The Dads Whose Son's Biological Mom Went from Stranger to Friend (and Now Possible Surrogate): 'Incredible'

Seth Garrison and Barret Anspach met their son’s birth mother on adoption site PairTree, and, five months after his birth, they still keep in touch with her on a daily basis

Seth Garrison and Barret Anspach
Photo: Courtesy Seth Garrison and Barret Anspach

If you ask Seth Garrison, he will tell you that he has wanted to be a father ever since he was a little boy himself. After meeting and marrying Barret Anspach, the two shared the dream of becoming parents together – but found the adoption process daunting and confusing. They had already been working with a private adoption agency when they were introduced to PairTree, an adoption matchmaking site which seeks to make the process easy and equitable for both adoptive parents and expectant moms.

Through PairTree they found Iris, then in her first trimester and carrying a baby boy that would become their son: Estes Carson, born on May 17 with both of his dads by his side. Five months into their parenting journey, Iris is still involved in Estes' life: "We text every day now," Seth says.. Seth and Barret shared their journey to parenthood with PEOPLE.

Seth: As gay people, you have to choose how you make your family. Granted, anybody can, but we're kind of forced to. For me, the idea of having a biological child was always exciting, but it was cost-prohibitive … It took me a while to realize adoption was just as exciting and enticing, but there are a lot of avenues to adoption. Some of them are intimidating from a monetary perspective. Others are intimidating from a process perspective.

Listen below to Me Becoming Mom to hear Jillian Michaels' adoption journey and her unique road to motherhood.

There were many times I'd feel like "How are we going to do this?" Because it's so hard, and it's really hard to find places to get information that aren't affiliated with religious institutions. Finding things for alternative family structures – two men, two women, one person – are a little bit harder. There was a while where I thought that intimidation was going to prevent us from doing it, but I started getting close enough to 40 that I was like, no intimidation could stop me. I'm not really a very stoppable person.

Barret: Seth has always wanted kids. Since we've been together, we've been talking about having kids, trying to figure out how and when. Even at the beginning of our time in this adoption world, I knew: The information is out there, but where do we find it? It turned out PairTree has a ton of resources, state-by-state laws, some of the more complicated, crazy-making parts of this whole thing that's adoption. It's such a dead simple thing that should have existed forever. I'm glad it does now.

Setting up the profile on PairTree was super easy: a fun little quiz about each of our personalities. We added photos and answered pretty interesting questions to round out who we were for whoever was looking at the profile. It really accurately represented who we were and what kind of parents we wanted to be, and what sort of connection with the birth mom we were looking for.

Seth Garrison and Barret Anspach
Seth and Barret with Iris. Courtesy Seth Garrison and Barret Anspach

Seth: [Iris is] a really good example of the kind of expectant mom that PairTree kind of gravitates towards: someone who is really conscious of what they're doing and making decisions with consideration for where they want the child placed. It's not always a last minute "I can't do this" or whatever extenuating circumstances happen with the expectant mother's life.

Seth: Our emphasis was always on letting the expectant mother come to us, for someone to find us, like us, and that's what starts it off.

In my opinion it's not like we are shopping for a baby, because that's gross. We are allowing mothers to shop for the experience they want her kid to have. That's always been very important to us. It was in the expectant mom's court the extent which she wanted to engage with us. It turned out in this case, we get along amazingly well.

November is National Adoption Month, and PEOPLE is celebrating by highlighting the many extraordinary ways families can grow via adoption, featuring real stories from celebrities, everyday parents and adoptees, as well as information on the varied ways to adopt. For more heartwarming, heartbreaking and happy-ending stories, visit our Adoption page.

Seth Garrison and Barret Anspach
Courtesy Seth Garrison and Barret Anspach

When Seth and Barret started talking with Iris, they got along well, and she helped them feel like a part of the pregnancy -- which made them even more excited to meet their son. The two went to the East Coast to be there for Estes' birth.

Barret: [Meeting Estes] felt like straight out of a TV show.

Seth: We're wiping [Iris'] brow, holding her hand, letting her scream it out.

Barret: I was sitting right next to her as she was squeezing my hand.

Seth: [After Estes was delivered] I was holding him. It was amazing. He was blue and gray and covered with that slimy stuff. It was so awesome. We got to hold him and cut the cord.

Barret: Iris had offered to use in-utero headphones while she was pregnant, so we had sent her recordings of us reading stuff and talking to him. We used to play in a band together, so she played some of that music. It seemed like he recognized our voices.

Seth: She was very excited about that. We snuggled all night and heard his first burp, his first fart, his first cough. The connection that was established by PairTree – that person-to-person connection – helps establish that trust right away. It was better than anybody could have planned for. I don't know how many text messages come through a day; it's amazing.

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Seth Garrison and Barret Anspach
Courtesy Seth Garrison and Barret Anspach

Despite their physical distance, the trio remains a part of a part of each other's daily lives. Iris has been a part of milestones including Estes recently beginning to laugh – "I can't imagine anything more joyful," Barret says – and has developed a close bond with Seth and Barret.

Barret: It's a unique, incredible situation we're in right now with Iris. The bio dad and members of his family came out this summer to meet us, which was super awesome.

Estes is the biggest part of this whole thing, and the part that's most exciting to me is we're building relationships with all the parties concerned [with] how he came into this world. It's very humbling that things are working out the way they are, having these natural experiences with those, essentially, extended members of his family, and ours too.

Seth Garrison and Barret Anspach
Courtesy Seth Garrison and Barret Anspach

Adoption, fostering, having kids, just about any big life-changing thing like this, is complicated with a lot of unknowns. It's okay to not know all of the pieces in advance of how it's going to work out. When I finally realized I didn't need to have a map of how this whole process works out from start to finish, the more comfortable it became for me. Taking it in small pieces is what really worked for the two of us.

Seth: There's a thousand ways to build a family; this is the one that fit at the time, and it might open up other opportunities for us. We're talking with our birth mom about surrogacy right now.

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