Christopher Koontz and his husband Bobby Duong were ready for the birth of their adopted son as they boarded a plane to Washington state, to be present at the birth of their baby Johan. Baby clothes? Check. Infant traveling seat? Roger that. Diapers? Cartons of them. Everything you could possibly need for a newborn.
It’s been easier in these modern and occasionally civilized times, for same-sex couples to adopt a child. Since 2016, when a federal judge ruled that Mississippi’s ban on same-sex adoption was unconstitutional, it has been legal in all 50 states.
But, even so, even with California’s liberal laws regarding adoption by gay and lesbian couples, it’s not often easy to find a baby to adopt, or to find an adoption agency to facilitate bringing a child into the family.
Koontz, 37, who was recently promoted to Planning Bureau Manager for the city’s Development Services Department, and Duong, 35, who works for an engineering firm, had wanted to adopt a child since they met about six years ago.
“I’d been wanting a baby since I was in college,” said Koontz. “I put it out there right away with Bobby, because I had been in a previous relationship where having kids was a point of contention. So, Bobby and I didn’t really have a timetable, but we’ve both always wanted a kid.”
The couple’s first foray into the world of adoption ended badly when, after the long process of background checks, home inspections, baby-proofing and more than $15,000, the agency they had hired went bankrupt. If there was a bright side, Koontz and Duong managed to recoup most of their money and at most of the red-tape paperwork and inspections involved in the adoption process didn’t need to be repeated.
There was still a lot of waiting, though. By last December, the couple was ready to become three. But, says Koontz, “The number of babies that are up for adoption is down a lot in the United States as well as world-wide, which is great for the planet, but it wasn’t great for us.”
The waiting ended in March when the couple found out a possible adoption had been discovered, and then in May, they received the phone call and, “three hours later we were in a plane to Washington state,” where their adopted boy, Johan, was born.
Koontz and Duong were ready. Sort of.
“We had bags packed all full of baby stuff, because that’s what we were thinking about” said Koontz. “But we didn’t consider ourselves too much. When we got to Washington, I found I had packed a couple of T-shirts and some underwear. So we made a quick trip to Old Navy to buy some more clothes. We were so focused on the baby.”
There was no gender-reveal party for the couple. Koontz and Duong didn’t know what they were getting until the boy was born.
“We didn’t care whether it would be a boy or girl,” Koontz said. “I was surprised because I always thought the baby would be a girl. It was just a hunch that didn’t turn out to be right.”
He said the experience of being in the delivery room when their baby was born, and first holding Johan in their arms for the first time was “heartwarming, scary and exciting all at once.”
“We ended up staying in Washington for two and a half weeks,” said Koontz. “Johan had some minor breathing issues and he was in hospital for nine days. We all stayed in a hotel for a few more days allowing him to get a little bigger and stronger.”
Christopher took a few months off from work on paternity leave. “I like it. I’m very tired, but like hanging out with him. I actually really enjoy taking care of him and being at the house and watching him grow up. Then, Bobby will get time to take care of him when I go back to work, and then he’ll be going to daycare. It’s hard for me to imagine leaving him.”
A new life in the house is nothing new for the two dads. The household already has two cats, littermates Jackson and Penny, and a pair of small dogs, Nutter and Butter.
“The dogs were Bobby’s and the cats are mine. It’s a kind of Brady Bunch of pets. So they always kept us busy.
And now they are seven.
Tim Grobaty is a columnist and the Opinions Editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach him at 562-714-2116, email [email protected], @grobaty on Twitter and Grobaty on Facebook.
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