Two and a half weeks after some ill-advised unprotected sex, I peed on a stick in my office bathroom right before a co-worker’s birthday party. It was a Friday, because Friday was when I got paid, and I couldn’t afford to buy a pregnancy test before that. I thought that I would just take the test, get a negative result, and put my paranoid mind to rest. This, of course, was not what happened.
When I first saw the two parallel lines on the test, I didn’t feel much of anything. Shock? Calm? I don’t know. But I decided a few things almost immediately: One, I would give birth to this baby. Two, I would place it for adoption. Three, my baby’s new family would be queer. They didn’t have to be queer, necessarily; I just figured they might have had a harder time adopting, and they’re my people, so why not show them a little favoritism?
I didn’t go through this thought process for the first time in my life in the bathroom that day. I’d considered the possibility of adoption after various false alarms, and now that the time had actually come, I knew what I wanted to do. I remember coming out of the bathroom, finding my co-worker, and quietly telling her the plan, all within five minutes of getting my positive result. I was a single, broke theater maker who couldn’t afford not to live with roommates, and even though I was early enough in my pregnancy to get a fairly painless abortion, I just didn’t want one. Call it my Catholic upbringing, call it that one scene in Blue Valentine, call it some other mysterious X factor — there simply wasn’t a particle of me that wanted an abortion. The decision almost made itself.
The next day, I went to Planned Parenthood and peed in a cup to confirm that it hadn’t been a false positive. (Spoiler alert: Nope!) I had to walk through a metal detector, leave my friend Sarah in the special waiting room for guests only (no one was allowed to accompany me inside), and carry my cup of pee through a crowded lobby of people to get my results. A blonde Planned Parenthood social worker who radiated concern sat down with me in her tiny office, asking what I’d like to do.
When I told her I wanted the baby to be adopted by queer people, she gave me a colorful glossy folder for the adoption agency that Planned Parenthood worked with. I remember her staring at me with warmth and worry, asking repeatedly if I was OK; I told her, truthfully, that I was, and then left. I hugged Sarah excitedly in the lobby, then skipped out and got myself a salad. I had a fetus to nourish.
I honestly can’t tell you exactly why I was so calm. Maybe my therapist is just really good at her job; maybe I thought — not entirely incorrectly — that this was going to be a fun adventure. But my dominating feelings were excitement and delight, not stress or dread.
This changed later, by the way. Relinquishing my son was the single hardest and most painful thing I’ve ever done. But all that pain would wait to hit me until the day I said goodbye to him.
Soon I was seeing a social worker, Debbie, at the adoption agency every other week. Debbie modestly mentioned that this agency had a reputation as “the gay agency.” I thought, Fantastic. I’ve found my people.
Over six months, Debbie and I got to know each other. She explained to me that I was under no obligation to choose adoption just because I was meeting with her, that she didn’t make a commission if I chose adoption, and that her job was to help me make the best decision for me and my baby. She was true to her word; we spoke repeatedly about the possibility of having me parent the child. What would that look like? Who would I have to borrow money from? What family members could I stay with? And so on. But even with this deep and reasoned consideration of my options, I still spent about 98% of my time feeling certain that I would choose adoption — especially when Debbie told me that this agency very much encouraged open adoption, allowing me to have ongoing contact with my child.
I was transparent to the extreme about my pregnancy and adoption plan, including a big Facebook announcement at the end of my first trimester. The announcement read:
“So, I'm technically still two days away from the end of my first trimester, but I'm just gonna announce it now: I'm pregnant, y'all. I'm due September 27.
"Right now my plan is to place the baby for adoption (hopefully to a gay or lesbian couple) and I am working with a fantastic adoption agency, but I remain open to whatever curve balls the universe — and my own heart — throws at me.
"I am 11 weeks and 5 days along, no longer nauseous (February was rough), and totally ecstatic. So if you're wondering about the appropriateness of a "congratulations," worry no longer! It's totes appropes!”
New York theater people are a staggeringly generous bunch. Not a single friend of mine tried to talk me out of it, or expressed anything other than unconditional support for me and my plan. Every time I told the plan to a new friend, I watched with gratitude as they strenuously tried to avoid making assumptions. But strangers were a different story: There was the guy who approached me in a bar and asked, “So where’s the father?” There was the woman who came into my office for an interview and gave me pediatrician recommendations. There was another woman sitting next to me on the subway who asked, “Are you married?” There was the security guard who saw my belly, shouted, “YOU’RE HAVING A BABY?” and chewed my ear for 20 minutes about her own son, bombarding me with parenting advice and telling me all about the “blessing” of all firstborn children, all when I was just there to drop off a package and had never met this woman before.
These kinds of interactions stemmed from assumptions that I was straight, that the baby daddy was in the picture, and that I was planning to raise the baby, not place him in an open adoption with a gay couple. All of those assumptions were incorrect.
Toward the end of trimester two, Debbie and I started looking together through “The Book”: an orange plastic binder of pre-adoptive families, one of whom was going to get my baby. As I leafed through the pictures of happy couples, she set down a brand-new page in front of me. “Hot off the press!” On the page were John and Peter, an interracial couple, one of whom was a surgeon and one of whom did theater just like me. And they wanted a more open adoption than the other families I was looking at. As it turned out, they had just dropped off their page for the book that same day; we’d been in the building at the same time. It was fate.
When we met in person a few weeks later, we hugged and kissed on the cheek immediately like old friends. When I asked them what things about their own upbringing they'd want to repeat and what they would want to avoid, John leaned forward and proudly told me how his mother had worked her ass off so her children could have a better life. When they asked me what I wanted for my baby, I got choked up while sputtering out something about encouraging my son’s creativity and letting him be himself.
It was love at first sight. They were funny, thoughtful, and openhearted. They made it clear from the get-go that they were prepared to welcome me into their family with open arms, asking if they could come see my show that was running. We named our son together, eventually settling on Leo.
Since I was placing my son for adoption, as long as I didn’t jeopardize his health or my own, I could do basically anything I wanted during my pregnancy. (I suppose this is true for other mothers, too, but they generally have more planning to do. My experience, other than choosing my son’s adoptive family, wasn’t really one I could plan for.)
So I kept living my life. I’d had plans before I was pregnant to start my own theater company, and I decided that pregnancy was an insufficient reason to nix that plan; we did one show in a Brooklyn living room and another in a Fringe festival, both of which I'd written.
Around my fourth month, my friend Didi and I decided to go to a kissing party together. (If you’re NYC-based, a quick Google search will connect you with everything you need to make out with cute strangers; you’re welcome.) I made out with people of all different genders and shapes and ages, including one beautiful boy in a turquoise corset. A rich guy wearing Virgin Mary pants, Pablo, invited me and Didi to his loft afterward, enticing us with the words “hot tub on the roof”; at the time, I didn't realize that pregnant women are not supposed to enter hot tubs, but it ended up not mattering, because it was too cold to go in anyway. Instead, we ended up in an orgy with four other people in his “soft room” (it’s exactly what it sounds like). Pablo fetishized my pregnant body in a way that weirded me out a little, but he spent much more time with Didi than with me. Strap-ons were donned and discarded, orgasms were had, oral talents were discovered, and then Didi and I left and went to a diner.
I’ve never quite known how to describe my relationship with Didi: a sexual connection (with its roots in a very deep emotional connection), but one we really only pursue in combination with other people. I guess one way you could describe it would be “queer.”
Because “queerness,” to me, isn’t just about being L, G, B, or T. It’s about finding new models for relationships, for gender, for love, for life. I consider it more of a political word than a sexual one. It applies to my self-expression, it applies to my friendships, and it applies to my son’s new family. When my best female friends surprised me with a baby shower in a bar and gave me gifts that I could use after my son was born, that was queer. When they camped out in the hospital during my labor to welcome Leo to the world, that was queer. And when the same woman who went to kissing parties with me later held me while I sobbed after saying goodbye to my son, that, too, was queer.
I know exactly one other family who follows the same model as ours (gay men with an adopted son who sees his birth mother often). It’s been isolating to be one of the only families of our kind that we know of, but I’ve also found it tremendously freeing. With virtually any other family relationship, you have cultural expectations and ample examples of how that relationship is supposed to function — but we can just make it up as we go. We’ve spent Mother’s Days and Independence Days and holiday parties together. I sat with them as Leo blew out the candles at his first birthday party. I’ve picked Leo up from school and brought him to my apartment to play with my kitten and watch cartoons. My sister invited the daddies to her wedding, asking my son to be one of her ring bearers. It’s a loving, open, on-our-own-terms family.
That doesn’t mean it’s always been easy. Two days after giving birth, my son and I left the hospital separately, and I literally collapsed with grief. It hit me all at once. I spent my last day at the hospital cooing over Leo, signing paperwork, and entertaining visitors, my heart only twinging a couple of times. Then when Debbie told me it was time, I shoved everyone out of my room and held Leo to my chest. I said over and over, “I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this.” I walked him to the window and told him it was a big scary world out there, but I’d always be there for him. I said “I love you” again and again and again.
Then Debbie poked her head back in with a gentle smile, and we loaded him into a car seat. “This is really hard,” I said.
“I know,” she said.
The minute she left with Leo, I folded in half. Didi was there, and so was my other friend Emily, and they guided me to the bed so I could hold a teddy bear and sob without falling to the ground. I was crying so hard I couldn’t talk. But once I could, I said, “I still think I’m gonna do it.”
Even in that moment, I knew that I was doing the right thing. That this rainbow family was going to be the best possible option for my son, and for me. In the four years since the adoption was finalized, I’ve never once doubted that I made the best possible call. No matter what the future may hold.