“I was working at a nightclub on Bourbon Street and stepped into the back. He sat at a desk filling out a new-hire work form. At this moment, it was like time stopped. It was like the beating of the bass from the music on the dance floor silenced, and all I could hear was my own heartbeat. I still remember what the room smelled like, I even remember what we were wearing. I couldn’t look away as if I was frozen. I knew instantly this was the very moment I had prayed for. This was him. People often ask me if it was love at first sight. My answer to them is always ‘absolutely.’
It was about a year after Katrina and New Orleans was starting to get put back together again. I was still pretty shaken by the experience, so to have him in my life now was comforting. My only one unique rose. Although we had found each other, we still had a lot of growing to do. Our twenties were wild, to say the least. New Orleans doesn’t sleep. The bars never close. So, spending so many nights in the club meant we also saw so many sunrises. Once the sun came up, we would dart out of the bar and cover ourselves like an Anne Rice character from ‘Interview with the Vampire.’ We would run to his old Volvo wagon and quickly drive out of the French Quarter. He was so spontaneous and I loved it. Some mornings we’d walk to Audubon Park and climb trees. My favorite mornings were spent on the levee of the Mississippi river flying kites.
Afterwards he’d take me down to the railroad tracks by the river bend and smash coins under the train wheels. After the train would pass he would pull out ‘The Little Prince,’ one of his personal favorite books. Douglas read, ‘There may be millions of roses in the world, but you’re my only one, unique rose.’ As he continued, all I could do was melt into the grass. As he looked down reading I couldn’t help but cry a little. I knew even more in this moment this was the boy I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Once we cleaned up our act there was no stopping us. It was like something ignited in us and we had a burning desire to make something happen for ourselves. This became more evident by the day. Douglas decided he wanted to pursue a career that would allow him to help people who have a history of substance abuse.
At first, all of the local universities rejected his application. The community college accepted him, but pressured him to enroll in an air-conditioner repair program, saying medical school was too lofty of a goal for someone like him. He pushed forward anyway and ended up getting a full scholarship to Loyola University. He went to college and also started a fundraiser to bring scientific instruments to local classrooms across New Orleans by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. After Loyola, he graduated from LSU New Orleans School of Medicine. He is now a doctor of medicine in a psychiatry residency program, which will allow him to practice a mind-and-body approach for substance abuse.
We had no idea what 2015 would bring. In December of 2014, he asked me to marry him. We had talked about what we hoped to accomplish in our lives, but we had no idea what 2015 was going to bring. In April of that year, we became first-time homeowners. Then in June, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, and on August 1st of 2015, we were the first gay couple married inside of Jackson Square in the French Quarter! Come November, our first daughter was born. We were elated! It all seemed surreal. We had always dreamt of the day we both would become dads. In the beginning of our search, we were told our adoption wait could be anywhere from 5-7 years because we were a gay couple. To our amazement, we waited a mere three and half weeks.
Although it was a short amount of time to wait, it was still super emotional and very hard at times. Some days it seemed like the adoption would happen, and others it seemed like it wouldn’t. Our baby was born prematurely and she had to stay in the NICU. She was born at 30 weeks, and because of this the original adoptive family backed out of the adoption and left our angel without a family to go home to. Then the birth mom felt it may have been a sign for her to keep the baby. And she did. For four days. I was an emotional wreck. I couldn’t stop crying for days. Douglas was upset too, but he was there for me, he held me and let me cry on him. It absolutely strengthened our already solid bond. He was and is my rock. On the fourth day, the birth mom decided to change her mind. As life would have it, we were indeed allowed to adopt our baby girl!
After all of this drama, I guess we did what any parent would do in that moment. We ran to Target! We had about a month to plan and get the nursery ready. After a long month of gaining weight and getting stronger, she was discharged from the NICU. On December 4th, we got to bring our tiny angel home. That was the best Christmas—EVER. All of a sudden, she made us see everything that was clearly important. Our every move revolved around her and her well being. Every single decision then and now is made with our whole family in mind. If it’s not good for one, it isn’t good for any of us. For ten years I was the general manager of a popular restaurant in the French Quarter. About a year and a half after we adopted our first daughter, our second daughter was born. It was then I left the restaurant and became a stay-at-home dad. Douglas and I both felt strongly about one of us being home with the girls. I knew this was my calling.
A couple of months into the transition into my new stay-at-home dad role, I really felt like our journey could help someone. I created my blog and began to write. I wrote about my past lessons of life and what we had learned so far in parenthood. I write about my insecurities and learning how to embrace who I am. Being a family with two dads makes it obvious whenever you walk into places. People often stare. Most of the time it is innocent and purely out of curiosity. For many around here, especially living in the south, people aren’t exposed to same-sex families often. When they finally see one, they tend to watch very closely. For me, it’s like we are unicorns and we have finally been spotted for the first time. I constantly tell myself this is a teaching moment for them. They probably have never seen a family like ours before and they are curious. I suppose if we need to be the ones to help teach them, then so be it.
Recently we went out to eat and there was a family sitting beside us. They were obviously disgusted. I admit, it hurt. Sometimes people ask ignorant questions like ‘Who is the mom?’ or ‘How will you talk to her about girl problems?’ and this is much easier to shrug off. We try so hard to be good parents. God knows I am so much of a better father than my own. To have someone look over with such hatred validates the reasons I started my blog. The silence is what hurts me. I am an incredibly intuitive and sensitive person. I know when someone has iced me or doesn’t want me in their lives. The most hurtful situations has come from my own family. Like I said earlier, we live in the south and people down here can be religious and hypocritical. My ‘life choices’ interfere with their messed up view of society, and because of this they are absolutely absent in my life. At first it hurt, but now I am strong enough to know I have too many people who love me and my family to worry about someone who doesn’t.
I am so lucky to have a mother who loves us unconditionally and stands up for us regularly. She is my best friend and I will always admire her strength. We love our children just as any other straight family does. Just like them, we would do anything on earth for our babies. We do this every single day, regardless if we are two dads. We are the family who sits around the dinner table and talks about our day. We are the ones who walk the dog and ride our scooters down the sidewalk. We are the neighbors who bake you cookies or pies. We are the ones who go to Costco and look down and realize we put two different shoes on our baby. But most importantly, we are the family who can laugh at ourselves.
It is my mission to broaden the one-sided view of the stereotypical American family. We too are living the American dream. Douglas and I have been together thirteen years. We live in an incredibly divisive time, and right now visibility is critical to help normalize same-sex families. We are the new normal, a loving family who teaches our children acceptance of all walks of life and the importance of being kind to one another. Our place in this world is earned, not owed. This journey is beautiful. I am beyond grateful to the universe for allowing me to find my purpose in life. The gratitude I get daily from my girls easily allows me to overlook the stares from onlookers and the occasional ignorant bigot. Who knows? Maybe the hatred they spew comes from a place in their heart longing to find the kind of love radiating from each of us.
It is so important to embrace each other for all we are, all we bring, and all we stand for. Let us all lead by example—while showing our children who their parents are by being respectful and tolerant of everyone. Even if you do not agree with them, you can always be respectful. We have already started teaching our oldest to be kind. This is what inspired me to write my new children’s book, ‘Addie Underwater,’ to help teach kids accept differences in families. As their minds expand we will approach deeper concepts, like understanding how all people are different. And being different is another word for beautiful.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Erik Alexander. You can follow their journey on Instagram, Facebook, and their website. Purchase Erik’s new children’s book here. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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