A friend of mine commented to me recently - as I was bragging about my expanding family of “greats” - that he marveled how anyone had the courage to bring a new life into our increasingly fractious world. As this was my granddaughter’s third baby in six years, I have to admit that the same thought had crossed my mind.
But looking back on it, I realize that I myself had embarked on the perilous road to parenthood under a similarly frightening cloud: the sixties. For those of you who may need a reminder, the country was at war - not only with a foreign enemy, but with our own people, especially increasingly emboldened anti-war protesters. Those protesters - my generation - were at the same time part of a sizeable counter-culture whose very motto was, “Make Love, Not War”.
Not to belabor the point, but sixties and seventies America was also rife with racial tensions, an unprecedented generational divide, political assassinations, corrupt national and state administrations, the beginnings of our current gun problems, gas shortages, and crippling inflation. (The list goes on, but I’m trying to get to my point here.)
And that is: it never entered my mind that I should perhaps delay starting a family until the chaos we witnessed on the nightly news every day of that decade (and beyond) had resolved itself. Now admittedly, my husband and I approached the issue from a rather different perspective than most. We had concluded that the world was already fully (and probably over-) populated, with plenty of babies world-wide still needing loving homes. Since they were already here, by adopting our family we would not be enlarging the population, but actually helping to solve the problem.
And we set out while still in college, to do what we could to alleviate the population explosion (which, if we were honest with ourselves - we were at least partially responsible - as card-carrying members of the Baby Boomer generation). Very few of our contemporaries followed our example, but we found as time went by that our decision was widely accepted and even admired. Full disclosure: my husband was himself adopted (as was his brother) and he was a huge proponent of the practice. (He even called the woman who gave birth to him his fake mother, and the woman who raised him, his real mother.)
We were open to all kinds of possibilities including gender, race, nationality, but after running into too many international barriers with foreign adoption, we settled on Native American babies under three months old. It was already impossible at that time for white couples to adopt Native Americans in this country, but my husband was part Sioux and part Cherokee (an interesting combination which would have never happened historically) so the state department of human services ignored my incurable whiteness and approved our application.
And then we waited.
And..... (I have often joked that it was the longest pregnancy on record.)
But the wait wasn’t because there was a shortage of children needing homes. We had unintentionally made a critical mistake by specifying the gender. During our 17-month wait for baby number one, we received many calls explaining that there just hadn’t been any girls born in the past few months, but wouldn’t we consider a little boy they thought would be just perfect for us. (I never did understand how they determined that a tiny baby would be “perfect” for any given couple, but they really seemed to like that phrase, because they eventually used it for all three of our children.)
In any case, my husband had his heart set on a girl, so we decided we had waited this long, we might as well stay the course. But after 17 months of similar phone calls, we were desperate and asked, what do you have? A monkey? We’ll take it!! And within a week of receiving that call, we brought home our first son. And he was - as promised - “perfect”.
So now we were seasoned veterans of this process, and in our arrogance, decided we weren’t prepared to wait another 17 months for our next child. We knew we wanted to have several children, so if the next one was a girl or not didn’t really matter; there would always be another time. So we applied again immediately and - hoping to avoid any possible delays - made no preferences whatsoever.
Two months later - you guessed it! [For any of you out there who are contemplating adoption and thinking you can control the gender, or arrival times, or spacing between your children - FORGET IT!]
In fact, we didn’t get our much-anticipated daughter until the last go-round. But she was worth the wait. And with two older brothers to keep her in line, our family was indeed, “perfect”.