When I was a college student working weekends at Book Soup, it was my job to shelve the childcare section, which is how I found myself reading The Kid, Dan Savage’s memoir about open adoption. (I was less intrigued by What to Expect When You’re Expecting, with its cover mom staring sedatedly from a rocking chair.) I wasn’t even out to myself at that point, although I had to admit I had a little crush on my fellow weekend-shifter Nancy. But I read The Kid with more interest than any straight girl with bio babies in her future should have.
This weekend, AK and I attended a two-day registration seminar with an open adoption agency. We’re still mourning the Squeakies; I think we always will be. But adoption takes a long time, and I figure I can fill out a few forms while I mourn. It also feels good to know I’m doing something to actively pursue having children, and that it doesn’t start with someone telling me to undress from the waist down (I know this is more or less how all babies are made, but it’s much less romantic when you hear it from an exasperated nurse with a Hello Kitty tattoo on her neck, although I suppose that’s what some people are into).
Here’s how open adoption works, to the extent that I understand it: You fill out a lot of forms. You ask everyone you know to fill out forms testifying that the information on the forms you filled out is true. A social worker visits your house and interviews you and your spouse separately and together, like on Law & Order. When it’s determined that you’re not a psychotic, debt-ridden, terminally ill criminal, you create an online profile and basically go on Match.com for babies and birth moms. A pregnant woman decides she likes your smile, or that your spouse looks like her cousin, or that you love hiking just like she does and contacts you.
If the three of you like each other in spite of (although maybe because of) the deep emotional shit you’re all going through, you call it a match and enter what one guy in our seminar described as baby escrow. When the baby is born, she signs some forms of her own and seals the deal. Or she doesn’t. Usually she does, but sometimes she changes her mind at the last minute. The State of California says it’s her right.
So even though AK and I left the registration session excited and hopeful, I still have a sense of having to work ten times harder than most people for a baby, with less chance of getting one. The gratitude/frustration dichotomy continues.
But once we find a birth mother who says yes, our baby—like Dan Savage’s—will always know who gave birth to him or her and the amazing journey all his moms made, and hopefully that baby will grow up with a sort of aunt/tia-like relationship with his or her birth mom.
2. heroine’s journey
This afternoon, I signed books (meaning I sat around and chatted with some nice literary people) at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. Then AK, Amy and I caught Dan Savage talking about the book version of the It Gets Better Project.
“All that crap you go through, that you don’t think you’ll live through, makes you stronger. It’s part of your hero’s journey,” he said. AK, who reads Homer and Jung in addition to Savage Love, was particularly moved by this idea.
At the signing afterward, I wanted to tell him that we’d spent the morning listening to a birth mother and an adoptive family talking about their experiences.
“My girlfriend is shy,” said AK, “but we wanted to tell you that we just registered with an open adoption agency. We both read The Kid a long time ago and were inspired.”
“Open adoption is the way to go,” he said. (FYI, he’s very cute in person—buff arms and sincere hazel eyes.) “And if you have a match that falls through, hang in there. Terry and I lucked out and it worked the first time, but we know so many couples who had a situation that fell apart and went on adopt kids. If it doesn’t work out at first, that’s not the baby for you. No matter what happens, don’t give up.”
I just nodded stupidly, hoping my face conveyed how much it meant to hear someone whose advice I’ve been taking for more than a decade give me advice about my own actual life. I fell apart a little afterward. Trying to have a baby has brought more hormonal and emotional change, scariness and uncertainty than I’ve had since I was a 14-year-old kid, lying awake at night terrified that I was gay and not being able to imagine what was on the other side of that ocean. But Dan Savage told us that this part gets better too, and I believe him.