I pulled the bent, oversized white envelope out of the mailbox and closed the lid with a metal clank.
I stood in the open front doorway of my home and stared at the return address, running my hand across the envelope’s smooth surface. First class mail from our state capitol.
My gaze settled on the top right corner of the package, on the red postage stamp in the corner that declared Pennsylvania’s investment in us.
I tip-toed inside, gently opened the envelope’s flap and pulled out its contents. I thumbed through brochures filled with information I’d read online dozens of times, nodding as I skimmed. Hunting for the one sheet I truly needed, I grasped it with triumph when I found it – the list of our county’s approved foster care agencies.
It was our turning point. That moment when years of “what if, someday…” rounds the corner to “let’s just take the first step…” and then suddenly you’re holding one hundred and eighty-two pennies worth of information in your hand, and the weight of it feels like the weight of a child.
Sometimes I think about that nearly two dollars, the way it is a fraction of the amount I’ve spent on all the pregnancy tests I have purchased in the past few years.
There was the time when our son was barely two years old and I was sure I was pregnant. My husband and I walked through a cactus garden in Arizona for an annual Christmas event. The dry night air was chilly, and I was late and nauseous. We were planning to move across the country in just three months – jobless – so the timing was pretty unfortunate.
I couldn’t help but feel a flutter of excitement anyway.
The test the next day was negative.
There were near misses like that here, there, everywhere. Moments of oh hell, let’s go for it followed up almost immediately by oh hell, what have we done? Children that existed briefly and only in my imagination.
There was the Thanksgiving after our son turned three that we thought, maybe it happened. But it didn’t, and we drove back from visiting my family in Ohio to our home in Pennsylvania in a confused silence, once again not sure which outcome we’d been hoping for.
There was the time – the last time – right before Ryan turned four, when I thought, This is it; it’s finally been decided for us. Maybe it’s better this way. Maybe this is how it’s supposed to happen.
I was filled with panic at the thought of how a baby growing inside of me would change our lives. I didn’t expect my eyes to fill with regret at the stick’s now redundant declaration: Not Pregnant.
We have struggled not with infertility but with indecision. The truth is that in another city, in another situation, in another life, we would have had a second baby a long time ago. But we didn’t. Fate was not willing to grant us a surprise pregnancy, and we were not willing to choose a baby ourselves. The moment had passed us by.
That last negative stuck with me, though. I searched deep inside myself to answer the question I couldn’t fully shake: Did I want a baby? No, not really. But for the first time, I felt a gaping hole in our family where a second child could be. Should be. I didn’t want another baby, but I wanted another child.
My husband did, too.
"Just call and find out where we would start,” he told me one morning. “Let’s figure out the process, and we’ll go from there.”
So I called and declared in a shaky voice that I wanted some information on adopting from the foster care system, and the woman on the other end answered easily, “Sure, no problem! I’ll send you a packet of information in the mail.”
And before I knew it, I was holding that agency list in my hand, staring at the postage stamp in the corner, and I knew I was all in.
One hundred and eighty-two pennies – plus the cost of countless negative pregnancy tests.
Surely our child was worth that and so much more.
Guest post written by Meghan Moravcik Walbert. Meghan is a freelance writer based in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. Her work has been featured in a variety of publications and websites, including The New York Times’ Motherlode, BlogHer, Mamalode and BonBon Break. She blogs at PhaseThreeOfLife.com and has been known to frequent Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.