Parenting

My Wife And I Are Lucky To Be Parents, But Some Queer Families Aren't That Fortunate

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Tim Coffey Photography and Nikkya Hargrove

For as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be a mom. I knew I wanted to have a family, to live in a small town, and to do all the things that came along with it — like being a soccer mom.

I can now say I have, and am, all of those things. In one of the very first conversations I had with my wife, when we began dating, I told her I wanted kids. I came into our relationship with a baby I was in the process of adopting, but I also wanted to fulfill a lifelong dream of mine: to get pregnant, carry a baby and give birth.

The baby we had was enough for her, but I wanted a bigger family. I wanted to experience having a baby with her. Eventually, she’d become my wife and my desire to expand our family only grew after our wedding. We decided to try to get pregnant via in-vitro-fertilization two years after we got married. After two tries, I got pregnant.

While I lived out my fairytale — having three kids, a house, and a dog — I didn’t thoroughly think through the fact that the law did not see my family as the dream family. My wife, the non-birth parent, had. “If something happens to you, what rights do I have?” she asked me as we talked about expanding our family. So, we started our research to answer this question.

Courtesy of Nikkya Hargrove

We live in a state where our marriage is recognized without either of us jumping through any legal hoops to make it so. The days leading up to our wedding, just like heterosexual couples, we went to the court, found the right forms, got them signed and notarized and awaited the arrival of our marriage certificate. I thought the birth of our twin daughters would happen in the same way, and for the most part, it did.

Just a few weeks after we came home with our newborns, we received their birth certificates in the mail. I hadn’t thought about what a gift this was until I sat down to read their birth certificates. Both my wife’s and my names were on their birth certificates. We both would be recognized as their legal parents in our state, because we were their legal parents. I breathed a sigh of relief.

My wife and I are equals, carrying the burdens, the worries, the love and everything else in between which defines being a parent to our three kids. When the girls were born, it was my wife who did skin-to-skin with them. As the doctors prepared me for my planned C-section, I smiled and found joy in knowing in just a few minutes from then I’d be holding my babies. That did not happen. The anesthesiologist needed to increase my pain medication, which in the end simply put me to sleep so the doctors could finish stitching me up. It was my wife who, hospital gown open, laid our daughters on her chest.

Courtesy of Nikkya Hargrove

Recently, I received an early morning text from my mother in-law. One week before Pride Month began, the governor in our state signed into law legislation that would further ensure that our family was safe. The text from my mother in-law said something about us getting “more protection.” I honestly looked at it and thought “we already are protected,” which I fully believed — until I opened the news article and read it. She was right; we were getting more protection as parents to our own kids, something heterosexual parents never have to consider celebrating.

It is called the Connecticut Parentage Act. The law mandates that “all children have equal access to the security of a legal parent-child relationship, regardless of their parents’ sexual orientation or gender. In addition, the act recognizes that all children are deserving of the same protection that legal parentage provides by making it easier to establish parentage at birth, regardless of whether the child is born to married parents. It also provides important protections for intended parents of children who are born through assisted reproduction.”

Courtesy of Nikkya Hargrove

Why is this important? Because there have been times, in recent history, that queer parents had to go to court to fight for their own kids, to pay money to buy rights to their kids. This is an injustice to our community of parents, regardless of sexual orientation, because of the message it sends: you are not equal, and neither are your rights under the law. While the 2015 Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges helped secure federal protection under the law for gay marriages to be recognized, it also gave queer parents the legal right to foster and adopt children.

Tim Coffey Photography

Thanks to this, we were able to adopt our son. The paperwork, home studies, the forms and the time in front of a judge, all felt necessary, and sort of like we were actually, physically giving birth to our son. We felt pain, we felt fear, we were nervous, and we were scared through every step of the adoption process, unsure of what the next twist or turn would bring for our family and the adoption. My wife and I stood side-by-side, our son’s smiling face in front of us, our arms wrapped around him on his adoption day. Both of our names, my wife and mine, were on the adoption papers. We could breathe a little easier. I knew the necessity of having such papers, especially for a kid that we did not physically give birth to, but so badly wanted to be parents to.

While the new law in our state is a step in the right direction for queer families living in Connecticut, what about the other states? What about other families? We need federal legislation which wholly protects queer families, no matter where they live. I have hope that one day, we will get there. Because there are over one million reasons why we need to continue to fight for LGBTQ+ family rights, and each one of us has a name, and a story we’d like to be able to tell our kids.

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