Turning Over

I hope you all had lovely winter holidays and turns into the new year: Happy 2014! Joey’s been having a bit of a rough time, with all the disruptions to his routine (school starts back up on Monday, and I don’t know whether he or I will be happier), but harder than that has been the fact that he is more and more obviously different from other kids his age; he stands out quite a bit, now. I know that that gap is likely to widen. We’ve had professionals tell me (and I’ve read in more than one book) that some autistic kids are totally indistinguishable from their peers by age six, so don’t lose hope! But that doesn’t seem like where Pete is headed, and I sort of wish that people would stop raising the possibility. If it does happen, I’ll be glad. But if it isn’t going to happen, I don’t want to have my hopes up, you know?

I know other mothers who have children with autism; one woman in particular has a son six months younger than Joey, who seems both more obvious affected by autism and brighter than Joey. It is hard for her to see how unable he is to reach out—but it’s sometimes a little hard for me to see how intelligent he obviously is. Once he starts getting therapy, it seems likely that he will improve enormously. And Joey, too, has improved enormously—and he still has autism. When the school district tested him, they also did an IQ test, and the results were problematic. On the one hand, the IQ score may not have been accurate because of difficulties in taking the test that affect Joey without diminishing his intelligence; on the other hand, the results suggest that Joey will not be living on his own or going to college as an adult. Nothing has been ruled out for him, of course: he’s only three, for God’s sake. But—so I read a couple of Temple Grandin books. And I recommend that to other people, for sure; she talks in detail about her experience of autism. But it becomes clear that she is only able to really explain her autism. Not that I should have expected anything else. But Dr. Grandin talks a great deal about finding an autistic person’s special gifts, and while I know that Joey has gifts, they so far do not appear to be the kind with which Dr. Grandin is most concerned.

I’m grateful for Joey—I hope that always comes across. I’m the mother of a special needs preschooler, so there are of course times when I have a harder time feeling that gratitude keenly; recently, Joey screaming in my face has been especially hard for me to accept graciously. He isn’t doing it to bother me—it doesn’t have anything to do with me—but it’s just wearing on me.

On the other hand, Joey has learned to correctly answer the question “What’s your name?” Small, great things.

And Now…

I’m sorry if I worried anyone; my husband and my parents know about my suicidal ideations. I forget that it can worry people to hear this—this is especially stupid considering that when telling my loved ones, I could hear them starting to worry again. However, there is a plan in place to prevent this grim turn of events from ending up in the hospital. I have some brand new prescriptions to take, and while my feelings about antidepressants are mixed at best, I do on some level understand that my brain chemicals need adjustment. I was shocked and upset when I realized that I had gotten to this point, but in the couple of weeks since, I’ve sort of gotten used to seeing myself cutting my throat when I close my eyes. It is not pleasant, but it’s not horrifying anymore.

Mr. Book and I had a longish conversation about the adoption and what we want over the weekend, via gchat (since we were separated). It turns out that we’re both feeling nostalgic for the time before the adoption (and worrying about what the adoption is and will be).

Me:  I started to get upset when we toured the campus [where my father works]. I thought, this is so beautiful, and I remember when I was here with Ruth and Nora, and now I can never live here again because we can’t go that far away from the kid. Maybe if they close the adoption we can come back to California.

Mr. Book:  I’ve been watching The West Wing in your absence. it takes me back to the time of your pregnancy when I was in California with you and terrified, but the kid was still basically ours and things felt generally ok because my family hadn’t yet decided I was shallow and irresponsible and Ruth and Nora were still for me abstractions. Also, I punished myself yesterday by watching the grimmest, bleakest film I’ve ever seen, about a Vietnam vet who can’t support his wife and kid. It a grindhouse no-budgeter from the ’80s and is brilliant and unbearably bleak. You’ll just hurt yourself watching it. I had to take a bath afterwards, just to feel less, I don’t know, alone? empty? something. Nice bath, at least.

Often, when talking to each other, we just call Cricket “the kid”; it seems easier, sometimes, not to have to say his name. It was a long conversation that involved wondering what Ruth and Nora most want, wondering whether what Cricket wants will be a factor for them in the years ahead, and wondering what we do now. I think we maintain vague, friendly contact and don’t mention visits, pictures, or what I’m going through at the moment. And…we wait.

You’ll Learn Soon Enough

Thanks so much to everyone who’s commented; I’ll respond in a little more detail at the end of this post, but want to get that out there first and foremost. I was really feeling defeated, and the emotional support I’ve found here is a bit overwhelming.

I had sort of a sad confluence of events; after posting my glum post, I went to therapy and had my therapist pressuring me to try to get Cricket back. This is distressing because (a) it’s not something I would ever try to do—I signed the papers, his moms are good people, and he’s happy—and because (b) I wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. “Maybe you could get him back!” is one of the least comforting things someone could say to me about the adoption, and while I think my therapist is overall excellent at her job, she does have a strong bias in favor of biological family ties. (She’s a birthmother herself, and mostly counsels adoptees and birthparents.) Maybe it’s worthwhile for her to bring that up because as long as it upsets me to hear it, I know that I have more emotional work to do—but really I just don’t want to have that conversation again. Cricket belongs with his moms, and that’s a sure thing. I’m also drowning a bit in work, which should be over and done within a day or two, but it’s a bit much just now=I am not sleeping=it is harder to hear bad news.

There was one comment over on Dawn’s post about my little problem that really got me where it hurts—Mia says that she might very well say the same thing, because hearing about the loss might taint her time spent with her child. I’ll quote just a bit of it here, but y’all should read it over at Dawn’s blog if you haven’t already:

“I get that Susie doesn’t want to tell Ruth that she sometimes regrets the adoption. But as an adoptive mom, I think that is where our minds go anyway, and it’s really heavy to consider. Regretting the circumstances that led to adoption is one thing; regretting, today, that the child is adopted, is another. Maybe Ruth feels that, and suspects, that she couldn’t bear it. And really, who could?”

I don’t think that I’ve given Ruth particular reason to think that I regret the adoption, but of course her mind might jump there—and the fact of the matter is that she didn’t sign on to hear about my hard times. I like very much Dawn’s self-assigned role as a listener to Pennie…but Ruth didn’t nominate herself to do the same thing for me. And that’s her right; doesn’t make her a bad person, just makes her not quite my dream adoptive mother-to-our-son. But shoot, I guess we’re none of us perfect.

Artemis made a good point, and I think that I need to get to the point where I do see it as a good thing that she said no; I want her to be honest with me, and that probably means that she’ll sometimes say what I don’t want to hear. I’m not quite there right now, but I can see it from here.

TGM, I feel really bad with regard to you right now—I’ve always felt a bit smug about Ruth seeming to me like a better adoption partner than Dee (totally my bias, nothing you’ve said!). We may very well be better suited to each other than Dee and I would be…but it’s not perfect, and it’s probably best for me to realize that and really take it in.

For those of you who pointed out that the relationship is still young, and that I should probably just let this sit for a couple of years—man, do I hate that you’re right. I am terrible at letting things alone, but this one has been (firmly, graciously) taken out of my hands.

And I’m both glad and sorry that I’m not the only one who immediately starts blaming herself when something like this happens. I’m a worrier by nature, so I imagined Ruth and Nora having a conversation about whether they maybe need to cut out visits for awhile, just in case. Then I got an email from Ruth, concerned that she might have hurt my feelings or upset me. That’s both a good and terrible piece of this thing; Ruth isn’t on the same page as me, and yet she is warm and caring—just on her own terms. She and I both have a desire to control our environment, but she tends to win in our shared space. I guess that’s just the nature of the relationship.

One thing that I keep coming back to is the fact that I didn’t know what to tell her if she said yes. What would I say? I don’t want to mention anything that’s ongoing, because I don’t want to bother her–but the only things that are really resolved are pretty spooky stuff from the very early days. Maybe something that’s ongoing but nonthreatening–like what? “I’m sad sometimes”? Actually, come to think of it, that might have been a good place for me to start. Sometimes when I’m having a really hard time, I’ll say to Mr. Book, “Hey–I’m having a really hard time.” And he’ll say something like “I know,” and that’s enough. Maybe that’s all I wanted. Hard to say.

Oh, how did I respond to that email? I lied.

Bubble: Burst

Well, I finally did uncover one of those boundaries. After blogging about it and talking to my therapist, I decided to go ahead and ask Ruth about whether I could talk more with her about the harder parts of adoption—her answer is that I can, but she’s not sure that it’s appropriate, and she doesn’t actually want to hear it. Her email was polite and respectful, and the undertone of “I guess I can’t stop you, but—” may only exist in my reading of it. I feel sort of crushed, and am pulling back.

Feeling bummed about her answer is my problem; I got my hopes up inappropriately high, and I should know by now how that generally turns out. I’m a big girl.

My reply to her was very short: “I understand what you’re saying, and that makes sense”-style of thing for a couple of hundred words. Oh, and I bought a pair of Robeez for the chest, so clearly I am doing fine.

I mostly feel stupid—I feel like I’m being punished for being stupid.

Hope Chest

Yesterday I went through my hope chest again. My father built it for me as a birthday gift a few years ago; it’s cedar and lovely. He made one for my mother first, and she keeps wool blankets and sweaters in it. Then he made one for my sister Kate, who keeps her important papers and drug paraphernalia inside. Mine was made most recently, and it’s full of baby stuff.

I go through it every so often, unpacking it, looking at everything, and then repacking it. A year ago, there wasn’t much in it—I got a few outfits for that first day with Cricket—but it has filled up since the relinquishment. I now keep the books on a shelf, as I’m not sure they’d fit into the chest; maternity clothes used to fit in there, but now live in a box in my closet. Now, knowing that if I get any Christmas money I’ll spend it on baby stuff, I wanted to look things over and see what might fit. I know that it’s stupid of me to buy baby stuff: I might never be able to have a child of my own; if I do get pregnant, I may get hand-me-downs and not need new baby stuff; I have pretty limited spending money, and using it for baby stuff that will just sit in a cedar chest for years is not a wise investment. It also makes me look a bit crazy. But I know all that and I still spend my pocket money on tiny overalls and board books. So what gives?

Mr. Book sort of vaguely knew about my hope chest before the wedding, but not until we were moved in did I show him the contents—he found it pretty disturbing. While this definitely made me feel worse about my nesting, it didn’t stop me. Ruth and Nora, of course, have no idea. If I try to imagine them opening the chest and rooting around, I see them looking horrified. It’s true that for the first six months or so of Cricket’s life, I did have a lame fantasy of being able to come through in the clinch when they visited: “What’s that, he’s thrown up all over his jumper? Well, it just so happens that I have something he could wear that is coincidentally much cuter than anything I’ve ever seen you put him in. Do you want a sippy cup to go with that, or maybe a stuffed chicken?” That, thankfully, entirely subsided several months ago. It’s still true that I don’t like the same baby clothes that they do, though. (In fact, in her last email to me, Ruth mentioned that she’d talked with a birthdad who hated the way his son’s parents dressed him, and kept sending clothes as gifts. “Wouldn’t that be hard,” she said to me, “to hate the way your son’s parents dressed him?” I have chosen not to respond directly to this point.)

I’ve come up with answers to most of the criticism of this nesting behavior: I don’t have anyone who will give me hand-me-downs, and I won’t get a baby shower (I work as a freelancer, not in an office, and I don’t really have much of a social circle). If I don’t have a child of my own I can keep, I will give a whole bunch of new and some handmade baby stuff to a young, poor woman who is pregnant and worried about being able to provide for her child. If I had had an offer like that when I was pregnant, maybe it would have changed my decision—probably not, but I would have been really touched and honored. I think my main reason for maintaining and contributing to the hope cache at this point because when I was pregnant with Cricket, especially in those last couple of months, I would think, Of course I can’t parent. I don’t even have any of those tiny hats! Parents have plenty of little hats. Ruth and Nora have a whole dresser full! So if I ever get pregnant again, the hope chest will be my defense against the idea of adoption. Of course I am going to keep my child: look at all those tiny hats! How prepared I am for a baby, and how wanted this baby is! Of course I wanted Cricket, but in the absence of clothes and diapers, I didn’t think that the wanting was very important. Maybe I was right. But if I got pregnant today, I would have burp cloths, bibs, toys, blankets, and a selection of clothes that run up through 24 months. I have a mobile; I have a couple of bowls with spoons. I thought about taking a picture of the chest to accompany this post, but it turns out that I am still too ashamed.

Open Adoption Roundtable #11

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.

An open-ended prompt this round, because it’s always interesting to see where each of us takes it:

Write about open adoption and the holiday season.

Previously written posts work, too.

When I sat in the adoption agency’s conference room with Ruth, Nora, and an agency flack, we were all three of us tentatively mentioning things that we would like in the open adoption agreement (legally enforceable here!). I mentioned that I wanted to be able to send a birthday and a Christmas gift every year, they agreed, and now I could theoretically take them to court if they refused to accept a Christmas present. Adoption seems very strange sometimes.

Last year, I surrendered my son on December 9 and then flew to the Midwest on the 19th. I wanted to get away from the site of my loss for Christmas, so the future Mr. Book and I decided to spend Christmas with his family. We celebrated an early Christmas with my parents before I left, and they were very sweet. I remember making pancakes for everyone in the morning, in my nightgown, and noticing that my feet were wet, and realizing that my milk had come in.

Christmas in the Midwest was grim—except for one screaming fight, Mr. Book’s family was pretending that Cricket had been born dead. I was miserable, he was miserable, and we both just wanted to lie around and not talk about anything. I’m glad we got to spend it together, though.

This year, we have invited my son and his parents to Christmas with us, but they haven’t responded. Ruth wants to keep Christmas out of Cricket’s life as much as possible; she worries that the Jewish holidays, being less flashy, will suffer by comparison in the eyes of a child. She says that she may ask people to send Hanukkah presents instead. I think about the fact that I have a legal right to send a Christmas present and don’t say anything.

Ruth invites us to Cricket’s birthday party, which is also a Hanukkah party. Mr. Book has to work, so we visit on a different day and bring birthday and Christmas gifts. The Christmas gift is a pair of books, one of which I had as a child. I didn’t remember that Christmas happens in the book, but it’s a bit late now, so I give it to them with an apology. They ask about our Christmas plans with no apparent awareness of the fact that there is an unanswered invitation outstanding.

The adoption relationship is good, but the holidays are bad. I don’t know how long this will be the case.

Overtures

So we’re going up for a birthday visit on Tuesday—the actual birthday, a day I very much wanted to spend alone in bed, feeling sorry for myself. Unfortunately, it’s the only day that Mr. Book has off work, so that’s when it’s gotta be. I have figured out two things that I can make and bring that conform to Cricket’s current dietary “no” list (citrus, strawberries, wheat, spelt, sugar, salt, meat, dairy, nuts, eggs, honey, or other sweeteners)—dolmas, a few of which I will make with no lemon and no salt, and a recipe I haven’t tried before for savory whipped sweet potatoes and collard greens. There will probably be some present opening while we’re there, and Cricket has apparently started to bite hard when frustrated, so perhaps I’ll have a new bruise to show off Wednesday.

Those books I mentioned in yesterday’s entry have showed up, and I decided to show them to Mr. Book, something I ordinarily wouldn’t—my nesting worries him. But I told him that I am allowed to get books because I love books, gave him my plan for what happens to the books if we never have a futurekid, and then asked if I could show him. (For those of you keeping score at home, they were Jenny and the Cat Club, The Happy Lion, and Anatole.) Thus prepped, he was interested and approving. =) There are so many children’s books that I would like to have for futurekid that I have to start now (I tell myself); there’s no way I’ll be able to get all of them otherwise. Of course, as of today I have a better collection of picture books than Ruth and Nora do (they are library addicts, whereas (while I love the library) I am never happier than when surrounded by books that are mine. So if any of you want to recommend titles that you or your kids particularly love, I’m always adding to the list.

Mr. Book asked me last night what he should do with himself, and I said that I thought he should think of something he could do for Cricket—find a really great kid’s baseball glove to give him when he’s five, or write journals for him, or something—because he needs to do good dad things to wipe out the “bad dad” that he hears in his head. Me, I got a tattoo, I collect children’s books, and I make mix cds for Cricket—only one of those impacts him really, although when he’s older he may understand the tattoo and appreciate the excellent library at our place when he visits. Mr. Book agrees, and we’ll probably talk more later about what he can do to help himself feel better about being Cricket’s birthdad. We talked about needing to love him unreservedly, and about needing not to shut down emotionally for visits. When we visit, Cricket gives Mr. Book these long, searching looks—I said, “He is already looking to you for something, and you need to be able to give it to him.” And he agrees.

In my email to Ruth, I asked whether it would be okay for me to talk about the harder parts of the adoption: “But it’s been incredibly hard for me—many things in the adoption have been—and I guess if you are okay with it I would like to be more open about that. But I want your permission, which I hope isn’t manipulative.” So…we’ll see how that goes. =/