For Eric Ross and Mat Wood, July 7, 2007 was an especially lucky day. “We had our first date on seven-seven-seven, the luckiest day,” says Eric, an LGBT activist and former Chapter Leader for Marriage Equality USA. From that first date, their good fortune has continued, including their Disneyland dream wedding in April, 2011.
But one of the most significant events for Eric and Mat, who combined their last names to become the Rosswood’s when they combined their lives through their marriage, came two years later, in 2013, when the couple combined their lives with yet another by adopting an infant son. The decision to have a child was an easy one—the couple already knew they wanted to have a family. “We talked about kids on our first date,” Eric recalls.
However, deciding exactly how to begin that family was not as easy. “For same-sex couples starting a family, it can be more complicated than one might think,” Eric says. He adds that the possibilities when beginning the journey to becoming parents are endless. “We didn’t know how we would want to start out. Adoption, surrogacy, fostering.” The number of options available led to the couple putting an astronomical amount of hours into research, beginning with various agencies, a frustrating process.
“When I was researching, what I was finding was from the perspective of the agency. My challenge became finding people, those who had been through the process so we would know what to expect. There can be travel logistics, financial issues, legal issues in different states and countries.”
Then, still more decisions to be made, including what type of adoption, but that issue found resolution too. “After my husband and I researched different paths for almost two years, we talked long and hard about it, and we decided that open adoption would be best for us. We liked what it offered, such as staying in contact with birth parents.” He says deciding factors included having an open connection for their child’s heritage and medical background.
Eventually, they found their ideal agency, and then they were on to the next step, which meant that they were on the “being researched” end of the spectrum. “In open adoption, the birth parents choose who they want to place their child with,” Eric explains. The birth parent takes the time to research who they want to have their child, and make sure it’s a good place for their child to grow up. The contact can be as much or as little as people want.”
The next decision was then made: the birth mother chose Eric and Mat, and the couple was present at the birth of their son. Eric says that, now, two years later, they are like one big extended family. “We talk to the birth mother once a week. We have face time so they can see each other and talk to each other. We send photos all the time, and we visit in person once a year. Our son has a half-brother and half-sister, and he knows that they’re family.” That means their son also has special names for the adults in the family. “He calls his birth mother “Mum,” influenced by Mat’s British heritage.” He calls Eric “Dad” or “Daddy,” and Mat is “Pop.”
When it comes to activities and childcare, both Dad and Pop have their own roles, as well as sharing many. Eric, who continues his career as a writer, now from home for The New Civil Rights Movement, which allows him to be a stay-at-home dad, says, “I’m pretty much the one that does most of the childcare responsibilities. Our son keeps me busy right now, too, with activities like swim classes.” Mat, Chief Financial Officer for a large law firm has his role too, at night and on weekends. “Mat does diaper changes and the bedtime story,” Eric says. “He does things on the weekends, like the park. He’ll probably be helping more with the home work, especially math. That’s not my forte.”
Eric adds that it is he, however, in somewhat the more disciplinarian role. “I’m probably the one that’s more strict, just because I’m here all the time. I’m the rule enforcer.” He adds, “Our son is two, so he’s testing boundaries right now.”
Outings together for Eric, Mat, and their son include an annual trek to Disneyland. “We go for every October for ‘Gay Days,’” Eric says. “Starting before our son was born.” And of course, the theme park can’t help but bring back memories of their Disney wedding.
The conclusion is that there are definitely challenges to the adoption process. “Another challenge, also,” Eric says, “is the emotional challenge, the high stress that comes with adoption. Everything is unpredictable while it’s happening. People have to keep open. It can be stressful on relationships.”
When asked about advice concerning parenting for same-sex couples, this couple has plenty of helpful hints and suggestions, so many that Eric has put them together in a book, Journey to Parenthood (New Horizon Press). His guide, due out in early 2016, is designed to help prospective parents explore the many paths to parenthood, including adoption, surrogacy, assisted reproduction, foster parenting, and co-parenting. It is based on real experiences from people who have taken the parenting journey, and includes the answers to a multitude of questions including what couples should ask themselves before proceeding.
In spite of the challenges, there has been plenty of good luck for this family, beginning with Eric and Mat’s meeting on the ultimate “good luck day,” July 7, 2007. But now they are planning on bringing even more luck to their family. “We’re in the middle of a move to Kansas,” Eric explains. “After that, we’d like to adopt more children in the future.”
Sarah Howery Hart is a California-based freelance magazine writer, and author of the first in her series of murder mysteries, Catch ‘n Release: The Game. Avaliable now on Amazon.com!
Website URL: http://www.sarahhoweryhart.com