It took a health scare to begin to awaken one man. Contributing writer Beth Hallstrom shares the story of two men and their journey to fatherhood in this week’s Huffington Post Gay Voices RaiseAChild.US “Let Love Define Family™” series installment.
The story of Steve Robles and Hector Ramirez and how they came to be ready for fatherhood contains enough plot lines to keep a soap opera running for years. Now, they are waiting for the next chapter in their amazing saga to unfold and hoping it will inspire others to foster and adopt.
Steve, 36, and 33-year old Hector, of Azusa, California, were friends for years before realizing a romance was brewing. They became a couple in 2009 and were married this year on March 27, surrounded by more than 120 family members and friends. Steve works as a personal assistant and Hector is a fourth grade teacher.
While their journey together toward fatherhood began two years ago, marriage and family was a road Steve had been down before -- but his past was very different from his present with Hector.
In his 20s, Steve was engaged to a woman. Yet, he said, "I had always known who I was inside."
Just after his 23rd birthday he came out as gay after a health scare left him examining his life and concluding he no longer wanted to live a lie.
"I was lying in the hospital bed and I heard the doctors and nurses saying I had made it there just in time. I realized I could die and those closest to me -- my Mother, my fiancée -- would never know the real me, only the me I allowed them to know," Steve explained.
He remained ambivalent, though, and later that year conceived a child with his now ex-girlfriend. The baby died during birth, leaving Steve reeling with grief.
"That's what makes the whole idea of having children now so special and exciting. It was always the plan for my life to have a family. I just never expected to have another chance," he explained.
Hector arrived at the concept of being a family man differently. He wasn't opposed to the idea, he said, he just couldn't imagine marriage and children being possibilities for him.
"For me, it was not necessarily part of the plan -- having children is more of an outcome of this relationship. It was the vibe we created together. I never expected a wedding and kids," Hector noted.
Steve added, "My ex-fiancée is still one of our good friends. We went to her wedding and she came to ours. Life took us exactly where we are supposed to be."
Where they are is by the phone, waiting for two phone calls: the first confirming them they are certified to foster and adopt children and the second telling them their agency, Five Acres, has a match.
"We've done everything on our end. Five Acres is completing the final approval of our certification. Now we're just waiting. And waiting. And waiting. The hardest part is walking past that empty bedroom," Steve said.
"It's an exacting process, but an exciting one," Hector continued. "We took a six-week class, filled out paperwork, had a home study, sat for individual interviews and an interview as a couple, then more paperwork. It's a lot of work, but the outcome is so special and worth it."
A chance find while browsing on Facebook led Steve and Hector to RaiseAChild.US and Jason Cook, who recommended Five Acres to them. They considered another agency, but found they were comfortable with the Five Acres staff and decided to start the adoption process.
"When it came down to other alternatives to starting a family, we never really even considered other options. We have had positive experiences with people who have fostered and adopted children within my own family as well as our friends. When it came to the two of us, we just knew that this was the avenue we should go down. It made sense to us," Steve explained.
While the certification process was rigorous, Hector said, "Everything went so smoothly. So many people told us it was going to be tough and that we would be grilled during the interviews. I think our positive attitude definitely made it easier."
"Also," Steve added, "this was years in the making. We knew what we were getting in to. We had done our homework and we are ready."
Like any other couple, Steve and Hector dreamed about what their child -- or children -- will be like. They said they kept their preference list to a minimum to increase their chance of being matched soon.
"When we first went in, we were thinking about a boy, [age] three or four, and probably just one. Then, it opened up after one of the classes and we thought a girl would work, too. And then, cut to the last class, when we actually met families with little kids sitting right there and we both started opening up to the idea of a baby," Steve said.
Now, they're set on a boy, hoping for an infant to a five-year-old and will welcome a baby with an older brother.
"We're also hoping for a sense of humor. We have a pretty large family so, really, it's going to be that sense of humor. It's going to be that child being able to hold his own. I think we'll just know. We'll just know that's the one, this is our child. I don't know if it's going to be any specific, distinct thing that we're looking for. It's just going to be one of those things where we look at this child and think, "Yep. That's him,'" Hector said.
The paperwork is complete, the room is ready and Steve and Hector are waiting for the phone calls that will change their lives, secure in the support system they created for themselves and their future children.
"Steve is very much the positive force pushing forward in all this and I am very much the one who asks, 'What if this? What if that?' For everything I've come up with, when I think about things being difficult, I come back to the support system that we have. We have several positive examples of parenting and family life that surround us."
For every fear I have, I can think of someone we can ask for advice. We have friends and family who have fought through the highs and lows of foster care so the thought of being able to have that makes me feel at ease. We're ready to be Dads. We're ready," said Hector.
RaiseAChild.US is the nationwide leader in the recruitment and support of LGBT and all prospective parents interested in building families through fostering and adoption to meet the needs of the 400,000 children in the foster care system. RaiseAChild.US recruits, educates, and nurtures supportive relationships equally with all prospective foster and adoptive parents while partnering with agencies to improve the process of advancing foster children to safe, loving and permanent homes. For information about how you can become a foster or adoptive parent, please visit www.RaiseAChild.US.