September 26, 2007

And It's in Working Order, Too

A while back we were babysitting the two daughters of some friends at our house. As the older girl--a kindergartener--and I were exiting the playroom, she suddenly said, "[Puppy] didn't grow inside of you. He grew inside of another woman, and she couldn't take care of him so she gave him to you to take care of."

"That's right," I said, a little surprised. "The woman's name is K___. That's a picture of her over there."

We've never talked adoption with any of our friend's kids, although we certainly have with their parents. Her mom is pregnant with their third child, so siblings and pregnancy have been a big topic of conversation lately in their house. My guess is that the little girl had been asking about our family and her mom had tried to explain why I hadn't been pregnant.

Earlier that same evening we had been playing with our two house rabbits and she had asked if the bunnies were girls. Upon hearing they were, she immediately wanted to know whether they could have babies.

"No," I replied. "They had an operation, so they can't have babies anymore."

"My dog had an operation, too. She can't have babies either," she told me. After a pause, she asked, "What does the operation do?"

"They take out their uterus. Without a uterus, animals can't have babies."

That answer seemed to satisfy her, and she turned to leave the room. Halfway across she turned back to me with a smile.

"My mom sure has a uterus!"

September 24, 2007

"Making Room in Our Hearts"

I am on a short trip for work right now. Missing the family but kind of loving the personal time. Yesterday evening I ambled through one of my favorite bookstores, sitting down several times to leaf through books which caught my eye. Funny how the things that once were timewasters now feel like such luxuries.

One of the books I took back to my hotel room and stayed up late reading was Micky Duxbury's Making Room in Our Hearts. It's an excellent, realistic look at openness in adoption. It hit a note of authenticity that I don't always find in open adoption books--there was a familiarity to the families' stories. And it's always refreshing to read something that approaches openness not as a choice, but as a standard. Absolutely worth reading for anyone considering domestic adoption or thinking about openness.

Now that I've finished it, it's silly to let it sit on my shelf. Why not share it with my adoption friends? Our little city has a decent public library system, but it just isn't large enough to carry a lot of niche books. (One more reason I'm itching to move to the biggish city to the north of us.) Because of that, it's been hard to get my hands on a lot of adoption titles I'm interested in reading. They're not the books that get passed around the Thursday playgroup, you know? I'm sure some of you are in the same boat I am. So if you're interested in reading Making Room in Our Hearts, shoot me an email and I'll send it to you. I only ask that you mail it back to me when you're done.

ETA: Review up at Open Adoption Support.

September 21, 2007

Itsy Bitsy Contest Winner

Thanks to everyone who shared a TV confession for my little contest! I feel much better knowing that I'm not the only one whose child has been exposed to less-than-appropriate content. It's comforting to know that when Puppy becomes a with rogue government agent with little regard for human rights, Woobie will working his way up the ranks of the local crime syndicate while Nicholas makes tasteless single entendres and Mindy's girls nurture dysfunctional relationships with acerbic coworkers.

The one that made me laugh out loud, though, was Lauren's daughter sneaking in a viewing of SNL's "D*ck in a Box." She's lucky she has a daughter. I can imagine Puppy one day thinking those are instructions to an art project set to music. Rainy day fun for the whole family!

But without further ado, the random winner of the EW subscription is...Clementine! Let me know mailing address at heather(dot)pnr(at) gmail(dot)com.

September 19, 2007


Sorry to leave you all hanging the other day. But I had already gone on so long about jewelry, for goodness sake.

Thank you so much for being excited about our news. That was very sweet.

So we are officially matched, much sooner than we were anticipating. (I dislike the word "matched," it makes me feel like I'm in some weird dating service. But it is what it is.) Most of what we know is private. But! I can tell you that Ms B (expectant mom) is gung-ho for openness (whoo!). And she lives about one hour from us (easy visiting!)

We won't get to meet her until next month. Generally our agency won't connect expectant parents and prospective adoptive parents until the second trimester is over. They feel it's important to not get too far into an adoption plan that early in a pregnancy, to allow women to just be pregnant for awhile while exploring their options. Early matches can create a lot of pressure, whether intentional or not. But I get the sense that Ms B is a determined woman who has her own thoughts about how the process should go. So the agency compromised by asking us if we'd be willing to pull our profile from the pool, but wait to meet until the end of her second trimester. (For those of you trying to do the math in your head, she's due in late January.) I have mixed feelings about the deviation from their normal practice, but had some good conversations with them about when and why they consider compromises. They're using this time to connect her with local support services and continue counseling. She is also seeing a counselor who is not connected to the agency.

Throughout this process I've been praying for the people who might see our profile materials, that they would be supported in their decision-making process and find the answers that are right for them. Now I have someone to pray for by name, as well. It's a nice change. It's interesting, our adoption experience with Puppy's first parents has become so much about the relationships that it's hard for me to wrap my mind around this possibility without having met Ms B.

On a different note, I have no idea why I didn't think to just show you a picture of the necklace. You mean my amazing powers of description weren't enough? It looks like this:

September 17, 2007

Of Babies and Baubles

There is a necklace made of vintage glass beads on rings of sterling silver, simple yet elegant. I adore it, or at least the image of it on my computer screen. Many mornings as I dress I picture adding it to my outfit, see its colors lighting up my drab combos of t-shirts, sweaters and jeans. I imagine it gracing my neckline on those rare occasions T and I go on a fancy date. The artist promises it will protect me from harm and create magic in my life; when I email her she calls me a superhero. I am helpless before her marketing strategies.

I have lusted after this necklace for close to two years, but have never been able to bring myself to purchase it. I am a deeply frugal person by way of personality, conviction and circumstance. It has always seemed like too much to spend on something so unnecessary and self-indulgent. No matter how much T has tried to talk me into it, I've never convinced myself to click the "order" button.

When my uncle was born, my grandfather presented my grandmother with a gorgeous silver rope necklace in a style that I've never seen elsewhere. It is weighty and solid, and has always seemed to me to symbolize all that my grandfather was feeling at that time. The awe and gratitude that his beloved had brought their son into being, had labored to bring him into the world.

I loved to see it as a little girl. It captured for me something of the romance of starting a family. Even as my grandparents transitioned into parenthood he gave her something that was just for her, a tangible reminder of the moment which transformed their lives. My mother has it now, and when she wears it I think of my grandparents living the life of young parents that T and I now enjoy. I picture them cuddling their little boy as they read, chasing him across the grass, tucking him into bed. I imagine them talking about his future, worrying about a fever, debating the timing of the second child who would be my mom. I think of those things and feel close to them, realizing how much we share in our experience as parents despite the many years separating us.

When I was younger, I played with my baby dolls and stuffed pillows in my shirts and dreamt of how my own family would start. I imagined that somehow this family story would lodge in my husband's mind, that he would know to find something special and unique to mark the occasion of our children's births. Something to commemorate the joy as we welcomed our children into the world.

Of course none of it happened the way I imagined it. I didn't become a mother in a decisive moment, but in a gradual process in which others' emotions needed to be more important than my own. I visited my own (would be) son in the hospital, an experience that would never have occurred to my childhood mind. And it was I who selected a necklace for another woman, my son's first mom, a delicate birthstone pendant that somehow didn't match the gravity of the occasion.

T remembered my family's stories as we we searched store after store for K's gift. "Can we get something for you, too?" he asked. But it didn't feel right in the midst of everything else that was happening. I was feeling my way through the conflicting mix of emotions that comes with adoption. At every exciting step there was also something holding me back: the possibility of a failed match, uncertainty about my role in the process, a baby in my arms but his other mom grieving. I was unsure about how to openly celebrate without denying the reality of what was going on, or whether that would be right. Yet at the same time there was a little boy who deserved to be celebrated wholly and completely.

When we began our second adoption I decided to set a celebration point for myself, a milestone along the way where I would let myself to just soak in the joy and possibility for a moment. Allow myself the emotional space to delight in the thought of another child without chastising myself for being insensitive to what the expectant parents were going through. It must sound terribly self-centered. But I know that my tendency to over-think situations could result in me looking back at the end of this process and realizing I had squelched out all the joy along the way. I decided that when we were matched with an expectant mom I would finally buy the beaded necklace. Just a private and tangible reminder to myself of the happiness of adding to our family, no matter how it happens. And even if the particular match didn't end in a placement, I would have it as a reminder that we had made it that far.

So when we began waiting this summer I picked up a few hours at work, set aside what I needed for the necklace, and pushed it to the back of my mind. It's impossible not to think about getting "the call" every now and then, but with a year or more wait being quite likely for us it simply hasn't been part of my daily life. But occasionally I visit the necklace online and think, "Someday..."

That someday came last Wednesday.

September 12, 2007

An Itsy Bitsy Contest

One of my guilty pleasures is my subscription to Entertainment Weekly. There is not a single thing written in it that has lasting value in this world. But it's one of my few connections to pop culture these days, since the last movie I saw in the theater was...let me think..."The Lake House." Which was a piece of crap. Which I would have known if I hadn't let my EW subscription lapse for a few months.

The fall TV season preview arrived on Monday, an issue whose popularity in our house is rivaled only by the Sports Illustrated college football preview. As you might guess, who gets to control the TiVo in our house in the fall can require complex negotiations. Especially since our viewing time is mostly limited to when Puppy is in bed.

Anyway, my renewal notice came with a free one-year gift subscription to EW--and I want to give it to you. I know there are some fellow devotees of good television here (mama2roo, I'm looking at you). So let's have a little contest!

To enter, just leave a comment at this post:
  • If you're a parent, share the most inappropriate TV show or movie your child has been exposed to thus far. (I watched almost an entire season of 24 on DVD with baby Puppy in my arms.)
  • If you're child-free, tell me which show you're most looking forward to in the fall season.
I'll choose a winner at random on 9/21. Have fun!

ETA: You can still enter even if you're already a subscriber. The gift subscription will just add an extra year onto your existing subscription.

September 10, 2007

Doing Some Unpacking

A very tactful comment left here this weekend reminded me anew of how much I am still learning about what it can be like to live as an adopted person in our society. For me, part of settling into my role as an adoptive parent was simply acknowledging that my son's experience growing up will be different than my own. Not necessarily better nor worse, but different. Partly because he is his own unique person, of course, but also because of the simple fact that he will grow up adopted and I did not.

As I was thinking about those differences this weekend, I was struck by the parallels I could draw with discussions about how things like race and gender influence our social experience. Whether I like it or not, our society has firmly-held myths and attitudes about being adopted. Although we might counter those within our own family, we still live and move in that larger social context. I have no first-hand knowledge of what it is like to be adopted, just as I do not know first-hand what it is like to not be white or heterosexual or a woman. But I can listen to and live life with those who do have first-hand knowledge and begin to analyze my own experience in the light of what I learn. And I am wondering if the notion of privilege can be applied to a person's adopted/non-adopted status in the same way it can to race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. If so, then an important piece of my development as an adoptive parent is to become aware of my own experience as a non-adoptee.

So, with sincere apologies to Peggy McIntosh, here is a list I came up with of the privileges I carry as a non-adopted person. ("Family" here refers to my own immediate family growing up, not the family I've created with T and Puppy.)
  1. I can easily obtain accurate and complete information about my birth, including a copy of the official birth certificate issued.
  2. I have never been expected to have an opinion about my parents' choice to birth and raise me.
  3. I can criticize, critique, or express frustration about my childhood or my relationship with my parents without it being assumed that I am questioning our familial connection.
  4. I am never asked to speak on behalf of all non-adopted people.
  5. It is generally not assumed that my views on abortion or adoption have anything to do with my status as a non-adoptee.
  6. I have access to at least two generations of my family's medical history.
  7. I can be fairly confident that people will not praise or condemn my parents' act of bringing me into their family on moral grounds.
  8. I can be fairly certain that unethical choices or illegal activity were not involved in my parents' creation of their family.
  9. I can be fairly certain that monetary amounts were never directly or indirectly assigned to my gender, race, age or healthiness.
  10. I can remain fairly oblivious to the experiences of first families and adoptees without feeling penalty in general society for such oblivion.
  11. I have access to accurate and complete information about my life prior to my conscious memory, including my time in utero.
  12. If I am struggling in relationships with my immediate family, I do not need to ask whether it is related to adoption.
  13. If I am generally struggling emotionally, relationally or psychologically, I do not need to ask whether it is related to adoption.
  14. Should my parents die, I do not worry that pension benefits or inheritance rights will not be assigned to me.
  15. I do not see the process which created my family being used to promote such things as highway clean-ups or pet ownership (i.e. adopt-a-street programs).
  16. I am usually in the company of other people who are not adopted.
  17. I can expect that people will not have negative expectations about my behavior or potential based on my non-adopted status.
  18. I have never had someone question the authenticity of my family.
  19. The various relationships in my extended family are reflected in greeting cards, books, television programs, movies and other forms of media.
  20. I have never had my name changed without my knowledge and consent.
  21. I have never had access to information about my genetic relatives limited or denied by state law or a private group's policies.
I am sure there are some things on that list which I do not have quite right and others which are missing. I am still trying on the idea of privilege as it relates to adoption, and it is not a perfectly polished list in any respect. But it has been useful for me to write it out it in this way. It reminds me of ways I can be more proactive in addressing some of the more blatant inequities (like #1 and #15). But it also reminds me of the more subtle messages Puppy will encounter about what it means to be adopted in our society, the ways he is seen by some as "other" regardless of how we have framed adoption within our household. Hopefully thinking about my own privilege will enable me to better help him navigate that society as he is growing up, and help me see the blind spots in my own thinking.

September 04, 2007


School started today in our town. Last night I listened to rain fall outside an open bedroom window. We woke to a clear, bright day infused with the slightest chill. Perfect weather for ushering in autumn. Soon we will take Puppy apple picking as the leaves turn amber and gold.

Since I entered preschool way back when, not a year has gone by that I've not lived by the academic calendar, either as a student, employee, or teacher's spouse. The rhythms of my life are determined by the school year, making Labor Day my New Year's Eve. January marks the mid-point in the year, not the beginning of a new one. The summer pulls me into self-evaluation and reflection; September sings of possibility and renewal. September is blank notebooks, unused erasers and a general buzz of anticipation. Even as nature draws inward, preparing for a dormant winter, I feel ready to take on something new. (If you ever want to ask a favor of me, autumn is the time to do it.)

So perhaps it was fitting that it was September when our lives first overlapped with Puppy's first parents' and the constellation of our family began to shift. I've been remembering that time as the calendar swings back around: The nervous initial phone call. My first glimpse of K and R in the restaurant lobby. Making plans for a future that was somewhat fuzzy to all of us.

The weather was hot, as it always is this time of year in Los Angeles. K was in her final month of pregnancy. Making conversation one day I said she must be looking forward to finally not being pregnant in this heat. An idle remark. She leveled a look and reminded me that the end of pregnancy meant the end of a lot more for her. No, she was not looking forward to it.

K mentioned she's been replaying events in her mind, too. Much different memories than mine, I am sure. Two years ago in September T and I were guardedly but undeniably excited, planning the beginnings of our family. Two years ago in September K was watching the day approach when she planned to tell her baby goodbye.


How was your Labor Day? Ours was quite pleasant. At one point Puppy was out in front of the house wearing nothing but a sunhat. And I do mean nothing. So his day pretty much rocked.

Number of Mahna Mahna viewings this weekend: 47

Number of requested Mahna Mahna viewings this weekend: approx. 126
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