Andy Miller and Brian Stephens love fatherhood. Known to their 6-year-old son Clark as Poppy and Daddy respectively, the couple relishes every moment they spend with each other.
They are blessed to have found the path to fatherhood because it isn’t always a clear role for gay men. Miller and Stephens noted that they have had many conversations with gay men who ask them how they became parents or lament their lack of opportunity to have a family. This seems especially true for older gay men.
“You can see the sadness in their face. They will tell us, ‘Your family is so beautiful and I never knew that was possible for us.’ We want to make sure we don’t see those eyes anymore and everyone knows what they can do to be a father,” Stephens said.
The couple hopes to start a nonprofit this year to inform gay men of their options in becoming a father. “There’s nobody out there serving as a role model,” said
Stephens, who hopes to work full time on the nonprofit. “There’s a lot of resources out there, and they don’t always reveal themselves easily to gay men.”
The two initially met at a party thrown by their realtors. At the time, both were in relationships and each had false impressions of the other. Miller thought Stephens was “handsome but stupid,” since he was really quiet. And Stephens thought Miller was “full of it” because he talked so much.
It wasn’t till they were both training for the Austin Marathon in 2002 that their perceptions of each other changed. They were training with a running group when the others began dropping out of the race for one reason or another. Stephens and Miller were the last ones and ended up training with each other up until race day. “We would run two full loops around Lady Bird Lake, the 10-mile loops, no iPods, no music, just chatting the whole way,” Stephens said. The two discovered they had a lot in common and shared the same hopes and dreams for the future. As they hit it off, they started dating but at one point took a break from their budding romance to resolve issues with their previous relationships. “We took a little break, but we never really took a break from one another,” Miller said.
Stephens revealed that he had an immediate attraction to Miller. “I feel like, on some level since that very first handshake, I knew somehow we were each other’s ‘ones.’”
They clearly had a strong connection to each other and within a few years decided to have a family. In preparation for parenthood, they sold their condos and saved money for a bigger house and for adoption fees. “I think every decision we’ve made in the last 10 years was leading us to today,” Stephens said.
Taking advice from a friend who had experience in adoption, Stephens and Miller completed the nitpicky paperwork and home study before finding an accepting adoption agency. This proved to be vital in meeting their son’s birth mom more quickly. The first introduction they had was to the mother of their son Clark, only two weeks prior to his birth.
Once the baby was ready to go home with them, the situation became highly emotional for Stephens and Miller. They were conflicted with the feelings of joy for their first child and sadness for the mother. “Even though the decision to place a child up for adoption is usually based on what’s best for that child, it doesn’t mean that it’s not sad,” Miller said. “So it’s hard to be joyful in the face of someone else’s sadness, even though they want this, too.” Through their open adoption, the family maintains communication with Clark’s birth mother and visit her and Clark’s biological siblings once a year.
With a commitment to raise Clark, Stephens left his job to take on the stay-at-home dad role. The following year, Miller’s mother moved to Austin to assist them in raising Clark. As a result of the help, the couple had more time for each other.
Now in kindergarten, Clark is an active little boy who loves to play with his Poppy’s vintage Star Wars toys. Both Stephens and Miller grew up hiding their differences and their identities from their families. Because they didn’t want that for Clark, their goal is to instill confidence in him. “We want a child who can be himself and know that we’re okay with that,” Miller said.
Clark’s parents describe him as fearless. “He walks into the room like he owns it. He has this little swagger; he’ll walk up and shake somebody’s hand,” Miller said. He’s also a natural leader. “He’s not competitive at all,” Stephens said. “He basically spends most of his time running around telling everyone else what to do.” For years, Stephens and Miller made a tradition of going to Hut’s Hamburgers every Wednesday for their two-for-the-price-of-one burger happy-hour special. They now share that tradition with Clark. It’s moments like these the couple cherishes.
“The most rewarding part about being a parent is being able to experience love in a new way that you never experienced before. You can’t describe it,” Miller said.