Gay or Straight, Adoptive Families Have Much in Common

Jon Summers

gay or straight adoptive father with infant son

Whether you’re gay or straight, or your child is adopted or biologically yours, there are things our families have in common.

“I can’t believe I’m already doing this,” I said to myself as I opened the top drawer of a dresser we have only had for a month. But it was time. Alexander is three months old and the “newborn” clothes are no longer a match for his rapidly growing 13-pound body.

This rite of passage for new parents is as old as time, and every parent reacts to it differently. Kyle, who was in the living room with the baby as I was doing this, seemed to take it in stride. For me, it was a slightly more emotional journey as I separated the clothes into two piles: the “definitely keep” pile and the “probably-should-get-rid-of-this-but-probably-wont” heap.

The “definitely keep” pile is priceless. It’s the monkey sleeper and bear hat Alexander was wearing the day we walked into the hospital room and met him for the first time. The striped onesie he wore the day we took him home. The frog sleeper his birth mom gave as a gift so she could share with him her love of frogs—the same outfit he wore on her first visit the day after Christmas, which was also the day after she signed the adoption papers.

I took in every element of each item—how it looked, felt and smelled. Memories flooded my brain. The raw excitement in Kyle’s eyes as we walked into the hospital room. The immeasurable combination of love and fear we felt the day we drove him home. The beauty that is the love that has surrounded this child from the 40 weeks leading up to his birth that has only continued to grow ever since.

Adoption anxiety and sleepless nights

Oh, and memories of a few sleepless nights. Fortunately, we knew those were coming. In fact, it seemed the favorite bit of “advice” people gave us as we prepared to become parents was “say goodbye to sleep” and “sleep in now.” As a couple who had to do an extensive amount of paperwork, met multiple times with social workers, took a class, and waited for a year, Kyle and I repeatedly joked to each other—do people really think we haven’t thought of that? But, as we took more time to think about it, we realized that what people were doing was trying to connect in the best way they knew how, by talking about a common experience that all parents endure.

What our ad hoc advisors didn’t know, however, was that for Kyle and me, the sleepless nights had already begun.

Our son’s birth mother chose Kyle and me two months before she was expected to give birth.  It was a blessing, but it also added stress. While we had two months to celebrate and prepare, we also had two months to worry (something that turned out to be a particularly strong talent of mine). Having met our birth mom, we were genuinely (and still are) concerned for her and her family—we love her and wanted her to be well. We worried about the baby—will he be healthy? And we worried about what it would be like if our birth mother changed her mind. She never indicated she would, but it was still a possibility, and we were already in love with the baby growing inside of her.

That anxiety produced more sleepless nights than anything since Alexander was born.

Gay or straight, all we want to do is connect

As it turns out, our baby is actually a great sleeper. Our 15 year-old dog wakes us up more than he does. But even on those nights when he wakes us up, we feel blessed because it’s another opportunity to look into the eyes of this little boy who we love so, so much.

I’m sure most parents feel the same. Because whether you’re gay or straight, or your child is adopted or biologically yours, there are certain things our families all have in common. And on a human level, all we want to do is connect—even if it means offering up the most basic advice.

But I’ve learned something else as I reflect on these warnings: our country’s culture is ahead of our laws. People didn’t ask us if we, as two men, were prepared to raise a child, and they didn’t warn us about the importance of making sure our son has female influences (he does). Those seemed to be non-issues to even our most conservative acquaintances, friends and family members, who simply congratulated us and warned us to “kiss sleep goodbye.”

It’s time for our laws to catch up to our culture. Lawmakers should support families like ours who love our kids and are just a sleep-deprived as their own.