Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

So today is Ash Wednesday. I am no longer Catholic but the past few years I have given something up, except last year because I was still overwhelmed by taking care of my infant daughter. Today I went to church. I want to participate in Lent again this year and I wanted to do so by experiencing the mass that begins the time period. The priest talked about repentance, renewal and joy. I like the idea of that process. He also said Lent was a time to give to the poor of your money and your time, to give to those who have less and to ease loneliness. I like that idea, too.

I recently read Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies and wished I had read it sooner. I became aware of it through reading other blogs and it intrigued me. The overall appeal of the book as I read it was how human she is. That may sound odd, but we live in a world of extremes and it would appear you can’t really be a Christian without being some PTL holy roller, which I am not (and do not wish to be). I am very human, but I am also a Christian.

I thought of my son while I was in church, partly because he is being raised Catholic, but also because last night I was doing some Internet research and confirmed that he lives in the town I thought he lived in. I couldn’t find anything more than that, but it was something concrete and I felt that it was progress. For years I have known where they live, but I don’t want to drive up to their house or spy on them or anything like that. All I really want is to know more about him – see a picture, read a newspaper article about his baseball team, something like that. But there is nothing out there that I can find. So every few months I google his name, just for “fun”.

And as I sat there in the pew I thought of how no matter where we go in life, we seem to return to our roots. For me today it was my spiritual roots. For many years I spent a lot of energy rebelling against certain things. I’ve always been wary and even scared by those who blindly follow – even if I happen to agree with what they follow. But I also tend to shun what I perceive as evil. Now I find a certain sweetness in the acceptance of rituals, philosophies and the knowledge that we just don’t know. Is that what they call wisdom? I thought of Anne Lamott and how she found and probably continues to find her own way, and how reading about her journey made me feel that my own is okay, too. There aren’t any pat answers. I guess I got caught up in a false belief that life and all its facets were like TV episodes where it would all work out in the end, that the right characters would know the right things to do at the right time. For some, life is like TV – they just sit back and passively watch, accepting what is in front of them. For me, that was never good enough. I want to walk through the woods, not just watch a documentary on the forest. I may wind up being dirty and tired, but I’ll be able to use all five senses to take in my surroundings.

I want to use this Lenten period to let go of the hate that has built up in me since Christmas. I usually hang onto the actual box that arrives longer than most (I firmly believe in reduce, reuse, recycle), but I used it today to mail something so it would be out of my house. As I ripped off the label, I noticed the zip code … same as what I found last night.

I also need to go ahead and write a return letter.

Monday, February 19, 2007

I agree with her

Maxine wrote:

I don't want the lingering grief of his adoption to take my daughter's childhood as well. Here's a horrible thing, sometimes I feel guilty for the joy I take in my daughter, like I don't deserve to be happy as a mother.

This is me, too. I have to constantly catch myself and remember to be my mother's daughter and not grieve my loss when I am with her because she needs me to be her mother, to enjoy her, to love her as fully as I can. It's gotten better, but for months - at least until her first birthday - I was deeply concerned that my grief was going to affect her and then (on top of everything else) I felt guilty about what unknown consequences there would be for her emotionally, having to be raised by me. This, of course, just cued the "you aren't good enough to be a mother" voice into the loop.

For now, that demon is not as close to the surface, but he's not gone.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


All these years I have treasured my memories of being pregnancy with my son and of the birth, knowing that those were my experiences and memories and no one could take them from me.

With my daughter, the pregnancy and birth were different, as were my feelings about them. I attributed much of this to knowing I would be raising her, afraid of losing/replacing my previous memories, and terrified of actually being a parent. (My mother's phrase of 'be careful what you wish for' would loop through my head and I would worry that I was getting myself into something I may regret, after all - I hadn't been good enough to parent before, why would I be now?)

I realized a few months ago that I don't have distinct memories of my daughter's birth and I began to wonder why. After all, both births were alike as far as duration (short) and drugs (none). And it has slowly dawned on me - her birth wasn't the beginning of the end of my relationship to her so I have many more memories - and all are equally beginning to fade because there are more every day. That is what is different. The story hasn't ended.

I've read other bloggers who have lost babies to adoption and death write about how unnatural it is for your body to not nurture the child - for example, how a mother's milk comes in and there is no baby to nourish. That makes sense. But the memories thing ... the ongoing cycle of life that isn't strictly physical, and not necessarily emotional ... for the first time I realize how truly, truly unnatural it is to let go of your healthy newborn baby, to let the story end.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

WTF Moment

Well, I knew my feelings of objective detachment would be short-lived, but I didn't think that my return to the emotional roller coaster would take me by surprise.

While I have left my daughter at daycare to go to work and I have left her with sitters like her grandmother and adoring neighbors to go to a movie or Bible study with my husband, we haven't gone out to eat without her. For Valentine's Day, I thought it would be a nice treat to have a meal out with just the two of us. Dining in public with a toddler can be complicated and time consuming. While it's fun to watch her take in the surroundings, flirt with nearby diners (and be flirted with!), and discover new foods, there is little adult conversation as I am very focused on sharing toddler friendly portions of my food with the big-eyed, grunting, reaching vulture, er, princess (lol).

Anyway ... the meal was nice and we were out of there quicker than we have been in a while - much to the surprise of my husband. As we were pulling out, he made a comment about his sister who has the same name as my son's adoptive mother. His sister, however, goes by a nickname and I rarely make the connection in names as a result. Last night, because of the way he said her name, I made an immediate connection and a wave of emotion just flooded my head.

I think a good part of it was the fact we were on our way to pick up our daughter and now that she has become more of a person, rather than a baby, I really felt the loss of my son - that I have two children out there and I should be going home to pick up both of them. So I spent a good bit of the ride back reminding myself of why I didn't have my son, how I was 19 and didn't lead the life I have now, etc. ... but it really was a WTF moment in a big way because the message that was screaming over all my rationalization was "You gave your son to someone else? You gave your baby to someone else?" And it just didn't make sense to me - for the first time in 16+ years (since the entire time I was aware of being pregnant I was committed to adoption) it made no sense to me.

Another part of my emotional roller coaster last night was the almost ever-present new-found realization from the Christmas letter that M doesn't see me necessarily as I thought she did. I thought she knew me as a strong, intelligent, well traveled, well read, yada yada, etc. woman - a peer of sorts. But apparently, I am just another worthless white trash American drifter. Whatever. Knowing she sees me differently than I thought has made me re-think the way I see her.

And I was also picturing my son as I envision him from the picture I received Christmas of 2004. Maybe he is better off without me in his life at all since he really is someone else's son and so far they don't seem to need anything from me ... and may even resent what they do get.

I didn't want to ruin Valentine's Day so I kept all this inside - mostly because I wanted to try to sort it out first, since there were at least three issues going on in that lightning bolt of WTF - the 'giving away' thing yet again, the perception of me by M, and the hole I was feeling in a new and more sorrowful way ... the loss. For the first time in a long time, it was so visual and vivid to me.

Parenting my daughter has given me such a different life perspective and I am so grateful for her and for all the things I've learned, all the ways I've changed since having her. And I am happy for my son that he has great parents, that he is loved, that he has had a good life. I know that no matter what I do, the adoption will always be there. I am just surprised at how emotional I feel right now about it all.