When my wife Kate and I were handfasted, we shared a trefoil of vows: we promised to honor and respect each other, seeking never to break that honor; we promised to have the capacity to forgive and forget, giving the other an atmosphere in which to grow; and we promised to do things for the other not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy.
The third really hit home for me during my pregnancy. Once I was well into my first trimester — battling nausea, fighting food aversions, and trying to figure out where my usually sunny disposition was hiding — I finally understood what it was I had promised. I also learned what it means to be truly selfless with the time and energy building a dream with someone requires — simply for the unadulterated joy it brings.
Kate and I are now mommy and mama to an amazing baby girl, Cadence, who was conceived via artificial insemination with donor sperm, and who I carried and nurtured for forty-two weeks before she decided it was (finally!) time to join us on the outside. Protecting the tiny human that grew inside me and delivering her into this world were the most amazing contributions I feel I have made to our family. I wasn’t pressured into motherhood because it was my duty, and I didn’t feel as though I had sacrificed my body or my individuality throughout the process. What I felt was overwhelming joy, knowing I possessed the ability to help us achieve our dreams.
These days, it is both of us who carry and nurture our daughter. We were both listed on Cady’s birth certificate from day one, and Kate recently adopted her so that we (hopefully) never have to worry about less-than-tolerant states legally recognizing our happy trio as a family. It’s hard to put into words what the recent adoption of my daughter by my wife means to me, and for our family.
On the one hand, Kate has most certainly been a parent to Cady since way back when she was just a twinkle in our eyes: during the heartache and excitement of trying to conceive, through a joyous and sometimes painful pregnancy, and past a labor and delivery that broke us down and built us back up again when we heard those first precious cries of our sweet girl.
She’s rocked, snuggled, fed, changed, bathed, played with, and loved on that amazing baby a million times over in the past three and a half months, and has had “Mom” written all over her face and heart since we found out we were expecting. It became even more apparent the first moment I saw Kate gaze into our daughter’s puffy newborn eyes that she wasn’t doing this whole mothering thing out of a sense of duty or sacrifice, either. There was nothing but joy in the eyes of my wife that day, who was just as much a swooning and smitten new mama as I.
Even so, when the judge reminded Kate of the seriousness of her request to adopt during our recent court hearing and reaffirmed, “I need to be sure you understand: you will be this child’s parent, forever,” my eyes welled up. I’m not sure it’s often that new parents are forced to consider the importance and permanence of their role. Caught up in the day-to-day of caring for a newborn sometimes distracts us from the big-picture responsibility of it all.
There was not a moment’s hesitation when a beaming Kate replied, “Absolutely.”
I’m convinced our family is no different today than it was yesterday, or the day before that. I know that regardless of a court ruling, we have been and will continue to be there for one another, through the joys and the pains and the incredible awesomeness of it all. Of course, we still feel lucky to have the added protection, and we’re excited for Cady to be able to grow up saying “Yeah, I have two moms… what of it?” with no worries that somewhere, someone may try to challenge that fact, or tell her it’s just not so.
Our hearts are bursting with pride to be able to say that this amazing little girl is our very own. That she belongs to us, and we to her. The fact that we are family is not due to some obligation to conceive and raise a child together, or the fact we have a piece of paper that proclaims us as such. We are family because of the spirit of joy that binds our hearts (now three!) together.