Let’s start at the hospital.
Couples who make their own babies (the straight folk) usually pick up their kids here, though home-delivery via midwifery is getting more common. Gay couples have a few other options, especially if they are adopting an older child. As for my husband and I, we chose to adopt a newborn through Ontario’s public adoption agency (the Children’s Aid Society), in which case, we found ourselves at our local hospital one sunny afternoon a few years ago, waiting nervously in the lobby for the stork to bring us our baby. When I say ‘stork’, of course, I mean ‘social worker’.
But let’s back up a bit.
So, my husband and I got married back in the early days of same-sex marriage in Ontario, when there were still a few naysayers out there (West-ish of Saskatchewan, but not so far as BC) who worried that – somehow – their own personal heterosexual relationships were at risk, should gays be allowed to tie the knot. In any case, the sky did not fall, and straight marriages seemed secure (well, expect for the 40% that are not). Both of us had always seen kids in our future, even if – in our childhood dreams – we had not necessarily pictured the man-with-whom-we-shared-a-bed-with in our life too. So it was natural for us to begin talking about kids early on in our relationship; even before our marriage.
As most people (hopefully) realize, two gay guys can’t actually conceive a baby (some religious organizations actually use this biological fact as an argument against same-sex marriage, but don’t get me started), so we had to explore other options to expand our family:
- get a dog
- international adoption
- private adoption
- public adoption
Get a dog: already got one. Two, actually. But we both still felt incomplete, somehow.
Surrogacy: thinking about surrogacy made both me and my husband a bit queasy. The idea of seeking out a female of the species to act as an incubator for our child was fraught with potential drama: from deciding whose sperm would get turkey-basted up inside… *there*, to having to deal with a hormonally imbalanced pregnant woman to whom we were not married-and-in-love-with, to setting roles and boundaries for post-birth relationships… not to mention how much it costs per *ahem* squirt. Sufficed to say, even talking about it turned us completely off. Nevertheless, if you’ve got a friend lined up who is dying to have you and your spouse’s baby for you, well, uhm… think it over.
Cloning: perfect solution… but who to clone? Did I really want a husband plus a mini-husband running around the house? I already had enough trouble getting just one of them to load the dishwasher properly. In any case, last I checked, cloning was not covered under either of our health plans (though I bet anybody out there a bejillion bucks that there’s a cloned human alive right now, in a dirty underground laboratory in some ex-Soviet state).
International adoption: as it turns out, this is largely unavailable to us gays. Many foreign countries expressly state that they will only give their children up to good heterosexual couples. I could go into quite a rant about this here, but in the interest of staying on topic, I’ll just move on.
Private adoption: to be honest, my husband and I did not look very deeply into this option. We do know couples who have gone through private adoption, however, with great success. Be aware that this type of adoption (as with international adoption) costs money – thousands of dollars.
Public adoption: our method of choice. Public adoption doesn’t cost anything, but it can have its own drawbacks (I will have come back to this in other posts – for now, let’s just leave it at ‘everything has a price’). The way this works varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but basically, you need to complete a home-study and a training course, be accepted by the agency, then go onto a waiting list until you are matched with your very own bundle of pooy joy.
==>Before leaving this topic, I’ll just mention that LGBT adoption is available all across Canada. If you’re reading this from Ontario, I suggest you check this site out. If you’re from outside of Canada, just google ‘gay adoption’ in your country or region to see what the deal is for you.
Ok, so where were we? Oh right – hubby and I were sitting uncomfortably in the lobby of the hospital. We’d gotten through the adoption home study, the classes, the seminars, the general scrutiny and intrusion into our lives that we were forced to undergo to ensure that we were not child molesters masquerading as prospective adoptive parents, and we made it through the waiting.
The waiting was not as bad as we had feared. We didn’t spend every waking moment poised next to the phone, waiting with bated breath for the call. In fact, we pretty much forgot about the whole thing. We had convinced ourselves that it would be at least one year before something came up, so we just picked up and carried on with our life as if nothing was different. In fact, when we did get the call, we almost didn’t answer it. Both hubby and I were playing World of Warcraft at the time, involved in a rather heated raid (for non-gamers this means: ‘no, I can’t just pause the friggin game for a minute!’), and I remember – as I reached over to answer it – thinking furiously to myself: who the bloody hell is bothering us NOW?!?!?!
Well, the game ended pretty quickly after that. We’d been given the news: a baby boy was on his way in about two weeks’ time, and we were the chosen recipients. Between that phone call and sitting in the hospital waiting area, we scrambled madly to transform our suburban bungalow from a dual-bachelor, video-game-geek haven to an infant-ready, family-friendly home. The day the baby was born, we got another call, and were informed that we would be picking him up from the hospital upon his release, 22 hours hence. So here we were: I was hiding my nervousness by making an annoying video of the whole affair, while my husband had a rictus grin frozen on his face, and was replying to my inane ‘you’re on video’ comments with monosyllabic disinterest.
When the baby finally emerged from the elevator, fastened in his car seat and being carried by one of the Children’s Aid social workers, it was a bit of an anti-climax. Neither my husband nor I began gushing weepily; neither of us ran screaming over to the baby screaming ‘my son! my son!’ I took one look at him and… well, saw a little red sqirmy human infant. My husband looked suspiciously at him, not really sure what to expect. The social worker informed us that one of us had to go back up with her to sign some release forms, and the other had to stay down here with the baby. I volunteered to go up, and my husband’s suspicious look turned to one of panic. He described the first few minutes with his son as one of mutual confusion; neither he nor the baby quite knew how to react. The baby’s hat slipped off his head (hats slip off of infant heads very easily); my husband tried ineffectually to tap it and smooth it back into place. The baby cried briefly; hubby reached out his hands, but stopped short of touching him, in fear of amplifying the sound somehow.
It was a relief for both new father and new son when I returned, and we were on our way out the door. Walking to the car, hubby and I stole a glance at one another, then at the baby, and then began to giggle to one another. We’d just been handed our son. It was as easy as that. It seemed like we had just gotten away with something scott free…
…little did we know, the fun was about to begin.
And when I say ‘fun’, of course, I mean ‘oops, we didn’t get away with something scott free after all.’
=>next up: the first few hours at home with your kid.