Jessica asks:

Does Ruth still remind you of Ruth from the bible?

Haven’t thought about that in awhile! Honestly . . . no. I want to mumble something about steadfastness, which would be accurate if incomplete, but since I started the blog, Ruth has more or less cut her mother out of her life, which is pretty much the antithesis of the biblical Ruth.

Why did you pick the name Nora?

After the woman in A Doll’s House; my impression is that Nora is very much not what her parents expected, and that they wanted their only daughter to be a princess—a doll—rather than a butch lesbian. Nora has managed to become herself and maintain good relationships with her parents and brother, which I greatly admire.

Also, you said at one point that you were only planning to raise one child.  Do you still feel that way?

Well, I’ve gone back and forth for a long time. I most of the time have wanted to raise two children, and Mr. Book wanted to raise only one before Joey. Then we had Joey, and I wanted to raise only him, and Mr. Book was enthusiastic about parenting again—and both for the same reason—because we so enjoy Joey. He is so, so great that (as my husband keeps saying) how could we stop at one? Adding another child is rolling the dice again, which makes me a bit nervous. We’re living with my parents now, and they’re just crazy about Joey: What if our possum is more introverted and less warm, and they care for him less? But even when I was most wanting to stop at Joey, I thought about how much I love my sisters and want a similar experience for Joey, and about wanting him not to face it alone when we die. See how sentimental I am? But Mr. Book and I both plan to have one more child. Maybe in May. 😉

As the only man in Cricket’s life, do you think there are things Mr. Book could/would be teaching to Cricket that Ruth and Nora can’t?

This question right here is why it’s taken me so long to put these answers up. At first I was thinking that there are things Mr. Book would be teaching Cricket just because he is himself, and different from Ruth or Nora in ways that have nothing to do with gender; he’s funnier, and loves early rap (you’d better believe that Joey is hearing a lot of De La Soul), and spends more time outdoors. But then I read Playful Parenting, in which Cohen mentions that in studies, boys have been found to be more likely to (e.g.) play with a baby doll if they first see men nurturing babies; I resist this information, but boys apparently look to men in specific and gender-y ways to see what they should do, and what men do. I admit, if I had known this way back when, I would have tried to choose a gay couple instead of a lesbian couple; I thought it didn’t matter, and now I think that maybe it does matter. Not that lesbians cannot be fabulous mothers to their sons! And provide them with male role models, and so forth. But I am more and more believing that Cricket may grow up to feel the lack of a dad—not of parents, but of a male parent—especially since he has Mr. Book somewhere just out of sight, the tall person who seems to fascinate him. I said something vague one time about Mr. Book being Cricket’s only male parent—not a parenting parent, I was clear—and Ruth Flipped Out. I wonder how she would answer this question. (My guess: “No.”)

Sarah asks:

Maybe this is a terribly inappropriate question, and if so, I’m sorry. You mentioned Mr. Book’s favoring of abortion as the primary reason you chose to place Cricket. Once realizing this, did you have feelings of anger and resentment at Mr. Book? Does he regret even suggestion abortion?  But more importantly than that (because I imagine the answer to those questions is probably yes), how did you two deal with that and manage to strengthen your marriage and come out on the other side happy together? Because you do seem that way — happy together, and happy with Joey, and I hope that’s the case. Take care, Susie.

In fact, I mostly felt guilty; Mr. Book had every reason to think that I would be making a call to Planned Parenthood as soon as I saw the second line on that pregnancy test. Then I felt panicky—the fact that our preferences were so far apart left me unsure of what the right answer was—so I chose the option that neither of us preferred. (In my defense, it didn’t sound as stupid as that in my head.) That seemed like the only way to compromise.

Mr. Book does not regret suggesting abortion, but he does not regret that the abortion did not occur—he still thinks that terminating the pregnancy was our most sensible option, but loves Cricket and could never wish for his undoing.

—I actually typed that up without consulting my husband, and then decided that I should let him actually weigh in. He says that he still thinks that it was our best option at the time, but that knowing what he knows now, he would do things differently.

Losing Cricket was certainly the hardest thing that’s ever happened in our relationship, but we had already been through some tough times; a couple of years before Cricket was born, I was hospitalized for a suicide attempt that was part of more than a decade of on-and-off major depression. Losing Cricket was worse by a mile, no question, but we have had some experience in putting our heads down and pulling together (which is fortunate, because as you may have heard, we’re living with my parents now. Turns out that can be rough on a son-in-law). Finding people I could talk to about adoption helped, reconciling myself to the fact that I chose adoption helped—but mostly, my husband’s willingness to wait and see whether I would come back to him emotionally saved us.

Maybe my history of depression helped; I had many years of therapy and grim, productive introspection under my belt before we lost Cricket, which gave me a jumping-off point to do more of the same work after our boy was gone. It took awhile, though, before I could start processing: first I apparently needed to spend six months feeling as though I was in a race to see whether I would lose my mind or lay down and die first, then I had to spend a few months enraged at the Mister for not stopping me from placing Cricket. Clearly, I’m not the model you want to use—and yet we are together still. Maybe if you place a child together, it’s just going to be awful for awhile between you.

This is the part that I feel most conflicted about writing down where people can see it: Having Joey was healing. I swear by all that is good and holy that there was and is no thought of replacing Cricket. At the same time, having Joey ended our tenure as a childless mother and father—we are now privileged to nurture one of our kids, which is such a blessing that I feel it like a physical thing. We still miss Cricket, and Joey has sharpened some parts of that; it is more clear every day just how much we have given up. But most of our day-to-day is focused on Joey, now, and that’s been great. Even the poop and the teething are pretty great.

Mysteriosa asks:

1. Did you have friends that you discussed your options with (other than Mr. Book) and if so, did they encourage or discourage the idea of parenting, and how did they respond to the fact of placement when it happened? If you didn’t discuss your options with your friends, why do you think that was?

Honestly, with everyone except for Mr. Book, I tended to present the adoption as a done deal—this even when I was barely into my second trimester. I had heard that every woman who places a child makes the decision at least twice, and I knew that I couldn’t—so I made the decision once and just didn’t let myself hope or wonder after that—even after Cricket was born. For the day he was mine, I just didn’t think about the adoption. Once I had spoken with Ruth and Nora, I didn’t think of Cricket of mine; that started to change several months after the placement. I loved him as though he were mine, but I knew he couldn’t be. I am really incredibly bullheaded sometimes.

If I had really solicited opinions and let other people be a part of my decision-making process, I would have parented.

2. Do your parents feel that your placing Cricket represents any kind of judgment or rejection of their parenting of you? I remember that not wanting to raise Cricket in the same cash-poor situation you faced as a child was one of your reasons for placing, and I wonder whether your parents are aware of that and if they take it personally as a critique, or if they try to downplay the difficulty of that period in their lives?

Placing Cricket was a rejection of my parents’ parenting in two important ways: one was the poverty you mention; the other was abuse. (It’s not the kind of stuff that’s gruesome enough to be interesting, but I was pretty scared of my mom growing up, and that wasn’t an irrational reaction to my experiences.) Both of these came up with my parents, one more directly than the other—the money issue made some sense to them, but they offered to adopt Cricket themselves. We then had a careful, sidelong kind of conversation about why that wasn’t okay; I did not mention hitting, or screaming, but I did carefully remind her that she had only recently told me that she thought that having a baby around would make all her carefully cultivated patience go right out the window.

My mom has been talking recently about what it was like when they were poor young parents; while I know that it must look different from this side (telling me as she looked out at her pool and fiddled with her iPhone, having come home from her well-salaried job in her Prius), it wasn’t so bad that it made my childhood lousy. We ate a lot of ramen and Kraft macaroni, sure, and we got hand-me-down clothes from church; these aren’t Normal Rockwell memories. But when I was pregnant with Cricket, I was intoxicated by the idea that I could give him everything—not a pony, because who cares about ponies, but parents who could buy him anything he needed without having to take that money from somewhere else. I’ve been a little surprised by how cash poor his childhood often appears; he wears only hand-me-downs, he’s never had a haircut, he never had an artfully decorated nursery or an expensive toy. But he does travel quite a bit more than I did as a child, and his parents don’t have to decide between furniture and Christmas—it’s a lifestyle choice, not a necessity.

This morning, I watched Cricket ignore his toys in favor of first a comb and later a cardboard box; my fears about not being able to provide for a child have proved both not entirely groundless (here I am, living with my parents) and simultaneously unimportant (here we are, doing pretty well, living with my parents).

I’ve wandered a bit from your questions, I’m afraid. My parents understood my concerns, because they know exactly how hard it is to parent on no money—but they were more worried for me than hurt, because they knew a whole lot more than I did—about parenting, about loving your child, and about permanence. They still tell me sometimes that they wish Cricket was here, not in a blaming way; they just miss him. They are somewhat angry at Ruth and Nora, but that’s mostly about the card that Ruth sent to my mother a couple of years ago and less about feeling judged.

On the other hand, my mom does understand that a lot of my parenting is a rejection of hers—and I think she’s mostly at peace with it, but there have been a few wobbles.

Jessica asks:

Do you still make a CD for Cricket every year?  What type of music do you send?

I do! In fact, I’ve been polishing this year’s mix over the last week or so. It’s a pretty eclectic mix—the most they have in common is that there are no curse words in the songs—but this year’s cd looks like this:

“Hold Tight” by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich

"Apache" by Jorgen Ingmann

"La La La La Lemon" by Barenaked Ladies

“Rain, Rain Go Away” by Al Bowlly, Lew Stone, Nat Gonella, & The Monseigneur Band

“Mucha Muchacha” by Esquivel

“Surfin' U.S.A.” by The Beach Boys

“TMNT” by Cars Can Be Blue

“Pool Party” by the Aquabats

“I Wanna Be Like You” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

“Minnie the Moocher” by Cab Calloway and His Orchestra

“One Piece at a Time” by Johnny Cash

“I Know Things Now” by Danielle Ferland

“Tears On My Pillow” by Clem Snide

“Lovely, Love My Family” by The Roots

“Mr. Sandman” by Oranger

“‘C’ is for Cookie” by Cookie Monster

“Brush Brush Brush” by Of Montreal

“At the Codfish Ball” by Shirley Temple

“Photo Jenny” by Belle and Sebastian

“Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio” by Les Brown and His Orchestra

“Dance Myself to Sleep” by Bert and Ernie

“Would You Like to Buy an ‘O’?” by Ernie and the Salesman

“P My Favorite Letter” by The Anything People

“Supply and Demand” by The Hives

Unbelievably, a couple of the odder songs are not on YouTube. The cd I made the first year is still my favorite, but I've liked all three . . . and the cd for next year is already half finished.

[Jessica asked several questions, most of which are coming down the pipe. This, however, turned out huge . . . since I couldn't stop myself linking some of the songs. So, here's a foretaste!]

Shana asks:

You have written that Ruth and Nora are in the waiting pool again.  I was curious if they are using the same agency?  I am curious if the way the agency treated you and Mr. Book influenced their decision this go-round.  If this is too personal I apologize.

They are using the same agency—but it’s an agency that Mr. Book and I had essentially no contact with. Here’s the deal: their agency (Agency A) was not licensed in the state in which I was living. Agency A referred me to Agency B, which was a truly crappy agency. Agency A apparently supported Ruth and Nora and gave them what they were looking for—Agency B treated us all pretty shabbily. However, Ruth and Nora have stated that if they were to receive a query from Agency B a second time, they would be willing to proceed with a match. (I talked about this more here.) That has left me wondering whether I should be slightly more explicit about my feelings re: the adoption experience. But based on what they’ve said in conversation, I suspect nothing that I could say about ethics or regret would persuade Ruth and Nora to walk away from a possible match.

KF asks:

I hope this isn’t too personal, but I’ve wondered how the adoption has affected your relationship with Mr. Book. Is there any resentment towards each other over the adoption?

The summer after the adoption—when we’d just married and moved to Stumptown, and Cricket was 6–9 months old—it was affecting the relationship quite a bit, and that’s part of why I started this blog. I was incredibly angry at the Mister, blaming him for the adoption: not the honeymoon period you’d hope for. Funnily enough, the turning point—the point at which I realized that I needed to really start working through this stuff—came when someone I barely know said “Hey, didn’t he want to parent?” Ah, yes. Adoption was his third choice. I had actually blocked out that in order to blame him, which is pretty awful but the unfortunate truth.

I finally reconciled myself to the fact that in fact I was the one who chose adoption. He never held anything against me, and when I encouraged him to do so, pointed out that he could have stopped it and didn’t; we both regret the decision, but we’re both in it together.

Now we’re both just sad together. Whenever something new happens (we visit a new place, or we move, or Joey hits a new milestone), we talk about what it would be like to have both of our boys here with us.

And a second question – You have written that your mother was firmly against the adoption. How did your dad and your sisters respond when you decided to place Cricket? What are their feelings now?

My father also opposed the adoption, although less noisily; my sisters were cautiously interested, and I worry that Tammy saw my decision as a judgment of her choice to have abortions (it wasn’t). Mr. Book’s family was outraged, saw it as proof that we were both worthless, and have mostly cut both of us out of their lives (this is his mother’s family; his father’s family don’t know about Cricket). My parents rallied more or less as soon as the papers were signed—I am their daughter, they love me, and that’s more important than anything else. They did, however, start pushing me to get pregnant again right away. The Mister’s mom will speak to him on the phone, but has told him that she is only able to do so by pretending that Cricket is dead. She also behaves as though I do not exist, which must make their conversations somewhat strained. She does, however, acknowledge Joey: she has sent clothes for him, and likes to get the pictures I send every couple of months.

My family regrets the adoption, too, and they have excellent reason to; Ruth and Nora aren’t interested in any kind of relationship with our extended families. This isn’t the impression I had gotten from them during the match, but here we are. Ruth has told me that she has her own nutty mom to deal with, and one is enough. My father, sisters, and little brother have seen Cricket once, when Mr. Book and I tied the knot—my mother saw him then, and the day he was born. My parents send a birthday book to him every year, which is accepted but not acknowledged.

Mary Elizabeth asks:

What do you wish you Nora and Ruth had asked you before C’s birth?

“We agree that after the adoption we’ll be like extended family to each other—so tell me about what that looks like to you. What are your family relationships like?” Because as it turns out, we have very different ideas of what your duties and rights are as family.

But if we go totally into fantasy land—well, I have a friend who is a birthmother who works for Catholic Charities, and she both helps women parent and does adoptions. She loves to tell the story of one particular match where, at the eleventh hour, the prospective adoptive mother said to the expectant mother, “Listen: You can parent, you should parent, and we want to support you in that.” And the expectant mother did parent, and it turned out well. (It really makes me wonder what CC’s education is like for prospective adoptive parents!) Anyway: in fantasy land, this is what I want to have happened. I felt awfully indebted to them at the end, and of course they felt as though they had made an investment. Being formally let off the hook would have been miraculous.

Is there anything anyone could have said to make you realize then what you know now, that placing him wasn’t the right decision for you and Mr. Book?

This is kind of a gross answer, but. If Mr. Book hadn’t wanted abortion, I would never have considered adoption. His second choice was parenting, not adoption, but I was too panicked about his primary wish for abortion to be able to hear that. I’m pro-choice, and had always assumed that I would terminate an unplanned pregnancy, but when I got pregnant I realized that it wasn’t something that I could do—and Mr. Book continued to believe that it was the right and obvious solution. Additionally, I think that if someone had been able to make me understand that I wouldn’t have to be a mom like my mother (whom I love), I wouldn’t have been so eager to save a child from myself.

Do you think if you had more contact during these first few years of his life you would have felt more comfortable with your decision?

I don’t think so; I think that relinquishment was pretty thoroughly the wrong choice for us, regardless of the way the adoption might play out. But I do wish that we’d had more contact, and that Ruth and Nora were open to contact with our families.

Do you wish the relinquishment laws were different so that you had more time to think about it?

I don’t know whether that would have helped me, honestly; I didn’t let myself even think about my decision until Cricket was six months old or so. But I do think that it was completely, ridiculously unethical that I was able to sign away my son forever, with no revocation period, two hours after he was born (I did not actually sign until twenty-four hours after his birth, when I was still completely out of it. I wish that hadn’t happened.)

This one is out of left field and not really apropos because you are with Mr. Book, but do you think b-fathers/first-fathers should have more control over placement decisions? Or should is it a woman’s rights issue that expectant/placing moms should be able to make and control?

This is a sticky one. On the one hand, I think that fathers have a right to their children, and am sickened by cases in which pregnant women are flown to Utah to avoid any chance that fathers might be able to parent. Heck, the agency I went through tried to talk me out of listing Mr. Book on the birth certificate, presumably to make it easier to screw him should he balk at signing away his child. I do think that there should be some way to sift out men who are abusive—but I don’t have the answer on how to balance the rights of men to their children and the rights of women to their own bodies and to protect their children from monsters.