After plunging into fatherhood and finding little information directed at gay dads, Brian Rosenberg and Ferd van Gameren decided to launch an online resource to fill the hole. Now they’re ready to introduce their brainchild to the world.
Five years ago, the couple collapsed in their cozy New York apartment and swore they would never drink again after an “indulgent” Memorial Day weekend. That’s when their adoption agency called to say a baby boy had been born in Brooklyn.
The next day Rosenberg and van Gameren, who had been hoping to adopt a child for some time, learned the baby was healthy and available for adoption. They could pick him up from the hospital the following day if they wanted him.
“At the time we had nothing,” Rosenberg says. “We were completely overwhelmed and underprepared.”
Nevertheless, they told the agency they wanted the baby, then opened their wallets at a Manhattan store called Buy Buy Baby. “We walked in and said, ‘We’re going to adopt a baby tomorrow. What do we need?’ Two hours and a lot of money later, we bought the entire store, basically,” van Gameren says.
When they got home, their confused doorman was waiting for them. “He said, ‘I think there’s been a mistake because this baby stroller was just delivered for you guys,’” Rosenberg says. “We said, ‘That’s right. We’re getting a baby tomorrow.’”
The next day, they went to pick up the newborn at the hospital but were told they couldn’t see him until the paperwork had been filled out. “All we had was a picture,” van Gameren says.
“We couldn’t go up to the maternity ward because the hospital was giving custody to the adoption agency, and the adoption agency was giving him to us outside of the hospital,” Rosenberg says.
But an hour and a half later, the agency’s attorney came out with baby Levi and handed him to the new dads.
“Neither of us had any experience taking care of newborns,” Rosenberg says.
They called their mothers for help, but one lived out of state and the other in a different country; it would take some time for them to travel to New York. Then they contacted a baby-nursing agency, but no one could come for a few days. “So we called a baby store near our apartment, called Bump to Baby, and they got us in touch with a doula who came over and helped us with Levi. She showed us how to feed him, change his diaper and bathe him,” Rosenberg says. “It was great, but that whole whirlwind was absolutely beyond crazy.”
Two months later, van Gameren, who is Dutch, was told that his request for a green card had been denied. After spending 18 years in the United States studying, working and planning for a family, he was told he had to leave.
“We chose Canada, and we chose Toronto because it’s a big city,” van Gameren says. “We’re a blended family, gay dads, so we thought a big city was a good choice, very multicultural.” They found an apartment in Toronto and made the move.
Coincidentally, several days before Levi was born, the couple had signed a contract and put down a deposit with a surrogacy agency. “It was a non-refundable deposit,” Rosenberg says. “So we said, ‘Okay, we’ll try this. We don’t want Levi to be an only child.’”
Their agency found a gestational carrier in West Virginia who had three kids of her own and had given birth to twin girls for another gay couple. Within months, the new dads received another call. They, too, were going to have twin girls.
After Sadie and Ella were born, they drove to West Virginia and brought them back to their new home in Toronto, where Rosenberg says he felt somewhat overlooked as a gay father.
“We’d go to all these big stores and small boutique stores and everything; the big stores had labels that said ‘mommy tested,’ ‘mommy approved,’ ‘for moms, by moms,’ ‘we love moms.’ We’d go to these boutique stores with names like Moms to Be or Bump to Baby — everything was so targeting the moms,” Rosenberg says. “I’m not a mom; I’m a dad.”
The couple discovered that few resources for gay dads existed. They talked about building an online community but were too busy to make it happen.
“Then finally, the kids were all toddlers and we said we still want to feel connected with other gay dads. And we went online, and sure enough, there are more gay-dad writers and bloggers now, but no one has come together to build a community,” Rosenberg says.
So they co-founded Gays with Kids, an online resource that aims to help gay dads navigate parenthood, from creating families to raising families.
“‘Gay father’ up until a few years ago primarily meant a closeted gay man or a man who didn’t know he was gay and got married, had a kid, then divorced and now is a gay man who has to come out to his kids. But that’s not often the case now,” van Gameren says.
Rosenberg says they want to cover all gay dads, from the ones who were previously married to women to the ones who became dads when they were out gay men, whether through foster care, surrogacy, adoption or other scenarios.
“If you’re a gay dad in some way, shape or form, we want Gays with Kids to feel like home to you,” Rosenberg says.
For now, the website offers content from bloggers, columnists and regular writers who tell stories about their everyday experiences raising their families. It also features a variety of family spotlights that highlight the diversity of real gay men with kids.
Rosenberg and van Gameren believe Gays with Kids will be the biggest online resource available for gay fathers. They’ve had a soft launch for friends and family, but a bigger launch is planned for June 1.