St Louis, MO
For me, everything changed in two heartbeats. My sons'.
I'd always flirted with the idea of being a father but because I was gay, I figured that the chances of me ever being called "Daddy" by someone other than a hot twenty-two year old, was something that was never going to happen. And while I've lived a pretty amazing life, there was always an intrinsic desire inside me that felt unfulfilled. Same for my husband. A mere hour into our first date, we discussed marriage and children. Probably a first date conversation most sane people would excuse themselves for a trip to the bathroom and never return, but I was in my mid-forties and he was in his mid-thirties. Being a parent, raising children, was a mutual desire for both of us and we were at a point in our lives where we could no longer settle for part of a dream.
The instant they put that tiny newborn in our arms, we knew he was our son.
First weeks were rough. Our son was, for lack of a better term, a crack baby. He was severely underweight and struggling through DTs. If you've ever held a newborn going through DTs, you've witnessed hell. And felt the pain of utter helplessness. The first doctor we saw told us he might never walk or talk. I think back, I still tear-up. Regardless, I knew he was my son and that prognosis wasn't correct. He had taken up residency in my soul. I loved this child like I never loved anything in my life.
Two months later, we received another phone call from our social worker. There was another newborn, another mother with drug problems, the newborn was left at the hospital, were we interested in taking a second child. We hadn't slept a night in two months. Bring him!
For a second time in two months everything changed in a heartbeat.
We suddenly had cribs on either side of the bed, exponential diaper changes, exponential feedings, exponential loads of laundry. Our second son's digestive track hadn't fully developed and so everything we fed him came back up in the form of a hot, acidic spew. We were panicked, nothing he was eating would stay down. We spent all day tracking down people who could help us, and after trying nearly a dozen formulas we found one, twenty-five dollars for a small can, that he could digest. We had to sleep him on his belly, hanging over a donut (not a real donut. Parents know what these are…) so that if he did spit up he wouldn't choke on suffocate. For over six months after I fed him in the middle of the night, I slept sitting up, my second son on my chest, to be sure there were no problems, so I could feel his heartbeat.
I remember not showering for days, not changing clothes, being completely exhausted and covered in spit-up, while rocking an infant in each arm to quell their cries. I wouldn't do it again, but I'm glad I did it for them.
Our sons are now ten years old. The one who was tiny and suffering DTs is 5’4”, 130 pounds, wearing the same size shoe as me. He wears my pants, my husband's shirts. He's predicted to be between 6’5” and 6’7”. My husband is 5’5”, I'm 5’8”. Our other son won't be as tall but he'll certainly be taller than either of his dads. It hasn't been easy, you don't overcome the damage drug-addled mothers do to children in the womb without an enormous amount of patience and work. I don't mind the work but I admit, I'm sometimes short on patience.
They are amazing kids. Smart, social, athletic, creative. Perfect? No. But neither am I. My sons do not have the same skin color as me yet I think they look like me. And less enthusiastically, they behave like me too often for my liking. We are a family of ever shade, my husband Puerto Rican, our sons black and mixed, and me white. That makes me proud. Kids of color aren't always treated the same as white kids, something I deal with it more than I wish I had to, in contexts both subtle and overt, but my sons are sensitive and courageous. We are raising them to be valiant, not victims. To be good, honest men. Men with futures who understand how to be loved and give love.
They are my reason, not for living, just simply my reason.
Everything changed with their heartbeats. Their heartbeats created a family. And I've never been more grateful for anything in my life.
Bart Baker has had eight plays produced around the world, and 13 films. He recently wrote the remake of "Beaches", starring Idina Menzel. Baker has written four novels, including "Honeymoon With Harry", set to be a major motion picture for Warner Bros./New Line Cinema. "What Remains", "After Ozz", and the sequel to "Honeymoon With Harry", titled "A Second Honeymoon With Harry".