As we celebrate the dad's and father's in our lives this week, we wanted to highlight the alternative ways many father's walk into fatherhood! We reached out to Jeff Mindell, photographer, business owner, husband and now dad to learn more about his journey to becoming a father!
When you and Kelly first got married, was adoption part of your plan to start a family?
"Kelly is a cancer survivor, and because of what her body has been through, we always knew that there was a possibility we’d struggle to have children biologically. I remember Kelly asking me early on in our relationship if I was open to adoption and the two of us agreeing that it didn’t matter to us whether or not our children were biological. We just wanted to be parents.
That said, we decided to try to have biological children first and went through several rounds of fertility treatments, resulting in a miscarriage and a dangerous ectopic pregnancy. After that, we went away one long weekend to discuss our options and realized we were both on the same page. Why put ourselves through the heartache of more fertility treatments when we had always considered adoption as an option? It took me a little longer than Kelly to accept that we were closing the door, for now, on biological children. But once I did, there really were no second thoughts.
We looked at each other and asked “Are we really doing this? Yep. Great. Onward”. We sent off that first email to Shannon, an adoption consultant whom we later hired and she connected us to the rest of our adoption team, everyone involved in the process that led us to our son. There really were no second thoughts on my part. I knew that this was how we were meant to find Arlo..."
Can you share with us, through the eyes of a man, what that moment was like, when you realized Arlo was going to be your son and were going to be a dad?
"Up until I met him, I did not let myself get emotionally-invested in the idea of adopting this little boy. Saying it out loud, it actually sounds very cold and awful, but it’s what I needed to do to stay guarded. I kept the whole process up until that point very transactional in my mind. The legal stuff, Kelly and I going through the motions of paperwork, all the expenses…I was doing everything and signing things and having conversations with people that started with “We are adopting”, but I did not let myself get excited about it until one moment in particular.
That moment came when I was invited to join Kelly and our birthmother in the delivery room to meet baby A. Our birthmother requested that Kelly be in the room for the birth (she even got to cut the umbilical cord!), but I was in the next room over waiting to meet my little man. I walked into the room and Arlo was being held by his birthmother, but she lovingly asked if I wanted to meet my son. It was THAT moment that it hit me that he was mine and he was permanent and she was confident in her decision and everyone was on the same page. It was all just very surreal and overwhelming in the best way possible. We then got a significant amount of alone time with him and I started thinking about his whole future and how I get to help shape it. I was now a dad, A FREAKING DAD..what?! It was now my awesome responsibility to set up this beautiful little boy for success and happiness."
What is one piece of advice you wished someone would have told you?
"Hmm, this is a tough one! Probably the fact that I really, truly value efficiency now more than ever. For example, since Arlo’s first moments on earth, my life has been lived in 3-hour increments. The kid needs to eat every three hours - who knew?! And then when he’s done feeding, he naps until he wakes up hungry and the cycle repeats (there is also playtime and reading and baths and diaper changes mixed in there as well), but for the most part, that is his existence. Consequently, if I don’t get done what I need to get done in that time that he’s napping (be it editing work, laundry, cleaning, whatever), it simply doesn’t get done. You learn to be super efficient, running your life on this new epic timetable. I was very quick to learn, but I wish someone had told me that ahead of time!
Thank you, Jeff, for sharing more of you families adoption story! Arlo is lucky to have you as a dad, we wish you a great first Father's Day!