride.
We are seriously considering it ourselves in order to expedite the adoption process. We’re not certain. We’re still talking about it.
I’ve shared the ugly, painful truth that we’ve learned about adoption after one year. Some people would throw in the towel and give up, but raising a family isn’t about quitting when times get tough. We’re committed to adopting a child and we know our patience will be rewarded. When it is, we will have so much love to give.
Next time you meet someone who has adopted a child, or provided foster care, you may think he or she is just a regular person. But look closer. That person is someone with a huge heart, an incredible spirit and strong backbone. That is a person who has been through hell and back, all because they wanted to be a parent. You should give them a big hug and thank them.
There are so many children out there who come from broken homes. They need safety and security, and kudos to any person who’s willing to give that to them. The greatest heroes in the world are the ones you don’t hear about.
I’m in a California mood today. I’d like to go get Daniel from work and take the next flight there. We went to San Francisco last summer and had such a good time.
I’d recommend we start with lunch at The Buena Vista Cafe, where I’d have a big club sandwich and Irish coffee to drink. Daniel would order a crab salad sandwich, which would probably be covered with onions. I’d cringe just a little, but then smile because I’d know he’s happy and he never gets to eat stuff like that here in Nashville.
Next we’d go to Ghirardelli for dessert and walk around Fisherman’s Wharf. And after that, I’d want to sit on the staircase used for the set of Barbary Lane in Tales of the City. I’d pretend Mrs. Madrigal was waiting on the other side of the hill. Even though she’s a fictional character, it still makes me happy to imagine her there.
I’d have to take at least one ride on a cable car and enjoy the steep hills of the city. It’s really a lot of fun, and I don’t care if it makes me look like a tourist. I also enjoy the clanging sound.
Next would be an afternoon stroll at the Palace of Fine Arts. The massive Roman architecture is amazing to see up close and I love seeing the sunset there.
All of this would build up to a drive along the winding roads to Sausalito for a breathtaking view of The Golden Gate Bridge.
By then, I’m sure our friends Dan and Rich would be home from work and want to meet at their favorite neighborhood bar. That would wrap up an excellent day in one of my favorite cities.
There’s a special kind of sadness when an adoption doesn’t go through. It’s something that dominates your thoughts and feelings, soaks into your skin, through your bones, and you feel it swimming in your blood. It’s inescapable and painful, and seemingly relentless.
I haven’t given an update on our adoption process since last spring. Part of it is due to privacy reasons. While it’s going on, I can’t write about it. And then when it fails to happen, I’m just too disappointed and upset.
Daniel and I have had two failed adoptions this year. Everyone who’s ever gone through adoption will tell you that it’s a certain type of hell. I didn’t understand, but now I do.
Over the summer, we began the process to adopt a little boy. We were finally approved for him in September. It was an amazing day, with a pure and powerful happiness that I wish we could have captured in a bottle and kept with us forever. That was a good day. I’d never felt happiness like that before; knowing that we would soon be fathers.
In the days that followed, we began the paperwork process and were granted access to his private case history. It turned out this boy we’d been working on adopting for three months wasn’t anything like what the agency had described him as. He had extensive problems, psychologically and emotionally, and the depth of these troubles were more than we felt prepared to handle. In fact, earlier this year, a psychiatrist had evaluated him and concluded in her notes that he wasn’t ready to be adopted. He needed extensive therapy and until he’d worked through some of his problems, he wouldn’t be in a healthy state of mind for a change in his environment.
(We hadn’t met him yet. You never meet the child until you’ve been matched with them and all the paperwork is ready. Otherwise, the trauma and uncertainty would be too much.)
For reasons we don’t understand, the agency chose to push through the adoption anyway. There hadn’t been a follow-up evaluation, and according to the records, he hadn’t improved at all. I almost feel as if they’d just become burdened with the poor guy and were trying to push him off onto a family. We’re not sure.
Nonetheless, we felt we had to cancel the adoption. We talked extensively with our case worker and she agreed. We were heartbroken, but we continued our journey and began working with another child’s agency that we’d found.
Over the past three months, we’ve learned a lot about him. He had a much better support system, and this time, we did feel we authentically knew about him and understood the child we were adopting. In fact, he seemed like a perfect match for us. He loved music, computers, singing, and the arts. If you could clone a mini version of Daniel and me, this child would be it.
At the beginning of this month, they’d narrowed it down to four families, including us. We were very excited. The next phase involved interviewing each family at length to decide who they felt was the best match for him as parents. Today was the final meeting. They chose a different family… But liked us very much… For what it’s worth.
We’re disappointed, but that’s how the process goes. You find out about these children and begin a lengthy process of interviews, paperwork, sometimes photos and videos. This helps build an overall picture of what that child would be like and how he’d fit in with us as a family. We tell ourselves not to get attached, but of course we do. How can we not? We’re humans, with emotions, and if we didn’t feel anything for these kids, we wouldn’t be very good parents. Plus, I think it would show in the interviews. Enthusiasm and emotion is what makes us stand out as potential parents. They want to know we will love and care for these children.
I told a friend today that the only pain I can compare it to is when a couple suffers a miscarriage. You go through a period of excitement, telling family and friends that a child may be on the way. You start dreaming up these imaginary scenarios in your head of the future with this child. Birthdays, holidays, summer vacations. And then if you end up not being matched, it feels like those dreams die, and a little part of you dies too.
Daniel and I are sad, but I know we’ll feel better. Eventually we’ll start looking again, and we know our son is out there. I think the length of time makes it difficult too. Anytime you are considered a potential match, the process usually drags on for months before a decision is reached.
It was very cold and rainy today. I went to bed at about two in the afternoon; turned on the electric mattress pad and hid under the comfort of our bed sheets while the rain pounded on the window. Our dog Mrs. Madrigal cuddled up to my chest and took a nap. I could feel her tiny nose breathing against my hand. The top of her head smelled like Christmas sugar cookies. She’d been to the groomer and they always spray her with this scented perfume for dogs. I rested my face next to her and smelled her little cookie head, and slept the rest of the day away until Daniel got home from work.
At least we have this baby, and she’s all ours.
Illustration by Marcus Cutler
A few days ago Daniel and I became proud owners of a Wii Fit Plus. It instantly became our new addiction.
I generally find exercise to be boring and prefer vodka and laxatives. Yum! Thankfully I’ve managed to maintain a healthy weight and my BMI is within the normal range. The game recommended I lose 7 pounds to be optimal so I’m going to work on that.
My real issue is apparently balance. I fail at any exercise that requires me to use posture or coordination to gain points. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m 30 and I’ve been designing websites since I was 15. A good chunk of my life has been spent in a chair working at a computer. I’m obviously slouching more than I should even though I try to make it a habit to sit up straight. Now my life as a web developer appears to be taking a toll.
I’m confident Wii Fit Plus will assist me with improving myself. If nothing else it’s made me more aware.
But I still laugh every time it says I’m unbalanced! Thanks Nintendo.