The Girl I Mean to Be

I had my first individual session of therapy on Monday, with an MSW who is also a birthmother. It was pretty hard. She says that I need to feel like Cricket’s mother, that I am his mother; not his only mother, but his mother nevertheless. I tried to explain “But if I am a mom then I lost my son,” but started sobbing about two words into that sentence. So…maybe I have some grief to process. On the bus ride home, I had this pain in my throat, a sort of tugging muscle pain that I get sometimes when crying hard.

My therapist says that I need to own my role as one of Cricket’s moms so that I can meet my obligations to him. I bristled at first—I sent a present! I show up for visits!—and then I started to think about what Dawn’s daughter Madison has with her birthmother, and I explained it to Mr. Book like this: “If, when Cricket is about five years old, he loves us like parents, and he wants to talk to you, and you feel fond of him the way you would feel fond of a friend’s child—then that’s not fair to him. We’re not giving him what we owe him. We owe him a parent’s love even if we don’t parent.” That is really not what I want to be true right now; I made myself stop feeling that kind of love in January because to love him that much and be separated from him was driving me crazy. I guess that part of my work in therapy will be to learn to manage those feelings without destroying them. As conflicted as I am about this new assignment, I have to concede its value. Right now there are too many minefields for me—seeing how much Cricket looks like me makes me incredibly upset, for example.

Since Mr. Book and I have been ordered to grieve together, I asked him what he thinks when he sees pictures of Cricket, or of us with Cricket. He says that he gets sad, and that he fantasizes about saying to Ruth and Nora “Okay, thanks, we can take it from here.” He says that he knows that that wouldn’t be fair to Cricket or anyone else, though. He said when he thinks of himself as a dad, the word “bad” always precedes it, and that he feels like he failed Cricket—but at the same time, if Cricket was with us, we wouldn’t be here. We’d be living in the middle of nowhere in Missouri, and he was so unhappy there that he doesn’t want to raise a child there. He says that it’s hard to look at pictures, and that he hates using my computer because the background (a picture of Ruth, Nora, and Cricket at our wedding) is just too difficult to keep seeing.

Just because I needed more adoption in my diet, I also went and talked to an agency counselor on Monday—I’m going to be one of their spokesbirthmoms. I think it was mostly a screening meeting (“Are you crazy? Are you real?”). I passed.

A recent comment by Artemis got me thinking: “Are you ever thinking that Ruth/Nora might read this…?” Which I hear as, What will you do if Ruth or Nora ever finds this blog?

I responded immediately, then edited my response to make it more comprehensive and hopefully less defensive-sounding, but I want to say more.

I don’t have this blog a secret from them so that I can complain about them, or because I have resentment toward them. I have, once, written about feeling angry at them and not having any good reason—and in the same entry I went on to talk about realizing that the anger was part of my grieving an upcoming visit, and I was able to move past it. I would say that there are two reasons that this blog isn’t something I share with them: I would write differently if anyone involved in my adoption was reading it; I want to shield them from my process. In the first month or two after placement, I sent Ruth some really sad emails; I was always careful to include that I wasn’t regretting the choice and that I was glad she was parenting Cricket, but I was incredibly depressed, grieving hard, and I didn’t have any kind of counseling or agency support. I so regret those emails now; I’m sure that they were hard to read (I can’t even bring myself to look at them now), and I didn’t want their new parenthood to be contaminated by my sadness. But she was one of only a couple of people who really understood what was going on, and she is a giving and compassionate person—and so I wrote her these weepy post-partum emails that I would now give a great deal to take back. I have times when I regret the adoption (I’d say that I think that I made the right decision about 80% of the time, and I think that with time and therapy, that number will eventually climb to the high 90s); why in God’s name would I want Ruth and Nora to know that? I need to talk about it, and this blog is where I say what I need and want to—but—well, someone at my birthmother support group asked why I don’t want them to know how much grief I have sometimes. And I said that I can’t think of a positive outcome from that; best case, they feel weird and probably sad about it, and maybe it makes their interactions with Cricket slightly more complicated for a couple of days. I don’t want that; they are good and ethical people who deserve to enjoy their son without any of my baggage holding them back. Now that I’ve started individual therapy, I’ve been ordered to grieve; this blog is one of the places that I will grieve, and I don’t want any of that to touch Ruth and Nora’s lives.

I think that if they found this blog, they would be worried and sad and perhaps pull back for a few weeks while they processed the new information. I think it might make them a little more tentative in their relationship with me for awhile; I think they would be more tentative now if they knew how much I was hurting. Those don’t seem like good outcomes to me, but they would be temporary and survivable. Maybe they would make our relationship stronger…but I have no desire to test that. If they found out that I had baptized him, I think they might find the idea distasteful, but they were pretty clear on the fact that while I was his only mother, I got to make the parenting decisions—and they respected that.

After I found that vegan (etc) cookie recipe, I asked Mr. Book whether I should explain some of my feelings and ask whether they would be okay to bring, and he said no: “They shouldn’t be exposed to our process.” That’s hard for me to keep in mind sometimes, which is part of why I started this blog; it’s a safe place for me to document my process (and get feedback from the wise women of adoption) without—I keeping wanting to use a word like “tainting” or “infecting” Ruth and Nora.

4 thoughts on “The Girl I Mean to Be

  1. You probably don’t feel very strong right now but your consideration and regard for R & N evince incredible courage and strength.
    I was going to ask you about how Mr Book was managing. Did you know he was feeling this way? Would he seek or join you in counseling?

  2. It makes me feel sad that you feel like you have to protect Ruth and Nora. I imagine that they would expect some of these feelings, being that they went into the adoption not from a place of crisis.

    Your writing is incredibly introspective and moving.

  3. Listen, you only hear my side of it so our adoption on-blog is such a limited piece of it. I so wish Pennie had a blog and wanted to blog (she’s started half-hearted blogs mostly about her foodie-ism) because sometimes I feel like my blog is a big stupid emptiness of not-Pennie.

    I will tell you, too, that it IS hard to hear about Pennie hurting but it’s an honor to have her share that with me, too. Her sadness did color our early months of parenting (the Salon essay is all about figuring out how to manage that) but I think it’s made for a richer parenting experience. It certainly brought us closer and really, why should Pennie have to bear everything alone? If she wants to share (because lord knows she has the right to be private with her feelings, too) then I want to hear it. If I can help her be a part of Madison’s life by being a part of her processing then really that’s my JOB.

    Sometimes I do think, oh sheesh, this is so hard. I wish it could be like regular old boring parenting but then that’s not what adoptive parenting is. It’s just not. And making comparisons is so pointless so then I shake myself off and take a deep breath and get my focus back (maybe I take a break from blogging it though so I can have kind of a vacation in other parts of my life).

    Anyway. If you ever want to talk, I can talk more freely via email and give you some more perspective on how thing are in our actual real life. 🙂 (Happy thanksgiving!)

  4. I just want to thank all of you ladies–I suppose today is the best day for that sort of thing. 😉 Dawn, I have emailed you. Artemis, I’ll write more about Mr. Book tomorrow, I think; and Joy, thanks for pointing out that Ruth and Nora should, by my own logic, be pretty well equipped to hear about my bad times. I’ll have to think more about that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s