Adoption is a commitment that my partner and I have weighed for several years. Even before knowing each other, we each had entertained the idea. There were times-many times actually-that I wasn’t sure if I had the ability to be a parent or that I even wanted to be. The notion was vague, like something I would do in the future-like retire. It seemed far enough away that I wouldn’t expend a lot of energy thinking about it anyway.When I met Darrow one of the things we discussed was the idea of having a family. Neither of us wanted to be in a position of finding out down the road that the other did not want to have children. I think the adoption of our dogs was a precursor to this step. The notion of a rescue and of opening up our home and sharing our good fortune in life had already extended to canines and I think it was natural that since we both saw ourselves as fathers, it would extend to children. In fact one of the reasons we did not consider adopting another dog was because we were both ready to begin the process of adopting a child. I have always considered myself a responsible dog owner. Those animals that came under our roof were happy, healthy and well-loved. We often remark what a good life our three mutts have with us. I know dogs; know how to care for them; know how to train them; and have little trepidation about living among them. I did not know however whether I would make a good father, whether I had the patience or even the ability, if such a thing exists. Would I be willing to give up my freedom and in fact (as some friends tell me) have my world up-ended by a little human being in my life? There may be something noble about adoption, something fulfilling about the notion, but in the end it includes sacrifice. You are giving up a good part of your life to take care of a child and take on the full weight and responsibility of raising that child. Becoming a parent is decidedly not like rescuing a dog.
After being together for about five years it was clear that Darrow was ready to explore adoption more seriously. I think I was still somewhere in the notional stage but willing to move things along a little. I think it wasn’t until this year, when we went to a conference put on by DC Rainbow Families that the reality began to sink in. The conference was filled with hopeful stories of adoption, parenting and family life–but there were a few times when I felt like I was suffocating. The feelings were unexpected and confusing. I’ve never been one to be so divided when it comes to important decisions. As we sat outside on the curb, I was trying to understand my reaction. Though I think my partner was a little concerned about what this might mean, I tried to assure him that I was not reconsidering. Usually I have analyzed an issue so much that we (me and the voice of reason in my head) have had enough time to dispel any fears about taking a certain course of action. So it was difficult to reconcile the two: being certain that parenting was in our future, but being unable to handle the reality or parenthood embodied in those around me at the conference. If marriage often produces cold feet then that is what I was feeling. And like cold feet, it seemed that it was just a spasm of panic before taking the final dive. While I am not a therapist, I am often one to indulge in a little self-analysis and I concluded that this struggle was the final throws of my fear in becoming a father.
Since that time the fear has been displaced by desire. Even thinking about how our lives will be different–how my time will no longer be mine; how my career might be impacted; how everything in our daily lives will change–none of it dissuades me. There are no more panic attacks. Even though I won’t know what it will be like until he is in our home, I feel ready. We both do. I can’t really say why. Maybe displacing the fear uncovered what was there all along–the paternal instinct.