I shudder to think how many conversations that phrase hijacked over the last few years. We’re trying: Two words that trumpet a baby is on the way. Two hopeful words that I never really understood when I first let them fly, but now know like a scar on the roof of my mouth. All aboard the baby train because, ladies and gentlemen, We’re trying!
But trying is not the same as having, and once you get the news out, you can’t stop the train. It’ll change your life, even before it changes your life.
Babies are exciting. They’re big news. Even if hearing that someone else is trying doesn’t matter to you—my default position—you act excited because babies are an institution. What’s more important than a happy, healthy, cooing little cherub-faced baby? You’re trying! That’s sooo great. What are you hoping for? When do you want it to arrive? Do you have a name picked? Are you going to breast feed or sacrifice it to Monsanto? How are you going to do your job while pregnant/with child/have twins/do you want twins/more than one/two boys/two girls/one of each? Who else knows? Who can we tell?
Note that, you never want just a baby. You may not have thought of this, but, what you want is a baby within a certain standard deviation. The when, where, what, and how. Some looks, personality, and heritage. You want the assumptions and projections all in line. The figures to sum correctly. The expectations and plans to work. Healthy, healthy, and healthy. You want control, or at least the feeling of it.
But control in pregnancy is a mystical beast. A cave drawing to amuse the primitives. It was never real. You can monkey with the process as much as you want, but you don’t have control over the outcome. Even when you think yourself generous for expanding the possible results your bunny-loving might yield, you don’t have control. Even when you do the hormones and drugs and surgeries. What you have are probabilities and you play them as best you can, but you never have control.
Unfortunately, once you start trying, you’ve had the baby. In your mind. In your dreams. In your plans. It materialized on the game board of your life. It showed up on your balance sheet. It altered you and your expectations of everything. I can think of a million things I’d have done differently—financial, entrepreneurial, relocation—had we not been trying. And when you tell your social circles you’re trying, they take what they know of you and they make a baby. A splash of Dirk, a pinch of Bonnie, and, in their head, they make your child. It will play piano, It will throw baseballs, etc, etc, etc, until you’re broken down into your pieces, parts and reassembled into a new thing.Well boys are tough early but girls are tough later. A little baseball player, huh, huh? A little piano player, yeah? A little Bonnie? A little Dirk. A cutie. An athlete. A musician? A mud-wrestler? Like his mother, like his father. Hair color. Eye color.
Then… Then you disappoint. Yourself and everyone who had the baby with you.
Not pregnant. I‘d be okay with a boy or a girl.
Not pregnant. Well, you know these things take time.
Not pregnant. Maybe we should get professional help?
Not pregnant. I don’t understand why the treatments haven’t worked?
Not pregnant. What is wrong with us? What is wrong with my body? What is wrong with me? I’m broken. I’m a disappointment. I’m less of a woman or man.
It’s at this point that you realize you’re not the only one having the baby. Everyone else on the trying train is too. And they have answers, suggestions, ideas, insights, advice and, of course, cliches: “it’ll just happen when you least expect it.”
When you least expect it. Like a threat. A happy threat. Like a knife in the dark, but happy. Like a lightning bolt, like a deer on a dark road, like a pipe bursting, like the lottery, like an asteroid caroming into the Earth and destroying the Dinosaurs. The best way to control it is to not control it at all. Stop thinking about it. Stop trying. Or, should I say, try to stop thinking about trying so you can trick “it” into happening by convincing it you’re not actually trying to try—simple!
They want to help. Help you feel better, help you believe, help you hope. Help you get pregnant. They come up with fantastical ideas on how. I was at work one day, wondering why I can’t control any of it—feelings, fertility, futures; any of it. I was stupid enough to tell my coworkers about the pregnancy struggle (extrovert), stupid enough to give them all train tickets. The CEO calls me into his office. He tells me his wife knows a secret combination of oils and extracts that increase fertility. He tells me it’s not even funny how quickly the extracts and oils work. All his wife’s friends who’ve tried it got pregnant. It’s a sure thing. It’s control. You’ve always wanted control and now you’ve got it!
So we get the oils. So we get the extracts. So we get into the bedroom and:
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.
What is wrong with us? What is wrong with my body? What is wrong with me?
Then you decide to adopt, and the plot thickens.
“Perfect!” The riders squeal. “We know so many people who adopt and then get pregnant. I know this one couple”—everyone knows this fucking couple, by the way, they are the most popular couple on Earth, it seems—”That adopted, and right after they got the baby they found out they had twins! How wonderful!”
No. For them, maybe yes, but not us. Not how wonderful. We don’t want three kids. We want a kid. One kid. Our kid. Four years ago. Adopting is not a distraction so our reproductive organs will get over The Yips.
Ironically adoption is a not an incredibly well understood process by most people. That’s because, mercifully, most people don’t have to do it. Most people can, whether they’re trying or not, produce a baby. Many of your friends will know someone that has adopted, but, if we’re just playing pure percentages here, most folks will assume that when you decide to adopt, you are doing something like what Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie do.
“Dirk, you should adopt from South America because that’s where all the good baseball players are from. You should adopt a left-handed boy so you can teach him how to pitch. You should adopt a boy from China so he can teach you kung-fu. You should adopt a boy from Russia because he’ll be a power lifter, You should—” I should tell you to stop because this isn’t Baskin fucking Robins.
And yet… and yet…. ugh… in many ways it is. You get to pick things you want. Children get itemized into buckets of race and sex and health and background and you pick.
Unlike having your own kid, however, something else gets sprinkled into the ice-cream when you adopt. Something that changes the flavor compelely: charity.
Adoption = Charity, right? Right? Saving a life. Rescuing a baby, an innocent baby. You wonderful saint, you. You merciful hero, you. Dirk and Bonnie Hayhurst; champion of the orphaned and unloved. What good Christian souls ye be. Obviously this failure to produce a child was part of God’s plan!
Of course! He, God, was keeping us infertile so that He could bring us the perfect baby. Our own little Jesus, just, you know, left handed, from south America, and pronounced hey-suess. It’s so clear now: He, God, was closing all those doors, trying to dissuade us from trying, but also tempering us through the failing, but also trying to tell us to try adoption—simple! Disassemble. Reassemble. Fill the gaps in with a new rationalization. And then… Then… When you least expect it, like a knife in the dark. Like a lightning bolt, like a deer on a dark road, like a pipe bursting, like the lottery, like an asteroid caroming into the Earth and destroying the Dinosaurs, the perfect narrative is born:
“Bonnie, it’s so clear that it’s God’s plan for you to adopt a child with special needs.”
[We have all agreed that] God has spoken. Do not disobey Him.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the perfect trap and punishment for Bonnie working with special needs children but not being able to have her own baby naturally. To things that never had to be put together, not put together by God. Unexplained infertility now explained, again. We should adopt a special needs child because mercy/god/ministry/calling/faith/logic/ability/obviousness have conspired to make it happen.
So do it. Do it. Do it. Do it now. What are you waiting for? You said you wanted a baby! Do God’s will!
No. We will not willfully adopt a child with special needs. We won’t. We can’t. I’m simply not strong enough to take on that burden.
“But you said you’d do anything for a baby and it’s so obvious that Bonnie—”
No. We won’t. We can’t. I am simply not strong enough to take on that burden.
“But God has clearly given Bonnie a ministry to serve the special needs community.”
No. We won’t. We can’t. I am simply not strong enough to take on that burden.
“But Dirk, children are a blessing, not a burden, and God never gives you more than you can handle.”
Go to hell, and take that cliche with you. That misquoted, out of context, deplorable line of Christian bullshit that has been shoveled onto us ever since we “started trying” unsuccessful and failing successfully. God very regularly gives you more than you can handle. He did it to David, he did it to Paul. God never gives you more than you can handle? How about, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God gives us more than we can handle, and that’s if He’s even doing the giving.
Full disclosure: we’re trying to adopt an infant. You want to know what’s incredibly cruel about adopting an infant? Getting exactly what you thought you wanted—Control.
If, at the birth of the child, there is something wrong with it, if you, the adopting parent, so desire, as outlined by your adoption contract, you can opt-out.
Throw you emotions to the farthest ends of their extremes and consider this: You’ve been trying for years to have children. You work with children with special needs. You are gifted with serving children with special needs. You love people with special needs. You are matched with a family. They give birth to a child with special needs—your future child because you agreed to match up with them. Then, when you learn that child has special needs, you say, no thank you, I opt out.
Monsters. That’ what you become. Monsters for even thinking it. Monsters in your social circles and souls. Monsters on account of exercising the one part of the process you actually have control over. Oh, sure, there is so much you can’t know at birth, but, if you find out early in that child is diagnosed with special needs, you can opt out.
Think of it: a baby a family did not want, given up for adoption and matched with you; a family trained to help special needs children. The baby is born and you renege, leaving that family not only with a baby they weren’t ready for and didn’t want, but also one that has special needs. What are you supposed to say when you turn down their baby? “Don’t worry, God never gives you more than you can handle?”
Go to hell. That’s what I expect to hear back: Go to hell you fucking monsters.
We get it. We’ve been touring hell lately, our own personal one. Our life has, at moments, felt like an extended stay. Our mind’s ache at the possibility of an opt out scenario, and our skin in callous from accusations of hypocrisy. Of all the things that make us feel like residents in our own personal nightmare, it’s not the the lack of success at making babies that haunts us the most, It’s this: the awareness and the guilt. Guilt for having the slightest bit of control—the only upside of years of infertility turned soul sucking crucible—and planning to exercise it.
We want a healthy baby and we won’t compromise. Would you? I throw my hands wide and accept your condemnation. I agree, I am a coward and a pragmatist. I’m a monster. I am not strong enough to shoulder the burden. Because we, Bonnie and I, know that those families who have special needs children are braver, stronger, and more virtuous than us, and, because we get a/have a/must make a choice, upfront, in a sterile, wicked little checkbox. We check “no.”
It’s a horrible choice. A horrible, horrible choice. They all are. But we didn’t disobey God making it. We broke a thoughtless narrative concocted for someone else’s convenience. Truth is, no matter what you choose on those adoption forms—sex, race, background, personality, healthy— unless you’re up for taking every and any scenario offered, you are valuing one life over another. There is no way you walk away from it without feeling wracked with guilt. There no way you’re not making a transaction. A human life transaction….
Bonnie and I have a dream of a healthy baby, like so many other people. It doesn’t always come true, but we wish it did. For everyone. You have no idea how much we wish it did. But when started down this track, we didn’t start because we wanted to be dubbed saints. We weren’t looking to be assembled and reassembled and told what God’s plan was for us. We wanted… we want, a healthy baby. We don’t get to control our own chemistry. We don’t get any of our chemistry at all. We just get checkboxes.
Horrible. Little. Checkboxes.
Thank you for reading. More coming. Please click an ad on the site as it does 3 things: helps me fund the Adoption Quest series, lets me know you like what you’re reading and, hopefully, enables Bonnie and I to put our future adopted child through college.