Our ad read:
ADVANTAGE, love & opportunity
complete with bedtime stories & hikes
in the woods are what we can offer.
We want to be dads
Call Rick or Lee 800 555-2323
The calls began fairly quickly. There seemed to be three basic kinds of calls: the hateful calls, the crank calls and the calls with an inkling of promise, the ones we had been waiting for. There were very few of the first but they were brutal. They came laced with bible quotes and threats.
"God never meant for two men to make a baby. You stay away from them kids and may you burn in hell for eternity."
"I'd watch my back if I were you. I've got your number. Sin is sin and you are dirt."
The crank calls usually came around the same time of day. Susan told us to expect this. It coincided with the phone time provided to prisoners with time on their hands and no one else willing to take their calls.
"So you're looking for a baby."
"Yes we are."
"Well I got two of them. Are you willing to take two?"
"Yes we would. We want a family"
"Well here's the story. You're two guys right? If that don't beat all. Well I got two kids on the way. Ya gonna haveta pay for em now."
"You'll need to call our lawyer for that. We would just like to speak to the birth mother. We can then give her the information on how to get in touch with our lawyer."
"Well now that's the problem. Ya see I got two ladies. One here's my sister and the other is my mama. Ya wantem?"
The last kind of call on our list was not as frequent. It might come during the afternoon or late at night. These were the calls that stole our hearts.
"I saw your ad in the Price Shopper. I'm pregnant and I'm looking for someone who can raise my child. I just can't do it."
"We would show this baby every bit of love we have."
"I just don't know. What religion are you?" Most of the callers were well informed and had lists of questions. The sound of remorse touched the voices of most of these callers. We became aware if the dread and fear weren't there the caller probably wasn't serious.
"My heart goes out to you. We know that this isn't an easy choice for you. The next thing you need to do is give our lawyer, Suzanne, a call. She can answer a lot of your questions. You need to make the right decision for you. We would love this child with all our soul."
Rick always phoned after one of these calls to let me know what had gone on and then he would call Susanne to let her know what had happened. Some called Suzanne, most did not.
We were warned from the beginning it might take several blasts before we found a real connection. This first blast left us empty handed. There was a certain amount of defeat connected to this but Suzanne assured us this was not unusual. The average time it took a couple to find a child was about eighteen months. Suzanne never said this, but we knew we were not a typical family, so we had accepted the fact it might take us more time to connect.
We waited a while before we decided to try again. We had decided to focus on a different part of the country for our second blitz. We went through the same burrowing in at our country home and once again waited for the phone to ring. The calls were similar, fitting into the same categories as before. The hate calls were still chilling. The crank calls were disappointing. The real calls still brought the butterflies to our stomachs, and then one stuck. It was the middle of the day when the phone rang. It was my turn to stay in the country to man the phone. Without the existance of a cellphone we were teathered to our landline and one of us would remain in the country for the two-week duration of the ad blitz. I answered the call. Jamie Lynn was slightly older than most of the callers.
"I saw your adoption ad. I'm pregnant. I'm in my fifth month."
"I'm glad you saw the ad. You know who we are. We're two men. We really want to be parents." I tried to put as much meaning into each word. I spoke slowly selecting what I said as carefully as I could.
"I'm twenty-three. I already have two boys. I want to go back to school. I can't have another baby."
"I know how hard this decision must be. It has to be right for you. You did the right thing to call." I wanted her to feel comfortable talking to me. I didn't want to ask too much. I definitely didn't want to be judgmental. I just needed to connect. At that point I just wanted her to like me, to like me enough to consider us as viable parents for her unborn child. I gave her Suzanne's number and asked her to call. Suzanne would take care of the data gathering.
"Jamie, I'm really glad you called. Thanks"
"I'll give Suzanne a call." "Oh Lee, it's a boy."
So it was going to be a boy. Jamie called Suzanne and went over all of the necessary steps. The father was known but she wasn't able to locate him. Her two older children had different fathers. She was seeing a doctor. She needed financial help. Her mother lived nearby and was aware of the situation. Now the courtship would begin. We would call each other several times a week and talk about life. We slid into a very comfortable dialogue. The three of us were all involved but Jamie and I seemed to have the stronger bond. We talked about the weather. We talked about what the boys were doing. We talked about how she was feeling. Doctor's reports and monetary concerns were never part of our conversations. That was always given off to Suzanne. We all seemed to enjoy the road we were going down. Several months into the relationship Jamie asked if we would like to come down to meet her and her family. We had already exchanged photos so we knew what each of us looked like. We talked it over with Suzanne and she decided it would be okay for us to make the trip.
We planned to meet at a Cracker Barrel restaurant just outside of town. The irony of meeting in a restaurant with a long history of homophobia didn't escape our amusement. We drove up in a rental car. We were aware of doing everything we possibly could to protect our privacy. Suzanne had suggested the anonymity of using a car that didn't belong to us or anyone else in our family. Jamie and her mother were waiting outside. The two boys were running back and forth across the front porch. Jamie immediately recognized us. She greeted us with a faint smile hidden behind her shyness. She was shorter than I expected. The boys were completely uninterested. Her mother was a big booming woman with a ruddy complexion and a pair of open arms. She did not wear her daughter's shyness. Actually meeting this family seemed to make the whole process more real. We could see the baby bump. We could talk to Jamie and see how our conversation registered on her face. It gave us reassurance. It turned out that Jamie's mother had also been adopted. She understood the life of an adoptee. She could allay some of the pain Jamie was going through. Slowly we relaxed into a comfortable rhythm of conversation as the boys wrestled with their food and spilled their drinks. Lunch was over in less than an hour. We all walked out to our cars having succeeded in surviving without anyone from the Cracker Barrel coming up and asking the two gay boys to leave. Jamie gave each of us a soft kiss before we headed back into our cars.
I drove back elated. Rick was more cautious. I tempted fate. I went out and bought an aviator snowsuit size eighteen months. Rick held his breath.
We weren't back home more than a couple of weeks when the phone stopped ringing and Jamie stopped answering our calls. We were only weeks away from Jamie's due date. Something had happened. You worry about miscarriage, or some accident. That first time it happens you worry about all sorts of things but not rejection. She loved us. It can't be that.
We finally called Suzanne to see if she had heard anything or if she could try to figure out what was going on. A day went by and then another. Then the call came in. Suzanne's voice was calm but we knew immediately that it was tinged with bad news.
"Jamie has decided not to go through with the adoption." My heart had plummeted into the soles of my feet.
"What happened? She was fine when we went to see her even her mom seemed on board."
"Apparently she has a brother living in Alabama who she hasn't seen for awhile. When he found out she was putting the baby up for adoption with two men. He had issues."
"This was a brother who she hadn't seen for several years, a brother who had no interest in her until he found out she was giving the baby to a gay couple?" My anger was exploding like fireworks throughout my body. "Can't you talk to her and tell her how ridiculous this is?"
"This happens. She asked that you not call. She doesn't want to speak to you."
"There's got to be something we can do. I can't believe this."
"Lee, you have to let it go and you have to move on. You need to remember the only couples that don't end up with a child are the ones that give up. You can grieve but you have to get through it and get back up on the horse."
I dropped the phone. This was my child. She had no right to take it back. Rick was the comforting one. He had fortified himself against this happening. There was something intuitive in him that forewarned him of this. I was the devastated one. Something became very clear to me. I saw now it wasn't only a birth mother we were courting but a huge outer ring of relatives and friends. Everyone was going to have an opinion. Everything about adoption turned into an insurmountable mountain. The air had been sucked out of me. I couldn't face going through this pain again. I had really screwed up my karma.
Dorothea Lange, photographer
Represented by Lumier Gallery, Atlanta