My name is Leo and here is my story.
Although my husband Mark and I have been married since 2015, we’ve been together since January 2008. It was during one of our first dates that we realized that we have the same values and goals. One of these goals included our mutual desire to be dads and to raise a family.
After three crazy years together and the purchase of our home, we had started considering both adoption and surrogacy. As gay males, adoption, for us, appeared to be the most natural way of having children. We learned about open and traditional adoption and became excited about raising a child that would come to us that way.
In an open adoption, the birth mother chooses the parents in a format that is eerily similar to online dating. We would build a personal profile that highlighted us as a couple with stories and pictures and hope that a birth mom would pick us. After placement, families negotiate what the future relationship, if any, will be.
Choosing open adoption was not an easy decision at first. After all, there were lingering questions about what the involvement of the birth family would be, along with concerns of adoption scammers— both financial and emotional. In the end, we knew that it would be far healthier for our child to be able to build a relationship with their birth parents and to know that they were placed in adoption out of love. We still had fears, but would overcome them after our daughter came into our lives.
With any adoption, and especially a gay adoption, there can be many obstacles in the way: applying for grant monies to help with the expenses, navigating the restrictions on same-sex adoption in Virginia back in the early 2010’s, overcoming the lack of recognition of our relationship and marriage benefits, and, concurrently working through Mark receiving his U.S. Permanent Residence (Green Card)! It was a draining process between the constant self-marketing so that a birth mother would pick us, the touch-and-go of getting contacted and then hearing nothing in return, the financial burden of the legal process and the constant emotional stress. This brought us even closer as a couple and in March 2012 we were picked by a wonderful birth mother to be dads.
We often joke that we were pregnant for two weeks. Our daughter‘s birth mother reached out to us on a Wednesday and by that Friday, after a few phone calls and emails back and forth, we were road-tripping to Atlanta, where she lived at the time, to meet the birth mother. Knocking on our birth mom's door on a Saturday morning to meet her was by far the most intense door knocking ever! We had breakfast with her and her parents—and instantly hit it off as if we were long lost family members. We quickly realized we had a lot in common, including some very rare things like all having German as a native language. The birth mother accepted us as the adoptive parents, and we were beyond ecstatic. After the weekend meeting we returned to Richmond to prepare our house for our new daughter.
We returned to Atlanta for our daughter‘s birth a week later. It was insane! Gone were the days of partying at 2AM, but instead we were feeding our infant daughter at 2AM. What a change! We had to stay in Georgia for the first round of the adoption legal process to clear. During that time, we actually stayed with our daughter‘s birth mother at her house with her and her parents! During that time not only did our family grow with the addition of our daughter, but it grew with the addition of her birth mom and birth-grandparents to our family.
Our daughter‘s birth mother visits every year for her birthday. She has assumed the daunting task of creating an over-the-top custom birthday cake each year. The birth grandparents visit from the West Coast a few times a year and we have even sent our daughter to visit them when we dads needed a break!
And here we are today! We are adventurous dads, always on the go, with our daughter always on our side. People often ask us if we would do anything different. The adoption process was draining and it is hard to say if we would do anything different...because the end result was our beautiful and spunky daughter. We only advise others to pick an adoption agency that is transparent and is there to support you.
Feel free to reach out if you are a RVA Gay Dad, have any interests in same sex adoption, or have any questions regarding the open adoption process. We are glad to help!