A New Horizon; A Fresh Start

I tend not to swear on the blog, but there’s no other way to put it: I feel like a grade-A asshole.

I emailed Ruth—mostly chatty stuff about our Thanksgiving, asking about theirs—but did ask her what’s been happening (in a friendly, casual sort of way). And she told me. I’m a little unsure of how much to share on the blog, but they are not matched; they were offered a really wonderful match, but felt as though they couldn’t accept, and have in fact removed themselves from the pool for a time. They’ve been having physical, parental, and emotional troubles, and it looks like things are on the mend—but they aren’t ready to add a newborn to the mix just now. Boy, did I have ahold of the wrong end of the stick.

After I got her email, which really was just a frank list of things that have gotten in the way of contact for the last several months, I contacted her on Facebook chat, and we had a pretty good conversation. I mentioned that I’d wondered whether they might have been matched, and she said that no, she’d let us know right away if they were matched.

So I told her about the Possum.

She said that she was happy for me, and asked how I was feeling. Amazing. The whole series of events has left me feeling like a jerk, but also feeling really hopeful about the future; Ruth was so frank and open about what’s been happening that I was caught off guard. She seemed relieved that I wasn’t upset—she definitely told me some things that I imagine adoptive parents don’t relish telling birth parents—but instead I suddenly understood why she’s been more and more unavailable, and I felt lousy about assuming the worst. She said that they had been planning to visit in May, which is probably not going to work now; I had no idea. She wants to talk more often, and I think that we will, when she can. I told her that they should tell Cricket about my pregnancy when they think it best, and she thinks that this is a bit soon. I agree. But she did say that they’ll probably explain when I start to show, which isn’t something I’d thought about (currently, I am wearing this dopey, baggy disguise when I’m in public or there’s a camera about).

I guess I can talk about the parental part here: Ruth and Nora are finding Cricket harder and harder to deal with as he gets more capable and intelligent. I haven’t seen him in several months, but it has seemed for quite some time—more and more over the last two years or so—that his moms have just not seemed like a great temperamental match for Cricket. I know that happens in biological families too, but it’s hard not to wonder what it would be like here. Joey has a much different personality, a more easygoing and adaptable self—but Cricket’s temperament seems a lot like mine, and I might have found him easier to work with than his moms have so far. And of course toddlerhood is not destiny; as he gets a bit older, he and Ruth may find each other more comfortable. But it’s hard for everyone right now.

The five of us—Ruth, Cricket, me, the Mister, and Joey—talked by Skype a day or so after that Facebook chat. Cricket showed us his toys and told us that he loves us; we showed him some of Joey’s toys and told him that we love him.

Janine Asks

Holy Crap is right. How are you feeling about it?

Let me lay out a timeline. Just over a week ago, I sent Ruth this email:

Last summer, I wrote and asked whether we could talk about how the adoption’s going, what you like and don’t like, things you’d like to change; you suggested that it wasn’t a good time because things were about to change. I suppose that’s still true. On the other hand, I think things are going to keep changing for as far into the future as I can see—both of our families are growing, we plan to move at some point—so I thought I’d see whether you might be willing to have the conversation.

I feel like there are a few areas where I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing. I stopped emailing because email no longer seemed like a good medium for you, and I was finding it discouraging to write and not hear back. You seem to prefer Facebook chat—but how often do you want to talk? I don’t feel right initiating several times in a row. It makes me feel like I’m bothering you (it’s clear that we want more contact than you do). And I’m happy to wait to hear from you, but I don’t know whether your ideal would be talking twice a month or twice a year, and I wish that I did. How about Skype? Would you like to talk once a month, once every three months, only around birthdays? —I’m not asking these questions in order to hold you to some kind of schedule, but so that I can adjust my own expectations and have some sense of what you think is reasonable. I’d also like you to clarify something that happened on Skype: Cricket asked me why we moved to California, and you jumped in and answered—and your answer was extremely nonspecific (“Sometimes people move”). If he asks me questions, what kinds do you prefer I not answer? I don’t want to violate any of your rules for him, but that instance caught me off guard. And if you have other things you’d like to share your thinking on, or hopes for, or what have you—I’d like to hear from you about them.

To my surprise, she wrote back quickly, saying that she wants more contact but that it just hasn’t been working out. I’m somewhat skeptical of this—after three years, I think we can tell how much contact you want based on how much you’ve reached out (very little)—but it’s a nice thing to say, and I spent a few days brooding over what this might mean for the future. She was positive and reassuring, but she hasn’t followed up with any attempts to chat or Skype or schedule anything, so I don’t know how much the email will really affect things.

And then, the day before Thanksgiving, I found out that they are matched.

Not from them, mind you: I check their agency website almost every business day, and Wednesday, they were gone. When they were matched with us, they didn’t get pulled from the website until pretty close to my due date, and I know that their agency prefers to match in the third trimester, so they may very well be getting a baby for Christmas. Now I’m trying to figure out whether Ruth’s email was just intended to make sure that we won’t contact the agency and make trouble for them. (Not that we ever have or would—even if things get quite bad, we don’t feel that we have any allies there.) I am angry, and I don’t need it pointed out to me how hypocritical that is: I am angry at them for hiding the fact that they are expecting even as I am hiding the fact that we are expecting. I feel like I have better reasons than they do, but of course I feel that way. I keep imagining ways to ask them fairly passively to see how many times she’ll lie to me. This is not healthy. I think about dramatically revealing everything: “I know you were angry to hear about my pregnancy last time, but perhaps the fact that you are matched right now will make this one easier for you.” Equally healthy, I know. I’m just fuming to myself (largely over little things, like: “They last said that they might visit in January; they might not visit at all next year now, and they should tell us”) and trying to figure out whether/when/why to reach out to them again at some point. I hate the idea that my anger might make them feel validated in not telling us—to be fair, I would not express it to them the way they did to us when they found out about Pete.

Part of my upset, too, is that I’m upset that they are adopting again; we have had a pretty unhappy experience in our relationship with Ruth and Nora, and I don’t want that to happen to anyone else. (Too bad!) I know that it’s not something I have any kind of control over, and I shouldn’t have, but it’s still distressing to think about. Maybe they’ll wind up with someone who wants a closed adoption and it will be a much better match. I hope they don’t like this new child better; they sometimes seem not to like Cricket very much (although there is no question of their love). I know that can happen—my own parents very clearly like one of their children less than the others, while loving us all.

God, maybe I am having a parallel experience to theirs. This is empathy that I don’t want.

Gobble Gobble

Honestly, it only takes me about four or five gobbles to hit semantic satiation—it goes from almost to completely meaningless noise. Anyway.

 

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope everyone out there is having a lovely day of just the sort they’d like.

Holy Crap

Ruth and Nora are matched! They haven’t told us, but I check the agency website almost every business day, and today they are gone. The urge to let Ruth know that I know is strong, but hopefully not as strong as my common-sense desire to hide the fact that I’ve been checking up on them.

My Own Bump

Just over a week ago, my mother decided to start telling people that I’m pregnant. I am, okay, certainly past the twelve-week mark now, and she was mystified to discover that I was enraged. Even now, I’m not sure that she knows why I was so angry. No, I know that she doesn’t understand; but we’ve moved past it, and I’m unlikely to explain and thereby get mad all over again.

In some ways it is my own fault—she told me that she had told her stepsister, a woman I haven’t spoken with in years, and since she seemed apologetic, I told her that it was okay—it’s not like I will ever see this woman. But she apparently took this to mean, “Please, Mrs. B, tell everyone you can reach—what exciting gossip! And tell people Susie sees on a regular basis: Why would she want to handle that herself?” And she told people in a way that made it clear that she was just gossiping, and I was incredibly mad, told her to knock it off, and contacted the people she had told to ask them to please not spread the news yet because we aren’t and my mother just had a wild hair up her hinder and no sense of the appropriate. (Okay, I just thought that last part.) I am not ready to talk to people about the pregnancy, which is unfortunate, because I look pregnant and a half. Some of my reaction is I think fair—my mother cannot for the life of her understand what “Not your place” or “Not your business” might mean, and when that runs up against my private life, it makes me crazy. But there’s another piece to my anger that seems blog relevant.

The last time I was pregnant here, my family mostly pretended that I wasn’t pregnant until I lost my son. I was right here, in this house, and being back here and pregnant is more emotionally complicated than I had expected. I’m not talking about the pregnancy—I’m mostly dismayed about already having a bump. I’m glad about the little Possum, no question; I talk to him and take my vitamins and look forward to meeting him. But it’s all intensely private for me, which makes my mom’s chatty spree feel like “You’ll never guess what happened in Susie’s vagina!!!” Whoa, mom. Not cool.

I’ve got to find a way to think differently about the pregnancy, because I know from experience that a pregnancy isn’t entirely private—even when I was pregnant with Cricket and feeling weirdly invisible here, strangers at grocery stores would smile and hold doors for me. People can tell—if not now, then soon. (I am wearing baggy tops most of the time, but if I wear something that fits, voici la bump.) And they don’t think of the belly as a secret vagina thing (reasonable!), and so won’t pretend that they can’t see it. I will be asked rude questions; my mother will, uninvited, touch my stomach. Unless I flip my lid, that will happen a lot.

Adoption Interview Project

This year I was fortunate to be paired with someone I already know and like: Momo, of Momosapien! Momo and I have had coffee together, and it was a pleasure to be able to ask her some nosy questions. 😉

1. How were you matched with your daughter? What was your adoption process like?

We were matched with our daughter through a local open adoption agency. We were given a heads up about her mom’s situation two days before QL was born and asked if we would want to be considered to parent this child. We said yes – this was the 6th potential match we had been screened for, the most recent of which was two days before we were told about QL’s mom. To break down that timeline: 5 years ago, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, we got a call about a baby girl who had been born and were asked if we would consider parenting in that situation. We said yes, but that birth family chose a different adoptive family. We found that out Monday. On Wednesday of the same week we got a call telling us about QL’s mom and that her baby was due in a week – the Monday after Thanksgiving. We said yes to being considered in that situation. The day after Thanksgiving we got a call that a baby girl had been born to this mom and that the mom wanted to meet us. We drove 5 hours away to meet QL’s mom and baby QL, just 1 day old. By the end of that evening we were planning an adoption agreement with QL’s mom and the next day she was placed in our care. The three of us (Mama Meow, QL and I) stayed one more night in the hospital due to a raging snow storm.
All in all we waited 13 months to adopt. The process was very different for each of us. The wait was hard on both of us. The placement itself was surreal, especially with the backdrop of the snowstorm.

2. How long have you been vegetarian? What inspired you to start?

I never actually identified as vegetarian. Mama Meow did, and I ate vegetarian in her company for a long time while she was vegetarian. I have a partially written short story called Part-time Vegan about my experiences being partnered with someone who was making drastic changes to her diet when I, essentially, was not. Maybe I’ll finish writing it someday. We did raise QL vegetarian for the first 2 or 3 years of her life.

3. Do you ever think about adopting again? What factors affect that decision?

 We do think about adopting again. The only way I would consider adopting again is through the foster care system. We can’t afford to adopt through a private agency again, and I am pretty certain I wouldn’t want to go that route again even if we could. Other factors include the strain that parenting has put on our relationship in the last 5 years, and the financial aspect of caring for and raising another child, beyond the initial cost of adoption. We both agree that in most ways QL would love to have a sibling. I am not certain that will ever happen in our family though. Mama Meow really wants to raise another child. I have my moments of sharing that desire, and many more moments of feeling like our lives are already so full with just QL.

4. What is your relationship with QL’s first mother like at this point? You mention a recent visit: How often do you see one another?

Our relationship with QL’s birth mom is the strangest relationship I’ve ever been in. We share an intense connection and bond due to all loving QL to pieces. Communication between us often feels stilted, awkward and frustrating. My overall sense is that she is not interested in answering questions about herself or her life. She also does not ask us questions about our lives, us as people, our relationship, or about QL. This makes communicating very difficult, which is saying something coming from a therapist whose job is to communicate with people. We currently visit about once per year. Part of me wishes it were more often so that the bond between QL and her mom could grow. But much of me also feels so exhausted and overwhelmed from the visits we’ve had that I am not eager for them to happen more often. I wish we lived closer so visits weren’t such a big event. Dinner out together regularly, meeting at a park or having her over for dinner often would feel much more doable than having to drive 3.5 hours away, stay in a hotel and eat out for an entire weekend to be able to spend time with her. I know that I love and respect her. I know that I care about her and I really want QL to be able to know her. I know that I wish we knew more about her and her life, her feelings about the adoption, etc. She has told us many times how she knows we are taking excellent care of her daughter and she knows she chose the right parents for her daughter. This holds a lot of meaning to me.

5. What’s QL’s understanding of adoption and her family these days?

It is hard for me to gauge where QL’s understanding of her adoption sits. The things I hear her repeat back to us about her story include that she grew in her mom’s body, and then her mom chose us as her parents. She knows that process is called adoption. She knows other friends who are also adopted, and that other people also have birth moms. She knows that Mama Meow and I are her parents. She knows she has a dad, but that we don’t know much about him. Lately she is vocal about this making her sad.

6. You mention that you have a tattoo for your daughter; I have a tattoo for my placed son. Without getting any more specific than you wish to, how did you decide how and where to represent her? How old was she when you got the tattoo?

 Her tattoo has been a multi-step process. Originally I drew a tattoo that was the letter Q with a star in the middle and had it inked on the right side of my chest. (One of my other tattoos is the big dipper – I like stars). I loved having a tattoo with her initial in it, but never liked the way it turned out. What the artist said looked like motion in the tattoo I thought just looked sloppy and crooked. Also, as time went on and we were more committed to using both of QL’s names most of the time, I felt uncomfortable having my tattoo just say Q. So I had it redone and straightened out, added colors and added the L for her middle name, the name her mom gave her when she was born. It needs to be touched up, but I love it. QL loves it too. Last year for her birthday I had a necklace custom made for her with the same design as my tattoo. It wasn’t the hit I hoped it would be. She liked it, but doesn’t ask to wear it. Maybe when she is older. She does talk often about getting tattoos that match mine and Mama Meow’s.

7. Tell us something new that your QL has been doing lately!

She is learning to write letters. She has been able to spell her name for a while now, but the actual writing of it can vary quite a bit. At her school there is a whiteboard where they students all sign in before entering the classroom. Sometimes she writes her name backwards – starting on the right side of the board and putting the letters in reverse order right to left. Other times she makes 2 balanced stacks of letters, 3 in each row, also usually backwards. She does also write it correctly, left to right, on occasion. Next up is reading I hope.

8. Your old blog nickname for your daughter was Little Bear, so I have to ask: Does she have some/all of the Little Bear books?

No, surprisingly she doesn’t have any of these books. I started calling her Little Bear when she was a baby, and up until recently it has been my favorite nickname for her. However, now that she is almost 5 and is really tall, she protests every time I call her Little Bear because she says she is NOT little. So I have to replace Little Bear as the name I call her most often, and I figured I would replace it on the blog. So far I’ve been lazy about going back and editing out all the times I call her QL on the blog. That might happen someday. Maybe I’ll edit what LB stands for…Long Bear? Lovey Bear?

 9. My raised son, Joey, is about to turn one—any tips or memories to share from when QL was that age?

We were doing a lot of sign language with QL at that time, and she was signing back to us more which was a lot of fun. She also didn’t start walking until after her first birthday, so that changed everything. I can’t believe he is turning one already! That feels so fast, and yet I know it isn’t. Happy early birthday to Joey!!

 

If you wish to read some of the other interviews in the project, click this link!