Spooky

Happy Halloween! How are y’all celebrating?

Joey went trick or treating in the village this afternoon (just wandering with other kids, not actually soliciting candy); he’s a member of the Green Lantern Corps. I didn’t see that movie—it looked truly awful—but I’ve been a geek for a very long time, and since there are many and varied members of the Corps (a living planet! Sheep people! Beings who exist in worlds without light!), it seems perfectly possible that a baby might be called upon to defend his world in this way. We wandered around and looked at the other children and heroes and monsters and cowered away from yellow things. I carved a couple of jack-o-lanterns; I made pumpkin ice cream.  We have a big bowl of candy half empty now, dedicated to trick-or-treaters. I am content with my level of Halloweeniness this year.

Cricket and his family don’t celebrate Halloween; he did dress up for Purim last year, but embarrassingly, when I saw a picture of him in costume, I just thought he was better-dressed than usual. I found out later that this was his costume, but not what he was supposed to be. Perhaps a hipster?

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FBC

I hate Facebook chat. In fact, I hate almost all kinds of instant messaging, but I especially hate Facebook chat because it doesn’t archive conversations, which is a must for broody broads like myself. I’ll happily chat with my immediate family, but anyone beyond that leaves me feeling like I need more time to prepare, worried and uncomfortable. But enough about my social anxiety: Ruth loves Facebook chat.

Ruth and I FB chatted once, long ago, at her request; Last week, she started up another, asking whether this was an okay way to contact me. I hadn’t heard from her in over a month, so of course the answer is yes: I have to adapt to this new and unpleasant medium. I like email—or even texts—since I have time to think about how to respond to things rather than having to immediately come up with something witty or wise or polite. Okay, polite isn’t hard, but you get me. We talked, and I’m glad, but I know that she would prefer for this to be our default, which is too bad.

But here’s what I learned: Cricket has an imaginary daughter named “Carpet” who seems very impulsive. Cricket has recently moved to a real bed, and it turns out that Carpet has trouble staying in bed at night.

This is also when she told me about the robot video and its fallout; she explicitly encouraged me (several times) to make more videos. It’s something I’m nervous about, but I’ll comply: this week I will narrate a video of Mr. Book getting his hair cut, probably. Most likely, I will take several—at the market, at the park—and let them duke it out, choosing the one in which I say the fewest dopey things.

Open Adoption Roundtable #31

With Halloween just around the corner, I thought this prompt would fit right in:

Write about open adoption and being scared.

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

Write a response at your blog–linking back here so your readers can browse other participating blogs–and share your post in the comments here. Using a previously published post is fine; I’d appreciate it if you’d add a link back to the roundtable. If you don’t blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

There was a question over on Open Adoption Support about why some birthfamiles talk about having lost their placed children, and one woman said that people like me have no right to say that we lost our kids, because we made a decision and signed the papers. Of course, I had already posted that sometimes I say I “placed” my son and sometimes I say that I “lost” my son; more accurately, at those times, I say that I lost my son because I am an idiot. I was upset and scared and self-loathing and determined to have some kind of plan. That scared thing? It turns out, that doesn’t go away.

At least not for me. Cricket is about to turn three, and I’m still scared of him.

I’m not one of those people who is afraid of babies or little kids; I’ve started hanging out in the church nursery on Sunday mornings so that Pete can socialize, and I’m happy to comfort the most fragile and shy babies. (There’s one little boy just a smidge younger than Pete who, when Pete sticks his face in this kiddo’s face to say a friendly hello, bursts into tears.) When I was in grade school, I helped my mother when she volunteered in the church nursery and always liked doing so. In fact, there’s only one baby I’ve ever been afraid of—not a baby any longer—my own Cricket.

Having been made acutely aware of the fact that can lose Cricket—because I lost him—I now am staring down the barrel of decades of being able to lose him again. There are a number of different ways it could happen: his moms could decide to close the adoption, shocking no one; he could tell them in a few years that he wants the adoption closed, something I am certain they’d agree to; and of course he could decide as an adult that he has two moms and that’s it, that these tall people have nothing at all to do with him. This is one of several things that keep me spooky and uncomfortable around him; I look at him (on the computer, Skyping) and feel frozen. Anything that I say could be not just the wrong thing, but the Last Wrong Thing. So instead, by default, my distance is the wrong thing. It’s not just that I can’t win—it’s that I can’t imagine what winning would look like. Can we possibly be close? When I reach out and he responds, I have no earthly idea what to do.

I have an example. I don’t know whether I mentioned it here, since it seemed unlikely to matter, but last month I made a two-minute video for Cricket in which I showed and explained our pool robot. I had learned via Skype that Ruth assumed that when I said “pool robot,” I meant those floaty things that release chlorine—but not so! There is a real robot! So I filmed it and picked it up and described its action. She told me that he is obsessed with the phrase “bear with me,” which I used as I hauled the robot up from the bottom of the pool. And she said this: “He did note that you say ‘love you’ at the end, and this made quite an impression. He talks about this pretty often.” And when she told me this, I didn’t respond directly—I made some inane comment about a different thing that she’d said—because what can I say to that? I reached out a little and he heard me, and now I don’t know what to do.

What We Don’t Have, and What We Aren’t

Monday, we talked with Ruth and Cricket on Skype. Cricket is consistently interested in Joey; both times that we’ve talked via Skype since our move down south, he has asked what he can do now, whether he can talk, what he likes to eat—today he talked about his new big-boy bed and asked where Joey sleeps, and what he sleeps with. Joey doesn’t sleep with a bunch of stuffed animals, as Cricket apparently does—but he sleeps with a musical Fisher-Price seahorse. This information was pretty exciting for Cricket, because Cricket has the same seahorse! In fact, I gave that seahorse to Ruth and Nora at their baby shower, although they might not remember that. Cricket ran off to find his seahorse, and then asked us to fetch Joey’s. It’s a small thing, but he really does seem to want to make connections with his brother. When he asked what Joey likes to eat, I mentioned pumpkin first; when I asked Cricket what he likes to eat, he immediately said pumpkin, although Ruth told us that he has never had pumpkin.

 

I’ve decided not to email Ruth anymore unless I hear from her. We’re still sending holiday cards to Cricket—Mr. Book has started work on the Halloween card already—and I’ll answer any emails I get from her, but I’m done writing to her a couple of times a month and not getting any response. I don’t think she’s interested, and her occasional explanations about being incredibly busy don’t really make me feel any better. I think she’s just looking for a polite-ish way to kill the emails. Okay.

 

Incidentally, Ruth mentioned that Cricket will be getting a real haircut “in a few months”; I don’t remember which commenter explained to me that many Jewish boys have their first haircuts at age three (way back when I was first complaining about his shaggy hair), but you were right! Thanks again!

 

I’ve started a Joey blog for friends and family (incidentally, if I know you somewhat and you want in, email me and I’ll invite you!), and it makes me extra aware of the fact that Ruth and Nora aren’t unable to keep us in the loop; they choose not to. I spend maybe five minutes a day putting a couple of pictures up or talking about what the Snerks has been up to—it is not a drag on my time. Ruth, too, is a stay-at-home parent, and one whose child is in daycare. She has decided that they don’t want us very involved, and that stinks, but I’m going to accept it instead of pushing.

 

Part of what bugs me (aside from the obvious “missing my son” stuff) is wondering what, exactly, Ruth and Nora were hoping for. Did they really hope that we’d go away after a year, or did they want us to be more obviously troubled and needy—or did they want us to immediately start doing a lot better after the placement, get salaried jobs and become successful? I think we must exist in an uncomfortable gray area for them: neither so troubled as to be unsuitable parents to their child nor so buoyed by the loss of him to exciting capitalist heights that the placement clearly did us some good.

 

Well, tough.

Yeouch

Joey wants to play outside all the time now. It’s in the low 70s most days, and the sun isn’t so intense as it was even a month ago, so his timing isn’t bad—but he’s looking for excitement, which is a little scary sometimes. He wants to jump into the pool (we compromise with some wading on the steps); he wants to jam everything he can reach into his mouth (I let him eat some grass); he wants to walk around and chirp and grasp at things (and we do). It seems like he does something new every day—I’ve started writing them down, and so far, at least one per day. He’s sort of talking (echoing us appropriately, or saying independently things like “Ah duh! [all done]” or “Addy! [while reaching for his daddy].”)His sleep is still less than ideal, with at least one wakeup between 2 and 4 a.m., but so much is happening in his brain that I suppose it’s to be expected. That is my mantra these days, so please forgive me if I have said it before.

 

Nursing is getting harder. Joey bit me quite hard the other day, hard enough that I immediately shouted and put two fingers against his cheek, pushing him away—that part I’m almost proud of, although of course it’s not the best way to handle that, but my instinct was gentle, rather than the shove or jerk I might have expected of myself. Joey burst into tears, and Mr. Book held him while I assured him that I love him and wasn’t mad at him. I did, however, refuse to nurse him for the next couple of hours, which outraged the child. I’ve been extra tender since then, and I’ve started to have a nursing-while-pregnant problem that I’ve heard about; when my milk lets down, I am abruptly nauseated. Nursing hurts enough that I bite my hand while the snerks busies himself. I can do this for a very long time, I know that—but not if the biting keeps up. That pain was amazing.

Jessica asks:

Does Ruth still remind you of Ruth from the bible?

Haven’t thought about that in awhile! Honestly . . . no. I want to mumble something about steadfastness, which would be accurate if incomplete, but since I started the blog, Ruth has more or less cut her mother out of her life, which is pretty much the antithesis of the biblical Ruth.

Why did you pick the name Nora?

After the woman in A Doll’s House; my impression is that Nora is very much not what her parents expected, and that they wanted their only daughter to be a princess—a doll—rather than a butch lesbian. Nora has managed to become herself and maintain good relationships with her parents and brother, which I greatly admire.

Also, you said at one point that you were only planning to raise one child.  Do you still feel that way?

Well, I’ve gone back and forth for a long time. I most of the time have wanted to raise two children, and Mr. Book wanted to raise only one before Joey. Then we had Joey, and I wanted to raise only him, and Mr. Book was enthusiastic about parenting again—and both for the same reason—because we so enjoy Joey. He is so, so great that (as my husband keeps saying) how could we stop at one? Adding another child is rolling the dice again, which makes me a bit nervous. We’re living with my parents now, and they’re just crazy about Joey: What if our possum is more introverted and less warm, and they care for him less? But even when I was most wanting to stop at Joey, I thought about how much I love my sisters and want a similar experience for Joey, and about wanting him not to face it alone when we die. See how sentimental I am? But Mr. Book and I both plan to have one more child. Maybe in May. 😉

As the only man in Cricket’s life, do you think there are things Mr. Book could/would be teaching to Cricket that Ruth and Nora can’t?

This question right here is why it’s taken me so long to put these answers up. At first I was thinking that there are things Mr. Book would be teaching Cricket just because he is himself, and different from Ruth or Nora in ways that have nothing to do with gender; he’s funnier, and loves early rap (you’d better believe that Joey is hearing a lot of De La Soul), and spends more time outdoors. But then I read Playful Parenting, in which Cohen mentions that in studies, boys have been found to be more likely to (e.g.) play with a baby doll if they first see men nurturing babies; I resist this information, but boys apparently look to men in specific and gender-y ways to see what they should do, and what men do. I admit, if I had known this way back when, I would have tried to choose a gay couple instead of a lesbian couple; I thought it didn’t matter, and now I think that maybe it does matter. Not that lesbians cannot be fabulous mothers to their sons! And provide them with male role models, and so forth. But I am more and more believing that Cricket may grow up to feel the lack of a dad—not of parents, but of a male parent—especially since he has Mr. Book somewhere just out of sight, the tall person who seems to fascinate him. I said something vague one time about Mr. Book being Cricket’s only male parent—not a parenting parent, I was clear—and Ruth Flipped Out. I wonder how she would answer this question. (My guess: “No.”)

Open Adoption Roundtable #30

Roundtable time! This one is another chance to think back on the origins of our open adoptions.

Do you remember the first time you heard about open adoption?

If you need some further prompting: What were the circumstances? What was your reaction? If you grew up in an open adoption, do you remember the first time you heard the label applied to your relationships?

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

I’ve been a reader of Savage Love for a hideously long time—so when Dan Savage wrote a book about adopting his son DJ, I bought and read it. He and his husband Terry used OA&FS in Seattle, and he wrote about the process in some detail. It wasn’t until after I had placed my son that I read something he wrote wishing his son’s birthmother would die.

Savage made open adoption sound pretty good; it never occurred to me that it might look different from the point of view of the woman sitting across the table from him, eating lunch and waiting to lose her child to the eager couple picking up the tab. DJ’s mother was homeless, no longer involved with the boyfriend who had gotten her pregnant, and only had housing because the adoption agency was providing it. Dan and Terry seem both desperate to like her and very ready to judge her, in an emotional mix that has become very familiar to me after several more adoptive parent memoirs and blogs. (Not, NOT that every adoptive parent falls into this emotional trap. But too many do.) She is so brave/how could she be so irresponsible.

For what it’s worth, Savage and his husband seemed to treat their son’s mother decently (as recorded in his memoir).

Yesterday I reread Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother, a book that makes me crazy. I keep it around in case I ever need some kind of irritating pick-me-up. The anger that gets directed at pregnant women considering adoption by not all but too many adoptive and prospective adoptive parents really freaks me out. There is some level on which I just don’t understand it. I don’t have any money, but I’m not enraged by the rich people who seem to spend more money than I’ll ever see in what seem to me stupid ways; I’m pretty plain, but I don’t resent the gorgeous. That desire to scratch out the eyes of women who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant makes me recoil every time I see it. You don’t deserve a child, I don’t deserve a child—no one deserves a child. Many people are able to parent, and they come to that in a variety of ways. Being poor, or single, or fertile, or all those things and more doesn’t make someone a whore. And yet these books—The Kid, Secret Thoughts, and others—contain ~*~hilarious~*~ “Dear Birthmother” letters that let the resentment and stereotypes flow freely. How handy that these people will end up in lifelong relationships with the people they so despise.