Wednesday, October 30, 2013

More Thoughts, Less Organized.

Our friends and families reacted to last Sunday's post with sadness and relief echoing our own. I keep examining my own feelings, from this angle and that, defensively, because I have expressed such strong and mostly negative opinions about the shift in gay culture toward normativity mostly in the form of marriage and children and here I found myself in the thick of both. I keep coming back to the position, unassailable to my mind, that choices people make about relationships and family, at a personal level, reside in a place protected from the kind of criticism one might bring to these phenomena when speaking more broadly about politics and culture. Still somehow I want to be certain, as if anything ever is, that my decision to adopt was not selfish and exhibitionistic, nor was my decision not to.

Life is always more subtle and complex than politics want to allow.

I do feel sadness and regret, but those are not unfamiliar feelings. There are so many versions of me that I grieve for, not just the one in which I am a father. Every choice to me feels like a thousand things I didn’t choose. I daily, hourly, regret that I don’t paint, that I don’t play the cello, that I don’t teach high school, that I don’t live barefoot in the desert studying Vedanta. And on and on.

As it began to require more and more effort, more and more money, more and more attention (at the expense of other things, naturally), the project of adoption started to feel especially out of sequence, not quite right. My career is gaining some traction, my mother is fighting cancer, our friends’ kids are starting high school.

And yes life is strange and unpredictable. Things don’t happen in the order you think they should. But adoption is not something that just happens, like when my mother had two babies in the first two years of her marriage because she learned birth control from a Catholic priest. It takes stamina, fortitude, superhuman strength. So of course the big fat question is, "Why?"

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Future.

I realized last weekend that we’d made an important decision and then kind of kept it to ourselves. We were in North Carolina with C’s family and one by one – first C’s sister, then his mother, then his aunt – asked us how the search for a baby was going and each time we were like, “Uh…”

Weeks ago –I don’t remember where we were or what had just happened but we were in a car in a parking lot for this conversation so it must have been out of town because we don’t have a car unless we’ve rented one to go somewhere – we decided, or I guess really I decided (we'd gotten a call or email from the adoption attorney with what seemed like a very unlikely prospect of a potential birth mother and she wondered if we wanted to follow up on it and C pressed me to say whether or not I wanted to and I struggled to say no even though I knew in my heart I didn't want to but I didn't want to disappoint C or our families and friends who wanted this so badly to work out for us), I decided to give up, to stop looking for a baby.

We had spent, by that time, about $25,000 between the agency fees for the home study, the cost of the profile we had designed and printed, the fee for the consultant who took out classified ads in newspapers in several states, the cost of the ads themselves, and the lawyer’s retainer. What we got in return was 1 phone call in response to our ad (a hoax or miscarriage, we’ll never know), 3 phone calls that were not in response to our ad but the consultant passed them along to us when the couples who received the calls rejected them because the birth mother was either black or a drug addict, and one baby we took home for about 20 hours until her mother changed her mind.

When C and I met we had both long since come to terms with the fact that we would not be parents. We both wanted it when we were younger, but our lives didn’t take a shape that would accommodate children. Then when we met our life together did take that shape. At first it felt too late. I was nearly 50. But we talked. And talked. And finally decided, “Okay, maybe it’s not too late but only if we do it now.”

We gave ourselves a year. We said, “We’ll put everything into this, and, at the end of the year if we don’t have a baby, then it’ll be too late.” And we’ll be fine either way. We’re fine without a baby now, we’ll be fine in a year without a baby if that’s how it turns out.

But, you know, in the meantime … Why is it so hard not to see it all spinning out into the future, how excited we’d be and our families when we called with the news, why is it so hard not to rehearse all those moments, imagine those long days at home with the baby, all those conversations with Alice (if she was a girl, after my great aunt) or Oscar (if he was a boy, after my great uncle), and how my heart would crack wide open when C would come home from work and hold the baby till she stopped crying and fell asleep on his shoulder. I still, every time I open the freezer, imagine the tiny containers of baby food that I was going to make, pureed spinach and carrots and bananas, all lined up and labeled with a Sharpie. I would have been a wonderful mother.

So in that parking lot in a rental car, wherever it was that we were that afternoon, I told C that I was done. I wanted to move on. Our year was not quite up, but, to continue the search, we would have had to pay several thousand more dollars for another round of ads in hopes of a better response. After such disappointing results the first time, we were both fairly certain we didn’t want to do that. We knew going in that adopting would be expensive, but neither of us had any idea what a money pit it could easily become. The ease of that decision – to stop spending money on it – made it clear that our desire for a child had limits, that this was not an obsession, that our life together would be complete without a child, that – despite the fact that we would have been amazing parents – we don’t need a baby.

So, the children in our lives will be our siblings’ kids, and without children of our own we’ll have more time and money to indulge them. And now we can get back to saving for a downpayment on a bigger apartment with a guest bed so our nieces and nephews can come visit and we'll take them to Broadway shows. (Still spinning out the future...) Kids need gay uncles. Surely, if homosexuality is a result of natural selection, its adaptive advantage must have something to do with gay uncles.