I come from a large, robust family; lots of siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, a veritable menagerie of personalities. Our kind of wild rumpus is not for everyone, but I wouldn't change it for the world. That said, I wondered if I would ever have—or want—a brood of my own.
Then, 11 years ago, on my first day in a new city, I met the woman who would eventually be my wife and travel with me down the path to parenthood. This was a road less traveled, at least for a while. Like most couples, we wanted to be more settled, have a house, save some money. We wanted to be at the right place at the right time before we started our family. And like most couples, we quickly realized there isn't a perfect time to have a kid, and the more you analyze the concept, the scarier it gets.
I eventually took a job at a liberal arts university that brought us from bustling metropolis to small rural town. The living here was affordable, we were closer to our families and the whole town resembled the cover of a vintage “Welcome To (Wherever)!" postcard. We felt as ready as we could to finally start our family.
We're two women, so traditional conception was off the table. We looked into local adoption and found a woman who'd been running a small but successful (and affordable) agency for the last few decades. She was great to work with, our adoption classes were informative and surprisingly supportive (especially since we were the only same-sex couple in the class) and we were, overall, optimistic. The problem was, this woman had never placed a same-sex couple before.
After months with no leads, I realized she was presenting us like a caveat: “So, I just need to tell you this is a lesbian couple" instead of “Here's a loving, stable, two-income home who would be a perfect fit…oh, and they're both women." I wondered, if we were any other kind of family, would you still word it that way? What if we were much older or ethnically diverse? What if we had a weight problem that affected our mobility or a chronic health issue? Would you still issue a warning shot to prospective birth parents?
Even though I tried to educate our agency advisor, we felt defeated. Meetings with lawyers and adoption false-starts left us further stalled. Larger agencies were costly—upwards of $30,000 in-state and close to $50,000 for international adoptions. It was starting to get overwhelming, both emotionally and financially, not to mention the risk of having the adoption fall through at the last minute, a fear we knew was real.
It took lunch with a friend of ours to bring a change of perspective.
She was a former lawyer, so we wanted to ask for her help with adoption options. But as a parent of a lovely little girl with a partner of her own, she asked, “Have you ever considered having the baby yourselves?" Truthfully, my partner and I always felt strongly about wanting to adopt, so having a biological child never really presented as an option. But we were at a crossroad, and after that lunch, our next steps were clear: we would try to get pregnant.
The next months were filled with rigorous research into sperm banks and calls to insurance companies about fertility coverage. We decided that my partner would get pregnant because a) she was older than me by a few years and b) I wasn't sure I was the carrying kind. I saw myself as more of the “hand-holding, chore-doing, 2am supermarket run for ice cream" part of the equation.
We settled on California Cryobank because they got great reviews and, as a perk, provided a “celebrity look-a-like" option. This means you can search for donors by what celeb the staff thinks he most resembled. While our advanced search was based more on health background, biological make-up and personality traits, I will say that our chosen dude was a cross between Jude Law and Jesse Spencer from the show “House."
Once selecting our lucky donor vials, we forged ahead with IUI, or artificial insemination. This is the most non-invasive of all the fertility procedures and is most commonly referred to as “the turkey baster." While much more scientific than that, it still took four tries for us to finally see the two blue lines (we were told the average IUI success rate, without issue, can be up to 20% or 1 out of 5 tries).
And so the next chapter of our lives began. To share our fertility exploration and pregnancy journey with family and friends, we started our first blog called “The Littlest C," which captured the joys and the freak-outs that come with impending parenthood.
Two and half years ago this month, my wife gave birth to our beautiful little boy. Due to a serious complication called meconium aspiration, our boy spent the first two weeks of his life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU, which is a whole other story. Thankfully, we were able to take him home three days before Christmas, and from that moment on, life took on new meaning.
My wife and I were just like any other parents—thrilled, exhausted and generally dazed and confused. All the books we read, all the research we did and all the advice gathering during pregnancy was quickly rendered obsolete once this indecipherable newborn came along. Fussy, hungry, sick or tired—who could tell?
We were in the trenches and the only way out was through. Eventually, the fog lifted and we started to get a handle on this parenting thing.
Today, our boy is everything we could ever want (and then some)—funny, smart, compassionate, feisty, opinionated, sensitive and fun. Our family dynamic has evolved over time and my wife and I found the roles that best suited us. Our son calls her Mommy, but to him, I am Baba—a sort of mother-father hybrid. Early on, we realized that for him—and for me—the Mama thing just didn't work. So we settled on Baba, which means “warm caregiver or protector" and is used by some members of the LGBT community to denote parent.
And so here we are, Mommy, Baba and Kid, figuring it out as we go along. As parents to a toddler, we're dealing with all the usual suspects—potty training, temper tantrums, independence—and some unique to our situation (this year is the first in which we'll be celebrating both Mother's Day and Father's Day (aka, National Baba Appreciation). It may have taken us a while to get here, but this road is one I never, ever regret taking.