“Today I adopted my daughter. The day after Mother’s Day. Words that are exciting and painful to write all at the same time. I don’t like to talk about the adoption because I think it’s ridiculous I have to adopt my own child but also because it makes you uncomfortable. Either you didn’t know this was a reality for LGBTQ couples, or you don’t know how to feel about it, or because you think I shouldn’t raise kids or because you just don’t know what to say, and so your discomfort then makes me uncomfortable and then my discomfort adds to your discomfort. So instead, I just don’t talk about it. I don’t talk about this long, complicated process we have been dealing with since before Mac was born. This black cloud hanging over my family. When straight couples tell people they are pregnant or they mention their children, they aren’t met with questions about how they got pregnant, they aren’t expected to discuss their sex life with strangers. Just so that you understand, have you ever answered the following: ‘Who carried?’ ‘Did y’all use a surrogate?’ ‘Is she your kid or your wife’s kid?’ ‘But I mean like, is she yours?’ ‘Does she have either of your DNA?’ ‘Do you know who her father is?’ ‘Don’t you think she needs a father?’ ‘So how’d you do it?’ ‘How’d you do it?’ ‘What’d you do?’ ‘Can I ask how you did it?’ ‘How’d that happen?’
As an educator I understand that so many people are ignorant to so many things and that they will only learn if I explain when asked, but when these questions are thrown at me, my family feels like a spectacle. I tell myself that my discomfort isn’t important. If I can make this person more comfortable with the idea of an interracial LGBTQ family, if I can normalize this, if I can show them that Kim and I are just two normal people who fell deeply in love and just needed someone to share it with, then perhaps one day these questions will stop. Perhaps one day a mom won’t have to adopt her own child. Perhaps one day tolerance will turn to acceptance. But who am I kidding?
Kim and I have a very similar story to most couples. We followed the song, ‘First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby.’ We met in college in 2008 and became great friends. In 2010, the night we won the Super Bowl, she told me she had feelings for me. In 2011 we started dating ‘officially.’ In March of 2014, we were married. That May we began building our house. October we moved in. Shortly after that we started talking about having a baby. How much would it cost? What would we have to do?
All we knew at first was that it would be expensive and no one would make it easy for us. Of course not. Every donor clinic is insanely overpriced, there are a million rules and laws you have to navigate. Time restrictions, not to mention the 1 in 4 chance it works for a perfectly healthy, fertile, straight couple.
We went in search of an OBGYN. The first one we met with, an old white guy, was cold and didn’t have much to say. But then we found Dr. Taylor. She was very supportive and loving and we felt like we had found our support system. She suggested weight loss to make it easier. Kim kicked it into the highest gear, completing six straight months of the Whole 30. She was running every morning and working out every afternoon. She worked so hard to make her body the perfect host for our baby. While doing all of that Kim was also tracking her cycle, basal body temp, mucus, ovulation and more. She is the most organized person in the world, but still on top of her job, eating healthy and working out all the time, this is a lot. I’m sure your question is what was I doing? Attempting to diet, reading all the pregnancy books, working out, cooking, and being Kim’s support system. She really is the super hero of the story, I’m the Robin, maybe even the Alfred.
Anyway, all of this to say, this baby, our Mac, was born to a couple who planned for her. A couple who worked for her. We were married, both had begun our careers, owned a four bedroom home, created this child together, just the two of us, during sex, the only difference between us and a heterosexual couple is that even though I inserted the semen, I didn’t make it. Because of this, today, I went to court to adopt my own child.
I adopted her today. She is legally mine. My baby. The child I read and sang to every night she was in Kim’s uterus. I played with her once Kim had gone to sleep. I would poke her and she would kick back. We were best friends before she was even born. I took care of Kim through the entire nine months. I read the books, I did the research, we took all the classes together, I didn’t miss a thing. We created the nursery together. When she went into labor it was the longest 48 hours of my life. I remember every second like it was yesterday. Every painful second and every joyful second. I remember sitting outside the O. R. staring at the booties they had placed on my shoes. They said I had to wait two minutes before I could go in as they get her on the O. R. table. That was the longest two minutes of my life. I looked at my shoes and thought these are the shoes of a wife, a teacher, a friend, a sister. But in two minutes these will be the shoes of a mom. How can your identity change so quickly? I didn’t have time to answer because they called me inside. The realization that they were about to saw my wife in half and that my child was about to be born hit me at the same time. Boy, was it a day of contradictions. As they yanked that child from my wife in what seemed to be the most violent procedure ever done, my heart raced. They held her up to us as she began to cry and Kim told me to go with her. I remembered all of our talks over the nine months and she told me once the baby is born I should go with the baby and that she would be fine. In that moment it was so difficult to leave her but my baby was calling me and I remembered what she told me.
I walked to that warming table as they were cleaning and shoving tubes violently down Mac’s throat to get out the liquid. I immediately reached down and touched her hand and she grabbed it so tight. I know it’s a reflex and not a moment, but it was still awesome. Her eyes were clenched tight and she was naked, writhing, screaming, as the nurses did their work. When I finally spoke she opened her eyes immediately to look at me. The nurses said she recognized my voice. I explained how I read her the Harry Potter series and sang to her every night. They laughed at what I assume was my pathetic tears, then wrapped her up and put her in my arms. Holding her, there was no doubt that she was mine and I was hers.
While in the hospital our friends formed a GoFundMe to help raise money for our adoption. Through the spread of it on Facebook we found a LGBTQ friendly lawyer who offered to take our case at half the price we were quoted by other firms. With this news I was overwhelmed with the love and support of our friends and then quickly anger hit me, anxiety like a ton of bricks on my chest. Contradictions everywhere. I was so angry that I would have to pay thousands of dollars to be this baby’s mom. I have to explain myself to a judge to be her mom. Since that moment in the hospital, I have changed so many diapers, stayed up so many nights, so many feedings, taught her to crawl, saw her take her first steps, stayed home from work, nursed her back to health when she was sick, taken her to every doctor appointment, laughed with her, taught her so many words… Our baby is 21 months and 10 days old. That’s 648 bedtime stories. 648 days of being terrified something might happen to Kim and I could lose her. 648 days of kisses. 648 days of living in fear and joy and horror and bliss. 648 days of poop and tears and feeding and messes. 648 days that were hard but were always full of pure love. We have given our all but none of that matters to the legal system. She is only Kim’s child until a judge says so.
Next to my wife, Mac is my very best friend. She is my daughter, my baby. Why is my family threatened when we worked and we planned? We did everything according to social standards but be opposite sexes. We created her together but legally I had no rights to her until this judge allowed it.
I don’t want my child’s life to be controlled by someone who doesn’t know that her favorite toy is the office set I got her, a clipboard, coloring book and some crayons. She likes to work like her mommy works. That judge doesn’t know she can’t go to bed without her musical seahorse. He doesn’t know she needs to pet Hedwig (her owl) everyday. He doesn’t know her favorite shirt is the blue and red button down. He doesn’t know to turn on her favorite movie Moana when she is upset. Or that you have to stroke her hair during the first diaper change of the day or she gets fussy. He doesn’t know how to make her laugh. He doesn’t know how to calm her down. I know these things. I know everything about this little baby because I am her mom no matter what any paper or judge says. I can know that, and I can get angry and say that and Kim can remind me of that when I get anxious, but it is only true to us.
Unfortunately all I have told you doesn’t matter if something were to happen to Kim. Mac’s only parent on paper. So I am so glad it is finally over. Nothing happened. My biggest fear didn’t come true. We are all whole and are now legally protected.
I hope that the next time you discuss what ‘family’ means at your dinner table or with a coworker you think about this story and speak up, even if it might make someone uncomfortable.”
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