When Heather recently mentioned that her daughter’s birthmother had been out for a weekend visit, I was impressed. Gosh, I thought. I need a day to recover after just eight hours spend with Cricket’s family. I can’t imagine! And yet Heather seemed both calm and pleased. Well, Beth probably lives eight hours away, and options are limited. What a practical solution. But I went ahead and asked: Do you like these long visits? Really? Is it cool?
Heather explains that Beth lives an hour and a half away, and that
“If you’re trying to approach open adoption the way we are, which is to integrate adoption into our regular lives to the extent that it’s possible and appropriate, I think there are two fairly simple means: either to have an ultra-local adoption, in which people live close enough to easily drop by for a meal or come to a dance recital, or to spend longer strings of days together. The sporadic day visits have always felt stilted and oddly segregated from the rest of our life, to me. It’s hard to get to know people very well. I was worried when we moved that we were losing the chance to have a certain casual familiarity with Ray and Kelly, but what we ended up gaining by doing extended visits turned out to be better for our particular open adoption (again, from our perspective). When we first were getting to know Beth, both Todd and I both expressed the hope that she wouldn’t feel like she lived too close to come up and stay with us sometimes, because we really wanted to have those longer times together.”
I asked Mr. Book whether he would want a weekend visit some time: No, because “I just don’t enjoy their company enough to be around them for a few days . . . and that much time with the baby would be too hard.” We live three hours away from Ruth and Nora, and they’ve offered to let us stay over before, but we’ve always opted to drive back.
I actually have stayed with Ruth and Nora for a few days; I visited them in the Emerald City near the end of the pregnancy, saw their digs and attended their baby shower. I had a lot of trouble eating and sleeping. I was just too nervous, couldn’t relax, and was, frankly, afraid to go root around in the fridge even after they’d explicitly given me permission. There was some talk of having me move up there to give birth, and one of my secret reasons for declining was that I couldn’t eat. I had packed a case of Luna bars, and that’s most of what I got by on—we also went out to eat twice, and dinner was formally set out once. But I thought that while I would be okay not really eating for a couple of weeks myself, it wouldn’t be right to do that to the mouse. So when I imagine staying up there for a few days now, I see myself not being able to sleep or eat breakfast—and I’m already tense enough when we’re all together without that. I’ve also gotten sick after the visits we’ve had so far (usually a migraine or just a flu-y bug)—what if I woke up sick on day two?
Looking at Heather’s list of advantages, they make sense to me, but feel like they wouldn’t apply in our situation: we have a little grownup time while Cricket naps, but Mr. Book finds it boring, and definitely wouldn’t want more; we don’t get alone time with Cricket, and I don’t think that’s something Ruth or Nora would be comfortable with; we do have visits at their home, and I think that’s a good thing. Nora suggested one time that we might meet halfway at a park or something, and I’m relieved that I never had to explain how much I hate that idea. (It just screams “Did you bring the money?” “Yeah, we’ve got the money—did you bring the kid?” kidnapping/custody battle/made-for-tv movie weirdness to me.)
There’s an event I want to attend in the Emerald City next summer, and there are people I’d like to see who aren’t connected to Ruth and Nora. I made a joke to Mr. Book about asking whether we could stay with them, but it was a joke—we’ll either commute or scrape together cash for a motel room. I feel as though the relationship is slightly in flux right now, but when it settles down, I don’t think we’ll be that kind of close.