The Parent Trip: David D'Amico and Brad Kushner of Northern Liberties

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Parents Brad Kushner (left) and David D'Amico with son Noah.

The billboard on I-95 shouted their son's name. It was March 2014, and the movie Noah was about to open. Brad remembers whizzing by that sign on the way to the hospital in Langhorne, the hospital where Noah - their Noah - had just been born.

Both remember the flood of feeling. "You can't go in there with balloons, saying, 'This is amazing!' " David says. "Because, at the same time, Noah's birth mom was grieving. Yes, she knew what she wanted to do with the child, but it was not an easy decision. There was a fine line we had to walk."

The baby weighed 6 pounds, 11 ounces, with an abundant "faux-hawk" of hair. Noah's birth mom asked the men to pick him up. "She said that once she saw us holding him, everything just made sense," David says. Still, "it was hard to comprehend that this was our child."

When the couple met - they were in college, flirting via AOL instant-messaging - children were barely on their radar. But their connection was swift. They said, "I love you" within a month of meeting and moved in together four months later.

They shared a love of music and an affinity for practical jokes. On a trip to Belize, they managed to tolerate four days in a jungle hut: lizards clinging to walls, a scorpion in the shower. When they finally repaired to more luxe accommodations in Ambergris Caye, they splurged on a seaside dinner of lobster and conch ceviche.

Later, they wandered to the end of a silent pier. Brad pulled a ring from his pocket - white gold, with a line of white and black diamonds - and said, "I'm wondering if you'd like to spend the rest of your life with me?"

Water lapped beneath the pier's edge. "I was completely shocked," David recalls. "I was holding on to that ring for dear life."

Same-sex marriage was legal in some states at the time, but ever-practical David wondered why they would spend thousands on a wedding when they could buy a house instead. They opted to root themselves in the city they loved.

And Brad, who always knew he wanted kids, began to gently broach the topic.

"I was on the fence, just because it is such a big decision," David says. "When you're a gay couple, it's not something you can just accidentally stumble into. . . . You have to save money. There are background checks and home studies, a magnifying glass over your entire life."

The more they talked, the more appealing parenthood became. They met with a social worker, chose Open Arms Adoption Network, and made the call. They assembled a profile book - photos of a family reunion in the Smoky Mountains, pictures of the two riding bikes in Key West, snapshots of their beloved boxer, Rosie. And then they waited.

"It really is an exercise in faith," Brad says. "I'd start to think: What if nobody will like us? What if nobody will choose us?" David told friends to stop asking whether they had gotten "the call." Meantime, they did their homework, attending the agency's seminars on everything from "positive adoption language" to Newborn Care 101.

Finally, an email from their social worker: A birth mother wanted to meet them. Could they come to an Olive Garden restaurant Jan. 25? Despite a flurry of nerves - traffic on I-95 made them late, and David urgently needed a bathroom - their fears dissolved once the three began to talk.

"It was like we were old friends," Brad says. They talked about birthdays and travel and family. The birth mother was seven months pregnant at the time; she pointed to her belly and told the couple, "This is your baby."

The next two months crawled by. Brad trolled prenatal websites that described, in explicit detail, what was happening in a woman's body during the final weeks of pregnancy. They painted a room blue, with a nautical theme of anchors and sailboats. And they worried: What if she changes her mind? What if it doesn't work out?

"I remember the nervousness: Would I be able to hack it as a parent?" Brad says. "Then I thought: Billions of people have done this throughout history. It's something you figure out with help from your family and friends."

Then came the evening of March 27. They were about to leave the house for a nearby restaurant when the adoption coordinator called: He's here.

Noah spent four days in the NICU, receiving antibiotics for a possible infection, so the men got a crash course from nurses in diapering, swaddling, and feeding. Still, the first night at home shocked them: How could an infant spit up so much? How could one baby generate so much laundry?

"The next morning, we felt like: All right, we did it. We kept a baby alive for 24 hours," Brad says. "Maybe we can do this."

Noah has a rare genetic condition called 49, XXXXY syndrome - he has four X chromosomes instead of the usual one - that causes some speech and physical delays. That alters the rhythm of parenting - in-home therapy sessions several times a week; a federal adoption subsidy whose logistics delayed Noah's formal adoption date.

But Noah's medical needs just underscore the counsel friends gave while they were waiting: After the baby, everything will change. Brad's work as a lawyer feels less self-absorbed now, more "a means to support my family." For David, the relentless work of parenting is far outmeasured by his love for the little boy with "epic" hair who adores both helicopters and princess balloons.

They text Noah's birth mom monthly and meet occasionally; a framed photo of her is in his room. They've been practicing the story, just as Open Arms advised, since he was an infant. They point to the picture and tell Noah that they were picked to be his parents. They tell him his birthday was the best day of their lives.

WELCOME TO PARENTHOOD!

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