It was pizza and gelato night. We look forward to special nights like these. What family doesn’t?
We were getting out of the car as I opened the back door to get my youngest daughter out. I unbuckled her car seat and took her into my arms and then stood up on the sidewalk. A woman stood there and watched behind me, staring freakishly. I turned around and smiled to let her see I knew she was there.
She asked, ‘Is that your baby?’
‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘She is my daughter.’
‘But she’s black,’ She replied sarcastically.
‘How did you get her?’ She asked insistently.
I responded, ‘We adopted her.’
Just as I said that, Douglas came around the car with our oldest daughter. She looked over and saw him. Her eyes bulged.
‘By two men!?!’ She was obviously disgusted and out of line.
‘Yes. We are husbands,’ I said respectfully.
Her mouth dropped and she responded, ‘So, they let two MEN adopt children!?! They let children go to just anyone!?’
At this point, I knew we needed to be far away from this lady. I had entertained this conversation for too long. I had no idea it was going to go in this direction. People in New Orleans are very welcoming for the most part. I was shocked and angry.
We hastily walked away from her, but not before she yelled behind us, ‘How they gonna let a black baby be adopted by two men… by two WHITE MEN?!’
We walked away as fast as our feet could take us.
Our oldest started her barrage of questions. We turned the corner and I told Douglas I didn’t feel comfortable leaving the car parked beside her. I went back to move the car.
As walked up, she was in the middle of getting a pen and paper out of her bag, obviously to leave us a note of some sort. She then looked up and said, ‘I’m still just standing here in shock. But, don’t worry, I ain’t messin’ with ya’ car.’
I got in my car and drove away as she was left standing there with a pen in one hand and a piece of paper in the other.
Situations like that do not happen often, but when they do it allows me to see there is still work to be done. There will always be people who disagree and are, at times, out of line and rude. It is in those moments we do not let ourselves sink to their level of desperation to get our point across. Especially when children are present.
We love our babies just as any other family does. We would do anything in this world to keep them safe and protect them from the anger we unfortunately see in our divided country.
I would lie if I said it didn’t affect me. The truth is, it absolutely does. And sadly, probably more than it actually should. You see, we built this life for our babies, which is often better than what I had growing up in my typical, straight household. My father was trash and abusive. He beat my mother and some of those terrifying memories still stay with me. So yes, it hurts when hateful, cold people tell me I shouldn’t be able to create a better life than what my own father provided.
The older I get, the easier it is for me to see how sad individuals must be in their own life to be blinded by anger so easily. They miss out on all the opportunities to grow and shed away the cold, brittle edges of their past and become a more warm, rounded and accepting person.
About 130,000 children are adopted each year in our country. There are somewhere around 2 million couples waiting for their opportunities to create their own families through adoption. We planned, we prayed, we learned, we hoped, we dreamed, we cried, we anguished, and sometimes, we failed. But you know what?
We got up. We tried again because were determined.
We were eager and we knew in our heart our family’s journey was written in the stars.
And, at the end of the grueling process, we did cry again. But, this time, it was while we were holding our newborn baby.
Everything we went through before brought us to this very moment. Now, we could begin our lives. So, we smiled. We laughed. We hugged. We prayed. We remembered.
And in the end, it was worth every single tear we’d ever shed.
Adoption is one way you can change someone’s life forever. In many counties and cultures, adoption is still looked down upon.
In our country, some still think gay couples shouldn’t be able to create a family, whether it is through adoption, surrogacy, or fostering.
As long as there is this frame of mind, there is still work to be done, friends.
If you know of someone who has adopted or wants to, remember the pain I spoke of. Understand it doesn’t require DNA to create unconditional love and trust.
If you see a gay couple with children, take a moment and allow yourself to see the love radiating from them, rather than their differences. See their struggle and respect the rocky road they walked on to get to where they are today.
We are only given this life for a short amount of time. It is our jobs to embrace each other for the beautiful diverseness we exude.
November is World Adoption Awareness Month. November 21st is National Adoption Day.
Parenthood itself is the wildest ride you could ever imagine. For some, the process to even become parents is just as crazy. My husband and I adopted all three of our children and brought them home from the hospital. Our oldest was premature and needed to stay in the NICU until she was about a month old.
The journey to become parents can be brutal. Trying to learn the ropes in a few months can cause anyone to freak out. Add to that all of the paperwork, home studies, certifications, background checks on top of getting the baby’s nursery created is just about maddening.
If this is you right now, Stop. Take a breath. No, no. Take a deep, solid breath. And- exhale.
I am here today to tell you 3 of my most important things that I WISH someone would have told me when we first became parents.
You will be ok. Trust me.
Keep in mind that realistically there are many more but to make it simple, I plucked my Top 3 to hopefully guide you and your spouse to a much more tranquil and optimistic place.
Don’t Fall Prey!
In the beginning, it is like you have taken 15 shots of espresso and you are bursting with adrenaline. You are reading every baby helpers manual you can get your hands on.
One thing you need to keep in mind is every single baby is different. I know you have heard that time and time again, but the truth of it is regardless of how many books you read, every baby will develop a little differently. Some quicker than others.
Though books are great, do not get tunnel vision because of them. Think outside the paperback!
You are also choosing every item Under the sun to put in your baby’s nursery.
If you are anything like me, you find yourself daydreaming of just how your new days and nights would be spent and just how it would play out and solve each problem as they arise.
All of this is super sweet. And very much realistic.
When carefully selecting things for your baby’s nursery remember this is a BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY you are about to walk into. There are products made today that absolutely blow my mind; for good and bad! You will find the most stupid products ever made in one hand but then in the other, the coolest and best time saving products in the other.
When our first daughter was born, we fell prey to one in particular. You absolutely DO NOT need a baby wipe warmer. All you are doing is spoiling your baby to freak out and scream when you are away from the house. Seriously! Not to mention they require too many stupid reminders in your phone to keep up with.
Don’t buy it! Don’t Fall Prey!
When planning, think about the most sensible, practical and logical products you can find which will make your life easier; bottom line.
There are also things that will surprise you even when you both thought you may be wasting your money.
For example, the automatic formula makers.
This, my friends, is a game changer! Our third child is 6 months old and I do not understand how we didn’t have this thing sooner. It is amazing!
For $200 you cannot beat the ‘Baby Brezza’.
(And no, I did not get paid for name dropping.) I am just speaking from my heart.
Although I say Don’t Fall Prey, also be willing to experiment. But ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS, read tons and tons of reviews. Ask your friends if they have used the product and get their opinions as well. Trust me.
Draw Your Boundaries
Speaking of opinions, always remember that everyone will have one. Just as you and your spouse are bursting with excitement over your new baby, so is every person in your family. With that being said, you will find some who are VERY eager to help and give advice in the beginning. And believe me! You will need it!
I am here to tell you, if you are lucky enough to have family in your life who are tossing out their opinions left and right, accept the help! Remember, their advice is usually coming from a place of love.
Trust me, In the beginning you will need all the help you can get.
Later on, as you gain your confidence and balance, and begin to learn your newfound rhythm with this new parenting life along with juggling all of the daily tasks this new life brings, you may find that the once welcomed parenting advice from some family members start to become ‘overstepping’ boundaries.
When this happens, take a deep breath.
Drawing your family’s boundaries in the beginning is probably the most important thing you can do aside from keeping your immediate family healthy. In a way, this is also keeping you healthy as well, just mentally instead of physically.
I am not going to sugar coat it. This can be very controversial. It may ruffle some feathers. Feelings may get hurt. Some will even get mad. Some may stay mad.
In a way, understandably so. After all, most are coming from loving places in their hearts.
It’s all in how you package your words. If you are respectful and you keep the other’s feelings in mind, then they should have an obligation to do the same. After all, if you aren’t being respected in the beginning then this will definitely become a problem later on down the road.
Unfortunately, some may not see how they are personally overstepping your boundaries. By showing them examples in the beginning and pointing out where it makes you feel uncomfortable, it will help and it is absolutely crucial. Communicating your feelings is a must.
If you choose not to open this dialogue, they most likely will continue to overstep and it could grow into judgement and resentment amongst both parties.
Remember to Draw Your Boundaries. Be respectful and have good communication and you will be fine, and if it takes a while to iron out the kinks, then so be it.
Do not give in until you feel in your heart your point is made. Period.
Savor EVERY Second!
When your baby does arrive you will quickly be thrust into a brand new way of life. Everything you did before will seem like light years away after a few months.
I used to religiously watch ‘The Price is Right’ every single morning. It was my jam. Who am I kidding. It will ALWAYS be my jam. That was my hour to sit and get transported. Today, I absolutely laugh at myself. I barely have enough time to drink my espresso or go to the bathroom, much less sip on a mug of coffee for an hour.
But believe you me, ‘TPIR’ will always remain my favorite game show and the many years and countless hours we spent together will always remain in my heart.
Today, my babies complete my soul. The good, the bad and the disgusting all sit front and center in my mind to allow me to see just how quickly time passes.
There are poop explosions, bedtime stories, nuclear meltdowns, cuddles, and even quarantining together with 2 toddlers and a newborn.
It all changes so fast and before you know it, the page turned and you have moved onto the next memory. The days seem long at times, but trust me my friends, the years are incredibly short.
Just remember that cliche, “This too, shall pass.”
Sadly, even the things you don’t want to pass most certainly will. Those little voices and those chubby cheeks will grow into the kids who will change the world. And we will help make it happen.
So, If you take any piece of advice I have offered in this piece, take this. Savor EVERY Second.
Love is a magical thing. It often comes out of nowhere and bites us in places that we wouldn’t think possible. TRUE love is something we all long for yet is so hard to find.
Every family begins somewhere. With a dream in our pockets and hope in our hearts we started our own journey 14 years ago.
Ya know, each family begins in so many different ways and in many obscure places often times when we least expect it.
Hear how ours began down here in
ole' New Orleans: The house of the rising sun, and the home of black magic and Voodoo spells.
Our beginning may be as unlikely as it is interesting.
For the full story of our beginning, check out my blog piece-
Photo credit: BSA Photoagraphy
The recent events which transpired in our country over the racial injustices and oppression towards African Americans breaks my heart. I have been searching for ways to open the crucial dialogue with my girls.
This hits close to home for my family in particular because not only are we two dads raising a family, but we have 3, multi-racial children. Our oldest daughter is half Guatemalan and half Caucasian. Our youngest is Honduran, and our middle child is African American. My heart hurts to see the prejudiced environment my middle child may be especially exposed to as she gets older. I want her to feel as comfortable in her own skin as any white, privileged person is. Though I know it is a difficult goal, my husband and I will do everything in our power to allow her to feel that way every day of her life.
I know racism is a learned behavior. Harboring hate in your heart is terrible, but teaching it to your children is abuse. It cripples the entire human race, and it deteriorates the world.
Growing up in south Mississippi, I was able to easily see how my own father was the most racist and hateful person I had ever met. Lucky enough for me, my mother divorced him when I was a little boy.
Unfortunately, I was already exposed to so much damage from his disgusting hatred. He abused my mom, me, and so many others I can remember. There is no telling how many people he has intentionally tried to destroy.
I endured mental and psychological abuse which stemmed from his temper. I remember how I would feel so defeated as he screamed at me trying to teach me how to ‘tell time’ on my new ‘Transformers’ watch when I was just 6 years old. I still remember that as clear as day. I knew I was never going to be that kind of father.
As I got older he would call me sissy, mama’s boy and queer. That was bad enough, but the things I can recall him saying towards black Americans was just as bad if not worse.
And then, there is the most gut wrenching reason. He has always been an alcoholic and a drug addict. And because of his selfish addictions, I lost my 17 year old brother.
I would also see how he treated his spouses and I knew I would never lay a hand on my partners. Despite being gay, I knew in those early years I would always treat my partner with dignity and respect.
There are things I will unfortunately, never forget. Those early memories taught me the most important lessons of all. They showed me how to NOT live my life. Rather than having my father teach me the RIGHT things to do in the world, I watched him and tried to do the opposite.
As I grew into a teen I figured out one person can change the world. One smile, one open mind, one kind heart. Love can and WILL win in the end. The question is, when?
Well, it starts today. With you, and me.
This morning was a huge moment for my girls. I finally found the way to naturally and comfortably talk about the beauty of our country and what makes it so great.
Back when I was a little boy, there was a movie I loved so much. I remember having the stuffed animal and taking his hat off so I could wear it just like him. I would sing the songs as loud then as we did this morning. However, I didn't realize how deep this movie actually was until I watched it again.
Friends, if there was one movie you NEED to introduce to your kids right now, it is "An American Tail.”
Anyone who knows me or even knows OF me, knows I wear my hat almost all of the time. I owe it to this movie!
I sang one of the songs from this movie to my babies their entire lives. Most importantly, it helps my girls to see what made our country so great.
They were able to see how all over the world people admire America. People come here to escape their own countries when they are being killed and tortured. In America, we have the freedom to speak out when we see things that aren't right. In America, we join together for causes. As one, we hold rallies and protests when we see unfair practices and injustices wherever they may be. In America, we do not back down in the face of fear or intimidation. That is what makes our country so beautiful. It always has been, we just lost sight of it. America has always been great. And do not let anyone tell you it isn’t.
Photo credit: BSA Photoagraphy
Our oldest little girl looked at me during the movie and asked what a “wawwy” was. I knew exactly what she meant. She repeated it exactly as she heard it in the film. I asked her, A rally? And she nodded. I said, ‘Well baby, A rally is like a protest. That is where a group of people come together for the same reason, to demand change.”
“In America, we are allowed to do that. And because of those freedoms, we are able to see the change begin which makes people happy again.” (I tried to simplify it because she is only 4!) Then, she looked at me as that same iconic song came on, and I quietly lost it. I cried as she looked on with a big smile. In that moment, she knew the song she had always heard me sing was from this very movie, and she understood why it was so powerful.
If none of that works for your family, you can always bring out the 'GIANT MOUSE OF MINSK,' filled with fireworks and fury! Okay, maybe not the last part... but I couldn't help but wonder if there was strategic symbolism placed there. Riots and chaos unleashed when there is no other alternative? I don't know. What I do know, today, in this moment... is how I was able to introduce some heavy dialogue to my babies this morning and it was all thanks to this movie.
Parents, go watch "An American Tail" right now with your babies. You'll thank me later.
What can I do to help her in the future? I will always pay attention in public. I never know when some hateful person will crawl out of a dark corner of the world. I will shield her from the barrage of ignorance when I am in control. What I fear most is when my little ‘mocha drop’ goes out into the world alone.
Daddy and Papa won’t be there for every tough moment. But what WILL be there is the confidence and the intelligence to know she is bigger and stronger than any person who tries to tear her down because of her differences. We are all different. It is what makes us all so uniquely beautiful. If some people cannot see that then we will smile and move on and not look back.
I am so blessed to be living in the time that I am. As scary as some moments are, those situations mold our characters to become the resilient humans we are destined to be.
I am the father I am because of the sad and unfortunate circumstances I faced when I was a boy. I am the man I am today so I can raise my babies to be the adults they will grow into tomorrow.
As hours turned to days, I am left with an empty feeling regarding our country.
Is this in part because of the months worth of Covid isolation? Or is it the undeniable racial trimmer that is finally shaking us out of a paralyzed delusion?
What happened to #georgefloyd was WRONG. There is no denying that. There are NO EXCUSES. What happened to him was a rush to judgment and a failure to our country. Again.
Time after time we see this in our African American communities. The cycle of “justified” murder, the dominance over morality, while the rest of us watch the events unfold with our rose colored glasses on.
Folks. It is time to take off the glasses.
Look at what is happening around us.
👏🏻Snap out of it.
If you cannot think to yourself “something is wrong here”... then it may be time to re-evaluate your personal ideals of what it is like to be black in America.
Being white and privileged, it is pretty impossible for us to even comprehend it: to even grasp the magnitude of how heavy this is. It is raw. It is unfair. It is WRONG. On so many levels.
Living down here in New Orleans there is saying that many of us live by. Or at least I do.
You can see signs posted onto random light poles, stop signs and trees. I don’t know where the saying came from. I don’t know how long people have been saying it. “Think that you might be wrong.”
Those 6 words can change our community, our country, our world.
I am a gay, white father to an African American little girl whose sweet smile can brighten the darkest room.
It is also my job to make sure I speak for her.
I want my baby girl to know that her papa wasn’t silent when voices needed to be heard.
I wasn’t complacent when it mattered most.
Y’all, our history will eventually reveal itself.
Racism is alive and it is rampant.
It’s hidden behind badges, uniforms, desks, steering wheels, pulpits, robes, dresses, hospital masks, polo shirts... but worst of all, guns.
The ones who keep us safe here and abroad fight everyday to ensure our way of life. I am indebted to them. We are indebted to them.
But there needs to be accountability when terrible situations unravel into a horrible lapse in judgment. Not only for police, but for anyone that has a civil responsibility to our community.
Anyone that knows me personally knows that ACCOUNTABILITY is crucial in life. That is the only way to change course. Hold people accountable.
Don’t let the looting take your eye off the ball.
That is NOT the bigger picture here.
This happens in any chaotic and civil unrest.
It isn’t the first time and looting will happen again.
Two wrongs do not make a right today, tomorrow or ever.
Do not lose focus on the point up front and center.
There needs to be accountability for MURDER behind a badge.
We had no idea what the world was in for when we started out this particular journey. Adoption is always a very tense and frightening experience. Add a Global Pandemic to the mix and it is terrifying.
COVID-19 has shaken the whole world to it’s core. From one part of the globe to the complete opposite, it has all but stopped life as we know it. This scenario seems all too reminiscent of something that the American South will never forget.
Living in New Orleans, Louisiana we are accustomed to dealing with evacuations and disasters because of hurricane season each year. From June to November, we are on alert constantly. As you can imagine, Hurricane Katrina’s lasting effects really taught us how to deal with disaster prep along with the aftermath.
When Coronavirus first appeared on our radar here in New Orleans, I was personally shaken. Not only for me, but for my family. My husband is a physician at one of the main hospitals here in the city. Our 2 daughter’s are ages 4 and 2 and I stay at home with them. They go to nursery school for a few hours during the week but for most of the time I am at home with them. When the public schools closed down as did most of the nurseries along with everything else.
Many people through the years have asked me what it was like to experience Hurricane Katrina.
There really has not been an event equivalent to compare it to. That is, until now.
As that giant storm churned towards us 15 years ago everyone panicked and prepped as fast as they possibly could. Pandemonium and fear spread through New Orleans just like this virus has. The only difference is today, there isn't devastating winds or floods. Instead, it was stocking up on whatever you could so you wouldn’t have to leave your home.
I watched other countries very closely before this virus was found here in Louisiana. I saw the panic in the streets and the death that came behind it. I knew I needed to act then before the greedy would buy everything in sight.
I am a planner and I like to be in control. I think that is partly why I feel like I do at the moment. I literally planned our family’s next moves over a week before mandated ‘stay home’ orders were given. While people were calling me "Chicken Little", I made sure that we had everything we could possibly need. Well, except for one major life changing variable.
Our son was to be born within the next two weeks in the middle of this nightmare. My husband and I frantically tried to complete his nursery and buy the essential items from the hardware stores before our ‘lock down’ order was issued.
Along with prior preparations of food and essential items for the family, I felt it was also important to get the necessary items for the new baby. I feared that with panic stricken people buying up everything in sight along with the essential baby care items, I just knew we would be under mandated closures when he was born so I bought the diapers and baby formula weeks ahead of time. I really felt like I was in front of this thing. I planned. I was ready. And then my husband told me how bad the virus had actually gotten.
It was like the winds shifted. It was apparent that COVID-19 was about to strangle New Orleans.
Each day that went by more and more people were diagnosed. We saw this in Italy, and in New York City. But those places were much bigger than New Orleans. All of a sudden people were dying in numbers that doubled from the day before. Hundreds became thousands that were infected. It quickly was obvious that New Orleans and the state of Louisiana was the new epicenter for this outbreak. Hospitals were inundated. Especially the hospital my husband works at. Ventilators were almost depleted in the matter of a weeks time. Face masks were disappearing. Eye shields and gloves were almost gone.
P.P.E. (personal protective equipment) suddenly were rationed and in many cases disappeared or was extremely hard to come by. Local news reported that faculty were told to reuse face masks and even sterilize them so they could continue fight this battle, even without armor. Grown men are breaking down. Douglas has always been my voice of reason. When I get to hyped up, he is always there to calm me down. When I started my rants about Coronavirus this one time he didn't stop me. Or be the devil's advocate. Even when friends and family made it seem like I was over reacting in the beginning, Douglas listened to me. One conversation we had right after COVID-19 started to spread rapidly here in the city I will never forget. We were finishing up the baby's nursery one night when I told him that watching the images coming out of Italy and they were highly alarming and at the rate it was spreading it seemed impossible that it couldn't happen here. Waiting for him to correct me, instead his eyes got big. He got quiet. Which he does this so he can collect his thoughts. Then he said, "there is nothing we can do. The box has been opened and it cannot go back in. This will be the next pandemic. Most of us will get this virus. And if we all don't get it, we will personally know someone that has had it or has died from it. Lock downs will not stop it. Our hospitals will become overwhelmed. There is nothing we can do."
I was shocked. He always is optimistic. He is the yin to my yang. But that night, it was brutal honesty. And twelve hours later, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
That is when the tides started turning and that ominous silence fell when I walked outside. I was SHOOK. But I had to keep my cool for my family. My girls depend on me. On us. They can't see my fear. All of a sudden I am now their teacher every day along with being 'Papa'. I try keep it fun and new. I print out activities and educational things to keep their minds learning. I research arts and crafts for them to make. And then we go outside and play with different things every day so this isolation doesn't get so monotonous.
Then it was like my heart stopped. Douglas told me that the the main hospital was running low on manpower. Some started to get sick. And some were just overwhelmed by the tsunami of patients coming that were sick. This whole time I had been so thankful for him being a psychiatrist resident during this viral circus. Then, he told me. The Dean had started pulling residents from other specialties to fight this virus on the front lines in the Emergency Department. It didn't matter what specialty. He wanted 'all men on deck.' My heart sank into my stomach. I felt ill. Sure, I get it. He is a doctor. That is what you signed up for. But let me stop you. No. That is not what he signed up. He had a calling to help the mentally ill and the addicts from drugs and alcohol get sober, get off the street, clean up and lead a productive life. Fighting in the epicenter of this pandemic without proper equipment can be a death sentence. I would absolutely feel more incline for him to help if I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he had the life saving P.P.E. that he needs to stay healthy. He needs it and WE NEED IT. As the hours ticked by my anger grew. I like to be in control. I quickly saw that we were spiraling into a tail spin that couldn't be stopped.
Just as I started to feel hopeless, our phone rang. My mouth dropped to the floor. Our birth mother was in labor! Douglas quickly rushed her to the hospital. After examining her they admitted her. We had been threw this before time and time again with our previous birth mother. I just knew that she was going to be sent home. But this time proved to be different. They told Douglas that he was allowed to stay the night but unfortunately, due to Coronavirus, I had to stay at home.
Last night, Douglas got to stay with the birth mother at her hospital and officially go on "paternity leave" for over a month! For me, it was almost like he was rescued from being thrown into the front lines of a massacre. An unforeseen force directed us into a perfectly beautiful scenario just as hopelessness gripped our future while the walls were closing in all around us. Then came Shane.
Our baby boy was born last night at 11:36 pm weighing in at 7 lbs 6 oz. He is the most beautiful boy I have ever seen. Although I have yet to hold him. Smell him. See him. It is now 10:43pm the following day and Douglas should be home in about an hours time. I am ecstatic. In this very moment I feel so peaceful and happy. Yes, right now, the world outside terrifying. But our hearts are overjoyed, filled with euphoric gratitude and blessed beyond belief.
Photo Credit: BSA Photography.com
Sharp turns in life can rock you. Unspeakable pain and heartbreak can make us feel like we are being ripped apart from the inside out. Oftentimes those turns in life’s twisted road can appear out of nowhere with little to no warning. In a way, it is almost like hydroplaning in a vehicle. Losing complete control of where you are going which sometimes leaves you in a terrifying tail spin.
Back in 2003, when I lost my brother at the beginning of the opioid epidemic, I was shattered. My whole family was. He was barely 17 years old and his entire life was stolen from him and from us. There are no words to articulate the immense pain we felt. All of a sudden our lives seemed bleak and broken.
If you have felt that magnitude of pain, you know exactly what I am talking about. The emptiness and confusion about where life was going at that point will never leave me.Those desperate emotions during the bleakest moments help me stay humble and focused. They remind me of how fragile life truly is and how none of us are promised tomorrow. Many won’t get that last phone call to hear, “I love you.” Some will say “good morning” to loved ones having no idea they will never have the chance to say “good night” again.
If I could just see Shane one more time, I would cherish every second. I would tell him all the things I had planned to say later in life. I would punch his shoulder and then hug him tighter than I ever had before.
You see, it’s easy to think back on those missed out opportunities after they are gone. What are we doing today to let them know while they are here? Are we too embarrassed to be that vulnerable and emotional? Will they see us as weak? Would they laugh? Well if they are anything like my brother Shane was, he absolutely would giggle at me being such a mush. But then he would say, “Me too, Erik. Me too.”
It took years for me to realize this but, we will see the ones we miss so much again after their passing. Although, it may not be the way we would prefer. My dreams I have of my brother don’t come too often, but when they do, they are as real as I could have ever hoped. At first, I would cry my eyes out after I woke up wishing it wasn’t a dream. I finally found him. Time and time again it happened. As years passed, I was able to start to appreciate those moments. In a way, those are the times I prayed for. I wanted to see him the way I had expected, and I was losing sight at the very opportunity to tell him everything I wanted before he left us. Sure, there are angry moments about why he was so rebellious. Why did he have to take something so powerful to feel good?
A few years ago, I found out those answers. Dreams can also answer questions. They can unlock secrets to the past, but most importantly, they can give you peace. He was a kid and had no idea what he was doing. He didn’t have the wherewithal to know he’d be taken from us so soon, or at all for that matter. If he had known then he wouldn’t have ever tried it in the first place. That was all I needed to hear. He did love us that much. He just didn’t make the right choices. And although I want to hug him and punch him on the arm, he also feels the same way. That’s why we dream, my friends. Dreams are that powerful.
Photo Credit: BSAphotography.com
Creating my own family today helps feel the void about Shane leaving us. I got a tattoo of a Chinese symbol on my right arm that means “little brother.” Our little girls talk about him daily because of the tattoo. It opened a difficult dialogue to tell them how badly their uncle wishes he could play with them and make them laugh. Our oldest brings his name up at the dinner table, in the car, and even during the bath. My favorite time she brings him up is at bedtime. Simply because I feel it’s her invitation to see Shane in her own dreams. She’ll be able to finally laugh at his jokes. He’ll be able to tell her first hand about how much he loves seeing her and her sister grow. I know she will ask him all the questions she has thought about. Dreams are so special. They are so important. Dreams are the meeting places which give our hearts the peace our mind is seeking.
Many people don’t agree with with gay marriage, much less two dads raising children.
I think I will always be perplexed about that. The truth is, my husband saved me from the darkest of days after my brother died. He was beside me in every moment. He believed in me. He knew our love for each other was unbreakable. Those helpless moments of depression were brutal. Imagine being covered in the thickest blanket of sadness and then out of nowhere, our eyes met melting away the thick quilt of desolation. Our eyes were locked on each other as so many thoughts raced through my head. It was my white knight to save me from my own personal nightmare.
As years moved on, I figured out how to live again. I deserved to be happy, to laugh, to love again. He did that for me. And he does that everyday of my life, of our little girls’ lives. We bravely walk through life proudly and boldly while living our truest selves for everyone to see. We defy the odds which are stacked against us every single day. We are two daddies who love our two little girls unconditionally. Sure, we are looked at like unicorns in many places we go. Some people have never been exposed to seeing such a diverse family before. At first it would bother me, but I quickly learned most of the staring was from innocent onlookers curious to learn. I love that. I want them to walk away from us knowing we love our family like they love theirs. We would do anything in the world for our girls. We would give our lives for our babies. Parenthood taught me that.
Although my brother isn’t with us, my memories and my coveted dreams will always be. As our girls grow, I am sure they will continue to ask about their Uncle Shane and want to hear stories of his life and I am honored to tell them. His legacy deserves to live on. His name should bring smiles instead of tears. Shane needs to see that. He needs to know that our mourning has transformed into a celebration. We celebrate his life more now than we ever have.
While creating our family, I’ve always dreamed about a special moment. A moment which sends chills down my spine. A moment that brings tears to my eyes as I write. A moment when we can welcome our baby boy into this world, when I can look down at him and say, “Hi Shane. Your papa and daddy love you so much. And so does your uncle.” My husband and I are elated to start writing this new chapter in our lives. Our son, baby Shane’s story, can help turn around the sadness surrounding the end of my brother’s life and help write a beautiful, grateful and precious new beginning for our entire family. Tears will now turn to smiles and heartache will give way to laughter. My brother would have wanted that, I am certain.
On March 26th, we welcomed our baby Shane into this world.
Which just so happened to be my brother's due date as well
Follow our journey!
Photo Credit: BSAphotography.com
Everything that happens in our lives is meant to teach us something. These experiences--good, the bad, and the ugly--accumulate to help us grow into the people we are. I see how true this is with each passing day.
In 2005, my life was turned upside down. Katrina blew everyone’s life to hell and then we had to pick up what was left and learn to live again. After becoming a ‘refugee’ in Memphis, I decided to move out West because I had always wanted to live in LA. I had stars in my eyes and I dreams of making it big. FEMA money in my pocket, I loaded up my little blue Mazda Protege and started my journey across the country to become a famous pop singer. It was just after Thanksgiving when I moved, and I was lucky enough to have a couple of sweet friends to meet up with when I arrived. Christmas time was quickly approaching, but I wasn’t ready for it. Yall, I loooove the Holidays. I always have. There are so many things about this time of year that are special to me... the decorations, the cheerful people, and most of all my family. I didn't realize how big of a role family played until I moved. I had to relearn how to enjoy Christmas.
As the universe would have it, I met up with a friend of mine. He was the manager of the B-52’s and lived in a gorgeous house off of Sunset Boulevard. I would sit on his door step and look over at the ‘Laugh Factory,’ a famous comedy club in LA. It was amazing. The walls of his home donned several platinum records from the B-52's. It was surreal. After some time there my friend had to leave to visit his family for Christmas. The day before he left, he called me into the living room. There were button down shirts hung from coat hangers all over the room; he wanted me to have them. At first I didn't understand why, but later on it hit me-- I was from New Orleans and people viewed me as a refugee. This man was giving me his clothes. I still have a shirt in my closet from him. I stayed in his home a couple of more days after he left. Some people would have loved it, but I remember crying and feeling so lonely. I spent Christmas Day of 2005 sitting on his front steps and staring at Sunset Boulevard, longing to be back home in New Orleans.
I remember talking on the phone to my best friend from back home that Christmas. Every year we would call and exchange stories about our Christmas and what we love about the holiday. But this time it felt different. It felt as if my friend was 1,670 miles away. While Christmas of 2005 was painful, it helped to allow me to see where I belonged. As much as I thought I wanted to be on the west coast, the place where I was supposed to be was New Orleans, my home.
It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around that in just 10 years from that very moment of despair, my husband and I would be welcoming our newborn daughter home. With clammy palms, rapid heartbeats, and our stomachs in knots, we welcomed our tiny little daughter. At 4 lbs, she was smaller than a baby doll and more fragile and more beautiful than anything we had ever held. This was the moment our lives changed forever. It was as if life’s fog lifted and everything around us became clear. Now, every choice we made would revolve around her. This was perhaps the most significant day in our lives--the day we became Daddy and Papa.
The night we brought our baby girl home.
I remember laying on the couch and having this tiny baby lay on my chest. Listening to her breathe, watching her little hands move. Now THIS is surreal. Life has an amazing way of helping you grow up. When our daughter was born she only weighed 3.5 lbs. She decided to come into the world 10 weeks early so she had to stay in the NICU for a few weeks to gain her strength and put on some weight.
In the beginning we called her "werewolf baby" because she would literally try to eat us when she became hungry. She would be all snuggled in her cute swaddle then, like clockwork, about 20 minutes before it was time to have her bottle she’d start squirming and transform into a loud and angry baby worm. We had to be sure to not feed her too early because that would mess her feeding schedule up. So we had to do whatever we could to help her pass the time. We would usually cave in about 10min early out fear of being eaten alive by our beautiful werewolf baby. My husband thought to buy a Christmas ornament to remember those times. Every year we are taken back to those moments when we place it on our Christmas tree.
Our werewolf baby ornament along with
our ‘first Christmas’ ornament.
Feeding schedules weren’t the only thing we had to learn. We also needed to know how to NOT overfeed her. Being premature, she had a terrible time digesting her formula. We had her on the most sensitive type they make and yet it still seemed like it was too potent. As hungry as she would become, we knew if she drank too much we would be in for it. I think the hardest thing we had to do was try to console her when her tummy was hurting. The pain on her face was awful, and the only thing that seemed to help was when she threw up... and threw up... and threw up. All the time, every time. No matter how many burps we were able to achieve, it would still involve projectile puke somehow. We wouldn’t dare wear anything nice because it was sure to be barfed on. I lived in tank tops and sweat pants for months.
One time, we were in Jackson visiting my mother-in-law. Our baby girl was still having a tough time digesting. We were talking in the living room reminiscing about our newfound parenting lives. Someone said something hilarious that made each of us die out laughing. It was like she was waiting for the perfect moment. Douglas had Alli Mae facing him as he held her. And just as he opened his mouth to laugh, she unloaded a whole bottle's worth of baby puke directly into his mouth. IT WAS HILARIOUSLY DISGUSTING. His mom and I laugh about that to this day and I think we will until the end of time.
It's amazing how much the direction of life can change. Christmas of 2005 felt so depressing. I felt so stuck and it seemed like every decision I made blew up in my face. But in hindsight, I was wrong. That Christmas wish I made sitting on those doorsteps looking onto Sunset Blvd. almost 15 years ago came true. I didn’t realize I loved New Orleans like I did. I wouldn’t have known that unless I moved away. And as soon as I moved back home, I met my husband, the Daddy of my babies. The way the universe works is so incredibly awe-inspiring. Just when you think you have it figured out- the universe gives you a wink and says, “not so fast.”
Follow our family’s journey!