It's the time of night in New York City when the neon lights are casting a purple pallor over the low-hanging clouds, wispy violet tendrils inching through the avenues, before another sun goes to sleep in a sleepless city. And I'm not watching it at all, because I'm watching a baby try to poop.
This must be one hell of a poop. I can see the furrowed brow of concentration and force, coupled with the scrunched cheeks and tightened fist of determination. This baby is about to accomplish something enormous, and I can't turn away.
These things have been happening lately, you see. I just find myself captivated. Whether it's a baby in a grocery store who can't stop putting the broccoli in his mouth or the little girl at the rink in a hockey jersey in her Dad's arms, smiling at me as an entire period of hockey passes by without my knowledge.
Our neighbor's 11-month old baby is the light and the joy of living in our duplex. He hugs me, and tugs on my facial scruff, and always beams when he sees me. He sat on my lap for the entirety of his first musical. We immediately steal our friends' babies and hold them until we are forced to give them back. Maybe steal is a harsh word.
If I had ovaries, I think it would be safe to say they've been aching.
I want a baby. I want a baby very, very badly.
All around us now, as my husband and I slide handsomely into our thirties, our friends are having babies. I've always been less interested in trends and more focused on what feels right for me individually.
I am so excited for my friends when I hear about their pregnancies. I have amazing friends, beautiful, loving, caring friends. And they're going to make amazing moms and dads, I'm sure of it. Far be it from me to begrudge a woman her vagina. But there's that part of me that wants a baby so badly for myself, for my husband. To make our family happen. We want to experience every moment of our baby's life, from the first time we feel a tightened grip around our pointer fingers to the first diaper change, first word, first anything and first everything.
We started looking into the adoption process. In approaching my 30th year, I've lost the ego that tells me I need to have a child that is biologically mine. I will take any baby. I don't care if the baby is Black, white, Asian, chubby, skinny or a jerk. Do you hear me? If you have a baby and it's a jerk, I will take it. Pack his stuff in a box, I'll pay for shipping and handling.
Well, the adoption research didn't take very long, as it turns out. $2,500 for a home study. $1,000 for a home study update. $3,000 for pregnancy-related expenses. $3,000 for travel. $6,000 for out-of-state agency fees. $2,000 for "finalization expenses." $1,500 for additional attorney fees. $150/hr. for birth parent counseling. $150/hr. for pre-adoption consultation. $150/hr. for private adoption information meetings. With specific agencies, there is a $20,000 child placement fee.
That's at least $39,000. Thirty-nine thousand dollars. So ultimately, if we're able to find a child who never needs to eat, wear clothes, go to school, leave the home or have any substantial quality of life, it looks like we just might be able to afford this.
If "Toys 'R Us" sells toys, then logic would follow that "Babies 'R Us"... nevermind. I already checked.
Maybe surrogacy would be easier, you might suggest. No, $80,000 is not easier than $39,000. Both are batsh*t crazy.
Real life is different than television. Couples like us are different from the couples on "Modern Family" and "The New Normal." Money has to be earned, and that is hard.
We do not have, and will not have, an extra forty grand, or eighty grand just lying around. Can we afford to have a baby right now, in terms of the costs of living and providing for a newborn? Absolutely. Do we have the time to take care of a newborn? Absolutely. Do we have jobs that allow us the paternity leave to be there as our child grows up? Yes, we do. Are we ready? Mentally, emotionally, are we ready for our entire lives to change and adjust to a new life in the house? Yes. A thousand times, yes. And because our marriage is now legally recognized at the state and federal level, nothing is standing in the way of our having a family protected to the fullest extent of the law.
But unless Oprah or Ellen or Angelina Jolie is going to pay for a baby for us, we're left watching for one sailing through the air from Rosie O'Donnell's Koosh Launcher. Santa has left me disappointed every year.
Let me appeal to you here, faithful reader. Looking past the insanity of adoption fees, here are the qualifications that I think make us fantastic candidates to be parents.
Me, Dad #1. (Or maybe it'll be Pop? Daddy? Something cute our baby calls me that I can't even imagine right now?) Here's what I bring.
1.) I know every lullaby ever created. I am the best shower singer in these
United States. I have seen literally hundreds of Broadway shows and am prepared to sing that baby to sleep every single night of its life until it's thirty or I'm dead.
2.) I have been a hockey fan for 20 years. I will care too much that my son or daughter is also a Devils fan. That child's first Halloween costume will be in a hockey jersey. And there will be facepaint.
3.) Happiness and celebration matter to me. So there will be Christmas decorations and Halloween decorations and Easter decorations and the happiest of birthday parties and celebrations for good report cards and celebrations for Arbor Day because trees matter and on President's Day I might dress up as Thomas Jefferson because it will make my child laugh and all I want in this world is to have a child that is mine and to make it laugh.
4.) I don't know how to do girl's hair. I will probably never know how to
braid, but I will happily send my daughter to school with a sloppy braid, because I will try so hard. Hmm, maybe that's not my best sell. You know what, we have friends who will do her hair.
My Hubby, Dad #2 (Pop might be a better name here, he does wear old hats really well, and that feels like a "Pop" thing to do.)
1. He can cook anything, from anything, and it will be the most delicious dish you've ever eaten. I will only eat French Fries, but he will teach our child about being what other folks call "healthy and nutritious."
2. He is a teacher, and he cares more about children than I could possibly imagine.
He has dedicated his life to children, and if he works half as hard at being a dad as he does as a teacher, our child will be President. Unless we end up adopting that jerk baby we discussed earlier. Then maybe he'll just wind up in the Senate.
3. He can parallel park better than anyone I've ever met.
I feel like this is something that might not get covered in a home study for adoption, but my husband will out-parallel-park your husband eleven times out of ten. So I'm pretty sure our baby will be a great driver, and a responsible parker.
4. He is a good man. Good men make good fathers. This is a no-brainer.
So, there it is. These are among the many and varied reasons that I think we will be good parents, should be parents. Our parents can't wait to spoil a baby. This would be the first grandchild in our family, and I think you all know what that means.
There will be too many family members passing around the new baby, too many stories about what we were both like as babies ourselves. Too many toys, shiny plastic celebrations of a new beginning. And there will be embarrassing photos trotted out, like this one.
My body and my head and my heart feel like they can't wait to be holding a tiny bundle of baby-love in my arms. But I have to wait. For something, I suppose. A magical stork in a cabbage patch, a family who hears about two dads-in-waiting or an overhaul of the costs of the adoption system that makes adoption affordable for two dads with a lot of love and a lot of hope.
For now, we have our cat. And as much as he puts up a fight when it's time to put his pajamas on, it's the best we can do. It is all we can do. It's just a little less fun to see him poop.
Until then, we'll find happiness in unexpected places. Grocery stores, hockey games, our friends' homes. And their babies. Every tiny smile and giggle we're lucky to share. Someday our prince or princess will come. And we can't wait to be part of it. Even if waiting is the only thing we can do.
(Author's Note -- All babies pictured in the above article are otherwise spoken for, with parents who will not give them up, no matter how hard I try. I've even offered chocolate. They aren't budging.
Thanks to the parents of Baby Max, Andie Lynn and Stoli Cat for use of the adorable pictures.)