Thanks so much for the congratulations, everyone—I am greatly honored and touched. And expressing that in a stilted fashion, I guess.
Well, I started offering Joey solid food sometimes when he’d try to nurse—and now he’s eating tons and full of beans, so I feel pretty good about that decision. He’s also high-fiving and clapping like a champ, and saying “ah duh” when he’s all done more than half of the time when it would be appropriate. On the other hand, he’s teething something fierce again; I thought that four teeth were plenty, but I guess he’s got plans of his own. Twice yesterday, Joey tried to nurse, pulled away screaming and jammed his hand into his mouth, and then repeated that process until I got the poor child some Tylenol. He’s also waking up at night (3 a.m. on Tuesday, 1 a.m. on Wednesday, 11:30 p.m. . . . and 3 a.m. . . . on Thursday), which is awful, but he’s got so much brain and mouth stuff going on that I suppose it’s no wonder. He’s nowhere near walking, I think—he’ll cruise, but it seems to scare him a bit—but I’m certainly in no hurry to have to chase after him.
I’ve decided that (if, God willing, this pregnancy gives me a healthy child—if I ever forget to write that, please never doubt that I’m thinking the if) this baby will be a boy. You see, during each of my three pregnancies, I consulted an online Chinese gender prediction chart: it told me that Cricket that would be a girl; it confirmed that Joey would be a girl; and now I am assured that this little possum is a girl. I mean, the thing is practically infallible. If he’s a boy, he’ll be named after an animal in real life, so I’ll have to be extra clever with a blog moniker. Well, there’s time for that yet.
—And now I’m distracted by trying to imagine what anyone reading would guess after that. Husky Dale Book? Ursa Tremulo Book?
Mr. Book thinks that I should tell you that “hair is in the air.” We cut Joey’s hair, and then I cut all of my hair off, more or less, something I’ve been telling people I’d do when I got pregnant again since I was pregnant with Joey. I put up a blurry shot of my hair on Facebook and Ruth was the first one to “Like” it, leaving me paranoid about whether I ever mentioned that “when I get pregnant again” thing to her. I also posted a picture of Joey in which I commented on how shaggy he’d gotten, and on the fact that we pulled out the clippers after the snapshot was taken—minutes (it turns out) after Nora posted a picture of her long-haired boy. So: hair is in the air.
For a few days now, my gums have been bleeding when I brush my teeth. I told Mr. Book that I thought I had scurvy. That’s something I’ve experienced before—er, bleeding gums, not scurvy—but only under a particular set of circumstances, so I considered the way I’ve been feeling overall and took a pregnancy test. Sure enough: I am pregnant!
I’m surprised, but pleased; I will worry intensely about miscarriage for awhile, but if all goes well, we will have a baby in May or June. As with my last pregnancy, while we’re not telling the world at large (my parents, the Mister’s mom, and Kate), I will want to talk about a miscarriage here if it happens, so I might as well blurt the good news out at six weeks(ish. This is just my best guess). Honestly, I’m not so much excited yet as boggled; yes, I know where babies come from, but I was genuinely surprised to see the second line on that test. Heck, I have kept it around and keep pulling it out to look at: yup, still pregnant. I don’t know why I was so surprised—bleeding gums, nausea, tender nipples, fatigue—I decided that I had scurvy and mono, which while an unconventional choice, doesn’t really seem like the most obvious answer.
Mr. Book says that if this one turns out as great as Joey, we have to have another.
I feel a little weird about my fertility. I think this is an artifact of birthmotherhood. For one thing, my internet world is filled with really amazing ladies who had to put a lot more time and money into family building than Jenny Fecundity over here. And for another thing, of course, I am a birthparent because of that fertility. There’s some cultural problem bound up with that in my head: that my fertility is the slutty kind, and that the kind you have to work at is not. Certainly having kids eighteen months apart adds volume to that self-critical voice—even though that’s what I wanted, thinking that kids close together will mean staying in baby mode and then moving out rather than having to switch back and forth, choosing a really rough year and hoping for sibling closeness. Of course, that voice is not only in my head: When I told my mother that we’re expecting, she immediately asked about our future contraception plans (condoms and then a vasectomy, for the curious). My mother has made it clear in past conversations that she’s ready and eager for another grandchild—but her first response was not that.
At any rate, despite the weirdness of my brain and self-image, this is good news. I’m drinking tons of water and touching my stomach and smiling.
I want to have adoption news. I really do.
A couple of emails ago, in August, I directed a little information and a couple of questions at Cricket. It seemed unlikely to hurt, and in fact, it didn’t; when Ruth wrote back, she gave me his answers. I tried it again last time, and while I probably won’t hear back for awhile, I think I’ll keep it up.
I’m planning Joey’s birthday party now—I know that it is grotesquely premature, but I got a coupon to have some invitations printed for free, and now I am testbaking things and counting down. One of those invitations will go to Cricket and his moms, and I’m shamefully glad that they won’t be able to come. Don’t get me wrong; I would be over the moon if Cricket could come. It would be great to see him tear around the yard and eat cupcakes. I miss that toddler boy, and I’d love to spend some time with him. But I so, so don’t want his moms at Joey’s birthday party. I think that’s less a function of the fact that they are Cricket’s adoptive moms and more that our relationship is lousy, although I suppose I could be kidding myself about that. But I don’t think so.
Cricket doesn’t have birthday parties the way that I did when I was little; his moms throw Hanukkah parties on or around his birthday, at least so far. On the one hand, that’s perfectly reasonable—Cricket isn’t going to remember one way or the other in ten years, and one party is much like another for a tiny person, I imagine. On the other hand, I’m making a different choice both because I want to have a day to explicitly celebrate my snerkleberry (we’re big on birthdays in my family) and because I want there to be a million pictures that he and I and his godmom and any other interested party can look through in the future. We have similarly different approaches to Halloween; Ruth doesn’t like Halloween, so Cricket doesn’t celebrate it. Mr. Book and I picked out a costume for Pete almost as soon as I knew I was pregnant, and it is an awesome one, which I will probably explain in irritating nerd detail once I post pictures here. When in doubt, we default to throwing our arms in the air and shouting hooray, basically, and it’s hard for us not to miss Cricket having that sometimes.
When do babies make the transition to eating significant quantities of solid food? Joey will taste anything, but rarely eats much—and he’s nursing very frequent. Like, more than once an hour some days. I have plenty of milk, so I don’t think that’s the issue; in part, I think he’s nursing for comfort, but I wonder whether he’s also just needing something that sticks to the ribs a little better than breastmilk. He’s ten months old, so I’m not actually worried, but it seems as though he might need real food and I don’t know how to get him to eat it. I’m doing what I think I’m supposed to—offering a variety of foods and letting him choose—but he’s not choosing more than a bite or two. Should I refuse to nurse for five minutes out of every twenty? Certainly I’m not in love with that schedule, but Joey sure is.
- Joey is pulling himself up to stand, and stood on his own once (briefly).
- He’s also cruising!
- His Oma successfully taught him to give high fives
- Snerks is also trying to talk, I think. You know, I ask whether he wants to try (something) and he says “Aye!”
- He has done some real crawling, but mostly still just belly crawls.
- Joey’s two favorite things in the world are to chase people (that is, someone holds him and points him at another person; person two runs away, and person one [and Joey] give chase) and to be held up and scooted around while he pedals his little feet as though running.
I owe you a real post: soon.
On Wednesday, we went to the Santa Monica Farmers Market—I hadn’t been since I was a little girl, and of course Mr. Book and Joey had never been at all. The macadamia nut man is gone, but the stand where my mother would buy us honey sticks is still around. We got fresh dates and dried, red brandywine tomatoes that I swear I could just eat like apples, and these little pixie mandarins that are ugly and hard to peel but sweet and bright and wonderful. I don’t even like pluots (they seem like a dumb fruit), but we picked up a few pounds of them that might just change my mind. I’m hoping it won’t take me twenty years to get back!
We also had dim sum with a friend of my mother’s while we were in town; she and my mom used to go to the SMFM together every week. Joey ate nearly his weight in mushrooms and cheerfully tried everything else; I keep being impressed that even in the middle of teething, he’s an adventurous and loving little sprout. He’s just more fragile, and isn’t sleeping as well. He’s getting up between 4:30 and 5 every morning (as opposed to his usual 6:30 or 7), and I’ve started cooking when I’m up with him some mornings so as not to lie on the floor with him and pray for sleep. Thursdays are my biggest and most elaborate dinners, as I make food for a colleague of my father’s on those days: yesterday it was a potpie made with sausage, onion gravy, and a mashed-potato crust (with tiny, separate vegetarian version’s for me and for the colleague’s sister), baked beans (not as difficult as I expected), roasted broccoli, and a cookie pie. I don’t know why I so want to make them impressive or overwhelming food, knowing as I do that I hope you get a transplant in time and I wish I could do more is hard to communicate via stroganoff. But next Thursday is frushi and vegan Vietnamese food, so I’m not giving up.
Joey doesn’t eat as much food as I keep expecting him to. There are a couple of things that he’ll eat huge helpings of every time he’s given the chance, more or less—beans, yogurt, oatmeal made with breastmilk—but otherwise he is usually content to taste things. It hasn’t escaped me that those favorites are all soft, and I wonder how much teething is affecting his appetite. He’s still nursing frequently, which is fine and great, but he’s so big (twenty-three pounds!) that I can’t help feeling that he’s not completely satiated on a purely liquid diet. I suppose things will get better once he’s not teething all the time . . . but that will be more than a year away, I’m told.
Ruth has a complicated diet these days; she isn’t eating meat, eggs, dairy, soy, wheat, corn, onions (including garlic), peppers (including paprika), tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, tomatillos, or peanuts. I really, really can’t cook for her now. Being driven to cook for the people I care about (as I write this, Mr. Book is snarfing down some banana bread courtesy of today’s early morning wakeup), I’m minded to see it as a symbol of our growing disconnection. There are points of dietary disconnect with everyone I love, of course—Mr. Book hates olives, my father hates eggplant, my mother wishes that I would eat meat—but between my family and Ruth’s there has opened up a great culinary chasm. Shoot, I don’t know that we could even eat out together.
My mother is mildly horrified to see me share bites of food with Joey; I’ll take a bite of a peach, hold it out to him, and then take another bite; I’ll pick mushrooms out of my lunch for him; I’ll finish his toast. I can see my mom staring as Joey sucks on a corner of his dad’s sandwich and then sees that same sandwich eaten by Mr. Book. And while I don’t think it’s necessary to feed your baby like a mama penguin to be close, it is definitely a sign and cement of our bond.
I miss Cricket. I wish I could feed him.
Maybe this is a terribly inappropriate question, and if so, I’m sorry. You mentioned Mr. Book’s favoring of abortion as the primary reason you chose to place Cricket. Once realizing this, did you have feelings of anger and resentment at Mr. Book? Does he regret even suggestion abortion? But more importantly than that (because I imagine the answer to those questions is probably yes), how did you two deal with that and manage to strengthen your marriage and come out on the other side happy together? Because you do seem that way — happy together, and happy with Joey, and I hope that’s the case. Take care, Susie.
In fact, I mostly felt guilty; Mr. Book had every reason to think that I would be making a call to Planned Parenthood as soon as I saw the second line on that pregnancy test. Then I felt panicky—the fact that our preferences were so far apart left me unsure of what the right answer was—so I chose the option that neither of us preferred. (In my defense, it didn’t sound as stupid as that in my head.) That seemed like the only way to compromise.
Mr. Book does not regret suggesting abortion, but he does not regret that the abortion did not occur—he still thinks that terminating the pregnancy was our most sensible option, but loves Cricket and could never wish for his undoing.
—I actually typed that up without consulting my husband, and then decided that I should let him actually weigh in. He says that he still thinks that it was our best option at the time, but that knowing what he knows now, he would do things differently.
Losing Cricket was certainly the hardest thing that’s ever happened in our relationship, but we had already been through some tough times; a couple of years before Cricket was born, I was hospitalized for a suicide attempt that was part of more than a decade of on-and-off major depression. Losing Cricket was worse by a mile, no question, but we have had some experience in putting our heads down and pulling together (which is fortunate, because as you may have heard, we’re living with my parents now. Turns out that can be rough on a son-in-law). Finding people I could talk to about adoption helped, reconciling myself to the fact that I chose adoption helped—but mostly, my husband’s willingness to wait and see whether I would come back to him emotionally saved us.
Maybe my history of depression helped; I had many years of therapy and grim, productive introspection under my belt before we lost Cricket, which gave me a jumping-off point to do more of the same work after our boy was gone. It took awhile, though, before I could start processing: first I apparently needed to spend six months feeling as though I was in a race to see whether I would lose my mind or lay down and die first, then I had to spend a few months enraged at the Mister for not stopping me from placing Cricket. Clearly, I’m not the model you want to use—and yet we are together still. Maybe if you place a child together, it’s just going to be awful for awhile between you.
This is the part that I feel most conflicted about writing down where people can see it: Having Joey was healing. I swear by all that is good and holy that there was and is no thought of replacing Cricket. At the same time, having Joey ended our tenure as a childless mother and father—we are now privileged to nurture one of our kids, which is such a blessing that I feel it like a physical thing. We still miss Cricket, and Joey has sharpened some parts of that; it is more clear every day just how much we have given up. But most of our day-to-day is focused on Joey, now, and that’s been great. Even the poop and the teething are pretty great.
1. Did you have friends that you discussed your options with (other than Mr. Book) and if so, did they encourage or discourage the idea of parenting, and how did they respond to the fact of placement when it happened? If you didn’t discuss your options with your friends, why do you think that was?
Honestly, with everyone except for Mr. Book, I tended to present the adoption as a done deal—this even when I was barely into my second trimester. I had heard that every woman who places a child makes the decision at least twice, and I knew that I couldn’t—so I made the decision once and just didn’t let myself hope or wonder after that—even after Cricket was born. For the day he was mine, I just didn’t think about the adoption. Once I had spoken with Ruth and Nora, I didn’t think of Cricket of mine; that started to change several months after the placement. I loved him as though he were mine, but I knew he couldn’t be. I am really incredibly bullheaded sometimes.
If I had really solicited opinions and let other people be a part of my decision-making process, I would have parented.
2. Do your parents feel that your placing Cricket represents any kind of judgment or rejection of their parenting of you? I remember that not wanting to raise Cricket in the same cash-poor situation you faced as a child was one of your reasons for placing, and I wonder whether your parents are aware of that and if they take it personally as a critique, or if they try to downplay the difficulty of that period in their lives?
Placing Cricket was a rejection of my parents’ parenting in two important ways: one was the poverty you mention; the other was abuse. (It’s not the kind of stuff that’s gruesome enough to be interesting, but I was pretty scared of my mom growing up, and that wasn’t an irrational reaction to my experiences.) Both of these came up with my parents, one more directly than the other—the money issue made some sense to them, but they offered to adopt Cricket themselves. We then had a careful, sidelong kind of conversation about why that wasn’t okay; I did not mention hitting, or screaming, but I did carefully remind her that she had only recently told me that she thought that having a baby around would make all her carefully cultivated patience go right out the window.
My mom has been talking recently about what it was like when they were poor young parents; while I know that it must look different from this side (telling me as she looked out at her pool and fiddled with her iPhone, having come home from her well-salaried job in her Prius), it wasn’t so bad that it made my childhood lousy. We ate a lot of ramen and Kraft macaroni, sure, and we got hand-me-down clothes from church; these aren’t Normal Rockwell memories. But when I was pregnant with Cricket, I was intoxicated by the idea that I could give him everything—not a pony, because who cares about ponies, but parents who could buy him anything he needed without having to take that money from somewhere else. I’ve been a little surprised by how cash poor his childhood often appears; he wears only hand-me-downs, he’s never had a haircut, he never had an artfully decorated nursery or an expensive toy. But he does travel quite a bit more than I did as a child, and his parents don’t have to decide between furniture and Christmas—it’s a lifestyle choice, not a necessity.
This morning, I watched Cricket ignore his toys in favor of first a comb and later a cardboard box; my fears about not being able to provide for a child have proved both not entirely groundless (here I am, living with my parents) and simultaneously unimportant (here we are, doing pretty well, living with my parents).
I’ve wandered a bit from your questions, I’m afraid. My parents understood my concerns, because they know exactly how hard it is to parent on no money—but they were more worried for me than hurt, because they knew a whole lot more than I did—about parenting, about loving your child, and about permanence. They still tell me sometimes that they wish Cricket was here, not in a blaming way; they just miss him. They are somewhat angry at Ruth and Nora, but that’s mostly about the card that Ruth sent to my mother a couple of years ago and less about feeling judged.
On the other hand, my mom does understand that a lot of my parenting is a rejection of hers—and I think she’s mostly at peace with it, but there have been a few wobbles.
Do you still make a CD for Cricket every year? What type of music do you send?
I do! In fact, I’ve been polishing this year’s mix over the last week or so. It’s a pretty eclectic mix—the most they have in common is that there are no curse words in the songs—but this year’s cd looks like this:
“Hold Tight” by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich
"Apache" by Jorgen Ingmann
"La La La La Lemon" by Barenaked Ladies
“Rain, Rain Go Away” by Al Bowlly, Lew Stone, Nat Gonella, & The Monseigneur Band
“Mucha Muchacha” by Esquivel
“Surfin' U.S.A.” by The Beach Boys
“TMNT” by Cars Can Be Blue
“Pool Party” by the Aquabats
“I Wanna Be Like You” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
“Minnie the Moocher” by Cab Calloway and His Orchestra
“One Piece at a Time” by Johnny Cash
“I Know Things Now” by Danielle Ferland
“Tears On My Pillow” by Clem Snide
“Lovely, Love My Family” by The Roots
“Mr. Sandman” by Oranger
“‘C’ is for Cookie” by Cookie Monster
“Brush Brush Brush” by Of Montreal
“At the Codfish Ball” by Shirley Temple
“Photo Jenny” by Belle and Sebastian
“Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio” by Les Brown and His Orchestra
“Dance Myself to Sleep” by Bert and Ernie
“Would You Like to Buy an ‘O’?” by Ernie and the Salesman
“P My Favorite Letter” by The Anything People
“Supply and Demand” by The Hives
Unbelievably, a couple of the odder songs are not on YouTube. The cd I made the first year is still my favorite, but I've liked all three . . . and the cd for next year is already half finished.
[Jessica asked several questions, most of which are coming down the pipe. This, however, turned out huge . . . since I couldn't stop myself linking some of the songs. So, here's a foretaste!]
You have written that Ruth and Nora are in the waiting pool again. I was curious if they are using the same agency? I am curious if the way the agency treated you and Mr. Book influenced their decision this go-round. If this is too personal I apologize.
They are using the same agency—but it’s an agency that Mr. Book and I had essentially no contact with. Here’s the deal: their agency (Agency A) was not licensed in the state in which I was living. Agency A referred me to Agency B, which was a truly crappy agency. Agency A apparently supported Ruth and Nora and gave them what they were looking for—Agency B treated us all pretty shabbily. However, Ruth and Nora have stated that if they were to receive a query from Agency B a second time, they would be willing to proceed with a match. (I talked about this more here.) That has left me wondering whether I should be slightly more explicit about my feelings re: the adoption experience. But based on what they’ve said in conversation, I suspect nothing that I could say about ethics or regret would persuade Ruth and Nora to walk away from a possible match.