The starting point here is that I have screwed up nearly every major decision of my adult life (I won’t even go into my pre-adult life), so really, things turned out markedly better than anyone, by which I mean my mother, had any right to expect. Married? Homeowner? A kid, a car, a dog? A paying job, with a paycheck in real money and everything? Yeah, Ma, back off. I’m doing fine.
OK, so there’s a little more debt than income, so what? And yeah, so maybe our house is tiny and cramped and full of secondhand toys, and maybe I was the oldest first-time mom in my son’s playgroup. I’m extremely immature, so no one noticed. (Except they did, apparently: one measly little missed cultural reference led to one mommy to comment, placidly, “Well, I’m a little younger than you, I guess.” What, my willingness to hide from monsters under the laundry basket in your living room with a roomful of two-year-olds didn’t fool you? Whatever. )
The problem is that, while my husband is satisfied, and my kid, being four, thinks things are great (he hasn’t learned to feel embarrassed by us yet), I’m not there yet. I want another baby. Even though I’m forty-three, and the chances of it happening naturally are, well – let’s just say, Dionysus might stand a chance of impregnating me, but neither my husband nor even my genius and beloved (if Grateful-Dead-loving) fertility doctor can manage it. (OK, Ma, I hear you. I know, I started too late. My Fallopian tubes resemble the frayed ends of the shoelaces on my decades-old sneakers; my ovaries are like drooling, pinched-faced old men with prickly whiskers; my womb reminds one of – oh, nevermind.)
I want to adopt. I want the second-baby experience. I want to be able to say, in response to a friend complaining about her children’s inability to pick up after themselves, “Oh, my kids are just the same.” Saying “my son” isn’t quite it, somehow, even though I know I’m lucky, more than lucky – blessed. More than blessed. Still, though. I want more than I deserve. (I also want to triple my income and to go on European vacations and have someone cook for me, but those are further down on my list of entirely unreasonable desires. I’ll get to them later.) I want my son to have a sibling to hate and squabble with and complain about, but who will still hold him when he cries at his grandmother’s funeral, as my often-hated oldest brother did for me.
Do I browbeat my husband into agreeing to adopt? He doesn’t want to, but he didn’t know he wanted the first kid, either, and he has never been happier in his life and is a truly gifted and hilarious dad. Doting. Playful. Patient, most of the time. All those qualities that show up when you least expect it, in your black-humored, cynical New Yorker husband. Actually, I knew, though. The spousal unit has an uncanny combination of the darkly cynical and the – well, the not. I wouldn’t say I picked him at least partly for his potential parenting ability, but I wouldn’t say I didn’t, either. He has the most gallows-like humor of anyone I knew, and yet when I first brought him to visit my family (and, typically, he hates this story with the white heat of a thousand suns), he spent several hours – several hours -- helping my then 2-year-old niece do a big wooden snake puzzle. Granted, he was studiously avoiding the rest of my family at the time (and honestly, I don’t blame him), but still. None of my former boyfriends would have had that kind of patience with a very young child, whatever they might have been avoiding at the time.
All right. It’s clearly worth starting a conversation, even worth having to listen to the spluttering, not-amused bark of laughter that will certainly ensue when I bring up the topic, not to mention the aghast references to the meager nature of our current kid’s college fund, the space issue, preschool fees, the continuing need for new shoes, the fact that we have already (um, did I mention this?) given away a fair amount of our hand-me-down baby stuff. (Oh, yeah. That.) I’m not saying I’m being rational: if we were rational, who among us would have a kid in the first place? They’re expensive. They’re a pain in several areas of parental anatomy, on a daily basis. They make it impossible to read The New York Times Book Review in peace (or, you know, People magazine, or whatever). They force you, merely by existing, to hemorrhage money that you could be spending on European vacations.
But we want them; and when we have them, sometimes, some of us at least, want more.