I haven’t written about this yet, but the cat has gone completely bonkers with love for me—it’s like I’m carrying the kitty messiah. He follows me everywhere, tries to climb into my lap when there is no lap, and has just generally been a purring pest. He’s also started trying to push my husband around more than usual; this reached its zenith before I got up yesterday morning, when he wanted wet food (not time, Aztec, chill out and eat the kibbles!), was denied, walked over to a glass of water, looked at the Mister, knocked it over, and then gave the Mister a pointed look. I wasn’t there to see it, but keep imagining that Monty Python sketch where Michael Palin is pretending to be a mafia goon shaking down the armed forces.
Oh, and Mr. Book told his mom that I’m pregnant.
I don’t know whether I’ve talked about this much here, but I was fairly concerned about what she’d say—she was really hateful about the adoption, stopped speaking to me because of it, and it has mostly ruined her relationship with her son. She has told us that she is pretending that Cricket is dead. It would be harder if she were within 1500 miles of us, but as it is, it’s a grim situation. I had originally told the Mister that he couldn’t tell his mom until past twelve weeks, but when it started to seem like I am really pregnant and not having lukewarm symptoms, I relented. He waited a few days, and then told her.
It wasn’t so bad, apparently. She was surprised, and she said “Tell Susie congratulations,” so I guess there isn’t going to be the tirade I was mostly expecting. She also said that they experienced something similar with her cat, and ended up having to tranquilize the animal for most of the Dowager Book’s pregnancy.
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.
On Saturday, I spoke as part of a birthmother panel that I mentioned on the blog briefly and some time ago. There were four of us: one woman who relinquished 52 years ago and has no contact with her daughter; one woman who placed a son as a teenager 25 years ago and is now working through a pretty rocky reunion; one who placed a son in what she thought was an open adoption 12 years ago (it was closed by the adoptive parents for apparently no good reason); and me. I was the only one who didn’t cry, although my voice did start to shake when I talked about Eric Clapton (yes, I am the weirdo). The audience was made up mostly of adoptive and prospective adoptive parents, although there were some adoptees and a couple of birthmothers present. There was only one hostile question, and I don’t think it was intended to be mean—that and a few other questions asked by adoptees felt a bit awkward because I heard them as asking questions they really wanted to ask their own birthmothers. Like “How often do you think about your placed child?” I think she got the answer she wanted: Every day. Even the woman who relinquished better than fifty years ago said it immediately: Every day.
After the question and answer period, a number of adoptive parents came up and thanked me—more than talked to the other women, I assume because I’m the only one talking about open adoption, and also, honestly, because I’m the only one who had anything nice to say about the adoptive parents. I did mention that I regret the adoption, but I don’t blame Ruth and Nora for that. I also got the only laugh: someone asked why birthmothers walk away from open adoptions, and I talked about how hard it is, and how it is advertised as easier, and then you start and it’s complicated and sometimes awful. I used as an example how complicated gifts can be, and talked about the car, and worrying about being the heterosexual people giving the heterosexual present—and I got a round of laughter. Somewhat surprising. I really hope it was helpful to some people, and some told me that it was, so mission accomplished, I guess.
Later that night, the Mister and I watched one of those goofy History Channel specials on how aliens built the pyramids et alii. He wants to believe but can’t, because these “expects” just make the most ridiculous leaps of logic—I just flatly don’t believe in aliens, and I get really frustrated (in an entertaining way) by the people on these shows. At one point, one expert explained that people would not have built these structures without help because it is hard, and people don’t choose to do hard things; he later explained that while it was technically possible for ancient peoples to have built whatever structure he was ranting about, it would have taken a great deal of effort and years of experience. A function of my mood: I started seeing this as an analogy for open adoption. Yes, it’s hard, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen, or that it only happens with bizarro, extraordinary circumstances—it just takes a lot of effort and benefits from years of experience.
Susie: How can I feel so shaky and awful? I only threw up stomach acid!
Mister: Highlighting the fact that there was no food in there! You need to eat!
It’s sort of amazing; every time I start worrying that maybe the positive tests were mistakes and I’m not pregnant and actually a lunatic, I throw up again. I do find it perversely reassuring—I remember reading last time that it’s a good sign for healthy placental development, so savor that vomit! But I do think that the smell of fried eggs (which I have always loathed) was a contributing factor this time. In other “Yes, Goofus, you aren’t imagining things” symptoms, I was thinking about Dr. M.L. King while walking home from the bus stop and started to cry. I also think I’ve lost a bit of weight, as my pants are starting to fall down when I walk, despite the fact that my stomach looks definitely pregnant when I see it bare.
I dreamed that the bean was a daughter, and now that’s what I think I’m carrying, and I’m really excited. I think that’s part of why I’ve started sounding more enthusiastic; I’m starting to connect with the bean as a person, which of course will make things much worse if anything goes wrong, but right now it feels pretty good. My therapist also, without getting this news from me, told me last night that she thinks it’s a girl. I am completely thrilled. (She also said that I have the pregnancy glow going on, but since I feel like the crud you scrap out from the bottom of the oven, I have to believe that she was just trying to make me feel better.) People keep asking me whether I’m eating okay, and I have gotten used to just cheerfully saying no—Luna bars, skim milk, and ginger ale make up 90% of my diet right now. I mean, two of those three things are good for you—and there isn’t that much ginger ale—but my mother cannot hide her horror. Four pregnancies, and she never had a moment’s nausea.
Stealing this from Dawn!
1. What bill do you hate paying the most?
The heat. I’m always the one who’s cold, but I try to keep the heat low, so when the apartment is freezing AND the bill is high, it just feels unfair.
2. Where was the last place you had a romantic dinner?
Hmm. Probably the vegan Vietnamese place we always go to—we went to celebrate the bean. =)
3. If you’re married or in a committed relationship, how long has it been?
7.5 years together, almost exactly a year married.
4. How many people do you cook for? Or does someone cook for you? Or are you the Carry-Out Queen? Do you sit down for dinner?
I cook for the two of us, but recently it’s been more like I cook a huge meal once every two days, the Mr. eats leftovers, and I feel queasy and self-pitying.
5. What do you really want to be doing right now?
Sleeping. How dull I am.
6. How many colleges did you attend?
Just one—the University of Missouri at Columbia.
7. Got any advanced degrees?
Naw, just the BA.
8. How long have you been in your current job?
Freelancing for about three years now, but I’m not having any work at the moment. 😦
9. Do you have a “career,” or are you just paying the rent while you do more interesting things in your off time?
That’s an interesting question, and I haven’t really figured out the answer yet. I love writing, and my work is in publishing, but if I call myself an aspiring writer I feel like a j*ck*ss.
10. IRA, 401(k), private pension, government pension, private savings, or cross your fingers?
Well, the husband has some incredibly modest retirement….
11. Children? Grandchildren? Nieces & nephews?
One placed kid, one in the oven. No nephews or nieces for years, probably.
13. Name one big mistake you’ve made in the past ten years.
So this one time my sister had come to pick me up from college so that I could go home for Thanksgiving break (don’t drive, never have, doesn’t so much matter here). She had brought one of her horrible friends along, and they decided to stop at a gas station and buy wine coolers and Cheetos. She left the car running, and me the only one inside—she was parked on kind of a hill. After she’s been gone for fifteen minutes, I start to worry—the gas gauge is on empty!—so I decide to turn off the car to save gas. She, uh, hadn’t put a break on. The car rolled gracefully across the street and into a stop sign while I sat frozen in the passenger’s seat, looking frantically for a “Stop!” button. Very embarrassing.
14. You will live to be 95. On your deathbed, you will experience a moment of perfect clarity, complete with total recall of your entire life. The current you can ask the 95-year-old you one question. What will it be? Be careful; what you do with your answer has the potential to change the future. And yeah, you can ask who’s going to win the Derby in 2023 if you want to, although personally I think that shows a lack of imagination and ambition.
The only questions I can think of that matter would make me even more morbid and worried than I tend to be otherwise. I’m probably better off asking whether she’s happy.
15. What are your thoughts on gas prices?
I want them high—we drive some, sure, but I want to be able to keep driving in thirty years.
16. First thought when the alarm went off this morning?
“I hope he remembers to reset it for me.”
17. Last thought before going to sleep last night?
“You know what sounds good? Ice cream.”
18. Do you miss being a child?
19. What errand/chore do you despise?
Cleaning out the refridgerator.
20. Get up early or sleep in?
Sleep in every time. I am a weirdo night owl.
21. Have you found real love yet?
22. Favourite lunch meat?
Veggie for fifteen years—I don’t even remember what they’re like. Make mine a grilled cheese—or something with eggplant.
23. Vacation: who goes with you, or do you fly solo?
Depends on whether he can get off from work.
24. Do you think marriage is an outdated ritual?
No way. You can completely make your own wedding, and then your own marriage, and of course you choose your own spouse; it’s perpetually updateable.
25. Of all the people you’ve ever met, which one would you most like to face over the dinner table for the rest of your life?
My own sweet patootie, the Mister.
26. How old is your current car? How old was the last one when you got rid of it?
It’s a 1997. First car!
27. Ever use a fire extinguisher for its intended purpose?
Yes—in my mother’s oven. She was not pleased.
28. Somewhere in the world you’ve never been and would like to go?
Lots of places. But I’ve told Mr. Book that if we ever leave the U.S. we have to move to Reykjavik, so we should probably scope it out.
29. At this point in your life would you rather start a new career or a new relationship?
Career, hands down.
30. How old do you admit to being?
My own age.
43. Do you have a go to person?
Either the husband or my sister Kate, they’re both awesome.
44. Are you where you want to be in life?
Yes and no—I like the city, I love the husband, I’m looking forward to the mom thing. Lame as it sounds, it would be good if we had more money, and if the Mister had a job he didn’t hate.
45. What about you do you think has changed the most?
I am able to trust people now.
46. Looking back at high school were they the best years of your life?
Good God, no. No reunions for me.
47. Are there times you still feel like a kid?
Sort of. It’s weird to think that I’m married, pregnant, etc.—I’m the same me that I’ve always been, and I’ve never been a for-real grownup before.
48. Did you ever own troll dolls?
No, they kind of grossed me out.
49. How old were you when you first read Flowers in the Attic?
50. Where were you when Kennedy died?
Not yet a gleam in my father’s eye.
51. Where were you when the Challenger exploded?
I was three years old—I vaguely remember learning about it whenever I did from Punky Brewster.
52. Do you remember seeing any of the moon shots on television?
Only in movies.
53. (For Americans) What’s the first presidential election you remember?
Clinton’s first—we were living in the South, and I was an irritating young Democrat.
54. (For Americans) What did you do that was special for the Bicentennial?
I’ve asked my mom what it was like. . . .
55. Did you have a pager?
56. Where was the hang out spot when you were a teenager?
A coffeehouse named, creatively, The Coffee House.
57. Were you the type of kid you would want your children to hang out with?
I think so—I was never bad, just quiet and sarcastic. I meant well, though, and can tell touching stories of my kindness if the need arises. Mostly I was withdrawn, but I was good to my friends. And I never cut class, unlike my wicked husband!
Mr. Book and I are both sports fans: I’m most into baseball, with moderate interest in hockey, basketball, and college football; he’s most into hockey and baseball, with moderate interest in college football and a passing interest in European soccer leagues. I’m from California, so I root for the Angels and the Ducks; he’s from Toronto, so he roots for the Jays and the Leafs. We’re able to keep it friendly at least in part because both of his teams are terrible—not to go into excruciating detail, but the Jays are perpetually fighting for last place in their division and the Leafs have been really brutally mismanaged for most of the last fifty years. When I was growing up, the Angels were always terrible, so I know what that feeling is like, and it’s left me sort of a wary fan—I’m always waiting for the team to blow the game for no real reason—but now they’re pretty good, and have been for a few years, and it’s a nice feeling.
Last year, I decided that we needed to hash out our sports strategy as it relates to futurekid. I made what I thought was a reasonable proposal: “I get the Angels, and you get the Leafs. The Jays will never have a prayer and you know it.” This is just fact, folks—even if the Jays weren’t perpetually a lousy team, they’re in a really tough division. And my husband knows it. He dug in his heels, though, and scowled when I added these
to the hope chest. A month or so later, however, Mr. Book came to me and conceded; futurekid/s can be Angels fans. He won’t fight it. I have a theory about how this is because he realized that his Jays will never have a prayer and that it would be tantamount to child abuse, but he finds this version of events really frustrating for some reason. 😉
Meant to reply to Mia’s comment yesterday but didn’t get around to it—I don’t at all understand a gender preference that doesn’t end by the time you see the baby. Before I got pregnant with Cricket, I only ever wanted a little girl—then I got pregnant, and after spending many months with the boy and then meeting him, now I long for a boy—so I take it for granted that once I see the kidlet, I’ll just be delighted. Guess I should be grateful, if not everyone’s preferences are so malleable.
Sorry for the blackout yesterday, folks; I was in bed with a migraine, feeling sorry for myself. I have a pretty solid migraine routine, but it ordinarily involves Excedrin in a pivotal role. Thanks again to everyone who has offered hand-me-downs—it makes me, geekily, think of The Lord of the Rings—“You have my bow!” “And my . . . changing table!” With one exception, whom I’ve already emailed, I think we’re going to wait until twelve weeks before asking for stuff. You know, just in case. But I would like to say that I have no problem dressing a son in “pretty pretty princess” rompers or a daughter in “lock up your daughters!” t-shirts. At least in the privacy of the Casa Book—or for the purposes of horrifying my mother. 😛 Seriously, though, we have both pink and blue clothes in the hope chest, and any futurekid will get to wear them all.
I read an argument on a forum I like about whether it is permissible to be disappointed when you find out the sex; I was really surprised to hear some women I think of as friendly or cool talking about how since some women can’t conceive, you are some kind of monster if you feel let down by the sex of your baby-to-be. I don’t know. I can admit in the privacy of the blog that I would prefer to have a son, but I know that I’d be overjoyed to have a daughter—I have a preference, but my overwhelming preference is just for a healthy child. In the end, I’d like to have either one of each or two sons, but if I end up raising only daughters, I’ll love the crap out of them. I don’t think wanting one or the other makes you a bad person. My sister Kate wants me to have a girl very much, but that’s in part since a baby girl would be given her middle name, and she and her husband will be godparents to our first futurekid. Kate and her husband are now planning to visit us on their Thanksgiving break (they’re both in school—she’s in grad school and he’s getting his bachelor’s after finishing his enlistment with the Marines), and she’s hoping that I will either have the baby while they’re there or right before they arrive. It’s certainly possible. I’m due (according to my mother’s iPhone) the day before Thanksgiving, and Cricket was three days early—and apparently second children come earlier? This is what I’ve heard, anyway. My mom went more than a week late with all four of us, so I don’t know that her experiences are a useful guide. (She also never got morning sickness!) Of course, with Cricket I had a “come out, come out!” program that I started at week 37—it involved evening primrose oil and black cohosh tinctures—but I’ll probably start that up again this time, too. After all, even a bit early, the kid was almost ten pounds—I can’t afford to go past my due date!
I am finally letting myself get really excited about the bean. On Sunday I went through the hope chest and pulled out things that we’ll want as soon as a kidlet is born, and I was really getting into—I can’t wait to smell our kid.
I am totally overwhelmed by some of the offers I’ve gotten by comment and email—once I hit twelve weeks, I will totally contact a couple of you, but I wanted to immediately say THANK YOU. I am touched and grateful and really excited at the prospect of some hand-me-downs. My mother has been trying to reassure me by talking about how she got a lot of hand-me-downs from her sister, but I don’t have any family within a thousand miles, and even those faraway Book relatives are mostly childless or far enough past having little kids that they don’t have any onesies in the attic (as in, their kids are older than I am).
In completely random but exciting news, my parents combined my birthday present and the Mister’s for this year and just sent us a digital camera! Now we can take our own pictures on visits with Cricket, in addition of course to getting thousands of shots of our futurekid. Right now I’m just practicing on the cat.
Have a good weekend, everybody, and God bless.
The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be part of the Open Adoption Bloggers list to participate, or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–feel free to adapt or expand on them.
The prompt for this round comes from the very dear mama2roo of Letters to a Birthmother:
Does money have an impact on your open adoption? If so, how? (Could be issues pre- or post-placement, expectations, assumptions, costs of visit activities, travel, gifts–you name it.)
Yes. Ruth had proposed a meet-up on May 8, and while I had a few reasons for wanting to reschedule, among them is the fact that we simply can’t afford to travel right now—for the last week and a half, we’ve had $20 to spend on groceries or any emergencies. Luckily, we avoided having an emergency, and I’m a dab hand at beans and rice.
When we drive to the Emerald City to see them, we use about a tank and a half of gas—call it $50—in addition to any other money that gets spent (Mr. Book usually wants to get himself breakfast at McD’s on the road, recently we’ve been going to a coffeehouse for a break in the middle of the vist, etc.). When they come to see us, we take them out for one meal and I cook one meal, often something more elaborate/expensive than I would have made for just the two of us. There’s no way we could manage either one of those today, and although things will be all better by June (I hope I hope), I don’t know whether we’d be able to feed company in early May. I can’t talk to Ruth about this stuff; I don’t want her to feel as though we’re begging for help, which we’re not, and I also find it a bit embarrassing. (We haven’t been irresponsible; I just haven’t been able to find work.)
Last year, Ruth offered to give us gas cards for visits, if we needed, and I don’t think I’d ever be able to accept them. It’s funny—I’m one of those birthmoms who did get some financial assistance from the PAPs while I was pregnant, which I know is controversial—they paid for medical expenses that weren’t covered by MediCal and bought me some maternity clothes. It seemed perfectly reasonable to me; these were expenses I wouldn’t have if I weren’t pregnant, and things they would probably have to pay for themselves if they were expecting a biokid. But I think that experience has made me extra averse to ever getting any financial assistance from them of any kind now that Cricket is born and placed. They weren’t “buying a baby,” but of course that money cemented in my head that the unborn child was their kid and that there was no way I could keep him. The secret added complication is of course that I am pregnant right now; if I take money from them while pregnant, gosh, hang on a second, I know how this one goes and no thank you I mean thank you but no thank you.
I don’t mean to imply that Ruth and Nora ever did or ever would think that giving me a maternity dress or filling our car with gas buys them anything, and in fact I think they would be horrified by the suggestion.
In a way, I think that this is all related to my crazy hope chest. Needing help to pay my medical bills and not being able to buy baby things last time ‘round seemed like proof that I couldn’t be a mother. But now I have blankets, I have burp clothes, I have tiny outfits. There are other things that we need (and don’t for a minute think that it doesn’t fReAk me oUt to make a list of the things we should hopefully acquire in the next seven months), but if we bought a pack of diapers, we’d be able to fake it for at least a couple of weeks. It’s going to be hard, parenting with not a lot of money, but I’m finally at a point where I believe that we can be good parents and impoverished parents at the same time. I’ve set up a couple of registries and will hope that my parents get enthusiastic about shopping for junior, but we’ll scrape by either way. I would like to get a dresser that we can also use as a changing table, but we can always put baby clothes in a cardboard box and change diapers on the floor. It would be nice to have a crib, but that’s really unlikely, so we’ll do without.
Money really does affect our open adoption—right down to being a primary cause of its existence.