Category Archives: Family Reflections

Wedding in a Week

Post by Maria Iorillo of San Francisco Midwife

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Dina and I have been together for 19 years. She is amazing, wonderful, marriage-material-from-day-one! A few years back, I really can’t remember, I asked her to marry me. She knew that marriage was actually a difficult topic for me, so she had said, “I won’t pressure you, I won’t even ask. But someday, you are going to ask me. Even if I have to wait until I am 65, I know someday you will ask.” So, a few years back, after working through my own self doubts and hesitations, I asked.

Of course, she said yes.

But what did it really mean? It was a sentiment from my heart. I want to marry you. But, there really was nothing else to do at that point. I didn’t want to get married in a different state and then come back to California. So, we waited. Between then and now, I probably asked her to marry me again a couple dozen times.

On June 26th, 2013, Prop 8 and DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) went down in flames. I watched, riveted, to my television at 7am (which I usually never do). I texted my son that love conquers hate. He asked me if we were gonna go for it. I said, “I think so. Wanna be there?” He said, “Don’t you dare do it without me!”

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I imagined Dina and me waiting on line with hundreds of other couples and us tweeting as we were getting closer to our turn. “Marriage in 2 hours.” “Meet us in 15.” Truth be told, we didn’t even know HOW to get married. It was Gay Pride weekend, so that Saturday, we asked another couple who had recently partaken in this ancient ritual, how it was done.

Go online.

On the City and County of San Francisco website, they announced that they would be marrying couples all weekend. City Hall is usually closed to the public on Saturday and Sunday but they knew the time was now.

LineOn Sunday, we got on line with hundreds of other giddy, in love couples. There were families with children, two men, two women, some in tuxes, some in sneakers and jeans. As each couple passed with their marriage certificate, the crowd cheered. Dina and I filled out our application for a marriage certificate and after 2 and a half hours, we were done with part A of getting married. We needed to wait for Tyler for part B, the ceremony.

Fortunately, Tyler, who is 21, came home from college the next day. We went online. We made an appointment. July 9th, 1:30pm, County Clerk’s office.

By Tuesday, July 2nd, we were starting to plan, but I was dreaming of a bigger venue in City Hall. I skimmed over a wedding package on the San Francisco county website where more people could come. Then, I found it. Weekday Balcony rentals. Click. I called to the City’s Events Planning Office and asked what they had available, as soon as possible. Tuesday, July 9th would work on the 4th-floor balcony. You can have 120 people. I’ll take it!

Dina and I went down that afternoon to look at the balcony. It is on the fourth floor with beautiful natural light and white marble everywhere — certainly a gorgeous place to have a wedding.

July 4th. Potluck at Stephanie Forster’s. Which shirt do you like the best? What shoes should we wear? Stephanie, Sam and Liz took us under their wings and coached us for 3 hours about what we needed, from girlie undergarments to make-up and hair. Dina and I came home overwhelmed, excited, and maybe a little nauseous. This was really happening.

The 8th. The Day Before Our Wedding. We still didn’t have rings. Down at City Hall, checking out the venue. Here’s the plan: 93 in the Bridal party! 15 midwife bridesmaids with 17 babes-in-arms will follow, announcing the baby’s name and age. Dina and I proceed in. 53 flower girls and boys follow, each announcing their name and age and giving Dina and I one flower each. Obviously, these are all “my babies”, from 9-day-old Micah to 22-year-old Natasha.

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Rings. Yeah, those. Okay, we make one last ditch effort to find rings in our sizes before we will have to order them and just use stand-ins for the wedding. We go to the back of REI to the Diamond Center on a tip from Kevin Ehrenrich, Oliver’s Dad (Baby 1001). There we find a man who says he can make our rings, to size, with engraving, by 11am tomorrow. Really? It’s GO time!

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July 9th. Wedding Day. Excitement, beauty, joyful ruckus, happy chaos. Kate Holcombe (mother of Calder, Hayes and Sam) came up to us at the last moment and gave us both something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. We loved it! All went perfectly and beyond our wildest dreams. We felt so much love and support from this amazing community. We feel blessed, grateful, giddy, overjoyed, lucky.

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Read the full article on Wisewoman Childbirth Traditions Newsletter: Wedding in a Week! 

Blind Faith

Every day that I wave to my kids as they leave the house for school, I don’t even think about the requisite faith I must have that the world will help me hold them. As they get older and are more and more on their own, I have to trust their teachers to help mold them.  Neighbors to keep an eye out, strangers to not put them I harms way, drivers to obey the law and keep their cars safely on the road. Mostly, I have faith in them to make good choices and show up with the values we have attempted to imbue in them.  Every evening that they return to us after they navigate the simple complexities of their teenage lives. We welcome them home to homework and practicing their instruments and playing and social media. We exhale, and quickly forget the faith in abundance, or luck, that got us through the day.A-Bfamily

Sure, sometimes we are let down. In small ways or even large ones.  A bike gets stolen, our kid does something unkind, someone gets hurt.  I find myself getting stuck in those moments and losing sight of the incredible amount of what goes right every day keeping our kids growing, safe and strong.  Remembering the blind faith that is required to wave my kids off in the morning and release them into the world, and remembering to let go of trying to make it all right, is the ultimate act of trust.

Judy Appel

Credit Phyllis Christopher / phyllischristopher.com Mickey, Alicia and Amos Lim

Two men and a baby: Navigating parenting and partnership in a two-dad family

By KALW reporter Jen Chien

 Credit Phyllis Christopher / phyllischristopher.com Mickey, Alicia and Amos Lim

Credit Phyllis Christopher / phyllischristopher.com
Mickey, Alicia and Amos Lim

When Amos and Mickey Lim met in 1995, they had no idea they would someday have a daughter together. It just didn’t seem possible. They lived an ocean away from each other, and didn’t know if they would ever even meet face-to-face. That’s because they first connected online, on a gay discussion group.

“Someone was talking about long-term relationships, how there’s no such thing as long-term relationships,” Amos says. “Probably because we don’t see the role models out there.”

That was certainly true for Amos. He’s from Singapore, a country where homosexual acts are still against the law. Mickey was living in Bakersfield at the time.

“I think that when I came out I kind of had the idea initially that I would just be that bachelor–the uncle,” Mickey says. But over time, his views changed. He says it wasn’t until five or six years after he had come out that he decided to stop restricting himself mentally. “I can do anything I want,” he says. “The question then becomes: do I want a long-term, lifelong relationship? Do I want to have a family? Do I want to have children? I couldn’t conceive of any reason not to, other than I hadn’t met the right person to do it with.”

So Mickey wrote back to Amos, and shared his own experience. They started corresponding. Long emails turned into long phone calls, and a couple of years later, Mickey went to visit Amos in Singapore.

“We met and immediately realized well, oh, we’re in love!” Mickey says with a laugh. The two have been together now for over 20 years, and their love plays out in an everyday way, in the home they’ve made together with their six-year old daughter Alicia.

On a recent morning, Amos gets Alicia’s lunch ready and makes sure the kitchen is clean, as Mickey struggles to get her to brush her teeth. Once that’s done, Mickey will drop Alicia off at school, then drive to his job as a pharmacist for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Amos is the volunteer director of a nonprofit, but he calls himself a stay-at-home dad. He says he and Mickey share responsibility for domestic duties — there’s not a clear division.

“I don’t see it as a 50/50, i see it as 100/100,” Amos says.

Mickey agrees. “I think we both want to participate in the raising of our child. … Nobody gets any down time here — it’s all go.”

They share duties like this for a reason. When Amos first came to the US in 1999, he was on a series of temporary visas — his status was often uncertain. Because of that uncertainty, and because Amos first came in on a student visa, they were by necessity a one-income household.

Mickey says that could have created an imbalance in their relationship, but they don’t look at it that way. “What we’ve done and what we continue to do now is that you contribute to the house [and] the family, that which you’re capable of,” he says. “No one thing is one person’s job, it all has to get done. Some things I’m better at than he, and there are things that he’s better at than I am.”

Amos finally got his green card in 2006. He and Mickey felt stable enough to consider adopting a child together, something they had both dreamed of. They were matched with Alicia through a foster-to-adopt program when she was eight months old.

At this point, Amos was working full-time in nonprofit management. They were each able to take a month of parental leave, and after that they just rotated, especially since Amos’ job allowed him to work from home part of the time.

When the economy tanked, though, Amos lost his position. Alicia was receiving therapy for developmental delay — six hours a week — so they decided that Amos would stay home with her. Mickey once again became the sole breadwinner.

“It worked out that way, and sometimes I’m jealous, and sometimes I’m grateful,” Mickey says.

Mickey and Amos both say that the models of parenting and partnership that have been handed down to them don’t always apply to their family.

“We don’t fit into ‘I’m the husband, you’re the wife,’ or ‘This is what husbands do and this is what wives do’ — because we do both,” Amos says.

But both men say they’ve felt the discomfort of not conforming to traditional expectations. When filling out an application for Alicia’s social security card, Mickey discovered the the form only had fields for “father” and “mother.” He says the clerk was not very helpful — she asked them to just pick one. Since he had taken Amos’ last name when they married, and therefore had a “maiden name,” he put himself on the form as Alicia’s mother.

For his part, Amos says it can be challenging being the only dad in a roomful of moms, like when he volunteers at Alicia’s school. And there’s the fact that he’s an Asian man with a blonde, blue-eyed white child. He says he’s felt people’s suspicion at times when he’s at the playground with Alicia, and she throws a tantrum because she doesn’t want to leave.

“People take a second look… and you know, I’ve got somebody come up to me and say, ‘Should I be worried?’ I’m like: ‘No you shouldn’t be worried, she’s my daughter.’”

Mickey says they have also been surprised by the way some friends have reacted to their decision to raise a child together. “I think that the straight couples with kids are actually more accepting or more shrugging-their-shoulders of it than gay people without kids,” he says. “We had friends who were at our wedding when Alicia was two, and like, never saw them again.”

Mickey says he thinks these friends probably disapprove of his and Amos’ decision to follow what seems like a traditional or conventional path, but he sees it differently. “I think it goes back to not understanding that you can make it whatever you want. You can have the life that you choose to have. Not the life that you ran away from, but rather, the life that you’re walking and running toward.”

These two fathers are walking and running toward a life that they once could barely even dream of, and are now defining on their own terms.

Trust & Fear of the Unknown in Adoption

This is the happy story of a new family being born through unexpected circumstances and an almost magical lining up of the stars. Little did we know that a short 6 years after meeting, we’d be fathers – let alone be living in California!

15-IMG_9625The story began when we met on university campus in Montréal, Québec back in 2007. It was love at first sight. We never really discussed having kids until much later in our relationship. We were still young (none of our friends had kids yet) and wanted to travel the world (which we did)! Gabriel always wanted to have kids but Pierre-Luc pretty much had given up on the idea at a young age.

Our life changed when an unexpected job offer in California came for Pierre-Luc. First, we had to overcome the fact that we’d have to immigrate as strangers to each other as the work visa would not recognize same-sex couples. Gabriel would have to find a job, his first job right out of school. To this day, we would rather not think about what would have happened should Gabriel have failed in his search. We are very happy about the supreme court decision to declare DOMA unconstitutional as it will save a lot of stress for futures couples that are in similar circumstances.

By 2011, our relationship had matured and so did our lives. Some of our friends and cousins had started having kids and frankly, this ignited something inside of us. The looming 30th birthday anniversary for Pierre-Luc did also helped: the clock was ticking! This is when we began our research on how to build our family. One thing was clear: we wanted a newborn, to be the only parents from day 1.

There were a few options available to us in California: surrogacy and adoption. As we concentrated on adoption for financial reasons, we discovered a rich world full of love for the children being adopted. As we kept reading books on the subject of gay parenting and adoption in general, it became clear to us that an open adoption was the way to go. We visited a few adoption agencies and got started on the paperwork in September of 2012.

We learned that openness is positive for all participants. For the children, it helps developing their identity far removed from the unknowns associated with closed adoption: who are my birth parents, why did it happen, etc. For the birth parents, after the grieving period, it’s an immense relief and joy to be able to see that the child they brought into this world is being well taken care of. And for the adoptive parents, having access to the medical history of the family is one of many advantages, should a problem arise.

IMG_5743We had concerns about inviting hypothetical birth parents into our lives: it felt weird to create such an intimate relationship with complete strangers. Will they judge our parenting? How will their life choices impact ours? In retrospect, it was all about the fear of the unknown. When we were first contacted by the future birthmother of our child in March 2013, it put a face on the strangers. As we exchanged many long heartwarming emails over the next month, we developed an understanding and it was the beginning of a relationship we hope will flourish.

We consider ourselves lucky to have been matched very early in the pregnancy. We had more time to bond, and this also meant that we were able to fly to meet her in person in Missouri and attend the OBGYN visit where we all learned that we were expecting a girl. Over the weekend, we met with her family and all of her friends. She has a wonderful circle of support and everyone was onboard with her plans. We felt like rock stars: she had talked about us to all of them and they were all genuinely eager to meet us.

For interstate adoptions, there is some paperwork to be processed which usually means that you are stuck in an hotel room with a newborn for about 10 days. When Sophie was born in September 2013, we ended up overstaying that period because we wanted to spend a little bit more time with the birth family. We had finally met the birthfather at the hospital and this was a unique chance to create a bond. As the family came to visit birthmom in the hospital, they also visited us – the new parents – to congratulate us and meet the newest addition to our family. We created memories we will always cherish.

In retrospect, we can now say that our fears about adoption were unfounded. As the birth parents pick you, you also end up picking them and it is up to you to establish your personal boundaries. Working with an experienced adoption agency like the IAC really simplified things for us and for every party involved. They offer great support for the birth family and helped everyone understand their role in this child’s life.

The key to success is trust. While we jungled with the uncertainty of the adoption going through, we trusted deep down that the birthmother would do what’s best for her child. She also trusted us enough to select us from a big list of potential parents and we found that this trust helped us through the daunting first nights with a newborn.

Pierre-Luc Beaudoin & Gabriel Millaire