Second-parent Adoption: A trip to D.C.

By Stephanie Bryan

stephanie and des blAfter being home with our two baby girls, Lily and Mia for almost two months, it’s hard to feel anything other than total elation. We were dreaming about this for so long, wondering how it could all work out, and now our twin baby girls are here. While a little bit tired, we are overjoyed! The stress of our trip to D.C. and lack of sleep, and the confusion that came with our newfound motherhood are all so minor compared to the overwhelming joy that our babies have brought us. Our family is perfectly healthy and happy. Our support system of friends, family and neighbors has been more compassionate and caring than we ever could have imagined. This part of our adventure is just beginning, but the story of deciding to be lesbian parents in Virginia started long before we traveled to D.C. last month where my wife, Desiree, gave birth.

I am so grateful we could deliver in D.C., and looking back, I realize how lucky we were. Though we were ready for the preparation, costs, and risks that would come with the drive to DC, we almost didn’t make it. Our doctors thought Desiree might have preeclampsia, and we spent hours at the hospital in Richmond receiving different opinions about being able to travel in her condition. We left as soon as we were cleared. We arrived at Sibley Memorial Hospital in D.C., were greeted by a very welcoming staff, and stayed the night in the hospital. The following afternoon, our girls were born.

We committed to the risks and the costs because, for us, it was a step we could take to protect our girls. When all is said and done we will have paid nearly $10,000 in travel, attorney’s fees and the two adoptions; not to mention the emotional cost of being away from our friends and family, with an unfamiliar hospital and doctor, more than two hours from home. But the return from those costs is even greater: our girls will have both of us as their legal parents.

We didn’t choose to leave Virginia so I could be recognized as their parent on paper. It is so much more than that.  It was to protect the basic rights of our daughters, so they can grow up in a family that is as secure as those around us.  It was so if I die, they will have access to my social security benefits. It was so in case we encounter less-than-friendly doctors or school officials that both Desiree and I have the responsibilities of legal parents – and the paperwork to prove it.

If Virginia recognized second parent adoptions, I could have had all the rights of a parent without having to leave the commonwealth. Desiree could have given birth to Lily and Mia at home, like anyone else. We could have driven down the road to the hospital, our friends and family would have been nearby.  Right now, the laws in Virginia create different classes of families, even within lesbian couples: those who give birth in DC, and those who don’t, either by choice or by circumstance.

Desiree and I feel very fortunate to have been able to afford the costs to be recognized as legal parents of two beautiful baby girls, and are thankful to be assured of their secure future with the protections they now have. Our hearts go out to the families that aren’t yet recognized by Virginia as parents, but we know that those moms and dads are just as worthy of that title. One day, Virginia will too.

The Washington Post covered our story. You can read it here.

This blog is part of Equality Virginia’s summer 2014 blog series on second-parent adoption.  Learn more about how Equality Virginia is working toward second-parent adoption and get involved by signing up to receive our emails!  Another great way to stay in touch is by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter.    If you are a same-sex couple raising a child in Virginia, please take our survey on second-parent adoption

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