I love Dan Savage and have been a fan of his real sex/advice column, "Savage Love", since discovering it in my late 20s. For those who aren't familiar, Savage is openly gay and hilariously confrontational, but in a loving way. He's like your gay older brother who likes to give you the business. The Kid documents his efforts at an open adoption with his partner Terry. Savage and Terry are the only gay couple at the orientation for open adoption and they worry constantly about their chances for being picked by a birth mother to adopt her child. Turns out, they had nothing to fear; they are picked within two weeks of starting the process!
If only it were that easy. The birth mother who picks the couple is a 20-year-old "gutter punk" who has lived on the streets for two years and drank a lot of beer during the first four months of pregnancy. She also tends to talk in monosyllable responses. In an open adoption, the birth mother is involved in the child's life after adoption. She can also can the whole adoption after the baby is born. Savage is neurotic and weighs all of the unknown catastrophes that could befall him and Terry as they wait for the baby to be born: Fetal alcohol syndrome and the father ("Bacchus") showing up and claiming paternity, among other fears. They take nothing for granted and do as the adoption agency suggests: they don't buy baby clothes no matter how many trips to Baby Gap they make, they don't decorate a nursery, they don't give the baby a name (even though they really want to), and NO BABY SHOWERS. Savage considers all of the worst case scenarios, including fiery car crashes, as a type of insurance. Sort of an anti-Fields of Dream concept: if I imagine it, it will not come. In a hilarious example, Savage explains that when he witnesses a worst case scenario that he did NOT imagine, he gets very upset, such as happens in the film Titanic when the boat splits in two, flies into the air and crashes on the heads of the bobbing passengers.
I suffered a worst case scenario yesterday while in Chicago, where I've been for the past four days with the family. While the husband was at a conference from Sunday through today, I took the kids to museums: The Field, The Adler Planetarium, The Aquarium (or rather, in the parlance of my 3-year-old, the Merquarium). The first couple of times, we walked. It was long. The kids complained. I had to carry the heavy toddler because I kept forgetting the stroller. Oh yeah, and it rained. So yesterday I wised up and decided we'd take the free hotel shuttle to the planetarium and take the city bus back. Simple. I asked the concierge which bus to take, but failed to ask him which stop we'd need to get back to the hotel. I figured, the bus said Michigan Ave. on the LED screen, our hotel was on Michigan, no problem, but when we didn't turn on Michigan I worried. Okay, the bus driver is going parallel to Michigan and will circle around. My son fell asleep on my lap. My daughter sat beside me. We passed 11th Street, then 9th, the Balboa. Balboa? What happened to 8th, where our hotel sat waiting for us? I scanned the faces of passengers near us. One man listened intently to his MP3 player and everyone else spoke Chinese. I waited until a blonde woman crept back to the back of the bus and asked her for directions and she suggested we de-bus there and walk the four blocks south. The bus was not going near our hotel. So, I announced, "Kids we're getting off here," and Fiona dashed out of the back doors. I struggled with my backpack and the dead weight of my sleeping son and got to the door just as it slammed in my face! I saw my daughter looking small and alone in her winter coat and white hair bow, waiting for me on the sidewalk and started screaming and pounding on the door. The bus erupted. Everyone started screaming, "Let her off" and "Open the door!" but the jaded driver decided he'd just start heading to the next stop. I pounded and screamed louder, harder. Everyone yelled at the driver and the doors gave way. I was on the sidewalk. Fiona looked stunned, holding the hand of a stranger, a kind college student who took pity on us. When I got up to them, the student handed Fiona to me and just said, "I can't believe that, I just can't believe that." I thanked her profusely and grasped my daughter's hand. We headed South to the hotel, shaken but together.
When I list the worst case scenarios that have come to fruition in my short parenting career, the CTA fiasco ranks right near the top:
1. Dog bites my 2 year old daughter under the eye and 5 hour ER visit proceeding said bite (including the part where they taped her hands in diapers so she wouldn't touch her face and flushed out the wound).
2. 6 month old daughter slides out of car seat and hits head on floor at Mexican restaurant and following ER visit (including the part where they strap my infant on a board and thrust her through an MRI).
3. Newborn son breathes in amniotic fluid and resides in the NIC-U for the first 24 hours of life.
4. Toddler son explores recycling bin and pulls out a bloody flap of a fingertip and the 5 hour trip to the ER (including the part where they strap his arm to a board and sew 5 stitches into his tiny finger).
Dan Savage didn't know what he was heading into after the adoption.