The pictures dot their Santa Rosa home.
Matthew and Jason Benson on the beach with their baby boy. Jason’s parents planting a kiss on the baby’s chubby cheeks. The little boy, grinning bright, sitting in the bathtub.
In all of the photographs, the Bensons smile. Big, warm, love-filled smiles. They are happy. They are a family.
But then the photos stop. The little boy, their son, feels forever 8 months old.
The arc of Matthew and Jason’s long and patient journey into parenthood just stops.
There used to be more photos. They used to cover the refrigerator. But Matthew and Jason took many of them down.
But not all of them.
Like many parents, the story of Matthew and Jason Benson’s journey to parenthood is one of patience and perseverance.
Unlike many parents, their story is also one of pain. And almost unfathomable loss.
But more than any of that, their story of parenthood is one of deep and unwavering love.
And it is a story that is not yet over.
‘So, when are kids coming?’
Matthew, 32, and Jason, 35, of Santa Rosa have been together 12 years, married for seven.
From the earliest days of their relationship, they talked about having kids.
Matthew is a hairdresser, Jason a landscape architect. Jason describes them as “flatly middle class.” Years ago they created a savings account to help them become parents.
Having children and raising them is expensive, as any parent knows. But for same sex couples, there are other costs — for adoption, for surrogacy, for in vitro fertilization.
All the while friends and family asked: When? It got so bad with Jason’s parents, they made it a joke.
“They’d say, ‘So, when are kids coming?’ So we charged my parents like $20 every time they’d bring it up at a dinner party,” Jason said.
By early 2020, the timing felt right. They found LifeLong Adoptions, a service based in Illinois that specializes in LGBTQ+ adoptions.
Part of the procedure was creating a profile so that expectant mothers could meet them online.
It felt almost like dating. They carefully curated photos (facilitators recommended no beach photos, no photos with alcohol). They put their best selves out there — “really selling it,” Jason said.
The profile was just the start. The agency examined the couple’s bank records, employment histories and took their fingerprints. There was a home visit. Even their 7-year-old Lab, Lady, and their 15-year-old cat Q-Bert underwent scrutiny.
“All of those rules are there for a very good reason, I get it,” Jason said. “But here is my entire life for you to examine.”
It was exhausting, and at times felt invasive, but the couple was excited to start a family.
The adoption agency told Matthew and Jason to be patient, it takes time to find the right match.
But then Kelsey Nourayi came into the picture. She was a 23-year-old college grad studying for her CPA exams. She was due in November 2020 and didn’t plan to keep the baby.
She was considering one or two other couples, but it was clear to her that Matthew and Jason were special. She reached out almost immediately after she saw their profile.
Kelsey lived in Southern California, about seven hours from Santa Rosa, so much of their early communication was by phone, text and videos.
Those early conversations were anxiety filled for Matthew and Jason. They wanted Kelsey to pick them but they also wanted her to know them.
Their hope was to have an open adoption where the child would not only know Kelsey, but to the extent they could all agree, be in her life.
Kelsey wanted that, too. She said later that something about Matthew and Jason moved her.
For one thing, Matthew and Jason have a dog and a cat. For some reason, that struck her.
“I thought it was unique and special,” she said. “It told me that they were open-minded and not running the same course as everyone else, and I like that. The first conversation confirmed everything I judged from their profile.”
All three felt like they were reading from the same page about their values, their potential relationship going forward, what would be best for the baby.
And Kelsey just liked them.
“I could tell we were very much aligned,” she said. “They weren’t always agreeable. I don’t like people who always agree. It’s fake. I really liked how they valued having me in their life and their son or daughter’s life. I thought that was really special.”