The journey to parenthood doesn’t always follow the path you thought it would.
I write narratives in my head a lot about myself. I figure out what I want and I go for it. I live by these narratives, following the paths I’ve laid out in them. I like them to be set. I think a lot of folks are like that, especially the writers. But then, what do we do when the narrative has to change? When we can no longer continue to the next chapter as it’s written but, instead, have to set down the book and start a new one?
We are lying in my bed four months before we break up. Things are still as the narrative says they should be. We’ve talked about my moving to California to be with him, to continue a life together, one that isn’t separated by 2,000 miles. We are in love. We have adventures together and we are going to travel the world. We’ve talked about what marriage might look like.
“Do you really want kids?” I ask him.
“Yes,” he says. We’re naked. Yup, I’m suuuuuuper romantic, talking about babies post-coitus, though I guess it’s not as scary as it is for straight couples to talk about babies right after they have sex because, you know, they might have just made one. We didn’t, of course, but that won’t stop us from trying. “Probably after I finish my MBA,” he says. “Maybe a few years after.”
I do the math. He’ll be 32 and I’ll be 33 when he graduates. That’s kind of the nearing the end of my self-imposed biological clock. I don’t want to be 40 with a newborn.
“I want one before I’m 35,” I say. “Or at 35.”
“That’s the magic number?”
He kisses my ear. “What do you hope we have?” he whispers.
“Twins,” I say. “Boys.”
“I understand boys.”
I squeeze his thigh. We can both feel the weight kids add to our narrative. We can hear the clacking of the keyboard as they get written in.
We talk about names, how I hope they’ll be a little abnormal like the names of my family members, and he says he wants ours to be named gender-neutral names, like Taylor or Jordan or Skyler.
“Can they take my last name?” I ask. “I’m the last Stockman and I want the name to continue. You have two brothers.”
“Sure,” he says.
I hate the word “sure.” It’s non-committal. It isn’t emphatic.
“We could name him after your dad,” he says, nuzzling into my neck, breathing on it the way I like. He knows I want to continue my father’s legacy. He knows how important my father is to me, my father who died two years before.
That was our narrative. I knew our future. I will write novels in between stints pushing the double stroller around the beach and through downtown Los Angeles, teaching classes at night while he takes his turn with the kids. We will both be successful. Our children will be handsome and kind.
It’s a future we’d written in a chapter that will never be read.
So. I’m going to be a dad. Not right away, but, if the first IUI takes and everything is OK with the pregnancy, I’ll have a baby in June, 2016.
I spent a lot of time last summer trying to figure out what the next book—the metaphorical one of my future—will be.
I get my license to officiate weddings so I can perform a ceremony for my friends Katie and Jayme. They’d visited me in Chicago when Jayme was just Katie’s girlfriend, and they asked me if they got more serious, if I’d consider donating my sperm. I’d said “sure,” in its non-committal way.
In September of 2014, I officiate their marriage.
At the wedding, they ask me around the campfire if I will still donate sperm.
“Katie would be pregnant first,” Jayme says.
“And you could have as little or as much contact with the child as you want,” Katie chimes in. “We want two kids. Jayme will be pregnant second.”
“Do you want me to be the father of both kids?”
“Yes.” They explain their logic and reasoning to me. “We want the kids to know you are their father, though.”
I think about it. They tell me they’ll give me eggs and carry my children if I’d like. I write our narrative. We will each have two kids—I’ll still have the twins, but now I raise them with a character that has yet to be written—and we will all take vacations together and our kids will call each other “cousin,” even though they’re really brothers and sisters.
It will be beautiful.
It will be strange.
It will be a fucked-up ABC Family show—“ABC Family: A New Kind of Family.”
I shake this future from my head, this narrative that’s yet to be written.
“They can know I’m the Dad,” I say, “but I want to act like an uncle. You know, we visit, I buy them presents, we love each other, but they aren’t my babies. They’re yours.”
“OK. Yes, yes,” they say. “That makes sense.”
It’s four months after our breakup, and I tell him I’m going to be a father. I tell him we will work with legal counsel, and we will have papers drawn before we go through with it.
“We were going to have kids,” he says. His voice is breathy on the phone.
“We were,” I say. He and I, we’re still friends. When we broke up, we said we’d always be friends, that we weren’t kidding, and we are actively trying. We can still talk about most things.
We just can’t talk about love.
Then again, we never really could.
He says he doesn’t necessarily agree with what I’m doing, doesn’t necessarily get it.
I don’t say, “That’s OK, man. You never really did.” I should, but I don’t. Because, I miss him, yes, but not as much as I miss those kids, the ones in the double stroller.
They’re still part of my narrative, the new one. But, they’re being…rewritten.
Parker Stockman is completing his thesis in Creative Writing-Fiction at Columbia College Chicago. He has told stories at 2nd Story, You’re Being Ridiculous, Story Club, Outspoken, and Wit Rabbit. He gave a TEDx Talk on story and vulnerability, and he’s been published in Chicago Literati.