Aw, Nuts

I’ve been largely vanished this week because the baby’s been under the weather—he seemed to be getting better, and then Thursday and Friday were pretty ghastly. He was howling and howling, and he’d want to nurse and then refuse the breast, and he just kept spitting up. . . . It wasn’t until after I’d had supper on Friday that it started to come together. He had only had one other day like this, some time ago, and I remember wondering whether it might be a dairy sensitivity—but I eat dairy every day! Of course, on that particular day—and on these last couple of days, now that I think of it—I’d been drinking a lot more milk, because I was eating peanut . . . butter . . . sandwi—oh bugger.

When Mr. Book trudged home at 10:30 Friday night, he was greeted with a good news/bad news: the good news is that I’m pretty sure I know what’s wrong with the baby, and I can fix it! The bad news is that I can’t have a Reece’s cup for EVER. Mr. Book has a big basket of food allergies that express themselves gastrointestinally, so I probably should have seen this coming. Poor little tyke. I spent Friday night festooned with spit-up, rocking the baby and telling him that although I was very sad about the necessity, I love him more than peanut butter and that this won’t be happening again. At least, not until we find something else that he’s sensitive to. These things go away sometimes, right?

Joey remains a sweet and cheerful child, when he’s not being sort of poisoned by his careless, allergen-ingesting mother; even on those rough days, he had periods of great sweetness and cheer, generally just before I got hungry enough to eat peanut better again. I am very fortunate. More soon!

How Could I?

Things have been a bit nuts here and I hope to write about that, but I wanted to quickly put up the reasons why I think I can ethically write this letter of reference and once again successfully avoid conflict. For one thing, no person making an adoption plan will ever see this letter; it is for the agency’s eyes only. The other biggish reason is that Ruth and Nora are going to be approved to adopt again by this agency no matter what I write or don’t—I can’t stop that, and I don’t know that I would—if they can find someone whose expectations better match theirs, that might be a great adoption. My problem (one of many, I guess) is that I didn’t have a clear idea of what I would want after I placed. I wanted contact, I wanted to send birthday gifts, and the idea of being family sounded very reassuring. If there was a more clearheaded pregnant lady out there who just wanted a visit each year and also some pictures, yahtzee!

Of course, there’s the Other Reason; I don’t want to cause trouble. I’ve figured out how to write an honest letter. All I have to do is describe positive events or statements. I won’t say anything about how satisfying the relationship is, or how I would choose them again in a heartbeat.

Okay, I still have some guilt about the letter. But I think I have a few months to sit with it and stew.

Distance

We had a visit on Saturday. It was not what I’d expected, and I’ve been sitting with my feelings for a bit, in part because I think they’re upsetting.

We didn’t find out until Friday morning that they were coming, whi9ch was stressful, but we got ready and washed Joey and they turned up a little after noon on Saturday. I had suggested that we go to a children’s museum, but Ruth felt that we should stay in and have “quality conversations” with Cricket. Boy, do I wish we’d gone out—he is thoroughly a manic, screeching two-year-old, and I think that might have worked out better if there had been more room for him to run around and tire himself out. Cricket is bright and engaging and completely besotted with Mr. Book—I’ll follow this post with a few pictures, and there are a few reasons that none of them include me. Cricket was not interested in me or in Joey, and Joey slept almost all day—unusual for him, and possibly a response to my stress.

Here’s the weird/cruddy part: Mr. Book and I discovered that we currently feel pretty neutral about Cricket. As soon as they left (at 6:30, and yet we were exhausted), Mr. Book and I started talking about that. I’ve come up with several possible reasons for the change:

  • Cricket is very clearly someone else’s child at this point. He looks different, has a different diet, and even behaves differently than he would if we were parenting him. He is honestly kind of annoying right now, which is I think partially just his developmental age (constant screeching) and partially their parenting (they have apparently chosen not to teach Cricket about using what I grew up calling an “inside voice”). I’ve heard birth parents talk about it being hard to watch someone else parent a placed child—perhaps this is my version of that feeling.
  • The seven-month gap between visits this time was the longest we’ve ever gone without seeing him. Nora mentioned hearing from someone that at this age, seeing someone once or twice per year is really a lot, and I smiled and thought Oh, please. We don’t see him and the relationship withers.
  • Joey. This might be the most interesting one, and it’s certainly the one I feel worst about. At one point, I was watching Cricket and though, I know what “my son” feels like, and this ain’t it. It makes me wonder how much of my grief was a longing to parent. Let me make something clear: I don’t think this would have happened if we had a close relationship with Cricket. But as it is, almost the entire connection was in my head, being maintained on a wish and a prayer. I can stop worrying about Cricket hating me for awhile; he doesn’t know me well enough to care.

I still feel a strong sense of obligation to Cricket, but I’m tired of having my hand sapped by his moms. Ruth asked whether we’d like to talk to him on the phone some time, and I responded quickly—Love to! Name the time!—and she never mentioned it again. After checking with her about his diet, I made brownies for them (him) at the visit: he wasn’t allowed to have one. Okay, you win. At dinner, Nora suggested that we should Skype with Cricket, and our response was disinterested: maybe. We’ll see. You can’t get us to reach out after nothing again right now. I gave a couple of shirts and a pair of shoes that he’ll probably never wear, and I just feel done. If they want to talk, they can reach out (okay, I did email them visit pictures they’d ask for). I’m not holding my breath.

That said, we’ll still do the same things for Cricket that we have been: holiday cards, birthday and Christmas gifts. But I’m not emailing or calling them, or trying to set up a visit, or even mailing them the pants they forgot here until they say something. I’m at the end of some kind of rope.

What You Were Born To

I’ve got a confession, a question, and a request.

 

Before I ever got pregnant or really seriously realized that I could, I had two girl names and two boy names; I wanted to have two kids, probably, you see. I kept tweaking the second boy name, but the others were sure. And then, when I was pregnant with Cricket—knowing that his name would be changed—I didn’t give him any of them. They’re all family names, or at least all have family names in them, and Cricket wasn’t going to be part of our family, so. I gave him a family name after all—his first name is the same as his birthdad’s—and then I picked out an excellent saint for the middle. I’d give that middle name here, but in the end, they kept it. Who knew. Here’s the thing: I didn’t give him the name I would have given a boy I thought of as my son. I feel a bit guilty about that now, but I can’t imagine giving him one of the two only to see it changed and gone.

 

Which brings me to my question, which is also my request. How have other people done this? If you’re an adoptive parent, do you know whether the name on the OBC is the name your child’s firstparents would have given a child they planned to raise? Did you all pick out a name together? Did you keep whatever name the birthparents chose? None of the above? For other birth/first parents . . . shoot, you can see this one coming. Did you give a name you would have named a child you planned to keep? Did you get to name your child at all? And any adoptees: What do you think about all of this? That one’s also for everyone, I reckon.

 

I also want to know how bad I should feel, which probably no one but Cricket can tell me. Joey’s name is top to bottom Book ancestral stuff, first, middle, and nick-. It is very not Jewish. I think a little of my guilt on this is tied up irrationally with the fact that when Ruth and Nora were deciding between their top two name picks (and wanted my opinion while I was in labor, I suspect as a tiebreaker) I didn’t like either one, and don’t like their choice still. Of course they still would not have kept his birth name if I had given him one of the “really my child for real” names, and I still wouldn’t like his name now, but I’m not a super logical person.

The Unnumbered Questions

Well, O Solo Mama put up some questions about open adoption, and I’m one of the people taking a swing—I’m trying out the questions that came before the list, however. I addressed a couple of the others over on Dawn‘s blog, but it turns out I wasn’t quite finished.

No seriously, how do you watch your child being parented by someone other than yourself? Do you take some kind of pill every day? Or do you grieve for a long time, so long, even, that it impairs your relationship with your child or with your subsequent chidren? And then who helps you?

My first impulse is to ask a question in response: Why would closed adoption be easier? Yeah, being a birthparent is hard, and you grieve. But not knowing whether he was alive or dead—that’s not an improvement. I don’t, at least so far, have trouble hearing my son call his moms “Mama” or “Abba”; I was pretty clear on the fact that placing him meant that he was going to call someone else mama. If you place a child for adoption, someone else will be the parent to your kid. Period. Maybe a closed adoption lets you imagine that the child is pining for you always, or thinks of you as his or her “real mom,” or that the child died and that you have no hostage to fortune out there in the world, but I just can’t bring myself to put “birthparents (or adoptive parents, for that matter) can more easily lie to themselves” in the “pro” column for closed adoptions.

Technically I suppose I can’t tell you whether the placement/openness/existence of a Cricket has impaired my relationship with Joey, because I only have this relationship with him; I don’t know what that theoretical, sans adoption motherhood looks like, and never can. But I’m completely in love with Joey, and he seems to be thriving. Here’s a funny thing: one of the reasons that I placed Cricket is that I wanted him to be a longed-for child—I want that for every kid, and since he was born of a crisis pregnancy, I didn’t think that we could give that to him. But the loss of him has made Joey especially longed for, not just by me and his dad but (it turns out) by all grandparents and aunts and uncles and great-aunts and -uncles. This adoration doesn’t, so far as I can tell, have any creepy hint of “replacement child” about it—it’s just that now we’ve all in a sense been waiting for this boy for years, and he’s here, and everyone loves him. If I try to set him down for a nap and five minutes later need to pick him up because just not being held is enough to wake him up, it’s a little frustrating, sure—but it feels so good to hold him, even when I really need to get work done, even if I really have to go to the bathroom.

That doesn’t mean that I’m not grieving for Cricket—I imagine that will go on and on. But shoot, my husband still grieves for his father, who died five years ago; that doesn’t stop him having full and loving relationships now. Grief is. It doesn’t kill you. And again, I don’t imagine that the grief is necessarily any less when you don’t know your placed child’s name.

So who helps me? Well, I talk to my husband and to a counselor; I do some brain work on my own. I have to think that I’d be doing those same things if we were in a closed adoption. And I’m living my life and feeling blessed, so something must be working. I didn’t have any trouble bonding to Joey, and while I do of course think about Cricket and miss him, it isn’t poisoning my parenting or anything like. I wish our adoption was more open, in fact.