Originally published Nov. 30, 2021
Ever since they first considered having kids, New Jersey husbands Tom Tracy and Elliott Wilson had an agreement in place; every January, they would decide whether or not it was the right year for them to really pursue starting a family. If they decided the answer was no, the topic would be off the table until the next new year.
“It was a way of not letting that conversation invade every day of our year,” Tom said. “That was the structure we set for ourselves.”
In 2016, the couple agreed it was time to start along their path to parenthood. So they signed on with an adoption agency in Pennsylvania, and put together their profile in the hopes of being selected by a birth mother.
Their first match happened very quickly. Their first profile submission went to the birth mom of their oldest daughter, Alice Catherine. And theirs was the first profile she read.
“That was it,” Elliott said. “She immediately chose us, we had a conference call to get to know each other, and we got the official matched designation in May 2016, three months into her pregnancy.”
Since the husbands were chosen to be adoptive parents so early, they got to spend the last six months of the pregnancy getting to know the birth mom and her family, and preparing for their baby girl to come home.
“It was a wonderful anticipation,” Tom said. “We had in-person meetings too. We put a planned nursery together, we got to be told about the gender reveal, it was so much fun. We’re very lucky to have had that time.”
Although they had been preparing for her arrival for six months, Alice Catherine came a few weeks ahead of schedule. So the dads weren’t able to be in the room when she entered the world. Instead, Tom learned of her birth by getting a phone call from Elliott in the middle of a staff meeting. He said he promptly broke down crying tears of joy, before his colleagues urged him to go meet his daughter.
A few years passed before the dads decided to go for baby number two. They started by becoming foster parents first, hoping to go the route of fostering-to-adopt. They had a few children placed in their home, but none who ended up being with them long-term.
“New Jersey has a very strong reunification philosophy, and so it was a couple of years fostering-to-adopt that really never panned out. We were both getting older, but one of us is older in this relationship,” 51-year-old Tom smiled, as 37-year-old Elliott pointed to his husband. “And if we wanted to have a second child… We said we needed to maybe increase our odds by doing both. So we continued to remain open to fostering, but then went back into private adoption too.”
Apart from the legal aspects and the logistics, Tom and Elliott’s second adoption was nothing like their first. The couple signed on with another adoption agency in New Jersey in early 2020. After almost 18 months of nothing, they decided if they weren’t matched soon, they’d stop the search and just love their little family of three.
“We were getting ready for bed, and I said ‘I want you to know I’ve resigned myself to the fact that we won’t be selected by a birth mom. I’m OK if we don’t have a second kid,’” Elliott recalled. “Little did I know, earlier that day, our second daughter had been born.”
It was early August 2021, and the couple was about to leave on a family trip, when they got word that a baby had just been born and she needed an immediate adoptive home. They submitted their profile yet again to be considered as parents, and went about their day without much thought about it. Within a few hours, they were selected to be Micah’s dads. But there was no pregnancy or waiting period like they had with Alice Catherine. The baby was there.
Since they were getting ready for a vacation, their dogs were already being cared for, and they had taken time off work. So when they got the call that they had been chosen to adopt Micah, it felt like everything had fallen into place. They excitedly rummaged through their attic for old baby items, dropped Alice Catherine to Elliott’s mom’s house, and drove through the night to Albany, New York to meet their second child.
“We had zero time to prepare for Micah,” Elliott said. “When you’ve gone through one adoption, that’s it. They’re really all different.”
The dads also got to meet Micah’s birth mom, who they said is a wonderful, lovely person with her own set of circumstances that led her to adoption, which were different from Alice Catherine’s birth mom.
“Open adoption is beautiful,” Tom said. “The fact that Alice Catherine can have a playdate with her biological sister, and that Micah’s birth mom has a great relationship with us, minimizes the risk of emotional trauma for the children later on. We consider both their birth moms to be part of our extended family.”
Baby Micah has now been at home for about three months, and the dads are waiting to finalize her adoption. The sisters are starting to form their own bond, but Tom said it took some time to get there.
“We had about a month of transition, where we had some behaviors (from Alice Catherine,)” he explained. “But as long as you understand those behaviors are coming from somewhere, it helps you receive them with love and that helped us to help her get through this period well. Now, she wants to change a diaper, as long as it isn’t poopy! She comforts Micah when she cries. Sometimes she can get Micah to smile before we can. She has always shown us that she is resilient, and this was no different. She is very aware of her own adoption experience, and so she is excited for Micah’s adoption too.”
When it comes to advice for other dads considering adoption to form their families, Tom said he’s a total advocate for their chosen path to parenthood.
“My advice is to do it!” Tom smiled. “Be prepared for somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster, but that comes with the territory with any child. It’s just creating a family in a different way, if you feel in your heart you want to adopt, you should definitely pursue it.”
To help find your path to fatherhood through gay adoption, surrogacy or foster care check out the GWK Academy.