As I stand in the shower, the water hits my face and I start to cry. I don’t know if it’s being in the enclosed space or the fact that I’m naked and free from the trappings of a “good, capable, and confident person.” Maybe it’s because the water can immediately wash the tears away. Or maybe it’s because the shower is one of the few places where I can be alone and unobserved. As I look back at nearly every traumatic event in my life (the death of a pet or relative, coming out, break-ups), I can remember crying in the shower. The reason for the tears is always the same though – fear. I am afraid that I have royally screwed up and there will be no second chance to make it right. It’s all been ruined.
My partner Brian and I came to realize our desire to be parents at different times. For me, I had always known I wanted to be a father. Holding on to that dream is probably what kept me dating women several years past the point I knew better. Even after I came out and was unsure how it would ultimately happen, I still never doubted I would be a dad someday. But when Brian came out, like many other gay men, he put his dream of fatherhood away. He left it behind with all the other things he thought had to go in order to live an open, honest life.
Still, Brian and I seem to have been on a path to fatherhood our entire time together. Meeting in Austin 13 years ago, we had developed a friendship that grew into something neither of us was expecting. Our lives were on different paths with different partners. We were happy(ish). I mean, all the reasons to be happy were there – good partners, jobs, homes, friends, etc. But looking back, we realize we had each built façades of happiness that weren’t strong enough to endure significant challenges.
Everything changed one afternoon while we were going for a long run around the lake. Brian’s relationship with his partner had recently ended and mine was in serious trouble. We spent hours that Fall running and talking about how and why things weren’t working and what to do about it. At one point I remember myself saying, “John told me he doesn’t really want kids. I think he’s waiting for me to say I don’t want them either.” And just as I was feeling so alone and weird in my desire to be a father, Brian turned his head and said plainly, “I want to have kids someday too.”
Several months later, fully awakened to the realization that something had to change, I found myself in the shower crying harder than I can remember. Feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all – selling our house, dividing up all the meaningless shit, and “Oh God, what about the dog” – I was afraid the life I dreamed about – a life built with a partner who wanted the same things, including a child to love and nurture – was just too far away now.
Today, almost 11 years later, our son Clark is in Kindergarten and obsessed with baby pigs, Legos, Star Wars and Santa Claus. He came to us through private adoption at birth and has only known us as parents. We see ourselves daily in the little man. Brian and I recently celebrated 10 years together and have even been talking about getting married now that it’s possible in 16 states! It seems I have the life I thought so far away those many years ago. It’s not perfect, but it’s real and it’s filled with more love than I thought possible. There have been triumphs, challenges and flat-out mistakes. We spend way too much time talking about how to change the world so Clark has it better than we did. Some days I feel like we’re crushing this parenting thing. Other days, I feel like I am going to lose my freaking mind. Mostly though, our days are filled with small moments that make us laugh or sigh. Those are the stories I plan to share.
About nine months ago, I was in the shower again at a time when big changes were coming. I was on the verge of quitting my job of nearly a decade. A job I loved and that I was good at. A job where I was surrounded by good people doing important work. This time there were no tears though. I remember standing there with the water beating down, hoping the tears would come and almost longing for the release. But there was nothing. This time, there was no fear. I knew what I wanted and even though I wasn’t sure exactly how to make it happen, I wasn’t directionless. Brian and I had been talking for years about how we wanted help other gay men build their families and foster a community of gay dads. We had been having coffees, lunches, and phone calls with guys left and right who wanted to know “how we did it,” “was it difficult,” and “if we could point them in the right direction.” Brian and I had each built our careers working at non-profits focused on changing people’s lives and we decided it was time to put that experience to work to help our community. As our ideas took shape, we envisioned a world where all men find an accepting community of support to grow and nurture their families. We wanted to create way to connect, equip and inspire other gay men who have or want children. We wanted a place where everyone who has a role to play can share stories, information, products, services, and expertise. So, in order to make all this come true, we took a leap of faith, quit our jobs, and founded The Handsome Father.
At first I wasn’t sure I was going contribute to The Handsome Father Blog. I thought it a job better left to more talented writers with far more interesting lives. But the more I read from our featured writers and other “gay dad” bloggers, I realized they were making not only a valuable contribution by telling their stories, but also creating an unbelievable gift for their children. This is my chance to tell our story for Clark and give him a way to know me and understand the impact he has had on my life. I only hope any embarrassment it causes him in the future is offset by the understanding that it’s my experiences as a father that has moved me to help others. We will strive to help them find the support they need to make their dream of fatherhood come true, no matter how far away it might seem. And maybe not feel so afraid or alone along the way.