The Bones

While we were in California, I got Cricket a souvenir at the Natural History Museum—I had wanted to send a postcard, but they are apparently too cool for postcards—not even a postcard of megamouth! Shocking! Now it (a dinosaur mug; when filled with hot liquid, the dinos fade to fossils) is packed with a note, the box is addressed and studded with stickers, and I have but to hoof it to the post office. Yesterday I talked to Joey about Cricket without crying for the first time, and we looked at some pictures of five-month-old Cricket, and I was shocked by how much he looked like himself already. I know how silly that sounds. But he looked so much like the boy he has grown to be, and so different from (if obviously related to) his brother. I have a copy of Sam’s Sister and don’t really know what to do with it.

I have been able to set aside my regret about Cricket not being in Pete’s baby pictures because I only just figured out that I might be in a couple of them. I’m pretty camera shy, wear jeans constantly, and have no idea what I should be doing with my hair. To make matters . . . more, Mr. Book has decided that he should take the day off work so that we can all be in pictures together. I think I’m supposed to pick his outfit, too. I asked my sister, who has done some modeling, if she had any tips; she said that I should try to wear clothes that fit. At least she has a clear idea of where I’m starting from!

Mother’s Day is coming, I guess. It’s not a holiday I’ve ever really been able to skim past, as it’s often the same day as my mother’s birthday; I have some idea of what to get her, and then I need to get a card for that other mom. In the past, Ruth and Nora have called on the day before—Birthmother’s Day—and I haven’t picked up, but have listened to the message and carefully thanked them by email. The fact of the matter is that I hate Birthmother’s Day and hate hearing from them; I want to be left alone to grieve, which of course isn’t their fault and I really do appreciate that they reach out. It seems like a bad idea to ever discourage that. This year, I sort of want to pretend that I am a normal mother on that weekend, although I know that the odds are slim. And now Cricket is old enough that he will understand that they are calling, and I will have to answer the phone. A craven sliver of myself wants to make the Mister do it, answer, tell them I’m busy, and say hello to the kiddo for me. Not acceptable, although he’d probably do it if I asked.

My therapist keeps encouraging me to call Ruth and talk about the Big Things. I have explained that we don’t do that—we email—and she insists that email is a terrible way to deal with emotionally fraught issues. But on the phone, I feel trapped; I can’t take the time I want to think about things, and my first reactions can be heard. We just don’t call them—we sent a text when Joey was born, and that’s about as immediate as it gets. And right now, the Biggest Thing on my mind is discontent with their unavailability, and that’s my problem. They are about to start homestudy visits; there’s a lot going on. But the lack of what I’d hoped for is rubbing up against Ruth’s insistence that I am important to Cricket because I am his birthmother. That’s both true and obvious, but it feels awful. I’d like to be friends, or liked because I am interested and interested, or a resource and relative, but no—I am valuable because I gave him up. They return my emails because I signed the papers. My value to him is my worst thing.


There’s a lot going on right now. I’m going to talk about it in kind of a scattershot way; that’s what my brain is doing just now. The Skype conversations have stopped after the initial two, and there may be more in the future, but not now. No pictures from them yet this year, and no plans for a visit. That looks, I know, like there’s nothing going on at all—but in addition to jetting around the country and watching Joey work on blowing spit bubbles,  I’m brooding about it. That’s a shock, I’m sure. =)

My husband and I are talking about possibly moving in with my parents. Not for awhile, and it’s the farthest thing from certain, but he would really like to go to law school, and that will be pretty tricky on our own. My parents lived with my grandparents for awhile while my dad was in graduate school, so they’re very open to the idea—the prospect of more time with Joey can’t hurt. In fact, since I first asked them, they’ve brought up the possibility several times, always positively. The thing is, Mr. Book hates his job. It makes him miserable pretty much all of the time. But if we weren’t paying rent, he’d be able to just work part time and go to school and never go back to this job again. We haven’t talked yet about the effect that would have on the adoption, perhaps because another thousand miles wouldn’t make that much of a difference. Nora comes to Southern California a couple of times a year for work. . . .

I did email Ruth about pictures and Skype, in what I hoped was a not annoying way, and she wrote back to say that Skype won’t work right now, but maybe in a few weeks (good news), that they’re still thinking about visit dates (not great, but okay), and no word about or link to pictures, which kind of stinks. She didn’t ask after Joey, which I totally at random was a little upset by. I wrote back and only responded directly to what she’d said, which is a lame little passive-aggressive thing to do, but I started a longer and cheerier email and got nowhere. That longer email mentioned the possibility (which seems more and more likely as we talk about it/look at law schools/grow hopeful) of our relocating to California for a few years; the final version did not. Maybe next time.

I’m distracted from my grim thoughts by watching Joey dream—he’s smiling, he’s making milkface, and his eyelids are fluttering. He’s so big now: eighteen pounds at last weigh-in. A couple of days before Easter, I asked Mr. Book whether he thinks about what it would be like to be done having kids now—to be raising two boys, one of them a toddler, one of them our Joey—and he said that he does, but that he mostly imagines baby Cricket, not the boy he is now. For whatever reason, the fact that he is so far so different from Joey makes him feel even farther away. –And I’m back to grim. I’m going to stop here and go back to watching the baby.

Be the Mom You Wish To See in the World

A couple of days ago, I asked my sister Kate whether I seem like a good mother. That’s an awkward thing to do to a person, and unlikely to be helpful besides—luckily, the baby woke up almost immediately thereafter, giving me a reason to run from the room.

On the planes back from Illinois, Joey had a pretty rough time. I’m starting to suspect that he’s not a good traveler; if so, he comes by it honestly. My husband felt the need to stage some kind of “You are a bad traveler” intervention with me, an accusation that I hotly denied:

Him: You’re really exhausted and messed up whenever you travel! You need recovery time, and you have to tell your sister that!

Me: I’m a great traveler! I . . . I’m quiet, and I don’t have to go to the bathroom very often!

Him: You’re an adult now! No one cares about that!

I brought up this conversation with Kate and my brother, hoping to rally them to my side, and my brother pipes up with “You do get really tired and need to sleep a lot whenever you travel. . . .” Now I’m begrudgingly nearing step one: admitting that I have a problem.

Anyhow, so Joey did quite a bit of crying on the plane rides home. And I’d hold him and talk to him and pat his back, because sometimes my chatter seemed to help him feel a bit better—I had to pretend that no one else could hear me, but was pretty successful at that until I landed. Then a surprising number of people said nice things to me or told me that I was doing a great job, which I found intensely embarrassing; for whatever reason, I have an easier time dealing with the people who are just mad at me for having a crying son. One woman kept telling me that I was so patient, and finally asked how I could be so patient, and I said lamely that “I’m crazy in love.” And that’s true, of course, but also, how could I get mad at him? He’s a tired and sad baby, and he’s got a long way to go before he’s home. Too, I wonder how much the fact that he is generally so sweet-tempered helps; as soon as I got him home, changed his diaper, and set him on the bed, he was smiling and laughing. It might very likely be harder to be understanding if he just screamed all the time. But yesterday was one of our harder days, for sure—and yet I spent much of it thinking that maybe I don’t want to have any more kids, because just having Joey is so perfect, and I’m so happy with him, and why spoil that? His whining little scream doesn’t make my socks roll up and down, but Lord knows I can’t fault him for feeling puny—and surely he should get to say what he’s feeling.

I’m worried about my parenting because today we go to see my parents, and my mother does not approve. She thinks that Joey is manipulating me, and while I no longer completely endorse the position that “a baby’s wants are his needs” (the boy does not need to be standing all the time, or to get a sip of my soda, or to be allowed to launch himself deep into the bathwater without Daddy’s interference), I do in general want to help him to the things that he wants to do and let him take comfort from me whenever he wants it. And we’re not going to hit him. And I have lines all ready about how this isn’t me indicating disapproval of their parenting, it’s just that the times are different and I am different, etc. But it is, frankly, me making a conscious decision to try to make Joey’s childhood better than mine was. My parents prioritized obedience in their children, and are pretty open about that; I want something different. I read a parenting book about trying to cultivate qualities that you appreciate in a child or qualities that you value in an adult—my parents chose the first, I think, and I aspire to the latter.

Thanks so much to those who agree with me about Joey’s cuteness; his eyes were much grayer when he was born, and that blue is his dad’s and likely to stick. I am delighted.

Greetings from the Middle

Joey had a pretty rough day yesterday. He’s not sleeping as well away from home, and he’s been bearing up admirably under the lack, but finally he got fed up with being tired and waking up to find that I’ve snuck off to work or chat with my sister, and he really and truly melted down. He would show interest in walking and then if you tried to walk him around, he would howl; he would attempt to nurse shoulders and howl when offered a breast; at first he seemed happy to drink milk from a shot glass, but after a few sips, he just howled when presented with the option; he was so tired and so unhappy, and he had finally just had enough. So I took him into the shower, which seems to work on him like tactile white noise—he calmed down in the warm water. Then I took him into bed and nursed him, wrapped in a towel, while he stared at me, for quite awhile. His Aunt Kate joined us, and smiled and flirted with Joey—and then Joey finally fell asleep. He woke up several times, and seeing that I was there and ready to nurse him, settled quickly.

Part of the reason that Joey and I are in the Midwest is so that I could have a bit more help with the baby for a bit, and Joey’s aunt and uncles are delighted to spend time with him—but even if I don’t feel like a mom, I am apparently an essential person for the little snerks. He’s a sweet and sociable little critter, but he seems to want me around all the time. I am behind on my work and getting a bit desperate.

Hank and Kate have a huge and enthusiastic dog, a real sweetheart who longs to just lick the baby’s face until the cute comes off. This dog is pretty used to being the center of attention, I guess, and he’s having a hard time with the presence of this noisy, fascinating little beast that he is never allowed to have no matter how good he is. Joey has seemed interested and not frightened, which I’ve been pleased to see; I’ve always liked dogs, especially big dogs, but Mr. Book was afraid of them as a child.

Kate is four years younger than I am, and planning kids for several years from now; we talked last night about wanting our kids to feel more connected to extended family than we do. We have buckets of aunts and uncles, and I can’t think of a one that I’d ever expect a Christmas card from, or ask for help, or miss. But Kate and I, we think our foursome of siblings is pretty great, and we want our kids to benefit from that. We’ll just have to make up ways as we go along.

Travel Success

And now I’m in Illinois! Here visiting my sister Kate, Joey’s godmama.

Work has definitely kept me away from the blog, but it’s time to do better—I miss it. Part of the problem for me is that I don’t want to manage a shared path; I want not to work. And of course we can use the money, and the lesson of my foremothers is that if you don’t have anything in your life but childcare, things can get a bit grim once they have things to do besides hang out with you all the time. I could read a lot of novels and take baths in the middle of the day, but I’m told that that’s ultimately unsatisfying. Alas. That work call turned out in fact to be career advancement, so here I am advancing. I feel only grim about that. Whine, whine, whine.

I’ve had two Skype conversations with Cricket now—the first one was incredibly awkward, as he was feeling pretty shy and I am at my worst when called upon to perform for important people I slightly know. And then, Ruth tells me, a couple of days later, he wanted to talk to me on the computer. And then almost a week later, he thought that I was going to be on the computer while she emailed me and got upset that I wasn’t. Our subsequent Skypeversation went much better. He showed me toys and put tongs on his head and wanted to know where Joey’s Abba (he calls Nora “Abba”) was. I did a little better as well. It’s only after both conversations that I realized that my normal approach when someone else seems to be feeling awkward and withdrawn—give them some space, don’t bother them with questions—is maybe not the most successful tack to take with a toddler. Joey joined us both times, and interestingly, Cricket seemed to pick up on his mood much quicker than Ruth did: “Joey sad, Mama” or “He happy.” Ruth would start to disagree, then look more closely at Joey, and lo and behold: Cricket was right every time.

We’re still trying to figure out when a visit might work—it’s really too bad that I had to spoil our chance at one in April by throwing up until my eyes crossed. Oh, well. What can you do?

The Salt Mines

I’ve had pretty steady freelance work since Joey was a couple of weeks old, and I am anything but grateful. No surprise to any of you moms out there that I’ve found it incredibly difficult to get work done—I have to work while Joey’s asleep, which means that I am not sleeping, which often means that I am going to bed at 4 a.m. and then getting up at 9 with the baby. I keep hoping to run out of work, which frustrates my husband; now I’m pretty sure that I’m going to be offered a real job next week, and he’s upset by my sincere desire not to have a career.

Mr. Book thinks that I should do graduate school, have a real career—he likes my brain, I guess. But Joey hates to sleep without me, and after a couple of nights of me sneaking out, he’ll start fighting sleep like anything to keep me from leaving. Last night I was in the living room copyediting while his dad was trying to put him down (after I’d tried to nurse him to sleep for awhile), and finally the Mister had to come out and tag me in. The baby was wailing and wailing—and then stopping every so often to give his dad these awful, frantic little smiles: I’ll be good, just please, the mama I need mama mama mama mamaaaa! I went in and lay down to nurse him, and he grabbed me with both hands and jammed both feet into my thighs. I feel guilty and awful, and the thing is that I want to be in there with him. Mr. Book had been talking about how really I am working for him, and that a career for me would be a good thing for the little snerks. But looking at the baby, I thought, Christ, how could I possibly have a career?

I know that some women manage it, and that they have great jobs and awesome kids and feel good about life. Me, I don’t feel capable of it—I dread the probable job offer, and I want to be able to just go to bed with my kid tonight. When he started throwing up (again) at 2 this morning, I was already huddled around him with the laptop, working—I tossed it not too carefully aside to help with the baby, sent Mr. Book to go sleep in the living room, and then sat the little snerkleberry in my lap and sang in a ragged voice for almost an hour before he was recovered enough to nurse and go back to sleep. While I worked. The whole time, I worked.

When I was a baby, my mom did transcription for court reporters, and she said that I would cry whenever I saw the typewriter. I know parenting is hard, and I don’t mind that—but I hate feeling like I’m failing Joey, and especially I hate feeling like I’m failing my son and my husband at the same time.