Pre-Packaged, Store-Bought Family

August 31, 2011

All right, I’m ready to talk.  For reals.

After two posts and over 130 comments on the subject of baby-making, it seems some of you are curious about why I’m suddenly talking about this.  I started to get Facebook and email messages asking me what’s up.

Well, this is actually a topic I’ve been holding back for quite a while.  In fact, this marks the first time in three years that I’ve cleared something with my wife before writing about it.

See, my wife and I have been married five years.  And we don’t have kids.

And that was okay.

But I’ve learned a few things about myself over the last five years.

People Change…Including Me

When my wife and I got married, I was not willing to have a kid right away…if ever.  I didn’t want to think about it or talk about it.  I had three years left of graduate studies.  And my wife was never bit with the “baby bug,” that insidious impulse that makes women “ooh” and “aah” over little booties and onesies and want a baby immediately in the way that scares men.

My wife is the best.  After I told her I would not discuss having a child, she did not bring up the subject again.  Oh, and just to chime in on the discussion that exploded on Monday about birth control: it was prescribed to us to correct for other, serious concerns.  So at the time, it was win-win.

But it’s funny how things change.  After a few years, I had graduated.  We bought a house.  We were on solid ground.

But what surprised me the most was how I had changed.

I began to feel something…odd.  Some strange, nagging, foreign impulse.  Despite my best efforts to suppress any procreational instincts, I found myself actually wanting a child.  I never wanted to want a child.  It just happened.

And in a streak of some kind of Catholic subconscious thought, I became convinced that denying the chance for a baby to be born had become disobedient for us.

The Deck is Stacked

So we said, “Okay, let’s have a kid.”

And then…

…nothing…

…happened.

And that was eighteen months ago.  I learned that even when you obey the small, quiet voice of God who tells you, “You’re ready to have a kid,” it doesn’t mean God’s going to give you a kid that easy.

I’m not complaining.  My wife and I aren’t decorating an empty nursery or kidnapping our friends’ babies.  We’ve had it pretty easy, actually.  While other couples have had awful things happen to them in the quest for a child, we’ve just had…well, nothing.

I know it’s cliched and trite to say that a baby is a miracle.  I guess what I realized, that doesn’t sound so corny, is just how highly the odds are stacked against any of us being here.

Homemade vs. Store Bought

So, my wife and I have come to the place where we get to see some fun doctors, and make some fun decisions.

We decided from the start that in vitro was out.  Even if we had a baby that way, there’d be no money left to buy food for it anyway.

We agreed that we want to adopt, but before we rush out to get a store-bought kid, we’d like to give an honest try at a homemade one.  People like homemade things, even babies.  Someone should open an adoption agency that’s just a roadside stand with a sign that says, “Homemade Babies: just like your Mom used to make!”  And it should sell pies.

Then I started actually investigating the horror of the adoption process.  Even the application looks awful.  Making a kid from scratch is definitely more fun.

But then I started looking at the pictures of kids needing homes, and I admit, I got emotional.  I wanted one.

You know how I said that people with kids sometimes think that childless people have no purpose in life?  Well, I’ve actually had bouts of that feeling.  I know it’s not true.  But my wife and I will be doing some activity, and I’ll catch myself thinking that this would be so much better with a kid…especially when we’re finger painting.

All I really know is that the longer we go without a kid, the more I seem to want one.

Oh, and it’s really weird when a friend tells you they’re trying to get pregnant.  Congratulations…on having sex with your wife…I guess.

Okay, I’m dropping this subject before you all get sick of it…for now.  Tell me something you’ve learned in your time as a parent, waiting to be a parent, or not ever being a parent.

33 responses to Pre-Packaged, Store-Bought Family

  1. Thank you Matt. This post brings the subject of children to an entirely different level. It’s no longer intellectual but personal.

    I appreciate your being so open about it.

    Abraham would have understood where you are coming from.

    I wish you and your wife joy.

    John Cowart

  2. Wow! It is touching to hear you talk about it all this way, Matt.

    When I met my awesome wife 10 years ago we were just entering our 40s, and the thought of having a child seemed “too late.” Well, the honeymoon was a success and the BC wasn’t – enter the world Charlotte Ann! We got so excited because everything went to so well we tried for baby number 2 for 2 years, with no luck at all. It was then we went the foster-to-adopt route. (Regular adoption was expensive (and out) even though my company would kick in $5K and uncle Sam gave a huge tax break.) We eventually had a little girl, and for quite a long time: holidays, birthdays, family times and then one day she was put back with her mother (which is awesome). Violets are blue.

    God really does know what he is doing, and like Mary, we just have to find a way to trust Him.

    I certainly wish you and your wife the joys and challenges of parenthood however that comes about.

  3. We’ve been “not not trying” for a couple of months now (crossing our fingers and hoping nothing happens, honestly). Regardless, though, of whether or not we can have kids, we’re going to adopt and/or take care of foster children. I don’t need my genes within a child to love them like my own.

  4. This is NOT the sum total of your being, but I am sad for you and your wife. This is one of those things where despite all the “miracle” stories out there, we never know how it will work out. So, I imagine you are stuck between being hopeful this month this month this month, and grieving that it won’t happen.

    I wish you all the best and really? I hope it happens soon or it becomes very clear it won’t happen at all. I get the feeling you’ll manage whatever when it happens but not knowing is difficult for you and Mrs. Matt. Please give Mrs. Matt a hug from the Happy Elf Mom and tell her I’m thinking of her.

  5. Hey Matt – my wife has PCOS and we went close to 2 years before she got pregnant. Not very stressful for me, but pretty stressful for my wife. We didn’t know what was wrong. She found out she had PCOS and was given some medicine and that really helped. She is now in her 7th month of her pregnancy. It’s been really good. Praying for you and your family.

  6. Hi Matt, I’ve really been enjoying reading your posts (and the comments) for the last couple of days. I finally had to add to the comments because… I have almost the exact same experience. 2 years into our marriage, my wife and I decided to forget about any birth control and let God bless us with a kid as he saw fit. Now, 4 years later, still no baby. Like you, we’re not baby-crazed (partly because I’ve been busy enough with grad school). I think the worst part has just been dealing with the frustration of seeing friends and relatives get pregnant with ease, especially in the Christian culture where kids seem to be such an expectation. I want to get all depressed and angry, but then I feel bad for letting someone else’s good news make me feel that way. When it became clear your post was building towards a revelation, I was steeling myself for another bout of this, so it was actually a relief to find out you’re in the same boat. Thanks for being brave enough to write about it.

    PS, You might want to check out a natural family planning doctor. They know a lot about how to read the subtle fertility signs of a woman’s body and all of the little tweaks that will help maximize the chances of pregnancy. Obviously, it hasn’t helped us yet, but there are a lot of success stories, including friends of ours. http://www.fertilitycare.org/ is one organization.

  7. I have a sister that was “store bought” (yeesh, what a way to phrase that!) She came from South Korea. She is just as much my sister as any of my other sisters, and if anyone tried to tell my mom that she’s less than her kid because she wasn’t “homemade” like the rest of us, she would most likely punch them in the eye.

    I was a kid when this happened, so I have only vague memories of how the adoption process went, other than that we had to have several home visits and that it cost a lot of money.

    That being said, I’ve still heard that foreign adoptions have somewhat fewer strings attached than doing it domestically. Just throwing it out there.

    • All the state run child welfare foster-to-adopt include some sort of clause that allows the birth parent to get at least a yearly update if not visits (open adoption which is prevelent in most states now). Private adoptions are rare and cost lots of money! Even some US agency run adoptions have strings tied to the birth-parent. Foreign adoptions are less expensive then those in the US, but the risk is much lower for an open adoption; in part due to finances.

      It is always a risk, especially if the kids are infants. A lot of older kids are abandoned.

      Just my experience.

  8. “Oh, and it’s really weird when a friend tells you they’re trying to get pregnant. Congratulations…on having sex with your wife…I guess.”

    And the award for most funniest line a blogging series goes to………..Matt at the Church of No People!

    LOL!

    Seriously though.
    Being a parent has taught me ever soooo much more about God as a Heavenly Father. More than i ever wanted….

    He just whispers it in your ear. “hey arny, you throw temper tantrums like that all the time with me son.”

    It really opens up a whole new demension of knowing our God…

    Which is no suprise you have the aching in your heart to have one….

    take it as God showing you that is how He felt when he wanted to save you and adopt you into his family and kingdom….and sending his only son Jesus…to make that happen…

    Ah….the Gospel…so sweet…

  9. You are walking in obedience and that is where your part ends. Praying that God leads the way for the family he specifically has in the works for you.

    My brother and sister in law had a miscarriage after their first child was born and then a period of secondary infertility. In that time they adopted my two beautiful nephews. They basically got off the plane and found out they were pregnant. They have now had a third “homemade” child and are in the process of getting all the paperwork finished up to bring home my nieces from Ethiopia. I fully believe, as do they, if the miscarriage/secondary infertility never happened, either would the beautiful path of adoption. God’s path is perfect and the trials come, but they refine us in amazing ways.

    Your heart has been opened to the orphan crisis and I am guessing it will never close to it, regardless if you pursue adoption. I can’t wait to hear the rest of your parenting journey in the future.

  10. My favorite line in this post is about the finger painting–it’s just funny, but you’re right about (certain) things being so much more fun with kids. Yeah, dining out is more of an ordeal, but going to the zoo, coloring, playing on a swingset, going to the pool… you rediscover fun things to do that just weren’t as much fun without the kids. And that’s the same whether they’re homegrown or store-bought.

  11. Homemade babies just like your mom used to make. That cracked me up. At least my coworkers are used to my laughing in my office by myself at this point.

    My wife is adopted, so I’m sure her mom wouldn’t find the homemade over store-bought analogy too funny, but I did, and I’m certain Sarah would, too.

  12. What I’ve learned on my being a parent journey:
    Our queen size bed has the ability to become much smaller when loud storms and or scary things occur at night.
    The world no longer revolves around me.
    I can be in charge of everything and in charge of nothing in the same plane of existence.
    My IQ dropped substantially when my oldest two became teenagers.
    Our twins have a freaky connection that is weird and unexplainable at times.
    Finally, if you are in charge of the Saturday morning ritual of making the doughnut run, you will receive hugs and adoration for services rendered.

  13. I’ve read the last few posts (and some of the subsequent comments) with interest, but I’m grateful that you tied in the personal connection. Thanks, Matt.

    We’re in a similar situation–it seems so common! We thought we’d have kids–some day–and have enjoyed four years of kid-free marriage. We decided to “try” about a year ago, and no kid yet. Which I’m ok with, for the moment. Life is good and the thought of disrupting it so completely is terrifying to me, despite the blessings I know it will bring.

    We’ve talked about the “store-bought” approach, too, and are likely to take that route in the future regardless of whether we have “homemade” kids or not.

    Thanks for your take. And for your honesty. And especially for your humor :).

  14. Matt, I wish you and your wife continued peace as you walk this road! May you continue to seek and find God’s will for the lives of your family, whether they end up being “homemade” or “hand-picked.”

    Thank you for sharing with us, and I hope my comments haven’t been too harsh (top commentor for the week – woohoo!). I have a bad habit of switching to “theoretical” mode. What I say isn’t necessarily untrue, but it’s often said without love in mind and therefore comes out more like a clanging cymbal.

    What have I learned from being a parent? Besides how to go on almost no sleep for years at a time? I’ve learned how much discipline I lack. I’ve learned exactly how shy and how much of an introvert I am, and how I need to suck up my preferences (sometimes) for the sake of my very outgoing and extroverted son. I am learning about patience. I’ve learned how little I know and that it doesn’t matter because you just have to pretend like you know what you’re doing and keep going. I’ve learned that while nurture _does_ have some say in how your kids turn out, they are, by nature, absolutely unique individuals from the moment they’re born (before then, actually). I’ve also never known true, unabashed delight before. I’ve also learned to cheer while I’m grieving as my children grow and reach new milestones (like my youngest who has started “belly crawling” across the floor just today).

    I know people say that you don’t know anything about parenting until you’re one yourself, but I think that’s only partly true. First off, you can _know_ plenty about kids without having them yourself, but it’s not the same kind of knowledge when you can give them back as it is when you’re with them all the time. At the same time though, even once you _are_ a parent, you still don’t know anything. At least that’s been my experience!

    Blessings on you and your wife, Matt, in whatever form God chooses to bring them to you!

  15. I’m glad you shared. I had to laugh because I always think that same thing when people say they’re trying. LOL
    Fingerpainting made me laugh too.
    My entire life (from primary school) I have been wanting marriage with children. I have been through periods of trying different avenues of dating (to no avail) and ‘Let go and let God’.
    I am a teacher. I know how to control large groups of children while knowing if a child is shy or ill and to give them time so when I get told that I know nothing until they’re my own I get angry. Unfortunately, I am in a profession that men do not frequent and, being a Christian in Australia, there are more women than men in churches.
    For years, Abraham and Sarah’s struggle has been my salve. Then I turned 40. I had a procedure and found out things about my insides which would make it difficult to carry a child.
    When I was a kid, I have a memory of putting a cushion up my shirt to see what looking pregnant was like. That was not to be.
    I wonder why I have been made this way. For what purpose?
    I do know that I have the ability to love unrelated children as if they were my own but adopting in Australia as a single 41 year old woman is impossible. OS adoption requires money.
    I have this fiction book I recently re-read called Never the Bride by Rene Gutteridge and Cheryl MacKay. All through the book, the character struggles to hand over her life to God’s plan (the analogy is with a purple pen). Finally, when she does, God’s plan is something that she hadn’t considered. In fact, BETTER. (Of course LOL) So I have been trying to do this. This has led to a possible new job opportunity for next year which is scary but exciting.
    My life has not turned out how I wanted or expected but it is “life” that God gave me so I will live it.

  16. I have to say, my “plan” for having children ended up being vastly different from God’s plan, and…yeah…God’s plan was better. Still is.

    It’s pretty obvious that, after seven years without birth control and no pregnancies, something was wrong with one of us. I refused to have fertility testing, because I knew I would “blame” whichever one of us was at “fault,” and I didn’t want to do that. (As it turned out, it’s probably me, but it doesn’t quite matter now.) I couldn’t bear to have that rip at our marriage, and since I am my own worst enemy, even if it wasn’t me, I’d somehow find a way to blame myself anyway. It was heartwrenching to watch friends and family get pregnant and try to be “okay” with it, especially since I’d had the same kind of kid-plan reversal that you had, Matt.

    Then God–in his wisdom and humor–saw fit to throw us into the deep end of parenting, with three small kids at once, when our only “kids” then were cats. Infinitely easier than kids, since they’re mostly self-cleaning, eat what you put in front of them, groom themselves, sleep whenever they want, and are easily potty-trained. You have a heart for adoption? For “store bought” kids who need a home rather than cranking out a quiver of your own? Yeah, watch out. God didn’t give you those feelings in your heart for no reason.

    Not that I would trade my girls for anything. It’s been three years of absolute insanity. But I get my RDA of hugs now in a way I didn’t before. I could not love my nieces any more if I’d given birth to them myself. They are the children birthed from my heart, and it’s a bond that defies description unless you’ve experienced it. In some ways, I wonder if it’s even stronger than a biological bond, because that’s one that, well, you didn’t have much choice in. It’s there. Sure, you chose to have kids, but it’s not quite the same as *choosing* the children who are those of your heart. Even before the court awarded us custody, they were MINE. I’ve taken to chronicling our adventure, just so the kids have something to look back on later, to see why we did what we did, and to know that they were happy and loved with us.

    All that being said…we have friends with 7 kids. They have three rules for parenting. These are invaluable. I can’t imagine trying to navigate raising kids without them.

    The Rules are:
    1. Sometimes it’s better not to watch.
    2. Don’t ask questions you don’t want to know the answers to.
    3. Everything washes.

  17. Close to our 12 year anniversary we finally conceived without medical intervention. There were some really hard years in there, lots of questions, no answers. We love our little 3-month old dearly!

  18. I’m not a parent. I’m a step-parent of adult children. It is a challenge. I wrote about my disobedience and how it led me to be childless awhile back. You can read it here if you are so inclined:http://whoivealwaysbeen.blogspot.com/2011/08/answer-for-friend.html I don’t really have any wisdom for you. I know there are hundreds upon hundreds of children already out there who would love to have you for a dad. But I have no idea what God is going to put in your path. I can only say that I hope you are blessed on this journey and I hope you are given divine appointments on this journey so that you can bless others.

  19. Matt, I know what you mean. My husband and I have been hoping and praying for a miracle for 15 years, and I have not been getting any younger in that time! I wish I could say it gets easier. Instead I’ll say that I pray you have your miracle soon.

  20. Hooray, can’t wait for this to soon turn into one of the foremost Daddy Blogs on the interweb!

    Nah but seriously, wishing you and your wife all the best.

  21. As an adoptive parent (by choice…in lieu of having them biologically) and an annoyingly vocal adoption advocate, I can’t wait to hear more about this journey.

  22. Hi Matt! I have at least a couple of pregnancy via adoption examples. One couple battled fertility issues and decided to adopt. They found out that they were pregnant near the final stages of the adoption process and decided to stop the adoption procedures. Thinking the pregnancy was a fluke, they started the process again after their first child was close to 1 year old. Surprise! They were pregnant again before they had a chance to complete the process.

    Another couple decided to adopt a Chinese girl even though they had three children of their own. Just before signing the adoption papers, they found out that she was pregnant again. They just shrugged their shoulders, and within six months, had a baby and adopted an 18 month and moved into a bigger house.

    I also worked with a man who decided, with his wife, to adopt older kids. They come with more emotional baggage, but require less money and less paperwork because they are not as desirable as cute, cuddly poop machines.

    I will be praying for God’s peace and joy through the process. I can also have my oldest daughter pray for you, if you wish. She prayed for another brother at a time when my husband and I were thinking that our quiver was full and one month later I was pregnant.

    May God bless you and guide you and your wife in your endeavor and may you have a lot of fun trying the home-made method.

  23. Coming out of the “having a child at home stage” and looking forward to the empty nest, it’s interesting to see others go through what you are. In the scheme of things, 18 months isn’t that long a time. I mean, there are people that try for 10 years. I pray that you and your wife have the child that you so desire regardless of how you receive the gift.

  24. As I mentioned in my comment on the first of your baby blog posts, I have two kids, and we did not have any trouble conceiving them, so I have no way to completely understand what you are experiencing. I have been dealing with some issues recently, as I also mentioned, that clearly would have made conceiving difficult or impossible, which I have thought about a lot recently (I have wanted occasionally to have baby #3, but my husband and I already took definitive action to make that 99.9% impossible, so it isn’t an option at all. But, I have realized that had we not made further children nearly impossible on our own, it would have been anyway). I have stood by friends struggle to conceive, as well as my sister, who has PCOS, hypothyroidism, a MTHFR mutation, and other issues that not only made conceiving difficult, but also keeping a baby to full-term. She does now have 2 children, but it took a while. My maternal grandmother had cancer early in her life and was unable to have children, so my mother and her siblings we all adopted. All in all, she adopted 5 children, including a set of identical twins (my mother and her twin sister). The adoption process was a lot different then, however.

    Well, that was fairly rambling… but I pray God’s blessings, peace and joy for you and Mrs. Matt, be that with children or without.

  25. What I thought I knew before I had kids and what I know after two kids are two entirely different things. So throw out what you think you know and embrace what you learn along the way.