Bringing Up Bubber is a series of articles written by Jill Carroll and Nishta Mehra about their journey in becoming parents.
She Said – Nishta
Let’s face it—gay people don’t become parents by accident. We have to employ outside parties like sperm and egg donors, surrogates, and adoption agencies in order to get home with a baby, which means lots of planning ahead of time and, often, lots of waiting.
This simple biological reality can be incredibly frustrating when all you want is to love and parent a child of your own; it can also be incredibly maddening when encountering the various cultural restrictions and legal difficulties that gay couples and singles face in becoming parents. At the same time, there is something precious about the time we’re afforded when we are forced to become parents slowly and deliberately—it’s time that can be used for good, necessary work. The kind of work that will make us better parents in the long run.
When Jill and I began the adoption process, we were faced with a veritable mountain of paperwork to conquer before we could get to the fun stuff like nursery colors and Target registries. As is standard for all adoptive couples, we answered hundreds of questions about every facet of our lives, past, present, and future. What were our finances like? How did we handle stress in our relationship? How had each of us been disciplined as children and did we plan to discipline our child in similar or different ways? And on and on and on.
At first, all of those questions felt like obstacles in the way, things keeping us from our baby. But as we worked through our answers over the kitchen table, we found the resulting conversation to be useful, inspiring, and even fun. We swapped stories from our childhoods, dreaming up what we wanted our future child to look back and remember someday. We worked through “What if?” scenarios to test our parental reasoning and instincts. We laid out the principles and values that we wanted to build our family around, and in so doing, ensured that we were on the same page about things like bedtime, TV, spanking, drugs and alcohol, school, chores, bike helmets, and as many other things as we could think of.
Did we anticipate every parenting scenario we will ever face? Of course not. From day one we realized that this experience is something no one can describe, predict, or truly “get ready” for. You can be prepared, but I’m not sure you can be truly ready—and that’s okay. Because if you have deep, real, honest conversations before your baby comes, you’ll have a solid foundation to draw upon as you navigate the un-anticipated moments.
I was in a tremendous hurry to get a baby into our arms, and I am so, so glad he came when he did. But I am also grateful for the time that Jill and I were forced to take to really think through our parenting philosophies and approaches, instead of making decisions on the fly or attempting those intense conversations in the early weeks that were such a blur. The time invested before Shiv came has made for smoother sailing now that he’s here, and it also set a precedent for those creative conversations that we continue today, articulating to and with each other what we want our family to be.
She Said – Jill
Not long after we’d completed our adoption paperwork and interviews, and made the first round of payments, I sat down to have lunch with a friend. I updated her about the adoption process and after a few minutes she said, “Have you thought about this?”
I wasn’t sure what she meant, so I asked her. She repeated her question with some additional information. “Have you really thought about this? I mean, this is going to really change your life.”
Yes, adopting a child will “really change” my life. At least, it should—hopefully in ways exciting and fulfilling.
Yes, I’d given it some thought. Real thought. I didn’t decide to fundamentally alter my marriage, my schedule, my financial life and the life of an unborn child on a whim.
As Nishta says above, we gays and lesbians don’t become parents by accident. It takes intention, planning, usually a significant amount of time (from many months to years), jumping through lots of hoops and getting past gatekeepers, and, in most instances, plunking down a pile of money. And this is all before the little bundle even arrives and needs, well, everything.
Of course, some heterosexual couples struggle to have children as well, and undergo years of expensive procedures, fertility treatments and tragic miscarriages. Anyone who struggles through all that for a number of years and still wants children has clearly “thought about it” in a meaningful way.
But, I think my friend had in mind the relatively simple experience of many straight people who, upon deciding that they want a child, set about to have one and, about a year later, bring a baby home from the hospital. Wham, bam, done. And sometimes, it’s done without a lot of planning or thought about how life-altering it will be. I remain convinced that many heterosexual people, especially women, have children because it’s just what they are supposed to do. It’s the norm; it’s what it means to be a grown-up, a woman, a complete person, whatever. For them, to have a child is not necessarily a thought-less decision; but it’s not necessarily a thought-full decision either. It’s just a given.
I got the “Have you thought about this?” question several times—each time from my straight friends, never from my GLBT friends. I started to get offended by it, but then just brushed it off. In fact, “Have you thought about this?” wasn’t the most upsetting question I got from people. The upsetting question was this one: Why didn’t you just adopt through the state?
I felt like asking the people who posed this question if they’d fallen on their heads. I wanted to say: Let me break it down for you. We live in Texas. TEXAS, I tell you!! And we are HOMOSEXUALS. Do you think the great state of Texas is eager to place its newborn cowboys and cowgirls into the homes of heathenish, abominable homosexuals? Really?
Bless their hearts, mostly this question came from well-meaning liberals who are so progressive in their personal views about the GLBT community that they simply forgot that most of the rest of the state (and half of the country) doesn’t agree with them. I couldn’t really get that angry with them; their heart was in the right place, if their mind was taking a nap.
I still find it upsetting though, mainly because the question reflects a lack of understanding of the fundamental realities of our GLBT lives. Many people have no idea that we enjoy no federal protection from job discrimination, that in some states being homosexual (or at least acting like one) is illegal, or that we are cut out of many of the basic civil rights others enjoy simply because of our sexual orientation.
We’ve come a long way in the last ten years, further than I thought we’d come in my entire lifetime But, we still have a long way to go. Hopefully, before Shiv is too old, the political situation will have shifted and his two moms can be legally bound in a marriage recognized in all 50 states.
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 jillcarroll.com & Nishta at bluejeangourmet.com.
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.