Story Update: Andy Miller Talks About Fatherhood, Adoption and Parenting in a Quarantine.

by Andy Miller

Nathan: Welcome to this week’s Story Update. Today, we’re going to be speaking with Andy Miller, who shared his story with us about five years ago. But before we chat with Andy, let’s take a look at his story.

Andy: I’m Andy Miller and I’m from South Houston, Texas.

My partner and I decided that we wanted to be parents. So after a lot of planning, a lot of research, and frankly just a lot of blind faith, we started on an adoption journey. We started working with an agency in Austin, Texas, where we live.

It actually happened really fast for us. We matched to our son’s birth mother within probably a month of being with the agency. It was a bit of a whirlwind. We got a call on a Monday and said that someone wanted to speak with us and she was going to call us on Tuesday, she happened to just live in San Antonio, just down the street from where we lived, and we talked to her on Tuesday. On Wednesday we made a plan to drive down to San Antonio to meet her for dinner, meet her and her family. It went very well. By the time we got back to Austin we were told that she had picked us and then on Thursday we were invited to come back down because she was having a sonogram to figure out the sex of the child.

So we said, “Yes, sure, of course we’ll come down.” And we drove down to San Antonio again and we found out we were having a little boy. We also found out she was very pregnant and in fact her doctor was saying they were going to perform a c-section on the following Thursday. So we had all of one week after finding out the sex of the child that we were going to be bringing a baby home.

The following Thursday, we drove down to San Antonio, checked into a hotel, went to the hospital, our birth mother was wheeled into surgery, c-section was performed, our beautiful son was born. We went into our birth mother’s room after she was wheeled out of surgery, she was recovering. When they brought our son in, it was amazing to hold him for the first time to get to see her interact with him the first time.

We went out to eat, went to grab something out of the hospital, and went over to a local mall that was near the hospital. And the strange thing was, there was just no cell service there so we were completely isolated. We ate, we talked, just decompressed a little bit. When we got back in range of cell service when we were walking back to the hotel, there were all these messages that popped up on our phone, and it was our son’s birth mother.

And she was crying, and she said, “Where are you? I need to talk to you.” And we rushed back to the hospital and she starts telling us that one of the nurses that was assigned to her to come in and check all of her sutures started asking her a lot of questions, starting with, “Aren’t you the girl that’s giving your baby up for adoption?” which is a huge red flag for us.  We went through adoption class and anyone who uses that term like “giving up a baby” is already coming to that conversation with some judgment.

And she said, “Yeah, I’m having a baby and he’s going to be adopted.”

“And you’re giving him to those two boys?”

She said, “Yes.”

And she said, “I don’t know how you’re going to do that. Aren’t you afraid he’s going to hate you for doing that?”

And she said, “Well, that’s not really any of your business.”

And the nurse just kept going on and on asking questions about, “Aren’t you afraid those boys are going to hurt that baby, aren’t you afraid that he’s not going to grow up and be normal?” And she got really upset so she just kind of shut down. We were very scared that we were going to fail to place, which is a common adoption term when the birth mother chooses not to place a child for adoption.

Fortunately, everything else seemed to go okay. We did have a fairly smooth experience where our social worker came in, talked to our birth mother, and she asked her many times, “Are you sure you want to do this? You can back out at any time” giving her plenty of opportunities to evaluate her situation to make sure she was of a clear mind. We were not allowed to be in the room during that process. We were downstairs in the lobby talking about our hopes of what was going to happen, but trying to be very practical and steel ourselves for our social worker coming off the elevator and telling us she changed her mind.

So we were sitting down there with my mother and being very calm, trying our best, and when our social worker came off the elevator and just kind of flashed us a thumbs up, all three of us just kind of broke down in tears at that point. We left the hospital completely freaked out because they just gave these two boys a baby, we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. But one of the best pieces of advice my mother gave me before she left was, “Just pay attention. Listen to the baby. He will tell you what he needs. If he’s hungry, he’ll tell you. If he needs to be changed, he’ll tell you. Not in words, but if you’re paying attention you’ll figure it out.”

No one’s given an easy ride when a child enters the world. There’s always two things that happen: Money exchanges hands and there is pain. It’s just a question of how those two things happen. And for the LGBT community, a lot of times the way it happens for us is, money exchanges hands between the adoption agency and prospective parents. And the pain is oftentimes emotional. It’s not physical pain that comes with the birth. But we’re all kind of more alike than different in that regard.

Nathan: Okay. That was an amazing, powerful story, just as I remember it. Andy, welcome to I’m From Driftwood Story Update. How are you doing?

Andy: I’m good. Thanks, Nathan. Good to see you.

Nathan: Yeah, you too. So, I have a lot of questions about your story. But the first one that I want to ask is how are – this was five or six years ago. How is being a dad five or six years later? How’s fatherhood treating you?

Andy: It’s good. It’s different. As most parents will tell you, everything’s a phase. So we are in… at the beginning of the teenage years. So our son is in middle school and turned 13 this year, in the middle of a pandemic, which was weird.

But things are good. Things are good. We’re spending a lot of time together right now. You know, both me and my husband are working from home. Clark is doing school from home. So we’re always together.

Nathan: That’s good. That’s, you know, brings a family closer together than ever, I’m sure.

Andy: Yeah. I’m not sure how great it is for a teenager. You know, I’m remembering my teenage years and I’m not sure I’d want to spend all day every day with my parents. but you know, we’re making the best of it.

Nathan: I’m sure. I’m sure y’all are doing great. So, about the content of your story, I was wondering if since that time, you know, that was, I think you said your son is 13 now. So 13 years ago when he was first being born and you know, y’all were going through the adoption process and you went through that homophobic experience with a nurse. Have you experienced anything like that since? Whether it’s in school or from other doctors or neighbors or anything at all, where there was any sort of homophobia directed at you because you’re gay parents?

Andy: You know, I really feel fortunate, you know, with the fact that we live in Austin, Texas, which is pretty progressive. We have really accepting families. We’ve really been surrounded by a community of folks who have been very supportive of us being parents. So, you know, other than kind of, you know, a random – and I wouldn’t even say it’s ill-intended – but just kind of intrusive question that someone may have had. And that was really early, early days. As we’ve gotten older and I don’t know if I just don’t pay attention to it anymore or, you know, times have just changed, but we really don’t get a whole lot of weird looks. People take, our son having two gay dads as, you know, just a matter of course.

And you know, we’re seeing our story represented more and more every day, whether it be in media, in books, on film. I mean, it’s really been cool to see how frequent, you know, parenting by the LGBTQ community is being shown. You know, when we started 13 years ago, there weren’t a whole lot of examples. And when there were, they were treated as these really rare occurrences. But I will say in the last 13 years, we have met so many people who chose to become parents. And then, people who we’ve met who said that they, you know, didn’t see that for themselves ever, they’re parents. So I think that we’re really seeing a shift in our culture, where, you know, people from the LGBTQ community being parents, it’s just not a big deal.

Nathan: That’s true. I mean, I think it’s… a lot of it is representation and, you know, seeing people like you and understanding that you’re not the only ones going through that. Were there any resources that y’all used that you would recommend to any other, you know, LGBTQ parents who were considering adoption or becoming parents?

Andy: Yeah, we… we spend a lot of time on social media, looking at groups and looking at resources that people were sharing on those platforms. So there were obviously books, and there were, you know, Facebook groups and others, and, you know, the work that we did, with The Handsome Father really connected us to a lot of other gay dads across the country. People that we still connect with today. You know, we decided to sunset The Handsome Father probably about four years ago because we were just finding that, you know, it wasn’t needed anymore.

You know, people were connecting with one another locally and I always used to joke, you know, the odds of you moving, you know, on to a block with that also had, you know, like some gay parents on it was pretty rare. And then what I found that it wasn’t that rare anymore. People were finding connections in their local communities for other gay parents. So they weren’t going online as much.

I’ll say personally, we’ve created a network of people here in Austin that we are close friends with and almost all of our friends have kids. We do… we do an annual family vacation to Mexico and invite friends and their kids. And one year we had nine families join us, all gay dads…

Nathan: Oh wow.

Andy: …with kids, which was awesome because not only did the dads get to spend time together and, you know, share, you know, their common experiences, but also the kids were able to hang out with one another and they didn’t really, you know, it wasn’t a big deal. You know, they didn’t have to explain why they had two dads.

Nathan: That’s so great to hear. And I can only imagine how great that is for all those families to have each other too. And also for the kids to have, you know, friends who were… who were in the same scenario. So that’s… that’s great all around.

Another question I had is, you know, it seems like y’all had a really good rapport with the birth mother. And I was wondering if you all kept in touch or if your son is in touch with her or how that has worked? Or, you know, or was it like, you know, maybe they prefer just like a clean break? What’s that? What’s that been like?

Andy: Well, we were fortunate in that, you know, the terms of our open adoption were that, you know, we would exchange contact information and agree to stay in touch. And what that resulted in was we would get together, once a year, typically around the holidays.

So either Thanksgiving or Christmas. And she and her family don’t live that far from us. So, you know, probably about an hour and a half. So we were able to either travel there or they traveled here and we would have a meal together, talk about what’s been going on for the last year.  Our son was able to see, you know, his birth mother and his siblings and, and we’ve always treated it really, just upfront and clear, you know, with him as to who they were and the circumstances around his adoption.

And we’ve also said, you know, family is family and everybody’s family looks different. You know, some families consists of a mom and dad. Some consists of two dads. Some consists of a single parent. Some kids live with their grandparents. Some kids live in the same city with all of their extended relatives and some live far away and only see their… their relatives on special occasions.

So, you know, his birth family happens to live an hour away. We see them once a year, they’re still a part of his family. And hopefully as he grows, he’ll decide for himself, like, what type of relationship he wants to have with them, you know, as an adult. But right now, you know, we’re just happy that he has access and there’s no mystery and he doesn’t have, you know, unanswered questions about where he came from or the circumstances around his adoption or who he’s related to. He has access to all that. And quite frankly, you know, as a teenager, he seems pretty unfazed by it. You know, he’s like, Okay. You know, it doesn’t… doesn’t… doesn’t really express a lot of concern or anxiety around issues that I think he just takes as a matter of fact about his family.

Nathan: That’s amazing. So it really seems as though just open, honest communication is the way to go and it’s no big deal. And yeah, that’s great. He’s very lucky to be in such a great family is as y’all are to have him in your family. Is there anything else going on in your life that you wanted to share before we sign off?

Andy: You know, things are going well. I mean, there’s really… it’s amazing how fast time goes by. It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since we spoke and certainly hard to believe it’s been 13 years since we brought our son home from the hospital. So I’ve heard that from other parents. It goes by fast, you know, try to… try to hold onto the moments that you’ve got, but at the same time, you know, you try to… you try to do what you need to do, you know, when you’re called to do it. And you know, parenting is hard and there’s no instruction manual to it.

So, yeah, but I’m amazed. That’s… that’s the biggest thing is how fast time goes by. And it’s hard to think that, you know, at 13 we could only have him for another five years before, you know, he could go off to college. So that’s really kind of sobering to think about.

Nathan: Yeah. Well, I wish you all the… even, well, you wanted more time before he runs off and you’re certainly getting it now.

Andy: I should’ve been more specific. Maybe not this much time together.

Nathan: I’m sure you’ll all look back on this time with great memories and experiences. So, Andy, it was so good to see you again, you for taking the time to chat with us and catch us up on… on you and your family. So all the best to you and them and, for everyone else, check back next week for our next Story Update. And if you have any questions for Andy, or about adoption in general, leave them in the comments and maybe Andy can check back periodically to answer some of them, but until then see you all next week. Thanks for watching.

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