We weren’t that surprised. Both of us have always known we’d be parents one day, and were fortunate to have parents who didn’t see any contradiction between being gay and raising a family. I still remember the first words out of my mom’s mouth when I came out to her: “You still want to have kids, right?”
In retrospect, my husband and I traveled a fairly traditional path: boy meets boy, boy falls in love with boy, boy marries boy.
But as we quickly learned, the latest chapter in our story – boy and boy start a family – was a little more complicated. As many prospective parents know, the wait can be longer than you expect.
Deciding on adoption was the easy part; making it happen took work. Because there was no scenario in which we could “accidentally” adopt — no “honey, I have a big surprise!”– every step of the process felt like work, a second job that involved social workers, research, hard conversations, and a never-ending series of forms. There were days that we looked at each other and wondered: if our parents had to do all of this work, would we be here today?
But make no mistake: being gay and starting a family is far easier today than it was in years past. I remember an older gay couple we met at an adoption information session who told us, wistfully, that they “missed the window” for parenting. Imagine what it must have felt like to come of age and fall in love at a time – before marriage equality and Modern Family– when your very relationship was criminalized. If you had to endure all that, would you have any fight left in you to start a family against all the legal odds?
And still, challenges remain. We still know gay couples who carry marriage and birth certificates with them, just in case they are stopped, questioned, and have to prove their parental rights. We’re not immune to these fears — in fact, that’s why we gave our beautiful baby girl a horrifically-hyphenated, half-Polish, half-Indian six-syllable last name that clearly conveys that she belongs to us.
The journey to becoming adoptive parents wasn’t easy, but in retrospect, it taught us a great deal. For example, we learned to make our peace with lack of control — because we had none. We couldn’t control when a birth mother picked us, or the race or gender of our child, or the complicated mix of prenatal or health conditions he or she might be born with. All we could hope for was a healthy baby who will grow up to be a happy child, and isn’t that the essence of being a parent?
Even more importantly, we learned empathy. Empathy for couples for whom adoption was not Plan A, as it was for us, but rather the only plan left. Empathy for friends who, perhaps having heard about our journey and our frustrations, have been more willing to share their own difficulties getting pregnant or their fears about navigating the adoption or foster care system. Empathy for birth parents making an incredibly difficult, but profoundly selfless, a decision about what’s in the best interest of their biological child.
One evening in February, about 15 months after we officially became waiting adoptive parents, we got the call that a birth mother had picked us. 36 hours later, an interim caregiver deposited a small, warm, pink, four-day old baby girl in our arms.
In an instant, we forgot all the forms and formalities that brought us to that moment. In holding our daughter, we finally had The Answer to The Question.
This post was submitted by reader Gautam Raghavan, as part of our Adoption Awareness Month Series. Gautam Raghavan is a political consultant who previously served as President Barack Obama’s liaison to the LGBT community.