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.

This One Goes Out

Dear Cricket,

It’s probably long past time that I wrote this. When you were still a tiny baby, I wrote you letters all the time—not to send really, but to tell you even just on a screen you’ll never see how I feel—and then my hard drive died, and they were gone, and I just stopped.

I don’t know you as well as I’d like to, but I know that you are the best kid, just like Joey is the best kid; you’re both the best that ever saw daylight, and my life is the poorer for my distance from you. When you were born, I knew you better than anyone in the world, and we fit perfectly together. Then, when you became part of a different family, I started to lose my sense of who you were. I didn’t know what your days were like, or what you liked, or what your sense of humor was like. Heck, I didn’t know that babies had senses of humor until this year. I missed you so much that I couldn’t quite understand what had happened to me.

Ah, see, I’m crying now, just like I did in those old letters. I’ll tell you a thing about myself that not many people know, and that I’ve been working on for years now: When I’m scared, I get cold. And nothing scares me like you do, kiddo. That’s not your fault! You are warm and awesome and objectively unscary. But when I think about what I did to you, and about having to explain that to you and to Pete, I get very scared. I don’t know how to tell you why I did what I did, because it seems so stupid now, and I want to tell you that I was a fool to send you away and that even now I imagine you here with me, probably snoring, curled up next to your brother while I lie in a strange bed, unable to sleep. And I can’t. You’re in a good place, and your moms are wonderful moms, and I don’t want to scare you. But I can’t make any sense without talking about scary things. It’s less scary to imagine you grown and yelling at me, because at least then I can tell you what happened and know that even if you hate me for it, you will probably understand what I’m talking about, mostly.

I’m also mad at your moms. Again, not your fault! And I’m less mad than I have been sometimes, and I’m working on not being mad at all. But sometimes I want to blame them for the fact that you and I aren’t close. Some of that might be fair—some of it isn’t. But being mad is easier than missing you, and easier than feeling guilty about having a hard time reaching out to you.

You have a brother now; you’ve met him, although I’m not sure of whether you remember that. And I can’t stop talking to your birth dad about what you were like as a baby, and what you might have been like, and how much we lost when we lost you. I don’t think your brother suffers—we dote on him, and he seems amazingly cheerful and well—but I’ve only just realized that you might, because of my worry and my coldness, and I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry. It sounds so crazy to say that the reason I sound cold toward you is because I wish I was closer, but I swear to God that it’s the truth. I’m surprised even right this very moment by how raw the loss of you still is, when I stop to look. You were my perfect baby son, and now you are someone else’s perfect son, and I can’t quite explain why that feels awful. I’m glad that you’re happy and well, though; I never wanted you to pine for me.

I am a pretty strange lady. Hopefully you will one day mostly get the endearing pieces of this (the fact that I get too excited about giving gifts to keep them secret, mostly, or my odd little crooning songs, or my determination to feed the people I love). Hell, maybe it’s too much to hope that we’ll have a one day together. But I do, you know—I so badly want what feels impossible now—you to think of yourself as my son (never only mine, I would never want you to lose your connection to your moms), and to want a relationship with me and your other biological family. I don’t want to replace anyone, and I don’t want you to feel any lack in your life at all . . . so if I get my wish, you may never have any need or desire to see any one of us Books. But that would be worth it if it meant you were happy. In the meantime, I will try to be less of a jerk.

Love,

Grownup Time

Since Joey was born, we have had sex by the Dan Savage definition, but not by the biblical knowingness yardstick—I haven’t done anything that could get me pregnant. Oh, sure, the baby is an excellent reason why not (I am always tired, and it doesn’t bother me the way that it used to, but it certainly has an effect), but he sleeps soundly for longish periods of time. People have done much more with much less, is my impression. So I circle back to the fact that I’ve avoided anything that could get me pregnant.

Our birth control method, post-childbirth, has been more or less nonexistent; I am breastfeeding, and attentive enough to my cervical mucus to be confident that I am not ovulating. We want to raise two kids (and how I am coming to hate the need to carefully phrase that one—I can’t just have like a normal person, I raise), and we want them to be close-ish together—I have an aunt who has three kids, each a couple of years apart, and never had a period until after her youngest was born. That sounds like a reasonable sort of model. Mr. Book has started to wonder what it might be like to have a daughter, my mother is excited about the idea of another grandchild, especially a girl, and I feel weirdly neutral about the idea right now. I do want another child, I know that I’ll love him or her just as much as I do Joey, and I want Joey to have a sibling; I heard a woman say recently that sibling relationships are the longest-lasting in a person’s life, and I had never thought of that, but it seems like a wonderful thing to me. And not to be excessively morbid, but my husband had no siblings around him when his father died, and when I try to imagine what it will be like when that happens to me, I can’t imagine getting through it without my sisters.

And. Joey and I are together almost his every waking hour, and most of the sleeping ones, too—much of the time, we’re alone together. And I love it. And I know that I’ll never have this again. Assuming we’re blessed with another child, that child will be loved and attended to and totally adored by me . . . but there will be Joey with us, needing a different kind of attention than the peaceful staring into each other’s eyes and small, stationary jokes that I’m enjoying with baby Joey. And it will be hard, maybe harder than this time, but also great. But as soon as I get pregnant, Joey and I aren’t alone together. Maybe that’s the wrong way to look at it; I don’t mean to make it sound as though I am a single parent. But Mr. Book is gone twelve hours a day, five days a week—and now that he needs to really study for the LSAT, he’s spending several hours away at the library on his days off. There have definitely been days when I felt overwhelmed, but recently (even through the teething), I’ve mostly just been happy to be with the snerks. He peed on the carpet for the first time; he has mastered peek-a-boo; he wants terribly to chase the cat. And I get to see all of it! I’ll almost certainly be there when he starts to crawl, walk, and say his first word—and I get to pay attention. I’m maybe not ready to lose being alone with him.

Five Ways in which I Annoy Mr. Book

Here’s something lighter-hearted. I’d like a change of mood.

  • If I make something that comes before the main course of dinner—an appetizer, salad, you name it—I will refer to it as an “amuse Book” and then laugh hysterically. Every. Time. This has been going on for years now, and you’ll have to take my word for it that it works just as well (or poorly) with a real name.
  • When he’s watching TV, I will randomly claim to be something mentioned thereon. Examples from the last couple of weeks include: a strong safety, a boat, captain of the Norwegian national hockey team, and Papa John’s favorite pizza.
  • Mr. Book loves scary movies, and they can really get under his skin. Startling him has, therefore, become a real passion of mine. A few months ago, he watched some apparently terrifying movie about an haunted apartment late at night, and then, while he was taking the disk down to the mailbox, I dashed around the apartment turning off all the lights and then hiding. Listening to him come in and then freeze was hilarious, trust me. Of course, I also get good results from just walking up behind him and saying “Boo.”
  • This one may gross out the faint-hearted. Late last year, I got two new toothbrushes—one blue and one green—and asked him to pick one out. He picked the green one, adding “Green is for boys.” That busted mnemonic rattled around in my brain and left me totally unsure of which toothbrush was mine when I was staring into the cup at them: “Green is for . . . girls, right? Guh. G-g-g. And blue . . .” When he found out that I had been using both toothbrushes (I got confused!), he was so grossed out that I realized that I had found a new fun game to play. After all, my sisters and I have shared toothbrushes when circumstances warranted: What’s the big deal? We certainly share germs. So every so often, I either use his or pretend to, which turns out to be just as fun.
  • I sing. More accurately, I caterwaul. I think he secretly kind of likes it now, but pretends to irritation just to keep the game going; I start to wail (“Carrry on, my wayward sooooooooooon!”) and he rolls his eyes. He complains, but he smiles at me.  And these days, Pete gives me a wide-eyed look before breaking into a smile.

Open Adoption Roundtable #24

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 (including the link http://www.productionnotreproduction.com/2011/03/open-adoption-roundtable-24.html so your readers can browse other participating blogs) and link to your post in the comments here. Using a previously published post is perfectly 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 or at the new Facebook page.

I waffled between a lighter writing prompt and a heavier, more personal one for this round. I decided on the less personal topic; we’ll save the deeper one for later this month.

Awhile back, out of curiosity, I set up a search on Twitter for the phrase “open adoption”. If someone mentioned open adoption in a tweet it popped up in my feed reader. The search rarely turned up much. For the most part I saw promotional tweets from adoption professionals or prospective adoptive parents trying to “network,” with occasional chatter from folks involved in open adoptions who were talking about their lives. Then suddenly big bursts of tweets started showing up once a week or so. Tweets that were overwhelmingly–although not totally–negative about open adoption: talk of birth parents needing to leave the adoptive family alone or doing something wrong by maintaining a connection to their children, that sort of thing. Like the greatest hits of open adoption misinformation, delivered on a schedule.

I soon realized those bursts were coming whenever MTV aired a Teen Mom or 16 and Pregnant episode involving adoption. I typically roll my eyes when another clumsy adoption storyline shows up in a scripted show or bristle when reality tv mines the adoption process for stories. But here was a television franchise with massive reach giving lots of viewers their first (heavily edited and manipulated) glimpses of real-life open adoptions. And it didn’t seem to be doing much for the cause.

For better or worse, open adoption is working its way into mainstream entertainment. Which brings us to our writing prompt:

How have you seen open adoption portrayed on television? What did you think? What, if anything, would you like to see?

 

I’m going to write the opposite of this prompt, because I am a contrary goofus.

 

I haven’t really watched any TV aside from the occasional ball game since I was eight years old. I will watch things on DVD, however, especially now that Netflix is around to make my life better. When I was pregnant with Cricket, I bought and watched the first three seasons of The Gilmore Girls. I don’t know what kind of sense you have of my from the blog, but GG is very much not my normal fare; my other TV DVDs are Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Heroes, Firefly, The West Wing, Battlestar Galactica, The Wire, and I have my eye on Deadwood. I don’t watch feel-good TV, and I don’t want stereotypically girly TV. And yet, most of the way through a crisis pregnancy, knowing that I was going to lose my baby, I suddenly decided that it was time to watch The Gilmore Girls after knowing only the premise.

 

Funnily enough, the obvious reason for my interest didn’t occur to me until well after the adoption had taken place. I was watching—and sniffling over—a show about a woman who got inconveniently pregnant and while it was hard, she kept her baby and it was the best thing ever and they loved each other like no one else on earth. I sat alone in a room in my parents’ house, watching my stomach twitch and listening to the show and failing to take the hint my subconscious was giving. After I’d watched all the DVDs I bought (massively on sale, I am lamely compelled to point out), I got the rest of the series via Netflix. I craved this faerie-tale product offering me the opposite of adoption. Heck, adoption never comes up on the show; if I remember correctly, abortion is mentioned briefly, but the big decision is whether to marry the father or not.

 

I still have the DVDs. Mr. Book thinks that I should sell them off since I don’t like the show—I don’t like the show!—but I am weirdly superstitious about getting rid of them. I don’t have many relics from that pregnancy, and I feel somewhat obligated to keep a memento, since it feels as though that pregnancy ended in a death. Of course, there is still a child who was born at the end of it running around a few hours from me . . . but as many times as I try to rephrase that, I can’t get away from the fact that to me, right now, it feels like a death.

Things about Breastfeeding

  • I knew that breastmilk is differently flavored depending on what the lactating lady eats, and that breastfed kids are supposed to be more adventurous eaters for that reason, and that of course the milk must be made of whatever I eat—but have been surprised to find that one day my milk smells kind of like tacos, and other day that it smells like split-pea soup. I am also surprised by how embarrassed I am to smell like taco milk. Oh, well.
  • The last time I left Joey home with his dad for a few hours, I relented and busted out the easy-peasy bottles someone gave us (Advent? Avent? Something), and that went over much better than the Breastflow one—and he still prefers to nurse by a mile, so I don’t have to worry about them.
  • My  mom worked as a lactation consultant for several years while I was in school before going back to school herself, and I was pretty clear on the advantages of breastfeeding long before I needed to be. At the same time, I never had occasion to hear that adoptive breastfeeding was this controversial thing, so when Ruth told me very cautiously that she hoped to breastfeed, I was uncomplicatedly delighted. She didn’t end up going ahead with the protocols, but I remember how surprised and relieved she and Nora seemed when I gave them my blessing.
  • There’s an internet group of parents I belong to, and whenever someone says something like “Now that he’s three months old, he’s gotten all the benefits of breastfeeding and we’re going to switch to formula,” a swarm of well-meaning lactivists try to talk them out of it. There are plenty of good reasons to keep nursing much longer than that, but I’ve never been comfortable telling another woman what she should do with her body unless asked, you know?
  • Sometimes while I’m nursing Joey, he’ll put his feet up to my lips so I can kiss his toes.
  • I can’t imagine stopping nursing. I don’t really understand stopping at three months, unless of course you’re needing to go back to work or otherwise be separated a lot—I feel like the hard part (which for me was mercifully brief) is behind me, and now breastfeeding is infinitely easier than bottle feeding would be. Guess that means I should keep doing it.
  • My mom told me that breastfeeding would feel bad for awhile, and then after awhile it would start to feel good—it felt bad for a week very early on and only for a week, thank heaven, but it doesn’t feel good—it feels like kneading dough, or opening a drawer.
  • Since seeing Joey (and seeing Joey nurse), Cricket has been talking about breastfeeding, Ruth reports. “I drank milk from your tummy,” he says to her. No, she says, you drank milk from Susie’s nipples for one day, and then you drank from a bottle with your mama. “I drank from a cup!” When you were little, you drank from a bottle. “…I drank milk from your tummy!” etc.
  • I looked into donating milk, but for the only milk bank accepting donations around here, I would have to pay for a blood test—so that’s out. Just as well; they probably don’t want taco milk.
  • Based on the noises he makes while nursing, Mr. Book calls the baby “Mr. Snerks.”
  • I’m trying to figure out whether I can nurse in front of my brother-in-law’s parents or whether I should sneak out of the room. Honestly, while my sister says she doesn’t think it will be a problem, I think it would be more polite for me to leave; they are conservative people, and Joey likes to pop off and stare at me. I don’t care whether the public sees my nipple once in awhile, it turns out, but I don’t want to make things weird for people who will be a biggish part of my sister’s life, you know? Still not entirely decided on this one.

Please Be Gentle, I’m Still Delirious

I’m not writing as well or as thoughtfully as Dawn, but I’m writing a bit.

I was raised in a fundamentalist evangelical church. I have never not believed in the Christian God, never failed to celebrate Christmas or Easter, and am presently scheming to raise up little Christian children. I went to vacation bible school in the summers, and still remember when I realized that I was there for the last time: The first night was a pizza party and very little doctrine, and all us kids were handed little boy scoutsy handbooks that would be filled out with biblical answers instead of, e.g., different kinds of knots. I sat down in a corner and filled the thing out from memory—still my head is full of these things, many of them lists—the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchanging in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. Stuff like that. Now many members of my extended family no longer consider me Christian, since I converted to Catholicism at the age of seventeen; I like to think that the experience of conversion gives me a bit of perspective on my privilege, but who knows.

There were a few years when I didn’t consider myself a Christian. I never stopped believing in the central doctrines, but a combination of things drove me away from the church, the chief two being a really ham-handed explanation of predestination by a well-meaning youth pastor and the incredibly misogyny of my parents’ church: the practical end to my attendance came when I walked out during a prayer after the Elder asked God to give the men of the congregation the wisdom to know how to vote (Republican, of course) and the strength to lead their wives to vote correctly. (My parents grounded me for two weeks as a result of the walkout, but I remain convinced that I did the right [somewhat melodramatic] thing.) I was never willing to evangelize, and I declined to become a member of that church even after all my younger siblings had. From the time I was in grade school, my friends were rarely Christians—most were atheists, one was Ba’hai—and I was self-conscious about the difference between us. My atheist friends were mostly of the variety who use terms like “sky wizard”—hey, we were in high school—and I was acutely aware that they thought of my beliefs as faerie tales for idiots. At the same time, my church was full of tales of “This one kid was praying in the lunchroom and he got suspended!” and “A boy who took a biology test answered the question of how life came to be by quoting Genesis and the teacher failed him!” Even as a very young teen I thought it pretty unlikely that you’d fail a test for getting one question wrong (or should that be “wrong”?). At one point in high school, my English teacher made us all give presentations on a topic of our choice, and one girl talked about her faith: my friend Thomas wrote her feedback (required by the instructor), saying “Very nice, but what will you do when science disproves God?” I was fourteen years old, and I still remember it word for word. I think that these experiences gave me a bit of perspective too, I hope—I learned to be careful, to say “I’m thinking of you” instead of “I’m praying for you” unless I can be pretty sure that the latter won’t bother the person I’m talking to. I tend to wish people happy holidays unless they’ve led off with “Merry Christmas!”

I enjoy certain privileges as a Christian: the federal government recognizes some of the holidays I celebrate; when I bought children’s books for my son, I was able to add a few lovely religious ones without looking hard; there are dozens of little ways that belonging to the majority faith smoothes my way. The ugliest part of my Christian privilege is my desire to avoid Cricket’s birthday parties because they are also Hanukkah parties; the unpleasantly outsidery feeling I get from imagining myself there is a rare one, because I am generally surrounded by Christian assumptions rather than Jewish (or Ba’hai, or Muslim) ones. At the same time, as a Catholic, I’m a little off to the side—besides having to explain to my mother every couple of years that no, Catholics do not worship saints, I am able to baffle door-to-door evangelizers by answering “Have you heard the good news/Are you saved?” type questions with “Yes, I’m a Catholic” and then escaping under cover of their uncertainty. Most Protestants seem willing to extend me partial credit.

I’ve been talking to a social worker at Catholic Charities whom I really like, and the CC in my town is committed to open adoption in a way I haven’t seen from any other agency—their placement rates are quite low, and that thrills them—I’ve heard workers there proudly telling stories of PAPs telling expectant mums that the PAPS think the mums can and should parent. This social worker longs to mediate our adoption, and has asked several times whether Ruth and Nora might be willing to meet with her, and I have pointed out that they would be unlikely to want to come to a Catholic organization. She’s Catholic, I’m Catholic, but I have some sense of how being a Jewish lesbian might make me awfully wary at a Catholic Charities office; heck, I have some level of discomfort with the Vineyard et al. myself, and while I can see important differences between the two, I imagine they rather blend together when viewed from farther away.

The fact of the matter is that if Joey decides to pray in the lunchroom at school, he won’t be suspended; he won’t likely face the scrutiny that a classmate of a different faith would if visibly practicing at school. If he wears his Noah’s ark onesie, it won’t be a statement in the same way that Cricket’s onesies with Hebrew letters on them were. To be Christian, unless you exist on Christianity’s fringes, is to have a sort of warm invisibility most of the time—there is no “Ooo, you’re Jewish?” equivalent for us, I don’t think—it would be like “Ooo, you’re right-handed?” Of course you’re right-handed.

28 and Spectating

Okay, I finally broke down and watched some 16 and Pregnant. I can’t nurse handsfree, so in a classy twist, I spent some time breastfeeding Joey and watching trainwreck television. I’d seen too much online discussion of it, finally, to resist. And then I, uh, continued on to Teen Mom.

I actually avoided the adoption episodes at first; I had heard some grim things about an adoptee being pressured to place in a grotesque “pay it forward” sort of plan by her parents, and needed to work my way up to that. In fact, I initially found the show perversely reassuring—I’m not such a bad mom by comparison! I feel a lot of guilt, you see, about having Joey sometimes nap in the swing instead of in my arms so that I can get some work done, and agonized for awhile over whether to get a Breastflow bottle so that Mr. Book could occasionally feed him if I was deeply and desperately asleep or out of the house for a couple of hours . . . but that guilt has gotten a lot more manageable after watching young parents going out and leaving the baby behind every night, or propping up bottles in their babies’ mouths, or having screaming fights in front of the infants. Heck, I’m doing fine! That is the most ignoble and least interesting feeling that I could have, probably, but that was my starting point.

It was fascinating to watch most of the moms briefly attempt and then abandon breastfeeding. Since breastfeeding’s downsides are all frontloaded and bottlefeeding’s downsides are more consistent over the long term, it’s easy to see why they tried (it’s free!) and then quickly gave up (it hurts!). Sure, it stops hurting after awhile, but the young mothers still would have had to take care of all the feeding if they continued to breastfeed, and if I recall correctly, none of them had lives that allowed for that (of course they could have mixed breast and bottle, but that’s yet another layer of complication). I’m happy as a clam about nursing my son, but the fact that he refuses to take breastmilk in any other way could present problems in the future—right now, the fact that he gets the most tragic betrayed look on his face if you offer him a bottle or even milk in a tiny spoon is mostly just cute, but if I was trying to finish high school, it would be incredibly hard.

But I really should talk about adoption, right? I’m dragging my feet because the show starts out exploitative, but the adoption stuff takes it in an even creepier direction: If you’re getting paid to be on television while you’re placing your baby for adoption, does that wander into paid placement territory? Does the fact that you have a nationwide audience put pressure on an expectant mother to go through with the placement? I can’t see how it wouldn’t—I have no problem with prebirth matching, but of course the fact that Ruth and Nora were waiting hopefully was a factor pushing me to relinquish. I’ve seen two adoptions in the show so far—Catelynn and Tyler’s and Lori’s—and while the adoption professionals and adoptive parents whom Catelynn and Tyler dealt with got under my skin, Lori’s situation was just heartbreaking. It also bothered me that for appearing on the show, she would receive enough money to move out and support her child, at least for awhile . . . but perhaps she didn’t get a check in time to do so?

I shouldn’t assume that everyone reading has watched this ghastly, exploitative show. Lori is a teen adoptee who wanted very much to keep her baby—at first, the child’s father did as well, but Lori’s adoptive father talked the birth father into adoption. Lori was clear throughout the episode that she didn’t want to place, but in the end told her mother that “You win,” and she relinquished her child. It was gruesome; Lori’s mother refused to let her daughter’s friends throw her a baby shower, and she made it clear that Lori would not be bringing the baby home. It was like something out of the baby scoop era—I know that some young women are still told not to darken their parents’ doorstep again after getting pregnant, but even knowing that, it’s hard to believe. Lori talked sadly about how the baby was her only blood family—I believe she also said her only “real” family, which makes me wonder about how her family thinks about adoption—and then she lost her son.

Catelynn’s situation seems a bit more nuanced to me, in that I think placing may very well have been the right choice for her—but oh, how I wish she’d had a different agency and different adoptive parents! When she mentioned that she was hurt that the aparents wouldn’t tell her her daughter’s full name, it was helpfully explained to her that she needed to understand how hard all this is for the adoptive family. I do not at all want to minimize the struggles of aparents, but I think that a successful adoption involves a leap of faith by all adults involved: the birth parents give up their child and the adoptive parents give their phone number and last name. If Ruth and Nora had been unwilling to tell me their full names before we were officially matched, or the city they lived in, I would have looked elsewhere—but I was a decade older than Catelynn, and able to feel slightly more entitled. Both Lori and Catelynn & Tyler ended up putting names that the adoptive parents picked on the OBC, which I hate. It’s another one of the few areas where I dug in my heels way back when: I told Ruth and Nora that I was going to name him, that I knew they would probably change the name, but I was going to name my son. They suggested that it might be hard for him if they had “taken away” his birth name, and said that they hoped we could all agree on something. I said (much more politely) that I guess that might happen if they changed his name from the one I gave him, but I would certainly understand if they did so. They dropped it, and the lad has a different name than the one he was born with. And that’s okay. Maybe Lori and Catelynn & Tyler loved the names they put onto their kids’ birth certificates, but I’m sure that they aren’t the names they would have given the children if they were thinking of those babies as their own. And that strikes me as sad.

I feel as though I should muster some closing thoughts on the show, but the things that spring to mind are mostly depressing. Watching some of the teenagers bloom into loving and capable moms was strangely intimate—I wish that all these teens could have had planned pregnancies later, of course, as there’s no way that having a baby in high school doesn’t significantly derail your life—but while some of the minor parents were predictably awful at it, others displayed real tenderness and grace, and seeing that felt like a gift that probably shouldn’t be given to a television. I’ll probably keep watching episodes online. I guess I’ll settle for a closing question, something that’s been bothering me since I started watching: Does the mother of the twin girls (I cannot recall her name at the moment) not buckle her girls’ carseats in? It looks as though she just places them on the seat, and they certainly seem to be sliding around back there during the episode . . . it isn’t profound, but it was driving me a bit crazy!

Military-Industrial Christmas

I love the movie White Christmas

In fact, I’m going to pause here and quickly, unsolicited, give you my top five Christmas movies of all time:

  1. Lady in the Lake
  2. Christmas in Connecticut
  3. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  4. White Christmas
  5. The Bishop’s Wife

—but there are things about it that drive me crazy. Me being myself, that means that I drive whoever I’m watching the movie with a little bit crazy, too. 😉 For those of you who haven’t seen it, there are two main plots: one involves getting Bing Crosby married off, and the other involves helping a retired general. I have no beef with plot number one, but the second one gets under my skin a bit. Bing sings about how sad it is that there are so many unemployed generals, and it’s a bit uncomfortable if you consider that these retired generals are out of work because the country is at peace. Yes, sometimes when we’re not at war we need fewer generals on active duty—that doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. The general in question is clearly old enough to be respectably retired, and he is getting a pension: What’s the problem?

Well, the problem is that he has sunk his savings and pension both into the purchase of a hotel. Rich people’s problems much? The fact that he had enough money to buy a hotel so that he could spend his retirement owning it makes him less than pitiable in my worldview, although of course it is too bad that it’s been a slow season for tourism in the film. But for heaven’s sake! I don’t know why this bothers me more than watching funny-looking Bing Crosby woo and win a lady young enough to be his daughter, but it does. Perhaps the fact that the solution to the general’s self-esteem problem is to have all of the men who used to be under his command leave their families on Christmas Eve so that they can come and tell him that they love him? Every time we watch the movie, I tell the Mister that if he left on Christmas Eve for a reason like that (I think it goes more like “if you pulled a stunt like that”) that I’d be visiting my parents when he got back, and that I’d take a lot of luggage. Seriously, though, how is that the happy ending? I don’t wish General Waverly ill (and of course he is fictional, but it’s not as though that’s ever stopped me holding a grudge), but the seriousness with which his concerns are treated seems both silly and kind of insulting to those with real troubles.

There was one other thing I wanted to say. . . . Oh yeah. Happy Holidays to all of you! and I hope you get to spend time with your families, be they birth, adoptive, or families of choice. God bless you and keep you.