Title: You Must Be Joking OR Apparently Zero Parents Are Better Than Three
This post is an attempt to capture in words some of the emotions I have in response to my inability to either make RA (my partner of ten years) pregnant or to adopt a child. If you want to cry or scream with rage by the end, I may have succeeded at conveying to you a small part of what I'm feeling. It is hard for me to put emotions on paper, though; I tend towards being too intellectual. So, if I fail to conjure up the pain I am describing, try to imagine that someone you are close to is telling you these things, with barely-restrained tears (of despair or rage you can't really tell) and a crack in their voice, pausing often to choke back a wail.
This post is the emotional catharsis one; there is also a plea for help post.
A former co-worker of mine, and friend for a time, let's call him M, was one of the top 2 or 3 most naturally, instinctively rational ("rational" is different than "unemotional", which he most certainly was not) people I've ever met (far more so than me). He was also wicked smart. Like all truly rational smart people, he actually thought about the ramifications of things in the real world, which he was quite good at modelling (no ivory-tower dreamer of utopia here). He was also not one to suffer fools lightly, often straying to the edge of rudeness (but only rarely beyond).
This all meant the when an idea was poorly thought out, he would see it immediately, and be appropriately horrified. It didn't matter whether it was a business idea (we're both sysadmins, so this would be things like "I know the webserver is overloaded, but we could stick this 100,000 line Java program on it for a few days to see how the sales people like it, right?") or a political idea ("Let's privatize everything!" or "Let's make all health care and education free!"; he had no attachment to political boundaries, only whether an idea was viable in the real world) or anything else: if what you said was half-baked, M would let you know.
M was quite consistent about this: he would simply say "you must be joking". It is worth noting that I never saw M be wrong in 3+ years of working with him; if he said that, it was proved a bad idea, every single time.
How he said it would tell you a lot about how bad of an idea it was. Said with a smile, light hearted: "I actually think you're joking" or "there's an obvious flaw; you'll get it is a second". Straight faced, with emphasis on the "must": "you seem to actually think this is a good idea; you are incorrect". There were various other options, and points in between.
Once in a great while, though, he'd say "you must be joking" (or. rarer, "you must be joking"), with a deep frown and a voice filled with despair. This meant "I want desperately to believe that you are joking, because the only other option is that I'm trapped in an insane universe where such things are actually permitted". Usually this would be because someone was about to do something that, if they were lucky, they would live to regret (you could feel the people who has seen M's judgements pan out in the past creeping away when this happened, as though to escape the blast radius, except his boss who somehow never caught on that M was always right, even though it was usually at M's boss's expense). Sometimes, though, it was about some external catastrophe: "a drunk driver just caused 13 deaths on the 101" "you must be joking".
Why am I telling you all this? Because that state of being horrified to find myself in such an appalling universe is basically what this post is about, and short of taping myself screaming in rage and frustration and despair, I know of no better way than to use M's catch phrase.
RA has been trying to have a baby for something like 11 years. I have been actively helping for about 8 years now. We each have other, very stable, romantic relationships (I live with her and another partner of hers). We've given up on getting her pregnant (due to age and emotional trauma). That was really hard.
That's not the part that gets me, though. What really upsets me is watching other people, who don't know how to raise a child, or simply don't care, seemingly able to pop out kids at will. There are people all over this country, one of the most medically advanced in the world, who drink alcohol and/or smoke during pregnancy.
You must be joking. People who are actively brain-damaging their kids (and can hardly blame ignorance: 30 seconds at a library or with an obstetrician would fix that) get to have kids, but a mature, responsible woman with fantastic life skills does not?
Then there are all the countless tiny mistakes made by people who haven't bothered to study child psychology before having one. Parents who force their kids into insecure attachment by sleeping with them until they are 4. Parents who call their kids "smart" (to be fair, that's relatively recent research, but it's very important, and no-one seems to have heard of it). The vast wave of parents who won't let their kids make any mistakes or have anything bad happen to them, so the kids explode into a flurry of stupidity when they reach college. The whole point of raising a teenager is to let them make mistakes while you the parent are still around to help them clean up the mess! Morons!
It is worth noting that having (and raising) a child is RA's only dream in life. People have kids they don't want, blame everything on them, and end up beating them, for crying out loud! Yet such people seem to have no problem producing more children to vent their rage at. You must be joking.
So, fine, there are lots of needy kids out there, let's adopt! Fantastic plan, right? No-one will work with us. We just got turned down by a San Francisco group that specializes in gay couples an single parents, because the counties they work with won't place with us.
Let me repeat that: the county of San Francisco, famed as the most open-minded city in North America, will not place a needy child with us.
You must be joking.
Apparently, a pair of 20 year olds who've been together two years make better parents than 3 40 year olds (more or less) in a 10+ year relationship, with excellent income, stable jobs, and well honed life-skills.
I'm told agencies consider 2 years a stable relationship, and won't adopt to people who have been together less than that; of the 8 or so relationships I've considered serious over my life, I can only remember one that was that short. What they call a stable relationship, I call a flash in the pan.
Apparently, though, a stable household doesn't count for much with to the people who decide the fate of desperately needy children. Apparently, to them, less resources available to care for the child are better. Why have 3 mature, responsible adults (nevermind the vast ancillary resources we can draw on, like my other ten year relationship, with a woman who would love to help babysit) when you can have a pair of newlywed (yes, I call 2 years newlywed) dumbasses with no support structure, that haven't thought about how to raise a child because they haven't even had time to understand each other yet, let alone read any child psychology!
(As an aside, the agency I worked with asserts that they do not, in fact, let 20 year olds adopt. They do, however, obviously, let couples adopt, despite their clearly inferior resources in terms of available adult time and attention. Regardless, I doubt 20 year old boy-girl couples have no trouble finding adoption agencies that will at least talk with them; we certainly have).
Hell, even with older couples, after 2 years you barely know the other person! That's the stage where people try deeply stupid things like adopting a baby in the hopes it will fix the relationship. How many babies, do you think, get adopted by parents who divorce within 4 years? For that matter, what percentage of marriages are already dead in 10 years? 50%? (it turns out that no-one really knows, but it's probably less than that) Apparently, though, less resources and less experience are good things for needy children. Apparently, it's better that a child be placed with a couple who is still working out their own crap, than with us.
You must be joking.
It also disgusts me that we're being punished for honesty. I assume that adoption would be avoided with couples where cheating is going on, but it must still happen all the time anyways. Unless they give lie detector tests for that, it seems hypocritical to punish us for the same thing.
There's also the way cheaters seem to have no problem producing babies of their own (and then messing it up), but that's just the universe sucking, not particular people.
As an aside on resources, I make excellent money, in a career where I get desperate calls from people who want to steal me away to other jobs about once every other week. RJ's doing pretty well for himself too. We are more than capable of supporting RA as a stay at home mom, and she's smart enough to not smother the kid. How many adoptees get a chance like that? How many would trade an arm for it? But, apparently, a pair of hard-working (perfectly decent, I'm sure) people with little or no time for a child is a better choice than us.
And those examples are some of the best chances available for a child needing adoption! We're also being told that orphanages and the foster care system are better than us. Foster care, for crying out loud! I'm sure there are good and decent foster parents out there, but the best stories I have heard from people who went through that system are those where the foster parents were basically running bed factories for the money: not quite neglect, maybe, but no concern for the children at all.
The worst (and I mean stories I have heard personally from people who lived them) range from genuine neglect through to staggering, jaw-dropping, face-whitening abuse.
Now we are told that the foster system is a better choice for a child than we are. Can you imagine? Can you imagine being told that a system ranging from unfeeling to abusive is better for a needy child than being cared for by you?
How dare they!?
(You must be joking! Please be joking? Please?)
I worry sometimes that I am asking for too much; that I am just whining annoyingly. I know that we are very fortunate to be stable and prosperous. Hell, I even have a work at home job (another point in our favour, if the adoption system was sane) at which I make excellent money. I am surrounded by people who love me. Other than the whole child thing, I'm not sure how much more fortunate I can be. It's not like I'm wondering where my next meal is coming from or anything.
And yet... I'm not asking for a lot, am I? So many, many people take the ability to have children for granted, and most of the rest can adopt... Even on top of my good fortune, is asking for something that basically everyone else has too much? Is it?
I'm a physicalist (which is like "atheist"), but at times like this even I find myself wondering if there might be an omnipotent entity out there somewhere, mocking me. It just doesn't seem possible that I could be forced to go through such hell by pure chance. I know that that's exactly what's happening, of course, but I still find myself asking, for it is human to anthropomorphize the universe, questions like "what did I do to deserve this?" and "what kind of evil could possible be responsible for this hell if I didn't do anything to deserve it?". Usually I am satisfied that I did nothing and the universe is randomly injuring me, but in moments of great pain I do fall back on the habits of my ancestors and wonder at the deep cruelty I am enduring.
The truth, though, is that the only evil here is coming from people who are more interested in playing it safe than in having to think about how to best serve the children they were charged with. People whose only motivation is to not end up in the newspaper because they did something wrong. People who can't be bothered to even meet us in person (we've offered, through intermediaries; they've refused; I am not even permitted to know who is ruining my life in this matter). In my torment, I can only hope that some day, someone destroys their dreams for no good reason, as they have destroyed mine.