Invisible Loss

Well, I wrote a friendly, newsy email to Ruth that doesn’t at any point mention the pregnancy or babies or anything along those lines—we’ll see whether that gets a response in a more normal timeframe. I was talking with a birthmother from my support group this weekend about the situation, and she said “Did they try infertility treatments before they went for adoption?”

“Well, they did one cycle of IUI. . . .”

“That’s it.”

When I was choosing a couple to adopt Cricket, I specifically wanted a gay or lesbian couple so that the adoption and adoptive relationships wouldn’t be adversely affected by infertility grief. Now, of course, I know how stupid that was, but at the time I was spooked by some of the infertility-to-adoption blogs and forum posts that I had seen where women talked about wanting to punch pregnant women right in their puffy faces, or adoptive moms complained about how the obviously undeserving birthmothers of their children were able to get pregnant. Nooo thank you, I thought to myself. And now I know adoptive moms who are both unable to have biological children and are gracious and awesome people, who (I firmly believe) do not want to punch me in the face. Recently, I’ve been having to deal with the other way in which I was wrong; my naïve assumption that queer couples don’t have infertility grief.

I know where I got the idea—I read Dan Savage’s book The Kid, the first place I ever heard of open adoption, and he talked about how he had always assumed that he would never be able to have kids—so that adoption was entirely a win for them, not just a first choice but an unexpected gift from the world. Since then, I’ve learned more about the LGBT community and ART. I remember when some point last year Ruth mentioned offhandedly that they had tried to get pregnant briefly before deciding on adoption and I felt a surge of alarm. But somehow I had never put these things together and realized that Ruth and Nora probably have some infertility grief until my counselor told me, exasperatedly, that it doesn’t matter that they are lesbians, they grieve the fact that they can’t have their own babies.

Of course I’m thinking of all of this in terms of my pregnancy, and their reactions, and my feelings about their reactions. My last pregnancy might very well have been hard for them in some ways—I’m sure it was—but it was also ultimately about hope for them, and parenthood for them. This pregnancy, if they feel infertility grief (which I realize is an assumption, but it’s one that I’m making in this post), is only about loss for them; it is about what they can’t have, and it’s also (Ruth has made clear to me) about loss for Cricket in their eyes. That last part I don’t know what exactly to do about—I think they would prefer that I never raise children, but I am unwilling to replace the nursery with a shrine and make that sacrifice, so I don’t think we can ever agree. But more than that, I don’t know what to do about their grief, especially since it’s not the kind of thing we talk about. I think I could be talked to about it. I’m reasonably well-informed about infertility, even if I haven’t experienced it, and I think I have a pretty good sense of stupid things not to say. But with the relationship that we have, I don’t know of any way to improve this situation.

No Good News

Well, I’m a bit frustrated right now. We had a visit mostly scheduled for October 16 (they suggested the date, we accepted), but have just heard that it no longer works for them, and neither does the next weekend, and how’s the 30th? Not so good! I’ll be full-term on November 3, and I’m already finding that I’m quickly exhausted both physically and emotionally, not to mention that I’m not leaving the state when I could go into labor. We could have them here, of course, but imagining making dinner for everyone and being active and social with company all day makes me want to just lie down and cry. I’ve suggested to the Mister that maybe he could visit them on his own, take some pictures, but he doesn’t like the idea of leaving me. He’s pretty sad about missing a visit—I’m more aggravated to find out that we’re a low enough priority to be bumped from their schedule by whatever other event and secretly convinced that the reason we’re not going to have another visit this year is because they’re angry about the pregnancy. October 30 is just too late; we get to ask them to look at January, now. We could certainly have them to our apartment sooner than that, but I don’t feel comfortable planning on that when I am not sure how I’m going to react emotionally to them being around a newborn son of mine under any circumstances—when it’s in a place we can’t leave early if needs be, I am doubly uneasy.

Maybe things would be different if they’d reacted differently to the pregnancy. I’m deeply sad about the idea of not seeing Cricket for his birthday. I don’t know how much it would mean to a two-year-old, but not seeing us for at least six months—I don’t know that he’ll remember us.

Open Adoption Roundtable #19

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 listed at Open Adoption Bloggers 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–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

Awhile back I read a summary of a workshop held for prospective adoptive parents who were exploring their options. During their survey of different sorts of adoption, the speakers said that, at its most basic core, “Open adoption is about information sharing.”

“Hm,” I thought when I read that.


I turned that one over in my mind for quite some time and now I’m turning it over to you. Generalizations are a tricky business. Relationships are too diverse, too complex for blanket statements to cover them all. But generalizations certainly make for good conversation starters–and an interesting exercise in thinking about what we each would say is the foundation of open adoption…

“Open adoption is about information sharing.” Share your reaction to that statement. How well does it match up with your experience of open adoption? If you disagree, how would you finish the phrase, “Open adoption is about…”?

Semi-open adoption is about information; the adoptive parents can get constantly updated health information, the birth parents can know that the kid is alive and well, and the adoptee can have his or her questions answered. If information is what it’s about, open adoption (or what I’m tempted to call open open adoption) is pointless hard stuff. So what do I think open adoption is about?

I want to say that in general open adoption is about relationships, but that in our case—at least for me and the Mister—it’s about trying to make up to Cricket for the relinquishment forever. (Oh, that’s not the whole story, but it’s a big piece, and it’s what I’m focused on right now.) I have, in darker moments, told people that it’s important for me to maintain the open adoption so that when Cricket is older, he can tell me to eff off if he wants to—that that is his right, and that I need to make sure that he has the opportunity. I do hope that he won’t exercise that option, but it can’t be up to me, and I’m not allowed to go away because that would deprive him of the chance to tell me to get lost.

Recently I watched the adoption documentary Off and Running. A documentary about the adopted children of a lesbian Jewish couple: How could I not? I haven’t yet seen a documentary about adoption that I’ve really liked (or any movie involving adoption, now that I think of it), and this one was interesting enough, but not particularly well made. There were two pretty rough things in the movie, and one of those is that when the—Lord, can I call her the main character? hmm—when Avery writes to her birthmother, she gets one letter back and then never hears from her again (at least through the end of the film). I don’t guess that I’m in any position to talk about what all birthparents owe their placed kids, but I’m pretty sure that in Avery’s position it would have felt unfair, and that I would have felt re-abandoned. I see internet forum topics every so often with titles like “Why hasn’t my birthmother searched for me?”  While the agency I worked with never suggested that open adoption had anything to do with duty, I’ve come to see it as something that I’m obligated to do; whatever the relinquishment papers said, I feel certain responsibilities toward Cricket. Heck, I placed him for adoption because I was trying to do right by him—why would that need of mine vanish just because I no longer have any legal connection to him?

After Ruth and Nora took the pregnancy announcement so badly—and recently again, after reading a question over at Open Adoption Support that felt terrifyingly relevant—I spent some time thinking about what we would do if they were unable to treat our raised kid/s decently during visits. My first impulse was to say “We’d close the adoption!” . . . but then I think about Cricket, and the fact that walking away because of his moms would probably never seem fair to him, and I start thinking about whether we might be able to visit one at a time and leave one Book at home with any little Books. Maybe we’d go semi-open.

Zombie Book

Well, I’m still a bit dazed from lack of sleep, but will pull myself together enough for a list post! And have started writing an OART response, so that’s something.

  • At thirty weeks, the kid is already head down, hopefully planning to stay that way. I was breech myself, so I worry about that maybe more than some people do.
  • I keep being confused by the way that baby clothes are gendered. Pink fluffy things are for girls and blue things decorated with trucks are for boys: fine. But when plain yellow things or vine-patterned green things are marked as “girls,’” I feel like I’m missing part of the code.
  • I am officially not anemic! I’ve been a fairly conscientious vegetarian with regard to iron for years now, so it’s not a surprise, but: good news.
  • I have a mentor!  Catholic Charities has assigned me an official friend, an older woman who seems very nice. I had assumed that the mentoring was all about moral support, but the rules I signed went on at length about how I can ask her for rides but cannot ask for money. Um. I’ve been getting around pretty well on my own, thanks, and as for the other . . . gross. Still, moral support!
  • Half of the women in my support group are convinced that I’m having a girl, perhaps because the only other group baby has been a boy.
  • We have tentatively scheduled a visit for mid-October, after I get back from the homeland—after having to put it off twice, I’m not even a little bit excited, but this one does seem pretty likely to go forward (they are planning to come here).
  • I’ve been craving Kashmiri naan for awhile now, and decided to make it—and then couldn’t find a single jar of maraschino cherries in town! I ended up buying some online, and they are here now, and I have Big Plans for tomorrow. 😀
  • I got my hypnobirthing book in the mail! Now I just have to read it and study my way to self-soothing.
  • People occasionally ask me about the nursery, and I feel guilty. We have a couple of baby-appropriate pictures to hang, we’re in an apartment and not permitted to paint the walls—but even if we had our own house and a decorating budget, I don’t know that we’d really go full-on nursery. You can tell that this is the nursery because there’s a crib in it. fin
  • Did a phone interview/update with the adoption study people, this one full of weird questions about whether I am a racist and whether I would adopt transracially. They are sending me $25, which I have already spent on Babylegs.
  • I’m trying to decide whether we’re supposed to dress the kid up for Christmas. We won’t have any company or be visiting anyone this year, so I had sort of thought not—heck, I may not change out of pajamas for Christmas, depending on my mood—and then I remembered that we’ll certainly be sending Christmas pictures to my family at least. Hmm. Maybe we’ll just stick a bow on him.

White Nights

I’ve tried any number of insomnia remedies at this point—cutting out caffeine, not using the computer in the evening, a relaxing bath, Benadryl, and many others—without measurable success. Best case, I go to bed at a reasonable hour, take an hour to fall asleep, and wake up in a permanent sort of way two to three hours later. Some days I fall asleep again for a few hours in the morning. I’ve figured out what’s keeping me up, at least: anxiety.

It’s not like I’ve ever been a particularly good sleeper, but since the false labor a week ago, it has gotten really out of hand. I’ve come to believe that the reason is something that happened while I was worrying last Friday night; I remembered exactly what labor is like and realized that I am not at all ready to do it again. There are a couple of major pieces to that: the first is shamefully physical. I was in labor with Cricket for two and a half days, and spent too much of that time both panicky and exhausted. It’s not that the pain was on a level that I couldn’t tolerate—it was more that the pain was completely unfamiliar, and that there didn’t seem to be anything I could do to affect it. I had this wild desire to jam my fist up there so that I could grab at my cervix and make it stop. I didn’t lose sight of the fact that there was really only one way out, but I was scared, and Mr. Book—the only person with me until the end—really didn’t know what to do.

Then, of course, there’s the emotional part; the ending to that labor, if I can include the one day I had Cricket as coming before the End, was the worst thing. I think that on some level I’ve internalized the idea that labor pains end not in joy, not really—the joy is just a pit stop on the way to awful. I don’t think I could bear to lose another child, and my reptile brain knows that that’s where the contractions end.

My mother has talked to me a lot recently about her labors. I had heard these stories before, but not since giving birth myself, and I can appreciate them in a while new way now. My mother had natural childbirth all four times, with the younger two being born at home, and she talked about birth being a rite of passage. She believes that an unwillingness to experience unmedicated labor (assuming no medical emergency, of course) is a bad sign for a woman’s capacity to mother: Yes, labor is hard, but it is far from the hardest part . . . so if you can’t suck it up for delivery, how can you be a strong mom?

Fortunately, I never wanted an epidural, and I still don’t—but now I’m afraid of giving birth in a way that I wasn’t before. When I was pregnant with Cricket, my graceless mantra went “Women who are stupider and weaker than I am have done this thing, so surely I will not shame myself by falling down.” This time, despite knowing that I can give birth and come out the other side okay, I am afraid. Now I have a couple of months to fix this, and I welcome any suggestions. I have ordered a used copy of the Hypnobirthing book and cd, and I reread Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery. Reading Ina May’s book, I kept thinking to myself, Yes, I want that—but I don’t really know how to get there. I also bought Mr. Book a copy of The Birth Partner so that he can be better informed to support me this fall. But I don’t know how to reprogram the reptile brain that is keeping me  up nights.

I’m working on a biggish childbirth post, but also sleeping almost none and getting a bit . . . weird. Will probably give in and take a Benadryl tonight, and hopefully be able to write usefully again. Sorry!

Lousy Practice

Sooo . . . I think that what happened to me Friday night was false labor. It’s not an experience I’ve had before, but I was woken from a sound sleep by painful contractions and spent most of the night sitting in a tepid bath, drinking ice water and freaking out. There are ways in which it was like real labor, the most worrying being the feeling that I needed to sit on a toilet and stay there (I know that’s gross, but I think I’m not the only one who’s had that feeling when in labor. Not that I’ve seen that in any pregnancy books!), but the contractions only felt about 70 percent as strong as the real thing, and I didn’t have the sense that it was baby time. But I was pretty worried for the little bird, and in pain.

Since then, I’ve just been brooding about the experience; insofar as I can tell, I’m not at any real risk for preterm labor, but while the little bird might very well survive if born now . . . it wouldn’t be ideal, you know? I’m pretty sure that a brain bleed would be a certainty at this point, and it seems hard enough to be born under the best of circumstances—being born this early would be so hard on a tiny guy. He only weighs about two and a half pounds, for heaven’s sake. I’ve sent an email to the midwives explaining what happened and asking what, if anything, I should be doing, as well as whether I should be worried. My mother told me that false labor can be brought on by dehydration, but I’ve been drinking like a mad creature for a very long time now. Perhaps I can blame stress?

And speaking of stress, I really wish that I’d considered ahead of time the possibility that spending a night (fifteen hours altogether) split between Wal-Mart and our car would really not be a good experience for my back. Between that and the eventful night on Friday, we would probably have had to cancel the visit even if not for our car troubles; I was a zombie all weekend, and now I’m writing this up at 4 a.m. Monday morning, having been unable to sleep so far. Perhaps as a result, I’ve been getting really sick if I eat anything other than bland food. (And for whatever reason, I am craving Kashmiri naan.) Not that things have been all bad recently—last night I went to sleep with my hand against the little bird’s foot, jammed up near my ribs, and it was almost like holding hands.

Dumb Plot Twist

Aaand the visit is off again. The twists just keep on coming! Mr. Book found out yesterday that our car requires something like $800 in repairs before we make a road trip, so he’s going to get a second opinion and then we’ll have to figure out where the money comes from and then get the repairs done. Good times. It’s an old car, so this isn’t a terrible shock—but it is terrible. We had hoped to buy a bed, and certainly all that money is going into the car . . . and then we’ll see about the rest. Bleh.

I’ve read that I should expect small bursts of fetal hiccups, but haven’t noticed any this time or last. Instead, I get short bursts of hiccups several times a week—it started months ago. I may have the little bird’s hiccups.

Tonight I’m going to Wal-Mart; the Mister has been scheduled for a long, overnight shift, and it’s going to be my best shot at the monthly massive grocery buy, so please wish me luck regarding sleeping in his car. I know this is a lame post, but I’m just not feeling well this week. I’ll be less lame soon, promise.