Signs that read ‘One Man, One Woman, Yes on 36’ lined the gorgeous farmland of Marion County Oregon. Proposition 36 called for a vote to change Oregon’s Constitution. The change replaced language which stated, “anyone over 18 can marry…” with, “a man and a woman over 18 can marry…” Mark and I noticed the irony of our situation as we drove our newborn daughter around Silverton, Salem, and Portland. The anti-gay signs were large, loud, and angry but our experience over a few days in this otherwise charming part of the country was free of negativity. In contrast we witnessed a remarkably generous woman give birth to our daughter in a very welcoming environment.
The birth took place in Oregon because Jessica (our surrogate) lives there and the state’s position on gay second parent adoption is slightly more liberal than California’s. Jessica chose Silverton Family Birth Center considering its small size and proximity to her home. I didn’t take notice of the word ‘family’ in the title of the facility until days after the birth. Upon reflection of our experience, I realize the center’s atmosphere and service affirm its name.
Portland’s Hotel Lucia had chilled Domaine Ste. Michelle waiting in our room when we arrived in Portland a few days before the birth with a note reading, “Congratulations! We wish you the best of luck. Enjoy your time in Portland.” Apparently Mark let the staff know about our cause for celebration. He’s so cute. Parenthood was around the corner, so we popped the cork. The following day, we went with Jessica for her weekly check-up and she decided to induce labor the next day because dilation and contractions had started.
The day of the delivery, everything was very clinical and the staff was upbeat, happy, and professional. Jessica’s husband was with us and he added humor to the experience. Potocin was administered mid-morning and Chloe was born at 8:14PM. I cut the cord after the birth and a nurse rapidly cleaned and swaddled our newborn before placing Baby in my arms for her first feeding. Hubby was recording everything on video but he lightly pried his daughter from my arms for his first fix. We introduced Chloe to Jessica within minutes of the delivery, so she could also marvel at her accomplishment. Surrogate and child shared a few precious moments before Hubby and I followed a nurse as she wheeled our daughter to the nursery. We trailed in a state of bliss and we couldn’t look away from the miracle who’d just entered our lives. I had seen this daughter of mine when she was only a few quivering cells under a microscope, and now she’s a breathing, screaming baby!
The hospital staff encouraged us to bond as a family by offering a quiet room with chairs, a bed, and a TV. We spent most of two days at the Center sharing the bed and watching our Chloe’s facial expressions change from minute to minute. American League baseball was muted on the TV, which added a bit of testosterone to the experience. Several nurses stopped by to demonstrate the proper way to swaddle a newborn (there seem to be 4 or 5 proper ways). We also watched and learned during her first bath. Each member of the staff was warm, welcoming and helpful. We never sensed homophobia, and employees didn’t overcompensate with extra attention as if our situation was extraordinary, different, or the least bit queer.
Jessica stayed at the hospital one night after the birth and Baby stayed two nights. Her husband assured us Jessica was feeling optimistic but melancholy about leaving Baby behind. We felt the sense of sadness from Jessica as she took photos of us and said goodbye before leaving the hospital, but we promised to share pictures and updates to keep Jessica somewhat tethered to this person she’d grown to know during the pregnancy. A few days later we received an email from Jessica to let us know she’s ready to carry our second child!
Over a week’s time we traveled along central Oregon’s Interstate 5 several times from our hotel to our attorney’s office to the birthing Center and we didn’t passively drive by the political signs – we drove through them as if they stood in our path of progress. Political yard signs don’t speak for everyone in the community. Pockets of friendly and progressive people exist in every corner of the country. We don’t rely on a majority vote to live our lives and grow our family. Regardless of the political outcome of Oregon’s Proposition 36 and other anti-gay maneuvers like it, Mark, Chloe, and I will continue to live our lives as if the result doesn’t matter. There’s no other choice for us. For us, there’s no other way to live.