Mind Games

One of my more bizarre adoption-related issues is the period conviction that I can’t have kids. Mr. Book will point out that I am almost certainly fertile; I had a baby. I counter that it wasn’t my baby—I can’t have my own kids, is all. There was a loophole for Cricket because he was never meant for me. I can’t get a good, sustained argument going because Mr. Book believes that he’ll win by default in a year or two, but I can at least annoy him in the mean time. 😉

I worry a bit about talking about this here; I in no way want to trivialize the infertility experiences of other women. I know, when I sit down and think about it logically, that my issue is mostly in my head. But I really do believe that I can’t have kids—that I’m not the kind of person who can have kids. I dwell on it for just a bit when I take birth control every day, but the birth control cuts down my period pain which is *~*aWesOmE*~* and completely worth it.

I do wish that I could have a kid—I still have a hope chest full of baby things, I still think about futurekid. But if you asked (at least this week), I’d tell you that I don’t think it’s going to happen. I think that’s part of why I have some of these wishes for Cricket. I have a recipe for graham crackers and animal cracker cookie cutters—I want very much to make those cookies for him. But he’s not eating wheat yet, and Ruth strikes me as the kind of person who doesn’t want her kids eating cookies regardless. But I feel like he is my one chance to have that experience. That’s silly even if there never is a futurekid—both of my sisters want three kids—but I find it weirdly hard to let go of.

It’s been my assumption for longer than the adoption that Nora dislikes me, but there were two things during this last visit that make me question that. First, the wrestling match over the check—she really wanted to buy us lunch, and while it was important to me that we pay, I was still touched. She’s not into talking things to death the way Ruth and I are, but she does care. The other thing was that she was very deliberate about complimenting things I’d obviously taken care with: she told me how much she liked some of the toys I had out for Cricket; she raved about the dinner. She was reaching out to me, and I’m glad. Now I just have to figure out a way to demonstrate my caring to her in her language.

Adoption Carnival III: Photos of Adoption

I’m participating in the latest Adoption Carnival.

So the way our adoption went was this; I told Ruth, Nora, and the agency that after the birth, I wanted a day alone with Cricket and Mr. Book. Then we’d sign over custody, then TPR—but first I wanted a day. The agency tried to talk me out of it, but I was firm, and so after I’d given birth, we drove away from the birthing center and went to a hotel. I had hoped not to sleep at all, so that I wouldn’t miss any of my time with Cricket, but I’d been in labor for three days and did end up dozing off for a few hours. Ruth and Nora were in the same hotel, just in case we decided that we didn’t want to stay sequestered with the little elf. It was both a magical time and incredibly sad—nothing extraordinary happened, but we parented. My mother came to see us, bringing Indian food, and held her first grandchild. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her so happy. I breastfed and changed diapers; Mr. Book held Cricket and talked to him about the Kinks. And we took pictures.

I had packed two disposable cameras in my birth bag and a few baby outfits; we changed his clothes a couple of times and took as many pictures as we could. I look the worst I ever have, naturally, but the photos are incredibly precious to me. I didn’t want to give copies to Ruth and Nora—I wanted to have something of Cricket that was just ours—and then I realized that I was being immature, and we gave them copies. I don’t know whether those pictures are important to them, but it was important to us to give them.

I’ll post a couple of my favorites in a separate, protected post—email me if you want the password.

Which Contains a List

On Monday, I used my madeleine pan for the first time. During the visit, while I was warming up food, my neighbor brought over a cat toy that her cat distained—she wanted to know whether Aztec might like it. I wasn’t rude, I don’t think, but I didn’t invite her in or chat for very long because of my guests: so Monday I decided to bake her chocolate madeleines. They were delicious, and I think that I will make honey orange ones for group therapy next week; I have raw blackberry honey and orange oil and a good feeling.

I’ve been emailing back and forth with one of the group members a bit, which is more exciting than it probably should be—I just worry that I don’t belong there, so having someone be friendly is very reassuring. Too, since I don’t have any friends, it’s nice to talk to somebody. Yes, I know how pathetic that sounds. But what can you do? I work at home and don’t go to school, so I only meet cashiers—and they’re busy.

Alyssa left me a super helpful comment in yesterday’s post:

Have you considered talking to Ruth about how you’re hoping for this relationship to be a relationship between equals?

It might be a good thing to have on the table. There are obvious power differentials in your relationship, obviously, but they go both ways I think. And if they realize what your vision is for the future of the relationship between your families it might give Ruth and Nora something to aim for as they develop their expectations for visits and so forth.

It’s almost embarrassing—no, I guess it is a little embarrassing—that it hadn’t occurred to me to do this. The birthparent/adoptive parent relationship models I’ve seen so far are:

  • Additional Daughter. The firstmom gets emotional and often financial support from the adoptive parents, and the adoptive mom seems to feel both maternal and often somewhat frustrated.
  • Supplicant. The firstmom waits quietly in the wings for whatever the adoptive parents are willing to offer, asking for pictures or a visit when she dares…and then agonizing over whether she has crossed a line.
  • Hot Mess. The firstmom, either grieving hard, continuing past behaviors, or both, makes some splashy bad decisions. She makes the adoptive parents nervous, which strains the relationship, which sometimes causes her to act out even more.
  • Trooper. The firstmom decides that if she’s necessarily along for the ride, she might as well be a good sport about things, and tries to be as emotionally uninvested as possible. Sometimes this means that she seems more interested in friendship with the adoptive parents than in the child—this may worry or upset the adoptive parents, which is especially tragic when it’s a pose designed to keep from upsetting the adoptive parents with her love and grief for the child.
  • Specter. The firstmom decides that she can’t handle or isn’t interested in a relationship and vanishes.

The firstdads seem mostly to fall into the Specter category. I don’t particularly fancy any of these for myself; what’s a girl to do?

Part of the reason that I haven’t thought to talk to Ruth about my hope is that I worry that it’s born out of my (unhealthy?) desire to have a relationship that does not revolve entirely around Cricket. Of course we are tied together by the fact that all four of us love him, but I daydream about other ties—ties of shared experience and support, of being witness to the triumphs and trials of each other’s lives—I guess I’m describing adult friendship. Then, of course, I hear the voice of Junior High: “And why would we want to be friends with you?” That may be another reason why I haven’t broached the subject.

Still Unpacking

I think part of the reason I sounded so grim yesterday is that I spend an awful lot of cheerful and upbeat during visits; I’m so warm and agreeable that you wouldn’t recognize me. And it takes a lot out of me—I am more naturally an introvert with a dark sense of humor. But there were good conversations on Saturday, and one of the longest was with Ruth, about adoption.

We talked about their futurekid—we talk about him or her often enough that I will nickname him/her ladybug. The younger-kid version of the magazine Cricket was called Ladybug, and it can be an important reminder to us all that ladybugs can be boys or girls. Anyway. We were talking about Ladybug, and about their plans. They’re hoping to go back into the pool when Cricket turns two, which I guess means starting paperwork etc. six months before that, which means seven or eight months before they get going all over again. I’ve volunteered to write a letter for their profile, and I do think that they’re probably the best adoptive parents ever, so I have no trouble feeling motivated. I did ask how many kids they plan on, because I’m curious; they’re thinking probably only two infant adoptions, and then perhaps an older girl several years down the road. Ruth hesitated before letting me know that it’s likely that Ladybug will also call me Mama Susie, at least for awhile, because these things are complicated and if Ladybug’s big brother does…. She seemed concerned that I might be upset, but in fact I’m sort of delighted. I’ve always thought that I’d be an excellent aunt, and this would be just a slightly more nuanced kind of aunting, I imagine. Ruth talked about how unlikely it is that their next adoption would be like this one—we are so close to you guys, she said, and I know that that’s the most usual thing. I was touched and pleased, and it’s nice to hear that she thinks that our adoption relationship is a good one—I do too. They talked about race, and being unsure of the right thing to do with Ladybug; they know that  it’s hard to be a minority of one, but on the other hand they would be sensitive and loving parents to a child of a race not their own (they put it more modestly, but I endorse this position).

At lunch, when our server brought the check, she handed it to Nora. I’ve probably mentioned that I had talked with Mr. Book about it being important for us to pay when they visit here, about it being symbolic of us building a relationship between equals, and on and on. Well, I wrestled with Nora for a bit, but it became clear that she was just not going to hand it over—and then Ruth gave her a look, and she let it go, and I paid for lunch. Ruth said to me, “We had talked about whether we should pay, and we decided that we should offer, but we didn’t discuss how forcefully we should offer.” So now I’m wondering whether I should confess that we, too, had a conversation about whether we should pay. Any opinions?

In Which Our Hero Grouses

So we had the visit, and it was fine. In some ways, I feel like there’s nothing else to say about it—I’m glad it’s over, Mr. Book and I agree that we never want to have a visit again, and we’re careful not to let Ruth, Nora, or Cricket pick up on those feelings. We don’t have a visit next month (they invited us for Thanksgiving, but we already had plans), and we’re both grateful. Cricket is a little charmer still, chasing the cat as best as he can on his hands and knees and laughing whenever the grownups do. I don’t think they plan to come back in the foreseeable future—the drive must be murder with a tiny child—which is a relief. It is hard and strange to see him chugging around our apartment, our kid who isn’t our kid but is in our house.

I did spend a lot of time cleaning before the visit, and freaking out a little, but Mr. Book reminded me several times that their house has never been clean when we’ve been there, and that it’s probably not the first thing on their minds. I do think that being glad not to have a visit next month makes me a bad birthmom, but not as bad as I would be if I told them about those feelings. Many of my background preparations turned out to be pointless—Ruth didn’t want any juice, and I don’t think they noticed that we’d put up the gift they gave us at placement. We took it down after they left; it is very much not to our taste, and didn’t seem to be chosen with us in mind. I know that the adoption links our two families, but I think Ruth especially tends to interpret that as us being included in their family without them being included in ours—she wants to share their culture with us but hasn’t seemed to feel any need or desire to absorb ours. I am occasionally frustrated by that, but not usually; at most, I want sometimes to say “You know that I have no desire to become Jewish, right? I am a Catholic, I chose Catholicism, and it’s very important to me.” Oh, well.

This sounds awfully negative for a post-visit post, I am realizing. I should mention again that nothing bad happened, they were pleasant and friendly and they seemed to enjoy dinner very much, even accepted leftovers to take back with them. I guess there were two bad things that happened in my head during the visit that are distracting me right now:

1. I realized that it’s been ten and a half months since they said that they would send my mom a letter telling her where she could contact them, and it hasn’t happened. I know they’ve thought about it, even worked on the letter, but they know that she wants to send a birthday card, they say that they have no problem with that, and yet it seems like they will make it impossible, and that strikes me as unfair. My mom’s no prince, but she doesn’t deserve to be left hanging for almost a year with no explanation.

2. We talked about Cricket’s birthday party, which will apparently also be a Hanukkah party, and which will be ghastly for Mr. Book and myself. I went to a baby shower for Ruth and Nora, so I know what the zoo exhibit experience is like; Mr. Book has not yet had that experience, but does not look forward to finding out what it’s like. I should stress that their family and friends are very nice people and that no one said anything hateful to me. But I am basically the donor to them, and that is interesting and odd, and it’s a creepy feeling.

My post-visit sick this time is just a bad cold, but I’m willing to take the excuse and stay in bed.

Open Adoption Roundtable #8

Roundtable time! Write about a blogger (or bloggers) who influenced your real-life open adoption, and how. It might be someone who became an offline friend who supports and challenges you. Or a writer from a different perspective who makes you uncomfortable, but gets you thinking. Maybe a blogger who doesn’t even know you are reading. Tell us about them and how they’ve affected you.

Reading This Woman’s Work feels like looking in Ruth’s window, sometimes—Dawn and Ruth have a lot in common. I mean, there are of course huge differences as well, but they’re both Jewish women who are the primary caregivers for their kids: Dawn has a son and a younger daughter, and Ruth has a son and plans to adopt again. They process things in similar ways. They even both have dogs named Peanut. My blog isn’t a dialogue with Cricket’s parents, and in most ways I’m grateful for that…but reading Dawn’s blog lets me imagine that I’m hearing some of Ruth’s thinking about adoption, seeing something of what it’s like to be an adoptive mom in her circumstances.

Without Thanksgivingmom, I wouldn’t be blogging; hers is the first adoption blog I read, and I had no idea that first parents could blog before reading hers. She revealed for me a whole world of women writing about their adoptions from all three sides. More than that, of course, she is a voice of compassion and a sometimes frustrated wisdom in the “thousand points of light” that seem to make up the online adoption community. She was the first woman I heard say “Well, I regret that I had to do the adoption, but I don’t see what else I could have done—my daughter’s amom is awesome, my daughter is awesome, and here we are.” It helped me to get grounded when I was drowning in my own grief.

The newest blog I’ve been reading is The Happiest Sad; it’s written by a woman who has only very recently relinquished, and it’s heartbreaking. Reading her words, I see things that I say and have said, and it’s been helping me to process some of my own adoption issues. I hope she wouldn’t be offended to know that I pray for her (me being Catholic and all)—she knows in her head that what she did was right, but knowing in your heart…heck, I don’t know if that ever happens.

In Which Our Hero Anticipates a Bargain

I am yo-yoing in the worst way in my feelings about The Visit. I go from nervous to pleased to desperately dreading it over the course of an evening. I made pickled grapes last night, so that they can sit in the fridge for a few days before The Visit

At the worst times, I want to scream at her: I lost my child, and now you want to bring him by so you can take him away again? Why in God’s name would you do this? What have I ever done to you?

There are, of course, a lot of reasons why I don’t. I like her, for one thing; I also know that what’s happening in her head is entirely different, and in fact the screaming I want to do isn’t even close to the whole truth for me. It’s just the part of the truth that I can’t talk about. And even if I could tell her about this without hurting her feelings, which doesn’t seem possible, I would (unfairly, I guess) not want her to have that in mind when she thinks about visits. This is the part of me that wants to shape her experience.

I wrote all of this a couple of hours ago, and in the off time, was embarrassed to realize what’s been happening without my realizing it. First I thought they might not come, then I got mad that they were coming…. Apparently I have three more stages to get through. I asked Mr. Book why on earth I’d be grieving a visit, and he said “Your baby is coming home, and it’ll be impossible for us not to see him here and think about what it would be like if he was here all the time.” Well.

Mixed Bag

When I checked the mail today, I found a helpful mailer from a local medical center, addressed to me, telling me how to identify flu symptoms in my child and how to determine an appropriate dose of children’s Tylenol or Motrin. I am unreasonably upset.

I do get parent things in the mail every so often; I don’t always get upset, but I guess this is a bad time. Catalogs bother me the least, for whatever reason—I feel like people want to sell whatever they can to anyone who will buy it, so it doesn’t feel personal (I know that none of it is personal, but that’s hard to keep in mind), and besides…I do still buy kid stuff. Really, it’s the non-profit stuff that bothers me the most: pamphlets about making sure that my kid has health insurance, or an announcement about children’s events at local parks. I don’t have a child. There should be some kind of USPS website you can go on and check one of these boxes: I had a miscarriage; My husband is dead; She’s in prison for cruelty to animals. You get the idea. Then the awful, unexpectedly inappropriate mail would never come.

I don’t think that I find that many things triggering in everyday life because I don’t get triggered when I’m already on my guard. When I went to Planned Parenthood, I saw brochures for adoption—but I expected that, so it was no big deal. Heck, I picked up a brochure for Ruth and Nora’s agency to see what it said. No problem! It’s when I’m just checking to see whether we have a movie or maybe a letter, and then.

I think I’m finally, really done shopping for The Visit. I was explaining to Mr. Book last night that I was raised with certain ideas about hospitality—ideas that Ruth and Nora don’t share, so I’m having to figure out which of them are a good idea in this instance. One of the most basic is this; when people come over, you get them something to drink and you have something out that they can snack on. It is important to have the things they like to drink: when my baby sister comes to visit I have Sprite, and when Mr. Book and I were long distance, I always bought Dr. Pepper for his visits. Neither of these are things I would ever drink myself or normally have around. So for The Visit, I have bought two weird stevia sodas that I know Ruth likes, in addition to juice, sparkling water, and chai, since I’ve seen her drink these things at her home and out. For Nora, diet Coke. I drink Coke Zero, but she finds it too sweet—so now we have two small bottles of diet Coke in the fridge. They like tea, but I already have tea. I’ve been fussing about the idea of feeding Cricket for awhile—I want so much to make him animal crackers or something, but feel that this would be overstepping—and finally just asked Ruth whether it would be helpful if I could mash up a sweet potato with some almond butter or something. She told me today that while there are a few things he still isn’t eating, Cricket likes to eat what everyone else is, so assuming that not everything I make is inappropriate…. I am so excited. Here’s the final menu:

  • Cranberry Bean Stew
  • Artichoke and Fava Bean Stew
  • Kalamata Olives Stewed with Potatoes and Tomatoes
  • Tabbouli made with Quinoa
  • Marinated Olives over Feta
  • Pita made by me

Aside from the chunk of feta and the pita bread, everything conforms perfectly to Ruth’s dietary preferences, and it’s delicious vegan Greek. The sitting-out snack food will be mixed nuts, chocolate-covered almonds, and some honeycrisp apples. I got more small good news from Ruth, but I’ll save it for tomorrow.

The Spirit of My Mother is in This Place

First things first: I made gelée candies yesterday, and they are delicious: beautiful, bright squares of mango and raspberry. Some of them will be casually out at The Visit on Saturday. I have emailed Ruth asking casually when they think they’ll get here, and really hope to hear back by Wednesday. Everything has to be perfect. Me still being asleep when they get here=far short of perfect.

As I’ve been feeling extra depressed, I was toying with the idea of skipping post-adoption group therapy on Thursday, but then I got an email from the therapist: “Who’s coming? I know Susie and Lucinda are…” Bleh. I know that I need to have to go, but bleeech. On the other hand, while I was quietly being terrified about money, a whole bunch came in the mail and I got a new job that won’t start this week, so that is all excellent news. My big, exciting event today was running to the bank for quarters and getting more cat food for Aztec. I know, crazy times! I will also clean the kitchen thoroughly.

I secretly want Ruth to cancel the visit on Saturday—they’ve been really busy recently, and maybe they just won’t be able to make the time. I know that it’s good for them to come here and for us to see them, but whenever I think about it I get really nervous and upset. Can I tell you one visit-related stealth reason that I’m really glad I got paid? When we visit the Emerald City, Ruth and Nora take us out to lunch: “You had to drive, and buy gas!” This is true—we end up needing to fill up twice, and the cost is a burden at our income level. But I told Mr. Book quite some time ago that when they come here, I want us to treat them to lunch; as much as possible, I want us to build a relationship of equals. On some level, I know this sounds silly—we had to hope that I’d get some freelance income in a timely manner, whereas they have I’m sure extra entertainment money in the bank all the time. But I’m looking ahead to a few years from now when we’re all just friends and parents, and the adoption isn’t invisible—but it isn’t the only thing tying us together.

Obviously we’re deep cleaning the apartment, but we’re also getting ready in invisible ways. They like to have background music; we are not background music people. So I’ve made a playlist of background music for them, but not the kind of music that they listen to on their own. They tend to listen to oldies or funk, both of which categories I tend to hate—this list is popular music from the ’20s–’40s. I think that’s the stuff I listen to that they’ll like the most; I just really can’t imagine them enjoying Hole or Bikini Kill or the Decemberists. If anyone out there in Radioland has ideas about things I could do to make them feel welcome—what happens when your kid’s adoptive parents visit, or when you visit your kid’s birthparents? I want to get flowers, but I worry that that would be too much—or worse, that they wouldn’t notice them until Cricket knocked over the vase.