Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Footprints in the Sand

Note: I've been hanging on to this post, unsure whether I ought to hit "publish" or not. Part of me feels like maybe it's a little bit too self-congratulatory or smug. I didn't write it with that angle in mind, but I'm a worrier, and I worried that it came off that way. I let my mother read it, which may or may not have been a mistake, as I doubt very much she would notice if I was being self-congratulatory. She's my mother and would probably see that sort of thing as a sign of self-esteem.

Suffice it to say that this wasn't written with smugness in mind. I don't think I'm, like, Captain Awesome or anything. But I am better than I used to be, and I wanted to write about why. So here goes.

There's this poem you've probably read before about God and footprints in the sand. I'm not going to re-post it because I'm too lazy to Google it and I think it's probably got a copyright, not that that ever stops anyone.

I will summarize, however. The gist of it is that in our darkest times, God picks us up and carries us through the pain. As a child, I thought, Isn't that nice? But the older I got, and the more pain I experienced, the less nice I found it. I mean, it's a lovely sentiment, it really is. And it's true that God doesn't ever abandon us, especially in times of pain and sorrow. But what I object to is this idea that He carries us, lifting us up. I've not once found that to be true.

Maybe it's true for you; I can't speak for anyone but myself. If it is true for you, well, you probably don't need to read the rest of this. In fact, you probably shouldn't, because I may unintentionally offend you (sorry). But if it's not true, if you've also wanted to cry foul when someone quoted the Footprints poem to you, read on.

I've been thinking a lot lately about pain. I have fibromyalgia, which is a chronic pain condition, so I'm no stranger to hurting. Every day when I wake up, something hurts. Add to that my father's death and Roo's placement and I think I'm something of an expert in what it is to hurt. Through my life, whenever I've hurt - physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally - I've turned to my Father in Heaven in prayer. More than once I've asked Him to lift me up, to carry me through, to take the pain away. That particular prayer has never once been answered as I've asked. Prayer didn't make placement easier by one iota. My Heavenly Father has never once picked me up. But, if we're sticking with the poem here, there has never once been only one set of footprints. God has never seen fit to lessen my pain. But He has been with me through every step of it. He has never left me to suffer alone, not once. His answers to my prayers are often along the lines of my mother's response when I'm hurting: "I know. I know it hurts. I'm sorry."

I don't think I'm introducing a new concept when I say that pain brings strength. Think of your muscles. When you work out - lifting weights, for example - the exertion damages your muscles with thousands of tiny rips and tears. They hurt, don't they? But the body is an extraordinary machine; it heals itself. As the body repairs the muscle, it builds under the tears, making a bigger, stronger, better muscle than before. Or in other words, pain is gain.

When I was still only a few months along in my pregnancy, I heard one birth mom's account of her placement experience. I want to relay this carefully, because I have so much respect for this woman and her story and I know that what happened worked for her. Let me simply say that she concluded her story by saying that placement only hurt a little bit for a very short time, because God picked her up and carried her through - He took the pain all away. I'm quite sure I internalized that, because the pain of placing Roo was very different, and I felt misled and lied to.

I envied this other birth mom for her pain-free placement. In my darker moments, I hated her and her whole happy story. But in the time since then, I've come to pity her a little, as I pity anyone who blithely says that they prayed and God simply took their pain away. I think, if she didn't hurt, how did she grow? Because I have grown immensely from and through my pain. It has shaped me into a bigger, stronger, better woman than before. I'm not advocating intentionally causing pain as means of personal growth, but when it happens, go with it.

I think it's a mistake to assume that if God loves you He'll carry you through your pain. The God I worship loves me enough to let me hurt when I need to hurt so that I can grow into the woman He wants me to be. He doesn't leave me to suffer alone and He never will. He doesn't carry me, but He puts His arms around me. He says, "I know it hurts. I'm sorry." His footprints are right there in the sand next to mine. He walks with me through my pain, and I am a better woman for it.

I am thankful to my Father in Heaven for answering my prayers in His way, for letting me learn and grow through my pain.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about Roo lately. It was just her birthday, as I mentioned. She's now two years old.

I'm not still hung up on her birthday. I mean, the first birthday is supposed to be the hardest, as all the firsts are, and I handled that well enough. And I did pretty well this year, too, which disproves the idea I once read that for some people the second year is harder than the first. I had wondered about that, since I did so well with her first birthday.

But like I said, it's not so much the birthday itself that's stuck in my brain. What's giving me a mental itch is the fact that on this birthday, Roo turned two. I know I've said that already, but it's important. My little girl is two. Which means that if I'd not placed her, I would be the mother of a two-year-old. And that's what gets me.

I know that much of the time people think a birth mother choses adoption because she's not ready to be a mother. That may be true for some women, but it wasn't for me. I was absolutely ready to be a mother. I wasn't a stupid teenager. I was 25, 26. I was more than ready for motherhood. Adoption wasn't about readiness. I think that's where it still stings. Because I'll be 28 this year and it occurred to me a few months ago, 28 sounds like a really good age at which to have a two-year-old, doesn't it? I know that life rarely works out so neatly. But that's part of it as well. I guess I can't help but think that if things had gone differently at any point in my life I could be the mother of a two-year old right now, and I'm not, and it hurts.

I recently read an article about adoption in the New York Times *here* and there's a line on the end of the first page that I like.

... a new mother cannot know the value of the thing she subtracts. It is only through time — when my son turned 4, and I was 27; when he turned 6, and I was 29; when he turns 10 this year, and I am 33, and ready for children — that I begin to understand the magnitude of what I lost, and that it is growing.

This is what people don't always understand about adoption - it's not an event, it's not a clean cut. I'm always going to be a birth mother, and there are always going to be things I miss, things I wonder about, things I don't have. It's not always a sad thing, but I do find myself wondering every so often if Roo has a favorite food or if she likes bath time or if, like me, she takes her shoes off whenever she can.

I didn't anticipate wondering about those things. It was a bit simpler when Roo was a baby, because a baby is ... well, a baby. But babies grow up. Roo isn't a baby anymore, she's a little person. And it's different. It's always going to be different now, I think. Once Roo crossed the line into toddlerhood, things felt a little different - not because of anything with P and M or with Roo herself, but because of time.

She's still very small, but I do wonder as time passes how much more things will change, how much more she will change. I mean, two years ago Roo was barely out of my belly. Today she can walk and talk and dance and sing and swim and do all sorts of amazing things that children do every single day but that were never special until Roo did them. The second year of Roo's life was much different than the first for me, and I wonder about the next two years.

I'm trying not to have a pity party about any of this, though. I don't have any cake, for openers, and you can't have a proper pity party with cake. And really, I'm not devastated by things. I had a perfectly lovely visit with Roo and her family very recently. The "magnitude of loss" isn't necessarily this traumatic thing for me. It's just sort of ... a benign entity most of the time, I think. It's the what-might-have-been that's never far away. Even though I've never second-guessed my choice to place Roo with her family, I've also never been able to outrun the what-might-have-been. It's always nearby. It's an old friend. It's not a sad thing. I just ... I wonder. I always will.

But I also think of how much I've grown and changed for the better since I placed Roo. Not that I would recommend pregnancy and adoption as a means of maturing, but they certainly got the job done for me. I'm not going to be twenty-eight with a two-year-old. But if things worked out the way I always wanted them to, I wouldn't be the woman I am today (and I think I'm pretty awesome at times, between you and me) and most importantly there would be no Roo.

It's funny how it always comes down to that sticking point for me. Any time I think, I wish X had happened, or Y, I remember that if any part of my life had been a few quirks away from what actually occurred, I wouldn't have gotten pregnant. And where would I be without Roo? Who would I be? I can't say that I'd go back and change anything that led me to Roo, because having her is the best thing I've ever done or will ever do. I may always wonder, but it's worth it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Here's the Problem: A Warning

I've been thinking about this post for a while, and I had decided to abandon it, because it's the sort of thing that could potentially humiliate me. The nice thing about this blog is that I write it, so I'm able to control how I appear through what I write, and because I don't typically ever meet my blog readers, you are all none the wiser. I put a few pretty words together to give the impression of cleverness and think, ah, I've fooled them again.

But I don't reckon that's fair. Although I'm careful for the most part about what I share, I do pride myself on my honesty, so I've decided to admit to something I am not the least bit proud of. And in case you're tempted to offer it as a suggestion, please keep in mind I am already in therapy (although my therapist totally says I'm functional now, so there).

With that in mind, here's the post. Please feel free to laugh.

I was thinking about things the other day (I do that sometimes), and I decided that I sort of wish I had never mentioned that I'm going to be teaching a class at the FSA conference in August. Not because I'm not excited about it, or because I think I'm going to do poorly. I regret it because now people know, and several of them have said they want to come hear me speak.

I don't have a problem with public speaking. If I had a topic and a few minutes to prepare, I think I could comfortably address the United Nations. The problem is that after I speak, or maybe before, people are going to want to talk to me. Public speaking? Check. Social interaction? Um ... no.

Ladies and gents, I am Lord Mayor of Awkwardtown. I don't know how I was elected or why, and I'm not sure what's wrong with me. I've decided to blame it on high school. All those years ago, when everyone else was out socializing and learning how to interact with people, I was locked in my bedroom reading French existentialist philosophy and listening to The Cure. So now most of society knows when it's polite to make eye contact or smile at someone or exchange pleasantries, and I'm stuck thinking things like, "I smiled at her earlier and said hello. Should I smile again? Should I say hello again? If I do will she think I don't remember our exchange from earlier?" And by then, whoever I should have interacted with will have walked past and seen me looking thoughtfully bemused, which unfortunately comes across to most people as disgruntled or dyspeptic.

I work at a rather large library with around thirty other people, and every single workday my mind races - how many times do I smile and say hello? Was that a courtesy "how are you" or does he expect an answer? Do people think I'm pedantic for saying I'm doing "well" instead of "good" like everyone else? How long do I hold eye contact? (I read somewhere that too much is unsettling and you should focus on other parts of the face near the eyes for the count of seven each - seven seconds on the forehead, the cheeks, et cetera. But what if my lips move while I count? How do I explain that one?) How was that social smile, because it felt to me like I was accidentally imitating this angry chimp I saw on TV who bared his teeth as a sign of aggression. Do other people know that most other primates show their teeth as a sign of aggression and not cheer? Do other people think about that when they give social smiles?

Most importantly, can people tell by the look in my eyes that even though I'm smiling at them I'm actually thinking of a television program about chimpanzees that I watched in 1998?

And then there's physical contact. Oh, man. Don't even get me started. I've mentioned before that I give awkward hugs. I can't tell you how many hours I've wasted wishing I lived someplace like Japan where people don't even shake hands as a general rule, they bow (or at least that's what popular culture has led me to believe). Instead, I live in America, where sometimes people like to hug. I think part of my difficulty in hugging comes from the fact that I used to have a weight problem. The weight is gone but the awkwardness is residual. Even though I'm not a heifer anymore, I'm not exactly willowy, and it seems like very often the person who wants to hug me is rather lithe, and I feel like Jack Black with David Letterman's hands. We'll hug and I think, is this how narrow a woman's shoulders are supposed to be, and if so how come I ended up with my pipefitter grandfather's supraclavicular muscles? She must think I'm a tank. She must think I have to shop at a men's big and tall store for shirts. Not to mention, I'm always afraid people's hands are going to land on a particularly flabby patch of back, despite having relatively few of those now.

And where do I put my hands in a hug? What if I accidentally touch someone where they don't want to be touched? How long should a social hug last? How can you tell whose arms should go on top? What if the other person is going for a side hug and you go full-frontal? How tight should a hug be, and how close? What if my deodorant isn't as powerful as the brand's ad campaign led me to believe? What if my shampoo doesn't smell as good as I think it does? What if the other person's jewelry gets stuck in my hair? (You laugh, but that's happened more than once.) What if my clothes smell more like work than Woolite?

There are days where I think if someone reaches out to hug me I might just shriek and run in the opposite direction.

And then, as if physical contact weren't bad enough, people want to talk. I like to talk as a general rule. I think I'm pretty good at it. But I'm best at it when it's one-sided. Conversation is much trickier. I'm not nearly as clever with words in conversation. I tend to get nervous, for openers, and nerves make me stutter. No, not the typical, almost charming stutter that Colin Firth affected in "The King's Speech." Mine is more of a parade of ums and uhs and other random nonsense syllables with which I intended to begin words when I started out. And even when I can get words out, the letters those words are made of don't form the proper alliances. They get knotted. I end up spouting things like "Creen Queek" instead of Queen Creek. My nervous conversation is a stream of the world's least funny Spoonerisms.

It would be tolerable if I were unaware of it. But I am overly aware of it to the point that I am often unaware of anything else. Sometimes I'll recall an exchange and think, it's really a wonder I ever ended up pregnant.

Have I scared you off yet? You may be tempted to follow my lead on the whole running-off-screaming thing.

I'm not saying I don't want to meet any of you. I would love to meet any of you who go to the FSA conference, I absolutely would. I'm making the 12 hour drive and I'm almost never in Utah, so we may as well say hello. But consider yourselves warned. I may end up looking at your hair and counting instead of making eye contact, I'll ask if you had a "drong live" to the conference, my social smiles could incite chimp riots, and I have abnormally well-developed deltoids.

But you know what? My presentation is going to rock.

Friday, July 15, 2011

I'm Ambivalent About Blog Awards

Is it just me, or has this year gone by twice as fast as normal? I have no idea how it's the middle of July. It feels like May at the most. I worry that sort of feeling means I'm not a kid anymore. I actually have quite a bit of anecdotal evidence that I'm not a kid anymore. For instance, I'm not sure when it happened, but all of a sudden I like Fleetwood Mac. And the other day at work, I had to hold something away from me to read it.

I think there was supposed to be a point to that, but I don't remember what it was. Sorry.

This post has a point, though, and here it is: I'm ambivalent about blog awards.

I used to covet them, because I didn't have one. So I made my own. He lives in my sidebar. His name is Captain Cluck and he's yours for the taking (assuming you are interested in having a picture of a zoo chicken in your blog's sidebar).

Then someone gave me a blog award, and I was happy. I felt ... oh, validated, I suppose, and appreciated. I posted about it and felt good about things because finally I had an actual blog award, and that was that.

Then someone else gave me a blog award, and I felt like kind of a jerk. Because I don't think anyone wants to read a blog all about how amazing someone thinks she is. But on the other hand, it's nice of people to give them out, and I don't want to be ungrateful. I don't want someone to say, "Hey, Jill, here's a blog award!" and have my response be, "Oh, hey, that's nice, but everyone already knows how big my ego is - I have SO MANY other blog awards, I'm not even going to bother with this one."

So I would like to say both I'm sorry, and thank you, for my newest blog awards. They are courtesy of mom/birth mom/surrogate mom blogger Tanya, who writes here: (click).

(If I were cleverer/less restless I would put the pictures next to each other instead of one above the other, but it was one of Those Days at work, so one above the other it is.)

As you can see, I am apparently both versatile and lovely, neither of which are words I think I have ever used to describe myself or my blog, but at least Tanya thinks so. See, I'm not being braggy or obnoxious. I'm giving someone else's opinion of me, or rather my blog, and it happens to be a good one. So that's less obnoxious, right?


Thanks, Tanya :)

I think I'm supposed to nominate other people but I never do. Is that obnoxious? Should I nominate people? I just don't want anyone to feel left out; that's my problem. If I nominate other blogs it's like saying I think those blogs are better than the other blogs I read, and I have a hard time choosing favorites. (I have a hard time choosing things in general. I have only two kinds of cereal in the house for this very reason.)

I may nominate someone later on, but as I said, this was one of Those Days at work. I think there is a disruption in the space-time continuum at my library. I swear I worked at least 15 hours today.

I digress. The other thing I'm supposed to do is mention seven things about myself. Because, you know, I don't talk about myself enough as it is. Let's do four and call it even.

1) My personal motto is a Jewish proverb: Man plans, God laughs.

Story of my life.

2) I once had a fleck of oregano lodged in my right tonsil. Have I mentioned that before? It seems like I may have but I don't remember.

3) I once concluded a story about a nativity made of white chocolate by saying, "I ate the baby Jesus last." (I have decided that if I ever write my memoirs, that phrase will be the title.)

4) This isn't about me specifically but rather librarians in general (not that I am a librarian; that honorific requires an advanced degree). When people find out I work in a library, they always have some story, and then they say, kind of jokingly, "I bet you guys talk about customers all the time," and they end with a nervous laugh, clearly hoping to be disabused of that notion.

So I'm sorry to say that yes, we do talk about you. We talk about you a LOT. We talk about the stupid questions you ask, and the excuses you give for lost books, and the ridiculous things you say to us. Some of us even write these things down and are planning both a blog and a book about them.

We spend hours talking about you. So be nice, turn your books in, pay your fines, and don't ask how we're doing alphabetical order these days.

Friday, July 8, 2011


It seems like it used to be that when I had a visit with Roo and her family, I'd re-hash it in detail on my blog. I suppose some part of me felt I needed to do that - to record it, perhaps, or to show how nice it was to have an open adoption.

I used to be a lot more open about my open adoption, I think. But Roo's getting bigger, and I find that the more time passes, the less comfortable I am sharing too many details about Roo or her family. I'll still blab about my own thoughts or problems, but I feel very protective of P and M and their family, and I don't ever want them to feel like every word that passes between us or everything that happens is going to end up on my blog. So I share a little less of the physical details and a little more of the emotion on my end. I think it's a happy medium.


I had a birthday visit with Roo and her family. It was great! Roo seems much taller than I remember from a few months ago, and a bit more grown up. I had a marvelous time just watching Roo be Roo, and after a little while she warmed up to me, having decided maybe I was trustworthy after all - I do have all those books in my apartment. Roo loved my books. She was very careful about taking them off the shelf one at a time and putting them back where they belonged.

We sang songs and did puzzles and had cupcakes and opened presents and even got a little cuddle in at the end. It was a wonderful visit. My apartment has memories now. It's a strange thing for me. In a way, Roo being here made this place feel like home more than anything else I could have bought or done. Memories live here - patches of floor are no longer simply things I step on. Now I can think, Roo sat here. She sang a song over here. She danced over there. I can think, this is how high she could reach on my bookcase. There were once cupcake crumbs here, a delicate sprinkling of them like glitter from a fairy wand. There is a line of blue crayon on my coffee table that I may never wash off, because Roo put it there.

I am so thankful for visits, for openness. I am thankful for those crumbs, that crayon mark, these memories. I am thankful to P and M for sharing their little girl with me. I am thankful that I can see for myself what Roo is like and how happy she is. I can tell her myself that I love her. Today, I got to do just that, and I feel like the luckiest woman in the world.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Today is Roo's second birthday! Hooray!

Two years ago today, at exactly this time, my obstetrician pulled Roo out of a gaping incision in my abdomen. (It sounds so pretty when I put it that way, doesn't it?) After 36 hours of labor, the final hour of which I had to go without an epidural, my favorite little person in the whole wide world made her debut.

The time since then has been the most challenging and rewarding two years of my life, and I wouldn't trade a second of it for anything in the world. I am so very thankful to my Father in Heaven for trusting me with Roo, for letting me love her first. She is the most amazing, wonderful, beautiful, clever, and sweet little girl I have ever known. I am a better person for being her birth mother. She inspires me every day to make something of myself so she can be proud of me.

I love her so dearly, I don't have the words to express it. I am so thankful for Roo, and for P and M for being such wonderful parents. It would be enough for me, I think, if they were simply good to Roo, but they're good to me as well. What would I ever do without them? They spoil me.

And today their baby girl is two. What a wonderful day!

Happy birthday, Roo! I love you.

Friday, July 1, 2011

"I Want You To Know I Am Happy"

Did any of you peeps see this article on the interwebs?

(Click Here)

It's about how birth families and the children they placed are finding each other on Facebook. I should mention that I specifically didn't read the comments, because I can't imagine many of them are happy or positive. Not that everything has to be happy and positive, but I also don't have to read things that aren't if I don't want to. So there.


I thought it was an interesting article. Facebook has made the world a lot smaller, hasn't it? It's easy to connect with people you might never have found otherwise. Decades ago when many of these birth mothers placed, they never would have imagined that someday it would be this (relatively) easy to reconnect.

Certainly they wouldn't have dared to hope to read the following in their inbox sixteen years after placement:

“I never blamed you or my father. I know you gave me up because you loved me. My mom always told me that you loved me. I read all the letters and saw all the pics you sent and I want you to know I am happy.”

Isn't that amazing?

I think sometimes I take openness for granted. I've said before that I don't think I could have placed in a closed adoption. My selflessness has limits, and that's one of them. But I think I take for granted that I know what Roo looks like and what she's up to.

I know that she's happy. It's a beautiful thing.

Because of openness, Roo's biological origins aren't shrouded in mystery. She won't grow up wondering what I look like or who I am. She'll know that I love her not just because her parents will tell her, but because I'll be able to tell her. She won't have to poke around on the internet in a decade, hoping for a clue, armed with only a name or a date to aid her search. She won't need to. She'll know.

I was asked once if openness ever made things harder - maybe not all the time, but every now and then. Obviously I can only speak for myself, but that's never been the case. Openness is the reason I was able to place, my greatest comfort in my grief, and the impetus for me to move forward. I don't have to wonder, I don't have to worry, and I don't have to Google.

Roo is happy. I know.