Sunday, January 19, 2020

Children

One thing they don't tell you when you choose to be gay is that family planning is going to be complicated.

No one told me that. When they sat me down to unveil the gay agenda, Judy and Liza basically only focused on outfits and sass. Not a single warning about how frustrating it would be to visit so many houses without permission to completely remodel them.

And not a word about how hard it would be to not have children.

From time to time I see friends with infertility problems write about the struggle online. It breaks my heart. I feel so sad for anyone who struggles to bring children into this world when they really want to, or to find children in this world when they really want to.

I know that's a sensitive subject. I know we're supposed to tread lightly on that subject. I know as a dude I'm not supposed to fully understand the devastation a woman who wants to get pregnant experiences when she can't get pregnant.

I wouldn't want, for a second, to pretend I understand anyone's experience in this area besides my own. If you're going through this heartache, I'm sorry. I love you. And, actually, I take it back. I do sort of understand.

My gut punch didn't happen in a single moment in a doctor's office, or over months of testing, or after repeatedly buying something to pee on in a pharmacy.

Mine happened more slowly. More gradually.

It started, I think, when I was 12.

I was sitting in a lesson at church learning about how families were part of God's plan. About how we were supposed to find a wife. About how we were supposed to have children. About how children would be our greatest joy.

As the teacher spoke, I remember thinking, "what if I never get married?"

This wasn't about independence or new-aged views on marriage. This was about a fundamental confusion about why any boy would want to get married to a girl and try to have children in the first place.

That confusion only got more confusing as I grew older.

"Maybe everyone feels this way when they're young," I thought. "Maybe when I'm a grownup I'll understand and I'll want to get married. Then I'll get to have kids."

I really wanted to have kids.

But I got older and I still didn't want to get married. No matter how much I dated, no matter how hard I tried, every time I even contemplated this as a possibility, I was filled with so much terror I could have died from it.

I was sitting in the apartment of a perfect young woman who lived in my complex in 2007 when she told me she had feelings for me. It took everything I had in me not to burst into tears. "I . . . can't," I remember telling her without any further explanation. She smiled a forced smile--an encouraging smile--and nodded supportively. A single tear rolled down her cheek. "That's ok," she said in a voice higher than usual. Then multiple tears rolled down her cheek. I walked home and screamed into a pillow. I woke up the next morning with a headache. And then I started this blog.

It was around that time that I took the next step. "It's unlikely that I'll ever be able to have children." I wrote that in my journal. Every letter I wrote in that sentence felt like I was getting stabbed. But it seemed like I needed to write it. I couldn't say it. Not to anyone. But I thought I should write it.

I didn't even explain why, in my journal, I thought becoming a dad seemed unlikely. I was too afraid to go that far. Too scared to admit much more. All I knew at the time was that I needed to take a step back from this nearly-intuitive dream. This dream I had had since the beginning, whenever that was. I needed to not need this, because it really might not happen. And what would happen to me if the thing I needed to happen didn't happen?

Time passed. More failed attempts at loving how I was supposed to love. More blog entries. More journal entries.

I started telling people I wasn't sure I really ever wanted to have kids. That was a lie. That was a stupid lie. That was a self-protective lie.

Maybe I could convince myself that I never wanted to have kids. Then it wouldn't crush me when I didn't have kids. I certainly wouldn't have kids at this point. I could never marry a woman. I couldn't do that to someone. I couldn't do that to myself. I would be alone forever.

I would never be a dad.

I cried myself to sleep.

I saw friends post pictures with their kids on social media. They took the kids to see Santa. They took the kids to a pumpkin patch. They took the kids to a photography studio where an assistant held puppets and tried to make the kids laugh.

I loved these pictures. And I hated these pictures. And I felt guilty for hating these pictures.

And I cried myself to sleep.

And then I met Skylar. I won the lottery in meeting Skylar. Everyone should get their own Skylar.

He almost immediately made everything feel better. He was so cheerfully confident--so blissfully passionate--so wonderfully obstinate, at least when it came to this topic.

"It would be so hard to have kids," I remember informing him, like I was letting him in on a secret I had earned with agony over the decades. "Even if we got married and tried to jump through the hoops, it would all be so hard. We're not like normal people."

Skylar pursed his lips. He looked at me in concerned determination. "Honey, this is a deal-breaker," he told me. "I'm going to be a dad. So you better figure out really soon whether you plan to be, too."

There must be a word for it. For the feeling when you discover an old dream you gave up on is possible again, but it still might not happen.

They still feel like a fiery arrow sometimes. Pictures of people at a water park with their kids. Pictures of my peers in matching outfits with sloppy toddlers. Pictures of dads proudly clutching their teenagers at a high school graduation.

Warm, but stinging.

Happy for them, but sad for me. Ashamed that I'm sad for me. Except, now, also, hopeful and devastating in a way they never were before.

Being a grownup is more complicated than I was warned. Judy and Liza were probably supposed to get to that.

It's hard to explain. I don't think I can explain all of the feelings.

I can only say that today I'm not a dad. Skylar isn't either. I hope that will change, but I don't know that it will. And last night I woke up crying.


~It Just Gets Stranger

43 comments:

  1. I pray that it does happen for you. You two would make amazing parents. God only gave me one despite many years of trying but she is the love and joy of my life.

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  2. My kids are adopted. I’m familiar with many of the feelings you’re writing about here, and I’m sorry. It stinks. I don’t know if your current plans are to adopt, but either way I wanted to say, one of the best things for me when we were on the adoption roller coaster was to have a small support group of fellow seeking-to-adopt people where we could vent, share worries, frustrations, fears, etc in a safe space. These people really got it. It helped so much. About a third of our group were never chosen and have since moved on from adoption dreams. It still breaks my heart. But we still vent, share worries and support each other. Eli & Skylar, you have a big support group of strangers here and we love you. But if you find the chance for another, smaller, people-in-similar-situations support group (or maybe you already have), I hope you take it as well. Just my two cents of advice, I hope that’s okay to pass on.

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    1. A beautifully written response, so I'll just add my very sincere ditto.

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    2. That's so true. Two of my children are adopted and the people I've met at the beginning of our adventure are still some of my dearest friends. Whatever your way will be, I second the advice of the fellow above:find a group of people who are living the same experience and share joy and sadness with them. I wish the best.

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  3. As an LDS person who didn't get married until my late 30s,I'm familiar with many of these feelings. I grew up knowing that I'd have lots of kids. Then, as the years passed and I wasn't getting married, I let my 'lots of' kids become a few kids, then a couple kids, then I accepted that I probably wouldn't have kids, then I tried to convince myself that I didn't actually want kids, then I pretended that I was better off without kids. But secretly I was mad/bitter/hurt/sorry/broken every time I saw my friends' pictures of their kids and all the fun they had or every time I went to a church activity that was aimed at families. I finally got my kids and it's better than I thought it would be. I hope you get yours too, and I hope they get you.

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    1. “ I hope you get yours too, and I hope they get you.” ❤️

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  4. "There must be a word for it. For the feeling when you discover an old dream you gave up on is possible again, but it still might not happen."

    You strung these words together and now I feel like I'm looking at the Mona Lisa.

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  5. I have no doubts that you guys will have kids, you'll be amazing parents. I grew up thinking I'd never want kids, then when I got married 30 years ago I immediately started with 2 great bonus kids (not step, we're all family), then we had our bio daughter, and then finally in 2001 we adopted our youngest from Taldom, Russia. Our 2 oldest daughters have gifted us with 6 amazing grandbabies to spoil. Keep holding onto hope, I know your kids are out there for you.

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  6. You two will be the best, most supportive dads ever. Any child would WIN THE LOTTERY if they get to keep YOU! Keep trying. It will happen.

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  7. Eli, this really hit home. I have been chronically ill for many years and gave up on having kids a long time ago. I told myself I didn't want kids. I remember when my sister got pregnant, I cried while shopping for her baby shower, and I told myself I didn't know why. "I'm not having kids, and I'm fine with it!" I kept telling myself that, through tears.

    Somehow, my body actually carried a child and I had her last year. I will never shrug off anyone's struggle about having children the way I used to try to shrug off my own. It is so, so hard. I hope you and Skylar are parents someday soon. You're amazing.

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  8. I hope you have children somehow. Whether that is by adoption or a donor of some kind. I always read your blog and it warms my heart.

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  9. Your mommy blog will be REAL one day, I just know it. I have a friend who adopted two children as a SINGLE gay man. So no reason you can't find a way to make it work for you, whether it's adoption or surrogacy or borrowing from a sister. Surely they won't notice one missing.

    I have all the faith in you and Sky.

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  10. It will happen! I just watched as one of my friends was a surrogate for a gay couple. It was a long process with a couple of failed IVF attempts, but they finally got their beautiful baby girl! Wishing you all the best of luck as you try to figure out how to start your own family!

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  11. I look at pictures of my friends' kids and am so glad I don't have any. While I think you two would make fine parents, I also think that you can be blissfully happy without the little monsters!

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  12. I want this so much for you. You would be amazing parents. I hope you guys get your own little Stanger one day soon

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  13. If I could give you my uterus, I would. You will find a way.

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  14. Possibly I am a fool, but I believe in you and I think you have travelled too far in these pages not to achieve this dream. I think it will happen and I am a dour old fishwife. Keep the faith.

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  15. I know it's not the same, but I hope you know that my kids consider you to be a second dad to them! Even though they don't see you everyday, they love you so much and look up to you in every way! They adore you - and Skylar! They want you to be proud of them and are constantly talking about you! I appreciate so much how much you love them as well! You mean the world to us! I feel really grateful to have you as a brother and another dad to my kids! I hope that whatever you and Skylar want, it will happen! You two deserve it and your kids would be so lucky to have you both! Love you!

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  16. As a woman with a faulty uterus, I feel this so hard!! The hope, but then not even daring to hope at the same time. Man this is making me cry at work... But I hope and pray you will get children (and not just because it will give you some amazing blog content!) You and Skylar will be amazing parents some day!

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  17. There is no doubt in my mind that you & Skylar will make AMAZING dads, whatever route that you end up taking to achieve that dream. Wishing you both all the best.... that kid is going to be the luckiest kid in the world!

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  18. If I wasn’t 53 and still had a uterus I would happily carry a baby for the both of you.

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  19. I have two close friends who are in the winning side of this journey. Two adopted kids. If this is your intention, then your child/children are just waiting for you two to start (which is sounds like you’re already doing, by just talking about it!). And then you can RULE the PTA. You’ll be wonderful dads:)

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  20. Labor and delivery nurse here. I’m telling you now, more than ever, you can do whatever you want to do! You are a young couple with means. It feels hopeless because you are on this side of things, you just have to take the step. I see Gestational Carriers all the time carrying for couples who can’t themselves. My coworker is currently pregnant for the second time with a baby for intended parents, both couples gay men. I should have listened to my own advice 10 years ago, because I am a 42 childless woman who didn’t want to take that step without a partner. Alas, no decision ended up being my decision, and now I wonder... so many things. If I had taken the step then, I’d be in a different place. But I didn’t and that’s that. I hope you get what you wish for Dear Eli, you deserve it all.

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    1. Kris, I hope you'll follow your advice right now.
      42 isn't too old to have a baby or to find a Gestational Carrier.

      I gave birth when I was 40 years 11 months and 1 week old. I decided not to try after I was 40, but she sneaked in somehow after we had given up.
      She's a teen now and tries my patience dearly-- wouldn't change it for the world!

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  21. When the time is right it will all fall into place perfectly. You'll see. AND I'll be in LOVE again ... just like I am with all my grandbabies. :)
    Mom XOXOXO

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  22. I can’t help but think that if you found your Skylar, then you’ll both find your kids, however they come to you. And they’ll be so lucky to have a father that anxiously cares for their every need and shows his love through service and care, and a father that blissfully shows them how to live with optimism and trust. Best of both worlds right there. ❤️ I truly hope it will happen for you both soon.

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  23. If that's something you both want, set your sights, make your plans, and MAKE THAT SHIT HAPPEN. You've conquered mountains before, this may be hard but there are many paths through it. You can do hard things. You and Skylar can do hard things together. And we will be here along the way to help where we can, and support and cheer where we can't.

    Keep crying. Keep dreaming. Never doubt that you can make it all a reality.

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  24. My nephew is going through the same emotions right now. His boyfriend still struggles with how he was told love is supposed to be, even though his family is massively supportive. He's a good kid and I pray that he and Gabe can find happiness with their lives, and I pray you and Skylar can accomplish everything you desire. You'll find a way and be absolutely amazing parents and cherish your children. ❤

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  25. I'm hoping something less drastic than me dying gets this for you... but it is a possibility. ;) Love you!

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  26. Also,wth. I need to update my profile. Yikes.

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  27. I want to be in the NFL and play in the Super Bowl and be MVP. I woke up TWICE last night crying.
    Stick to your awkward comedy schtick, Eli.

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    1. ELI! DON'T FEED THE TROLLS!

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    2. Wow, bitter much?

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    3. I wish I could downvote this.

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  28. Embryo adoption is something a lot of people don’t know about. If you don’t, look into it! That plus a surrogate, and you’re on your way! Easier in many ways than adopting after birth.

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  29. This post gave me all the feels! I remember when I was younger and people would ask me how many babies I wanted and I would say 10 in a joking tone but deep down I was serious. I used to think I wanted to marry someone in the army who would give me plenty of children but always be away on army duty so I could raise all the kids on my own (sometimes his death would make its way into my fantasy too). It was a bit later that I worked out I was a lesbian.
    I too began telling people I didn't want children while trying to convince myself too. Deep down I really wanted children and I still do.
    Have you considered co-parenting? My partner and I have teamed up with a gay couple and together we are hoping to have a baby. We will start trying this year. The baby will have two Mums and two Dads and will spend time between the two house holds and with all of us together.
    Good luck with what ever way you choose to bring a baby into your life.

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  30. I can't take this seriously. (I mean aside from the years of actual longing and pain, that part I do and I feel for you.) But come on, there is no way that you two don't have kids. Who else is going to write all the mortifying stories that make us all realize just how great this world is that you & Skylar exist? Let's not pretend you don't already have the mom blog and names picked out. Eeek! I'm going shopping for baby, toddler, and elementary sized snuggies today. I'm pretty sure early elementary is the
    youngest you should adopt if that is the route you take...a middle schooler would eat you for lunch. You two will make excellent parents!

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  31. Hey I followed your twitter link—look at all the people rooting for you two! Reading your post all I could think about was Mrs Doubtfire (look up the movie) where she says there’s families of all sizes and shapes and they’re all just as valid as the other.

    Gay couples can be foster parents and adopt nowadays, have a surrogate, and lots and lots of other ways of being a parent.

    Don’t let a standardized, patriarchal version of how parents and children become a family be the only way—if you want it that bad-seems you already know this— find a way to be a parent. It is one of the craziest, emotional and wild rides your life will ever take, but oh-so-worth it. We are celebrating my daughters 21st birthday today! Hugs!

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  32. There was a time when you didn’t think that marriage was going to be part of your story. And now you are married. Let’s just say you are not a dad.....yet.

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  33. In my circles, it is completely normal for gay and lesbian singles and couples to have children. There are so many ways to become a parent nowadays, it is certainly entirely within reason that you two will have however many children you want. I have friends who don't have children and they made that decision knowingly and happily and I respect that. But I always wanted to have children from when I was a little girl and my six children (now adults) are truly the joys of my life. I feel such sorrow for people who want a child and are not able to have that dream come true. Go for it! It's a great adventure.

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  34. As someone who has experienced loss - thank you for the acknowledgement, but no grief is better/worse than another. Your grief is YOURS; it's valid. There are so many routes to become a parent today. When y'all are ready, all the options are there for you!
    Good luck! :)

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  35. My husband and I looked into adoption twice. Both times I got pregnant shortly after we started the process. The first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage and it was the hardest thing I've ever gone through. We'd been trying for 3 years and to finally get pregnant and then lose the child - it was devastating. It was really the only thing since becoming a Christian (I wasn't raised one) that shook my faith and it did so for several years. When we started looking into adoption again a friend of mine who is adopted herself and also adopted her first child (and her third and fourth in the last couple of years - they're amazing people) talked to me about adoption. She said that it seemed rather important to me to have a child of my own. My own flesh and blood. I laughed because it really wasn't. I wanted to be a mom. I wanted my husband to be a dad. I didn't need someone flesh and blood to do that with - it was just cheaper to do it that way and I'm cheap! LOL

    When the time is right, you'll know. My husband was ready for kids long before I was. (I'm still not sure I'm ready and he's 13 now!) You and Skylar will make amazing parents. I call dibs on godmother!

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