Here at mbg, we believe you’re the expert on your own wellness journey, and becoming a parent is no different. Yet from the moment of conception, or often even before, mothers and fathers are told what to do. Our Parenting Paths week celebrates a handful of parents who’ve listened to their intuition and gone their own way. One family traveled the world while raising their daughters; this single mom takes a spiritual approach to parenting; and more.
You may remember Hill Harper as a keynote speaker at mbg's annual wellness summit, revitalize—this year, he opened with a beautiful monologue about the importance of coming together as a community, finding your holy key, and closed onstage in gratitude with his adopted son, Pierce. There was not a single dry eye in the room!
You may also know Harper from television. He's an actor by trade and has been on CSI New York, The Good Doctor, and Homeland, to name a few. Or perhaps you've read one of his books—like his motivational speeches, they're meant to inspire and empower underserved youth.
Harper always knew he wanted a big family. "In my head, I was thinking around five kids, plus a wife, and in a traditional family unit, so I thought everything was going to happen in that order." Of course, as it goes, life rarely follows our plan. "But that doesn't mean we still can't manifest the most fundamentally important things in our life. And maybe in a 'nontraditional' way," he said.
That said, he always thought adopting would be part of his journey. What he didn't realize was that he'd end up adopting his son, Pierce, as a single dad.
"God was on the phone."
Here's how it all happened. A few days before Thanksgiving, he got a call from a friend who worked with an adoption agency. She asked if he wanted to speak to a young woman who was having a son in three weeks. This mother also had a 20-month-old daughter and felt like she wasn't in a place in her life where she could adequately care for her son. "I knew without a question that God was on the phone." It was in that moment that Harper knew he'd become a single, adoptive father.
"My son chose me to be his dad." It's hard not to get emotional when Harper describes his connection to Pierce and specifically recalled the moment he was born. His focus was to make sure the birth mother felt comfortable and supported. "It was really a surreal experience," he said. He was flying in from shooting a show and wasn't sure when she was going to go into labor, so he went straight to the hospital.
"You know, doing this alone has really reinforced the reason why God set it up with two parents."
Believe it or not, Harper had never changed a diaper before taking his son home from the hospital. He recalls the first days of being with Pierce. "He was so tiny, so fragile—I always checked just to make sure he was breathing. I had a steep, steep learning curve, and I was really nervous."
He said that every day, there's a different set of decisions that need to be made that, at this early stage in life especially, seem to have a huge impact. Lucky for Harper, the village helping him raise his son is extensive. He describes it in circles—your immediate friends and family, your extended network of doctors, caretakers, and people you don't even know, who, in some small but not insignificant way, are looking out for and your kid.
For example, he knew it'd benefit Pierce to give him access to breast milk. A friend of his who was part of a moms' circle in New York City reached out to her network, asking if they'd be willing to pump milk for a single adoptive father. She was skeptical, but people were willing to help! "These women responded so beautifully to my friend's request. There I was, showing up at women's houses doing what felt like a drug deal." He would show up with a cooler, and they'd give him breast milk, usually late in the evening. "They were giving me this offering of love—the most intimate of beautiful offering of love. Many of them I've stayed in touch with, and they are part of this amazing village," Harper said.
"If you have any intuition whatsoever to be an adoptive parent, follow that intuition."
Did you know that less than 3 percent of adoptive parents are men? Men who adopt on their own are an even smaller percentage. If you're thinking of adopting a kid, Harper has some great advice. "Follow that intuition—there is a child out there who will choose you to be your parent. That child needs you," he said.