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Friday, May 30, 2008

There's No Closet for Gay Parents

Life has taken quite a turn recently with the birth of our two boys in all the expected ways – sleep depravation, middle-of-the-night feedings, juggling baby feeding with household chores, etc. All the typical things you’d expect a couple to experience upon the birth of their first child or children. But being a gay parent, there’s been another big change – coming out, again, and again, and again!

Many years ago I went through the “coming out” process in college – first to myself, then friends, and family. It was scary, difficult, and often liberating. But since that process in 1993, only rarely do I tell anyone I’m gay. Probably because anyone I think it’s important to already knows I’m gay. But when you become a same sex parents, you’re suddenly forced into the process in a whole new way. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve come out to in the past month, simply out of necessity.

Upon arrival at the hospital shortly after the twins’ birth, I had to explain to the security guard that I too, was a parent. Then I explained my situation to the women working in the nursery and other hospital staff when necessary. The hospital was used to same sex couples and the surrogacy process, so it really wasn’t a big deal. That Sunday when the boys were released and we left the hospital, our first stop was Target where I first realized how many people newborn twins attract. People just came up to see the babies and then looked at us and asked questions. Here I was in a Target in San Diego explaining to strangers that I was a gay parent! Then the same situation in a restaurant, in the airport on the way home, to the person sitting next to me on the plane… the “outings” just go on and on.

Back home, neighbors from blocks away, who I didn’t even know, would stop to see the babies when I was out walking with them in the stroller and then would ask about my “wife”, so again, I’ve had to explain the situation. Our pediatrician is great and everyone in the office seems to enjoy us and the boys – even commenting that they’re lucky to have us as parents. The biggest outing, however, has been at work!

I’ve never lied about being gay in the workplace, but then I don’t announce it either. I think this is the approach most gay people use, especially when they don’t work in a gay-friendly industry. I skirted the issue with coworkers and my boss when I had to explain in recent months that I was going to become a father and needed three weeks off work. While at home on vacation with the twins, I checked my work e-mail daily and received an e-mail from our administrative assistant, who I only knew casually. She asked if I was on extended leave because someone had asked about my empty desk, so I told her I was home with newborns. She asked for a picture, I sent one, and the next thing I knew, the Senior Vice President in our facility wanted to know my address and “wife’s name” to send us a card! I e-mailed back with an explanation, outed myself, and so far have suffered no negative consequences. The Vice President congratulated me in person once I returned to work, so I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I guess being outed in the workplace is something many gay people dread because even if your coworkers are fine with it, bosses and coworkers change over time and you never know if your next boss will be a homophobe who works on getting rid of you from the day he or she starts work. Being out at work can also work against you on promotions to other positions as well, if a hiring manager is anti-gay. You just never know, but so far I’m feeling fine with it.

I knew becoming a parent would require being out – way out! So far we haven’t receive a single negative comment from anyone about being parents, although I think I constantly have my guard up to some extent. But the process of explaining our situation and coming out will happen again and again as we raise our boys – from people in stores to teachers and neighbors. I might as well get used to coming out, because there’s no hiding now. If anything, the process has taught me that our society has come a long way in accepting gay people, and if people do have issues with two men being parents, they at least have the decency to keep their opinions to themselves. I think our boys were born at a very exciting time in history!

Friday, May 23, 2008

The First Three Weeks - Life Has Changed!

Tomorrow will mark the third week since our sons were born, and it’s been quite a wild time! The boys have gained weight, although one is still smaller than the other and requires more frequent feedings. It’s almost frightening how fast life changed on the evening of May 5th when we first walked into our home with the newborns.

We were both off work for two full weeks and I had part of this week off. We hired a nanny who started last Monday, but I wanted to spend some time with her in the house to help her adjust and learn where things were located, as well as to evaluate her and how she interacted with the twins. She seems very attentive with the boys and keeps the house in decent shape, so we’re feeling comfortable with her.

The biggest change in our lives seems to be that neither of us can just do what we want, whenever we want. Simply going for a walk requires a conversation to make sure one of us is on baby duty. Then there is the intense exhaustion from both lack of sleep and from being so busy all day. We live in a two-story house and I think I run up and down the stairs at least 25 times per day! There’s always something to be doing – loads of laundry, cleaning out the diaper pail, cleaning bottles, preparing bottles, feeding, changing, bathing, rocking babies, cleaning the house, maintaining the yard, and if everything is done and the babies are happy, the house is reasonably clean, and the dog is walked, then I need to be sleeping!

Lucky for me, I’m not much of a “sit still” type of person. Neighbors have already commented that our yard looks too nice and the house is too clean for having newborn twins, but I guess I’m just good at keeping things up. It’s amazing what I can accomplish in a half hour while the boys are asleep. I’m making it to the gym three days per week, not as often as before, but still pretty good, considering my schedule. But the absolute hardest part of parenting newborn twins is nighttime. I find it very difficult to get up and feed/burp/change a baby. Mostly the second time is most difficult, so once they’re down to one feeding per night, life will seem much easier. We started out with both babies in bed with us, and soon found out that didn’t work well. We were up most of the night! Other twin parents suggested what worked for them – each parent takes a baby to a different bedroom and is responsible for only one of them all night. I’ve found that if I’m in bed by 9 p.m., I can get in about six and a half hours sleep by 5 a.m. when I need to get up. People with one baby have it easy – you could simply trade nights taking care of the baby and get a full night’s sleep every other night. But with twins, it’s too much work for one person to take them both all night. Everyone keeps telling us, things get easier and the time passes quickly and soon they’ll be sleeping through the night - although I’ve heard a few horror stories about children who didn’t sleep through the night until age two.

I think I’m still in the bonding stage with the twins this week. Women who carry their child seem to be bonded by the time birth occurs, but in my case, it seem to be happening post birth. One thing I’ve felt is that there is no feedback from the twins at this age, and other parents have confirmed they had the same feeling. Not that it’s expected by any means, but you put so much work and effort into nurturing the little guys and they just look back at you like they don’t know you. I’m looking forward to that first grin or smile, the first little hug, or any sign that I’m recognized and loved. I know it’ll happen soon enough and be worth every ounce of effort!

This morning I hated to leave them at home when I left for work, even though work seems like a break at this point. But I can tell I’m falling in love with the little guys and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them. Their eyes are open more now and I get lost in those beautiful little pools of brown. I keep wondering what it’ll be like to play ball with them in the park, to read to them, or help them explore and learn. Everyone says to appreciate them when they’re so young and tiny, because it goes by fast and you can never go back to that innocent stage. I’m trying to focus on living in the present and being where I need to be right now for the babies. Every new day brings so much work and challenge, worrying about next week, next month or next year is overwhelming, so I’m finding living in the present to be easier than ever.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Two Dads "2 Be" No More - The Boys are Home!

So May 3rd it was! Nick called me just as I was about to walk out the door for the airport and let me know we were officially daddies! I filled out the stork signs with their names, weights, and lengths, stuck them in the front yard under cover of darkness, and headed to the airport.

I arrived in San Diego early Saturday and friends of ours picked me up and took me straight to the hospital where I met our newborn sons, one at 6 pounds, 2 oz. and the other at 5 pounds, 5 oz. They were so tiny, but beautiful. It all seemed so surreal being in the nursery with them and the other babies. Our boys were swaddled and very quiet compared to some of the other babies. I spent some time getting to know them and all the staff was great. They treated us both as parents, just like the rest. Actually, there was another gay couple about ready to head back to the East Coast with their twins as well, so this hospital seemed used to having same sex parents and surrogates.

We took the boys up to see our surrogate and at first sight, I felt so sorry for her. She was resting, full of morphine for the pain from the c-section. Her family had been there with her through the night but had left to get some rest. We showed her the boys and let her hold them for a while, but then let her get back to sleep. We left the babies to go to our friends’ house to take showers and have dinner, then back to the hospital for the evening to spend time with the boys. We bought our surrogate a spa package, some flowers, and a card to cheer her up before heading back to the nursery to spend time with the babies.

Sunday afternoon, they were released from the hospital – much sooner than expected. We talked to the pediatrician Sunday morning and she said since their lung development was perfect and they were eating, they could go home. I had planned to fly back home Sunday afternoon, expecting them to be in the hospital for a few days, so I cancelled my flight and we booked a flight together on Monday afternoon.

Sunday we took the boys for another visit with our surrogate, then left and went on our first family outing – Sunday dinner and a trip to Target. We soon discovered how much attention you get with two very cute newborns with people coming up to see them and ask questions. People seemed to just understand that we were both the parents, and no one said anything negative to us. The boys just slept through it all.

Sunday night was interesting, to say the least. All four of us were packed into a double bed in a guest room. It was confusing when they’d wake up, looking for a bottle, looking for bibs and diapers. By dawn we were exhausted, but probably got four to five hours of sleep. Monday morning a good friend of our drove down from L.A. to visit us and see the babies. We enjoyed visiting with him as we packed up and got ready to leave. We went out to eat with friends at a diner before heading back to visit our surrogate and then we headed for the airport.

Our surrogate was doing much better, walking around and eating. Her family was visiting her and her daughter got to see the babies. We were worried about her becoming depressed once the babies were gone, and she said nurses kept asking her if she was feeling bad about it. She said she was fine and knew up front this was the process and that they weren’t her children. She seemed fine, but I still worry about her in the coming days. We’re keeping in close contact with her by phone and e-mail and plan on seeing her in the future. We plan on taking the boys back to San Diego since it’s a short plane ride and a great place to take kids for vacation. Plus we have plenty of people visit there, so we’ll be back in a few years. I think we both really feel a close bond with our surrogate now and consider her a special part of our family tree.

The flight home went well, other than schlepping all our luggage into the airport and getting through security. We were flying on standby passes from a friend who works for an airline. Again, everyone was incredibly helpful and friendly in the airport when the saw we had babies. Luckily there wasn’t a line at the security checkpoint because it was quite a process. When you fly standby, you’re already subject to extra checking in security. I think it was just a bit overwhelming because I’d never done this before, but we got through in plenty of time and drew a small crowd at the gate while waiting to get on the plane. They gave us each two seats in the same row so each baby stayed in his car seat. I think that made the flight much easier, and neither boy cried at all during the flight.

We arrived back home around 8 p.m., but were up until midnight putting things away and settling in. Our dog nearly hyperventilated when she met the babies and we think she believes they’re her own to care for. She nuzzled them and wanted to lick them all over, like newborn puppies. She’s right there when we feed them and gets up with is in the middle of the night. I was worried she’d be jealous, but it seems she’s accepted them as members of her “pack”, so that’s a relief. Neighbors have been bringing us dinner and offering help, so if we just figure out how to get a decent night’s sleep, we’d be set. Last night they really kicked our butts! We’re going to seek advice from other twin parents to see if we can avoid hiring a night nurse to get some sleep.

I’ll post more on the babies’ first week home as I find time, but now they’re asleep so I need to get a shower while I can.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Here they come!

It's 2 a.m., May 3rd. Nick just called me from California and our surrogate's water broke! My flight leaves at 7 a.m., so I very well may miss the birth, but he has a video camera and I'll be there as soon as possible.

They had scheduled a c-section for today, so I booked my flight last evening. I'm so incredibly tired, yet so awake at the same time. I'm packed, will take a shower, and head to the airport in 3 hours. Dog sitters are arranged, two signs with the babie's names are ready to be placed in the front yard announcing the birth. A new chapter in my life is about to begin!