Prizm News / December 1, 2017 / By Joel Diaz
Photo by Staley Munroe

A new dad reflects on the meaning of family for him, his husband and their baby daughter.

By Joel Diaz

It’s been seven weeks since my husband Craig and I welcomed our daughter Izzy into the world. Since then, our days have been a whirlwind of diaper changes, late night feedings and sleeping whenever possible.

At 6 a.m. each day, I walk into Izzy’s nursery to start her day. Our morning ritual involves me waking her by singing “Las Mananitas,” the Mexican birthday song. The line, “Despierta, mi bien, despierta, mira que ya amanecio,” which translates to “Wake up, my dear, wake up, it is already dawn,” seemed like the perfect way to let her know the day had begun.

As she opens her eyes to look up at me, yawns and stretches her arms, I can’t help but reflect on all that has brought us to this point and all that our family has to look forward to together.

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When Craig and I first started dating almost five years ago, we went on a road trip along California’s State Route 1, beginning in San Diego and heading up to San Francisco. As one might imagine, being crammed in a car with someone for 11 days can bring two people closer together. As we traveled up the coast, we shared stories, opened up about our deepest feelings and bonded over our shared dreams and life goals.

The trip was a defining moment in our relationship and one where we quickly understood how important it was to both of us to start a family someday.

Family can have different meanings to different people and communities. I grew up in Houston as the youngest of seven and was raised by parents who immigrated from Mexico. My husband, Craig, grew up in a small family in a small community just outside of Cincinnati. Yet his experiences are similar: family picnics, special holiday memories and quality time together.

For many in the LGBTQ community, we also have our “chosen” families. Something I personally had never given much thought to until our wedding a couple of years ago. We opted for a destination wedding and were surprised to have 50 of our closest friends join us. During the speeches that night, everyone talked about the chosen family we had built in our lives and how we had created something truly special.

Little did we know this would play out again in our adoption journey two years later.

Right after our wedding, we were introduced to our now good friends, Jim, Derek and their son, Owen. Over the course of getting to know them, they shared advice and insight to help us move forward with the process of adopting a child. We opted to follow their lead by selecting the Choice Network, one of a few adoption agencies that have received a certification by the Human Rights Campaign.

Photos courtesy of Joel Diaz

As two openly gay men, selecting the right agency was very important to us. Despite the progress that had been made with marriage equality, we wanted to make sure we chose an agency that made us feel welcomed and comfortable.

The Choice Network has been an incredible partner in our journey to start a family. It was through them that we were matched with Charlotte, our birth mother, and her family. We first met Charlotte and her mother at one of her early doctor visits.

The physician performed an ultrasound and we got to bring home one of the first images of Izzy, no bigger than a tadpole at that time. This was one of the many amazing experiences we got to share over the next five months as part of Izzy’s development. We feel incredibly lucky to have been matched with Charlotte and her family.

As part of our adoption process, we indicated a desire to have an open adoption. It has only been since the early 1990s that a majority of adoption agencies have offered this option, which we’ve discovered is understood by very few people. Open adoption allows the birth family to remain in contact with an adopted child so there is a continued connection for everyone involved. In a closed adoption, there is practically no information or contact between a child and his, her or their birth family.

Because Charlotte lives in Michigan, we relied extensively on text messaging with her and her mom to stay in touch about her pregnancy and Izzy’s development. We’ve continued to use our almost daily updates to share with Charlotte and her family Izzy’s development and growth.

We quickly learned there’s no guide for how open adoptions should work. Every set of families will develop their own relationships, but we are firm believers in the saying, “You get what you put in.”

Charlotte and her family put all of themselves into this adoption process and so did we. What we’ve ended up with is another chosen family we call our own.

I get teary-eyed thinking of Izzy as an adult. Our hopes, dreams and aspirations for her all center around one thing. Her happiness. We take solace in knowing she has an incredible “chosen family” that will love and support her like they have done us.

About 135,000 children are adopted each year in the United States. I encourage other LGBTQ families to learn more about their options to start a family.

So far it has been one of the most amazing experiences of our lives.