Okay, don’t be mad, but I’m going to wait to announce Sailor’s name until my next post. I know that I promised to do it this time, but I’m having kind of a rough day, so I really needed to write about some of the complexities of adoption. I could do both, but I want our reveal of Sailor’s wonderful, sweet name to be purely celebratory.
First I should say that by all real accounts, everything is fine. I have exactly twenty-two weeks until my dissertation has to go to committee – which makes me feel like curling into a ball in the corner – but that just means that it’s time to focus. Bram is doing well – as are J and I – and I’m really, really excited that Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday, except for maybe New Year’s Eve) is next week. We have a lot to be thankful for. But there are two things that are really weighing on me today, which are not unrelated.
The first is that, though most of our friends and family have been unguardedly happy for us, not all of them have. From some people, this makes sense. If you have had to wait for years and years to be chosen by a birth mom, our situation must be painfully insulting. I know that in my own heart, I’ve had to struggle with women who’ve had easy pregnancies, or NGPs who’ve become GPs with subsequent children. It isn’t that I (ever. ever. ever.) begrudge those women their pregnancies or their children, but there have been times when it’s stung. Consequently, I have felt no end of guilt about how this must look to families who have truly suffered on their paths to adoption. I don’t have any more answers for why we were chosen so fast while they’ve waited and waited than I have answers for why E died, or why it feels so unsafe for me to carry again, and I hate that. I even felt enough guilt about this that I wondered for awhile if we should turn down this placement in deference to other waiting couples. Everyone I confided in, though – including our social worker who works with all those other couples at our agency – said that this isn’t about adoptive families, it’s about birth moms: about them finding a family that makes them feel safe. For L, that’s us. We didn’t ask for it to be that way; it just is. And all we can do is hold on to the gratitude so that we don’t take this blessing for granted.
What hurts is the people who don’t have adoption baggage, but who still respond to this placement with negativity (or silence). I think this is a result of a couple of factors, the first of which is timing. To some people, it probably looks rather ridiculous to want children who are one year apart. The second is adoption in general. I’m starting to suspect that there’s nothing like actually having an adopted child on his or her way to you to make it clear that some people just don’t dig adoption. And that lots of people think that adoption is something you should only do when you’re truly desperate and have no other recourse. Our closest people understand us enough to think that all of this just makes sense for our family, but it’s tough for some people to see that.
And then there’s the comment that we’ve gotten a LOT, and from otherwise supportive people: “Well, I just hope she doesn’t change her mind.” This comment is tricky because it looks kind, and I’m sure it even feels that way when people are saying it. But can you imagine telling a pregnant lady who has just told you that she’s pregnant: “Well, I just hope you don’t miscarry”? No? Me neither. And though of course those aren’t the same thing, the former feels similar to the latter when people say it.
The caged nature of people’s enthusiasm makes me sad because this little boy is every bit as much of a blessing as Bram, and I want that to be evident in the world. I want him to feel it coming from the whole community into which he will be welcomed in two short months. And it’s also tough because it makes it hard to actually talk about our fears. I mean, if people would say that to us with no solicitation, what might they say if we actually told them about the vulnerability of this?
Which leads me to the second thing on my mind today, which is fear. As should be obvious, L does not approach her pregnancy with the same obsessive care with which we approached ours. Of course. She doesn’t have someone there to cook her delicious, organic, nutritious meals. Going to the OB isn’t a joyful event. This is a time of overwhelming emotion for her, and immense stress. If we didn’t have such an open adoption, we probably wouldn’t know any details about these issues – and perhaps ignorance would be a thing of great comfort – but here we are, learning how to surrender to the vulnerability of a birth mom who does the best she can. And it is tough. And it is scary. And all those fears, the same fears that every parent feels – What if something is wrong with my baby? What if he’s sick? What if he’ll need a level of care that will take us away from our other child? What if something happens to take this new baby away from me? What if I get my heart truly broken? – just abound. But when you carry a child, if you express one of those fears to someone, people will usually reassure you. Here I’m afraid that if we expressed them they might just be used as so many reasons we shouldn’t adopt this little boy. And I’m terrified that, if gods forbid any of those came to pass, there would be so much less sympathy because, well, we asked for this.
So that’s the dark space that is today. Loving a thirty-one-week-Sailor I’ve never sung to. Or felt kick. Trying to love the woman carrying him while coming to terms with her choices, which are fine in the grand scheme of things but which I just wouldn’t make. Trying to surrender without talking about it too much because the vulnerability is big enough already. It all makes me want a big hug. (I mean, not from just anyone, but you know what I mean.) Or a big hot chocolate. Or a massage and then a nap in a warm, dark room. It makes me want comfort.