Becoming a Parent Is a Gift

Chris and Shasta Huntington

Chris Huntington has worked in France and Taiwan, and taught English in the Sahara and Gabon for the Peace Corps. He now lives in Indianapolis and teaches at a local prison. Huntington and his wife, Shasta, are still awaiting word on their adoption. hide caption

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I no longer believe my wife and I are going to have a baby the old-fashioned way, but I no longer think this really matters. I believe in adoption now. Four months ago, the Chinese government accepted our dossier. In the next year or two, a little girl will be born and her parents will not want her. My wife and I will fly to China to meet this girl and bring her home with us.

When I was a teenager, everyone said becoming a parent was easy — so easy, I had to be careful not to do it accidentally. I guess it's easy for a lot of other people, but not for me and my wife.

I'm 39. My wife is 31. For the last two years, I've watched this woman I love inject herself with needles full of hormone syrup. She got huge bruises on each side of her waist.

Our friends would bring their kids over to visit and we'd hang up their tiny coats, hoping some magic would rub off on our hands. When it didn't, we started avoiding any place we'd see the one thing we wanted so desperately. Our own neighborhood became awkward. The woman across the street emerged in the spring with a giant belly. My wife and I stopped going to parks and matinees. Taking our clothes off became a medical procedure; we obeyed the calendar instead of each other's eyes. I'd see young couples pushing strollers in the grocery store and I'd taste jealousy like pennies in my mouth. I used to believe that becoming a parent was part of our biology. It was something everyone could do. When I couldn't make a baby, I felt a little less human.

I teach in a prison, a medium-security facility full of men. I help guys write letters when they ask. Most of the letters are to girlfriends and ex-wives. I don't see long letters to children. I feel lost opportunity all around me. I can see that becoming a parent is much more than our biology.

I now believe that becoming a parent is a gift you make to the universe and that the universe makes to you. Now, I want my family to include a little girl who looks nothing like me or my wife. Someday I'll lean across a table and cut this little girl's green beans. I'll meet her teachers. I'll see her bicycle standing in the garage. I love the idea that this girl will grow up to be a woman and still look nothing like me, but whenever she hears the word "dad," she'll think of me.

People think we're good or generous because we're giving a home to an orphan, and giving her a family but the truth is she'll be giving us a family. I believe in adoption because it will make me the man I want to be: a father.

Independently produced for npr.org by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with Viki Merrick.

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