Monday, August 29, 2011

Just Me and My Memories

I always remember dates. I'm not sure why. I can tell you important dates, like family birthdays and wedding anniversaries and the day I first went to the temple. I can also tell you other dates that I don't have any real reason to remember. I know the date I started beauty school, the date I started working almost every job I've had, the date I bought my houseplant, the date I graduated from high school. I remember the birthday of my childhood best friend. I remember dozens of random dates, and every time they roll around again, I'll think, it's been X years since this happened. I don't know if anyone else does this, but I do. Let's call it part of the magic that is me.

So, today is August 29th. For another few minutes, anyway, and by the time anyone reads this it will be the 30th, but work with me here, okay? It's the 29th, and it's been the 29th all day, and all day, I've been thinking, it's the 29th.

Two years ago I started this blog. I don't know whether I chose the date intentionally or not. In retrospect it feels sort of symbolic for me to have started blogging on August 29th because my blog marked the beginning of the end - the end of my time as Roo's mother, the end of the life I'd grown to love. Three years ago on August 29th, it was the beginning of the end of something else - my father's life.

My mother said today that she can never remember, but that she knows it was the end of August. I thought, how can you not remember? August 29th is practically part of my genetics at this point. August 29th was the date that my mother came into my bedroom and told me that she couldn't wake up my father.

I tried to wake him up, too. I don't know why I thought I could when she couldn't, but I tried just the same. He was breathing, so I guess I thought he'd come around. I remember my mother looking a little lost, and asking if she should call an ambulance. I said she should, and she called. We followed the instructions of the 911 dispatcher and moved my dad so he was lying down. I went outside to wait for the ambulance. It was one of the blue ones. They had the lights and sirens on. Some part of my brain registered that they'd made good time, and I reminded myself that it was an ambulance, and that making good time was kind of a thing with them.

I led the paramedics into the living room. Four of them started working on my dad, and a fifth sat down with a clipboard and started asking my mom questions. She couldn't answer them; I think she was in shock. But I could. I explained about the brain cancer, the surgeries. I gave him dates (I always remember those) and brought over bottles of prescription pills so they'd know what my dad had been taking - an antibiotic, a steroid for the post-surgery swelling, and Temodar for the cancer.

In the midst of this I heard someone call out my dad's blood pressure, and when I heard the numbers, I knew he wasn't ever going to wake up. I was right. He died eleven days later and I was the one to call my brother and sister to tell them.

It is the curse of this memory of mine that although I cannot remember math from a class I took four times or any of the French verbs I learned last semester, or the names of people I have met more than once, or what comes after the part about the country folk being "up and to arm" in that poem about Paul Revere, I can remember in excruciating detail August 29th of 2008. I remember to the minute what time things happened. When my father said he had a headache. When the ambulance was called. When my mom and brother and I got to the emergency room at Gilbert Mercy.

I've been looking at the clock all day, thinking: this is when this happened, or that. Three years ago this is where I was, and this is what was happening. Three years ago right now, for instance, I was on my way to St. Joe's in Phoenix, where my father had been transfered. I remember thinking how quiet the freeways are at night, and how peaceful the city seemed. It felt wrong for things to be so tranquil when the future was so scary and uncertain. It seemed unfair that people were sleeping soundly in their homes while my home was never going to be the same again. I envied them their peace, their sleep.

My dad died on September 9th, but I don't grieve much for him that day. In my mind he was gone on the 29th. I grieved today. Oh, how I grieved!

I spent much of the day at my mother's house, which might have been a mistake. I love my mother, but the house is so full of reminders - here is where the EMT with the clipboard sat. Here is where my father's prescriptions were. Here is where the couch was, the couch on which my father fell asleep for the last time. Although it's my couch now, and I'm sitting on it as I type this (sometimes I hate my couch). It's not just the memories, though. It's my mom's new husband.

It was hard today to think so much of my father, and to see my mother happy with someone else. I'm glad that she's happy, of course, but it was still hard. It was hard for my mother to ask me, when I drifted off for a moment or two, what I was thinking of, and to tell her how I was reliving that day - That Day - knowing that her husband was in the next room, and that he could probably hear. I didn't want him to hear. I didn't want him to know these details that are etched so deeply in my memory. It felt wrong. I don't know why.

I digress.

I wonder if, two years ago, I picked the 29th on purpose. I know that I knew what anniversary it was, what significance the day had. I'm not sure. But I'm glad that I picked it. Because this day, this sad day, has other memories attached to it. It's not just the day I lost my dad. It's the day I sat at my computer and tried to think of a name for this new blog I wanted to start for Roo. It's the day when I watched my baby sleep and thought, this really is the happiest sad. It's the day when I started something new that would prove to be more therapeutic than almost anything else has ever been in my life.

I like the contrasting memories. I think this is part of why I chose to place Roo on the 9th. I wanted to blend the memories of these two very different September 9ths, as I'd done with the 29th of August. Although I find that, in retrospect, the roles of peace and pain are swapped from the 29th. My father was the pain and adoption was my peace. My father's death on the 9th was a surprisingly peaceful thing. Placement was pain.

I would never be foolish enough to claim that time heals all wounds. I don't believe that. But I do believe that time changes them. I think sometimes it changes them enough that we can live with them. Maybe some people mistake that for healing. I don't know.

I'm certainly not going to say I've healed. Look at it this way: I had a c-section to deliver Roo. I was cut open, and sewed back together. That wound has healed. I know it has healed, because it no longer bleeds or hurts and I forget I've even got a scar there most of the time. I know that it once hurt, but I find that I can't remember what the pain felt like.

It will never be like that with my dad, or with placement. I may not be bleeding as I did initially, but it's a wound that still hurts from time to time. It happens much, much less frequently with the placement pain, because I took the time to grieve properly. I put off grieving for my dad. It hurts. Sometimes it bleeds. I know the scars are there. I remember the pain. The trick is to keep the pain in the past. Some days are easier than others.

But here's what else I know - there's a difference between being scarred, and being broken. And I am not broken. These dates that are written on my heart, they're not the days that I was broken. They're the days when I got knocked down.

But I got back up.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Happy Blogday!

Happy birthday to my blog! Strictly speaking, I'm a day early. Tomorrow, my blog will be two years old. I feel like I should throw a party for it or something. There definitely needs to be cake. Of course, I think most occasions call for cake. If I found out I was going to need kidney dialysis, I would probably mark the occasion with cake.


I thought one way to celebrate would be to finally publish the Facebook page for this blog. What Facebook page, you ask? Why, the one right HERE (I think that's the right link). I've been thinking about it since July, and I thought my Blogday was an appropriate occasion for this kind of shameless self-promotion.

I've considered a Facebook page on and off for a while now but I always decided against it because I thought, what kind of ego do I have that I think my blog needs a Facebook page? Do I think I've got so many fans that people are just clamoring for one more way to adore my blog? It felt like way too much of an ego thing, even though that was never my intent when I considered it.

For the most part, I figure if people want to keep up with this blog, they'll ... you know. Read the blog. It's not tricky, really. And for people who thought I personally was kind of cool, they could friend me on Facebook. I used to have a little clickable picture in my sidebar for just that purpose.

But ... I don't know. I got more friend requests than I expected to, and from people I've never met. And while I am very flattered that people wanted to be my friend, I felt a little uncomfortable sharing so much of myself (and the occasional Roo picture, although I'm careful with privacy settings on those) with people I don't know very well or at all.

Not that you probably particularly care about that (unless I didn't accept your friend request, in which case I apologize), but I'm getting to a point. The point is that I do want people to have a way to connect with me elsewhere, if they want to, and I thought a Facebook page might be a good way to do that. It's safer for me, privacy-wise, and it would give me a chance to share some of my adoption-related thoughts on Facebook without boring my non-adoption friends. Also, if you don't have a Blogger account (or, like my mother, you have one but never log in) and don't want to miss when I post something, you can be a liker on Facebook and keep up that way.

I'm not saying you have to "like" me on Facebook. I totally understand if you don't want to. But if you want to, now you can. I plan on being very liberal with the "block" button to keep the meanies away, and I promise to keep the ego to a bare minimum.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Welcome to the World, Baby Girl

I was going to write this whole long post about my stay in the hospital, but I couldn't decide between including all the little details and giving a general overview. I'm still not sure. It's a very personal thing, labor. I think I'm going to go with an overview. I feel like I sometimes share a bit too much of myself on this blog, and while I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, it is nice to keep some things to myself. I've already written it all out for Roo on the blog I keep just for her.

So this isn't going to be too detailed, but I've written it out the best I can. I was surprised to find in writing it that I feel bad that P and M missed it, that they weren't there. I wonder what things would have been like if I'd found them sooner, if they had been there for Roo's arrival. I feel a little guilty. I wouldn't trade my time as Roo's mother for anything in the world, but I do feel guilty for what P and M missed. Obviously, their version of this story contains a lot more detail :)

I was induced not long before 9pm on Sunday, July 5th. Twelve hours after that, my water broke. I got an epidural on Monday night, and … I was still pregnant on Tuesday morning. I figured the baby would come when she was ready. I wasn't worried.

My doctor was. “You're still pregnant,” she said, looking stunned.

Figured that out all by yourself, did you? I thought. But I just smiled and answered in the affirmative.

"You shouldn't still be pregnant." Her eyebrows narrowed as she perused my chart. "We're going to need to do a c-section," she concluded.

I worried then. I'd imagined childbirth going any number of ways, but none of my scenarios included being carved open like a Thanksgiving turkey. But my baby needed to come out, and my body didn't want to cooperate. The appropriate arrangements were made, and I was wheeled into an OR.

They pulled a partition up so I couldn't see below my own sternum. I didn't need to see. Thanks to my childbirth classes, I knew exactly what a c-section entailed. I was just grateful my doctor has very small hands. I didn't need someone with David Letterman-sized paws digging into my uterus.

I couldn't feel anything. It was nice. The doctor told me I'd feel a bit of pressure. Not much else was spoken that I could hear. Finally, she told me it was time, and a few seconds later Roo was born. They showed her to me, and in that moment, I was forever changed. I took one look at her, all tiny and pink and bemused, and I fell deeply and irrevocably in love.

I had thought more than once during pregnancy that if adoption were the right choice, I'd know it when I “met” my baby. I suppose I thought I'd just look at her and know. How stupid I was! No one could possibly look at their newborn baby and think, right then, who wants her? Because I wanted her, and I never wanted to let her go. I loved her so much already. Adoption was off the table in that instant, and I resolved never to think of it again. This amazing, fantastic, most perfect little person in the world was my baby. My mind was made up.

A nurse came to check on me in recovery and when she saw that I'd shaken off the drugs I'd been given she lifted Roo, wrapped up like a little burrito, and put her in my arms. I looked at my baby, and she looked at me, and nothing else in the world mattered.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Back Home Again

Did you know that from my house in the Valley to the Davis Conference Center it's exactly 735.9 miles? True story. My car's trip odometer says so. Also a true story: Gasoline is about thirty cents per gallon more expensive in Utah than in Phoenix. I paid three and a quarter in Mesa and $3.69 in the middle of the Beehive State. Scandalous! They have refineries there. Gas should be cheaper. Although how sad would it be if BP lost money that way? I know I'd cry myself to sleep. So $3.69 it was.

(I first typed that as $369, which reminds me of a truck I saw near Anthem on my way out of the Valley. It was for sale, but the guy had put a $ in front of his phone number, which confusingly took up two lines. Dear guy in the red truck: your late 90's low-rider Chevy isn't worth $623,000 dollars. You might want to fix that.)

Anyway. I think I was trying to make a point, and here it is: I'm tired. I drove 13 hours on Thursday (and lost an hour thanks to the inanity that is Daylight Saving Time) and 11 hours yesterday (not sure how that worked out but I'm going to credit taking highway 89A instead of 89), and the blog post I planned about the conference is going to have to wait.

But you know what? As excruciatingly dull and butt-numbingly long as the drive was, it was worth it. I met some really cool people and learned a lot of important things and gave what I think was a pretty darn good presentation. And I had homemade brownies and ate them on a patio overlooking pretty much all of North Salt Lake (thanks, Becky!). I think that adoption people are the best people. You know that song about how people who need people are the luckiest people in the world? (I hate that song.) Well, I think that adoption people are the luckiest people in the world - or if not the luckiest, the coolest. Some of my favorite people in the whole world are my adoption friends.

I found myself thinking frequently of Roo, and wondering what she was up to. I do that sometimes. But I thought of her, and pictured her sitting with a book and carefully turning the pages as she does, or imitating everything her big sister does, or swimming or coloring or just being adorable, and I thought just as frequently of how very grateful I am for what adoption has given my little Roo. I'm willing to take credit for how cute she turned out, but everything else she is, is a result of her mommy and daddy.

I heard one adoptee say on Friday that she wouldn't be the person she is with the great life she has if she hadn't been raised in the family she was raised in, and she was grateful to her birth mother. I loved hearing that. I think, that's going to be Roo someday with that sentiment, happy and successful and smart and saying, “I am who I am because P and M are my parents, and I'm so glad my birth mother placed me with them!”

I'm glad I placed her with them, too. I'm thankful every day.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In Which a Lot of Whining Occurs

The FSA National Conference is in a few days. Y'all are going, right? I'll be there, of course (please say hello if you see me; I promise I only bite on Tuesdays). August used to feel very far away but now the whole thing will be over in a week, and I'm looking forward to it. Not that I'm not excited, because I am, sort of, but I've been feeling kind of blah lately and I think if I weren't presenting I'd just say to heck with the whole thing and stay home. Google Maps rather optimistically calls my drive 11 hours and 39 minutes. Google Maps has clearly never made the trip before. I have, and when you factor in breaks for eating and fueling up, plus the nightmare that is Utah road construction, it was closer to 14 hours last year. (Utah's roads have been under construction for the past 80 years or so. I've decided this is their way of taking the state motto of "Industry" to heart.)

Last year after the conference I stayed for a week with a friend in Provo. This year is different, and I'll be driving home only three days after I drive up. My back hurts just thinking about it. In case you're wondering, I'm driving instead of flying because while a flight was about the same as driving, if I flew I would have to rent a car, and that would break the bank. So I'm not stupid, you see. Just cheap.

There are other little things that are bothering me about this whole thing. For openers, I had to submit my presentation for approval, which I totally understand, but now I feel this pressure to only say what I've submitted so I don't accidentally say something I'm not allowed to. I don't like doing public speaking that way; it feels inorganic and uncomfortable. Also, I am totally unprepared to present without staring at the words on my computer screen. This could be a problem.

Another thing is that I'm missing work so I can go, and while I'm happy to get a break (if you call 24+ hours of driving in five days a break) I already accidentally calculated how much money I'm not making when I'm gone. Also, I'm funny about how certain of my work tasks are done, and I just know that my co-workers are going to mess them up while I'm away and I'm going to have to fix things when I get back.

Did I mention I'm not looking forward to the drive? I'm really not. Although I'm considering some sort of audio tapes to learn a foreign language on the road (learn Swedish? Ja!). But it's just ... it's such a long drive. I could never be a long-haul trucker.

And then there's my brain. Have I mentioned before what a scary place my brain is? It's terrifying. It never shuts up. My brain wants to know why, nearly two years after placement, I'm still so "into" adoption.

Don't get me wrong. I know plenty of birth mothers who are several years post-placement who are still involved in the adoption community. But it seems like most of them have also moved on in the sense that things are happening in their lives. That's where my brain gets stuck. It wants to know why they get to move on and I'm still alone in my boring little world. It seems grossly unfair. I know, of course, that life is very rarely fair but, to quote a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon, couldn't it be unfair in my favor?

I honestly believed that two years after placement I would be married or at the very least have a busy social calendar and go on dates. It sort of bites at me that, work aside, this trip to Utah interferes with absolutely nothing. My mother and my boss know that I'm leaving town, and that's about it, because there's no one else to tell. I am so sick and tired of being lonely. It bothers me that there's no one to inform of my plans.

I know that faith in God includes faith in His timing. I just wish He'd throw me a bone, give me a hint, something. I just wish I had a reason to believe that things won't always be exactly the way they are now, and I don't have one yet. It would be nice if God would say, "Hey, Jill, be patient a little while longer, good things are coming." Or even, "I hope you like the quiet, because you're going to grow old with a lot of it." I mean, I need to be able to plan for the future. I want to know if I should give up hope. If I'm going to be alone forever, I have to plan for the acquisition of a lot of cats. Should I start collecting them now? Inquiring minds want to know!

Okay, I think that's all the whining I'm going to allow for myself for today. I need to stop so I can psyche myself into being excited about the driving I get to do this week. I'm going to need to start now if I want to convince myself I'm excited about it by Thursday morning. I don't think I'm going to believe myself. Wish me luck.

Monday, August 1, 2011

I'm a Birth Mother, and I'm Okay*

I used to be very careful about sharing my adoption story.

That probably sounds like a load of hooey coming from someone who has blogged about every adoption-related mood swing for the past two years, but work with me here, okay? My blog is a different beast. It's an entity. It's not like it's the first thing that comes up if you Google my name.

Actually, the first thing that comes up if you Google my name is the website for a Juno-nominated singer-songwriter from Halifax. You'd have trouble finding me at all if you Googled my name. I sort of like it that way. But I digress.

Blog aside, I didn't - and still don't - go broadcasting my story to every person I meet. It's not a shame thing, I promise. Adoption is the least shameful thing I've done in my life (I think Tamra said it that way first, but I liked it, so I'm using it). It's more a matter of ... well, shoot. It's lots of things. Part of it is that I don't feel like everyone deserves to know about it, because it's something that's precious to me. Part of it is that I'm never sure if people are going to feel the need to "educate" me about adoption (because it's a topic I clearly know nothing about). Part of it is that I feel that saying I'm a birth mother is insufficient I want to say more, to tell my story, and maybe there's no time, or the time just isn't right.

Whatever the reason, I have, in the past, tended to be a bit closed-mouthed about things around most people. I don't think anyone in my new ward (church congregation) knows that I'm a birth mother. I liked it that way. I was very comfortable with that.

But lately I feel the need to out myself. I find myself thinking at church each week, is there some way I can tie adoption into this? Is my experience even a tiny bit relevant to this topic? I've found myself trying to make it fit so I can unburden myself. Suddenly, for a reason I'm not entirely sure of yet, I feel almost desperate to tell people, "I placed a baby for adoption, and it is the best thing in the world."

It's a nice feeling. I used to wonder at birth moms who were so comfortable with things that they would often lead with their birth mother status. "Hi, I'm [name], how are you doing, and by the way, I'm a birth mother." I thought they were crazy! Why would they want to start new friendships and relationships with that kind of trammel? But I understand now. I think it comes from finding a sense peace and acceptance with both the adoption and the circumstances that led to it. I think that now I've forgiven H and found my happy place, it's a natural progression. I am totally cool with this area of my life, so why wouldn't I want to talk about it?

But there's a bit more to it as well, or at least there is for me. It's not just adoption that I've had to come to accept. It's myself. I've always had ridiculously low self-esteem (high school sure didn't help). It's only very recently that I've started to believe that I have value - not in spite of, but because of what I've been through. That's huge for me. I think that's the place I had to get to before I was completely okay with telling people I'm a birth mother. Two years ago, I never thought I'd get there. But here I am, and the words want out. They're on the tip of my tongue more times than I can believe. I wasn't ready to talk before, but I think I'm ready now.

I've got a lot of catching up to do.

*This post title is a reference to the Lumberjack Song, which can be enjoyed here: