That therapist has encouraged me to write out the story of the placement again, in part to prepare me to tell a baby-appropriate version to Joey, and in part (I suspect) because as I get farther away from it, it changes a bit. So I’m going to put that right here.
The farther I get away from the placement, the harder it is for me to come up with my reasons. So many of them seem so stupid now. The ones that stick with me, that still resonate—and that were the biggies at the time—are these:
- Money. I didn’t have any work, and my partner was only working part-time. We would have had the support of my family or his, but I liked the idea of giving Cricket a home that didn’t worry about money. That’s not as important to me now, but I do have to admit that I don’t know whether we’d be in Stumptown right now if we’d parented; heck, we’d probably be in central Missouri, which really isn’t where we’d like to be or where we want to raise kids. I can’t totally erase this one—but it doesn’t seem sufficient when I look at it now.
- Mr. Book. Two parts to this one: I thought that he didn’t want to parent (turns out I just wasn’t listening to him), and I didn’t want us to parent a kid whom one of us had wanted to abort. I’m still not comfortable with that, although I’m sure that there are plenty of loved and happy little kids out there whose parents had a talk about their options when they saw two lines, and there’s no reason that the kiddo would ever have had to know. But it still niggles at me, honestly.
- Me. Of course, me. There’s still a part of me that suspects that there’s no greater gift I could give a child than to send him away from me. Some of this I’ve been able to resolve in therapy; I had to talk about my childhood, yawn. But I did end up persuaded that I could be a competent parent, and at least so far I believe that I am, so that’s a good thing.
Anyway. I got pregnant early in the spring of 2008, while I was in a long-distance the relationship with the bachelor Book. We’d been dating for five and a half years at that point, so the long-distance thing didn’t seem so crazy. I was four and a half hours away from him, and one week out of the month, I’d go stay with him. One month I got pregnant, the next month I was weirdly sick. I threw up when I was about to leave for the visit, I threw up when I was at our favorite Mexican restaurant, and I drank about half a gallon of milk a day. Weird stuff. Only as I was headed home did I decide that I should maybe buy a pregnancy test and see how it went. It didn’t go the way I was hoping.
At first, I hoped that I was going to be a mom. I was excited. I talked to the bachelor Book, and he told me that while he would support any decision I made, he voted abortion. I had always assumed that I would have an abortion if I got unexpectedly pregnant—but then, I had also assumed that I’d never get pregnant. I told the bachelor Book that I couldn’t do it; he continued to vote abortion pretty frequently until it was no longer legal. I decided that the only real solution would be adoption, and stayed pretty fixated on that despite the fact that Mr. Book now says that his preferred order of options would have been (1) abortion, (2) parenting, (3) adoption.
I had read Dan Savage’s The Kid, so I emailed the adoption agency of which he spoke so highly. Until I heard back from them, I looked at the adoptive parent profiles on their site and made a tentative top three list. My partner did the same, and we had the same couple in the top spot. When OAFS got back to me, they told me that they couldn’t work with me because of my location, and pointed me toward another agency that apparently dominates open adoption in California. Halfway through the pregnancy, I moved to California with my family and started to talk with Ruth and Nora.
I didn’t think of the baby as mine, which made the pregnancy a bit easier. My logic then is distasteful to me now, but I can still see it clearly, if I look: Children are a gift. I clearly did not deserve such a gift, and anyway any kid deserved better than me, so this child must be a gift for someone else—and at the same time, the pregnancy was my punishment for something. At the same time, I couldn’t stop from claiming him in some little ways; I gave him nicknames, I played him music, and I took the best care of myself that I could. The agency checked in once a month to be sure that I was still going to place, and toward the end of my pregnancy, they tried to talk me out of nursing the baby or spending time with him. I also found out that some forms that I had been assured went only to the court had in fact been passed on to Ruth and Nora—a health history and so forth—and told the agency that while I was still placing, I wasn’t willing to talk to them outside of email, where I’d have a written record if they lied to me again. They told Ruth and Nora that I said I wasn’t sure about placing anymore. I don’t want to dwell on it too much right now, but they are bad people who treated all of us badly.
Ruth and Nora and I started to negotiate the terms of an adoption. They told me about their plans for parenting, which didn’t end up being the way they have parented, but I know that it just goes that way sometimes. They wanted to have visits, and so did I. I insisted that the bachelor Book be just as involved in the adoption as I was, and while he was politely ignored by them during the pregnancy, they agreed. They wanted me not to name the baby, and I refused. I told them that my partner and I wanted to be alone with the baby for a day before we gave him up, and they agreed. They visited me, and I visited them—and went to their baby shower. Some of their friends were pretty rude to me, and I found out later that most of their friends and family were convinced that I wouldn’t place. Not sure how that was supposed to help.
The week before I gave birth, I didn’t want to talk to Ruth and Nora. I still planned to place, but I didn’t want to talk to them. I started to feel very peculiar on Friday afternoon, and so Friday evening I took castor oil. Saturday morning, I was having regular contractions, but didn’t seem to be super close—so the bachelor Book called Ruth and Nora, they flew down, and we drove down to the motel where we’d be spending our only alone time with the baby. I was in labor on and on and on, and I couldn’t sleep, and finally on Monday morning a midwife broke my water at the birthing center. After that, I pushed for forty-five minutes and Cricket was born. I am terribly glad that I wasn’t giving birth in a hospital, since there’s no way I would have been allowed to labor for so long—and yet the baby and I were fine, if tired—his Apgars were 9/10, and we left the birthing center within two hours of his birth, after Ruth and Nora held him and took some pictures.
After that, my baby, my partner, and I spent a night and a morning together. I nursed him, my mother came to meet him (and bring us some food, bless her), and while I had planned to stay up all night, after a few days of laboring without sleep, I did pass out for a few hours while my partner held his son. When I woke up, he was talking to him about the Kinks. Around noon, we took him to his moms-to-be and handed him over. That night, I sat in the shower and sobbed (“I lost my son, I lost my son, I lost my son”) until the bachelor Book banged on the door to see whether I was okay. Not so much.