Scrambled Brains

I am becoming addicted to the list post. At least I can admit that I have a problem?

  • I brooded and worried and pumped 18 oz of breastmilk for my two hours away, and Joey apparently slept through my absence. Okay. I thought about him and the Mister a lot, but sat in Starbucks and worked and had a nice time. Maybe I’ll do this again some time.
  • My parents are visiting this weekend, and I’m looking forward to seeing them. It’s the worst time of year to visit Stumptown, but I know that they’re coming for Joey, not for the scenery.
  • This is a bit random, but back in October, my sister Kate and her husband gave me a couple of nursing tops for my birthday (at my request)—and my mother tried to talk them out of it, saying that she had never gotten any use out of nursing tops. Well, I’m wearing nothing but, unless the laundry situation gets desperate; I’ve got to pick up a couple more! I know that my mother and I are built differently, but it must be more than that.
  • Mr. Book and I both have photo keychains of Cricket from his first day; for Christmas, I got him one of Joey. I had expected that he’d use both of them, but instead he has replaced the old one. It’s not that I don’t understand—every time he caught a glimpse of Cricket, he felt sad—but it bothers me a little bit. I don’t know. We react to these things very differently. I’ve always liked seeing pictures, and Mr. Book has always felt more conflicted about it.
  • I did ask Ruth about possibly giving a clothing-type gift to Cricket, and she said that they have no problem with it, adding that they aren’t worried because (among other reasons) they don’t think I would be trying to mother him with a gift of clothing. But I kind of would be—it is a motherly impulse that leads me to want to give shoes (or any clothes), and I don’t want to be inappropriate or underhanded, so now I am re-brooding about the whole thing. She mentioned that he needs shirts. . . .
  • I think Joey is turning blond, and I am not the only one.
  • Can anyone recommend a company or website that makes nice nursing dresses? I’m supposed to be in a wedding over the summer and have no idea what to do. I’m supposed to wear red.
  • I don’t know how she feels about being linked, so I won’t, but there’s another adoption poster who only very recently placed her son for adoption—I think we keep triggering each other. In her most recent post, she wonders about how to ask for time alone with him, and it’s only reading that and thinking about it that led to me realizing that I have never been alone with Cricket—really, not even for a minute. Mr. Book was alone in a room with him for nearly an hour once, while the rest of us were in another room of the apartment, and I know that he treasures that time. But I haven’t had that, unless you count time during the pregnancy, which I absolutely don’t. I managed to get myself pretty upset about that last night.
  • We have a visit tentatively scheduled for January 15, and Mr. Book has sensibly suggested that we set some ground rules between us to prevent me from freaking out. Okay, he didn’t say that last part, but let’s be honest—that would be the primary benefit of a game plan. Do they hold the baby? How does that happen? What are we not okay with? What is our signal for “Susie is totally losing it”? What do we do if I have to use it? Perhaps most importantly, what kind of soup should I make? (My best soup is a tomato soup, but [1] tomato is an unglamorous and homely soup and [2] my tomato soup is rather sour and not at all ketchupy—not what people expect.)

Dark Spots

I’ve been reading about breastfeeding and antidepressants. Apparently standard procedure is to have the mother start taking the meds and then just watch to see whether any side effects turn up in the baby. I find myself flinching away from any sentence that contains both “side effects” and “baby,” so it’s been an awkward education. A woman I know slightly online has just started talking about her feelings—her daughter is Joey’s age—and she’s having to come to terms with having postpartum depression and work on getting better. And I keep thinking, That poor woman. She has to do all of the hard things that anyone with a newborn would (comforting a baby when you want badly to sleep, blown-out diapers, the works) and she says that she feels no love for the child. It takes a particular kind of dedication to keep slogging under those circumstances, and I can’t wait until she’s well enough to enjoy her little girl.

Fortunately, I’m pretty sure that I don’t have PPD. Less fortunately, I think that my normal depression is creeping back. That may sound like a distinction without a difference, but I don’t think so; Joey is my poopy little ray of sunshine, and I’m delighted by him. Sure, it is hard to be running through elaborate back-patting and gentle-bounce-while-shushing routines at four in the morning, but I don’t feel anything but love for him even when I’m a bit desperate to con him into sleeping. I don’t see an endless and dreadful future stretching out in front of me. I’m just fried and too often sad. So now I get to figure out what happens next. Mr. Book thinks I should try an afternoon away by myself, since I haven’t had one of those, and I feel guilty for feeling interested. It’s not that I want to get away from Joey, I explain. I’d love to take him with me if we could just leave the diaper/burp/nurse/diaper routine behind. But of course that’s not possible yet, so now I’m wondering about possibly leaving the house alone for a couple of hours tomorrow while the Mister stays home with the baby.

So far, my best effort at cheering up has been making breakfast for the Mister; I bake at night so he can eat in the morning. Nothing healthy yet—pumpkin bread, oatmeal chocolate-chip coffee cake—but my offerings have gone over well, and I do enjoy the making of them. They are not fixing my brain, however.

Military-Industrial Christmas

I love the movie White Christmas

In fact, I’m going to pause here and quickly, unsolicited, give you my top five Christmas movies of all time:

  1. Lady in the Lake
  2. Christmas in Connecticut
  3. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  4. White Christmas
  5. The Bishop’s Wife

—but there are things about it that drive me crazy. Me being myself, that means that I drive whoever I’m watching the movie with a little bit crazy, too. 😉 For those of you who haven’t seen it, there are two main plots: one involves getting Bing Crosby married off, and the other involves helping a retired general. I have no beef with plot number one, but the second one gets under my skin a bit. Bing sings about how sad it is that there are so many unemployed generals, and it’s a bit uncomfortable if you consider that these retired generals are out of work because the country is at peace. Yes, sometimes when we’re not at war we need fewer generals on active duty—that doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. The general in question is clearly old enough to be respectably retired, and he is getting a pension: What’s the problem?

Well, the problem is that he has sunk his savings and pension both into the purchase of a hotel. Rich people’s problems much? The fact that he had enough money to buy a hotel so that he could spend his retirement owning it makes him less than pitiable in my worldview, although of course it is too bad that it’s been a slow season for tourism in the film. But for heaven’s sake! I don’t know why this bothers me more than watching funny-looking Bing Crosby woo and win a lady young enough to be his daughter, but it does. Perhaps the fact that the solution to the general’s self-esteem problem is to have all of the men who used to be under his command leave their families on Christmas Eve so that they can come and tell him that they love him? Every time we watch the movie, I tell the Mister that if he left on Christmas Eve for a reason like that (I think it goes more like “if you pulled a stunt like that”) that I’d be visiting my parents when he got back, and that I’d take a lot of luggage. Seriously, though, how is that the happy ending? I don’t wish General Waverly ill (and of course he is fictional, but it’s not as though that’s ever stopped me holding a grudge), but the seriousness with which his concerns are treated seems both silly and kind of insulting to those with real troubles.

There was one other thing I wanted to say. . . . Oh yeah. Happy Holidays to all of you! and I hope you get to spend time with your families, be they birth, adoptive, or families of choice. God bless you and keep you.

Firsts

If I had thought about the number of firsts that happen with a newborn before having one, I suppose I could have reasoned that there are a nearly infinite number, but having watched a number of them sail by, I’m now thinking about them. I’m not talking about the baby book stuff that I anticipated—first real smile, first babble—but the dozens of tiny firsts that pile themselves into personality: the first time he sneezed while nursing, spraying me with milk; the first time Joey turned his head to avoid the burp cloth on my shoulder and spit up into my hair; the first time he started smacking his lips when I grabbed the breastfeeding pillow. I must already be forgetting firsts, and it makes me a little sad; this is all brought on by this morning’s first first, baby’s first diaper blowout, so I am clearly being sentimental to a really idiotic degree, but there you are.

 

Of course I’m thinking about Cricket; he’s the ghost in that first paragraph. It’s one thing to know that you’re missing a nebulous “everything” and another to have a long list of things you certainly or probably missed. Ruth has emailed me several times since Joey’s birth (more on that later, probably), asking questions and telling Cricket stories, which I cherish. And perhaps partially for that reason, and because of the time of year, and because of having a baby around, I’m thinking of him more, in a more concrete way about the pragmatic loss of not parenting. I’m not getting depressed, but I am thinking more about the details of him that I have missed, and will miss. It has led me back to an old, odd desire of mine—I badly want to send him a pair of shoes. I haven’t given them clothes for him since that very first visit way back when, since I realized that we don’t have similar tastes and saw that he never wore the stuff (at least not in any picture that I ever saw, or at a visit), and my want to see him in something I gave him had gone dormant until now. I don’t know why this is the way that I think I’d feel connected to him above and beyond all the ways that are actually available to me—gifts, letters, occasional visits, maybe even a phone call!—but then again, maybe it’s the very homeliness of clothes that appeals. I only get special occasion connection, not the homey kind.

 

Tuesday night, Joey decided that sleep was for the birds, so we were up from about 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., and I was feeling pretty discouraged and exhausted by the end. After a few hours of morning sleep, though, he was in a really sweet mood, grinning at me and babbling a bit, and it had all been so clearly worthwhile. At one point after he’d finished nursing, he patted my breasts and smiled at me, and it is so easy to be in love. Being kept up all night is so much easier than being so very far away.

List Post

We’ve made it past a month! I’m still getting used to how hard it is for me to get anything at all done, so I choose to celebrate with a list of things Joey likes, and a list of things Joey hates.

Likes:

  • Nursing
  • Baths, whether with his mom, with his dad, or solo in the tiny tub
  • Sleeping at the breast
  • Having his feet tickled
  • Getting his mom to look ridiculous: e.g., loudly singing Christmas carols while doing a strange bouncy walk on the way home to keep him content
  • Trying to suck his thumb

Hates:

  • Being smeared with lotion after a bath (can’t really blame him)
  • Tummy time
  • Hats—do any babies like hats? We have some awfully cute ones sitting in a drawer, and I’m just wondering whether maybe a future baby might enjoy them, or whether baby hats exist purely for the enjoyment of adults. Oh, and warmth.
  • Being put down pretty much ever
  • Not being able to suck his thumb

Rotten

Ruth told me in an email that her thought on looking at the first Joey pictures was that he looks a lot like Cricket. I was a little upset, tried to think of a polite way to tell her how wrong she was, gave up—but it was really important to me that Joey looked nothing like Cricket. Well, last week I looked at early Cricket snapshots for the first time in a long time and got even more upset; the boys look incredibly alike. Joey has more hair—that’s just about the only difference.  They even have stork bites in the same places.

 

It was honestly kind of a stupid move on my part. My detective work was preceded by plenty of stressful stuff: my uncle explaining that I’m probably going to kill myself to the assembled family, my mother telling me at length how important it is to hit your kids and the right ways to do it, plenty of weirdness related to my grandmother’s death. . . . Did I mention that I haven’t been getting a lot of sleep? That’s not really Joey’s fault at this point; I think he just needed a couple of days to adjust to California, and has been sleeping beautifully for the past few days. Even my mother has officially retracted his “rotten little baby” label and is trying to figure out how soon she can make it up to Stumptown.

 

This post is a bit rambling, eh? My brain is sort of fried, but my mood is still good, for which I am truly thankful. I feel like I’m constantly keeping a weather eye out for signs of postpartum depression, and while I haven’t seen any yet, I’ve got a full year before it would be just garden-variety depression if I started to go off the deep end. I am finding it very difficult to be productive, but all in all we’re both delighted and talking about the yet-to-be-conceived final Book baby. I had two Christmas presents for Joey already—one from us and one from Santa—but saw a deal and caved and now he has an extra gift coming. Mr. Book doesn’t have to work on Christmas and will be off work early enough on Christmas Eve that we can have a nice evening together capped off by midnight mass. I’m not sure that you’re supposed to take babies to midnight mass, but it’s one of my favorite masses, so we’re at least going to try.

 

Breastfeeding is still remarkably easy. This has been more on my mind recently, as I’m part of an online group of parents (mostly moms) and four boys were born within a week of each other, Joey being one; two of their moms are trying to breastfeed and having an incredibly hard time. Joey loves to nurse, I make enough milk for triplets, and being at home means that I can feed him anytime he starts to make hopeful fish faces—we are lucky. That said, I’m glad that I resisted repeated offers of a pacifier. Why tempt fate?

Winners and Losers

“Life isn’t divided into genres. It’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel.” –Alan Moore

I realize—slowly, having had the realization brewing since Thanksgiving—that what I really want is to be able to carve my experiences into slices with discreet flavors; this slice is adoptiony and bittersweet, this slice is Joeyriffic and packed to bursting with my joy and gratitude, this slice is about that creepy guy on the bus who tried to pick me up right when I was eight months pregnant and has an uneasy sort of flavor. In fact, of course, it’s nothing so distinct, and my desire to separate my experiences by feeling or theme sometimes sells reality short.

When I was in the hospital, it was a nonstop Joey event—until I was discharged. The woman who pushed my wheelchair asked me whether this was my first child, and since the fact that this wasn’t my first was in my medical charts and known to all the nurses, I decided to go ahead and err on the side of honesty. This led to a conversation that was tense for me and, I’m sure, completely unfraught and normal for the woman talking to me.

Friendly wheelchair lady: How old is your first?

He’s just about two years old.

FWL: What did you name him?

Aha! A lucky break! I gave her his birthname.

FWL: That’s nice. Where is your older son now?

He’s with friends. Technically correct, right?

FWL: Is he excited about having a little brother?

Of course, at this point I didn’t know whether Cricket even knew that I was pregnant. I’m not sure that he really gets it.

I think I managed to avoid actually lying without having to out myself to a well-meaning stranger, but playing these little games—especially on this day of all days, taking my son home for the first time—is something that I just hate. I prefer it, I suppose, to full-disclosure honesty; that’s why I didn’t explain. But I was distressed to have adoption come up when I had just had my baby, my forever baby, my never-a-replacement-but-doubly-a-miracle baby. Here’s a secret: I hate thinking about Cricket when I think about Joey. I want them to be on separate planets: both loved by me, but totally unconnected in my mind. This is of course not only impossible (Mr. Book and I have both called Joey by Cricket’s name, Mr. Book as recently as yesterday) but not objectively desirable; the boys are brothers, and how can they have a relationship if seeing them together makes me fall apart? I figured out last night that even when I think about the possibly maybe visit on January 8, I think about that as being filed under “Cricket” and not Joey; when I think or talk about the visit, I haven’t ever used both boys’ names in the same sentences, preferring “Cricket to meet his brother” or “the boys to meet each other.”

I have an aunt who is a very sweet person with some boundary issues; a recent example of this occurred at the memorial service for my grandmother, when she photoshopped a picture of Joey into a picture of Gramma (without, of course, asking whether I was cool with the idea ahead of time) and put it into a slideshow of her life. Our first interaction with her was somewhat similar. She created a fake family reunion picture by taking pictures of everyone (she hadn’t met us, I would like to be clear) from Facebook and then ‘shoppping them all together into a family portrait. My immediate family was mildly horrified: “We don’t even know this woman, and yet here I am with my arm around her! . . . That is her, right? She’s the short one?” That’s sort of how I feel about Joey’s family and Cricket’s family right now. I do at least mostly want to be able to see pictures of the boys together, but imagining any of the three of them—Ruth, Nora, or even Cricket—touching Joey freaks me out. I’d like to think that there’s some important difference between my attitude and my mother’s (she keeps announcing to anyone who gets within range that Joey is her first grandchild), but I may be kidding myself.

In the meantime, Ruth sent me an email a couple of weeks ago that makes it sound as though she is doing exactly the opposite for Cricket—they are looking at pictures of Joey and talking about how in this video Joey is nursing—you nursed like that for your first day, Cricket, and then your mama nursed you with a bottle. Joey grew in Mama Susie’s tummy, and so did you. And so on. Of course, both Ruth and I see an important difference that comes right about in the middle of Cricket’s second day of life—but it has affected us so differently that it’s like we’re writing accounts of a war from different sides.

What It’s Like Today

Well, it looks like Joey has graduated to high-needs baby. Or, as my mom puts it, a “rotten little baby.” I don’t think that’s entirely fair (and I should concede that she isn’t saying it in an angry way), but she says that he has colic. I don’t know. It does seem as though he has reflux—got to go to the doctor when we get home!—but it still seems to me possible that he just hates California. He needs to be held all the time, and will wake from a sound sleep to howl with rage if I try to put him in the cosleeper. At the same time, I think that he’s largely just frustrated by the things that he can’t do. He’s sweet and funny and interested—yesterday I got him to stick his tongue out at me when I did the same to him. This morning I was trying to get some work done on the computer and laid him on his back about eighteen inches away from me on the bed; he immediately started kicking, rolled onto his side, dragged himself over to me, and started making expectant goldfish faces. I am tired, proud, and a little overwhelmed.

OART 21: The Most Wonderful Time

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts 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.

Last year we wrote about the holiday season in general. This year, inspired by a recent post by Claud, I thought we could focus in on traditions.

How do open adoption and holiday traditions intersect in your life?

My mother wants to send Cricket an advent calendar. Oh, she knows that she can’t—but I secretly wish that she could. While my mother surely wishes that Cricket were being raised as a Christian, there is a whole heap of Christmas traditions that she wishes that she could share with him . . . and so do I. My family is overwhelmingly German, so we have a Christmas with advent calendars and those horrible soft gingerbread cookies (although come to think of it, it’s been many years since we had these—perhaps my Omi was the only one pushing for them. So gross) and that odd candle-powered dingy angel thing and a räuchermänn as well as Santa Claus et al. Cricket, of course, does not celebrate Christmas. His adoptive grandparents do, so he surely will see some lighted trees etc. from the sidelines, but his mama Ruth is adamant that he not grow celebrating Christmas, as she feels that Hanukkah tends to suffer by comparison in the eyes of a child. We are allowed to send a Christmas gift—I actually got this written into our agreement—but it ought not to be intrinsically Christmassy.

I have never celebrated Hanukkah (we’ve missed both of Cricket’s birthday/Hanukkah parties so far), but have a vague understanding of what it’s like. At the same time, I love Christmas, not just in a Christian way (although midnight mass is one of my favorite things) but in the secular Bing Crosby way. Mr. Book loves Christmas. My parents love Christmas. My mother has apparently been thinking about collecting one of those tiny Christmas villages for the benefit of wide-eyed grandchildren—she has made up a Christmas stocking for Joey, and I am deeply curious to see what will go into it. She bought a children’s Christmas book to add to our pile while she was in Stumptown (I heard a story on NPR a few years back about a family who have a big Tupperware container full of Christmas books that gets brought out every December and immediately wanted to do that). Mr. Book and I watch Christmas movies all throughout December, and are constantly on the lookout for more good old ones. I look forward to making Christmas cookies every year, and slowly accumulate more and more decorating supplies to that end. Mr. Book has already sung carols to Joey. We have a box of See’s candy waiting for my return home (my family), and on Christmas I will make noodles (his family) and we’ll watch movies and open presents and play with the baby. Probably there will be trifle.

Today I spent the afternoon decorating the Christmas tree with my mother. It’s Cricket’s birthday, and I’m sure that she doesn’t remember that—she’s been bragging to people about the birth of her first grandchild, and only last night said that “I’ve been saying for a couple of years now that we need to have a baby for Christmas.” Today I’ve had a few quiet, sad moments, but there is also Christmas stuff going on and I want to be involved. Sure, I’d rather we were doing it tomorrow, but my mom has today off work, and here we are, listening to carols, me thinking about Cricket and feeling my breasts ache. It is the strangest thing, that physical reaction. Cricket got a gift from us last week and hopefully a card today, we’ll send two books in a week or so . . . and our December is otherwise completely separate from him. I think about the fact that my father’s birthday is on Christmas Eve and Cricket’s birthday is apparently usually going to be during Hanukkah. I hope he doesn’t mind.