We became housemates when he was 9 months old. The sturdy, happy, inquisitive, not-yet-walking human moved in 1 week before Christmas. This, we hoped, would be the culmination of 2 years of planning, training, workshops & surveys, coupled with over 10 years of longing. Another 10 months would pass before the judge said we were to be a family. The jargon of family court entered our lexicon, unnatural language that no one should have to speak or hear. Unnatural & unorganic juxtaposed with hope & joy.
After 2 years of marriage, the kid questions began. We had started trying as people do. ‘Desires Pregnancy’ became a permanent note on my doctor’s file. I had always thought I would be a mom, always wanted to be a mom. I loved the idea of making funny looking babies with Spouse. I loved the idea of adoption: why bring more babies into the world when so many here already need a family, but I did want to make one. Year after year my doctor gently broached the subject, but I didn’t want to engage in tests & labels & stigma. Instead, we stayed busy and when circumstances remained unchanged, I pushed the disappointment and sadness down, which will only ever lead to dysfunction and anger.
Never one to win at poker, I worked hard to be breezy in answering the invasive questions of relatives and fellow church-goers. I hadn’t any boundary skills enabling me to answer: It’s none of your fucking business, though I sorely wish I had. Each time a lucky friend won the fertility lotto, I couldn’t help but feel knife-in-heart. Aghast at my own defined selfishness, I pushed the unacceptable feelings further down. I didn’t want anyone’s pity. I most certainly didn’t want their judgement.
Meanwhile, life trudged on. Spouse and I continued to grow up, continued becoming our adult selves. We continued learning how to communicate, how to problem solve, how to love each other. We took trips, explored islands, played in oceans. I fell in love with cooking, took classes, worked in restaurants, dreamed of starting my own. I still wanted to be a mom but I knew I needed to be healthy. I started to work on me. If a child was to be, it would be. And, we started to look into adoption.
The costs surrounding adoption are enormous. Foreign adoptions, while including fees paid to the country of origin, require expensive travel. Domestic adoptions, those of infants at birth, can easily cost $30,000 to $60,000, depending on the ethnicity and sex of the baby. Through a serendipitous series of events, we found an adoption agency that worked for free. This agency was a church-based organization, and while we understood this culture, it was not easy conforming to their version of our beliefs. The agency worked with mothers/couples who had decided not to keep their unborn babies, but their primary goal was to place kids from the foster system into families. The agency supplied all the state-required training for prospective parents. They provided connection to the agency with whom we were foster-licensed. They networked with state social workers, much like a dating service, finding kids that might be a match for parents. Of many suggestions offered to and declined by us, we did choose to meet a pair of sisters, but, however it is you can tell, it didn’t feel like a fit. We supplied respite care on several occasions for a brother & sister, a duo that we did indeed fall in love with, but who were ultimately adopted by their grandmother.
It was after this event that I was spent. I was 39 and had decided if I wasn’t a mom by the time 40 passed, I was letting go. In October of my 40th year an email arrived in our inboxes. A photo of a boy, laying on a blanketed sofa, looking like Spouse’s nephew, shining eyes, mouth smiling that toothless young baby smile, that took my breath away. I didn’t dare hope or think any thoughts of maybe. But, as I tell my son when ever he asks me, I knew that he was my son. That was the beginning of an arduous, often uncomfortable, unnatural process of becoming someone’s parent. We read binders full of background information. We entertained social workers who wanted to see us in our habitat. We visited the family, the people forever an auntie & uncle with whom our son lived since birth, meeting him in person for the first time. So awkward, so fumbling; not knowing how to act or what to say.
I only recently have been given language for the awkward that I felt through the entire adoption process. While often viewed, rightly so, as a happy event, adoption is also an event to be grieved: this child has lost the woman who gestated and gave birth to him, while this prospective mother was not able to give birth to the boy who is to become hers.
I still can’t fathom the blessing, the gift that we were given the day that committee in Pierce County chose us. The gift we and our son were given by Uncle Rick & Aunt Debbie, who loved him, helped him attach and thrive for 9 months. They held him like their own, and endured their own grief when he moved to our house. The gift of Grandma Diane’s prayers for a healthy gestation despite environmental factors that could have proven otherwise. The very real gift of becoming parents after growing up & living so much life.
A man and a woman had a little baby,
Yes, they did.
They had three in the family,
And that’s a magic number.