A friend pointed out to me the other day, “You have two kids. And not by accident. Like…you’re complaining but you chose to be here. Like there’s no ‘oops, the condom didn’t work’ or ‘oops, my birth control didn’t work’ or ‘oops…’ of any kind. You chose this.”
No. Doubt. About. It.
So let’s talk about the choices.
I knew I wanted to be a father and, furthermore, I was meant to be a father. It was in my cards.
My partner was understandably hesitant. He’d lived life devoted to his own goals.
So for six months we discussed parenthood. He asked all the right questions. And I had quick responses.
What if I’m too selfish?
I know you’re not. The way you dote on our dog and even the way you love me…you have too much love to give. I know you’ll melt with a child.
I don’t know how to deal with children or relate to them!
You’re like Dr. Doolittle. Animals and children gravitate to you.
What if I get a conducting job in Austria and have to go away for three months?
As long as the kid isn’t in, say, high school, we can all go. That’d be fun. And if I need to stay behind with a kid, there are much bigger hurdles than three months apart.
What if we don’t know what we are doing?
Do you seriously think that every single one of those parents you see in streets, subways or Starbucks knows what they’re doing? We’re smart. We’ll figure it out.
What if the kid lacks something without a mother?
Maybe that is a real lack. But as long as we love that child with all our hearts, they’ll be fine. Many, many kids grow up without a mother or a father. Even from birth. And they make it. I didn’t have a dad by age 8. I made it ok. I know that’s not the same as a mother, but lots of kids don’t have mothers. Life isn’t easy. We make the best of it. Do I think lacking a mother is sad? To some degree, yes. But maybe two loving fathers trumps even one mother? All we can do is love the kid, make them feel safe, and help them cope with challenges of life. You don’t specifically require a mother to do that.
Eventually, my partner threw up his hands and said, “OK. Make an appointment to talk to these people.”
The next week, we had an interview with an agency to manage our path to parenthood.
At the top of our Q&A with the agency’s CEO, he said, “We love your response to the question of parenthood fears.” (In preparation for the interview, we filled out a general questionnaire.)
“Oh,” I was a little confused. “You mean that I’m afraid I’ll never backpack across India?”
That’s a sincere fear of mine…that I won’t backpack across India (or Patagonia or China)…that my adventure travel days are over.
The CEO guffawed. “Yes! Hilarious!”
“I was completely serious,” I responded, completely seriously.
“Well, you’ll just have a baby strapped to your back. You can do it.”
“In India? I mean…I’m adventurous, but not reckless. I can deal with diarrhea from street vendor tikka masala, but a baby can’t.”
“Well, still. Your days of adventure aren’t over. They’re just beginning.”
We talked in generalities about the surrogacy process. He explained that the agency would handle surrogacy matching, provided an egg donor database, and managed all legal, contractual, and financial obligations. They took care of all the annoying stuff.
(For a hefty price…obviously.)
My pressing question was: “What kind of woman wants to be a surrogate?”
“I can answer that very easily for you,” the CEO said. “You’re an actor?”
“You like being on stage?”
“You like the applause?”
I pretended to demure. “Yes.”
“It’s the same thing. These women love being pregnant. They get attention; they feel important. I don’t mean this to sound crass. Frankly, I think all humans crave applause. We all like doing important acts. And surrogacy is very important. And they like the attention.”
Huh. That was interesting.
Later, the CEO described the day of the birth. “So you’ll be there, the surrogate carrier will be there – obviously – and her husband and kids will be there. And maybe even her parents.”
“Wait, seriously?” I asked.
“Yes. It’s important for a family who’s witnessed her pregnancy to see the full fruition.”
Huh. Made sense.
“So they’ll all be there. There will be lots of tears and smiles,” the CEO went on.
I glanced at my partner next to me on the couch. He lifted his glasses and wiped something away. I was a little surprised. I mean I dragged him to the meeting, if not kicking and screaming, at least grousing and scowling. Maybe he had something in his eye?
The meeting was over, we all shook hands, and my partner and I were silent until we exited onto 5th Avenue.
“You OK?” I asked.
“Um…what was that in there?”
“I dunno. I just suddenly envisioned us in a delivery room and it really affected me and I think we should do it.”
“Wait, what?” I was stunned. I’m a Libra. I don’t make hasty life decisions. At all.
“Yeah. I think we should do it. And we need to get all of the lead paint out of the house in Connecticut immediately.”
Well, shit. If that’s suddenly his biggest worry (that we probably have rooms full of lead paint at our Connecticut retreat), then no problem. We will paint the hell outta that house.
Let’s have a baby.