January 30, 2008

The In-between Time

We are ready. The cloth diapers are folded and the bottles washed. A blank copy of my favorite baby book rests next to Puppy's on the bookshelf. One of the families in our playgroup gave us two enormous boxes of girl clothes that have been sorted and stowed away. The bassinet finally made it into our bedroom, lined with its cheerful red-and-white bedding. We have done the things we hoped to do to prepare Puppy.

And so we wait. I don't even know that we're waiting for Ms B's daughter to be born as much as we're waiting for this to be over. One way or another, to be done with this time in which we're almost parents of two, but not quite yet. Just to know where we stand again.

I kind of hate this part. I am good at waiting to match and I'd like to think I'm decent at playing my post-adoption role. But this in-between time is draining. The time between being told hey, you're going to have a kid and that kid actually becoming yours. When the end of one woman's parenting overlaps with the preparation for your own to begin. Most days it doesn't affect me too much outwardly, but I notice it sapping some of my emotional energy. Other days it stretches me thin until I break at the most inane provocation. Poor T bears the brunt of those moments because I think he will be the only one who will understand.

We happily prepare to welcome a child while also remaining able to gracefully step aside if Ms B's plans change. It's what we must do that until the day it all becomes final. If Baby B does end up staying with us, we will look back on this in-between time and say, "This is when we first started loving you." Retroactively it will become the beginning of our parenting.

If you overheard us talking, you might mistake us for some couple about to have a baby the usual way. We talk about those eminent sleepless nights, wonder where that last box of baby gear is hiding in the garage, joke about not being ready for two kids. But if you listen closely, you might notice that we talk about "the baby" or call her by her name. But we never say "our baby." It's amazing how much is caught up in that one little word.

January 28, 2008

You Are Cordially Invited

I'm feeling gift-y this week. My birthday (33!) is on Thursday. There is a teeny, rather embarrassing part of me which hopes Baby B isn't destined to be born in the next few days. Because my mom is baking a coconut cake and I very much want to be present to eat it.

I adore celebrating birthdays. We try to make a big deal out of them in our house--not necessarily with a pile of presents or extravagant party, but little touches throughout the day to remind the birthday boy/girl that it's their special day. I loved birthday parties as a kid, with the themes and games and cake. And party favors! My word, I enjoy a good party favor.

So you are cordially invited to fĂȘte my birthday with me, bloggy-style. While I'd love to hand out favors to everyone who attends my little cyber-party, that might get a little complicated. So instead let's have a bit of a party game:

What would your perfect birthday day look like? Leave your story in the comments by midnight Wednesday and I'll pick a winner on Thursday. It can be as fantastical or realistic as you'd like. The winner will receive a nifty prize, still to be determined but probably tasty and locally made. Have fun!

ETA: I picked a prize. Mmmmmm.

EATA (2/7): Um, when I said Thursday, clearly I meant next Thursday. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Thanks to everyone who left a story. I was sincerely inspired by the way we all turned to the simple pleasures: favorite foods and activities, touches of nature, the people we love. Nature didn't cooperate on my birthday (grey and stormy), but I had moments alone to read and rejuvenate and a lovely dinner with family. It was a good day.

The prize goes to Wendryn, who also had a birthday this week! Wendryn, email me with your address and let me know if you prefer light or dark chocolate.

January 26, 2008

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me?

The big boy bed thing? With the tucking in at night? Is awesome. Watching him wriggle his legs under the sheets. Snuggling in next to him--the boy so wee that the pulled-tight covers look nearly flat, his head and shoulders peeking out like a pocket square in a suit. Telling stories while his round eyes peep up at you. Slipping out of the room with a kiss on the forehead and a final pat on the sheets. No crib rail blocking you. No wrangling a lanky, sleepy body from rocking chair to crib.

If I had known how much this rocked I would have put him in that big bed months ago.

January 22, 2008

Blog for Choice Day 2008

Today, on the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, pro-choice bloggers are answering the question, "Why is it important to vote pro-choice?"

The group of like-minded peers I find as a theologically conservative, socially liberal Christian is fairly small--though not non-existent. I respect my sisters and brothers who stand against legal abortion as part of an honestly comprehensive and consistent pro-life ethic (lose the "consistent," lose my respect). Although we ultimately reach different conclusions on how that ethic plays out in regard to abortion rights, we have much in common elsewhere.

But back to Roe v. Wade. This morning I read something which captured so well what the ruling represents to me: "the fundamental premise that women are human beings, as valuable under the law as men, conscious, capable and responsible for making decisions about their bodies, their reproduction and their lives." (source)

That same premise is why I believe legal access to abortion, comprehensive sex ed, family preservation programs, and ethical adoption services are all part and parcel of true reproductive choice. They each uphold a woman's dignity as an independent human being with the right to decide if and how she becomes a mother. You will have hard time convincing me to vote against that.

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January 21, 2008


Puppy hasn't really been himself much of last week. He doesn't want to play independently, wants to be held constantly, and can't handle even minor disappointments. Normal toddler things, but beyond usual levels for him.

He is often a bit off after a house guest leaves. In the past month we had three family members come through who were attentive, doting playmates for Puppy. Their visits were close together so we've had a cycle of people arriving, becoming mini-celebrities in Puppy's world, then leaving. Normally his uncertainty passes after a day or two, but it seems to be lingering this time. He doesn't verbalize his emotions enough to know if there really is a connection, but I wonder.

On Friday he was reluctant to leave the house at all (he said someone might come through the front door--I think he didn't want to miss out on a visitor). Eventually he fell apart in the kitchen over some perceived injustice. I picked him up and he buried his face in my shoulder.

"We sure have had a lot of visitors lately," I said. "First Uncle Justin, then Aunt Abby, then [R]. I really liked having them here. It was hard to see them go."

Puppy was quiet. I rubbed his back.

"[R] play with me," said Puppy, softly.

"He sure did. You had fun playing with him," I agreed. "I was sad when he left. I wish he could be here all the time. "

"Be here," he murmured.

"What would you do if he were here right now?"

Puppy grinned and picked up his head. "Play trains with me. Read Thomas book. Play puzzles in kitchen."

We talked for awhile about all the fun things we would do with R. Puppy spent some time riding around on my back in our hiking backpack while I cleaned the kitchen. It had been a long time since I "wore" him (he's a super-tall kid with a weight to match) and I think we both enjoyed the closeness. If nothing else, it was nice to not have him trying to crawl up my leg.

Two nights later Puppy announced--out of the blue--that he wanted to sleep in his big boy bed in his big boy room for the first time. (The twin bed is across the hall from his current bedroom and has functioned as a guest bed.) He slept there all night, taking up what seemed like an impossibly small amount of space underneath the covers. The next morning we celebrated his achievement with high fives and making up the bed with his new train sheets.

"I bet you're proud of yourself," I said.

Puppy patted the bed. "I sleep in bed. [R]'s bed. [R] sleep in bed. Like [R]."

January 18, 2008

R's Visit and Sharing Fatherhood

Did anyone else feel like this week went by on fast-forward?

So, R left Sunday morning after a pleasant weekend together. The house felt a bit empty that night. We tried to give R a taste of Puppy's normal life. We did things that Puppy enjoys so that R could enjoy them with him. We made our weekly library pilgrimage and rode the carousel. During one of the few sun breaks we went to the park. We had dinner at my parent's house. On Saturday morning we took Puppy and R to have pictures taken together; I fretted that R would think it was cheesy, but he was really into the idea.

Mostly we played together, sometimes all of us and sometimes just R and Puppy. They read books and did puzzles. They threw footballs and cooked in the play kitchen. Puppy assumes all visitors to our house are there to play with him, and R's visit did nothing to disabuse him of that idea. I was impressed by how much he initiated with Puppy and how easily he interacted with him. All weekend he made little side comments to me about how perfect Puppy is. As we watched Puppy scamper up a play structure at the park, R said to me, "He is so cute. How do you not just want to eat him up?"

When Puppy was tucked in bed for the evenings, the three adults would sit and talk and laugh. I think I learned more about R in three days than I had in over two years of knowing him. T and R watched football playoffs and drank beer and--I kid you not--talked about their feelings and some about R's experience of the adoption and its aftermath. He shared about being at the hospital, saying goodbye before the placement, his worries that Puppy will resent him one day. Don't let anyone tell you that adoption loss doesn't affect the dads, too.

Someone asked me last week if Puppy "really knows" who K and R are. I think he gets it on a conscious level as much as a two year old can. His understanding of all relationships is pretty simplistic at this point. And I can only guess at what is happening for him sub-consciously. But these early visits accomplish several things, in my mind: They make K and R real to him in a way that words and pictures never could. They allow the adults to build our relationships with each other. And they help us grown-ups work through some of our own emotional crud so we can better be there for Puppy when he is dealing with his.

Last night T started talking about what it was like to have another daddy around for an extended period. He said that for the first time he experienced the internal tension I sometimes feel around K: the simultaneous appreciation of her place in Puppy's life and twinge of wishing I were the only mom. (This doesn't come up at all for me around R, nor does T experience it around K. (Criminy, there are way too many initials in that sentence.)) He said seeing certain things--like R kissing Puppy or Puppy snuggling into R's lap--made him confront his shared fatherhood in a way he hadn't before.

Sharing motherhood (or fatherhood) is the aspect of open adoption that strikes me as the most counter-cultural. This idea that you share the mantle of parenthood with someone who is not (and never was) your spouse/partner. We came to openness thinking that having the support of both biological and adoptive parents gives a kid the best chance at wholeness, the best environment in which to work out his identity. And because we believe that, we understand that Puppy's first parents fill in a kind of hole in our parenting--they are his connection to his genetic family and his history. So we nurture those relationships and rejoice when they grow stronger. But still there is something inside me that can be prodded when I see my child embracing his other mother, when I'm confronted with what might have been.

I need to think more on this, but it is shared parenthood that I think most sets open adoption families apart from the mainstream. It's different for me than just creating fluid definitions of who is family; it's specifically about our identity as mother or father. Because every deeply ingrained cultural idea I have of parenthood has room for only two parents at a time. So while it is easy for me to share parenthood with T, it is more difficult to share motherhood in any way with K. Some might argue that her motherhood ended when mine began, or that her choice of adoption erased any claim she had to the title. But in my mind the challenge of open adoption parenting is wearing my identity as mother in a way that still leaves room for K's motherhood. And for T to do the same with R. So that Puppy has the safety to explore his own identity as the son of two moms and two dads.

January 14, 2008


R's visit was great. We all got to know one another better, we had a great deal of fun, T and R talked about some deeper things. Most importantly, R became a fleshed-out person to Puppy instead of a name and pictures and a handful of memories from shorter visits. I do want to talk more about it--not least for my own memory's sake--but I'm suffocating under a pile of work. And T and I had a little in-home date after Puppy went to bed, so that took up my evening time. But I am content tonight.

Some pictures are up at the private blog. As always, just email me if you'd like an invite.

January 11, 2008

It's Been a Good Day

Yesterday evening, 7:30. T is picking up Puppy's first dad at the airport. I am making up a bed for R while Puppy bounces around in the background. He is excited about R's visit. "Show [R] library? Show [R] my puzzle? [R] play 'Pop Goes the Weasel'?" In his own version of mints on the pillow, he puts things on top of the bed he thinks R will enjoy: a board book, a sippy cup of milk.

Puppy woke up R early this morning and immediately started showing him his toys. By the time I came downstairs he had handed him a book and snuggled in for a read. I keep catching R staring at Puppy with a goofy, amazed smile. As well he should. Because he's the coolest little kid this side of the Mississippi. I am so grateful R is getting to know him--and giving Puppy the chance to know R.

Judy Lurve

I've got my We Love Judy star up (see upper right)--have you got yours? Click on it to see a list of ways to support Judy during her cancer treatment.

It may seem like an insignificant thing to do in the face of something as scary as cancer. But it will be a reminder to me to continue supporting her, whether in prayer or words or gifts. And how awesome would it be if every time Judy clicked through to one of our blogs, she saw a bright star? A sea of stars silently telling her, "We're all here for you."

January 10, 2008

I Kept Forgetting to Sign Up for This

Today I'm joining others in in taking part of my blogging time to read.

I will be reading this, a Christmas present from my sister-in-law:

Why? Because the first thing thing truly his own I ever got for Puppy was a library card. The second was a passport. Between the two, I hope he will explore the whole world. The more he sees his mama reading (not just reading to him), the more likely it is that will happen.

Won't you join me? I know there are some fellow bookworms here. Take some extra time today to read offline. Then head over to Soccer Mom in Denial tomorrow to let her know you did.

January 09, 2008

I Didn't Expect It to Be So Hard

We met with Ms B and an agency counselor yesterday to go over our open adoption agreement and her birth/hospital plan.

We've had a string of house guests and social obligations, and I hadn't put too much thought into the meeting. Not that I was blowing it off; it was obviously important. But we have a good base of honesty with Ms B and have talked enough to know that we're on the same page about our expectations for openness. I expected to drive down, enjoy some time with Ms B, hash out some details, and go home. We had done this once before, after all; we are adoption veterans. Ha.

But it wasn't easy, at all. Not because we had major disagreements, although we did have to work to consensus on a few things. It was just super emotional and draining. I think the reality of this adoption has been hitting each of us in different ways. By the time we were talking about leaving the hospital, I was reaching for the tissue. (I wasn't the first one to tear up, but those are other people's stories, not mine.)

As the due date approaches, everything seems to grow larger. Forgive the lame image, but imagine all the emotions of adopting as soap bubbles. Until recently, they were wee little bubbles on my mental landscape. One would float up from the depths of my heart, dance around in the breeze and occupy my attention for awhile, then--pop--it would be gone. A bubble of excitement here, a bubble of concern there. But now the bubbles are larger and more frequent. They hang longer in the air, jostling with each other for space. As my joy at the prospect of another child grows, so does my heartache for Ms B. There are bubbles of affection for Ms B, bubbles of anger at her circumstances, bubbles of frustration at ethical obstacles, bubbles of gratefulness for the support we each have, bubbles of love for Baby B, bubbles of sadness for us all.

With all the talk about Juno in the air, I've been thinking lot about the persistent cultural idea that, (spoiler?) with the right combination of pluck and detachment, a woman can sail through relinquishment unscathed and go off into the sunset with her new boyfriend and her guitar. Sometimes adoptive parents are accused of fostering that idea for our own self-interest, enabling us to bury our heads in the sand and imagine adoption as sunshine and roses. No doubt that is partly true. But I think sometimes we misguidedly cling to it out of sincere concern for our children's mothers, these women we have come to love. We desperately want it to be true for their sake, as if by believing we can spare them the heartache.

I'm sure I'll see Juno someday, maybe I'll even enjoy it. But yesterday I sat with a real-life woman who is neither snarky nor detached. And as much as I want to believe that this won't hurt as much as she fears, my heart is breaking because I think it will.

This is not at all where I intended this post to go. There are other things I wanted to say about yesterday (good things, really), but that will have to wait. R arrives tomorrow (yay!) and there is much to be done to get ready.

January 05, 2008

In Less Than a Week

Did I tell you that Puppy's first dad is coming to visit?

Puppy's first dad is coming to visit! By this time next week R will have been here two nights already. It's been planned for awhile now, but he finally bought his plane tickets yesterday. (I can procrastinate with the best of them, but I've never bought tickets five before a trip.)

I am thrilled that he is coming. I am also growing more stomach-churning nervous with each passing day.


January 04, 2008

Some Things I Want to Remember

Last Friday we woke Puppy up in the early morning and bundled him into the car to visit Ms B. He ate his banana and smiled patiently at us as we drove south through misty farm land.

We have a final "official" meeting with Ms B next week, one facilitated by an agency counselor. At that meeting we will work on a draft version of the open adoption agreement and hear what kind of interaction with us Ms B would like during her time in the hospital. We really wanted to see her once more before that more formal time.

We picked her up and went to the city library, where Puppy could enjoy himself in the children's section and we could sit and talk. Her stepfather joined us for an hour or so. Gracious yet reserved, he kindly let Puppy show him page after page in a Thomas the Tank Engine book. Somewhat out of the blue he started to share about what it was like for him to be a white parent of two children of color. "I've always thought the greatest gift I gave them and the greatest mistake I made was ignoring their race. It was the spirit of the times, I suppose. We all thought the best thing to do was to be color blind."

After the library, we had lunch together, then drove Ms B home. It was an enjoyable time. We touched on some deeper topics, but for the most part it was a lighthearted morning. Getting to know one another better and joking around a bit. It may seem strange to talk of laughter when it is such a serious matter that brings us together in the first place. But it is the combination of the more vulnerable conversations and these easygoing interactions that make it possible for me to envision entering into an open adoption with her. I do not think it is necessary to enjoy the company of your child's other parents in order to have an open adoption, but it does make it immensely easier.

Oh--Baby B has a name now! A first name, at least. Ms B was upfront from the beginning about not wanting her daughter's name changed, a conviction born of personal experience. (I realize there are a range of positions on naming in adoption. I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all answer.) But she didn't have a name picked out; she had cycled through a couple, but not found one that really fit. So T and I have had the privilege of collaborating with her on possible names. We finally hit upon one which resonated with us all. I found it while noodling around the Social Security website. I was nervous about putting it on the table, because I had grown rather fond of it in the week or so I was mentally trying it out. But when I shared it, B immediately said, "Oh, yes." It is not super common (important to someone who grew up with the #3 name for her birthyear), it means "light," and I love it.

January 02, 2008

A Meme for the Privileged

Two days into the new year and I'm already a copy-cat. The bolded items in the list below are ones which are true for me.

The meme is based on an exercise developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. Some critique of the assumed privilege built into the exercise is found here (mostly because it was designed to use with university students, I'm guessing).

As an aside, I mentally ticked items off for K and Ms B as I went through (at least as much as I knew for each of them). Although neither of their hypothetical lists was identical to mine, one was much closer.

1. Father went to college.

2. Father finished college.

3. Mother went to college.
4. Mother finished college.

5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.
6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers.
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home.

9. Were read children’s books by a parent.
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18.

12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively.

13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18. (I just missed this one--I got my first credit card at age 18 when I went off to college.)
14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs. (I don't think Puppy is going to be able to bold this one.)
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs.
16. Went to a private high school.
17. Went to summer camp.
18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18.
19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels. (We camped our way across the U.S. We even camped by a strawberry field in the shadow of Disneyland, back before Anaheim became one giant strip mall.)
20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18.
21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them. (This one is funny to me because we just last week had a big family car shuffle: my parents bought a new car, we purchased their old car from them and let them trade in the '96 Corolla they bought for me when I graduated from college. I'll admit that I cried to see my car go; it was the car of my first date with T, Puppy's ride home from the hospital, and where umpteen life-changing decisions were made during my L.A. commutes.)
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child.
23. You and your family lived in a single-family house.

24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home.

25. You had your own room as a child.

26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18.

27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course.
28. Had your own TV in your room in high school.
29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college.
30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16.
31. Went on a cruise with your family.
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family.
33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.
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