Welcome The Guncles, our newest celebrity guest bloggers!
Since this is our first time blogging for Parenting.com, we'll start off with a little introduction. We're Bill Horn and Scout Masterson, also known as The Guncles from Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood (new episodes currently airing Tuesdays at 10PM on Oxygen). During last season of the show, we documented our adoption journey with the season ending showing us announcing our match with a birthmother. The new season opened a few weeks ago with us adopting our daughter, Simone—also making us the first gay family with a child to appear on a reality television show. Yes, in 2011... We were indeed the first. Hard to believe with so many reality shows on TV these days!
Because of the show, we've been blessed with the opportunity to share our story about adoption and also help be a positive example for gay families. Those who watch the show, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook have been able to see that our family is just like theirs. Sometimes we'll meet people who say exactly that, "Oh, your family is a lot like ours!" Yes, it is. Sorry. We don't have circuit parties with boys wearing whistles and glow sticks. We cook, clean and parent... Just like you!
We feel like there are many people out there who don't know what an "open adoption" means. Matter of fact, we get so many messages on Facebook asking about what it means, thinking that the word "open" means that the birthparents can have the child returned to them at any time. This is definitely not the case!
We'd like to share some of our reasons why we chose an open adoption over a closed one or surrogacy. We get asked this question A LOT!! Open adoption appealed to us because we really liked the idea of maintaining communication with the birth mother (which is the meaning of "open" in open adoption). It never occurred to us to try to keep the adoption a secret from our child. After all, it's pretty common knowledge that two men can't naturally give birth to a child (Well, not yet at least!). Nor did we want to someday have a "Surprise! You're adopted!" conversation.
For us, choosing open adoption meant that we'd not only be giving a child a loving family and home, but also that we'd hopefully have the type of relationship with the birthmother that if we needed medical information in the future we could just ask. Luckily, we DO have that kind of relationship with Simone's birthmother. We text with her almost daily (still...and Simone is now 18 months old) and send pictures documenting our life. We like the idea that she can see that her selfless, courageous act of placing her child with us has given Simone a life of true happiness. Seeing a smile on a child's face speaks a thousand words. Because of her, our family dream has come true.
Adoption is just a normal conversation topic in our home. We in no way want to make it seem like it’s a taboo subject. It's our "normal." On a shelf behind our dining room table is a picture of us with the birthmother holding a newborn Simone. Now that Simone's getting a little older, she knows that's a picture of her birthmother—the woman who carried her in her belly as a special gift to us. That's how it's explained for now, as she gets older we'll start filling her in with more details as she can understand them. But that picture is never moved, nor hidden as our guests come and go. Simone's birthmother is a member of our extended family and her picture remains among our family photos. We realize how lucky we are to have been blessed with not only an amazing daughter, but also an amazing birthmother. Over the past few years we have met several folks who, after the adoption, had all communication cut off by the birthmother. It's sad, but people deal with situations in their own way. This is one of the many reasons we enjoy sharing our story. We want people to know that these dream situations of having a great relationship with the birthmother do exist!
Backing up a bit... Because this is also a question people ask but we haven't shared yet. Our hospital experience for Simone's birth was quite interesting. It was truly THE happiest and equally THE scariest moment of our lives thus far. Without going into details about the hospital, we'll just say that Simone was born in a Catholic hospital in a rural area. So unfortunately because we were a gay couple, the hospital didn’t celebrate the pending arrival of our child with the same enthusiasm they afforded other couples. Just to be clear, we have nothing against the Catholic faith—and we both come from Catholic families. This was our experience and it more than likely would have been handled differently if the birth had taken place in a city like Los Angeles or New York City, but unfortunately this small town had different views than ours.
We learned that a hospital social worker had tried to talk our birthmother out of placing Simone with us about a month before our arrival for the birth. When we arrived at the hospital, we were "kindly" asked by the nursing staff to stay in our room at all times. They said it was because we were famous and that people would recognize us, but we could sense that wasn't the true reason based on the way some of the staff treated us. At one point, a staff member had told us that we weren't even allowed in the cafeteria! That was until we said that if this was the case, we assumed we could call in our meal orders to the nurses’ station for them to go down to the cafeteria and deliver to us. We guess they didn't see that coming, so we were then "permitted" to go to the cafeteria to order our food (to go) but asked not to linger in the hallways on our way to and from there. As if the pending birth and adoption wasn't already stressful enough, now we also had to worry about creating drama for picking up a cheeseburger in the cafeteria!
Luckily, our birthmother had the most amazing midwife who looked after us. She hand-selected the nurses (nice ones!) for us and we still keep in touch! If it weren't for this midwife, our experience wouldn't have been a pleasant one for sure. Anxiety was on high alert. We felt secure that all would go well, but in the back of our minds we couldn't help worrying that after the birth maybe our birthmother would change her mind, or that someone on staff at the hospital would try to do so. Although our birthmother never did anything to indicate this (she always referred to us as the “dads”) it’s just a natural fear in this situation. Because of the amazing midwife, we were both granted access by the anesthesiologist into the operating room at the time of the emergency c-section. We held the birthmother’s hand as our little lady was born—an experience and moment we will never forget and will forever cherish. From that moment on, we were finally dads. We gave Simone her first bath, fed her first bottle, and logged in our very first all-nighter caring for our little baby.
Over the next few days, we continued to enjoy every moment with Simone. We were so excited that this moment we had waited almost 2 years for was finally here that we never even sent her to the nursery to be cared for by the nursing staff. We did it all and we loved it! Although we were there without our families, thanks to our trusty Blackberries we talked, texted and emailed pictures all day and night to our families and close friends. If we had to pick the most stressful thing about our entire adoption journey, we'd have to say it was on discharge day waiting for the adoption counselors to arrive back to our room with the signed birthmother relinquishments. The law is that the birthmother couldn't sign anything until she was no longer under the influence of pain medication. Since she had an emergency C-section, she couldn't sign for 4 days. Sitting and waiting in that room for over an hour was truly the scariest moment of our lives. We remember the nervous energy all too well, staring down the hall trying to see anything we could. But, as we knew deep down in our hearts, of course everything was fine. Looking back now at the situation, we know that our anxiety was only natural.
There are so many more things we'd like to share with you about open adoption and our parenting experiences. We'll cover more in future blog posts. Also, if you're thinking of adoption or need a little extra advice about your adoption process, we recently launched "Hold My Hand," an adoption mentoring service whose mission is to guide people in all areas of the adoption process and to help them overcome their obstacles. We don't charge for this service, nor are we social workers or trained professionals. We're just two dads who have been through the adoption process and want to help others through theirs. For more information, please visit www.gunclesonline.com.
-- The Guncles, Bill & Scout