Bonnie and I are adopting.
We don’t have a baby lined up. We’re not even on a waiting list yet. We are, however, several home visits and thousands of dollars into the process, and I want to tell you right now, honest and unashamed, that so far I frigging hate the adoption process.
I am—and I have to keep telling this to myself despite my sarcastic and darkly humored nature—a good person. I’m an upstanding citizen and talented professional with a lot to offer both society and the workforce. Yet, when the forces that I will herein refer to as “the adoption people” find out you want to adopt, you can’t help but feel like a dirty, scheming scum bag.
Understand, if you will, that I do not feel this way because I have something to hide. I feel this way because I have to prove that I don’t have something to hide, over and over and over and over again, like I’m guilty until proven innocent and therefore unworthy of parenting a child.
I know why the vetting process is so severe, of course. I mean, where would we be if society handed out babies on a handshake and a smile? However, when you’re a good person who’s only real crime is being a grown man who cries liberally during Pixar movies, getting approval to adopt feels like getting punished for not being able to have your own kids naturally.
Which, for the record, we can’t.
I won’t go the into the scientific details on that, but I assure you our inability to reproduce conventionally has nothing to do with that 93mph line drive I took in the ol’ bean bag during my minor league years when I found an athletic cup “too constricting to pitch effectively.” No, my wife and I, like many other couples, just aren’t very good at creating babies naturally. Believe me, we’ve be trying for 4 years now, and we can’t—for “unexplained reasons.”
That’s what it’s called, actually: unexplained infertility. In all fairness to doctors, they can do better than “unexplained” if you let them tinker with your insides. You know, poke holes, root around in there and prod stuff… but neither my wife or I am a fan that idea.
The bottom line here is human babies really don’t want to be made with any kind of constancy. The success rate of natural fertility is astoundingly low, unless you’re a teenager on prom night with staunch fundamentalist parents—then it’s like 100%. Unfortunately, even when our doctors explained to the Mrs. and me just how fickle human reproduction is, regardless of how many IUI’s, hormones, or Nicholas Sparks stories you use to coax it, it was of no comfort. When all your friends and family are having kids, it feels like you’re the only one who can’t figure it out. It’s real a line-drive to the balls kind of feeling.
The process of getting approved to adopt is only slightly less nut-kicking. It’s like a joy-sucking enema of an experience wherein every government agency gets a chance to crawl all up in your business. Background checks, physicals, blood tests, drug screenings, character references, financial reviews, psych evals… All of which you pay for.
Standard to the experience is a social worker visit, to your home, to ask you about your family life. I imagine that for most folks this is an innocuous task. If you’ve read about my family life in any of my books, however, then you know how horrifying this experience was for me. Picture me sitting awkwardly across from a social worker—who for all intents and purposes is the judge, jury and executioner of my adoption dreams—nervously laughing as I desperately try to explain that, because during my last family get-together my dad only threatened to kill himself instead of everyone, we made progress!
The adoption vetting process (the state versus you, I mean) is a grueling and expensive crucible that requires you to have a deep well of inner hope, a good bit of cash on hand, and a tight grip on your personal shit despite the grim fact that, at the end of process, there is no guarantee you’ll even get matched with a family, let alone receive a child. Now don’t you all go signing up at once, okay.
I like kids. I do. I don’t like annoying kids. I don’t like being carpet bombed by kid-centric updates on Facebook. I don’t like little hellions that roam America’s ballparks thinking my job is to give them free stuff. But I do like kids. I like them enough to give blood, get interrogated about all my life decisions, and hand over checks for thousands of dollars just to have a crack at getting one. That does not mean, however, that I’m not scared out of my mind about actually recieving one.
I don’t feel natural with babies. I do what everyone else does. I Coo at it. Rock it. Make sure I support the head lest the child’s mother fall on me like a rabid hyena. I feel more comfortable around kids that can talk and walk and play with toys and wrestle with me. From that developmental stage on, I’m good. Before that, I’m at the mercy of Bonnie’s instruction. That’s okay though because Bonnie is like Mary Poppins on steroids when it comes to babies, complete with a bottomless bag of musical insturments. Plus she has this biological instinct for a child, the smaller the better. She loves all ages with a natural joy and desire nurture. She knows what she’s doing. Sometimes it’s scary how much she knows. I mean, where the hell did she learn all this?
I, on the other hand, get a little freaked out about how much I don’t instinctually know. People, mostly dude-bros with their own mini dude-bro, tell me it’ll click once I see that little goo-goo bun looking back up at me. My own little life to raise. As I hold the child, it will be like someone is downloading a set of instructions directly into my brain, Matrix style. I’ll wake, my new reality will be clear, and I’ll transcend into fatherhood.
I really hope that’s how it goes, because when you read through the adoption agency’s list of known, documented child behaviors and are asked to select those you are comfortable fathering, only to discover there are five distinct categories of rabid masturbation you future child could exhibit (angry, public, shame-rooted, etc…. they grow up so fast!) it’s a little difficult to imagine anything making sense. And that’s just masturbation. There is a veritable cornucopia of psychosis to choose or
run screaming in terror of not choose from.
The unintended consequence of the adopting process, at least for me, is the joy theft. That is to say, what got me into adoption in first place has been sucked out pretty fast as the agency peels back the layers. There is no jubulient moment when you find out you’re pregnant. No family members gush over your inflating wife and her “glow,” no arrival date to plan around, and no Facebook based belly expansion profile trackers. Instead, what you get is an infinite checklist of things you must either pay for, be examined by, or get approval from—plus a whole hell of a lot of reality checks courtesy of a crash course in dark side adolescent psychology. I mean, holy cow, we wanted a baby, not a documentary on the many ways a boy can turn his bed sheets into ranch Doritos. And that’s just the tame stuff, don’t even get me started on violent feces smearing!
Ladies and gentlment, if you or someone you know fosters, you/they deserve a hug, thank you, and a lifetime supply of free massages (or at the very least, bed sheets). People should carry you around on a throne and fan you with a giant palm leaf. You’re my hero.
On the bright side, there is no morning sickness, weird cravings, and/or baby weight. And, of course, most importantly, there is the joy of knowing that, despite your own physical limitations, there is still a way to have kids. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of pluses, but you can only enjoy them once you get comfortable with the realization that, for you, a child will not come the traditional way.
The adoption process can be a real pride crushing grind. But like any grind, there is a reason why you do it. As I grind, I’ll share process, stories, and discoveries with you, right here.
Thanks for reading. More soon. Please click an ad so I can send this future kid to college!