Bringing Up Bubber: First There Was Us

Bringing Up Bubber is a series of articles written by Jill Carroll and Nishta Mehra about their journey in becoming parents.

She Said — Jill

I never really wanted to be a mom.  Unlike many other women, I’ve never felt like something was missing in my life—as a person or as a woman—from having no children.  I’ve never experienced anything resembling a biological clock.  I’ve never been enamored with children.  In fact, more often than not, children bother me (mainly because their parents haven’t managed to civilize them to behave appropriately in larger society).  So, by the time I got to my 40s, I’d pretty much closed the door on having biological children of my own, or being a parent at all.

Then I met Nishta, and everything changed.  I knew from nearly the beginning of it that my relationship with her would be the defining relationship of my life.  And I was also clear that if anyone was born to be a parent, it was Nishta.

So, I had to work out some things.  Nishta and I talked a lot, over a period of a year or two.  We also listened a lot.  I didn’t want to lose Nishta, but I also believe that no one should be a parent unless they know they can truly commit to it—it’s not fair to the child otherwise.  So, I committed to her—and to myself—that I would be open to having a change of heart about being a parent.  I had no idea what that meant, or how it would happen.  All I knew is that I would be open to it, to “look” for it however it may come.

One early morning, I saw a photo and read an article that cracked my heart open.  It was a newspaper piece about AIDS orphans in Uganda and how the orphanages there were overflowing with children who’d lost their parents.  In the middle of the page was a large photo of a toddler holding onto the leg of an orphanage worker and looking up into the adult’s face.  The toddler’s name was Bruno, and both his parents and all his adult relatives were dead from AIDS.  He had no one.

I started to cry, and I spent the next week or so trying to contact the photographer who worked the story to see if I could somehow find Bruno and adopt him.  My constant thought was:  this kid needs an adult to stand up for him, love and care for him, make a home for him, and get him educated and raised.  I am a privileged, professional woman living in the richest, freest country in the history of the earth.  If I can’t stand up and be this kid’s parent, who the heck can?

And, the shift happened in my heart.  I never found Bruno, and I couldn’t have adopted him anyway because Uganda doesn’t adopt children to Americans (they fear we’ll turn them into slaves).  But, Bruno changed my life.  Because of him, I opened my heart to being the adult for a child who needs one.  Because of him, I took Nishta’s hand and plunged headlong with her into the journey of adoption and parenting.  Because of him, I have a greater capacity for love than I did before.  And it’s not about me—it’s about our child.  I don’t need to be a parent to fill a void or hole, or to close a circle in my life to feel complete, or to extend myself into the future in order to defy death.  I’m a parent because our son needs me to be his parent.  And that’s more than enough motivation for me.

Thank God for little Bruno.  I hope he’s okay, wherever he is.


She Said — Nishta

I have known that I wanted to be a parent for as long as I can remember.  I was one of those little girls who lovingly tucked in her stuffed animals at night, who always played “Mom” in play-pretend on the playground, who camp counselor-ed and babysat my way through high school, college, and graduate school, and wound up becoming a teacher.  Many of my friends wondered (and still wonder) whether or not having kids would be part of their life plan, but I never did—I just knew.

This desire of mine is on the one hand completely explicable and on the other hand completely inexplicable; biology compels us to reproduce, to care for and cultivate the future generation, but is that really what I was feeling at age twelve when I wanted to be a mother so badly?  I don’t think so.  Instead, I think that what I recognized on an intuitive level as a girl is that becoming a parent means loving another human being on a radical level.  I was a girl who felt things on a deep level, and I contend that what called me to be a mother was the prospect of experiencing such radical love.

I dreamt more about being a parent than I did about falling in love; before I realized I was gay, it was easier for me to imagine the former than the latter.  I even told my mom, around the age of sixteen, that she should be prepared for me to be a single mom someday.  I was going to raise a kid whether or not I found someone to do it with.

Then I met Jill, and my conception of radical love took on a whole new set of meanings.  I knew from the start that I wanted to be with Jill forever, but neither of us knew how our very real and true connection would accommodate both my deep-seated desire to have children and her previous decision not to have any.  For a while I worried that I would have to leave Jill in order to become a parent; I figured I would rather be a truly single parent than someone raising a child with a less-than-equally-committed partner/parent.  Luckily, though, I was young and in no hurry and Jill was willing to open her heart to a change.

Then, Bruno happened and it became clear that adoption was the way we wanted to go about building our family.  Though I had initially imagined getting pregnant—even lining up one of my closest guy friends as a future sperm donor!—it was the prospect of adoption that wound up seeming right to both of us.  Two of my very close friends were adopted as newborns, and I kept looking at them and thinking “What if no one had adopted Katie?”  “What if no one had adopted Stephen?”  That was all the argument I needed.

Now, when I look at Jill holding our son, when I see what a natural and joyful parent she has turned out to be, when I look into that little face and feel a love that’s more radical and intuitive than anything I’ve ever experienced, I can’t imagine things working out any other way.

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Jill Carroll & Nishta Mehra have been together for over a decade.  In the summer of 2012, they embarked on the journey of parenthood when they adopted their newborn son, Shiv.  They fill their lives with friends, books, writing, food, and fantasy football, and are proud pet parents to an old rat terrier named Dolly and three snuggly cats.  Jill is a hunter and an angler; Nishta is an amateur cook and gym rat.  They live in a suburb of Houston, Texas.  Find more about Jill at & Nishta at


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Quail Fried Rice
by Jill Carroll

Quail Fried Rice is a romance novel written somewhat outside the usual “romance” formula. The story follows Tori Reed and Elena Rios–talented, smart and beautiful women–as they transition their lives away from big cities to the pace and culture of a small town in West Texas. Readers join their journey as they create new lives for themselves in the midst of grief, loss, significant change, and the pressures of societal expectation. The result is an artful narrative of discovery set within the sparse beauty of the desert landscape.