Saturday, April 2, 2011

Good for You!

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.

"Of course."

"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.


LisaAnne said...

Yes, people just say what immediately comes to mind. What she probably meant was she thought what you did was a great thing. It just got lost in the translation when she spoke. :)

I've had the exact same conversations. They are always weird.

I completely relate to this post. <3

A Life Being Lived said...

Jill, once again you could be writing my own story (except I hate the dentist and never go) is hard to "explain" to people who knew about the pregnancy but not the adoption (especially when they are aquaintances you don't see often). I think she meant well and probably had a whole lot more in her heart to tell you but didn't want to dwell on the subject. It sounds like she didn't really think about how her words would sound. I truly think she meant something like "Good for Roo, I am impressed and amazed and humbled by the fact that you are the best mother ever by choosing to place her with her amazing parents and family. I know it must be a heartbreaking thing to do and I can't even come close to imaginging it but you are one awesome woman in my book and finding out about Roo's adoption after the fact makes me respect you so much more because you chose to keep it private while also sharing your joy and pictures of her with me." Yes. I believe that is what she meant.

Black Betty said...

You are over analyzing. You know that you made the best decision for Roo, and that's all that matters!

Unknown said...

It strikes me as absolutely hilarious that we both have to deal with absurd questions and comments from people, just on different sides; You deal with the "good for you's" and we deal with the "don't you ever want your own child?'s" It's ignorance. Our child didn't come from my body but she's our child.... it just so happens that she was someone else's first. We don't 'share' her, but we share our love for her... they had her for her first 2 weeks days... we'll never have those 2 weeks... and we wouldn't take back a single second of it.

The "good for you's" come from the best intentions and the most awkward moments for those who just simply don't understand. You handle yourself with dignity and grace and class... good for you!! ;-)

Jessica said...

"Good for you" is such a strange phrase because it often means you did something that wasn't necessarily good (or at least good-feeling) for you. I think it recognizes a selfless act. So if someone spent all weekend volunteering their time, you might say to them, "Good for you!" in recognizing not that they were feeling good (they would probably be exhausted) but that they had looked beyond themselves to do something for someone else. And that's exactly what you did--you made a decision not for your own interests but for Roo's, and that is a huge, loving, selfless act that deserves acknowledgement--and I think that's what she was trying to do, to acknowledge that :)

Cami said...

People say this to me sometimes and I don't understand why either. I think I have come so accustomed to it that I just kind of blow it off. Most people don't know what to say when adoption is brought up anyways. I just assume most people are at a loss of words and just say a popular response you could use in many situations when they have no idea what to say.

Xander and Alana (but mostly Alana) said...

This was such an interesting post for me. Thanks! I'm one of those people that says things like, "Good for you!" without thinking too hard about how it can sound on the other end, especially when there's no clarification offered. I always just mean it like, "I'm so glad you were able to pinpoint what it was that you wanted to do and do it." Which sounds ridiculous, really, but in my life sometimes it can be really hard to figure out what to do, so I'm always impressed when someone else manages to reach a decision about something difficult. But I'd never thought about all of the different possible connotations of that statement. When people say it to me--and they said it A LOT when we were in the midst of the adoption process--I always assume they mean it the way I mean it, but I'm realizing now that maybe they don't. Oh boy...

Chris, Dana and Addison: Hoping to Grow through Open Adoption said...

It is funny that I have struggled with "what to do/say" at the dentist often. What a strange place to struggle with such personal conversation. I lost two babies and my dental visits always fell when I was pregnant and then after I lost each baby and in-between. I think I am officially on the "weird" list at that office. No one knows what to say to me, and I really don't want to deal with such awkwardness at the dental office. I actually called once, surely making things even weirder, before Addison's first dental visit, asking them not ask about my pregnancies or losses. I didn't want Addison's first dental experience to be shadowed by such personal stuff. I just find in normalizing that you deal with "dental drama" also! And, I can totally relate to analyzing every word another person says related to my most personal experiences. That is normal too. I hope she was just meaning her "good for you" as in "you are an amazing person to care so much for your little girl." That is what I hope!

AubreyMo said...

She probably meant well but I agree, it was an interesting choice of words. Adoption and infertility both fall into that same "what is the right thing to say?" category.

I remember being so offended when Grandma died and people asked me, "so how was the funeral?" "So what's the story, how did it happen?!(excitedly asking me how my grandma died)" My response was, "uh it was a funeral and I do. not. want. to talk about it." I can't imagine being in your shoes and constantly hearing weird responses and questions from well-meaning (and sometimes not so well-meaning) people. Hopefully next time you see Brittany she will be a little more understanding and more careful with the words she chooses.

Red said...

I would like to simply say that I recently found your blog and am happy that I did. I am the birth mom of an 8 year old boy, open adoption with a wonderful adoptive family I love very much. I also have a 1 year old baby girl who lives with me. She will be meeting her brother finally in 2 weeks (yay!).I find it difficult to find the time and the means(emotionally) to write about my experiences as a birth mom, and I am impressed with women who have the fortitude and will to do so. I will keep following you, and thanks again for your voice.


Que and Brittany's Adoption Journey said...

Well, first let me apologize for those Brittanys. You know, those Brittanys (and Britneys) who give us all a bad rap.

I hope not all dental hygienists are weird about adoption, because mine went on and on about how our birth mom should have given my baby to someone else until she could raise him. You know, as if he were something to put on a shelf. Anyway, don't feel too bad. She just didn't know what to say. Maybe next time she will ask some good questions and she can learn more about adoption.

Lizzie - The Dancing Toad Blog said...

I just found your blog today and I really love it. I've been reading it for hours. You are a great writer and you seem to be an amazing woman. Thank you for sharing your experiences. My husband and I are just starting the adoption process through LDSFS and I love finding whatever I can online regarding adoption and I feel so lucky to have found your blog.

Lara Zierke said...

I have never quite "got" that phrase. I've heard it quite a bit and never seems to make much sense. I have even received it in response to our girl's adoption. "You adopted. Good for you!"

It is just an odd platitude, and like most platitudes, it doesn't make a lot of sense when really dissected.

S said...

I think its hard for people to talk about adoption when they dont know alot about it. They know the jist of what it is, but they dont know the details. Its hard for me to talk adoption with people, mainly because of phrases like the dental hygenist said to you. There are times I take offense when people say words like that...I just have to keep reminding myself to shrug it off my shoulder and hope one day they really do learn what adoption is really about.

Ktbug said...

I just happened to run across your blog tonight. I'm laughing because I AM A HYGIENIST :) My husband and I previously had our adoption papers complete. Now we have a 19 month old (our little miracle baby)and are considering our options for our next addition. Anyhow...I think that people often just don't know how to respond. My oldest brother is adopted. We've considered adoption. We are obviously very open to and LOVE the idea of adoption and yet I sit here and think "what would my response have been?" I don't think "good for you" is a negative response at all. I think it means good for you for being mature enough and open minded enough to consider all your parenting options. It's an amazing opportunity everyone involved. Good for you for being such an amazing birth mom to being open to adoption.

I agree that certain terms are super annoying when dealing with adoption. I know people often ask my mom "does your son know who his mom is?" My mom always responds "well I am his mom and he also knows his birth mom." But the term I have the most difficult time with is "giving the baby up." I think that birth mothers like you are excellent to help educate what is and what is not appropriate to say in these situations. Having said that...What do feel would have been a better response?