With each passing Valentine's Day, the meaning and emotions of the holiday change a bit for me. The holiday's recent shifting inclusion in our cultural institutions has been a part of that.
When I was a kid, Valentine's Day was of passing interest, a card left on a desk with a candy heart attached. As I grew older it became a reminder of my difference, thinking about other boys as most of the other boys focused on the girls. After coming out I spent time with some wonderful men who brought romance to Feb. 14. Meeting my partner -- and marrying him almost two years ago -- has brought a deeper meaning to the holiday (and the very definition of love) than I had ever considered.
Over the last few years my perspective has again shifted as more and more of my fertility patients are same-sex couples. Years ago, helping to build "gay families" was a pipe dream. In the early 2000s it slowly became a little slice of my regular work. Today it's a prideful part of my job that brings fulfillment to my life and theirs.
It's what made Hallmark's inclusion of a gay family -- two men and their daughter -- in its 2016 Valentine's Day campaign resonate so powerfully with me this year.
Despite not having children myself, I see the love between parents and their children every day. While some may look at Valentine's Day as strictly a celebration of romantic love between two adults (or, no doubt, that teenage angst of high school love), that love between a parent and her child can be a wonderful part of the holiday's celebration too.
Over the years I've helped hundreds of LGBT people and same-sex couples have children. Each time they sit in my office I watch the same dynamic of love emanating from the very first news that a conception was successful. They don't yet know the child, usually haven't picked out a name. Yet the love in the room even in those first moments of revelation is palpable.
That joy is the expression of the love that already exists between the couple sitting across my desk from me. Their child will forever be a reminder of the best part of their relationship -- The love that will thrive whether or not the relationship does.
It's particularly fitting of the St. Valentine legend that Hallmark would include same-sex couples and a "gay family" this year in their campaign. Legend says that St. Valentine was known for helping Christian soldiers get married; In the Roman Empire, they were allegedly forbidden from doing so. None of this is historically true, but it's a powerful piece of the legend that has become St. Valentine: a champion of a love that some may not understand.
It has taken me all these years helping the genesis of new families, and the campaign of a greeting-card company, to fully reflect on the depths of love between these parents and their children. I know I'll celebrate Valentine's Day with a bit more retrospection this year than I have before.