"How do you feel about not being in control?" asked the leader.
"I can't remember the last time I was in control," replied Eden, thinking this was the proper answer.
"I'm used to controlling everything!" stated Bruce, having no idea what he was in for.
"Okay then," announced the leader. "Go back to your home planet, write autobiographies about yourselves, a love letter to the birthmother of your Austinling, and take lots of pictures of your house. When you're done, turn them in and we'll arrange to come to your home and make sure it's suitable. That'll be $2600 up front."
"Sounds easy," Bruce and Eden said to each other. Then they took the first space ship back to Earth.
The first thing they did was get a nice picture taken of them. One that made them look like a wholesome couple. You know, an airbrushed photo.
Next they worked on the letter, describing how they were inspired to be parents by their friends who love their kids, how they wanted to share their love with a child, but couldn't produce one, and therefore, were willing go to the planet Austin.
In the letter, they also outlined what they would do with an Austinling, should they be blessed with one. They would take him to the beach. They promised he would be loved by a close-knit network of family and friends.
Several trips were made back and forth between Earth and the planet Austin, so a contact there could help them get the letter just right.
Physical exams of Bruce and Eden were required. Luckily, they were able to fool the doctors, and were given clean bills of health.
Bruce did a fantastic job of organizing photos that showed their happy extended family, which at the time included three kitties.
Bruce and Eden turned their applications in and waited, waited, waited. Finally they get a call from the planet to say they were accepted into the "pool" of potential parents of Austinlings.
More money was paid. More waiting, waiting, waiting. Every phone call raised hope and excitement; the kind of excitement one gets when waiting by the phone for that special boyfriend or girlfriend to call.
Finally there was paydirt. Some expectant mother of an Austinling wanted to meet Bruce and Eden. A time was arranged for them to go back to the planet, meet the expectant mother, with the help of a guide named Amber.
Bruce and Eden returned to planet to meet the young lady they hoped would give them the gift of a child. She had lots of red hair, brown eyes and freckles. Understandably, she appeared uncomfortable at this first meeting. So were Bruce and Eden. I mean, how do you talk to someone about giving you a child?
The young lady explained why she couldn't provide for her unborn Austinling, given that she was so young and inexperienced. Then Bruce and Eden took her out to eat, where they talked some more.
All of this was part of the process called "first mediation". Another fee was paid, and phase two of the process began.
Phase Two was kind of a "getting to know you" phase, which included more dinners together, shopping together, and occasionally going to doctor appointments. Meantime, Bruce and Eden attended parenting classes.
Bruce and Eden were so confident things were going to work out, that they bought furniture and decorated a room for their new Austinling, who wasn't theirs--yet.
Weeks before the child was to be born, Bruce and Eden were informed that young lady carrying the Austinling, didn't want them as parents, and had approached another couple.
Devastated, Bruce and Eden again returned to Earth, tried to find the pieces of their broken hearts, and figure out where they went wrong. Nothing it seemed could provide them solace. Bruce tried Blue Oyster Cult music. Eden cursed her bad genes, and the empty room with baby furniture in it. They both felt powerless. Eden was used to this feeling. Bruce, not so much.
Bruce and Eden had no contact with the planet Austin, while the birthmother on the planet decided who she wanted to have parent her baby.
To make a long story short (and it is a long story), she chose Bruce and Eden. Then they all got together and worked on names. Bruce and Eden liked the name Nathan. Finally, all the of them agreed on a different name.
At the baby's birth, there was a small army of friends and hospital workers. And Eden was there, too. Bruce was in another room reading science fiction, at the birthmother's request.
A few days after he was born, Bruce and Eden got to bring him home and gave him the name Austin Kyle Jones. Kyle was the birthmother's contribution.
And the rest is the future.