"Daddy, I want an ice pop." You'd be surprised how many times a day I field this request from my daughter, Margot, even in the Winter. Her latest obsession is all things popsicles and ice pops, and I find her unwavering devotion to getting her hands on this frozen goodness hilarious (and impressive!). Maybe it's a trivial thing, something that will be forgotten in time, but these little moments bring being a parent into clear focus. And nothing has ever felt more "right" to me than being a parent and building a beautiful family with my husband Joe (Yes, we're both named Joe: I'm "daddy," and he's "papa") and our adopted daughter, Margot.
We wanted the origin story of our family to have as much positivity, love, and support as possible.
I've pretty much always known I wanted to be a dad. I've always been comfortable with babies and kids. My only sibling is my sister, who is almost 11 years younger than me. I clearly remember my mom's pregnancy with her and the excitement of my sister's birth. I acted as a surrogate parent to my sister and got an early dose of the love, devotion, and wonder that comes with nurturing and raising a child.
When I came out as gay, I initially thought that meant my chance of having a family was gone (hey, it was the early '00s). I had a lot of uncertainty about my future. As a young gay guy in his 20s in New York City, everything felt possible - yet many of the things I envisioned about my adult life were suddenly called into question. In 2007, I met my husband Joe (on Friendster, the OG social network), and as our relationship grew and same-sex parenting became more widely embraced, I realized that my dream of being a dad could actually come true.
I have always been honest with Joe about my desire to create a family, and luckily, he has always been right there with me. Our shared desire to be parents served as the driving force as we embarked on our journey.
Like most same-sex couples, we had to decide whether to pursue surrogacy or adoption. This decision is deeply personal, and there is no right or wrong way to build a family; you have to research, talk to as many people as possible, and figure out what works best for you and your family's narrative. We realized pretty quickly that an open adoption was the right path for us to build our family. Not only would we be bringing a child into our lives, but our actions would have a positive impact on others, like Margot's birth mom. We wanted the origin story of our family to have as much positivity, love, and support as possible.
The adoption process is not for the faint of heart. It's a completely immersive, overwhelming experience - we literally filled out dozens of forms and wrote numerous essays about our parenting "style" and our approach to discipline. But ultimately, the experience taught us more about ourselves, our relationship, and our burgeoning family than I ever thought possible.
We were matched with our daughter's birth mother pretty quickly. We were very lucky; we know many adoptive parents that have been waiting a long time to be matched. At first, I was a nervous wreck to speak with our birth mother. What could we possibly say? How could we ever communicate the gratitude and love we had for her already for even considering us as forever parents for her child? Those first few conversations were tough, I won't lie. But over time, our mutual comfort level grew.
Here we were, 1,000 miles from home, in an Airbnb with a bassinet, three onesies, and a box of diapers, literally waiting for our child to be born.
Our birth mother was scheduled to deliver Margot via planned C-section, so we knew the day on which our daughter would be born (provided she didn't go into labor early!). We traveled to the city where our birth mother lived, and probably one of the most surreal days of my life was the day before Margot was born. Here we were, 1,000 miles from home, in an Airbnb with a bassinet, three onesies, and a box of diapers, literally waiting for our child to be born. All of the stress and excitement and anxiety and anticipation of the past five months came to a head in that moment, and it got real. I remember feeling this weird combination of "I have no idea what I'm doing here" and "I am exactly where I need to be because I am fulfilling a lifelong dream."
The next morning at 5 a.m., we headed to the hospital with our birth mother. We were immediately overwhelmed by the acceptance we felt from every person at the hospital. As gay adoptive dads, we had some fear about how we'd be treated by hospital staff, but we felt nothing but support and inclusion the entire time we were there. The beauty of our birth mother having a planned C-section is that we were able to be in the delivery room when Margot was born.
There are literally no words to describe the power of that moment: watching Margot emerge, take her first breaths, and wail to the gods that "I'm here!" Any fears I might have had about whether I was ready for this moment completely vanished. In that moment, I felt an almost primal shift from "observer" to "parent, protector, and fierce Papa Bear."
In that moment, I felt an almost primal shift from "observer" to "parent, protector, and fierce Papa Bear."
That role as protector and fierce Papa Bear guides everything about my parenting of Margot, even now that she's a typical 2-year old. I wear it like armor and also like a badge of honor; I have no greater duty or purpose than to love and protect this amazing, beautiful, wonderful person.
To be honest, that role gives me the courage to tackle some of the challenges we face as gay parents. Luckily, we live in a diverse, inclusive town right outside New York, so on the daily, we don't feel "different" in any way. But we do realize that there is a spectrum of opinions on same-sex couples parenting, and there may come a time when Margot is exposed to negative comments about the very fabric of her family. I'm not sure how I'll react in that moment, but I do know that my only concern will be to make sure that Margot understands she is loved and that her family is there for her in every way.
People sometimes ask us how our family is different from the "typical" family. I usually say that our family is typical with an asterisk. We are typical in that as parents, we all face similar challenges: work-life balance, child care, how to get our kids to eat more than chicken nuggets and bananas, the terrible twos, etc. We just happen to have two dads at the helm, guiding us through the typical ups and downs of raising a family.