Sunday, March 23, 2014

Finding Support as New Gay Dads

By Paul

Almost eight years ago, my office phone rang and after he asked me if I was sitting down, my partner said through a rush of tears “we are getting a baby.” I’ll call anyone a liar who says that hearing those words for the first time isn’t the most mind-bending, fear-inducing, stomach-falls-to-floor-then-heart-bursts-out-of-your-chest moment of sheer panic coupled with pure joy they’ve ever experienced. Your life, at that moment, changes forever. Seriously. YOU WILL NEVER BE THE SAME, and best of all (not really), you don’t have any concept of exactly what lies ahead.  You might think you do, but you don’t. 

Cheryl (CEO of The Pump Station & Nurtury™) has asked me to write about the experience we had all those years ago, and how being a part of a group of guys who were also going through the same experience might have helped us. There certainly wasn’t any such group, and while we were far from being “trailblazers” as gay dads, we didn’t know anyone else who had done this. We were living in Phoenix at the time. No need to say much more, right? So, in spite of the fact that we were both pretty spoiled and self-centered, we somehow managed to survive those first months, and today we have a happy, healthy, thriving almost-8 year old second-grader, who doesn’t flinch or bat an eye about the fact that his family looks different from the families of some of his friends. I think we’ve done ok so far. 

We survived those early days because, well, we had no other choice.  We signed up to be parents. There’s no “opt out” button on this process. You’re in. All in.  Forever. So, because we are both reasonably intelligent, we both have a fair amount of patience, we’re supportive of each other, and we had lightning-fast google capabilities, we managed to get through infanthood without any huge crises.  We did quickly come to realize how much our families meant to us, even if they weren’t able to be of much practical use due to distance, age, “no parenting experience”, etc.  And, we found a few friends who just seemed to “get it,” and were supportive in any way they could be. 

Would an organized group have helped us?  Oh, yes – without a doubt. As I think about how we struggled, and the seemingly monumental issues that we faced at the beginning, I think such a group would have helped us in two ways: First, there’s the list of practical decisions that have to be made at the time, which sometimes felt absolutely overwhelming. Things like “is swaddling really ok, or is it a form of torture?” “Are we going to regret giving him a pacifier?” “One of the dogs just licked his nose, and God knows where that mouth was just before – do we need to go to the doctor?” It would have been great to have had someone to talk to, who had already gone through it, or was experiencing it at the same time.  Someone who could say “Don’t worry about the fact that you put that pacifier in his mouth after picking it up off the kitchen floor without rinsing it off. He isn’t going to die.” A million and one practical considerations face new parents every day, and having someone to call, someone to ask, someone to reassure you would have been a great help to us. 

Then, there are the less practical, more emotional ways in which such a group could have helped us. I remember being deep into those first few months, and thinking that our world had started to shrink – it was all about him, and taking care of his needs, and making sure he was safe and healthy. While we tried to keep our lives “normal” (whatever that means), I think we got a bit lost in all of the responsibility of parenting. Would it have been helpful to go meet once a week or so with others who were dealing with the same challenges we were at the time? Absolutely. We were very fortunate that we didn’t experience much outward hostility about being two guys with a baby that clearly “belonged” to both of us.  But, it would have been nice to talk about how to deal with the occasional “cute baby, but where’s the mom?” comments from total strangers. 

We managed through those times, but in hindsight, it would have been so nice to have had a community of other dads to rely on, to laugh with, to support and be supported by. I strongly encourage anyone who is beginning the parenthood odyssey to seek out such a group and take advantage of the power of shared experience. You’ll survive this crazy ride no matter what, but sharing the journey will only expand the joy. 

Please join us at The Pump Station and Nurtury™ in Hollywood for our very first session of “My Daddies and Me”!  The class will meet on Mondays from 5:00-6:30 p.m. for an eight week session starting on Monday, April 28thFirst session is for babies born between October, 2013-February, 2014

Please email with your child’s namebirth dateand your phone number. Feel free to contact her if you have any questions. If your little one doesn’t fit but you’re interested in a class, please let us know.

My Daddies and Me classes include but are not limited to:
  • guidance for sleeping and eating
  • developmental play
  • attachment and separation
  • optimizing your baby’s capacities through your relationship
  • mindful parenting in challenging moments
  • the science of praise
  • supportive friendships with other dads
  • songs, movement, fun!
  • adjustment to parenthood
  • back to work/finding balance
  • partner issues/reconnecting after baby
  • preschool tips 
Beth Weisman, M.A., who has more than a decade of experience as an early childhood educator, and nursery school and Parent & Me director, is very excited to be leading this class.

And as an added bonus, when you sign up for the class you will also get to enjoy the following benefits:
  • 10% off all merchandise purchases*
  • Guidance and support from clinical therapists or health professionals with extensive background in early childhood development and parenting.
  • The support and friendship of other dads who will be part of your world for years to come! You can't put a price on that!

*Offer valid from registration through last day of session. Proof of I.D. will be required. Not valid to towards consults, classes, sale merchandise or online orders.