How We Became Dads

Becoming a parent is always a miracle, and our story is no exception. As we approach father’s day, I’d like to share how my husband Simon and I became dads.

daves pic

Ellis at one month with me (AKA Papá or Robbie) and Simon (AKA Daddy)

In the beginning, fatherhood seemed like a distant dream, a near impossibility.  For years we talked about our plans to have a child, but once we gave ourselves a deadline–Simon’s 45th birthday–we finally took action and started doing some research.

After ruling out the idea of taking a turkey baster to one of our friends, we turned to adoption.  Before we knew it, a social worker was at our house explaining the whole process. She seemed to think that us being gay would be no problem, and she said we’d most likely have a baby within two years. Excited and horrified, my eyes widened and I took a deep breath. Holy crap. Things were getting real.

Contrary to what some people think, adoption does not consist of flying to a developing country and picking out the cutest kid at the orphanage. The real life process is full of risks and difficult choices—which we had to start making immediately.  Would we take a baby born with fetal alcohol syndrome, drug exposure or severe health problems? Were we willing to adopt an older child or did we only want an infant? And what if the birth parents didn’t respect our role as parents after placement? Worst yet, what if the birth mom changed her mind before the 72-hour cutoff? With so many factors out of our control, we did our best to follow our heart and put it in God’s hands.

From fingerprints to questionnaires to autobiographies to more questionnaires, it seemed we would never get through the application, let alone ever hold a baby in our arms. But once we finally finished, our paternal instincts were stronger than ever.

A few months after our original meeting, our agent returned to do our home study. More questions, more explaining, and finally, she handed us an empty scrapbook—our key to being chosen by a birth mom. “Take your time, you’ll have a few months before we will need this back from you. In the meantime, just have fun and don’t stress.”   “In about two years, we’d be dads!” we thought. Sounded like perfect timing to me.

One week later, our agent called us and blew our minds. “I know this is earlier than we expected, but I want to present your scrapbook to a birth mom who is open to gay parents for her daughter. Oh, and she’s due in three weeks.” Jumping with joy and freaking out a the same time, our hearts were screaming “WTF??!?! Um, are you serious?” We were instantly thinking up names and planning how I’d leave my teaching job once we got our little girl. “As far as the album,” she said, “I’m going to meet with her in a few days, so just try to get some photos together so I have something to present.” After three frantic days of organizing, cutting, editing, writing, and revising, our scrapbook was perfect.  That birth mom would have totally chosen us… If she hadn’t disappeared.  Sigh.  At least then we were back to our two year time frame.

Literally three weeks later, we got “the call” we were waiting for—a birth mom had chosen us! AAAAAAHH!!!!!!! We excitedly listened on speakerphone as our agent explained the details of the pregnancy. The mom was Hispanic and the dad was white, and although she wasn’t due for another eight weeks, her doctors predicted a premature birth, as was the case with her two previous children, who developed cerebral palsy as a result. That was the info, and the ball was in our court.

We were overwhelmed with emotions. “Sure, there are risks, but we could be dads!” “This is way too early for us, but what if this child is meant to be ours? And who knows when another opportunity will come?” After hours of talking, praying and searching for a sign, we made the decision to say no to what we had been dreaming about for years.

A few months later, Simon came home from work with a suspicious grin. Not wasting a moment, he blurted out, “We were chosen by a birth mom!” My heart started pounding with fear and excitement as he told me the details.

Everything sounded amazing. Tara wasn’t due until the summer, giving us ample time to prepare (I’ve changed her name for this post to protect her privacy). And not only had she given birth to four healthy babies before, she had already gone through the adoption process with her last one and didn’t change her mind at the last minute. We weighed the pros and cons, but we knew in our hearts this was meant to be. This was our time! After a casual “getting to know you” dinner facilitated by out agents, everyone was ready to move forward. AAAAH!!!

In the months that followed, we didn’t miss a doctor’s appointment. I’ll never forget the first ultrasound when we saw what looked like a tiny bean with a heartbeat. That was going to be our child! How could this be real?

Finally came the day when we’d find out the sex of the baby. One minute after the amazing moment we found out we were having a boy, we learned our son had something wrong with him.

The ultrasound showed fluid in the abdomen. The doctor couldn’t confirm what that meant for our baby, but it could potentially be something very, very bad. Or it could be something completely benign. Between endless Internet searches and two trips to a specialist, we were faced yet again with a difficult choice. Did we want to continue with this pregnancy or let the birth mom choose different adoptive parents?

We didn’t know what the fluid in the abdomen meant, and we were incredibly afraid that our son might have lifelong health problems. Although we had the right to say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” we were 100% committed, so we weren’t backing out. In the meantime, we prayed that everything would work out.

At about 5 ½ months, we got a frantic call from our adoption agent. “Tara’s water just broke, you need to get to the hospital as soon as possible.” As we anxiously waited at the hospital, we scoured the internet for something that would tell our preemie would be fine. Four hours later, we learned it was just a false alarm, the result of having sex with a full bladder.

In the months that followed, we saw more and more warning signs but tried to shake them off as “not a big deal.”  Tara would leave strange, rambling voicemails in which she almost sounded drunk, repeating things she had said minutes prior. She called to tell us she hated the name we had chosen for him and then cancelled two ultrasounds, but our agent assured us that things were fine.

The end of the school year came and I said goodbye to my students and colleagues, leaving my job to become a full-time dad. In normal circumstances I wouldn’t have shared my adoption news until it was a done deal, but I had to explain my departure, and besides, Tara wouldn’t change her mind at this point.

A week after school got out, I took a two-week service trip to a rural village in Panama. When I got home, Simon had some big news for me!

“She changed her mind.” My heart sank. My dreams of becoming a dad were erased. Obliterated. But there was more. Tara had no intention of keeping her child. She just wanted to find another family for him.

Anger. Confusion. Sadness. Loss. Resentment. Heartbreak. I had never experienced such a whirlwind of emotions before. What had we done wrong? What were we going to do? Would we ever have a child of our own? And where the hell was I going to work in the meantime? Despite all of our confusion and pain, we told ourselves “it must not have been meant to be.” And although we truly believed that, we still felt like total crap.

By the grace of God, I was able to get my job back. And miraculously, Simon had met another birth mom while I was in Panama, and she seemed like a great fit.  Later it surfaced that she wasn’t actually pregnant and was wanted in several states for adoption fraud.  We were shaken and confused, told to “continue life as normal, and it will happen eventually.”  Sure… Ok.

About three weeks later, I went on a trip to San Diego with my parents to clear my mind. While I was there, Simon called me with some news. Tara’s baby had been born. Things weren’t good. Her son was born with complete kidney failure and holes in his heart. They weren’t sure if he was going to survive.

“Holy freaking shit” was all I could think and say. Still recovering from being “dumped,” I was overcome with yet another chilling whirlwind of emotions. Relief, sadness, amazement, gratitude… Wow, I thought. Just…Wow.

The morning after I got home, my phone rang. “Why is Simon calling me?” I thought, “He always just texts me.” The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey babe

Simon: Hey, um. We need to talk.

Me: Okay…

Simon: I just got a call from Kelly from the adoption agency…There might be a baby for us.

Me: (Excited yet guarded) Holy shit, oh my God, are you serious? Okay…. (!!!)

Simon: I need you to go to Target and get some things

Me: OKAY…..(!!!!!!!!???!!!!)

Simon: I need you to pick up diapers, a car seat, and…

The rest of the conversation was a blur. My friend who had spent the night was listening from the other room, having a joyburst from what she thought might be happening. Yeah, it was happening.

Early that morning, a little boy had been dropped of anonymously at the hospital under the “Safe Haven Baby” law. There was no information about the birth parents, nor was there a way to contact them. Simon met me at Target, and we headed straight to the hospital to meet this little mystery baby.

That drive felt like an eternity, and after so many emotional ups and downs, I wasn’t ready to get too excited. Besides, there was still a chance that CPS would step in and insist the baby go to a heterosexual, married couple, as that was the policy in our state.  On the radio we heard Michael Bublé’s “Haven’t Met You Yet” and found the lyrics described our situation eerily perfectly.

Our adoption agent greeted us at the hospital entrance and introduced us to the receptionist as “Baby John Doe’s parents.” As we we walked back into the NICU, I scanned the room, wondering which of these miracle babies was waiting for us. Finally we arrived at his station and caught the first glimpse of our son. “Do you want to hold him?” the nurse asked. I let Simon hold him first, as I was still in shock from what was happening.

Excitement, disbelief, fear and utter joy….words can’t describe the emotions surging through my body at that moment. When I held him for the first time, I couldn’t believe what I saw. He was so beautiful, so incredibly alert, yet so relaxed. As I looked into his eyes, he looked back at mine, and reality finally hit me. He was going to be our son. Forever.

is this for real

Simon (Daddy) holding Ellis. “Is this real?”

We spent the next 18 hours holding him, feeding him, and calling loved ones. As we finally buckled Ellis into his car seat and pulled away from the hospital, our life journey as dads had officially begun. After everything we had gone through, we realized that this little miracle child was meant to be our son all along.

Lucky for us, we didn’t have to worry about the 72-hour grace period during which the birth parents could change their mind! Or so we thought. What we learned next made us feel nauseous. With safe haven babies, there is a practically six-month period during which the parents can come forward to take back their child.  The idea scared the shit out of us every single day, but we gave our love without restraint and trusted in God’s master plan.

profile pic with ellis

Me and Ellis on the first week of my new job as full time Papá

I was a complete wreck the day our agent attended the hearing to terminate the biological parents’ rights. Then I got the call—it was done! Yes! YAAAAAAAAAAS!!!! I squealed and did a happy dance as Ellis looked at me like, “Um… Ok, Papá!”

A few months later, we were able to finally have our last hearing to finalize the adoption. After an arduous journey filled with joy and pain, uncertainty and destiny, we were OFFICIALLY Ellis’s dads, and no one could change that.  And yes, we made our goal–the adoption was finalized literally the day before Simon’s 45th birthday.  When my mom found out she leapt with glee and shouted “YAY GOD!!! YAY GOD!!!”

three rings

“The boys,” as our friends and family call us. Doesn’t he sort of look like he could be our biological son?

Fatherhood isn’t easy, but it’s worth every moment.  Now nearly two years later, we are eternally grateful to his birth mom for her bravery and love, and we thank God every day for the chance to be dads to such an extraordinary young man.  Ellis has enriched our lives in indescribable ways, and he is surrounded by people that love him.  And who knows, some day, once the timing is right, maybe he’ll get a brother or sister! But for now, we’re good.

three rings #2

Life is good! No, life is f-ing amazing!

 

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6 comments

  1. This is such a beautiful story. I am so happy for you guys and wish you all the love and happiness for your family.

  2. I love love love this story! Even though I’ve heard it a few times, I still had to read it because it’s amazing, uplifting, emotional and God’s plan! You’re amazing Dads and enjoy your Fathers’ Day!!! (I moved the apostrophe too!)

  3. I love this story Robbie!!! It’s so touching and beautiful. You 2 deserve to be dads…wish every child had parents as awesome as you 2!

  4. I can barely see with tears of happiness for you. Such an incredible fateful experience. I feel so fortunate that I have met & held your beautiful son Ellis. Happy Father’s Day Papas! Sending my love & big hugs, Kathy

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