I kind of didn’t think it was going to happen for me.
Okay, so I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to happen. My body had betrayed me before, with a still and silent ultrasound when we were expecting the whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of a heartbeat, with a soft-spoken doctor, with the gentle heartbreaking news that it wasn’t going to happen. Not this time. Probably not ever.
My husband and I were resigned to a no-kid life.
Really, though, we sat in the parking lot of a Books-A-Million on what was maybe our third date, and I said, “Look, if you want kids, I’m not your girl. Before this gets serious, you need to know that my body won’t do that.” He said he didn’t care. “I just want you,” he said. “We’ll get five dogs, and if we ever decide we want a baby, we’ll just adopt.”
Just adopt. Like it was that easy. We genuinely thought it would be as simple as popping down to the baby store and selecting the one who smiled at us first. “Totally,” I said, “we could totally just adopt.”
Since we had made peace with our kid-free future, and had decided that we would just swing by and pick up a kid when we decided we were ready to, it was a pretty big surprise when I came home from our honeymoon with what turned out not to be food poisoning, but a baby. And then, four years later, surprised again by a stomach bug that wasn’t a stomach bug at all.
I’m not sure how it happened. The workings of my stupid body and the Lord’s sense of humor are equally mysterious to me. But here they are, the Schultz children, sturdy and smart, both of them looking like nesting-doll versions of their father. I couldn’t have designed it any better, and it’s a good thing I wasn’t the one in charge, because my plan had previously and off-handedly been to “just adopt when the time is right”.
See, I’ve been known to assume things are easy when they are, in fact, hard as hell. Take adoption, for instance. Ask anyone who has been through the process, and they’ll tell you exactly how not-easy it is.
Knowing what I know now, I realize that had we tried to adopt, we wouldn’t have been chosen. We both had unstable careers. We lived in a less-than-ideal apartment with less-than-safe wiring and a less-than-friendly dog and two less-than-good-at-reliably-using-a-litterbox cats. We had zero, ZERO experience with children, no plan for childcare, and no idea how to take care of a baby. Furthermore, I have a diagnosed mental illness, and my husband cannot pronounce the word “February”. In real life, we’re delightful people. On paper, we were a hot mess.
It blows my mind to think that I was ever so flippant and presumptuous about my future as a mother. Now that I’m older, wiser, and not an idiot, I see that had divine uterus intervention not taken place, there is no way I would have had the chance to be a parent.
I have these friends, Tim and Brady, who are doing everything they can to adopt a baby. They’re both teachers, and between the two of them they have way more experience working with kids than I do, and there is no doubt in my mind that they’re more qualified for the job than Steve and I were when the hospital trusted us to take home our son with no instruction manual or training or anything. Their marriage is solid, their home has good wiring, they have a network of supportive friends and family, their careers are secure, and most importantly, they want to be parents more than anything.
About seven years ago, when our Mortimer was a wee little turtle of a man, Brady and Tim came over for Top Chef night. Mortimer, who knew Brady as “Baaaydy”, the man who was generous with high-fives, Ritz crackers, and endless picksy-upsies (a grand game, where an adult with endless patience and upper-body stamina picks up the sturdy child and swings him through the air while making airplane noise; kids don’t get tired of this game, ever, so the only escape you have is for your arms to actually fall off), crawled up onto the sofa between Baaaydy and Mr.Tim. He sat there, like their little colleague, holding a Tim hand in his right little fist and a Baaaydy hand in his left. In that moment, when I saw them exchange a glance and a smile over Mortimer’s blonde head, I knew (before anyone else, because I fancy myself a clairvoyant, and I’m very competitive) that they needed to be parents.
You see it in some people. Some people need to be parents, because the world needs more people who are taught to be good people, and you just know they would be really good at it. You see it in people with kind voices and patience, in the way they never say no when a kid asks them to play a game or read a story. You see it in the way they look at kids, really seeing them, making eye contact as if they were people instead of twirling balls of chaos. Listening to them even if they can’t understand every word, but trying because even a little person deserves to be heard.
I want them to be parents. I want it for them so badly. I want it not just for them, because they are my friends and I want them to be happy, but for the world. I want the world to be a place that has more kids who were raised by good people, people who will not only make sure they brush their teeth and have regular checkups, but who will teach them to be kind and to speak with care. I want a world that has a Brady-and-Tim kid in it, and I want a world where some kid wins the parent-lottery and gets to grow up in a home that is full of love and security instead of uncertainty.
My husband used to work in a children’s home. He would come home with stories about how these kids acted out, and how he couldn’t be mad even when they were violent, even when teenagers bigger than he was physically attacked him, because after what they had been through, he really couldn’t blame them. Kids who were beaten, who were left on their own for days at a time, who were exploited and abused and unloved. So many people have babies without doing the most basic requirements of parenting: loving your child and keeping him safe.
Parenting is hard and thankless and expensive and exhausting. It’s not for everyone. Not every grownup needs to be a parent, and not every pregnant woman is ready to be a parent, but every child deserves to have one. That’s where people like Brady and Tim come in.
I asked Brady how the adoption search was going. We don’t live close to each other anymore, but I see his hopeful updates, their growing stockpile of baby things, ready for some lucky kid to hit the adoptive-parent jackpot. “Slow,” he said. “Frustrating to see people chosen before us. Frustrating that people assume we aren’t capable of being great parents.” So they continue to wait. They’re waiting for a woman who isn’t as ready as they are, whose love for that unborn baby is so great that she wants it to have a life that she isn’t able to give. I want to tell her, the woman who is struggling with the decision to keep her baby or to let it go in hopes that it will land someplace safe and warm and adored, that she can trust this couple. That if she does decide to place her precious cargo into their open arms, that it will be loved and safe and given the opportunity to lead a life full of infinite possibilities. That if she wants her baby to grow up with a village of people who are loving and doting and supportive, then this is a place where that future is certain. She could give the child a home full of music and books and laughter and love, with the safest carseat, crib, high chair, and toys on the market. That child would grow up going to museums and dance lessons, attending the theater, visiting zoos and libraries and having picnics in the park. She doesn’t have to be afraid.
I know what it’s like to yearn for a baby. I know what it’s like to peek into a stroller and feel a stab of envy and emptiness when you see those fat little biscuit feet and lashes curled against rounded cheeks. I know what it’s like to feel like you’re missing a piece of you, and to fight resentment when you see people taking their ability to reproduce for granted. But unlike Brady and Tim, I had a casual, ignorant optimism that when the time was right, I would just wave my magic wand and the adoption fairy would leave a baby on my doorstep. Unlike Brady and Tim, I was lucky enough to be able to grow my babies in my own body, with hardly any actual effort. They are living the sad truth that there is no adoption fairy, and that the process is long and anything but easy for everyone, but especially for a couple who, though more than qualified to parent, and securely capable of giving some kid a life that most kids would only dream of, happens to be made of two men. There are some people who would rather a child be raised in fear and instability with a man and a woman than in a home with two fathers, no matter how safe and warm and nurturing the environment. I’m not asking for everyone to think it’s a great idea, just one person. Just one woman. Just one baby who needs to be cared for by two people who would be excellent at the job, who are smart and kind and generous with their high fives and Ritz crackers and picksy-upsies. Go check out these links and you’ll see what I saw years ago: two people who would be truly incredible parents.