So I decided to write something because – well, my experience I think has been slightly different from K’s.
I never had the desire to be a mother. I played with dolls when I was growing up and liked bossing my little sister around, but when it came to the practical implications of being a parent, it didn’t appeal to me. I like kids well enough, but after an hour or so I’m ready to give them back to their parents. I never felt the urge to give birth or to be pregnant, particularly if it meant being sushi-free for nine months. I never felt like I needed to pass my genes on to another human being.
When I met K and she told me having kids was a deal breaker, I figured I could handle kids if she wanted them that bad. K loves kids, and always has, and I felt confident that I could successfully co-parent with someone who was born to be a mother. I could do the cooking, shopping, cleaning, bath times, and K could be the primary caregiver. She used to joke that I’d make a great Dad one day.
When we decided to be foster parents, I thought of it more as community service. Long-term babysitting, but not parenthood. Enter Monica. Enter my maternal instincts. I had no idea I was cut out for this until that little nugget arrived. Are any of you fans of the West Wing? Remember when Toby tells Jed he doesn’t think he has the capacity to be a father? I felt like that. And then the kids are born and poof – you just are. I suddenly have very strong opinions about what time to eat, how often to bathe, and when bed time should be. If you had asked me three weeks ago when an 11 month old should be put to bed, I’d say: “How the hell do I know? Ask K.” Now Monica better be in bed by 7pm or my morning will be a disaster.
It’s comforting and scary how transformed I feel I’ve become – even in the first few days of knowing Monica. On the one hand, I know I can handle parenthood. Having a permanent child in my life will not alter the quality of my life, or diminish the things I enjoy the most, as I feared that it would. I learned that I have the capacity to love another tiny human and put their needs before my own without begrudging them.
On the other hand, it’s difficult to picture our life without Monica. We love her. We’ve taken on this role of temporary parents, and it’s scary how fast our new family has formed. K is much more even-keeled when it comes to her emotions. I tend to have more emotional swings. I’ve broken down more than once at the thought of Monica leaving – and yet sometimes I daydream about it going back to the days of just K and me. It’s scary to not be in control, to not know what will happen. Having a baby makes it harder to plan dinners, fold the laundry, and walk the dog. Life overall is less structured.
Today is Monica’s third day at the new daycare. When I pulled up and walked to the back seat to take her out of the car – a huge smile came across her face. She’s gotten good at moving her arms to get free from the car seat, and she’s so excited to get out. When I walked up to the provider, Monica wrapped her little arms and legs around me tight and started sobbing, reaching for me as I pulled away. I felt like a parent passing her off, and I felt like a parent walking back to my car and driving away.
The speed at which all of this is happening – the placement, my emotions, our attachment – is surprising and overwhelming. But when I drive back to the daycare this afternoon, and see her little face light up as I take her back in arms, all the negatives fall away, and I’m left with a beautiful little kid giving me a big sloppy kiss.