When I was pregnant, actually telling people that I was pregnant was done on a need-to-know basis. You may recall that I didn't tell my extended family I was expecting until two weeks before my due date. I tend to procrastinate doing things that I know are going to be painful or awkward, and this was no exception.
Some people I figured I'd tell eventually, but I knew I wasn't ready yet. Of course, things rarely work out as neatly as we plan them, and when I was probably three or four months along, I went to the dentist. I expected the hygienist to begin, as she usually does, by asking if there had been any changes in my health. This visit, however, was different. I'd barely sat down in the chair when Brittany, the hygienist, said, "Dr. D. wants a few x-rays today."
Radiation? Back up the bus. I wasn't even sure if I could safely get x-rays while pregnant. Out came my news. "Oh, congratulations!" Brittany said. That wasn't a word I heard very often, and I smiled.
I went to the dentist again three months later (I have bad teeth so I go twice as often as most people). This time quite a bit of the work was done with me reclining instead of flat on my back, to accommodate my pregnancy. The next time I went to the dentist was three months after that, when Roo was only a few weeks old. It was the first time I'd gone anywhere without her.
("Wow, how did that feel?" my therapist asked when I told him about it later.
"It was nothing special," I said. "I've been to the dentist before.")
I told Brittany all about my darling little girl, and I think I must have shown her a picture on my phone. Anyway, not too long after that I placed Roo with her family. And a few months later, I was back at the dentist's. Brittany was happy to see me. "And how's your beautiful daughter doing?" she asked.
Oh, crap. What was I supposed to say now? I weighed my options. The pain of placement was still fresh and I wasn't sure I wanted to get into it. I thought, I see Brittany for 30 minutes four times a year, and her hands are in my mouth for most of that time. What difference does it make if I tell her or not? I decided to tell her the truth ... or at least, part of the truth.
"She's doing great!" I said, my voice full of all the false cheer I could muster. "Growing like a weed."
"They grow up so fast," Brittany agreed, and then she asked me if I'd been flossing. I exhaled sharply, glad that was over with. Each visit was the same after that - she'd say hello and ask how my daughter was doing, and I'd tell her, only omitting the fact that Roo wasn't actually my daughter anymore.
Then, a few weeks ago, I had dinner at my mother's house. Somehow we ended up talking about braces (she has Invisalign) and she told me she'd been to the dentist the week before.
"Brittany cleaned my teeth - you know her, right?" my mom said.
"She said she's seen you around at a few YSA activities."
Brittany was LDS? Hmm. I wondered what she thought of the fact that I, ostensibly a single mother, was spending so much time at singles events, away from my child.
"Oh, that's nice," I told my mother, and I changed the subject (which is easy enough to do with my mother, because she has ADD). But I kept thinking about Brittany going to the same activities I do, and wondering.
So, a week ago Tuesday I had another cleaning appointment. Brittany came out to the waiting area to get me. We made small talk on the way back to the room. I set my purse down and made myself comfortable. Brittany made a few notes in my chart, and asked if there were any changes in my health history.
"Nope," I said.
"How's your job going?"
I gave my usual response - "Oh, you know. Books in, books out."
Brittany smiled. "And how's [Roo's real name] doing?"
I tried to remember if and when I'd mentioned Roo's name before. Did Brittany have a really good memory, or was that sort of thing in my chart? I panicked a bit at the thought of Roo being in my dental chart. I'm not sure why. But all I said was, "She's doing great!"
"Who does she stay with during the day while you work?"
Oh, expletive. Really? I thought. It was 7:20am, I'd gotten four hours of sleep and I'd skipped breakfast. I wasn't really in the mood to explain things. I'm not ashamed of my decision, but it's the sort of thing that I don't like being pushed about. I talk about it, and about Roo, when I feel like it.
Except, it seemed, for this morning. But this was no time to be shy.
"She's at home with her parents," I said, all cool nonchalance.
Brittany's eyebrows migrated north towards her hairline. "Oh!" she said. There was a beat before she said, "You put her up for adoption?"
I hate that phrase. Put her up. It always makes adoption sound like an auction. I didn't put Roo up on the auction block. I placed her, thankyouverymuch. But I didn't want to make a thing of it.
"Yep," I said.
"Well, good for you!" Brittany said. "Do you still get to see her?"
"Yeah." Good for you?
"That's great. So, Dr. D. wants to get a few x-rays ..."
Good for you? Good for you?
Brittany was already draping me with the lead apron, but I was still hung up on those three words. Good for me? What the heck was that supposed to mean? I wanted to ask her, but Dr. D. wanted all of my teeth x-rayed, and that kept my mouth busy.
Good for me? No, really, what does that mean? Does it mean good for me, or good for me? I wish she'd thought to put more emphasis on one word or another. It was my own personal "These pretzels are making me thirsty" moment. Did Brittany mean I'd done something good, that Roo's adoption met with her approval? Or did she mean that placing Roo was a good thing for me? Like I did it because it was in my best interests?
Good for me? Who says that, anyway? What the heck kind of reaction is that to the news that a woman has placed her child for adoption? Good for you? How am I supposed to take it? I suppose that a normal person wouldn't "take it" at all. Anyone else would let it go. But I'm not most people. Two things I know about myself very well are that I value precision in language, and I have a hard time letting things go.
Good for me? Good of me, perhaps. Good for Roo. Good for me? I don't know about that. Not that placing Roo has been bad for me. It was awful at first, but things are so much better now. Adoption has turned out to be a wonderful thing for me. But I get uncomfortable with that line of thinking. I don't like to focus a lot on how great things have been in my life since placement, because I feel like doing that makes it sound like placement was a selfish thing, something I did for me, because it made my life better. I'm not saying I have to suffer just to prove to Roo that placement was a selfless decision. But I have a hard time thinking of placement in the context of how much better my life is now.
Good for me? Maybe. But that's not why I did it. And it's not even why I try so hard to make something of myself now. It's for Roo, all of it. I placed her for her, and I want to be someone she can be proud of.
I guess a good start would be to stop obsessing over three little words spoken by my dental hygienist.