Sometimes, what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay there… at least that’s the case for Justin Getz and Randell Cabigon, who came home from Las Vegas with baby Gianna. In this week’s installment of the Huffington Post Queer Voices RaiseAChild.US "LetLoveDefineFamily®" series, contributing writer Beth Hallstrom talks to this new family of three about wanting a baby, keeping it real, connecting and knowing there was a child out there for them.
Justin Getz and Randell Cabigon view the adoption of their baby girl, Gianna, not only as a way to build their family, but also to create a wider circle of love for their daughter by including Gianna's biological mother and grandmother in their life.
"We didn't meet Gianna's mother until we met Gianna and that really set things in motion. We will see her grandmother early next month. We plan to meet with them at least once a year, send photos and text messages and talk on the phone so she will know her mother and grandmother.
"We felt they were more of an extension of our family. We felt a strong connection from the get-go and we want her to feel it, too," Justin explained.
Married June 18, 2008, the Irvine, California residents both work in sales for a property management company. They met online and went to see a movie on their first date. "We agreed the movie was terrible, but also that we both wanted another date. Since then, we haven't spent a day apart " Justin noted.
Justin said he always wanted to have a family, "But Randell grew into the idea after we got together. Being a dad wasn't really on his mind yet."
By the time both men were ready to begin their family, they agreed they wanted an infant, so a friend of Justin and Randell's volunteered to act as a surrogate mother for them. Some health problems and concerns derailed that plan, so they decided to investigate fostering and adoption.
"At the end of the day, we knew we wanted a baby, someone to love and mentor and someone to give a positive environment to grow up in. Adoption seemed the best way to go," Justin said.
Justin and Randell first turned to Lifelong Adoptions, an agency in Newport Beach, California that specializes in servicing and advising the LGBTQ community by arranging domestic newborn adoptions.
"Lifelong Adoptions then set us up with Extraordinary Families -- another adoption and child advocacy agency, which is based in Los Angeles. We were assigned a social worker and started the process in February 2015," Justin said.
Among Justin and Randell's pre-adoption tasks was creating a profile of themselves, which would be an important tool to help the agency match children with them and for birth parents to view.
"At first we weren't getting much of a response, so we decided to take a step back and look at our profile to see if we weren't presenting ourselves in the best way possible. We even had a third person look at it, just as an extra way of analyzing it.
"We decided to change a few photos to show us being more real and relaxed. One month later, we got the call and when we met the birth mother we asked her why she chose us. She said, 'Your smiles made me connect with you. They made you more real,'" Justin said.
Gianna was born Dec. 17, 2015 in Las Vegas and, 48 hours later, Justin and Randell drove there to meet her and her birth mother.
"That first night we brought her home from the hospital was so emotional. We were both crying because we were so happy and partly because we could not get that baby in her car seat. For both of us, we were overwhelmed, overjoyed and excited," Justin recalled, laughing.
Justin said they had to remain in Las Vegas a week before they were permitted to return to California. Still laughing, he recalled, "Have you ever spent a week in a hotel in Las Vegas with a newborn? Let's just say there were some challenges and leave it at that.” The new family returned home to Irvine a few days after Christmas.
“We were so happy to finally be home after that trying week.” These days, Justin and Randell are working to get Gianna on a schedule and organize their household, which includes two dogs -- a Pomeranian and a Maltese. "We had to get them -- the baby and the dogs acclimated to each other. Now the Maltese is always by her side and very protective," Justin said.
They also returned home to the support of friends and family, Justin said, "We knew would have support, but didn't know how much it would be. We can't thank everyone enough."
Fortunately for them, Gianna is a very calm baby and sleeps well. Also helping the transition go smoothly is the time they gain through the Family and Medical Leave Act. Randell is taking his leave first and then it's Justin's turn.
While Gianna may not be on a regular schedule yet, she is already receiving birthday party invitations and meeting her large circle of family and friends.
"Our friends come over now to visit and we know they're just here to see her. Really, it's just wonderful. Our life is completely different now and we love it," Justin said.
Looking back on their journey, Justin said there were some hiccups along the way, but they were worth the final result. "We think it's important to be patient, to take it one step at a time and not be afraid or reluctant to tweak a few things, like we did with our profile. Sometimes taking a step back or asking someone else's opinion can be very helpful," Justin commented.
"It worked out wonderfully for us: we have our daughter and now family in Las Vegas, which is close enough to drive to.
"The key to it all," he continued, "is to be true to yourself and be real. Never give up and remember there is a child out there for you. You should never give up because it will happen when you least expect it."
"I know it's cliché,” Justin admits, “but our advice is to maintain a positive attitude because there is light at the end of the tunnel. Our whole lives changed in the blink of an eye; be patient and your dreams can come true, too."
Have you ever thought of building a family through fostering, adopting, or weekend hosting? RaiseAChild.US is the nationwide leader in the recruitment and support of LGBT and all prospective parents interested in building families through fostering and adoption to meet the needs of the 415,000 children in the foster care system of the United States. RaiseAChild.US recruits, educates and nurtures supportive relationships equally with all prospective foster and adoptive parents while partnering with agencies to improve the process of advancing foster children to safe, loving and permanent homes. Take the next step to parenthood at www.RaiseAChild.US or call us at (323) 417-1440.