Once the decision to adopt a child had been made, there were months of classes to qualify, followed by a frustrating waiting period that saw the redneck heterosexual couple in our class quickly matched with a child. This, after Husband Redneck stated in one class that his approach to dealing with a child (hypothetically) traumatized by seeing his parents gunned down in the street would be to give him a rifle or first-person-shooter video game to let out his frustration.
But they were white, straight, Christian and, well, straight. So naturally, they got a kid almost immediately.
The instructor had tactfully mentioned that fostering-to-adopt might be the best option for us. Foster parents are given a large role in choosing adoptive parents and are not bound by the non-discrimination laws governing social workers. Which explained why several months passed without any potential children being sent our way.
So the decision was made to foster a child that was in the process of being cleared for adoption. There were no guarantees offered, though the case worker did confide that it was likely any child placed for fostering would remain with that family when adopted.
We set up a meeting with the case worker for Friday morning to discuss fostering a child. She had a few kids that seemed suitable and would bring their files. As we sat in the living room, discussing each child, it became clear that only one was suitable for our lifestyle and abilities. The others were exhibiting signs of autism or fetal alcohol syndrome — needs that were simply beyond our capabilities.
So we tentatively decided on Baby N and asked if a meeting with him could be set up at some point in the near future. Well, the near future was a little nearer than initially thought. If we were amenable to fostering Baby N, he would arrive that afternoon. In three hours. With nothing more than a few clothes and a couple of toys.
Professor D was conflicted. He had a wicked cold and was in the midst of organizing a major work conference. This was not a good time. But Baby N’s other option was going to be what was euphemistically called “24-hour daycare” — in actuality an orphanage.
There was no way I was sending this kid to an orphanage.
So Baby N’s previous foster parents brought over a crib, some formula and some baby food. They were heartsick at his leaving but were caring for another baby whose immune system was so compromised she needed intensive care. As they already had five older foster kids, and two of their own, Baby N needed to find another home.
It was a hell of a weekend. I napped while Baby N napped but was so sleep-deprived I lost track of the days quickly. Baby N wasn’t yet walking but crawled around the house at astonishing speeds, getting into everything that wasn’t baby-proofed (and at that point nothing was) and leaving me an exhausted mess by the end of the day.
After a week of this, it became clear that I wasn’t able to juggle parenting and work and life in general. Professor D had helped where he could, but I was largely left on my own during the long days. We made the gut-wrenching decision to tell Baby N’s social worker that this was beyond us. We had no help, no family and no friends stepping forward to offer aid, and the future seemed untenable. But then something miraculous happened. Something so magical, so wonderful, that everything changed.
There are no words to express the absolute rapture that daycare brought into my life. Suddenly I could bathe, nap, cook and get some work done, just like a regular human being! It was an epiphany! And as the days grew, and life settled into a routine, it became clear that this was going to be manageable for all of us. We waited a further week to be sure before contacting the social worker and asking her to place Baby N with us permanently.
By this point, we had fallen utterly in love with the child. It had taken only two weeks to feel he was inextricably a part of our family, and I couldn’t imagine life without him. His sunny disposition, his curiosity, his bouts of crying, everything about him made my heart full.
What followed was eight months of anxiety, as we waited for the adoption process to proceed. There were plenty of hurdles to overcome, and the outcome wasn’t sure until the moment a judge signed the adoption certificate. It’s only now that I realize how terrified I was that it would all fall apart and that our son might be taken from us.
Three years later, we are a family. We argue, we laugh, we play, we sulk, we watch videos, we dance to music, we sing songs and we eat ice cream. It’s a beautiful life, and I’m deeply thankful for it. I’ve never felt loved by anyone like I am by my son, and I’ve never loved anything so protectively, so fiercely, so wholly, as I do him.
Is it perfect? Well, yes it is. It’s perfect in that it’s complicated, and wonderful, and challenging, and joyous, and shitty and all of the things that make up a life.
Are we treated differently as a queer adoptive family? Yep, absolutely. We had to get through it on our own, without baby showers, family babysitting, doting relatives and all the things that straight, natural-birth couples are given in due course. But by being largely self-sufficient, we’ve also been mercifully free of the meddling, criticism and all-around hassle that so many other families have to deal with when it comes to attentive relations. So I’m definitely not complaining.
And now, in an age where we LGBT folks don’t need to play “special uncle” or “honorary aunt” to other kids, we can have our own families, secure in the knowledge that we’re not just some politically correct accessory to discard in favour of “real family.”
So no matter how marginalized we get, or how many times we turn on the TV and hear how we’re ruining our children’s lives or destined to burn in hell, we still have the family we’ve made for ourselves. We still have each other. And that’s something to celebrate.