Where I’m Not

I tried to take a summer fashions picture, but Joey was not into it.

I’m supposed to be in Florida right now. Today, I believe, is the beach excursion—and I am at home, making and freezing baby food. I was supposed to fly out at 6:20 on Wednesday morning, which meant leaving our apartment with my suitcase and the baby at 3:30; I got out on time, the cab came on time (almost), I caught the train, I got to the airport, and I boarded the plane. And then we sat on the runway for two and a half hours before being deplaned. And then I waited around for another couple of hours, until there was no chance of my getting to Ft. Myers that day, before asking for my suitcase back so that I could go home.

It’s a longer story than that, full of warning lights and icy plane wings and a blown-out diaper, but I suspect that I am the only one interested in the details. At any rate, I got home and contacted my family, apologizing and letting them know not to expect me. My sister Tammy is some kind of professional phone user, and got the airline to send me an apology voucher and put me on the same flight the next day. Funnily enough, when I tried to check in at 5 a.m. on Thursday, I found that the flight had been delayed until 2:15; I had been bumped to the only other Delta flight at 10:22, which wouldn’t arrive until after 11 p.m. I talked to a Delta representative, I tried to get transferred to another airline, and I noticed a number of familiar faces—other people from the Wednesday flight getting a little more bad news. I started to cry, sent my family an email telling them that I couldn’t manage a twenty-hour travel day with a tired infant, and I went home.

Perhaps obviously, I’m feeling rather sorry for myself, but sorrier that I won’t get to see my sisters. We’re trying to make new plans to see each other (a wedding in June will certainly bring us together), but I have the feeling that Joey was going to be a guest of honor on this trip—instead, he is sleeping with his dad at the moment, unable to make use of his tiny swim trunks.

From, Through, To

Donating breastmilk has been more complicated than I expected it to be. First I tried a milk bank, but there’s nothing local, and the hospitals in town accept milk on behalf of a bank that would require me to pay for a blood test and that charges needy parents quite a bit of money. Then several people linked me to a site called MilkShare (Sharon being the first), I put a post up there, and I sat back and waited. My post gave my location and specified that I’m looking to donate to a person or persons who are already parenting. I got an email from a prospective adoptive mother letting me know that her daughter will be born any day now, and she knows that I don’t like adoptive parents, but would I be willing to donate? I responded,

I have no problem with adoptive parents–I just don’t want to donate to someone who is only matched, since I know that half the time the woman making the adoption plan ends up parenting. But if the baby is placed with you, I’d be happy to be a donor for you; just let me know–I’ll get you some milk (and my congratulations!) ASAP.

She wrote back to let me know that I don’t have to worry about “the birthmom backing out” because at their agency, only 5 percent of the pregnant women end up parenting. Sigh.

I finally did have a “So, do you have hepatitis?” meeting with a woman and her daughter on Wednesday, and she let me know that one of their other donors is a birthmom—not her daughter’s birthmom, a different woman altogether. I asked about their agency and mentioned that it must be nice to have access to medical information via the birth family. I failed to out myself. Then she decided to friend me on Facebook, and while I don’t really talk about adoption on Facebook, I am friends with Ruth and Nora; I’ve been wondering whether it’s possible to figure out that I’m a birthparent. It’s so weird—I’m ordinarily perfectly willing to talk about it, but I don’t actually enjoy doing that, and now I missed the obvious window for telling her. And, okay, the bottom-most truth: since they went through Bethany, I assume she’ll think less of me if she knows I am a birthparent. At any rate, I am filling our freezer with breastmilk for her little girl.

Admin

Last night I put a commenter into “must be approved” status for the first time, after getting my first ever threat on the blog—that was weird,  and I expect to end up approving those comments, but it seemed like a good idea. But she asked a question that I’d like to answer:

oh this baby is different because you want him?    Really?  Really?

It didn’t occur to me that anyone might think this. I can see why it drives many adoptees up the wall to hear that “it wasn’t about you”—but at the same time, I think that it’s true. If Joey had been born first and placed for adoption, I’m certain that I’d currently feel alienated from toddler Joey and over the moon about baby Cricket. What makes the difference isn’t who they are (although of course that will have more of an effect as they get older)—it’s what we have together—or don’t.

I really wanted Cricket, but I thought that since adoption was harder for me personally, it must be the right thing to do. I didn’t think it would be hard for Cricket; I said outright to the agency and his moms that I thought it would be all gain and no loss for him. I’m less ignorant now, and I wish I’d never let him go.

Rash

I’ve been fantasizing about closing the adoption. Not planning, you understand, just sort of seeing myself write the email in my mind’s eye—I watch the letters appear one at a time, and then see myself click Send. At the same time, an email from Ruth earlier this year alluded delicately to how awkward I’d been at the January visit; I wrote back and admitted that I felt awkward; she wrote back Tuesday and asked me to talk more about that; I sent her an email yesterday at 1 a.m. talking pretty frankly about some of what I’ve been thinking.

So. I just don’t feel like I have any point at visits—Mr. Book is charming and outgoing with Cricket, and Cricket seems charmed by him, which is great. And while I of course don’t think that a child needs parents of more than one gender, the fact that both his moms are women does make it more obvious to me why Mr. Book and visits with Mr. Book could be a valuable resource; besides which, Mr. Book’s good qualities are very clear to me, and I think he’d be an asset to anyone whose life he’s a part of. Me—well, not only am I naturally kind of spooky, but Cricket’s got loving female people coming out of his ears. And there’s a piece that I’m not sure how to put into words; here’s my best shot. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, but this doesn’t really make sense without my saying a grim thing: When Cricket was tiny, I loved him as much as any mother, but loving him that much and having him a thousand miles away was unbearable . . . so I had to stop. There were probably more noble solutions to that problem, but I couldn’t think of any, and I was really and truly melting down. So I stopped feeling that way. I care for him, but it a mild thing compared to what it was when he was a newborn. My hope has been that over time he and I would/will be able to develop a relationship and that I’d then grow new feelings for him, based on knowing him—but right now he’s a toddler, and I don’t really know him, and I felt on that January visit entirely unconnected to the boy in our apartment. It was so weird that he looked somewhat like me.

It went on like that; I told her that I don’t really know what to do, that while I feel a sense of duty to Cricket I’ve wondered about whether there’s any reason for me to be at visits, and that “I’m pretty aware that I could end up poisoning the relationship between Joey and Cricket if I don’t get it together, which is part of why it seems worth saying something.” I realized, I think, that the fact that closing the adoption doesn’t sound like the end of the world anymore means that I can be a bit more forthcoming—the worst that they can do is something I can bear.

I half expected to be panicked now—I sent this possibly catastrophic email, I can’t get it back, and now I just wait to hear back (or not)—but instead I feel a calm that I can’t entirely blame on sleep deprivation. (Four-month sleep regression is in full effect at Casa Book, by the by.) Maybe something had to happen.

Evidence

I’m the Book who takes the pictures. I’m not particularly good at it—I’d like to be better—but I’m the better of the two of us, and I’m interested. Mr. Book says that taking pictures is traditionally the dad’s job, which I’m not sure that I’d picked up on . . . although, come to think of it, my dad is the one with the expensive camera and good eye. Now I’m trying to learn to take better pictures, since I am responsible for the visible record of Joey’s childhood. Anyone want to recommend books or give me hints?

In the last email I got from Ruth, she apologized for not sending any pictures for the last few months. She promised more soon, which would be nice, and told me that they’re really glad to keep getting links to Joey snaps from me—Cricket is interested, I guess. I do send them a few every couple of weeks; I’d love to get pictures on the same schedule, but that’s just not how they roll.

Now I’ve decided to get professional pictures taken of Joey at six months old. My parents had that done for me and my sisters, Mr. Book’s parents had that done for him, and I’m glad now that we have those pictures—so it’s my turn. I found a photographer, picked out a date, gave her a deposit, and now I keep looking at her online galleries and anticipating. I am ridiculously excited by this extravagance; it’s probably dumb for us to spend money on portraiture, but I’m still glad that we’re doing it. Cricket’s moms didn’t opt to get pictures taken. I’ve heard adoptive parents express frustration that the birth family is asking for professional pictures, and for a long time I couldn’t understand why they would keep asking when the adoptive parents were clearly annoyed—then I saw the blurry, unfocused pictures that Ruth and Nora kept sending and I started to get it. The photographer I picked out includes siblings at no additional cost, and I spent some time seriously considering asking Ruth whether they’d like to bring Cricket down on the day and get some nice pictures. Of course, that led me to wish that I could also pick out Cricket’s clothes for this theoretical photo shoot; we want the boys to complement one another, after all. In the end, I know that Ruth and Nora just aren’t interested—and if I can be perfectly honest, I don’t want to have to explain to a photographer why we have a sibling with different parents. I’ve gotten awfully used to answering “Is he your first?” with “Yes.”

What Do You Ask of This Church?

Joey was baptized last Sunday; for days afterwards, his head smelled like balsam—like the oil of chrism. Our church requires parents to attend a class the day before the baptism, and our teacher started off the class by telling us that she had adopted her daughter as a newborn sixteen years ago, and you just won’t believe how the time flies.

No one at my church knows about Cricket. I feel guilty about the sinking feeling that started when our instructor mentioned adopting a baby from Russia; she also helped us to find proxies for Cricket’s godparents, and “They adopted a baby too!” It was another international adoption, not Russia, but I can’t remember from where. Guatemala? They were perfectly nice people, and I spent the morning slightly preoccupied with feeling bad about feeling bad. They asked us the same question that I’ve been asked dozens of times at church: “Is he your first?”

I know the right answer: “No, I placed a child for adoption a few years ago; I baptized him myself in a motel room. I didn’t have a lot of time. Oh, and his moms don’t know.” I’ve been feeling increasingly guilty as my less than perfectly honest answers pile up, but I keep answering the same way. If I thought that there was any possibility that Cricket would one day visit the church I would give the better answer, but there isn’t a snowball’s chance. I’ve also considered telling only the priest, just so that someone knows—but I haven’t, and most likely won’t.

So Joey is really and officially Catholic now. His baptism was the first time that Mr. Book had come to the church, and he seemed to like it. All in all, it feels a bit like taking another step away from Cricket’s life. We’ve been to Ruth and Nora’s synagogue, once, but while I’ve let them know that we’d be glad to take them to church if ever they wanted to see what ours is like, they are not going to come. And fair enough, of course—but it’s just another point of disconnection now.

I don’t want to give the impression that I was moping through Joey’s big day. In fact, I was excited for him and delighted that everything worked out. I was absurdly proud that people admired him, and several parishioners came over to bless him—and I was grateful and pleased. I’m happy to let people be handsy on Sunday mornings because I want them to feel as though Joey belongs to the community; I want him to have that community looking out and praying for him. It helps that he’s a shameless flirt, smiling and cooing at anyone who tries to get his attention during the service. How weird that he might be an extrovert! His dad and I are so far to the other end of the scale—of course, my introverted parents ended up with one extrovert out of four kids, so I suppose it does happen.

I’m missing Cricket right now. Ruth has said that they might be able to visit in April, and I’m hoping to do a better job of trying to connect with him this time; it’s easy to blame our circumstances for the fact that I feel more and more distant from him, but my standoffishness with him is surely part of the problem. Maybe our lives will continue to grow apart, but I can try harder to build something with him. I’ve got to.