I was raised with five siblings in a Catholic, Mexican-American family that fostered 24 children and often housed friends and strangers. I was surrounded by family and playmates my entire childhood—and I absolutely loved it.
The moments and love that I experienced as a child made me want the same as an adult and for my own children. This led to a lifelong goal of motherhood. I wanted to carry a baby and eventually end up with a large family. I thought this wouldn’t be a problem, until I encountered a couple of roadblocks.
The first issue was that my wife, early in our relationship and marriage, did not want children. The more devastating news was that my cardiologist advised me, at 34 years of age, against carrying children due to several medical risks. Having a large family suddenly seemed impossible; however, after several years of marriage and many discussions, my wife agreed to get pregnant and start a family.
The problem then was figuring out how to do so. As a lesbian couple trying to conceive, everything is planned. Everything.
Many of our friends suggested sperm banks, and we spent hours browsing profiles of potential donors, but given our parameters, it was a limited and disappointing bunch. Plus, we figured at some point our child would ask about his or her father. We wanted to be able to provide details and stories about this man; we wanted to be able to say undoubtedly that our child’s biological father is a good man, a man whom we know, love and trust completely.
Ultimately, we decided that we wanted and needed to ask a colossal and selfless favor of some of our closest male friends. That’s how we suddenly started a family with lots of unknowns.
This is where I introduce Jacob. As he tells it, he and I met behind the bleachers at a high school football game when we were 9 years old. We became instant friends and were eventually middle school classmates and each other’s dates to high school dances, including prom. Even throughout college and post-college, we visited one another in different states. I guess you could say we’ve always loved each other.
In 2013, Jacob agreed to help Jen and I start our family by being our sperm donor. Jen became pregnant in February 2014 and our son Danny was born that November. Jacob has been involved in Danny’s life since the week of his birth (as “Uncle Jake”), but he didn’t tell his family members about Danny for the first two years. That meant Danny didn’t know one-third of his relatives.
Then, this past January, Jacob told them and suddenly my son’s family and our family actually grew.
Fast forward to May and our first “meet the family” trip, when we traveled to Chicago to meet some of Uncle Jake’s family.
“Who am I to him? Am I ‘Uncle?’” asked another one of Danny’s relatives as we sat on the deck watching six nieces and nephews play in the yard below. “I’d like to be his uncle.”
It was one of the many requests for a relationship with Danny. Before the trip was over, we would visit the homes of one of Uncle Jake’s brothers, his sister and my sister-in-law. One family hosted a family dinner, another family hosted a pizza night and a third hosted a birthday party and lunch. Fourteen of us even managed to gather for brunch and a Cubbies game! It was a week filled with connection, reconnection, dancing, music, laughter, smiles, and, most importantly, love.
It is incredible to see the resemblance amongst Danny, his cousins, aunt and uncles. The familial tie is even evident between Danny and his grandmother, whom I am no longer allowed to call “Mrs.” as I did when I was younger. To me, she is now “Granma,” too, which fills my heart with joy.
Since our meeting, Granma writes and messages us. We clearly now are family. Jen and Danny were strangers to her and she welcomed them with open arms. Watching her eyes light up around Danny made my heart smile. Watching her, Danny and Jacob together also made me incredibly happy.
Knowing her reaction to Danny makes me look forward to Danny’s introduction to her husband, who will be known as “Papa.” This fall we will travel 1,644 miles from Baltimore to San Antonio so that Danny can meet him. Seeing as how Danny will be the only grandchild in San Antonio, he’ll likely get spoiled. Danny will have more in store for him when we travel to Hawaii and meet his uncle, aunt and their two girls.
Love is taking us far and will continue to do so. I never imagined that my childhood crush would one day be the central figure in our do-it-yourself birth. Nor did I know that the birth of Danny would transform multiple different families into one large and loving family.
I will always love and be eternally grateful for Jacob. Thanks to him, I have the beautiful family that I’ve always wanted; in fact, it’s even better than I expected. I’ve told him many times how thankful I am for him. I can already see several of Jacob’s traits in Danny and I can’t help but smile. I am once again seeing that little boy I met decades ago and I’m falling in love all over again. I am trying my best to raise my son to be an extraordinary man just like Uncle Jake.
If you ask me, Danny can have all the cousins, aunts and uncles in the world because in our family, there is no such thing as too much love.
This article originally appeared in the October 2017 edition of Baltimore’s Child.