Thursday, November 30, 2006

What to Expect

I was going through my baby books the other night to pass along any that I no longer need now that my daughter is now a toddler. As I was flipping through What to Expect the First Year, I noticed the one I had was published in 1989 so it would have been the edition that I may have read had I parented my son and it is very likely the edition that M referenced her first year with him. When I came upon the chapter about adoptive parents, I read every word looking, as usual, for clues to my son’s babyhood. (Any time I see articles about adoption, especially the ones aimed at adoptive parents, I read every word to find out what they have to say and how the content might be a reflection on his upbringing.)

I was also hit with the memories of reading What to Expect When Expecting late in 1990 when I couldn’t figure out why my gums were so sore and discovered that it was associated with pregnancy. I remembered sitting in the airport, wondering when my gums were going to stop being sore, waiting to fly home for Christmas and hoping my parents wouldn’t notice somehow that I was pregnant even though I was only at the tail end of my first trimester. After all, on every date I ever went on my mother would send me out the door with a firm, “Don’t come home pregnant!” They didn’t figure out I was pregnant, but it was a memorable Christmas for me nonetheless.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

So I'm watching the Parade and, as usual, I am wondering if my son is watching it, too. And I wonder if he likes parades. I love them.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Damn loop

The loss of my son through adoption at the age of 19 permanently installed the mantra of "you're not good enough" to my loop of thoughts. Despite all my efforts and the progress I feel I've made, it comes out often, even when the shallowest of acquaintances snubs me.

In an effort to stop internalizing the perceived injury to my sense of self, to stop asking myself over and over, "What did I do? What is it about me?", I'll sometimes briefly mention to my husband whatever recent episode in question that has entrenched itself, hoping that it will somehow be purged from my mind, my emotions. Invariably, after I relate how so-and-so saying such-and-such or doing/not doing something that I then took personally, he often responds with something along the lines of, "Oh, I wouldn't make anything of it." End of discussion.

Hmph. Easy to say. Sometimes I am just so tired of being me and wish I could go through life with a thicker skin, without looking for meaning, without expectations. Sounds boring, yes, but also safe.

Monday, November 20, 2006


One of the biggest changes in me since my daughter was born is my perspective on life and how I live it. It's two-fold: (1) I no longer believe in a "they" and (2) I finally feel like a participant.

(1) On "they":

I always believed in "they" who run the world and are in positions of authority. There is no "they" and I finally realized that. This world is run by everyday folks who have no supernatural powers, knowledge or ethics. (Duh!)

With how my daughter's jaundice was handled, I realized that doctors and nurses don't know everything, that they're just individuals and that I as a mother have every right to follow my instinct and that "they" are not going to come and get my daughter because I choose not to have her foot pricked for the sixth time in a week when she was never even at a toxic level. This was my watershed event, the experience that really opened my eyes to the fact that all the pressure I've put on myself in life comes from an assumed "they" who I felt needed to approve all my major decisions. Like anyone was even watching or caring! Maybe this is a result of being firstborn in my family and believing in authority, rule keeping, actions and consequences, black and white.

This realization has really liberated me. It's given me the right to be my own authority. No longer do I constantly apologize for my presence here on earth.

Part of being able to put this realization into action is having to care for my daughter. Her needs are so important that I have to be her advocate. Example: No, she isn't going to the doctor because she has a fever. Why expose her to more germs and me to unneeded stress just to be told the things I read in the books and hear from the Nurse line?

I have a newfound confidence and almost every day it is validated. I am a much nicer person most of the time, too. Rather than hoping I go completely unnoticed, I'll say hello to a person I don't know leaving my office building with me or standing in line at the bank or grocery store. I used to mumble to clerks if I had to say something like "debit" or "credit" as if I were sorry to put them through the extra trouble of a credit card rather than just handing them cash. If paying with cash, I would consistently apologize if the person had to make a lot of change for me. When a clerk told me not to apologize for giving him a $20 for a $2.50 transaction because it was his job to give me change since I was spending money in his store, I realized that he was right. Why did I feel like I had to try to make everyone else's life as easy as possible, to not be an added burden when in most cases it's just a normal course of business thing?

I also no longer care about impressing anyone or meeting unnecessary external perceived expectations. I enjoy my life - my husband, my job, our home and our one child and I am perfectly content without a Master's degree. People may share their opinion about any of these things, but they aren't the ones living my life. I don't want a different husband, a larger home, or another child. I may want the challenge of earning a Master's degree someday, but for now, I just want to continue enjoying my life because I am very grateful for all the things that are in it right now.

(2) On feeling like a participant:

I used to engage in a lot of outdoor exercise: bike rides, jogging, hiking, long walks. I always felt like I was passing people and houses where life was going on. No matter where I went or what I did - going to a coffee shop, the grocery store, the movies - I felt like I was just an observer, a poser even. When I spent time with other people and then we parted ways, my mind always asked "now what?". Even after I got married, it seemed as though I was constantly filling my life with things: travel, reading, and of course, work, where I spent well over 40 hours a week trying to prove myself and feeling like I had to do everything 110%. Yet it just didn't feel like I was living life. I felt like I was going through motions, trying to find a rhythm, a purpose.

Now that I have my daughter and through the very nature of taking care of a small child, in addition to working and dealing with the rest of stuff that makes up life, I truly feel like a participant. It's not because my life is really busy, there's just finally a sense of truly living each moment. For me, I believe this comes from parenting, that being a parent is an important part of who I am supposed to be because I no longer feel like I'm waiting for my life to start or that life is only something for others. Now I no longer overachieve at work in a futile attempt for recognition and validation, wanting to know that I make a difference. And anything I do with other people is just something else in my very full and rewarding life rather than another interaction where I hope for some sense of meaning, to feel like I belong, am accepted and matter.

And I know I had these feelings of disconnectedness and search for identity prior to being pregnant with my son, so I know they preceded the adoption. However, I think the fallout from the adoption prolonged my time in this limbo. Who knows, maybe I would have always felt this way had my life played out different up to this point. However, after waiting 14 years to parent, certain expectations cropped up that, after being unmet, made me realize the things I have written about today.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Loss: The Opposite of Abandonment

I've been reading a few adoptee blogs which talk about an innate feeling of abandonment and how they feel that no matter what kind of relationship they're in, they will be abandoned - by their lovers, friends, children.

I have what I consider the opposite problem - I feel like I am going to lose every one I love, that no matter what I do, they are still going to leave because life somewhere else is better than life with me as a part of it. Maybe it's semantics, but to me there is a difference between being left (abandoned) and feeling loss.

Ever since having my daughter, I am acutely aware that someday soon she will not want to come home after school because there are fun things to do with fun people, then she won't want to be home on the weekends, then she won't want to be home at all. I recognize what I described is part of growing up and, after all, I want to raise an independent, self assured woman. I have to accept that no one in life is a permanent physical part of our daily existence.

When the movie Forrest Gump came out years ago, I saw it in the theatre and sobbed. For me, the overwhelming message was that Forrest excelled at so many things and could have anything he wanted in the world - a ping pong championship, a successful shrimp company - but what he wanted and loved most - special people - kept eluding him. He lost his best friend, he lost his mother, he lost Jenny. That's how I felt about the adoption. I could go on to do all the things I was supposed to do - get my degree, get a good job, be "successful" etc. - and I did. But like Forrest, I found no satisfaction, no fulfillment because no achievement allowed me to be with the person I loved and missed so dearly. Nothing I did was going to give me the right to go and scoop my son up in a huge hug and be his mom. The loss is permanent.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Me and M

I don't know whether M (my son's adoptive mother) was nice to me simply because she wanted my baby. I do know that I felt very close to her and in my heart I still consider her a friend. I contacted her and P early in my pregnancy and was able to celebrate and feel good about my pregnancy with them. We had many phone conversations and talked about the things that were important to us, got to know each other, worked through some logistical things as a team. After placement, we still spoke for a few months by phone. Then they asked me to stopped calling and I was okay with that. She has sent me at least one picture every year at Christmas. Except for Christmas of 2003 and 2004, I have also gotten some kind of an update with the picture(s). They rarely respond in the annual note/letter to specific questions like eye color or blood type (I was curious), but they do reassure me that they are not trying to cut me off and that they think of me often. After reading about some birthmothers’ experiences with their adoptions becoming completely closed, I am grateful to M for being so faithful with the pictures and Christmas box. (She always sends Christmas gifts … although I’d rather have pictures and lots of details in the update.) I can see now that her consistency is actually saying that she does care, rather than the message I previously took which was that I was a last thought, a necessary evil to keep at bay with a short note and yearly photo. Why do we always assume the negative?

When we started the triad relationship, I held the belief that if I were adopting, I wouldn’t want a meddlesome birthmother constantly in the picture reminding me that I didn’t give birth to the child I was raising and feeling like anything I did was subject to her judgment. Therefore, I was okay with just updates and pictures, not knowing their last name or exact address. I did need the updates and pictures, however, because as a human, or at least the human I am, I knew I could not just place and say goodbye forever. I cared about my child, I just didn’t want to be selfish and deprive him of the best life possible.

Now that I am parenting, I find myself at times being reflective about the joy I find in my daughter. I know that P&M found that in our mutual son and that he, in turn, felt that love and has grown up with happiness, warmth and stability, which is exactly what I wanted for him.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is, when faced with an unexpected pregnancy, a choice has to be made. No choice is a good one if you are not in a position to parent.

Parenting him would have been difficult and I would have been as bad a mother as mine. Angry, frustrated, oppressed. This is something I have to remind myself now that I am parenting and I have found within me a patience I didn't know I had. While I wonder if I would have been a good parent at 19, I chalk my current parenting ability up to age, financial security, emotional support and 14 years of waiting to parent.

Abortion was out for me.

Adoption became my choice. There are regrets, of course. And I worry about how being an adoptee has affected my son. But it would have been hard explaining to him why I wasn't with his father or why his grandparents won't accept him (they are judgmental people who don't mind if holding a grudge hurts an innocent child). And who knows what other hardships there would have been. I wanted him surrounded by love.

All three options have a lot of emotional hurt for all involved. But the fact remained that I was pregnant. I am not wording this as well as a blog writer I found a few weeks ago. But basically, a choice had to be made and no choice was a bed of roses. A person who I dearly love was created and he deserved the best I could do for him.

I wanted my son to have both parents. That is really my bottom line. There were other important choices that came with getting to choose for him the parents that would raise him, the two people he would call Mom and Dad.

It comforted me to know that I was doing the best I could for him by picking where he would grow up, who would raise him, what those people were about, how financially secure they were, how important family was to them, what religion they were and how serious they took it, how much they had been through and still loved each other, how educated they were, how much extended family he would have. I chose for him the life, the childhood, I wanted for myself.

This is part of the loop that plays in my head, and it sounds about as disjointed. It sounds part justification, part coercion by society. But the bottom line is I take responsibility for my decision. It doesn't mean I don't miss my son, that I don't wish things had been different somehow. But he has a good, stable life, his parents are good people and I love him very much.