That Holiday

Ruth and Nora call me on the day before Mother’s Day. And—I hate it. I hate “Birthmother’s Day” as understood by the adoption industry, I hate waiting for the call, and I feel awkward and sad when it’s over. So last week I sent Ruth a message asking her not to call, making it clear that if she or Cricket wants to call at any other time I’d be delighted to hear from them, but that I’d rather not talk on Mother’s Day weekend.

Ruth wrote back, said that that was no problem—and that if I feel like talking about why, I should. This doesn’t really happen; so I did.

Next Sunday, I’m pretty sure that at Mass, the priest will ask all the mothers to stand, and I’ll get to stand up with my huge belly and with Joey—I’m looking forward to it, in fact. The church is having a festival that weekend, and it seems very likely that we’ll end up going out to brunch, since my mother is a huge brunch fan and also a huge fan of Mother’s Day. I don’t know that I’d go as far as “huge fan” for myself, but I do like having a day or two to just celebrate being a mother. And while it can’t ever be quite that uncomplicated for me, I’d like to focus on the uncomplicated part for that holiday.

The adoption is sad for us, you know? It’s not sad that Cricket has you, or that you guys are family, but it’s sad for us that he isn’t with us, that the boys aren’t growing up together, and that we miss so much. That’s a grief that I signed up for, and I can carry it, but there are times when I don’t want to process it so actively—playing with Joey, or having Mother’s Day. And honestly, I’ve really come to dislike the idea of Birthmother’s Day as a way of cutting birthmothers off from access to Mother’s Day—not that you or any adoptive mom should have to take time out of her own Mother’s Day to make a call to her child’s biological family, but the segregation started to feel inappropriate to me awhile ago, and I’d rather just skip the Saturday (or go to Fiesta at Our Lady of the Assumption!) and have a Mother’s Day. Before Joey, I didn’t feel like a not-mother—I felt like a mother without a child. And as I say, it’s more complicated than it would be in the case of other women who feel themselves to exist in that category (women whose babies died, for example), because I can assume that my lost boy is doing well, and I’ve never doubted or minimized your parenthood—the nurturing parents. But I felt like a mother, not like a mother*.

No little girl dreams of growing up to place her child for adoption; it’s an important option, but it’s nothing to celebrate, from a birthparent’s point of view. It’s just the furthest thing from the stuff of holidays.

And I thanked her for asking, and sent wishes for her good health, and so on. I haven’t heard back, which is okay—she’s busy, and it’s not the least awkward thing to reply to. But I’m glad that I was able to talk about what’s going on for me, hopefully in a respectful and appropriate way, and I’m glad that she asked.

Mothers’ Days

Just want to get it on the record: Mr. Book thinks the bean is a girl. I don’t have a feeling about it yet—last time it was around twelve weeks that I was pretty sure that I was carrying a boy. We’d be happy with a healthy whichever, but I really want to know which we’re getting. Of course, being as the bean is the size of a raspberry, it’s going to be awhile.

We now have a visit on the books for four weeks from tomorrow, and I badly want to call it off, tell them that we’re not ready to meet until, let me think, perhaps August? There are a couple of problems: they are coming on Birthmother’s Day, which is kind of a weird day for me, since it seems like a mix of “You are not a real mom and should not celebrate on the Sunday” and “Your role is important and deserves a holiday!” I’m (God willing still) going to be pregnant that weekend, and I want to be able to get a card from my husband on real Mother’s Day like a normal pregnant lady—not entertain the adoptive parents on the Quasimother’s Day before. Yes, I know that I can do both, but (hear this in my best childlike whine) I don’t wanna! The other reason that I don’t want the visit is that I’m going to be trying to hide the pregnancy. Oh, I know I have to tell them at some point before the kid arrives, but not during the first trimester. Maybe not during the second. I’ve heard some people talk about how their kids’ birthparents told crazy lies to hide/disguise subsequent pregnancies, or dropped off the map only to reappear with a baby, or refused to tell their raised kids about the child/ren placed for adoption. I understand that these strategies are inappropriate. But I’ll be darned if there isn’t a part of me that wants to not have any more visits this year, just so that I can hide.

Holly Jolly

Well, I got an email from Ruth on Christmas, talking about their day and still not acknowledging that we had invited them to spend the holiday with us. I’m wondering now whether she was offended by the invitation; they want very much to keep Christmas away from Cricket. Both of their extending families celebrate Christmas, so it’s a bit complicated—they did spend some time on Friday with Nora’s mom, but they didn’t stay for major Christmas activities. In some ways I’m sympathetic to Ruth’s goals (and I do believe that this decision is driven by Ruth, as Nora is not herself Jewish, although she attends services with Ruth). If I am lucky enough to parent one day, I won’t want my kid to have electronic toys when s/he’s little. Yes, this is out of step with the culture, but I find them annoying and kind of depressing—I like the toys that require more input from a kid. (And for whatever reason, I don’t find this inconsistent with my love of videogames. Shoot, I love movies, too—but no tv for the baby!) So while I am going to be frustrated sometimes by the effects of her anti-Christmas policy, I have some respect for the decision.

I haven’t responded to her email yet—this is part of a conscious (and possibly lame) policy on my part. I have been treating her like a friend, albeit more carefully; I almost always respond to emails within a day, then wait for her response (usually a week to two weeks, although sometimes only a day or two). Now I’ve decided that I need to build in a little more turnaround time—nothing drastic, just three or four days—in part to help me remember the distance that exists between us. I am trying to think of us, for now, as in more of a business relationship. I know that this is in part a lame attempt to keep from having my feelings hurt again, but I think it might be a better model for me to use than friendship. In business emails, I am polite, friendly, and usually enthusiastic: this is appropriate. I guess I feel like my new assignment is to keep being the Good Birthmother ™ with Ruth and Nora, and be more genuine and complicated in my feelings outside of those interactions. My therapist says that you can only keep up the Good Birthmother ™ act for so long before you have a little breakdown, and I suspect that at least in my case she’s right. So I’ll segregate that part of my life as best I can, for my good and theirs.

The Letters I Don’t Write

Dear Ruth,

When we visit for Cricket’s birthday, I want to bring something. Can he eat birthday cake? No.

Dear Ruth,

I know you’ve got Cricket on a pretty careful diet—is there a birthday exception? Or is one year the limit on wheat, salt, sugar No.

Dear Ruth,

Is there any way I can contribute to a birthday menu that Cricket could share? And are there any updates on what he’s eating? I very much like the idea of being able to bring cupcakes or something, but I don’t know of any recipes that don’t involve wheat, nuts, eggs, salt, sugar, or honey. Is there any way you can think of for me to make something baby-appropriate, or is this an idea that would be best revisited next year? Still no. Too controlling, too desperate.

Dear Ruth,

Listen. I know this is maybe weird, but I really like the idea of being able to provide some kind of birthday treat for Cricket. Of course I have visions of cupcakes with jungle animals on them, but I know that you are being very careful in constructing his diet. I really like the idea of being able to bring something, but I don’t want to violate any boundaries or break any of your rules. Were you planning to let him play with a cupcake at his party anyway, or is this an idea I need to let go of? I suspect the latter. This is one of those weird moments, is all, where I have an impulse that I guess is parental, like when I wanted to buy him a toy for no occasion or when I wanted to pick out an outfit for him. So I guess that means that I shouldn’t consider it seriously or let myself dwell on it. I don’t want to bother you—that is really, really important to me—and I don’t really know what to do with these feelings except sit with them and be sad. I want to do some of the more fun parental things, but I am not a parent.

Maybe I’ll have a kid of my own that I can keep one day. That is the kid for whom I can make a cupcake with an elephant on it, the kid who I can dress up when we have company. And the kid who vomits on me, and throws tantrums at the market, and needs me to wipe his bum for a few years—I don’t think I’m too naïve about what parenting means. But I really feel ready for that now in a way that I couldn’t have imagined a year ago, and I’m almost sorry that I’ve matured this far; it only makes the adoption harder at times like this. Okay. Time to close my email and give this one up as a bad job.

***

And now I’ve found a recipe for dairy-free, wheat-free, sugar-free, salt-free vegan cookies. *sighs*