When I was in second grade, we had an assignment to write a story about what we wanted to be when we grew up. Then we had to draw ourselves as that person, cut it out and put it on a popsicle stick. Students drew doctors, nurses, bakers and race car drivers. I went the non-traditional route and drew a Dad. I wanted to be a Dad. Even at a young age, I always knew that’s what I wanted. After my teacher, Miss Dostert, reviewed everyone’s drawings, she came to me and told me I had to pick something else. I told her that I wanted to be a Dad – but she said I had to pick an occupation. So I threw away my drawing of a Dad and decided that I’d be a farmer. I drew a farmer, taped it to the popsicle stick, and wrote my story about a life with cows and growing vegetables.

Being a father was always something that I knew would happen for me – somehow. I knew that, as a gay man, that wouldn’t be able to happen the traditional way. But I knew that it would happen. At the age of 27, my partner and I decided that we wanted to adopt a child. For some people, it’s very important to have a surrogate carry their biological child. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that – it just wasn’t a necessity for me. I knew that being able to help a child out of a difficult situation was the way that we wanted to go. 

At age 28, I traveled with my Mom to the Ukraine for five weeks. I worked with an agency and adopted as a single man (because at the time, they wouldn’t allow same sex couples to adopt). My mother and I pulled up to the orphanage, opened the door and walked down the hall to meet my daughter for the first time. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so excited and nervous at the same time. Her parents had given her up for adoption. Not because they didn’t love her, but because they couldn’t afford to give her the life that they felt she deserved. Their love for her led them to a very difficult choice. In my eyes, it’s the most selfless thing a person could ever do for her child.

At age 34, my partner, our daughter and I traveled to Guatemala for our second adoption. She was a 1 year old that had been given up for adoption because her mother could not afford to keep her. The moment that we saw her, she lit up the hotel room. I’ll never forget, as long as I live, there was a knock on the hotel room door. When we opened the door, the foster family literally handed her over to us with a few belongings. This little girl grasped onto my shirt, put her head on my shoulder, and the rest is history. I have no doubt that her mother loved her as well, but again, wanted to be able to provide her a better life.

For the last 20 years, Mother’s Day is one of the hardest days of the year for me. Not because I don’t want to celebrate all the amazing Moms in the world. It’s because I think of the heartache and sacrifice that their birth mothers had to endure. And sometimes it’s hard to reconcile that with the joy, love and memories that the girls have brought into our lives. They’ve given me a gift that I get to enjoy every day of my life.

If I could tell their birth mothers one thing, it’s that our daughters have thrived, and that they are loved unconditionally. The girls have become the types of people we need more of in the world. They’re caring, kind, compassionate and loving members of society. And I would tell their birth mothers thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for bringing the girls into the world. There are a lot of accomplishments I’ve had through my life, but none more rewarding than being their father. I always say that I used up all my good karma by having my daughters come into my life. If I don’t have another good thing happen to me, I’d still consider myself the luckiest guy in the world.

And I would say to my second-grade teacher that if someone wants to be a Dad, let them be a Dad. Because I think it’s one of the greatest accomplishments any person could achieve. And I will say I’m a much better Dad than I would have been a farmer.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms, stepmoms, bonus moms and birth mothers out there. I hope you have a beautiful day.