What No One Told Me About Adoption: Carnival One

Grown in My Heart gave out this prompt a couple of weeks ago, and I’m tackling it somewhat belatedly. That original post is here. So…here’s what no one told me about adoption.

  • No one told me that giving birth was going to flip a switch inside me and then snap it off; It’s baby time, nownownow, and the litany keeps playing in my head. Fortunately I am able to plan on a child in a couple of years, but I’m stuck with this hormonal siren song until then.
  • Toward the end of my pregnancy, I did have some moments of feeling like a heifer at the state fair. I’m terribly wide-hipped, so I never stuck out so far as many gals do–so Ruth and Nora (and their families) seemed concerned, and made a couple of casual (strained) comments about that fact. There was no ill-will behind it, but it did leave nasty “incubator” echoes in my head for awhile. I hadn’t realized that I’d be seen that way. Similarly, although I cut out caffeine for the first two trimesters of the pregnancy, I did have the occasional cup of coffee or diet Coke after that, and Ruth and Nora commented on and seemed nervous about that. I mentioned that it’s a miscarriage risk, but at I was less worried about that after seven months, and they seemed slightly less worried.
  • That I would dread every visit, and feel awful afterward. We’ve only had three, so hopefully this will pass, but it took me completely by surprise. I wonder whether Ruth or Nora feels anything like this?
  • That seeing other people suggest adoption in different situations would make me nervous. I am definitely not anti-adoption, but to hear people talk about it as though it’s as emotionally complicated as getting a Coke from a vending machine makes me really uncomfortable. And yet I don’t want to be That Girl, jumping into these conversations to shrill that “It’s not that simple!”
  • That I’d be desperate to hear other birthmothers talk about their experiences.

That’s all I can think of right now.

Mr. Book is exciting about the coming of October, as he plans to spend the whole month watching horror movies. I am going to surprise him this weekend with pumpkin sandwich cookes that have cinnamon buttercream in the middle–I’m making this up, a bit, so wish me luck. The peanut butter cookies are fantastic, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s lukewarm at best on peanut butter cookies. I had hoped that that was just because he hadn’t had great ones, but nope. I will have to make them for my father, who loves peanut butter treats, when I go to their house for Thanksgiving.

The Honey Is Important

Well, it’s that time of year again–I’m doing a “secret gimme” with some ladies in an online community I belong to. It’s like Secret Santa, except that neither of the ones I’ve participated in have actually been at Christmas. I believe that I will be assigned to a very nice woman with a one-month-old little girl; the group is vaguely organized around being pregnant/having kids/wanting kids at some point. I am a giver only, since I want to get kid stuff but obviously have no need for it right now. My gift last time didn’t go over super well; shortly after I had sent a khaki onesie with cowboys (on My Little Ponies!) and a cd of pirate music for children, the mother announced that she was going all-out girly with her little one. Oops. I’m also probably going to go a little overboard this time. Just my suspicion. If she likes it and posts a picture, maybe I’ll share the contents here–otherwise, probably best to hide my shame.

Except for this:

Adorable, no?

Adorable, no?

Last night I baked honey peanut butter cookies to put into Mr. Book’s sack lunches; I am making them into peanut butter sandwiches by using two with jam in between, like oreos. While strawberry jam or grape jelly would be uber classic, we have raspberry jam, so that’s what it’s agonna be. If any of y’all bake, I gotta tell you that all-natural peanut butter makes such a difference in these cookies, and is so cheap if you have a Trader Joe’s in your area–fuck Skippy.

I’m working on the menu for dinner when Ruth and Nora visit; I’m thinking Greek food, a couple of stews and some marinated olives and cheese. With a couple of vegetarians and some wild food sensitivities, it’s something I do have to put some effort into.

Ruth and Nora have friends whose child, Jim, is I think five–maybe four?–and just the sweetest little baseball fan you’d ever hope to meet. His parents don’t really give a damn about baseball, but did just take him to a game for his birthday–hearing about this, I told Mr. Book, Whatever Cricket and futurekid end  up liking, we have to take an interest and learn something about it. Just watch, futurekid will want to play golf or something. Open adoption does sometimes feel like we’re practicing to be parents–not that we attempt to parent Cricket, God forbid, but we see parents doing their thing very close up, and then we talk about it, just the two of us, and what we would do, and what we will do. I know it’s all different when the rubber meets the road, but I like being able to feel prepared even if it’s sort of an illusion.

This has been sounding a bit odds-and-ends-y because there’s something I want to write about depression, and also don’t want to write. So I’ll just jump in.

I’ve been on antidepressants on and off since 2001, about five years after the start of the conversation about whether I should maybe be taking them. I’ve been on six different antidepressants as well as anti-anxiety medication, and finally did arrive at a regimen that works reasonably well for me. But then I stopped taking them while I was pregnant with Cricket, despite the fact that a doctor had told me to carry on; after giving me an exam, he said carefully that if mom isn’t okay, she can’t be okay for the baby, and that in these cases we recommend continuing the medication. Ah, yes. How lucky I am that my depression has left permanent marks. I stopped taking one of the antidepressants as soon as I got a positive test, and stopped the second after the second trimester. And then I didn’t have any health insurance, and I sort of half-assedly took a few for a while but not really. My parents have offered to pay for them, which is a costly gift, but it’s meant that I’ve had to admit to myself that I’m using “no health insurance” as an excuse, and that I am in some ways glad not to be able to take medication. I find the need for pills (wait for it…) depressing. My parents and my husband are gently unanimous in insisting that this is important. I understand that not wanting to take the pills is a symptom of depression. So what do I do?

Well, I’m baking, and working, and brooding about it, a bit.


So I have started going to birthmother group therapy. [Everyone there uses the term to describe themselves, so please don’t think that I’m disrespecting nomenclature choices. I do that only occasionally, and only by accident–I like firstmother!] I’ve only been once so far. It meets every other Thursday, and the women usually go out to eat together afterward; it is different in several ways from traditional group therapy. I’ve actually had normal group in the past, and hated it, so this is good news to me. 🙂 My very first session, I did choke up as I tried to explain something I’d done to prepare myself for relinquishment–guess I should keep going, huh? One of the women there asked everyone to bring pictures of their kids next time, as she’s been in this group for two years and still never seen some people’s kids. This was my excuse to order prints off of Shutterfly, something I have never done. I am way-out-of-proportion excited about this–I mean, I’ve seen all these pictures before, online. But something about getting the prints, pictures I chose myself, just seems really valuable to me right now. I have a photo album half full of pictures of me as a kid (I’ve scanned a few to show Ruth and Nora, so they can make comparisons), and I think the second half will get the pictures of Cricket.

I wrote Cricket a postcard yesterday–I sent him a card in March, and then one in June, so it seemed like about time. My parents and I visited a state park, and I picked up a postcard with a bird on it. Ruth dutifully reads these missives to him and then puts them in  a box for him. I have trouble figuring out what to say that is both conversational and child-appropriate and yet not incredibly banal. I tend to err on the side of banal. This one mostly talks about the day that I spent at the park, and on the coast, and touring a dairy. I found last year postcards that my dad had written to me when I was tiny from Scotland and Ireland and all the other places he travelled, and they were sort of like that, telling me about what he was doing and telling me that he loved me, and I was incredibly touched. So I’m writing some of those for my son.  Like the mix cds, they’re part of my plan to pile up so much evidence that I love him that he will forgive me once he gets old enough to be mad.

This is the postcard I got for Cricket.

This is the postcard I got for Cricket.

Only now do I notice that the postcard has a parent bird with baby birds, and now I wonder whether Ruth and Nora will instantly seize on this. I am being paranoid, and besides, it is too late–I will send it and then do my best not to worry about it. I predict mixed success.

My parents are very well off, and were casually generous during their visit; Mr. Book and I now have year-long memberships to a lovely garden. There were some other things that I should save for another post, because they are complicated. Oh, and this weekend I bought us a bit of interesting cheese, which feels like a triumph. My mother worried that we were stealthily becoming vegans (I am vegetarian, Mr. Book is not, but we don’t have meat in the house), and asked a series of questions that seemed bizarre until I figured out that key central idea. Are we still drinking milk? Do I still use cheese? I like cheese, right? Since the dinner I had just cooked for her was accompanied by a spinach caesar salad that included fresh parmesan, this was a little puzzling, but I’m glad that I was able to reassure her. To be fair, I had taken them to a vegan restaurant (vegan Vietnamese! So delicious!) and she saw that I have some vegan cookbooks. But I don’t feel the philosophical urge, and so I continue to remain merely vegetarian.

Heart: Warmed!

I got a really great email from Ruth this afternoon; we have a visit scheduled for October 24! OMG less than a month I must plan!! I’m completely delighted that they’re coming right now–I’ll worry later. I just finished hosting my parents here, and it went super well, and everything was great, and I am now totally emboldened. In fact, my parents were the first company we’ve had here. It’s been several months, but I am pretty bad at making friends, especially considering I work from home. =/

In an email to Ruth a week or two ago, I had wondered about what the day I surrendered Cricket was like from her point of view–her reply made me tear up, it’s so sensitive and thoughtful. I was trying very hard on that day to be a badass, to just be super positive and make the event 100% positive for them, because I didn’t want there to be anything interfering with the development of their bond. The day after he was born, Mr. Book and I took him to Ruth and Nora, did a brief entrustment ceremony, and then wanted to go back to our hotel room and fall apart. When we got back to the room, the maids were cleaning it, so we ended up wandering down to a lame little courtyard to wait that happened to have piped-in music. The first song we heard, I swear to God, was that Eric Clapton song about losing his son. We were also treated to “Somewhere Out There,” the song from An American Tail when the young boy mouse is singing about being separated from his family. o.O It was sort of unbelievable, and kind of funny, in a really awful way. It wasn’t until later that night that I really fell apart.

So I watched Juno this weekend! I knew beforehand that I was going to hate it, but Ruth really liked it and thought I should watch it, so I did. I was looking for reasons to hate it, because I’ve heard it talked about as an excellent advertisement for adoption, and I really don’t want it to be that. I read Dan Savage’s book about adopting his son, and I think that’s an excellent advertisement for adoption because it is a very warts-and-all account that also manages to be really positive about the process. Juno is just glib and weird; I told Mr. Book that it’s what Euripides would have written had he been a fifteen-year-old girl. Imagine the characters all wearing masks and speaking without moving their arms and suddenly it’s a bit more tolerable. It’s so glib and hipsterish that it is sometimes almost too hard to figure out what the characters are saying–I’m sure I could manage if I tried, but darn it, I just don’t want to. My most bad thought? I wished that Juno had killed herself at the end, so that the film couldn’t be used for advertising. I am not very nice sometimes.

The strangest part about this blog, maybe, is that Ruth is a nicer person than I’ll ever be able to pass for, and wise, and kind, and many good things; she doesn’t (I’m p. sure) keep a journal like this, it’s only whinging, inconstant me, brooding about the future and telling scary stories about the past–and cute things, and stuff I like, and reasons that this can all work out. I’m not an optimist, but I believe strongly that our open adoption is going to work, because all four of us really are focussed on the good of the kid. But it’s early days yet–stick with me, and we’ll see how it goes.


Okay, I’ve totally abandoned you–but don’t be mad, baby, it’s just I’ve been so busy….

My parents are here this weekend, so I had to work super hard before they got here in order to take a couple of days off–and as soon as they leave, I have tons of shit to do. However, I am not abandoning ship. I talked to Mr. Book tonight about the adoption, admitted a couple of things that I hadn’t before, and we just sort of hung out and talked. My mother has decided that the fact that we love each other and that I am fertile means that we will have tons of kids, despite our stated preference of raising one and only one. This is the woman who used to end stories with “And they all lived happily ever after and had lots of babies.”

I can tell you that the visit has been great so far, and that I have emailed Ruth to ask when she wants to come, we really need to know, please. But, uh, nicer than that. 😉

In the Mix

I made Cricket a mix cd in May; his parents haven’t played it for him yet, and I’m pretty sure that they will instead just heave it straight into the memory hole, but that’s okay. I told Ruth that I think I’ll make him one a year, labelling them with the year, and I think that I will . . . although it’s a little weird to know that he probably won’t hear them until/unless he gets interested when he’s a teenager. I’m careful to pick age-appropriate music, but I have very different tastes than Ruth and Nora, so I think they just don’t want to hear it. It does make me a little sad, honestly, but it’s a sad that I think is my fault. And yet I am working already on the cd for next year.

Mr. Book and I are planning to go out for ice cream in a bit; it’s been a hot day, and he’s depressed, and it’s his first day off in a while and the only one until Friday. But I’ve seen a Ben and Jerry’s downtown, and we are going to go there.

Today I believe that I will never have a kid. This is pretty random, but it happens to me sometimes. I’m not sure that Mr. Book will feel that we’re in a good enough position to do so in the foreseeable future, and after that I won’t be physically capable. I don’t really want to wait at all, but right now we are officially waiting to get pregnant until next September. When the year has passed, I sort of expect another delay mandated by Mr. Book. I should say that he wants to have a child now–we both do–but he feels more strongly than I the importance of waiting until we’re financially equipped to deal with a baby.  I suspect know that we have different ideas of what that looks like; additionally, I bear in mind that we need these things nine months after we get pregnant. Yes, I know that I sound like a tremendous whiner. Look at me, whining to the internet.

There will be better days than today, and there have certainly been worse.

“I have heard that it never gets easier.”

I feel insanely guilty when I hear this. Because for me, the relinquishment and being away from Cricket is already miles easier than it was at first–but I think that there’s a reason. When I was a kid, I was molested; I know, super common, break out the tiny violin. But what happened to me was that it made me crazy–I remember being actually crazy for much of fourth grade, until I finally decided that I needed to forget what happened . . . and I did. I remember almost nothing about what happened. I just shut that part of my brain down, and that’s what let me be okay. Why am I telling this gruesome story? Because I think I did something similar with the grief over Cricket–it was really too much for me to bear, so I shut it down somewhat. I decided to love him less than I wanted to because loving him like a mother, really like a mother, meant that I was too overcome by grief to stand. This is something I hope I never have to explain to him. If it does come up, I really don’t know what to say. “Yes, it got easier–because if it hadn’t, I would have died.”

I’ve found birthmother group therapy in town–it’s once a month, $20 a pop, and I think Mr. Book will be open to budgeting for that, even poor as we are. I realized before the get-together on Friday (and during it, and after it) that I feel guilty about my grief when I’m around closed-era firstmoms–I think that they think that I am just a whiner, that I know that he’s okay and they didn’t even know whether their children were alive. On the other hand, the psychologist who runs the therapy group was there, and she mentioned that according to the research she’s read, open adoption makes things easier on adoptees, but birthmothers grieve just as hard and just as long. Hearing that was such a relief; I am allowed to be sad, it’s okay. I admit that it also helped with the guilt that I brought food for everyone on Friday; the caramels and oreos were popular, but the cranberry newtons were what everyone raved about. (Yes, I bake things that are more easily obtained from Walmart, what of it? ;))

I talked to my mother yesterday, and she was bored and lonely and so decided to hassle me about the adoption again. Sometimes when my dad is out of town she picks fights for something to do; yesterday, it was asking me what I would tell Cricket when he wants to know why he was placed and then telling me that those were crappy reasons and I need something better. Gee, thanks, mom–what do you think I should make up? “A gypsy fortune teller revealed to me that unless you were placed, you’d surely die! What did you expect me to do, baby?” I failed to give her the fight she was looking for, even after she tried the “But if you do have another child that will be so hard for him!” gambit–this, after she’s spent the last nine months [really] trying to talk me into getting pregnant asap. I know that I sound really ungracious here; my mom loves me, and on some level she’s expressing a genuine concern. But she’s been opposed to and weird about the adoption since before day one, and sometimes it’s just hard to sit through.

Pathetic revelation time: I’ve mentioned that I spend much of my pocket money on baby stuff–well, I’ve got a pair of tiny Converse high-tops coming in the mail. They’ll wind up crammed in the hope chest with all the other baby stuff. It’s starting to get awfully cramped in there.

Adoption Hangover

I made a very nice curry the other night; it was one of those dinners where you’re worried all along that it won’t come together, and then, seemingly just as you’re spooning it onto plates, it finds success. I like mine with lime pickle, but Mr. Book finds pickle odious, and eats it straight, with a great deal of rice. Today I am making something easy, because we visited Cricket and his family yesterday, and I woke up feeling hungover and generally ghastly. After the last visit, I felt sick for three weeks, so hopefully this new reaction will be shorter.

So Ruth sent me an email saying that she’d very much like us to come, and that she just wanted us to know that she might seem stressed out, and did we not want to come? In fact, neither of us really did want to come, but that’s sort of complicated–we in some ways never want to go, because it’s hard, and we have to get up so early, and I always feel awful the next day. But we’re not really going because we want to, and we also have had a really great time each time so far; Ruth and Nora are gracious hosts in addition to being people we like, and while Cricket had sort of a rough day, he is a little trooper. We got to their house at about 9:15, and went to get coffee with Nora before meeting Ruth at the church. Being Catholic, I have a hard time remembering not to call things by their Christian-equivilent names, but it really was in a church, not a synogogue. The Rosh HaShanah service lasted three hours, and we were basically on our own for that time–Ruth was singing, and Nora spent almost the entire time outside the sactuary with a fussy Cricket. The service apparently took place during naptime, and he was unable to really sleep for the rest of the day. Despite that, there was never a major meltdown–he was fussy sometimes, but always willing to be jollied out of it.

After the service, we hung out at their house for a few hours; Ruth had cooked lunch, and I had brought dessert. We mostly just sat around and talked, played with the baby a bit–it’s hard for me to convey how pleasant it was–then we went for a walk, and then went out to dinner before Mr. Book and I headed home. We talked a bit about the next visit; they are planning to come here next month.

Nora and Ruth had gone to a picnic put on by the adoption agency, and I asked who had the ugliest baby. For me, this is not an abnormal conversational gambit–I have a couple of ugly baby stories to share, and was hoping to hear about some [sweet, loved] dogfaced infant, but I think my intentions were misunderstood, and Ruth told me that Cricket was hands-down the prettiest baby. Maybe they’re just nicer than I am. I mean, Cricket is a pretty baby, but I don’t really feel any personal investment in that; if he were ugly, I wouldn’t feel responsible for that, either. I did mention to Mr. Book, though, that I wonder what their next adoption will be like. We are positive, healthy, involved birthparents–a married set!–who let them set the level of contact and haven’t been nutty; Cricket is lovely, healthy, and forgive-me-for-mentioning-it-but a blue-eyed, blond, white child who wasn’t exposed to any drugs or anything. That is not the average adoption. I don’t by any means think that all birthmothers are junkies or anything, obviously, but I do wonder whether they’ve blown all their good adoption karma. On the other hand, they are certainly building up more right now.

I’ll leave you with the cutest moment from the visit yesterday. Ruth had told me that afternoon that Cricket had really wanted to bite the dog, and that she had told him “We don’t bite people; we give kisses” and that he had hesitated a long time before licking the dog, which is how he kisses right now, and that it had clearly been hard for him–he longed to bite the dog. [Mr. Book says we should tell him that he gets that from me.] Well, as we were heading back to their home from dinner, Cricket grabbed my finger and pulled it into his mouth. I expected him to bite me, and I was cool with–a down payment on my adoption guilt, maybe. Well, he paused, holding my finger between his teeth, and then licked my finger. I thanked him for the kiss, and then we went through the whole thing again a  few minutes later. What a sweet little boy.


Up until now, my adoption community has been online only–I’m on an email list, I read forums–but I have committed to going to a birthparent meetup on Friday. I’m so nervous. What it makes me think of–and this is super weird–is listened to polyamorous people [via podcast] talk about how they found the bdsm community, and how terrified they were of calling the number/going to the brunch. But I really feel like I need to talk and listen about this stuff; I’ve actually tried contacting the agency twice, but they don’t respond to my emails. So now it’s a birthmother pizza party. I’m worried that everyone else will have had real issues–that they’ll all be birthmothers from the closed era, when you had to walk ten miles uphill in the snow to contact, whereas Cricket’s adoptive parents are the ones writing to suggest a visit. My solution? I am going to bring a dessert. It’s weird to take a step back and see how much of my behavior is intended to signal “Please don’t be mad at me.”

My husband won’t be going to the get-together with me, but will pick me up afterwards and we’ll go somewhere for coffee or ice cream or something so I can debrief him. I like it that he had assumed that this would be the plan even before I suggested it; he’s not a born talker, but we’ve been together quite awhile, and he knows how I am. I also need to figure out what to wear; I dress like a complete slob most days, so picking out an outfit and makeup for an outing feels like a bigger deal than it really is.

I just got an email from Ruth telling me that she is exhausted and Cricket is exhausting, at the moment–she didn’t cancel the visit, but it sounded as though she wanted to, so I wrote back to let her know that if it’s just too much, I don’t mind. Now I am waiting to hear back from her, to hear what she wants to do. I am so bad at waiting for important email–it makes me frantic. I should be working, but instead I’m reading adoption blogs and chewing my lip. Cricket, apparently, has learned to throw tantrums and bite; from 150 miles away, it’s adorable.

Cricket and his parents are planning to visit here in October for the first time ever–I’m not sure when yet, told them to pick any weekend but the first one–that first weekend contains my birthday, which I didn’t mention but don’t really want to have complicated by adoption stuff. A couple of weeks ago I asked Ruth whether it’d be okay if we had toys here that Cricket could play with. Part of my nesting issue has left me with some baby toys [they’ll be useful when futurekid arrives!], and she knows that some nesting occurred, but I don’t want to creep her out. I was careful to explain my thinking [I don’t mean to imply that you can’t provide for him, of course you totally can, I was more thinking about how my Gramma had toys at her house just for when we visited and it didn’t seem weird], and worried about how she’d respond. She hasn’t responded, which might be all the answer I need, but I hope not. I think a lot about what my role will be in Cricket’s life. I’m the kind of person who bakes a lot, which means that Mr. Book gets homemade treats pretty regularly, and so will futurekid. So if Cricket visits here and there are homemade twinkies, is that me overcompensating in the eyes of his parents? Because it’s not unusual around here, but would never happen at his house–Ruth has sensitivities to wheat, dairy, corn, and soy. I know that it’s too early to worry about this stuff, but I don’t let that stop me. I wonder about how Cricket will think of futurekid, and I wonder how futurekid will think of the next child that Ruth and Nora adopt. I often think that Cricket will hate me once he’s old enough to think things through.

The One I Love Best

I’ve been reading a forum post by adult adoptees talking about the idea that “She loved you, so she gave you up,” and about meeting bsiblings who said “Ha, she really loved me–so she kept me.” Here’s the thing: my husband and I do plan to have and raise a child in a couple of years, and I fully expect to love that futurekid more than I love the son I placed. But it’s not because of my son–he’s perfect, charming and lovely, such a merry baby–it’s because of me. I don’t let myself love him as much as a mom would because it would just hurt too much; it would be too hard to go about my life without being his mom. For a few months after the placement, I was completely devastated, and just melted down–I started to hear voices for awhile. And then I just made a decision, consciously or unconsciously, to scale it back; now I love him like I would the child of a close friend, and that’s how I think of our relationship right now. I know that it’s not how his parents think about it, though. My husband and I have both talked about that, about how we wish it could just be that we’re friends with these excellent people who happen to have a son who looks like us. I know that that’s not the healthiest wish, and it’s probably a good thing that we’re not pretending about anything; I don’t want the kid to be confused or upset when he gets older, so a loving honesty is probably the best thing.

The kid’s mama confirmed with me that we’re meeting up Saturday; we have to get up super early for the drive, which Mr. Book is not happy about at all. I don’t know yet whether I am to bring anything–I brought dessert to our last meeting–so am delaying the planned baking of Oreos until I know. I suppose I need to think up pseudonyms for everyone–I can be Susie Book, my husband can be Mr. Book–but beyond that, I’m not sure. Let’s see. For his mama, I will use Ruth–she reminds me of the biblical Ruth, loving and patient. For his abba, Ruth’s partner, I’m thinking Nora. I’ll save an explanation for when things are slow around here. 😉 And I guess I’ll call the little lad himself Cricket. When I was a kid, I would read the children’s literary magazine by the same name when I could find it (rarely); it was something I really looked forward to and didn’t get very often, and it felt like a window into something very exciting and unfamiliar.