Erik Alexander is a parenting blogger whose focus is LGBTQ families. He is a stay-at-home papa to two independent, sassy little girls, ages four and two, and a newborn baby boy. He came to New Orleans 20 years ago by way of south Mississippi. He met his husband Douglas in 2006. He created his blog, Nolapapa.com, to help give other aspiring parents in the LGBTQ community hope and insight on parenting and personal growth. (You can find his first column in the March 2020 issue.)
Family Expansion in the Time of Pandemic
My husband and I have two amazing little girls, but we were constantly asked if we ever wanted a boy. We knew in our hearts the answer to that question was yes. However, like most people, adding a third child to the mix felt like a massive amount of energy, planning, and time to actually make it happen. We are starting the school selection process with our oldest child, who will be five in November. To add anything else to our plate seemed impossible. Nonetheless, that little dream had been sitting in the back of our minds.
A Sudden Opportunity
All the wonderful things that have happened in our family’s life have always come to fruition naturally. In the past, the more we tried to force things, the more they seemed to fall apart. These days, we feel like we’ve reached a point in our lives as a couple and as parents where we know what we’re doing and can trust our instincts. We focus on what our family needs and we make it happen. Everything else takes a backseat. Both of our girls need that. They deserve that.
In early February, I was cleaning around the house when I got a text message. I took one look at the screen and my broom dropped to the floor. Our adoption attorney had texted asking if we knew anyone who was interested in adopting a baby boy. I nearly fainted! She knew we wanted a baby boy, and the message felt strategic. My husband Douglas happened to be home, so I ran upstairs as fast as my house slippers would carry me.
I tried to think about how I was going to calmly tell him. Traditionally, when I am given information of that magnitude, there is little to no chance of a calm conversation. I burst into the kitchen, nearly scaring him to death. I then handed him my phone. I one-hundred-percent expected him to tilt his head and say, “Yeah, right. We can’t do that right now.” Instead, his eyes got as big as saucers and he slowly lifted his head to look at me. I smiled. He smiled. Then we both laughed. “What do you think?” I asked him. He told me that we needed to see if we could truly make this happen on our end. Adoption is incredibly expensive (a private adoption can range between $35,000 to $50,000, depending on the agency and outside sources they work with), and it seems like every year it goes up.
After a day and night to meditate and to crunch numbers, we reached our decision. With smiles on our faces, we looked at each other and enthusiastically said, “LET’S DO IT!”
Were we insane? Had we just lost the last remaining pieces of our minds? Or were we just taking another faithful leap straight into one of the most crazy and frightening journeys life has ever presented us with?
The following day, we got the ball rolling on our adoption process. Since it had been over two years since our last adoption, we had to completely start over with the most crucial tasks: our home study, background checks, and certifications, not to mention the hundreds of pages of paperwork. We were in an absolute race against time because—I think I failed to mention this part—our baby boy was to be born in only one month.
One month!? It seemed oddly reminiscent of the breakneck pace of our first baby’s adoption. We scrambled to get everything required by us accomplished in the window of time allotted. During that mad dash, we also brainstormed about how we were going to set up our new living arrangements. Up until that point, both of our girls had their own room. Little did they know, things were about to change. But actually, little did we know, everything for the entire world was about to change.
COVID-19 and a Newborn
While we were transforming our youngest daughter Ella’s room into the new nursery, COVID-19 hit. Almost overnight, the city was thrown into the kind of panic usually reserved for impending hurricanes: long lines everywhere, food and supply shortages, and general pandemonium. We were all unceremoniously dropped into this scary new way of life. And in the middle of all of this, we were about to have a new baby.
The whole situation threw our anxiety into overdrive. How were we ever going to do this? All of the post-baby planning we had come up with had to be completely scrapped. I anticipated that our girls would be in school. I had my parents and in-laws coming to help me with the baby. And then, it was like the air got sucked out of the room and society just came to a screeching halt.
New Orleans got eerily silent. The entire world seemed to stop in its tracks. Then, as if the universe decided it was perfect timing, our birth mother went into labor. New safety restrictions were put into place everywhere and that included the hospital where she was giving birth. Unfortunately, this meant only one of us was allowed to be there for our son’s birth.
As the moment of our first meeting grew closer, my adrenaline kicked in. I was filled with a mixture of excitement and fear. It finally sunk in that we were on our own when Douglas got home with our newborn son. Two toddlers and a newborn—with no school, and no outside help whatsoever. Cue the paper bag breathing treatments.
Despite the challenges, my husband and I were determined to make this work as best as we possibly could. However, he is a hospital doctor, so our stress level increased tenfold as we braced for him to move to the front lines. One month led to 100, or so it seemed.
I knew it was imperative that the girls not see my fear, but everything about this adjusted way of life felt absolutely terrifying. I am sure many parents can sympathize with trying to hold back your emotions in front of your kids. On top of it, many of us were also thrust into the role of a teacher overnight. There is an old saying that rings so true to me lately. I never really grasped the depth of it until our way of life changed entirely, but it’s “This too, shall pass.”
In the ocean of this odd new life, there are extremely terrible moments. Some days, the waves can be so stormy that they threaten to capsize the boat. But then, some days are the brightest and happiest we’ve had as a family, and we laugh and jump into the waves with our children. This will pass. And I know we are all growing from this. My family is definitely growing from this. The time together during this quarantine has forged a bond so strong between the girls and their baby brother—one that otherwise may have been difficult to create amongst the normal in-and-out foot traffic of everyone else in our lives.
Today, our family is thriving more than ever. The girls are so incredibly eager to help me in any way they can with their brother. As hard as it was in those early weeks and months, as I look back on it now, the timing was genuinely perfect. We all do what’s best for our families, despite how difficult and frightening that can be. I may be kicking and screaming in my head sometimes—and sure, I may let out a scream or two as well—but at the end of the day, things will get better if we have faith they will get better. I know this and I trust this. The life my husband and I have built for our family is a testament to this, every single day.
illustrations Victoria Allen