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.
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.
I’m thinking about the blog and what it’s for now, pushed by a couple of comments. I certainly don’t want it to be just me whining, as sulky and self-centered as my grief has largely been; I don’t want it to be a baby book; certainly I haven’t enough adoption news to fill a blog. Heck, I’ve semi-seriously considering making it mostly a food blog, since I do a lot of cooking and keep making new things that turn out well.
I don’t go back and read the early blog, just like I don’t go back and read the emails I sent during the match and then after. I started the blog as a diary, but left it open to viewership because the theoretical possibility that someone might at some point read it made it more likely that I’d keep writing. Just an internal motivation problem. So I mostly feel free to just shoot my mouth off—and, my God, people respond. It is the most peculiar thing. I don’t regret that last post, as I ended up having a pretty good email conversation as a result, but the fact of the matter is that I know less about foster parenting than any foster parent ever and probably approach it from a different angle. Certainly my cousin posted something gracious about what she was accomplishing while the baby girl had a visit with her mother.
At heart, for me, this has got to be a place where I say whatever I want to—and if that results in a pretty unflattering picture of me, well, that is unfortunate and ideally will lead to soul-searching and self-improvement in Susie’s house. Certainly the comment pointing out that I whinge on and on about Ruth and Nora’s parenting struck home; I absolutely do, and I feel entitled to do it where they and those they know will never see it, but wouldn’t it be preferable if I wasn’t preoccupied with those things? Cricket and his mama seem to be a pretty bad personality match, and that’s surely harder for all three of them than it is for me.
There have been other things I couldn’t talk about recently—my dad had a reoccurrence-of-cancer scare that turned out to be nothing, thank God—and feeling like there’s something I can’t say tends to drive me a bit frantic. I want to say that complaining here lets me get it out and then be genuinely concerned and engaged when Ruth talks to me, and I think that’s partially true; again, however, it would be better if I could just not get angry and frustrated in the first place. It’s not as though we have a relationship with Cricket right now—perhaps I should stop worrying about his day-to-day and just focus on being there in case he ever wants us (and sending holiday cards). I wonder this every so often, and certainly Joey means that I focus mostly on the boy who is here and trying to crack his head open on the fireplace, but I can’t quite step back as far as I imagine.
This little identity crisis has been brewing for awhile, and is the main reason why I’ve been posting less. But I suppose now I will probably work on it out loud.
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.
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.
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.
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.