Open Adoption Roundtable #17

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.


Publish your response during the next two weeks–linking back here so your readers can browse other participating blogs–and leave a link to your post in the comments. Using a previously published post is perfectly fine; I’d appreciate it if you’d add a link back to the roundtable. If you don’t blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

Are there any things that you don’t want the other members of your triad to know—or that you don’t want to know about them? I’ve heard first mothers talk about not sharing their birth stories with adoptive parents because those are for the adoptees and for themselves only. I’ve also heard of adoptees concealing their reunions from adoptive parents so as not to cause them pain. What don’t you want shared in your adoptive relationships?

This prompt first took root in my brain when I was reading some perfectly nice adoptive mother’s blog and saw that was celebrating her child turning nine months + because now (and I paraphrase) “She’s been with me longer than she was with her.” I hate this sentiment, and I also hate “Gotcha Day”; if Ruth and Nora celebrate(d) these, I thought, I never want to know. Both “holidays” feel like a really gross kind of possessiveness to me—I get it, you have the baby, you won. No need to rub it in with creepy made-up holidays designed to point out that you’re the real mommy, you are, not that other lady, it’s you.

I know how uncharitable that is. I look at that paragraph and imagine a perfectly nice adoptive mother leaving a hurt comment, telling me that they celebrate the day they became a family, and what is wrong with me? Well—I lost my son. I did that, it’s certainly no adoptive parent’s fault, and I don’t leave comments on those perfectly nice blogs telling people that they should be ashamed. (For the record, I have no similar feelings about finalization day. That seems like a perfectly fine day to celebrate, if anyone in blogland is looking for my approval.) But—okay, I will try to make a comparison. At the visit, one of the small wooden cars I had for Cricket to play with is a fire truck, and I noticed that Ruth was telling Cricket that fire trucks check on people who need help. She saw me listening and explained that they had originally told Cricket that fire trucks mean that someone is hurt, or that someone is in trouble, because it seems inappropriate to them that little kids think it’s awesome to see the fire truck zipping by when in fact it is racing through traffic because someone could be dying. So they told Cricket that it’s actually a sad thing, and he started to seem really distressed by fire trucks, so they’re trying to scale it back a bit, because compassion is great but they don’t want to traumatize him. And at first I thought, That’s so dumb. Why not let him just think they’re cool? But after awhile, I realized that they’re right—fire trucks don’t generally put the sirens on because everything is fine, and seeing little kids thrilled by them would be spooky if put into that context. I don’t know that I will necessarily do as they have done, and I don’t have any beef with parents who choose instead to point out a fire truck excitedly to their toddlers, but I think Ruth’s is a valid point of view.

Originally I planned to say that I don’t want Ruth and Nora to know that I regret placing Cricket, but I’m not actually sure that that’s true. I don’t want them to know if they don’t want to know, but I do kind of want them to know—more than that, I want them to want to know. (Okay, that’s it, I think I’ve officially hit “unreadable.”) I don’t want them to feel guilty about adopting him, and I don’t think they would, but. So what don’t I want them to know?

I don’t want them to know about anything I wish for that they wouldn’t be enthusiastically in favor of. I don’t want them to know that I do wish we could throw the boys a joint birthday party some years down the road, because they wouldn’t like the idea, and I would feel presumptuous and ashamed. Heck, I can feel that way all by myself without the embarrassment of involving Ruth and Nora. I don’t want them to know that I don’t want to see Cricket the way the Mister does, at least for the last few months—I dreaded the visit, mostly, and didn’t see “at least I’ll get to spend time with the kid” as a silver lining. That is a messed-up and complicated thing that I’m working through, and I know how bad it sounds. (And for the record, I really enjoyed the time I spent with him.)

Oh, and I don’t want them to know about the blog.

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Ruth on the Little Bird

Ruth brought up the pregnancy at the visit—she wanted to know whether I was okay to talk about it, which I am, and then we did, on and off. It also just sort of came up a few times, like when she asked whether I have a cold; I explained that it’s just the pregnancy, and Nora said “Yeah, remember when my friend’s sister was pregnant? It’s like she had allergies the whole time.” (I did manage to avoid using the phrase “pregnant lady rhinitis,” which is what I always call the symptom but also terribly undignified.) Ruth seemed worried that I would be comparing the boys in a way that wouldn’t be good for me—that, say, if the little bird ends up being a lousy sleeper (unlike Cricket), that I will blame myself. This isn’t something I’d worried about, myself; I was a good sleeper, and my sister Tammy was a screaming, colicky nightmare baby. I tend to believe that, assuming that you’re loving your baby and meeting his needs, most of the rest is just the kid being the person he is. I was cheerful and easy at home and totally unable to deal with strangers as an infant, and Tammy was sleepless and howling at home yet a charming, smiley baby around town. Of course I’m hoping that the little guy sleeps well and is a happy baby, but I don’t think I’ll blame myself if he isn’t. I was listening to a podcast about adopted kids and RAD and connectedness, and the expert was talking about how a pregnant lady’s stress can destroy the fetus’s ability to connect with people once the kid is born, and it just made me so mad. Pregnant ladies have plenty to feel guilty about (sushi, sleeping on their backs, diet coke) without having to feel guilty about the fact that their guilt could be poisoning the baby.

Where was I? Right, talking about pregnancy at the visit. Ruth did talk about the kids being siblings, which was in line with what she’s said in the past but was still reassuring to hear now that it’s really going to happen. She offered to loan us a piece of baby equipment, and I declined in a friendly way—overlap of that kind would freak me out pretty badly, I think. Ruth told me that they’re now planning to go back into the pool when Cricket turns three; he can’t really ever just chill out for half an hour unsupervised at this point, but her friend’s three-year-old can, so that seems like a good time to start waiting again. I was glad to hear it; I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but one thing that seemed a bit creepy about this pregnancy was the fact that they had been planning to go back in the pool when Cricket turned two, and now I’m due two weeks before his second birthday, and it all just seems a bit contrived in a horrible, sitcom-y way. Now I am not ignoring some kind of hint from the universe, and that makes me feel a bit better.

When I was pregnant with Cricket, I was pretty sure that I was supposed to give the baby to someone else. I mean, why would I have gotten pregnant if this baby wasn’t supposed to be a gift to someone? And he couldn’t be meant for me, or else things wouldn’t be so hard and confusing! And my parents wouldn’t be upset! And my boyfriend wouldn’t want me to have an abortion! It was, um, not my most logical time, and after the last weekend visit my then-boyfriend-now-husband lay in bed grieving, wishing we’d never placed our son; I don’t believe anymore that I’m supposed to be able to pick up hints from God about what I’m supposed to do. Now I have to work out what to do myself. But when the stars appear to align, it still has the power to make me unhappy.

Housekeeping

I think someone emailed me asking for the password and that her email was devoured by the spam folder before I realized what was happening. If this is you (or you just want the password), resend! And I apologize.

The Kid Likes Tacos

The visit went pretty well. Ruth and Nora are really pretty laidback around us now, which is good—on that very first visit, when he was five months old, they were really obviously waiting for us to do something crazy. It made a weird day extra surreal. These days, now that we have a proven track record, they seem cheerful and relaxed at visits. There was a weird moment at the end when I asked (in a carefully casual sort of way) if they knew when they’d like to have another visit (usually we have this conversation at the end and they give us some suggestions—this time, not so much), but overall they seemed fine. The biggest differences this time, I think, were me and Cricket.

Cricket is running around, talking, and totally into everything. I want to thank everyone who gave me toy suggestions way back when; everything in the toy bin got pulled out and played with, and he went back to each toy more than once. Of course, he also really enjoyed playing with the KitchenAid accessories. He also pulled out a book I’d put in there (That’s Not My Dinosaur) and handed it to me, then kind of hung around glancing at me for a minute. Ruth noticed and said “I’m sure Mama Susie would let you sit in her lap and read the book to you” while sort of checking with me, and after that he handed me the book, sat in my lap, and was read to at least for times over the next few hours. He chased the Mister and got the Mister to chase him back, and he ran back and forth kissing the two of us at one point. He also ate the food I made—his moms were astonished to see him scarfing down the salsas I made, neither of them mild. I hear them exclaiming over the fact that he was eating these vegetables (tomatillos, tomatoes, onions, tomatoes, peppers) and so happy about it! This made me feel secretly vindicated in my “babies like flavor, too!” beliefs.

This was the first visit where I didn’t sit awkwardly on the other side of the room avoiding Cricket. Some of that was of course him—he was more than happy to run over and hand me a dump truck over and over again, I would have had to shut myself in a closet to effectively avoid him—and I think some of it was the camera. We met up at a park, and when he was going to go run around in the fountain, I followed along so that I could get pictures of him. I’ve never had a better excuse to stalk along behind a small child! After the visit, my husband kept telling me how much better I’d done, which is both neat and kind of pathetic—how awkward and spooky must I have been before for acting relatively normal around Cricket to be such an achievement? (Okay, I already knew: pretty darn awkward and spooky.)

List!

Today I am running around like a chicken with its head cut off, so a short list!

  • We got the results of the quad screen back and everything looks good
  • I have to steam the carpets today, blargle arg!
  • I went ahead and burned that mix cd I worked on for months—don’t know whether I’ll actually give it to Cricket, but if I want to, it’s all set to go!
  • Making a plan for handling drugs and depression was something I spent a couple of months on; I definitely appreciate all advice, but I am going off drugs now and hopefully staying off. If I start to experience PPD, I’ll revisit that decision. Tips about B vitamins etc. are going on the list and being discussed with the husband.
  • Talked to my mother (I usually call on Sundays, but I anticipate spending Sunday in bed feeling awful, so wanted to get it taken care of sooner), and she asked me “So are you going to call this one [the first name we gave Cricket]? Or will it be [the middle name we gave Cricket]?” We’ve had this conversation at least half a dozen times over the last year and a half, and I’ve expressed horror at the idea every time, so I was a bit curt this time. She is really convinced that we’re going to recycle, though, and apparently nothing I say can dent that certainty.
  • I still don’t know when they are coming, or whether I need to feed them lunch.
  • Ruth and Nora would completely hate the mix cd I made, so even if I give it to him/them, it won’t get played. So it’s low stakes, maybe!

More on Depression

Looking back, I know that it probably sounds a bit weird that I talked mostly about my mom’s reaction and not so much about my husband’s. In fact, I told her that I was going off the drugs before I told him; not an intentional thing, but I’m not surprised that it worked out that way. My mother currently pays for my antidepressants, and it took her a long time to figure out what was wrong with her strangest and most broody child—but once I ended up in the hospital, she really started to get it. She read a book called something like When Someone You Love Is Depressed and told me that she thought I must have been depressed even as a toddler. Certainly I don’t remember a time before depression.

My father knew David Foster Wallace slightly, and his death caused my parents’ concern for me to kick into high gear; Dave had apparently gone on and off the only antidepressant that worked for him often enough that it stopped working. I hadn’t known that that could happen, but my mom (a healthcare provider) has become terrified that it will happen to me. It’s not an unreasonable concern, I guess. I went through several brands that did nothing for me before hitting on a useful cocktail, although there are still a number of meds I haven’t tried. I have gone on and off several times, sometimes because my insurance has ended, sometimes because I feel awesome and totally don’t need them (yes, that is the one that freaks my loved ones out, because it’s sort of spookily dumb), and once because I was pregnant.

Part of the problem for the people who care about me is that I hate the idea of antidepressants. I used to worry that they would scoop out my personality and leave me some kind of Stepford Lady, but that’s not something I worry about anymore. I’m still me, just with more energy and less despair. When I was a teenager, it was hard to accept that my depression doesn’t make me interesting, but now I can accept that it in fact makes me phenomenally boring; I sleep too much and lose affect and withdraw. Wow, how artistic and enviable. But I still hate the fact of being on drugs, and no number of comparisons to diabetes/insulin is going to help. So my mother’s concern is twofold: she is worried that I will become suicidally depressed and she worries that I am glad to have an excuse. And in some ways she is right to—I certainly think about staying off until I’ve had two kids so that I don’t have to go on and off an extra time. Heck, that was my plan after Cricket was born: just stay off until I’ve had a baby of my own and weaned him or her to solid food! That was not a good plan; this one may not be much better.

There’s an online community I’m part of that includes a number of parents and pregnant ladies. One woman in particular wished to become pregnant, did, and then had a stillbirth—and then was yelled at by several people in the community for choosing to have a baby while having MS and being on several drugs known to cause birth defects. It was complicated, and I didn’t join in the screaming at a grieving woman, but I did worry (privately) when she got pregnant again about ten months ago. She had her son about a week ago, and was confident that she would not get PPD; once he got to be a couple of weeks old and stopped sleeping all the time, she fell hard. Luckily, her family had been expecting it, and she’s getting treatment, and it’s all going to be okay. Several woman in the community have gone through PPD, and my anecdata suggests that the thing most likely to end in PPD is a woman being 100 percent sure that it won’t happen to her. I’m trying to inoculate myself with self-awareness and concern. Also, I am completely onboard with a “sleep when the baby sleeps” plan; if the apartment looks like hell for awhile, well, we do not often entertain. As long as everyone’s eating and sleeping, we’ll get by. I do know that a high-needs baby can trigger PPD, and while Cricket was exceptionally mellow, I was a firstborn and exceptionally mellow baby—my next sister was a screaming, colicky infant. I’m trying to figure out which precedent applies to the little bird. I know, I know, there’s only one way to find out.

We are doing some things that may help—we are going to cosleep, I am more than ready to let the housework go and sleep whenever the baby does, and I can keep taking my prenatal, which is chock full of B vitamins. I’ve also got my loved ones keeping an eye on me, and if I start to go south, I’ll go back onto drugs and switch the sprout to formula.  It’s not what I want, but I know that I need to be able to function as a mom more than I need to be able to breastfeed.

This part is completely irrational, but I want to be protected by the fact that I’m super happy that I’m going to be a mom. It might sound goofy, since as my midwife so tactfully put it “You certainly have no problem with fertility,” but I spent a long time thinking that I would never be a mom, and this little bird feels like a miracle. Yeah, they’re all miracles—but he is my miracle.

That feels like a pretty good note to end on.