Greetings from the Wright family! (Sandis and Brent and our daughters, Olivia, age 5, and Noelle, age 2)
Sandis and I were both born and raised in Maine and met in the years right after college, through mutual friends, in the city we were living in at the time, Portland, Maine.
I had always hoped to be a parent but in the early years of our relationship, Sandis was not as sure. As a young couple we did many of the things that couples without children more freely enjoy – traveled a lot, regular dinners out, etc. but I think a lot of his feelings about parenting as gay man were more deeply formed by the world we grew up in – conservative, rural, and no visible models of gay parents. I think for Sandis especially, being a gay dad just didn’t really even feel like an option.
A few years into our relationship, we moved to Chicago and while living there, a good friend came to visit. Our friend had recently had his second child and hearing him describe the unexpected joys he was finding in being a parent really inspired Sandis to reconsider things.
In 2007 we decided to start our adoption journey and relocated to suburban Atlanta. We were very fortunate to get connected with a nationally-based private adoption agency, well-known for its gay-friendly policies, with a field office in the Atlanta area.
We were quoted a wait time of approximately 18 months and it was almost that timeframe to the day. Over the course of those 18 months, we had several ups and downs (failed birth mother matches) that seem typical now, not only to gay adoptive families but also with the many other adoptive families who we’ve met along the way. In each of our failed matches, the birthmothers were very young – a couple changed their minds as their pregnancy progressed or as their family dynamics changed, one was clearly frauding the adoption system to receive financial support, and another turned out to be hiding significant drug and alcohol use.
By the time the match with our oldest daughter’s birthmother came along, we had been on such an emotional rollercoaster that we accepted the match but without a lot of expectations (and for the first time we did not tell our family and friends.) But of course, this was the one which exactly by the book, and Olivia’s birthmother did everything she promised to do and at the end of the day, all she asked for was cab fare home from the hospital.
On June 2nd, 2009, as I was driving home from work, I got a call on my cell – “Come to the hospital – your daughter is about to be born.” We were so fortunate to be in the Atlanta area at the time, to be in a hospital that recognized and treated us our daughter’s parents. We were there as she was delivered, we had 24-hour access to her, and time literally stopped when the nurse placed her in my arms and said “Meet your daughter, Daddy.”
For months we had debated and negotiated her name but the most she was in our arms, all of that went out the window and we somehow knew her name was Olivia.
For the first 18 months of Olivia’s life, I was a stay-at-home dad. As a family with an adopted child, I wanted her to have that bonding time and for us as a new family, to have that time together.
Once Olivia was walking and talking, as former educator, I started feeling like it would be good for her to have some peer experiences, in an early education setting.
I accepted a job with the Family Equality Council®, a great fit for my professional background in education/social service and for our new status as an LGBTQ family, and we relocated to Massachusetts. Here we built a new network of friends that included all sorts of families, including others headed by LGBTQ parents … which lead us to the adoption of second child.
On Thursday morning, January 12th, 2012, I got a call at my office from a gay dad in the area who we had become friendly with. He and his husband had recently adopted a second child and their adoption agency had contacted them that morning asking if they might know of another family who might be looking to adopt – they had a birth mother due in a month and the family she had been matched had withdrawn from the adoption after some sudden personal life events. Sandis and I had discussed adopting a second child but we had not started the process … and we were really still debating if that was even the right choice for our family. This call sort of “forced our hand” and after experiencing so many matches and un-matches with the first adoption, we agreed to give it a shot.
Four days later, on January 17th, our youngest daughter, Noelle, was born, several weeks early. Within 48 hours of accepting the match, Noelle’s birthmother had showed signs of going into labor and literally, over the course of a weekend, our lawyer and the adoption agency pulled string and were able to update our adoption paperwork. That following Monday morning Sandis set off for Philadelphia to meet Noelle’s birthmother and to be present for her delivery (Olivia and I joined them a few days later.) Although Noelle was far more of a surprise, she absolutely completes our family in a way I could never have imagined.
Both Olivia and Noelle’s adoptions are technically “open” ones. One of my most influential life mentors had advised me to always put my own fears and insecurities aside and to always strive to give my (future) children as many answers as I could; that through honesty and openness we would help our children grow into secure and grounded individuals. At this time, unfortunately, neither of their birth mothers have maintained contact with us – we hope that someday they will – but both our girls know their adoption stories and know how forever grateful we are that these brave women chose us to be their parents.
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