2017 and still no baby.
Bonnie and I have been matched with mothers 7 times now, nothing has panned out. Sucks, but there it is
The holidays were a trial. Christmas is for kids to get presents and for adults to practice their conflict management skills. It’s about family. Family expectations, family dinners, family time, family outings, family, family, family. And like all families in our age bracket, kids are front and center, which, in turn, highlights the negative space of me and Bonnie’s present .
Sure, we’ll hold your baby. Sure we’ll listen to your stories about all your kids, their schooling, their personality, how bossy they are, their achievements. We’ll “ooh” and “aah” at their art. We’ll watch their home videos. We’ll like their pics on Facebook. But we’re childless. So it’s just torture. And after we’re done with this torture and the parent of the child star is sufficiently sated from gushing about their perfect weeddle angel baby, they then turn, child bouncing on their knee, to inquire on what our situation is.
I assume that, if we had kids, we would then gush about ours in that comparison process where families simultaneously reciprocate, measure and humble-brag about their offspring. But we can’t do that. Instead we get to talk about how far or close we are to actually being able to buy into the high-stakes game of parenthood. The process, for the record, works like this:
Now that we’re approved and in the adoption system, when we get matched, Bonnie gets an email. It reads there’s a new birth mom situation. The term “situation” makes it feel like there should be a news anchor giving minute-to-minute updates on the process. “Where here, live at the situation. The agency has just sent in it’s head negotiator. Emotions are tense as we wait to see what the mother will do with the child….”
But emotions aren’t tense. Everything is broken down into a list. Did she smoke. Did she do drugs. Does she know the father. What is the reasoning. Is she healthy. Her race. The father’s race. It’s like when you set an alert on Zillow to send you realestate matches for houses that just hit the market in your area, except it’s a pregnant woman. And based on the strength of that listing, you, the adopter, decide if you want put your name in the running for the kiddo.
And, for whatever it’s worth, the birth mother is usually black, young, poor, and in a tough situation with a man who doesn’t want anything to do with his kid. In our match scenarios so far, it’s been 6 out of 7 black mothers. The 1 remainder was latino. I don’t think you really understand the socio-economic stratification of race in our country until you put yourself inside a system where you can see the product of our inequality in action, producing outcomes like children that mothers want to give up so they and the child can have better life—right in your own backyard. And their reasons are usually not drugs but economics. They have more kids at home now then they can manage. They want to work because they have to work. They want to go to college and have a shot at a better life.
In case you forgot, we’re only targeting Ohio for adoption, not the rest of country. I’ll be clear here: it does not matter to us at all what color or background “our” future child comes from, but, I have to tell you that we’re are 99% resigned to the fact that, at this juncture, going by the numbers, we’re going to be the parents of a black child. If and when that happens.
If and when it happens. If and when. If and when… If and when.
If and when. If and when. We use that term a lot lately. If and when we get matched. If and when we have a child. If and when it all comes through. If and when God wants us to do this. If and when. If and when. I could scrawl it all over the wall of my house in red paint, and when you come to see me, sitting in the corner with a blanket over my head, in the dark, you’d notice the writing everywhere as flashes of lightning illuminate the house through the windows. If and when, you came to visit.
If and when we get matched. If and when that match chooses us…
If and… No, let’s just use If.
If it happens. When feels too hopeful.
If, and only if, because once you get matched—which we have been 7 times—and you decide if you’re in and you want the birthmother to consider you as a viable candidate to take her child your name goes into a pool that the birth mother will choose from.
In our case, it’s us and everyone else who wants a kid. Why? Because we’re only interested in adopting a healthy newborn.
Incoming news flash from the news team, live at “the situation”: “So is everyone else. Every adoptive parent wants a healthy baby as their baseline match. However, many will also consider unhealthy or higher risk birth mothers. It doesn’t take a statistician to realize that your odds—and you were told this when you signed up— would be long to get selected as a potential candidate, Dirk.”
It doesn’t help that, when you get the birth mother reports, the reports read: “denies using drugs,” “denies drinking,” “denies smoking.” It does not say, “never smoked or drank or did drugs while pregnant. Very responsible mother, you should go all-in on this. Good luck!” It says “denies” because there is this assumption that the mother might be lying. Reason’s for that include: being ashamed that you can’t take care of your child, being looked down upon as irresponsible, not willing to admit you have a problem, fear that no one will take your baby if you say you’ve done those things because, even though you regret your choices or have an addiction, you still want your child to have the best chances possible.
There is so much that isn’t said in those little emails… fuck.
If and when and if and when and if and when and if and when and if and when and if they’re telling the truth and when it happens and the odds are long and it sucks. And the lack of interest does this thing to you where you wonder if you should have answered the questions on the forms differently. If you should have lied. Which makes you doubt yourself. Which makes you get really spiritual and yelly at God. Which makes you toss around terms like “cursed” and phrases like, “deathbed, alone,” and find lyrics like, Father McKenzie, irons his socks in the dark when there’s no one around ear worming in your brain.
Yesterday while walking the dog, I realized that, if Bonnie and I don’t have kids, that our dog— and his inevitable replacements—may be the only family Bonnie and I every get to play parent to. I would have laughed at this thought before. Ridiculous. Who cares. Stop being such a wet blanket, Dirk, you goddamn sap. But for whatever reason, that thought hit me like an ACME anvil, right out of the sky.
On we strolled. My hound’s delicate frame. His long, spring loaded legs. His sleek black coat, frosted with falling snow. His insistence that every vertical object in our neighborhood showered in urine. Meanwhile, I’m stuck in this alternate reality:
“In a world where all the things that you thought were so important probably won’t be. Where the people on the internet won’t give a shit about you when you die. Where no one will remember your books, or the time you were on television, or your shitty career as a MLB pitcher. You will be irrelevant. You will die irrelevant. You and your wife will age, lonely and uncared for, passing on nothing to no one, with the only way out an all consuming, inexorable oblivion. Two people, consumed by time, erased and forgotten. Coming to theaters near you this summer.
My dog takes shit. It’s solid. I am pleased. This is my life. This is my legacy.
Bonnie and I suck it up. We remain hopeful. And we go back to waiting, and If-ing. If-if-if-ing.
If we do get matched, get selected, and we do get to move on to the next round, we then get to meet the birth mother. Like a first date, but instead of trying to score, we’re skipping right to having a kid together. Oh, man, what we wouldn’t do for a chance at that sweet, sweet awkwardness. Just a chance to make our case in person, instead of relying on venn diagrams and a Shutterfly photo book. But it’s a long shot. This whole thing is a long shot. Like a blindfolded shot across the universe using Nerf gun to blow the reactor of the Death Star.
So, like any responsible, overeducated duo with a severe case of the “if and whens”, we start to hedge our bets. We think about what we should be doing incase this doesn’t happen. Our live has been on hold. It could be for years. We’ve planned to be Mommy and Daddy. But… What will life look like If and when… it doesn’t happen?