Adoption was always the first choice for Joe Motowidlak and husband Roberto Martinez when it came to starting a family. They went the private adoption route, ended up with two different attorneys and had two very different adoption journeys, that lead to two daughters born within a couple of months to one another. Although Joe and Roberto wouldn’t change a thing, they consider themselves incredibly fortunate to have the family that they have and are the proud dads with full hearts to their two infant daughters.
Joe met Roberto over 10 years ago when he was working at the Animal Kingdom in Orlando. When the two met, they were both in relationships, but it was clear the attraction was there from the start. Roberto’s relationship ended first, and when he heard about issues occurring in Joe’s relationship, he made it clear to Joe that he wanted to be the first person Joe called if it did indeed end. “And I did,” said Joe. “Two days later we went out on our first date, and we’ve been happily together ever since!”
Joe, 34, and Roberto, 39, were legally married in Connecticut in 2014, and had a commitment ceremony – which they consider their wedding anniversary – on February 13, 2015.
When the dads first started researching their options to become fathers, they already knew adoption was the right path for them. “We had decided that we had a lot of love to give, and what better than to give it to a child who was in need of it,” said Joe. They started their journey in 2017 through the private adoption route and began moving forward with a birth mother the following year in June who was due 25 December 2018. “We talked to her on Google voice, sent her birthday gifts, the whole nine yards,” said Joe, explaining their relationship with the birth mom. “In November we flew out to California to meet her for the first time and we hung out all weekend.”
After the husbands returned to Florida, the birth mom became very distant. “She did a complete 180 without any explanation why,” Joe continued. “Our lawyer told us to get out there well before the due date as the baby was likely to come early because [the birth mother] had gestational diabetes.”
The dads-to-be flew out on December 2 only to discover the baby had been born November 30, 2018. A few days went by, and they were able to meet baby Mia for the first time at a local Red Robin. The dads were allowed to hold her when they met. Sadly, after that meeting, the birth mom cut continuous contact with the dads. “We stuck around waiting for some sort of answer, as it was very touch and go with any sort of movement forward,” remembered Joe. “One day the birth mom would respond, and other days she wouldn’t. After about two weeks of this, she told the lawyer she didn’t know if she could do it. So we flew back. It was the hardest thing ever. For five months we had a daughter on the way, and now, we had to start all over again.”
Joe and Roberto had a very difficult Christmas as they had believed they’d be sharing it with their little one. Packing up the baby supplies was even harder. But they decided the only thing they could do was get back into the process. “I didn’t want to wait, and neither did Roberto.”
A few days into the new year, they hired a different lawyer whom they found to be amazing. She helped them realize that the baby in California wasn’t theirs, and she had a very comforting demeanor about her, which the husbands knew they needed.
Within a couple of weeks, they were matched with a birth mom in Arizona, who was due on February 12. But a week before they were due to fly to Arizona, the birth mom from California called Roberto in a panic: she was in danger of losing the baby to CPS due to circumstances in her life.
“She wanted us to come to get the baby,” said Joe. “She had changed her mind… again.” The husbands had 24 hours to decide. “Go for just one, or go for two. Mind you, at any time the mother can change her mind up until she signs her papers. Roberto called me at work and told me she had phoned, and I lost it. It was like our baby had risen from the dead. People told us when we left California to put this behind us and never look back.”
They decided to go for two.
Joe and Roberto hoped on a plane, flew to California and got Mia on her two month birthday. They had to wait in the state for a little over a week until they were cleared to travel, then they drove with Mia to Arizona to welcome their second daughter, Elena. For Elena’s birth, they were allowed in the room and were able to cut her cord. “The birth mom was as sweet and accommodating as can be.” They waited until they could travel, then the new family of four flew back to Orlando.
“After we had the failed placement with Mia, I felt stupid,” said Joe. “I didn’t think I could put myself out there again like I did. We were very open, and honest with her birth mother, but in the end, it unfortunately wasn’t reciprocated. I felt like I couldn’t let my guard down like I did again. Our new lawyer, Cheryl Payne, who placed us with Elena really played the dual role of counselor and lawyer. To this day I think she was the only person who really treated us like people, and not a dollar amount or a number. That is what helped me move on. Roberto was very different and matter of fact about everything. He was very much my rock during that hard time.”
Both of the family’s adoptions are open and they have contact with both birth mothers. “As you can guess, our relationships with each mother is different, as our initial experience was different,” elaborated Joe. “We keep in contact via text and Facebook, and make sure they are aware of milestones in each girl’s life. We take each interaction one day at a time, and always act in the best interest of the girls.”
Today the forever family of four live right behind the Magical Kingdom and every day get to watch the fire works and hear the train whistle blow every morning. The girls are constantly mistaken for twins as they’re so close in age. “Orlando is very open and accommodating,” says Joe. “People are more confused when they ask us if they are twins, and we say ‘no, they’re sisters and they’re 10 weeks apart.’ And then just walk away casually.”
The dads have three simple words to others pursuing fatherhood: “Don’t give up. We have talked with several dads who have been through failed placements, and if they kept at it, they eventually became dads. Don’t be afraid to put your heart into the adoption process either. It will be hard, and it will get messy, but at the end of the day, if your heart is in it, it will be full at the end.”