It’s always sort of a crap shoot when you read books by people you know; you hope against hope that it won’t be too terribly bad. Well, Gary Beuschel’s book is a lot better than that, it’s fascinating, well-written, and even - a description I don’t throw around very often - life-affirming.
And it may be especially timely for many is us to check this book out, given the bigotry and fear mongering taking place in Arkansas, California, and other parts of the country.
Papa and Daddy and Babies in Alaska (Moose Kiss Press) is the story of Gary and his partner (John Kruse) and their decision their twin daughters, who were brought into this world via surrogacy in Alaska.
What this story is about is about two adults who desperately want to have children, and their determination to have them, no matter the odds. Little did they realize that the path to their parenthood would be fraught with tension and danger.
Born three-months premature, and weighing less than two lbs. A piece, neither child had a firm grip on life.
Gary and John flew up from San Francisco to be with the babies during this frightening time. The babies, now named Zola and Veronica, were so young their brains had not yet developed circuitry needed to maintain the very basic functions of life.
They could not breather without assistance, Their lungs were so immature, they couldn't breathe without help. Unable to see, they could neither see nor drink. In short, they needed 24-hour a day care, just to survive the next few months.
Despite their initial trepidations that an Alaska hospital (and a Catholic one, to boot) might not be open to their needs, they could not have been more mistaken. They were treated with kindness and respect, and this helped ease their journey.
Not only that, but they came to realize that they were in a first-class NICU facility.
As the story unfolds, we travel along with the parents and the tiny babies as they make they odyssey from tiny creatures to healthy babies.
And along the way, a large support system of family and friends is revealed. The truly wonderful thing about this book - aside from the story itself - is how Gary Beuschel has chosen to incorporate so many of the emails between that support system and the parents, as well as private journal entries.
These emails and journal entries give the story an emotional impact that pulls the reader in, and reveals the depth of love and friendship in the circle around these two men.
Personal note: It was especially enthralling for me to read some of these emails, since I had gone to High School with several of the correspondents.
It’s also a harrowing story, in that here are certainly medical nightmares and setbacks to undergo. Along the way, Gary, who works in the medical field, feels that he has surely gone back to school. He is constantly being barraged with new medical knowledge.
And Gary - who stays in Alaska during the three-month period - develops an appreciation for Anchorage he may not otherwise have had.
But the story doesn’t end once the babies come home to California. Children who are born premature are no normal babies, and Gary and John have both already discovered, and their care can be very expensive. They must be constantly monitored at first.
But the end results are more than worth it.
When Gary and John send Christmas cards, pictures of two loving parents clowning with their kids, they resemble any other family in America, clowning with their own kids. These photos should be on billboards across the country.
After the California Supreme Court ruled their marriage illegal, John Kruse formally adopted Zola and Veronica. Legal relationship or not, John Kruse and Gary Beuschel are loving parents who have fought like lions for their children.
This story is inspiring for anyone, gay or straight. Ask your local library if they would order a copy of this book for their collection. And it’s not too early to start buying those Christmas presents, you know.
Domestic Partnership Registries saved in Arkansas
Killed in Committee: No joy in Mudville for the Family Council.
Quote of the Day
This minute that comes to me over the past decillions,
There is no better than it and now. - Walt Whitman, "Leaves of Grass"