comfort

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.

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23 thoughts on “comfort

  1. I’m sorry. This is new unchartered vulnerable territory. I don’t know what to say about it and its complexity. What I do know is that this *is* right for you and your family, and I think adoption is incredibly beautiful. I wear rosy glasses when it comes to adoption so I wasn’t entirely prepared for how complex and painful it seems to be, but this makes sense. We’ve got your back. I can’t wait to meet Sailor. I wish you comfort and this is what I have to offer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuXAlVLB_9M

  2. More hugs. I’ve been thinking lately about how every form of welcoming a child into one’s life takes immense vulnerability and courage and love, and your post speaks beautifully to this fact. We’re here to help when things feel daunting, and here to add our immense joy to your own. Sweet Sailor is meant for you, and you for him.

  3. I wish people weren’t jerks–if it makes you feel any better, I’ve been walking around saying how if I were a birth mom I would have chosen your family, too–not just because you’re awesome parents, but because you’ve had to face loss and sadness and some of those emotions that I think I’d feel as a mom giving up my child for adoption. I’d want the people taking him to know at least a little how that feels. And about the choices–think of all the awesome people in the world whom you love who have gotten here through all kinds of random (and probably awful) choices! Sailor is going to be amazing. Full stop.

    • This comment is an explosion of awesome. Thank you so much for your generosity; what you’re saying here is so meaningful to me, and it lends even more depth (in a good way, of course) to losing E, to what has come (and still stands to come) from that loss. Seriously, thank you.

  4. I noticed the comment that you got immediately upon making such a joyous announcement, and I was really upset. I can’t imagine how it feels to you and J to have people say something so thoughtless. Relinquishing control must be the hardest part of being a parent, no matter how your children come to you. I, for one, have been thinking about yarn choices for a red-headed sailor. Much love to you and yours. I can’t wait for this little boy to get to you.

  5. Sending so many hugs. I think your analogy about what someone would(n’t) say to a pregnant person is right on. It’s crazy someone would say this to you and I hate that everyone isn’t as supportive and over the moon as they should be. Sailor is being born into so much love – love from you and J, love from his birth mama, love from your friends and family and love from strangers! I know he feels it already. You are awesome.

    • Thank you for understanding the analogy; I’m not sure it makes sense to everyone. It just feels like such a strange thing to say. I mean, of course we hope that, and of course that’s a fear. But when is it right to voice what is likely one of someone’s biggest fears the moment they tell you something good? People are odd. But then, people are like you, too. Well, you are like you. Nobody else is. Which is too bad, except for that would probably mean you’d been cloned. Though it would be easier to keep up on housework then… Oh, I need caffeine. (Anyway: I am grateful for these words.)

  6. Something I appreciate so much about you and J is your willingness to be vulnerable to this community. You express things about the process of building a family that is honest, raw, and challenging. I am in awe of your openness with L, the surrender you are experiencing, and all in such a short time! I appreciate your candor here, and I am holding your sweet family in my heart.

    • You are ever kind to us, sweet sweet Bonnie. Thank you for these words, as for all of your thoughtful offerings. We seriously NEED TO CATCH UP! <3

  7. (((HUGS))) Yep, people’s reactions to an adopted child can be really hurtful, especially people close to us. And every time you have a problem with the child you can almost *see* people think (sometimes they even say it) that it’s bad genes, or birth mom using drugs, or whatever. But you know what? You get what you get and even if you made that baby with your own genes you cannot predict what he or she will be like. With the health problems my husband and I have in our respective families we might have produced a very challenging child indeed if we had decided to become bio parents. You just don’t know. A friend of mine’s elder daughter has ADHD and sometime really struggles in school. She was under immense stress while pregnant with her younger daughter who turned out to be the easiest, most happy-go-lucky of children. The good news is that the vast majority of family and friends will love your Sailor with all their hearts once they meet him, regardless of whatever reservations they might have had up front. I’ve seen that happen, so don’t worry too much. The people who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind where you get your kids from.

    • What a delightful message, Heila; thank you! For all of your wisdom and insights over the past several months, I am truly in debt to you. This is exactly the thing I keep thinking. I mean, believe me: I did EVERYTHING right during my pregnancy, and our daughter was born with no feet for Pete’s sake. Anyway, hearing this from you is especially heartening. And good gracious do I owe you a response. I’ve loved reading about your family, and I now talk about you to people as if we’re old friends. :) This year, it just keeps slipping away. I do hope (and trust) that you three are thriving, though, and that school isn’t proving too beastly. :)

      • :-) Well maybe the planets align for us and we can meet one day. Cape Town is lovely at this time of year… ;-)

        Have you come across Sherrie Eldridge’s books? http://www.sherrieeldridge.com/resources When we were going through our legal process, our lawyer lent me “Twenty Things Adoptive Kids Wish Their Adopted Parents Knew”. Yesterday I happened to find “Twenty Things Adoptive Parents Need To Suceed” in a bookshop. I’ve just started reading it but it looks like an awesome resource to have. (M looked at it and asked me with a puzzled frown if I really think I need it. Quite a vote of confidence!)

        Recently I’ve gained some insight into two vexing issues with the help of your blog and others in your blogging community. The one is the role that other children of her male biological parent could/should play in M’s life. The other is my daughter’s sometimes endearing search for a gender identity, which can at other times be rather irritating. I never expected to find such valuable input into important matters the first time I idly clicked on your blog. Thank you, and all the other people who blog so eloquently and honestly about themselves.

  8. Hi
    I have been reading your blog for a while. My partner and I adopted an african american child 16 years ago. The first birth mother we were matched with did change her mind and kept her baby. It was very tough but it was life. Things happen the way they are supposed to. Then we got a call about theis unadoptable african american baby whose mom smoked pot and no one wanted. They asked us to come and look at her, we said no we will just pick her up. And we did. She is a beautiful 16 year old girl. She has brought us tremendous happiness. Raising her was not without trouble she has ADD. She has been maintained on medication. She is a good student and a good girl. I believe we are matched together by a greater power call him/her what you will. Everything happens for a reason and there are no coincidences. You all will be fine and he was meant for you. I wish you all the best.

    Meg

    • Thank you so much for writing, Meg! I love your story; your daughter sounds like an amazing human being. This especially blew me away, and I found myself thinking about it all day yesterday: “Then we got a call about this unadoptable african american baby whose mom smoked pot and no one wanted. They asked us to come and look at her, we said no we will just pick her up. And we did.” We said no we will just pick her up. Yes. Exactly. What else is there but to choose love???

      Thank you for sharing this part of yourself.

  9. I feel badly for not replying to this right away, but putting thoughts into words hasn’t been coming as easily lately, and I wanted to try to be at least somewhat articulate.

    I’m sorry that people haven’t been wholy supportive. I’m sure you wish for nothing but positive energy right now, as all expectant parents must, but hopefully the guardedness some of your people are expressing is just because they care so much for you and don’t want to see you go through any hardship. Which, of course, there is no reason to believe you will. Sailor was meant to be your child and Bram’s brother and he will be a beauitful addition to your already beautiful family.

    I cannot wait to meet him. :)

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