Thanks, Legolas

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.

Thank You

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.

Open Adoption Roundtable #15

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.

My mother has been telling me that I need to try spousal breastfeeding—that it is exciting and awesome. My mother. That’s it—I’m taking a mental health day.

Ralph

I’ve had a semi-adversarial relationship with my body for as long as I can remember—this occasionally leads me to do stupid things, like refusing to drink water when I’m dehydrated because I don’t feel like it and refuse to be a slave to the meat bag. The body and me, we aren’t friends. I feel like a body can be either your strength or your vulnerability, and this one has always felt like a weakness. It went through puberty, contrary to my explicit wishes; it has never looked the way I’d like; it got pregnant with Cricket and changed my life in a way I wouldn’t have chosen.

Reading Sarah’s blog brought this up for me again; abortion seems to highlight the vulnerability of a woman’s body. (I don’t, by the way, want to imply that men’s bodies are strong and women’s bodies are liabilities. My mother has always liked her body and liked what it can do—she also, in marked contrast to me, never doubted that each of her pregnancies would go well and end in a healthy baby—and they all did. I’m talking about different times in women’s lives and different female experiences, not a gendered binary.) My knowledge of the experience of an abortion is second-hand, but my sister Tammy has talked to me about what it was like have her abortions. In each case, she felt that her body had let her down in a spectacular and faintly shameful way. The procedure itself was for her painful, and the days following were nightmarish. It felt like something terrible was happening to her body that she couldn’t see or control (and these were safe, legal abortions—I have seen pictures of the alternatives, and they are unspeakable. Women die).

Pregnancy only exacerbates this sense that the meat is a handicap; my body really, really isn’t primarily interested in my welfare anymore. Its #1 purpose appears to be nourishing the bean. That’s appropriate, but it’s slightly disturbing that I don’t get a vote—all I can do is either starve my body or not, and that’s not a real choice. I don’t want the bean to die. But I hate feeling like an animal. When I was in labor with Cricket, the worst part (and it went on for days, so I have quite a bit to choose from) was what must have been transition; I was having deep, scary pains that I couldn’t do anything about, I was exhausted and in a lot of pain, and my body was going about its business with no regard for my near-panic. And then I threw up.

Last night, Mr. Book said “Are you genuinely unhappy about being pregnant? Because if you are, there are things we can do.” And I had to explain that that’s not it—I have no faith that my body can get this done correctly (despite previous evidence) and hate the part of pregnancy that is something happening to me rather than me doing something. I’ve started throwing up, which only adds to that feeling. I told him that I want very much to hold and smell our child, and that I look forward to parenting, but that this broody part is weirdly hard for me. He’s able to just be happy about the bean, and I can’t have that pure a feeling about it yet.

WE aren’t going to do anything

I think I maybe ought to write a bit more about why I don’t want to tell Ruth and Nora about the pregnancy, and why I don’t think their primary reaction will be to be happy for us.

I read adoption forums that I often find upsetting. My husband wishes I wouldn’t, but I want to know what adoptive parents are thinking, what they say to each other, what they say when they talk about the birthparents of their kids. I have seen many women (it’s almost overwhelmingly a female population) start threads that go something like this:

Subject: Another One!!!

Well, DD’s BGM gave us a call yesterday: BM is pregnant AGAIN! Frankly, I don’t know whether we can afford to adopt right now, but of course we’d love to have a sibling for DD—we just thought we’d be waiting awhile longer! 😛 I’m not sure how to bring up the fact that we’d love to adopt this next child as well. I was thinking that maybe we’d just send flowers and wait to hear from BM herself? Anyway, let me know what you ladies think!

or this:

Subject: How Do I Handle This?!!

I cannot believe it, but DS’s BM has gotten herself pregnant (again!!)! How am I going to explain this to DS? I just can’t believe that she’d do something like this. How is he going to feel knowing that she gave him away and is keeping his little brother or sister? I can’t believe she’d be so selfish, of course this probably wasn’t planned. LOL! Any advice on how to tell my son what his BM has done?

Obviously not all adoptive parents are like this, or feel this way—even in that community, there will sometimes be a response along the lines of “Um, do you have any reason to think she’d want to relinquish this child? Maybe you shouldn’t break out the crib just yet.”  But even among the moderate, friendly adoptive parents (on these forums), there is a more subtle response that bothers me: “What are we going to do about this?” Sometimes they’re concerned that their kid’s birthmother won’t be able to care for a child, sometimes they’re more focused on how it will impact their adopted kids—but there’s this idea that the pregnant is a problem, and that it is (at least in part) the adoptive parents’ problem.

I wonder how much of this has to do with the particulars of their adoptive relationships; for example, I know that some of these adoptive parents have continued to provide financial support to their kids’ birthmothers, which might make them feel more invested in a pregnancy. But I think even in cases where no money ever changes hands, many adoptive parents feel that they have a problem-solving role in this situation, and that kind of freaks me out.

It’s been quite awhile since it last came up that Mr. Book and I have planned all along—even before I gave birth to Cricket—to have and raise a kid within a few years. Ruth and Nora knew that before they adopted their son. But whenever it has come up (infrequently), they’ve been very uncomfortable with the idea, and sometimes suggest that waiting much longer might be a good idea. I have never outright said “We will never place another child, even if we have eighteen we’ll figure something out, don’t wait to adopt a biological sibling ‘cause it ain’t gonna happen,” but I hope that they know. Once they know that I am pregnant and not placing the bean with them, I think that they’ll mainly be worried about the impact of a birth sibling on Cricket—and that’s not unreasonable. But I know that Ruth at least sees in mainly in negative terms. That is why I don’t want them to know. I’m just kicking the problem down the road a ways, but the prospect of having to process with her the ways in which I am hurting Cricket is pretty off-putting.

Mothers’ Days

Just want to get it on the record: Mr. Book thinks the bean is a girl. I don’t have a feeling about it yet—last time it was around twelve weeks that I was pretty sure that I was carrying a boy. We’d be happy with a healthy whichever, but I really want to know which we’re getting. Of course, being as the bean is the size of a raspberry, it’s going to be awhile.

We now have a visit on the books for four weeks from tomorrow, and I badly want to call it off, tell them that we’re not ready to meet until, let me think, perhaps August? There are a couple of problems: they are coming on Birthmother’s Day, which is kind of a weird day for me, since it seems like a mix of “You are not a real mom and should not celebrate on the Sunday” and “Your role is important and deserves a holiday!” I’m (God willing still) going to be pregnant that weekend, and I want to be able to get a card from my husband on real Mother’s Day like a normal pregnant lady—not entertain the adoptive parents on the Quasimother’s Day before. Yes, I know that I can do both, but (hear this in my best childlike whine) I don’t wanna! The other reason that I don’t want the visit is that I’m going to be trying to hide the pregnancy. Oh, I know I have to tell them at some point before the kid arrives, but not during the first trimester. Maybe not during the second. I’ve heard some people talk about how their kids’ birthparents told crazy lies to hide/disguise subsequent pregnancies, or dropped off the map only to reappear with a baby, or refused to tell their raised kids about the child/ren placed for adoption. I understand that these strategies are inappropriate. But I’ll be darned if there isn’t a part of me that wants to not have any more visits this year, just so that I can hide.