1. Did you have friends that you discussed your options with (other than Mr. Book) and if so, did they encourage or discourage the idea of parenting, and how did they respond to the fact of placement when it happened? If you didn’t discuss your options with your friends, why do you think that was?
Honestly, with everyone except for Mr. Book, I tended to present the adoption as a done deal—this even when I was barely into my second trimester. I had heard that every woman who places a child makes the decision at least twice, and I knew that I couldn’t—so I made the decision once and just didn’t let myself hope or wonder after that—even after Cricket was born. For the day he was mine, I just didn’t think about the adoption. Once I had spoken with Ruth and Nora, I didn’t think of Cricket of mine; that started to change several months after the placement. I loved him as though he were mine, but I knew he couldn’t be. I am really incredibly bullheaded sometimes.
If I had really solicited opinions and let other people be a part of my decision-making process, I would have parented.
2. Do your parents feel that your placing Cricket represents any kind of judgment or rejection of their parenting of you? I remember that not wanting to raise Cricket in the same cash-poor situation you faced as a child was one of your reasons for placing, and I wonder whether your parents are aware of that and if they take it personally as a critique, or if they try to downplay the difficulty of that period in their lives?
Placing Cricket was a rejection of my parents’ parenting in two important ways: one was the poverty you mention; the other was abuse. (It’s not the kind of stuff that’s gruesome enough to be interesting, but I was pretty scared of my mom growing up, and that wasn’t an irrational reaction to my experiences.) Both of these came up with my parents, one more directly than the other—the money issue made some sense to them, but they offered to adopt Cricket themselves. We then had a careful, sidelong kind of conversation about why that wasn’t okay; I did not mention hitting, or screaming, but I did carefully remind her that she had only recently told me that she thought that having a baby around would make all her carefully cultivated patience go right out the window.
My mom has been talking recently about what it was like when they were poor young parents; while I know that it must look different from this side (telling me as she looked out at her pool and fiddled with her iPhone, having come home from her well-salaried job in her Prius), it wasn’t so bad that it made my childhood lousy. We ate a lot of ramen and Kraft macaroni, sure, and we got hand-me-down clothes from church; these aren’t Normal Rockwell memories. But when I was pregnant with Cricket, I was intoxicated by the idea that I could give him everything—not a pony, because who cares about ponies, but parents who could buy him anything he needed without having to take that money from somewhere else. I’ve been a little surprised by how cash poor his childhood often appears; he wears only hand-me-downs, he’s never had a haircut, he never had an artfully decorated nursery or an expensive toy. But he does travel quite a bit more than I did as a child, and his parents don’t have to decide between furniture and Christmas—it’s a lifestyle choice, not a necessity.
This morning, I watched Cricket ignore his toys in favor of first a comb and later a cardboard box; my fears about not being able to provide for a child have proved both not entirely groundless (here I am, living with my parents) and simultaneously unimportant (here we are, doing pretty well, living with my parents).
I’ve wandered a bit from your questions, I’m afraid. My parents understood my concerns, because they know exactly how hard it is to parent on no money—but they were more worried for me than hurt, because they knew a whole lot more than I did—about parenting, about loving your child, and about permanence. They still tell me sometimes that they wish Cricket was here, not in a blaming way; they just miss him. They are somewhat angry at Ruth and Nora, but that’s mostly about the card that Ruth sent to my mother a couple of years ago and less about feeling judged.
On the other hand, my mom does understand that a lot of my parenting is a rejection of hers—and I think she’s mostly at peace with it, but there have been a few wobbles.