Keeping Warm

Mr. Book is going to be able to visit in April—for his birthday, and maybe Easter. This is a lifeline for both of us right now. We had hoped that he’d be able to visit next month, but then our rent went up, and that was no longer a possibility. Even in April, it’s hard to face losing a week’s pay—but we’ve just got to see each other, and the boys have got to see their Pop. My parents are buying Mr. Book’s plane ticket as a birthday gift, for which we are truly grateful.

I’m still having a hard brain time. This is the most boring non-news, but I don’t know how else to explain why I’m not writing much and why I am not getting done as much as I wish that I was. But I’m trucking along, drinking tea and changing diapers.

When we were first dating, I made Mr. Book a scarf—nothing special, just grey and green garter stitch with a fringe. That’s what he was using at the beginning of this winter, but last month it vanished. Since it is still bitingly cold in the Midwest, I’m knitting him a replacement (almost done!). In some ways it’s nice to have the chance; I had asked him to let me replace that scarf before, as I’m a better knitter now with, I think, slightly more interesting taste. But he wanted to keep the old one, being the sweet, sentimental one of us. Now he’s getting a scrap yarn scarf, nothing fancy, but ribbed and wool and almost long enough. I have as my rule of thumb that your scarf ought to be as long as you are tall, but he is awfully tall, and the scarf is about five feet long and I still have acres to go. But soon I’ll be done and I will send it to him, to keep near him.

We’re skyping with Cricket again this weekend; I sent him a Valentine that Kit made, although it probably hasn’t arrived yet. I’m going to write about this skype call, I think, because I feel like I’m letting too much just slip quietly away.

Here and Gone Again

Mr. Book’s visit was super great. He brought germs with him, and we all got incredibly, disgustingly sick after he was gone, but it was great while he was here.

We took the kids to Disneyland: me, Mr. Book, and my parents. It was a pretty great time—the kids enjoyed the storybook rides and the churros very much, and my parents took charge of them for a few hours so that I could wander around with only my husband. Aside from that big event, we mostly just hung around with the boys during the day and hung out with each other in the evenings; the boys were immediately thrilled to see their dad, no warming up needed, which I was happy to see; it makes me think that we’re doing an okay job of keeping the three of them connected even at a distance.

It’s hard to write about his visit because I’m so sad that he’s gone. After a few weeks apart, we all settle into a new normal—but when he’s just left, it’s like an open wound. I miss that dude an awful lot.

Missing Mr. Book

Mr. Book is in the Midwest now. I’m very tired, but I think I have the better end of this deal; I get to spend my days with the boys. Still, Kit is going through a phase of wanting to nurse roughly every forty minutes at night, and I’m feeling pretty run down. Too, I keep expecting to see the Mister when I enter another room, or when he wakes up from his nap. I keep missing him, somehow, but some part of my brain has not registered that I’m not going to see him for a long time. At the same time, I’ve started making plans for a package to send when his birthday rolls around in April.

Joey is angry at his dad, and is working things out in his own toddler way. I was texting the Mister and Joey walked up to me, so I told him that I was using the phone to talk to daddy—so he said “Hey,” and then later, came up to me and said “Hey, Dada”; I asked whether he wanted to call daddy, he said yes, and we called. There have been a few speakerphone calls between Joey and his daddy, and Joey has already gone from pointedly shunning the phone (while listening intently) to quietly saying “Dada.” We’re planning to Skype for the first time this afternoon. I’m hopeful that it will be a good experience for Joey.

Mr. Book is pretty sad, but he’s already found a job and already been of help to his mother. The plan is basically working. I’m sending him pictures of the boys every day, and of course we’re talking.

Things I Don’t Own

When last we were in the Emerald City, I abruptly realized that Ruth and Nora have almost certainly showed their family and friends pictures of me (with Cricket) from the day I gave birth. This horrifies me for no rational reason—okay, I looked terrible, but I had a pretty decent excuse.

The realization came when we were driving somewhere and Nora stopped to say hello to a friend of theirs who was out raking leaves. The friend said “Hi, Ruth and Nora! Hi Cricket! Hi Mr. Book! Hi Susie!” My husband has no idea who this woman is; they’ve never met. (I met her while pregnant, so am able to focus on how weird this is for him rather than having it be weird for me.) I assume that this lady—I’ll call her Alice—that Alice had seen pictures of the Mister with Cricket, and that Ruth had said something like “And here is Cricket with his birthdad, Mr. Book.” That is totally reasonable and non-boundary crossing . . . so why did it feel so gross when we met her in the car? My best guess is that at least for me, it was a reminder that I don’t and won’t (at least for the next seventeen years) have any private time or experiences with Cricket. One consequence of being part of their lives instead of central figures in his is that they (again, so far and for the foreseeable future) run and in some senses own the experiences we have with Cricket. And they can do whatever they like with them.

There is one other piece to this story: Mr. Book could have known who Alice was. There were a couple of months when Ruth labeled the people in the pictures she shared with us online, and Alice was among the people holding Cricket during that time period. But Mr. Book doesn’t look at the pictures unless I bully or trick him into it. Sure, maybe he wouldn’t have remembered at the critical moment—but it didn’t need to be quite as one-sided as it was. We’ve never met Ruth’s sister, but if she happens to wander into the room on a visit, I will know who she is because I look at the pictures. My husband won’t.

Happy Birthday

Saturday, in addition to being the birthmom panel day, was also the Mister’s birthday. I made ding-dongs in lieu of birthday cake, although you can bet that I stuck candles into one and sang; I made salsa and nachos; and then there were strawberries, hot fudge, and ice cream to finish the night. He had to work in the morning, but thereafter it was nonstop playoff hockey, goofy TV for a couple of hours, and then Mario Kart. He took a nice bath. He only heard from my family on Saturday, which was a bit of shadow over the day, but overall he seemed to enjoy the birthday very much. Happy thirty-one, dad-to-be!

Our families handle birthdays very differently—his family barely recognizes the day, even for kids, apparently, whereas for my family, birthdays are a Big Deal. The traditional family package includes the cake of your choice, presents, singing, birthday dinner of your choice, no chores for the day, getting the family to participate in activities of your choice (movies, board games, conversations that bore everyone else), and breakfast in bed. I’ve abandoned the breakfast in bed bit, since neither of us like it, but I have otherwise wholeheartedly endorsed the program. I made Mr. Book a cake back when we were first dating, because I was horrified to hear that he hadn’t had one in better than a decade; he was somewhat charmed, but confused. He has since gotten used to my ways—I just get so sad thinking that a person has no one to make a fuss on his or her birthday—but he’s still unused enough to cry a little while I sang “Happy Birthday,” holding a ding-dong, smiling at him.

Time Capsule

So after getting such sweet and supportive comments on my post last Wednesday, I screwed up my courage to go back and read those emails I have so much guilt about sending to Ruth. And you know what? They’re really not that bad. This is probably the worst:

12/29/08 As for postpartum stuff–so far, at least, it’s not nearly as bad as I had expected it to be. But then, not a lot since the birth has been what I expected; for example, I did immediately fall in love with the baby and think of him as my son, which for some reason I hadn’t thought would happen to me. And I do get sad, and I do grieve—but even at the worst of it, sitting in the hotel shower and sobbing “I lost my son” over and over, I never doubted that it was the right thing to do; that he was better off and that everyone, really, was better off with the choice of adoption. And the first email I got from you after the placement was like suddenly taking a deep breath when I hadn’t realized I was holding it in—hearing that he was okay, and happy, and loved [which I knew already, but still] was just so helpful to me. Yesterday I thought about him more than I have in awhile, and my breasts started leaking again, which I really thought was behind me—that mind-body connection is a weird and powerful thing. It can be hard to explain to people; I miss him so much, but I don’t regret my decision or want to take him away from his parents. But I miss him.

I do cringe, reading it now, thinking of Ruth reading it while holding her newborn son—but it’s not nearly as bad as I had decided they must be. It’s both a relief and a very weird feeling; at that time, I just wanted to lie down and die. At the same time, I’m really surprised and a bit confused that I didn’t tell them any of the gruesome details. It’s no wonder that I started hearing voices. Part of the reason that I tried to pack away all my grief and maternal feelings is that I worry that they are either completely repressed or uncontrollable; I guess these emails are evidence that that isn’t necessarily so.

My therapist ordered me to let myself really cry it out over Cricket, something I haven’t actually done yet, but it feels like terrible advice to me. I explained to Mr. Book that my so-far compromise has been to let those feelings in for less than a minute, several times a day—I feel a rush of grief, my eyes fill with tears, and then I slam the door. He asked how this procedure makes me feel: “Terrible,” I could not but realize. I just so resist the idea that I need to let these feelings out all the way, even in a protected space. I don’t think this is an issue of “drinking the adoption kool-aid”; it’s not so long ago that I was getting in touch with my anger. So why does the idea of really feeling my loss and grieving that so repel me?

My husband’s father died a few years ago; it was lung cancer, and pretty fast/ghastly. My husband left school for a semester to care for him, and he was the one who was there for the dying man in the end. And it took him probably two and a half years to mostly “get over it” (that’s a lousy phrase, but I can’t think of a better one), and even now he feels guilty and sad whenever he thinks about his dad. And he thinks about his dad a few times a week.  I have never lost anyone but Cricket, so this is my model for what happens when you grieve, and I don’t want it. I think that without realizing it, I had come to find the idea of grief-stricken emails to Ruth reassuring; maybe I did grieve loudly, and I’m not repressing anything—I’m just past it. So to read my careful (if not quite careful enough) missives to her from last year suggests that I’ve still got some wailing and gnashing of teeth coming to me.

In fact, when I think back to the first weeks post-placement, the thing I remember feeling most is bewildered—I simply could not understand what was happening to me. I had spent a goodish chunk of the pregnancy thinking of Cricket as not mine, as myself as a surrogate (yes, I now know that these are not great signs/strategies, but having no counseling and no clue at the time…), and then I met that baby and he seemed so obviously mine. And then he was gone. And of course my agency had no interest in me once I had signed the papers, so I was mostly alone with these feelings, and I drowned some. But at least I have confirmation now that it was quiet, polite drowning that didn’t bother anyone.

I was going to end this with the preceding sentence, but then realized that it sounds very like something that happened when my grandfather died. I was only seven, so I wasn’t really processing what was happening, but I did know that he was gone forever. The reception was at my grandmother’s house, which had a pool in the backyard: mostly kidney-shaped, but with one sharp corner. While walking around the pool in my grey dress, I stepping into the corner and sank. I still remember that experience with a weird vividness; I couldn’t swim, and just stood for a minute on the bottom of the pool in my party dress, looking up. I remember seeing through the surface of the water, the shifting, blurry sky. And then one of my uncles saw me and dove into the pool in his suit to fetch me out. So maybe drowning quietly has always been a priority.