Re:

I stayed up all night and wrote (and sent) a long email to Ruth. After getting a couple of emails from her that really didn’t sit right, I had just sent a “That date works, anyway bye” kind of email (uh, slightly more tactful than that one), and then announced that I was never writing back ever, and that she’s not invited to my birthday party. The problem was, in part, that the only response I had to her emails was pretty rude, and I can’t imagine it being helpful to actually send that kind of response. But she had raised an issue that it seems important to address at least at some point—she thought that we might be stressed about how our relationship is going to change. So I decided to write an email that was about what’s going on and also wasn’t really a response to hers. When I emailed her about the pregnancy, I was careful to sound extremely positive about it; I was trying to give her cues on how to react, which she didn’t really go for. So this time, I didn’t worry about sounding positive, and I don’t think that I did. I’m going to put some of the highlights up on this site because I’m looking for feedback: probably should have done that before I sent it, but that’s just not how I roll.

“I think that our situation is definitely going to change, and I wonder what that will look like. The pregnancy is bringing up again some of the grief I have over Cricket, and that’s hard and weird, as much as I’m looking forward to the baby. I’m not going to take that out on you, and I have no intention of closing the adoption, but it’s eating up a fair amount of my emotional energy right now. I guess I feel like part of not taking it out on you will involve not talking as much while I’m pregnant, if only because I’m so preoccupied by the stuff that isn’t your problem. And of course things will get a little more complicated logistically once we’re four parents of little kids trying to set up a meeting, but I’m sure we’ll figure it out.”

I also asked what her ideal adoption would look like, emphasizing that I’m not trying to change our agreement or hint that major changes need to be made, but that I asked my husband last week and found out that he and I have pretty different answers, and neither of us has the same answer that we did when I was pregnant with Cricket. Funnily enough, the biggest difference was something I would not have expected: when I asked how many visits he would want, ideally, he said “They should visit us once a month.” When he asked me, I admitted that I was thinking more like once per season—and I prefer visiting them up north to having them come here.

Now that I’ve sent it, I feel pretty good. I don’t think I’ll hear back this month, as they are pretty busy, but before I felt like I would have to write the next email, and now it’s not my problem anymore. That’s a less than gracious sentiment, huh?

A Request

So we’ve hit twelve weeks, everything seems fine, and I’m going to officially ask for whatever hand-me-downs people feel like handing down. I really don’t want it to feel to anyone like I’m shaking people down; this isn’t a post I planned on writing when I peed on that stick, but enough people have asked that I thought I’d talk about things we would appreciate and how I imagine that would work. Please do not feel obligated to send baby things to an internet stranger! That said, I have felt the desire to give things to people I only knew through their blogs before—if you feel something like this, than boy have I got a post for you.

We are not planning to cloth diaper, so those supplies handed down would be wasted on me. I feel a bit guilty about it, but when it comes down to it, we don’t have any laundry facilities in the building and I think it would be kind of nightmarish.

We’re trying to go pacifier free, although this may sound naïve; heck, I don’t even know if those get handed down. But just in case.

I don’t really care about properly gendered baby clothes. As I’ve mentioned before, I already have blue stuff and pink stuff in the hope chest—handed down clothes of any color are welcome. Oh, and I don’t have any little coats or sweaters or anything, and I am going to have an end-of-November kidlet, and those might be good. Do they need sweaters? Or do you just roll them up in blankets like adorable burritos? The kid will probably be big, as Cricket was 9 pounds, 12 ounces.

I’ll go ahead and mention a couple of big things that I really don’t expect to get this way—a changing table and a glider. I felt guilty about putting a glider on the registry until I realized that we really don’t have any chairs (four dining room table chairs that are really not designed for long-term or sleepy sitting), and it would be a great benefit.

I don’t know what kind of toys babies actually need, but if there are things you think a baby should have and want to send to an internet baby, bring it on!

I’ve knitted a couple of hooded baby towels and some washcloths, but honestly don’t know how many of those (or blankets, or burp cloths, or bibs) are actually enough.

We are planning to do babywearing, and slings of all varieties look exciting and useful from here. If it matters, I am a tallish and busty (and hippy, sigh) woman, and my husband is thin and super tall.

I don’t think these things get handed down, but we’ve registered for stuff like baby shampoo, baby motrin, and disposable breast pads. If they do get handed down, then yoo hoo!

I can’t think of anything else. We don’t have a nursery theme. If you want to send something and don’t have my address, I will probably give it to you—I started handing out my address on the internet as a very young nerd and haven’t been burned by it yet, so either my judgment is pretty good or people are just mostly awesome. And I can’t say this enough: This is not a shakedown. If you want to send best wishes, I can use as many of those as I can get. 😉 If you do send something, I’ll thank you on the blog (and privately, of course) unless you ask me not to. If you are localish and want to hand me something in person, I will probably bring you food. Oh, yes—thank you. For reading, for sending something, for wishing you could, for wishing us well, for just being cool dudes.

Can’t Lose What You Haven’t Got

I realized the other day while looking longingly at tiny cotton dresses on the internet that maybe some of Ruth and Nora’s concerns are justified; I am thinking less about Cricket and more about the kid I’m growing. Oh, I still think about him every day, but it does feel as though my focus has shifted.

There are a couple of reasons for this that I can see—one, of course, is that the pregnancy is new and my dreams about this maybe daughter are new, and I’m pretty hormonally wired to be obsessed with the possibly her right now. I’ve started dreaming about a baby girl with a head full of black hair almost every night (and I have no idea where that is coming from. Any child of mine is likely to be born bald as an egg, and with a couple of charming skid marks to boot), and I’m eating with her in mind (…mostly. The strawberry ice cream in the freezer is just for me), and I’m starting to set up a nursery, for heaven’s sake. This kid-to-be is with me all the time, and I’m making plans for this kid, and my thoughts are with this one.

The other reason that comes to mind is that our open adoption just isn’t that close; I’ve seen Cricket six times since the adoption, which is less than every two months, and it’s not as though he and I are exchanging emails or having heart-to-heart chats on the phone. I know that this is more contact than a lot of open adoptions entail, and I’m not complaining—we couldn’t afford to drive up there every month even if they wanted us to come. But the result is that I feel pretty distant from Cricket, and I don’t really know what he’s like, and our relationship is very weak. He doesn’t know who I am, and my ideas about who he is are pretty unformed. And we’ve got time to work on that, years and years—but right now I get to get close to another child, and I can’t be close to him. Dawn has talked about how important it’s been for her daughter and her daughter’s birth mom that they all live in the same town, and I’m starting to get that: I am terribly jealous of Pennie’s relationship with Madison. At the same time, even if we lived in the Emerald City, I don’t think Ruth and Nora would want that kind of adoption.

Ruth has told me in the past that it would be best if I could wait a long time to parent so that nothing is taken away from Cricket, and so that he doesn’t feel like his adoption is inexplicable. She was talking about a lot longer than not quite two years. And I can see that right now, some of my mental energy is being diverted from her son. But I think that would matter a lot more if we had a close relationship—Cricket has no idea that I’m thinking more about the baby-to-be, because he doesn’t think about me, because he has no idea who I am, because I’ve seen him once this year. He isn’t losing anything, because he never had it.

Too…Many…Pee…Puns!

Well, now I am really, officially pregnant. I needed a clinical test to submit to the state as part of getting insurance, so I went to a place a friend had recommended to me to get tested. It was weirdly suspenseful; for the last couple of days, I’ve been entertaining the possibility that the test would be negative, and that I’m just sick or having a hysterical pregnancy or something. But no. And after I got the positive confirmed, I just wanted to cry. Isn’t that strange? I had spent the bus ride out thinking about the visit I made to a crisis pregnancy center with my mom in Illinois back in the day.

It was a similar situation; when you apply for state insurance, instead of mailing them a still-dripping home test, you have to get a doctor or someone else to test you, and since most people applying for state insurance can’t pay out of pocket for a doctor’s visit, many of us end up at places like Planned Parenthood or slightly icky crisis pregnancy centers. My mother made an appointment for me in Illinois, since I was wanting very much to just wait and get medical care once we’d moved to California—there are valid reasons why this was a dumb plan, but I’m often extra stubborn when I’m kind of scared. We showed up at the young women’s health center, I peed in a cup, and then we waited and filled out forms. The nurse called us into a back room and handed me a picture of the food pyramid (funnily enough, I got an updated version of the same handout today), then started talking about when I could come back for a follow-up appointment, and then I blurted out “So—am I pregnant?”

The nurse froze for a second and said, “I’m sorry, I thought you knew . . . yes.” And I don’t really remember the rest of the day after that. I had taken a home test and gotten a positive, but that didn’t seem official in the same way that a nurse telling you the same thing does. I remember getting there while they were closed for lunch and sitting on their steps with my mom, looking at the parking lot; I remember sitting in the waiting room, especially because it was the first time I’d ever seen that special waiting room programming which is half fake/lame health content and half ads; and I can’t even remember what the nurse looked like.

Once nice difference is that this place is focused on creating “capable, confident mothers,” and the staff seemed warm and helpful. I may be going back to learn to sew. (I knit and crochet, but can barely sew. Free lessons would be good.) It looks like more like a home than a plasma donation center. They encouraged me to come back for an event on Saturday, and I just might.

Win Some, Lose Some

We have a crib! I’d like to publicly thank reader Joy, who gave us an infant car seat, too—we also got to meet her and her charming kids, who are absolutely delightful. In a week or two, I probably will put up a list asking those who are willing for help, talking about what we want or need . . . but I’m glad that we went and picked up the crib, as driving it home really made us feel like Seriously, For-Real Expectant Parents. Aztec is really angry about the crib, and keeps trying to pointedly shred the mattress with his claws. Of course, he’s front declawed (we got him that way! I know that it’s a barbaric practice and all, and I wouldn’t choose to have it done to a cat, but I have to admit that it’s awfully handy in our second-hand kitty), so this is both funny and a little pathetic. I look at him, his ears set back, glaring at me as he tries frantically to rip up the mattress with claws that aren’t there and think, Kid, you are going to be so mad once there is a baby.

I’ve been trying to figure out what to do about prenatal—and I guess natal—care. Yeah, I’m going to be eleven weeks in a couple of days, and I haven’t worked that out yet. Last time I didn’t see anyone until I was almost into my second trimester, and my impression is that there isn’t much useful they can do before then; I already take vitamins, I know that I don’t have any diseases, and my husband and I both have A+ blood, so there’s no worry about that. If I was having an ectopic pregnancy, I would already be dead. But I know that I need to get this worked out, especially after a conversation with the Mister this weekend.

Here’s the problem: I don’t have state insurance yet, although I’ve turned in an application. When I was in California, I went to a midwife and had a birthing center birth. The midwives accepted state insurance, but there was better than two thousand dollars in medical fees that was not covered—Ruth and Nora paid that. My parents told me that if I kept the baby, they would pay that money back, and believe me, I keep thinking of that offer now; there’s no way we could pay that kind of money, so I probably won’t be able to have natural childbirth. This breaks my heart. I’ve been trying to figure out a solution. I talked to Mr. Book about having the child alone at home, and he f.r.e.a.k.e.d. out. I know that it’s kind of a stupid idea, but the idea of having an IV and having to stay there for more than a couple of hours after the birth and not being able to eat while I labor and and and—it just distresses me. I also have a problem with hospitals, which I understand isn’t at all unique, but it has led to panic attacks in the past, and I don’t want to add that weird personal trauma to childbirth.

Well, I think I may have found a clinic staffed by nurse-midwives and run by a hospital that could work; I should probably call them and schedule a consultation. Their website suggests that they’d be open to the kind of birth I want to have. So I’m hopeful—but still worried.

The Ballgame

Mr. Book and I are both sports fans: I’m most into baseball, with moderate interest in hockey, basketball, and college football; he’s most into hockey and baseball, with moderate interest in college football and a passing interest in European soccer leagues. I’m from California, so I root for the Angels and the Ducks; he’s from Toronto, so he roots for the Jays and the Leafs. We’re able to keep it friendly at least in part because both of his teams are terrible—not to go into excruciating detail, but the Jays are perpetually fighting for last place in their division and the Leafs have been really brutally mismanaged for most of the last fifty years. When I was growing up, the Angels were always terrible, so I know what that feeling is like, and it’s left me sort of a wary fan—I’m always waiting for the team to blow the game for no real reason—but now they’re pretty good, and have been for a few years, and it’s a nice feeling.

Last year, I decided that we needed to hash out our sports strategy as it relates to futurekid. I made what I thought was a reasonable proposal: “I get the Angels, and you get the Leafs. The Jays will never have a prayer and you know it.” This is just fact, folks—even if the Jays weren’t perpetually a lousy team, they’re in a really tough division. And my husband knows it. He dug in his heels, though, and scowled when I added these

to the hope chest. A month or so later, however, Mr. Book came to me and conceded; futurekid/s can be Angels fans. He won’t fight it. I have a theory about how this is because he realized that his Jays will never have a prayer and that it would be tantamount to child abuse, but he finds this version of events really frustrating for some reason. 😉

Meant to reply to Mia’s comment yesterday but didn’t get around to it—I don’t at all understand a gender preference that doesn’t end by the time you see the baby. Before I got pregnant with Cricket, I only ever wanted a little girl—then I got pregnant, and after spending many months with the boy and then meeting him, now I long for a boy—so I take it for granted that once I see the kidlet, I’ll just be delighted. Guess I should be grateful, if not everyone’s preferences are so malleable.

Thanks, Legolas

Sorry for the blackout yesterday, folks; I was in bed with a migraine, feeling sorry for myself. I have a pretty solid migraine routine, but it ordinarily involves Excedrin in a pivotal role. Thanks again to everyone who has offered hand-me-downs—it makes me, geekily, think of The Lord of the Rings—“You have my bow!” “And my . . . changing table!” With one exception, whom I’ve already emailed, I think we’re going to wait until twelve weeks before asking for stuff. You know, just in case. But I would like to say that I have no problem dressing a son in “pretty pretty princess” rompers or a daughter in “lock up your daughters!” t-shirts. At least in the privacy of the Casa Book—or for the purposes of horrifying my mother. 😛 Seriously, though, we have both pink and blue clothes in the hope chest, and any futurekid will get to wear them all.

I read an argument on a forum I like about whether it is permissible to be disappointed when you find out the sex; I was really surprised to hear some women I think of as friendly or cool talking about how since some women can’t conceive, you are some kind of monster if you feel let down by the sex of your baby-to-be. I don’t know. I can admit in the privacy of the blog that I would prefer to have a son, but I know that I’d be overjoyed to have a daughter—I have a preference, but my overwhelming preference is just for a healthy child. In the end, I’d like to have either one of each or two sons, but if I end up raising only daughters, I’ll love the crap out of them. I don’t think wanting one or the other makes you a bad person. My sister Kate wants me to have a girl very much, but that’s in part since a baby girl would be given her middle name, and she and her husband will be godparents to our first futurekid. Kate and her husband are now planning to visit us on their Thanksgiving break (they’re both in school—she’s in grad school and he’s getting his bachelor’s after finishing his enlistment with the Marines), and she’s hoping that I will either have the baby while they’re there or right before they arrive. It’s certainly possible. I’m due (according to my mother’s iPhone) the day before Thanksgiving, and Cricket was three days early—and apparently second children come earlier? This is what I’ve heard, anyway. My mom went more than a week late with all four of us, so I don’t know that her experiences are a useful guide. (She also never got morning sickness!) Of course, with Cricket I had a “come out, come out!” program that I started at week 37—it involved evening primrose oil and black cohosh tinctures—but I’ll probably start that up again this time, too. After all, even a bit early, the kid was almost ten pounds—I can’t afford to go past my due date!

I am finally letting myself get really excited about the bean. On Sunday I went through the hope chest and pulled out things that we’ll want as soon as a kidlet is born, and I was really getting into—I can’t wait to smell our kid.

Open Adoption Roundtable #15

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 part of the Open Adoption Bloggers list 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–feel free to adapt or expand on them.

The prompt for this round comes from the very dear mama2roo of Letters to a Birthmother:

Does money have an impact on your open adoption? If so, how? (Could be issues pre- or post-placement, expectations, assumptions, costs of visit activities, travel, gifts–you name it.)

Yes. Ruth had proposed a meet-up on May 8, and while I had a few reasons for wanting to reschedule, among them is the fact that we simply can’t afford to travel right now—for the last week and a half, we’ve had $20 to spend on groceries or any emergencies. Luckily, we avoided having an emergency, and I’m a dab hand at beans and rice.

When we drive to the Emerald City to see them, we use about a tank and a half of gas—call it $50—in addition to any other money that gets spent (Mr. Book usually wants to get himself breakfast at McD’s on the road, recently we’ve been going to a coffeehouse for a break in the middle of the vist, etc.). When they come to see us, we take them out for one meal and I cook one meal, often something more elaborate/expensive than I would have made for just the two of us. There’s no way we could manage either one of those today, and although things will be all better by June (I hope I hope), I don’t know whether we’d be able to feed company in early May. I can’t talk to Ruth about this stuff; I don’t want her to feel as though we’re begging for help, which we’re not, and I also find it a bit embarrassing. (We haven’t been irresponsible; I just haven’t been able to find work.)

Last year, Ruth offered to give us gas cards for visits, if we needed, and I don’t think I’d ever be able to accept them. It’s funny—I’m one of those birthmoms who did get some financial assistance from the PAPs while I was pregnant, which I know is controversial—they paid for medical expenses that weren’t covered by MediCal and bought me some maternity clothes. It seemed perfectly reasonable to me; these were expenses I wouldn’t have if I weren’t pregnant, and things they would probably have to pay for themselves if they were expecting a biokid. But I think that experience has made me extra averse to ever getting any financial assistance from them of any kind now that Cricket is born and placed. They weren’t “buying a baby,” but of course that money cemented in my head that the unborn child was their kid and that there was no way I could keep him. The secret added complication is of course that I am pregnant right now; if I take money from them while pregnant, gosh, hang on a second, I know how this one goes and no thank you I mean thank you but no thank you.

I don’t mean to imply that Ruth and Nora ever did or ever would think that giving me a maternity dress or filling our car with gas buys them anything, and in fact I think they would be horrified by the suggestion.

In a way, I think that this is all related to my crazy hope chest. Needing help to pay my medical bills and not being able to buy baby things last time ‘round seemed like proof that I couldn’t be a mother. But now I have blankets, I have burp clothes, I have tiny outfits. There are other things that we need (and don’t for a minute think that it doesn’t fReAk me oUt to make a list of the things we should hopefully acquire in the next seven months), but if we bought a pack of diapers, we’d be able to fake it for at least a couple of weeks. It’s going to be hard, parenting with not a lot of money, but I’m finally at a point where I believe that we can be good parents and impoverished parents at the same time. I’ve set up a couple of registries and will hope that my parents get enthusiastic about shopping for junior, but we’ll scrape by either way. I would like to get a dresser that we can also use as a changing table, but we can always put baby clothes in a cardboard box and change diapers on the floor. It would be nice to have a crib, but that’s really unlikely, so we’ll do without.

Money really does affect our open adoption—right down to being a primary cause of its existence.

Ralph

I’ve had a semi-adversarial relationship with my body for as long as I can remember—this occasionally leads me to do stupid things, like refusing to drink water when I’m dehydrated because I don’t feel like it and refuse to be a slave to the meat bag. The body and me, we aren’t friends. I feel like a body can be either your strength or your vulnerability, and this one has always felt like a weakness. It went through puberty, contrary to my explicit wishes; it has never looked the way I’d like; it got pregnant with Cricket and changed my life in a way I wouldn’t have chosen.

Reading Sarah’s blog brought this up for me again; abortion seems to highlight the vulnerability of a woman’s body. (I don’t, by the way, want to imply that men’s bodies are strong and women’s bodies are liabilities. My mother has always liked her body and liked what it can do—she also, in marked contrast to me, never doubted that each of her pregnancies would go well and end in a healthy baby—and they all did. I’m talking about different times in women’s lives and different female experiences, not a gendered binary.) My knowledge of the experience of an abortion is second-hand, but my sister Tammy has talked to me about what it was like have her abortions. In each case, she felt that her body had let her down in a spectacular and faintly shameful way. The procedure itself was for her painful, and the days following were nightmarish. It felt like something terrible was happening to her body that she couldn’t see or control (and these were safe, legal abortions—I have seen pictures of the alternatives, and they are unspeakable. Women die).

Pregnancy only exacerbates this sense that the meat is a handicap; my body really, really isn’t primarily interested in my welfare anymore. Its #1 purpose appears to be nourishing the bean. That’s appropriate, but it’s slightly disturbing that I don’t get a vote—all I can do is either starve my body or not, and that’s not a real choice. I don’t want the bean to die. But I hate feeling like an animal. When I was in labor with Cricket, the worst part (and it went on for days, so I have quite a bit to choose from) was what must have been transition; I was having deep, scary pains that I couldn’t do anything about, I was exhausted and in a lot of pain, and my body was going about its business with no regard for my near-panic. And then I threw up.

Last night, Mr. Book said “Are you genuinely unhappy about being pregnant? Because if you are, there are things we can do.” And I had to explain that that’s not it—I have no faith that my body can get this done correctly (despite previous evidence) and hate the part of pregnancy that is something happening to me rather than me doing something. I’ve started throwing up, which only adds to that feeling. I told him that I want very much to hold and smell our child, and that I look forward to parenting, but that this broody part is weirdly hard for me. He’s able to just be happy about the bean, and I can’t have that pure a feeling about it yet.

WE aren’t going to do anything

I think I maybe ought to write a bit more about why I don’t want to tell Ruth and Nora about the pregnancy, and why I don’t think their primary reaction will be to be happy for us.

I read adoption forums that I often find upsetting. My husband wishes I wouldn’t, but I want to know what adoptive parents are thinking, what they say to each other, what they say when they talk about the birthparents of their kids. I have seen many women (it’s almost overwhelmingly a female population) start threads that go something like this:

Subject: Another One!!!

Well, DD’s BGM gave us a call yesterday: BM is pregnant AGAIN! Frankly, I don’t know whether we can afford to adopt right now, but of course we’d love to have a sibling for DD—we just thought we’d be waiting awhile longer! 😛 I’m not sure how to bring up the fact that we’d love to adopt this next child as well. I was thinking that maybe we’d just send flowers and wait to hear from BM herself? Anyway, let me know what you ladies think!

or this:

Subject: How Do I Handle This?!!

I cannot believe it, but DS’s BM has gotten herself pregnant (again!!)! How am I going to explain this to DS? I just can’t believe that she’d do something like this. How is he going to feel knowing that she gave him away and is keeping his little brother or sister? I can’t believe she’d be so selfish, of course this probably wasn’t planned. LOL! Any advice on how to tell my son what his BM has done?

Obviously not all adoptive parents are like this, or feel this way—even in that community, there will sometimes be a response along the lines of “Um, do you have any reason to think she’d want to relinquish this child? Maybe you shouldn’t break out the crib just yet.”  But even among the moderate, friendly adoptive parents (on these forums), there is a more subtle response that bothers me: “What are we going to do about this?” Sometimes they’re concerned that their kid’s birthmother won’t be able to care for a child, sometimes they’re more focused on how it will impact their adopted kids—but there’s this idea that the pregnant is a problem, and that it is (at least in part) the adoptive parents’ problem.

I wonder how much of this has to do with the particulars of their adoptive relationships; for example, I know that some of these adoptive parents have continued to provide financial support to their kids’ birthmothers, which might make them feel more invested in a pregnancy. But I think even in cases where no money ever changes hands, many adoptive parents feel that they have a problem-solving role in this situation, and that kind of freaks me out.

It’s been quite awhile since it last came up that Mr. Book and I have planned all along—even before I gave birth to Cricket—to have and raise a kid within a few years. Ruth and Nora knew that before they adopted their son. But whenever it has come up (infrequently), they’ve been very uncomfortable with the idea, and sometimes suggest that waiting much longer might be a good idea. I have never outright said “We will never place another child, even if we have eighteen we’ll figure something out, don’t wait to adopt a biological sibling ‘cause it ain’t gonna happen,” but I hope that they know. Once they know that I am pregnant and not placing the bean with them, I think that they’ll mainly be worried about the impact of a birth sibling on Cricket—and that’s not unreasonable. But I know that Ruth at least sees in mainly in negative terms. That is why I don’t want them to know. I’m just kicking the problem down the road a ways, but the prospect of having to process with her the ways in which I am hurting Cricket is pretty off-putting.