DAD I AM

By John Jericiau

“I cheerfully answered with one hand as I draped my new diaper bag over the stroller with the other (new dads must multitask, I’d been warned).”

My brand newborn son Ryan already had me twisted around his little pinky after the first twenty-four hours of the feeding/changing/sleeping cycle. As a single guy, I’d spent the previous seven months supporting (emotionally and financially) the out-of-town birthmother in the adoption process, but all of that didn’t matter after I first held my new son. I was drained but ecstatic. I was crying but content. And this was just Day One!

On his second day in my life we made our way to his first pediatrician’s appointment. Once we arrived I was excited to pop open the trunk and whip out his brand new stroller, just one of the hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of gifts I received from friends, family, and acquaintances who wanted to show support for the gay triathlete/”Baywatch” lifeguard/physical therapist who desperately wanted a child and chose adoption to fulfill that dream.

The new stroller was taking its time stretching out and opening at our parking spot after being folded in a box for so long. I almost didn’t answer the phone when I heard it ringing in my back pocket. I cheerfully answered with one hand as I draped my new diaper bag over the stroller with the other (new dads must multitask, I’d been warned). Whatever contorted position I was in when I answered that call was the position in which I froze for the full minute it took the person on the line to change my life forever.

IMG_9358What follows is a bit fuzzy. I remember that I robotically clipped Ryan back into his new car seat, and before I went to return the stroller to the trunk I held Ryan’s cheeks in my hands and stared deeply into his blue eyes, as if to burn the image of my face into his memory, and his into mine. I got onto the freeway to return to my house by the beach with the new nursery and new crib, watching for more of the time at Ryan in the rearview mirror and less of the time at the road in front of me. Of course when you want traffic to slow you down there is none; I was home before I knew it. I was carrying Ryan in through the back door when the front doorbell rang out like the town square bell before a hanging.

The adoption agency social worker had arrived with a used car seat, trying to console me with something about one window closing but another one opening, and reminding me that, as we had talked about many times, there had always been a chance that the birthmother would change her mind and want Ryan back. She transferred Ryan out of my car seat and into hers, and as she walked with Ryan out the door and to her car, along with him went a piece of my heart.

The pain was unimaginable. But I swore then and there that I would continue to work for the family that I’d longed for from a young age, at a time when the world swore that there was no place for a guy like me to be a dad.

I didn’t have to wait long. Just over two weeks after that horrendous experience, I met Alen, a fellow triathlete and physician who became and remains the love of my life. After an initial number of months warming up to the idea, Alen and I began the search, as a couple, for an adoptive newborn child. The search was difficult, to say the least. Lots of time and money was spent on connections that never panned out. One birthmother changed her mind a week before our newborn daughter’s birth, while another tested positive for drug use during the pregnancy. One birthmother disappeared into thin air at week 35, never to be heard from again.

A close friend of mine had had just about enough of this nonsense (her words). She volunteered her uterus, her womb, her body—all to help two guys become dads. After surrogacy contracts were written up, there were doctor appointments, daily injections, nausea, fatigue, and a lot of waiting. The dreaded call from the doctor would come ten days after each round of IVF—not pregnant. Again and again and again. Each time I re-lived the adoption failures. Each time a small part of me started to believe that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t meant to be a dad. Not a guy like me. Seriously.

When it rains, it pours. When one door closes, another opens. Add your own cliché to this story, which is about to take a turn for the better. Immediately upon leaving our IVF doctor’s office after what we swore would be our very last attempt at impregnating our surrogate (the procedures are not cheap, and our friend was forming scar tissue from all the injections she had to endure), the phone rang. Those days I was less fond of ringing phones, but I answered it anyway. Our adoption agency was on the other end. A birthmother had picked us as the adoptive parents of the baby growing inside her, she was completely sure of her decision, and the birth should be happening in the next couple of weeks!

We threw caution to the wind one last time, and before we knew it (a mere ten days later) we were welcoming into the world our first son, Devin, born May 22. We took it as a “meant to be” sign that his birth date matched the date of Alen’s birthday (June 22) as well as mine (December 22). And as if this twenty-second day wasn’t special enough, we got word from our IVF doctor that day that our surrogate, our friend, was indeed pregnant. On what we’d said would be our very last try.

“A few years of parenthood passed by, and the desire for one more child (maybe a girl?) was building.”

The months flew by after that. The pregnancy was a dream. I enjoyed every ultrasound, doctor’s appointment, and Lamaze class. I sang to my friend’s growing abdomen each day, and made sure she got plenty of rest each night. I’m not sure about her, but I wanted to savor this pregnancy for as long as possible. But our second son, in what has since been shown to be a lifelong quality, was impatient. We welcomed Dylan into this world exactly eight months after his older brother, in the early morning hours of January 22. Seriously.

A few years of parenthood passed by, and the desire for one more child (maybe a girl?) was building. It was our surrogate, our friend, who pitched the idea. Why not let me give it one more shot? she asked. With no good answer to that question, we found ourselves in the IVF doctor’s office, and then before we knew it the ultrasounds and Lamaze classes. We were pregnant with our third (and final) child.

Our third child was an instant fit for our family, but he is definitely his own person. He is fiercely independent, as displayed in his unwillingness to follow the pattern of the birth dates of the rest of the family. Dustin was born on 11/11, whose sum, if you didn’t notice, is 22. I’m surrounded by love in my family, and it was so worth the wait. I followed my dreams and learned that, yes, even a guy like me can be a dad. The happiness is unimaginable. Seriously.