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In the next five years I want to have a child.
This is something I would never say lightly, let alone in a national magazine, but after much soul-searching, I can now say it with conviction and promise. If you want to achieve any dream, getting it down on paper and sharing it with others is critical to success. For one thing, it crystallizes that otherwise nebulous internal dialogue and brings your goal into actionable reality.
So why, at 41, do I want to complicate my life and my partner's with children? The answer stretches back three decades, when I was practically attached to my father's hip. "Pete and Re-Pete," they called us. Everywhere he went, I followed. Our mutual adoration had a poetry that resonates with me to this day. It has made me who I am: someone who constantly seeks to mentor others in my life and my work.
Parenting is the next step of my journey. My parents sacrificed so much for my benefit. Sending me to the best schools was no easy feat for a steelworker and a cleaning lady. Today, sharing these lessons with a child of my own feels like the highest way to honor their sacrifices.
But you can't have a child by yourself -- especially not as a gay man. I don't mean you can't be a single mom or dad; I just mean that we all need help. I am so lucky to be embarking on this journey with Stan Lim, my life partner. Still, it really does take a village. I write and talk every day about the importance of peer-to-peer support in all aspects of personal and work life, but nowhere is this more vital than parenting. And the process starts long before the baby arrives.
Make no mistake: For a gay couple, having a child is in no way a "snap your fingers and make it so" decision. It's a process that involves research, time, lawyers, money, and no small amount of stress and heartbreak. It forces you to explore the decision fully. Can you imagine if hetero couples had to go through as much thinking and planning to pop out their progeny? The world might be a better place!
So here we are, Stan and I, answering a million questions to make sure our motivations and abilities to be parents are 100% sound. But it's not just us talking: I've found it imperative to share this process with the most important people in my life, including the woman I call my "nanny." She runs my life at home, but she is more like family than an employee. We care so much about each other that we've even talked about the possibility of her becoming an egg donor.
She'll play a big part in our child's life, but I'm still figuring out how to provide him or her with other female role models. I've considered finding a "coparent," a woman having her own child who would partner with me in that experience. Think of a baby born to parents who divorce soon after but remain friends. We would share "custody" of our kids, but we would each have our own romantic life partners.
I actually pursued this option with a straight woman who was introduced to me, a teacher who was planning to be artificially inseminated. She was on her way to the sperm bank when we first spoke, and soon we were spending weekends together and even doing couples counseling to make sure we would be good coparents. Unfortunately, medical tests ultimately revealed she was unable to have children.
Stan and I are also considering adoption. With all the love that will connect us to our child, who needs genes? But sadly, I've encountered prejudice on that front, which makes adoption an increasingly difficult prospect for us. The upside? I learned of an amazing local nonprofit for at-risk youths called Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services (GlassLA.org), and I've started mentoring a child there. The experience has prompted us to consider foster parenting with the organization's help, which could lead to adoption if we so choose.
However we decide, my partner and I are in the process together. It's certainly not practicality that drives two busy, career-minded men to fit a third party into the picture. It's the desire to share our love, to instill in a child some of what our parents instilled in us. But parenthood will be a two-way learning process, I know--and I'm prepared to learn more than I ever have before.