“Fatherhood, Repeating,” a new series by Adam Mankoski, explores the journey he and his husband have taken to parent again after age 40 and navigate an adoption through foster care, while trying to douse the flames of mid-life crisis.
Parenting is my favorite job. But the road to having another baby has been curvy. My husband and I have hemmed and hawed, planned and reneged our plans. We thought we were through with kids.
Our daughter is 14, and at ages 41 and 46, we figured empty nesting, leisurely travel and the freedom to follow our passions was our destiny, not another round of teething, terrible 2’s (3 was worse), homework wars and teenage hormone imbalances.
But we couldn’t ignore the signs or our longing to care for another child together. We see happy parents with babies everywhere. Even the birds in the nest outside our kitchen window are peacefully co-parenting. So, after much back-and-forth, we decided that we want to, once again, be employed as full-time parents.
Private adoption, foreign adoption and surrogacy, the roads to families for many gay parents, were out for fiscal and logistical reasons, so we’re adopting through foster care (a topic for another post).
We trudged through 18-weeks of classes that instilled fears of pre-natal drug exposure, fetal alcohol syndrome and a bevy of other issues that we could only control if one of us had carried our child to term. Then a 3-week class that prepared us for an adopted child’s mental and emotional complexities, followed by enough home studies, fingerprinting, background screening and health checks to make us suspicious of one another.
We must have achieved FBI-level security clearance by now.
Every drawer and cupboard is battened down and safeguarded against marauding chemical-ingesting, knife-wielding toddlers. Our gender-neutral baby room, complete with yet un-named goldfish lays in wait. We stalk baby aisles, gushing over onesies and impossibly tiny shoes.
When we finally come together after my husband’s long work day, we mindlessly occupy our home time with “True Blood,” “Girls” and ” Abby. We stare at the TV screen, waiting for a “baby call,” the signal that our world is about to be, once again, joyfully upended.
After all of our training, I feel like we’re better prepared for a new bundle of joy than most first-time bio parents. Still, we wait with complete uncertainty for a child that we haven’t nurtured and fed in-utero for nine months. Essentially, we’ve prepared for an unknown child that doesn’t even know the sound of our voices. Waiting is agony, but I know that when the stork arrives, he will bring the child who was meant to be part of our family.
It was my dream to stay at home this time around, but being a stay-at-home dad to my pets is wearing thin. I’ve just about read every new age parenting strategy, tinkered in the garden, organized and re-organized our home, and mastered swaddling and “shushing” a doll. I’ve nested, painted or made color choices for every room and sold off all of my husband’s good stuff in a firestorm of yard sales, under the façade of preparing for our new family member.
And I should probably stop complaining about the stay-at-home parent isolation I’m feeling. I can, after all, still have an afternoon beer with my pals.
But soon I’ll hear cooing and crying, change diapers and give baby baths in the sink. Rationally, I know I’m getting ahead of myself, but I have time on my hands to think about the first crawl, the first walk, the first tooth, the first words and the first day of school. I want to show another small person what I love about the world, and I’ll gladly take the tantrums, night terrors and talking back.
Without question, those things are a fair exchange for life’s joys and triumphs and the privilege of light-handedly guiding a young person along their own path.
So, Children and Family Services, hear our pleas. My husband and I have done everything you’ve asked. It’s a simple request, really: Bring us a baby (or two). You’ll find us at home, pouring over paint swatches, watching TV and still second-guessing ourselves, waiting not-so-patiently for your “baby call.”