Spotlight Series sponsored by Quinny, a European stroller brand available in the United States.
TNF: Tell me about your family.
MAURA: My name is Maura, my wife is Katherine. We have been together for 15 years, married for almost 11. We were married in 2004 in a beautiful ceremony on the beach in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, our little slice of heaven. We had several close friends in attendance and though we plan on getting married here in California now, we wouldn’t change a thing about our ceremony all these years ago. It was magical, meaningful and life-affirming.
We have two beautiful little girls, Gia Belén, almost four and Ava Simóne, 8 months old. We became a family of four through open adoption. We signed up with an agency in Los Angeles in May 2008 and after communicating with more than a dozen young women and experiencing birthmother matches that fell through, we were emotionally drained and decided to end our adoption journey on a specific date. In June 2010, four weeks before that deadline, our daughter’s birthmother Ashleigh contacted us and we met and instantly knew it was the beginning of something very unique. Our daughter Gia was born six months later. Last summer, Ashleigh informed us she was pregnant and asked if we would adopt this child and raise her children together. As with our first child, we were present when Ava was born and it further bonded our relationship with this amazing, courageous young woman. A lot of people are skeptical about this openness and we’re often asked if we’re concerned about sharing so much with the birthmother and how it affects our ability to raise the girls. There are many misconceptions and misinformation about open adoption but all we can say, over and over again, is that our experience has proven to us that a child can never have too many people in their life to love and cherish them.
TNF: How did you meet your wife? What do your children call you?
MAURA: Katherine and I met at a club in West Hollywood in 1999. The minute we met, I was intrigued with Katherine, though she was there with a friend whom I thought was her girlfriend so I thought it would just end there. Later I realized I was wrong and I gave her my number and it took her a few days to call, but we talked for several hours that night and well, here we are!
I am mommy, Katherine is mama. Katherine often jokes that she drew “the short straw” when we were deciding on what our children would call us. I don’t recall how or when we chose, to be honest, it just sort of evolved in the months before our children were born. I actually hoped I would be mami, the Spanish spelling and pronunciation, but again, it just happened this way and it has stuck. I keep in mind that all too soon, we both may just be “mom” and I’m ok with that.
TNF: Do you feel different from other families?
MAURA: Before we had children, I thought it would be a big deal and that we would be remarkably different and I was trying to find ways to prepare myself for the judgment, the preconceived notions. Today, I look around and our family “looks” like most families and we do, worry and plan pretty much the same. Our oldest goes to a progressive daycare/preschool and they celebrate parents’ day, which she loves and we appreciate. We realize we are not special nor worth singling out as we mix with other parents. Only recently has Gia been curious about fathers and asking about her daddy and why she doesn’t have a daddy. We are addressing it gently and with just enough information as her age dictates. Truly, at the end of the day, we all have this incredible responsibility and privilege to raise these unique little people as we prepare them for the big old world. That’s all that matters.
TNF: Where do you live? Is it tough being a gay couple where you live?
KATHERINE: We live in Pomona, a suburb 30 miles east of Los Angeles. We feel very comfortable and accepted, and in fact, on our street alone, there are several same-sex couples, some with children. Our neighborhood, especially, is very diverse and we like that our children are exposed to different families.
TNF: What has having a family meant to you?
MAURA/KATHERINE: Our children have strengthened our love and connection to each other, with our families and our friends. They have given us new purpose and added the element of passion to everything we do and plan for our lives. We see the world through their eyes and it’s wondrous. Having a family means comfort, support, stability and unconditional love and giving our girls that foundation is very important to us.
I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that the connection we feel with their birthmother means so much to us because she is family now too. She not only chose us for this awesome responsibility, but she selflessly encouraged our full participation through both pregnancies, six and eight months, respectively, which enabled us to feel like a family well before our children were born. And her peace with placing her children with us enables us to openly share our family with her on a continuous basis. She is the only other person in this vast world who truly delights in everything about our children, as we do.
We honor and respect that it took another family’s loss for us to become a family and we never take it for granted. We were actually Ashleigh’s second choice when she was searching for a family for her child. We look back on all the little things that happened, the minutiae that most would overlook, that eventually brought us all together and we can’t help but be amazed that we met, that we are bonded for life. Meeting our children’s birthmother changed us in a way that is hard to put into words. Our worlds are different to the outsider looking in, but when we look deeper, we are just three mothers who share the same dreams, fears, excitement and joy about our children. She wants what we want for our children…their happiness, success, health and to be loved and kept safe. This young woman is half our age, but her life experiences have matured her to a level that only comes from trial and tribulation. One day we hope our girls will be proud of her, and understand and appreciate what she did in the name of love. Until then, we will do our best to raise them up to be a kind, compassionate, generous and respectful human beings.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful family with us! And happy early birthday to little Gia Belén!