Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Wrong Question

I have been the worst blogger this year. I remember when I used to have time and energy and ideas for blogging and anymore I'm just tired. I love my job - well, parts of my job - but I am not now nor will I ever be a morning person. Getting up at 6:30 isn't particularly fun in the summer, but it's worse in the winter when it's cold (I hate the cold) and the sun hasn't even bothered to rise yet. I don't think I should have to get up before the sun. It's much bigger and much more important than I am. And then the lazy good-for-nothing sun can't even wait for me to get home from work before disappearing again. The winter feels dark and cold and endless and when people come to the circulation desk and mention that it's warmed up outside, I want to grab them by the shirt collar and beg, "Please, tell me what the sun feels like!"

I am not now nor will I ever be a winter person.

I digress.

If you liked A Series of Unfortunate Events, you will probably like the newest series of books by Lemony Snicket, which is called All the Wrong Questions. I don't always read juvenile fiction, but I've had a short attention span lately and 272 pages sounded just about right. Anyway. I had not planned on mentioning children's books on this blog, but this evening I heard a young woman talk about single parenting and adoption, and I thought, she is asking all the wrong questions.

 Let me begin by saying that I respect the choice so many women make to single parent. It wasn't for me, and it wasn't for Roo, but I can't make that decision or that call for anyone else. I can't advocate adoption in every single situation because I don't think it's for everyone. I don't want to step on the toes of any single mothers. I do want to say that it's not something I'd choose.

I'm going to interrupt myself for a moment to address a comment I got on my last post. I'd reference it more specifically but my computer is being dumb so I'll paraphrase. The commenter, a single mother, urged me not to deny myself the pleasure of motherhood just because I'm single. I totally get where she's coming from, and having parented Roo for the time that I did, I know that being a mom is pretty rad. But I would much rather deny myself motherhood than I would deny any children of mine a father simply because I want to be a mom. You are of course free to disagree with me, but that's a decision I've made and I'm sticking with it.

I had never before met the single mother I heard from today and I don't know if I'll see her again. I respect the decision she made for herself and her baby. I don't know why she made the decision she did and I don't need to. It's none of my business. Someone asked her if she ever thought about adoption, and her answer is where the title of this post comes from.

"I do wonder, what would my life be like if I had placed him? Because [single parenting] is so hard."

Sometimes someone's words sort of float around in my brain for a while before I can formulate a response. This was not one of those times. I knew almost instantly what I wanted to say to her, and I had to bite the insides of my lips to keep my mouth closed. It would have been extremely rude for me to say, "Pardon me, but as far as adoption is concerned, you are asking the wrong question." So I was polite and said nothing.

The right question is, "What would my son's life be like if I had placed him?" And the answer consists of every reason I placed Roo for adoption.

I asked myself the wrong question for my entire pregnancy and the first seven weeks of Roo's life. When I considered my own future, I could never even entertain the idea of adoption. I would be sad and empty and broken. I'd have nothing. It took me a while to scrape up the nerve to ask the right question - what would Roo's life be like? - and when I did I had my answer. 

Adoption is the only truly selfless thing I've done in my life. But it was selfless. I made the choice I did because I knew what adoption would do for Roo, and I loved her too much to keep that future from her.

It hurts my heart a little when I hear women talking about adoption in terms of what it can do for them and how it will affect their lives. I think it gives birth mothers a bad name. We're not all like that. Some women might ask the wrong question and place for the wrong reason (or not place at all, for the wrong reason, and parenthetically I do believe there are plenty of good reasons for not placing). But I know plenty of pretty amazing women who asked the right question and placed for the right reason.

 Adoption isn't for everyone. Single parenting isn't for everyone. But I think that the question, "What will my child's life be like?" is a question for everyone, and it should be asked early and often.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

FAQ: Do I Want More Children?

November, if you haven't heard, is National Adoption Month - today, in fact, is National Adoption Day. In previous years I did a LOT of blogging to commemorate. Spoiler alert: that will not be happening this year. I am way too busy (those cat videos on YouTube aren't going to watch themselves). I've also been too busy to answer e-mail and my blog e-mail tends to be crazy anyway; if you've written to me in the past 6 months, don't give up hope, I will catch up eventually. I hope.

But I feel like I should do something for November, because I think adoption is really rad. So I'm going to steal - no, let's say, appropriate an idea from my friend Brittany. She's been answering frequently asked questions on her blog each week and I've decided to do the same. I already have a blog FAQbut it hasn't been updated in ages; I had a lot of anger issues when I wrote it and I think I'd probably explain things better if I were to re-write it and I think that I will eventually, but not right now. Wow, that was a beautiful run-on sentence, wasn't it? I think I might look into National Grammar Month; I need it.

Anyway. I have been asked other questions, by friends and acquaintances and by high school students who have been subjected to my story during their child-development classes. I want to answer some of them here. Today's question is courtesy of a teenager who apparently missed the phrase "I always wanted to be a mother" sprinkled liberally throughout my story.

Q: Do you want more kids some day?

A: Short answer, yes. Slightly longer answer, yes, absolutely, but I'd like to be married first.

I would not be me if I left it at that, would I? I love words too much.

I have always, always wanted to be a mother. I know that in today's modern world women are supposed to be ambitious and have their own careers and lives but I've never been that type-A. I think I'm unambitious out of self-preservation; I tend to take things to extremes and when something is important to me I give it 500%. Ambition would be the death of me. Being a wife and mother has always been enough of a goal in my mind. That's probably not the sort of thing a woman is supposed to confess to but there it is.

My pregnancy was a surprise but not an unwelcome one. It wasn't the way I'd planned on being a mother but I was disinclined to be picky. I wanted a baby and I was having a baby. Maybe it's because I know exactly why I made the decision I did, and because I know so many other birth mothers whose decisions were similarly selfless, but I am always surprised when someone assumes I placed Roo because I didn't want to be a mother. Placement had nothing to do with wanting to be a mother or not wanting to be a mother. It was about what was best for the little girl I love so much. It was a choice I made as a mother.

I very much want kids. I know that single women aren't supposed to say that because we come across as baby-hungry and people get these ideas that I instantly assess every date as a potential father, that I've picked out names for all my children, that I can't hear normal conversation over the sound of my own biological clock ticking. Judge me if you will, but I do want children. I would love to have children, and preferably before my fertility starts to nosedive. But I'm not going to do it by myself. If I don't get married, I'm not going to have more kids. I don't care how well-off I end up, how successful or happy or anything else. I will not be a single mother again. I wanted Roo to have two married parents who love each other. Why would I want anything less for any other children I might have?

There's a selfishness behind this determination as well. Here's another uncomfortable truth: my pregnancy was the absolute bloody loneliest time of my entire life. I don't think I've ever felt so alone and I hope I never do again. I hated going to doctor's appointments because I was frequently the only woman in the waiting room without a husband or boyfriend. I invited H to come with me at first but I stopped after a few months because it was obvious he was never going to. I would surreptitiously assess the relationships of the couples in the waiting room and, without exception, they seemed to love each other. It hurt. I'd stare at my hands and wonder what I had done wrong that the father of my child didn't even like me.

I will not go through that again.

I want children, but I don't -just- want children. I want more for my children than I can give them by myself. Which means that although I would dearly love to be a mother, it's probably not going to happen. I'm okay with that. Because I had Roo, and if she's all I ever get, she's enough.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Birthday Wish

I don't remember the last time I blogged twice in three days, but this is a special occasion. Today is my birthday!

I hate my birthday. Well, no, hate isn't the right word. Mostly because I like cake, but also because I like cake. Dean Koontz said that where there's cake, there's hope, and there's always cake.

But as I may have mentioned last year (I'd give you the link but I don't feel like finding it) I tend to have disappointing birthdays, and sad birthdays, and so I have learned to have absolutely zero expectations. My birthday is just another day. Shorter of breath, one day closer to death, right? As long as I get my cake, I'm okay.

This year, there is only one thing I wanted for my birthday. I wanted if for my last birthday too but I was more patient then. I wasn't sure it would happen this year, even though I wanted it to very badly. It was completely out of my control, and all I could do was pray. Then I heard that it was going to happen ... and then maybe it wasn't, and I got a little angry at God and frustrated with the general unfairness of life. It wasn't something selfish I wanted. It wasn't for me. For the first time since placement, I wanted something for someone else more than I wanted anything for myself. I wasn't asking for a miracle. Well, maybe I was. But only a small miracle.

About a week ago, I had hope again, and I prayed quite desperately for several days, telling God in no uncertain terms what I wanted to happen and for whom. Just this one thing, and I wouldn't even care what happened for at least the rest of the year. I just needed this one little miracle, and I could handle everything else.

Last week, I got my birthday wish. I got my miracle, by which I mean that P and M got theirs. My little Roo is a big sister! I don't even have words for how happy and excited and grateful I am. It doesn't matter to me how my birthday goes anymore. If I start to feel sad, all I have to do is look at the picture I have of Roo holding a chubby-cheeked new baby (with a little help) and the world is an awesome place again.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

In Which Jill Talks About Her Feelings

I hate trying to blog when I haven't blogged in a while. I feel the need to explain my absence, to say something profound, to make a Big Statement. I have started and abandoned twenty different posts since the last one, and absolutely nothing I tried to say felt right.

It's not that I'm having these deep emotional thoughts I can't express, though. My life is pretty awesome. But I wonder if that's part of the problem. I've always had more to say when I've been upset. Some of my best writing came from my darkest times. What is up with that? I mean, I know that there are these cliches about tortured artists and tragic clowns and everything, but that's messed up. Maybe some people need trauma to bring out their inner genius, and maybe I once did too, but in the words of Homer Simpson, that ship has sailed. I have been a happy person for quite some time now, and I plan on being a happy person for the rest of my life.

This is the other reason I hate trying to blog when I haven't blogged in a while. I end up mentioning clowns and Homer Simpson and I still haven't said anything of value. I probably won't say anything of value today, either, so brace yourselves. 

Last week I did an outreach presentation at a high school in Ahwatukee. (The location isn't particularly important, but Ahwatukee is a fun name.) It wasn't my first presentation of the school year - that was in September and I don't think I wrote about it because I've been ten kinds of lazy lately - but it was the longest at four classes in a row. There's a danger in doing four classes in a row. I feel like the first class gets the best version of my story. By the last class, I can't remember what I've mentioned already and I am easily distracted and I tend to be underemotional about some things. Blogger has put a squiggly red line under the word "underemotional" but I don't care, I want it to be a word today and I don't feel like hyphenating it.

I noticed something on Thursday, though. I did not cry.

I used to be big on crying when I did presentations. Not for effect (although doesn't that seem like something I'd do?) but because I could not get through my story without turning into what I believe the kids these days would call a hot mess, because placement was so expletive deleted hard, and I missed my baby SO MUCH, and just thinking about it took me back to that dark and lonely time. It helped, if that's the right word, that I was still not a particularly happy person, so it wasn't too hard to pull those feelings up for reference. Now that I am a happy person, it is much harder.

I got a little choked up when I mentioned Roo being born because that was such a defining moment for me - I don't think I have even gotten that far in my excruciatingly long and drawn-out story on this blog - but that was the extent of it. And I felt kind of weird, thinking about it, that I would utter a phrase like "I didn't think I could hurt that much and still be alive" and not even have a fizzy throat. I felt kind of deceitful.

I'm not sure why. I was telling the truth - it was the worst I've hurt in my whole life. But it felt wrong somehow that I could talk about it without being upset. I wonder if that's part of the reason I hung on to my unhappiness for so long. I figured out two years ago that part of why I couldn't let go of the pain was because I felt like I needed it - I needed to hurt to prove to myself that I love Roo and that placement was a hard thing. I wonder if the other part of it is that I needed to hurt because it gave me credibility.

But pain is exhausting. Hurting all the time made it hard to get out of bed in the morning. I had to let it go, and I am so glad I did! Because while being sad may have made me credible as far as the difficulty of placement, it didn't do much for the overall message I wanted to send, which was that adoption is a really awesome thing. I mean, if I sat through a presentation that was supposed to be pro-adoption and the birth mom who spoke was still a wreck, I wouldn't be any more inclined to place a child. I'd feel really sad for the birth mom but I would tell myself that if that's what placement does to a person, I'm staying away from it. That is not the point of me taking a morning off work and telling a hundred high school students embarrassingly personal things about my life.

The point is that I think adoption is pretty rad, and Roo is really ridiculously happy, and so am I, and even though I was a deeply unhappy person for at least a solid year, I'm not that person anymore. I am happy and I have a really awesome life.

I probably could have just said that to the disinterested looking teenagers and cut twenty minutes off my presentation, but I do like to tell a good story. Mostly, I like to tell a long story, which isn't news if you have ever read this blog before. Boy, do I like to tell a long story. I have always admired people who can express themselves succinctly. I think it's a remarkable skill. It's like juggling. I can be amazed at how easy other people make it look, but every time I decide to try it for myself, I end up with a headache.

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I think P and M are pretty much the coolest people I know. They are fantastic parents, and they are smart, and patient, and thoughtful, and a lot of other great things. If I ever grow up, I want to be just like them. When I was pregnant and considering adoption, one birth mom suggested looking for a couple that reminded me of myself - "That way it's like another version of you is parenting your baby." I am SO glad I did not take her advice. Roo already has to combat the genes I gave her; I wouldn't want to compound the problem by choosing parents for her with all of my neuroses.

I think I was trying to make a point, and here it is. I am such a wordy person. I can't accept that a picture is worth a thousand words. I will find a picture worth a thousand words, and I will give it a 10,000-word caption. When I edit my writing, I add to it instead of taking away. One of my earliest memories is of being told to shut up. My childhood nickname was Little Miss Chatterbox. I could go on.

One of the things that I love about M is that when she says something, she says exactly what she wants to say, without saying anything else. Where I would be pulling adjectives out of the air, she simply says what she needs to say and stops talking or writing. For instance, M would have finished this blog post about eight paragraphs ago. I still don't know where I'm going with it. I should probably be done for now.

But I will blog again soon, and when I do, I have some exciting news to share.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

In Which Jill Writes About What She's Not Going to Write About

I spent quite a lot of time on a post about September 9th, 2009 - the day I placed Roo. It felt like what I ought to write about because today marks three years since then. I've written before about placement itself but I've never written properly about the day before placement. So I started to write, and I cried a fair bit, and even though everything I wrote was true and relevant, it didn't feel right.

I did a presentation the other night with P and M. We spoke to the women and teenage girls in a local LDS congregation. I've done these presentations with Roo's parents twice before and I love it. I love talking about adoption with pretty much anyone, but I think it's more meaningful when my audience gets both sides of Roo's story instead of just mine. When we reached the point in the story where I was supposed to be talking about my feelings during placement and what it was like, I had an odd moment. One part of my brain was bringing up the words I wanted to use to describe placement, but another part of my brain was nonplussed. (I have been trying for ages to properly work that word into a blog post, and there it is.) I thought, am I remembering this right? What did I feel that night?

I found that I sort of couldn't remember. I mean, I've read some of my own blog, so obviously I remember in the sense that the story is acutely familiar and of course I lived it, too. But as I was talking (the part of my brain that makes me talk always works three times faster than the part of my brain that actually considers whether I should be saying what I'm saying) I kept stopping mid-sentence and changing direction and finally I blurted out what is probably the least helpful thing I have ever said when describing placement -

"I don't know. It was just - it was a while ago. I've changed so much since then. It sort of feels like it happened to someone else."

A minute later, when my rational brain had caught up, I silently prayed that no one in the audience took that to mean I'd suffered a dissociative episode. But the thing is, what I said was true. I am quite the opposite of the depressed, juvenile, selfish woman who placed her child for adoption and then sat in her mother's Toyota screaming and crying. While I am immensely proud of the choice I made for Roo, I'm not proud of who I was when I made it. I was a wreck of a woman, and I find it nearly impossible to identify with her, even for the sake of my story.

I tried to slip back inside that skin to talk about how much placement hurt, but it made me feel petulant and selfish and it was uncomfortable. Writing about the day of placement, the last day I was a mother, didn't feel right because it was full of such wistful sadness and I don't like to dwell in those places anymore. One of the rather obvious things I have learned about happiness since I started studying it this year is that if you want to be happy, you shouldn't spend a lot of time thinking about sad things.

So, I'm sorry to say, I don't think any of you will ever be reading the paragraphs I labored over earlier. If Roo wants to read them when she's older she will but I don't want to go there with anyone else.

I was just going to write, like, a paragraph about why I'm not writing about placement day today, and look what happened. Words everywhere like some kind of explosion and I'm not even done yet.

I also thought that I should write something about the day my dad died, because today marks four years, but I spent hours on something that still didn't feel right. I wasn't sure why. I edited the heck out of it and re-wrote it three times and I liked what I wrote but it still didn't feel like what I ought to say today. I think I've figured it out.

When I was a kid I took gymnastics classes in the summer and I learned two important things. The first is that I have no aptitude for gymnastics. The second is that there's a pathetic sort of safety in looking back. If you're doing a handspring or a walkover or a flip, it's easier to go backwards because you can see where you're going. If you go forward, you have what is known as a blind landing - your feet face the direction you're headed before your eyes do. I mastered the back walkover, but the front walkover scared the daylights out of me. I didn't know where my feet were going to land and my fear kept me from putting them in the right place. Every. Single. Time.

But in life, as in gymnastics, if you can only go backward, you're not going to get very far. You have to learn to risk a blind landing every now and then if you want to get anywhere worth going. It's like the end of the last Indiana Jones movie. Remember this scene?

Indy had to save his dad (spoiler alert: he succeeded), and that meant taking a step forward, off a cliff. It would have been easier and safer to turn around at that point, but he didn't. (It would have made for a terrible ending if he had. The elder Henry Jones would have died and Indy would have looked like the worst sort of coward, especially considering everything else he faced in the movie, and the two movies before it.) He had to move forward. He couldn't go back.

Neither can I.

There are things I am going to remember for the rest of my life, and when the mood strikes me I will write about them and I may or may not put them on my blog. But I'm drawing myself a line there. The past is a foreign country. You can visit from time to time, but you can't live there.

More and more I find myself taking leaps of faith. Well, not leaps, exactly (which is lucky, since we've established that acrobatics are not my forte), but steps, let's call them steps, into the unknown. I can't see the path ahead of me but I know that it's there. I know that God is there. And even though it would be easier to look back, I'm going to keep moving forward, blind landings and all. I don't know where this path ends, but I can't wait to get there. It's going to be awesome.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Happy Birthday, Blog!

Today is this blog's third birthday! I feel like there should be cake. There should always be cake, don't you think? Not just for birthdays but in general. There should always be cake. I would bake one but I tend not to bake, as I live alone and I lack the self-control to keep from eating everything that comes out of the oven. Although if I'm honest, sometimes I don't even turn the oven on. There's no need to lie to myself. I make cookie dough for eating, not for baking.

I digress. Today my blog is three. Birthdays are a good time for self-reflection, aren't they? No? Well, too bad. To answer the question that no one has asked, I have not gone back and read my blog to commemorate the occasion. I tried that last year and had to have an extra session with my therapist to curb the ensuing bout of self-loathing. (I have evolved since placement, and I quite sincerely thank God for that.) A few minutes ago I read through the first two entries of this blog, and I decided that was enough. I don't need to go back. I know where I've been, because I was there. I will occasionally reflect on the dark days of my adoption experience, but only as a means of gauging how far I have come. Going back for more than a moment or two would accomplish nothing. I want to go forward.

I wish I could achieve that sort of psychological clarity in other areas of my life. I like to think that I possess the right mental skill-set to achieve that. Every one of my grade-school report cards mentioned my critical thinking skills (also, that I seemed to be bored a lot). The problem is that I have not yet learned to use my skills for good. I am like a teenage superhero, doing my best to save the world but occasionally using my superpowers for nefarious purposes by accident. While there may not be any comically-nicknamed villains on the streets of Mesa because of my neglect, there are consequences, and they usually involve a tearful existential crisis* in my therapist's office.

Because in addition to being untrustworthy with baked goods, something I know to be absolutely true of myself is that I am a world-class Monday morning quarterback. I don't know of anyone whose second-guessing skills rival mine, although in all fairness, I have had decades of practice. I am the Muhammad Ali of rumination. And I blame my brain.

I blame my brain for a lot of things, because pretty much every problem I've had can be traced (however tangentially) back to my brain. My brain is a jerk. Have you ever seen the scumbag brain meme? Here's my favorite:

When I found that on Pinterest, I laughed for about ten minutes. I was tired. Anyway. I blame my brain because if it didn't remember things so well, I would have less to ruminate on. Of course, my brain doesn't remember everything well, because that would be convenient and useful.

For example: I've been playing the piano since I was Roo's age, and the only song I have ever been able to memorize is "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." So I have to scan the room before I mention my piano-playing skills. I won't tell anyone that I can play if I'm in a room with a piano, because then they'll want a demonstration, and I'll play my little song, and I can practically hear people think, "Wait, did she say she's been playing since she was three or since she was twenty-three?" It's humiliating. I can play really complicated pieces if I have sheet music, but I'm useless without it.

My brain refuses to remember the notes to a song I have played more than a thousand times, but it will remember conversations word-for-word, and it will remember them for years. This is especially detrimental for someone as socially awkward as I am. I can recall pretty much every stupid thing I've ever said, and the uncomfortable looks on the faces of the people I said them to. I can recall, and my traitorous little brain comes up with other, less-embarrassing things I could have said. Come on, brain! Why can't you come up with better things to say when I can still say them? What good is a snappy comeback three months later?

One of the things I like best about writing, particularly on the computer, is editing. Until I hit "publish," nothing is permanent or fixed. I can take as long as I need to come up with just the right combination of words. For instance, the third paragraph of this post was re-written nine times and I may edit it once more before I publish. I can mull it over, read it out loud to see how it tastes, add and subtract words and phrases and rearrange until it says exactly what I want it to say.**

I can't do that in real life. My car did not come equipped with a flux capacitor.  So while I can remember conversations I've had, and while I can think of how I could fix them, I can't actually go back. Ideally, this knowledge would keep me from constantly editing past conversations. Ideally it would keep me from looking back so desperately and with such agony.

I'm pleased that I've gotten there with adoption. It has taken me nearly all of the past three years to stop looking back and thinking of things I want to edit. For my next trick, I want to stop editing the rest of my life. I don't imagine I can live my life completely without regret. But there's a difference between regretting something, and re-living and editing it at night when you ought to be asleep. I tend to do the latter. Again, I blame my brain.

You know, I would love to say that there is a point to all of the preceding, but I confess I've quite lost track of it. Sheesh. This is embarrassing. Where was I going with all this? Blog birthday, self-reflection, scumbag brain ... hmm.


I think I was explaining why I don't read my own blog. Well, that'll teach me to ask and answer my own questions, won't it?

I meant to self-reflect and talk about how far I've come in three years and I ended up talking about why I should probably be seeing my therapist more often. But you know what? I kind of don't care that I ruminate a lot. Is it really the worst thing in the world? No.

The fact is that I have come really, super far in the past three years. I am a different person entirely. I am a happy person. There was a time when I thought I would never be able to say that about myself, but I'm saying it now and it's true. I am happy. I am happy almost all the time, and sometimes I am really ridiculously happy and people probably want to punch me in the face for it. My life is quite far from perfect, but that feels so unimportant to me. Far from perfect is still pretty rad.***

I'm not where I thought I'd be at this point in my life, and that's not a bad thing. I think I've ended up where I needed to be. I believe that God has a plan for me that's a lot greater than anything I could ever come up with. I know that when I've trusted Him in the past, amazing things have happened. I trust Him now get me where I need to be next.

I'm not the same woman who started blogging three years ago and I wouldn't be her again for anything in the world. It makes me wonder how much more awesome I'm going to be three years from now. I can't wait :)

*I am proud to say that my therapist decided last December that I am a sane, functional adult, and I only see him four or five times a year now, just to check in. I could probably see him less often but I've decided it's good for him to see someone who is happy and doing well, even if it's only seasonally, because I know that his office deals with a lot of sexual deviants, and I feel like he probably needs the occasional mental hand sanitizer to keep from crying himself to sleep at night.

**This doesn't mean that I am proud of everything I have ever written. I think most of this blog is crap. But everything I have posted here was, at one point, exactly what I wanted to say and I felt pretty good about it at the time. Even if I'd never say it now and am now in fact slightly ashamed of having wanted to say it ever.

***Sorry about that. Two weeks ago I caught myself using the word "rad" and I don't know where it came from but it's like a virus. I can't seem to stop using it. I counted a few days ago and I described more than nine different people and things as "really rad." I think I need help.

****I was pretty stupid to say that everything I've posted on my blog was, at the time, exactly what I wanted to say. It's not even true. I'm not happy with the conclusion of this post and no amount of mulling has fixed it. The smart thing to do would be to think about it for a while and come back to this post, but if I don't hit "publish" today the post's point, such as it is, would be moot. What I should have said is that everything I've posted on my blog was good enough at the time.
Also, I feel like I should apologize for the sheer volume of my footnotes today. I'm not going to, but I still feel like I should.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


One of the things I used to worry about right after I placed Roo was how I was going to tell people I was a birth mom. A lot of people knew already, but in my head I had a lifetime of awkward exchanges ahead of me, and I dreaded it. I felt good about the choice I’d made to place, but I didn’t trust that the rest of the world would understand. The fact that I was still extremely miserable compounded my worry – how would I ever convince people that I’d made the right choice when I was so unhappy?

I became preemptively defensive, and any time I was asked a question to which my birth motherhood was the answer, I warred with panic and lost. I became adept at explaining away my weight gain, my unemployment, my necklace. I had an arsenal of clever responses that were so well-rehearsed, I wondered if I would ever need to tell the truth.

I knew that in my personal life, I would have to be honest with certain people but I felt that such honesty would be a matter of much thought and prayer and likely panic. My thought was that adoption was such a special thing to me and not everyone deserved to know about it, about Roo. This didn’t stop me from doing presentations at high schools with my adoption agency, but classes full of teenage strangers didn’t bother me. I’d never seen them before and I’d never seen them again. There was no pressure. I had nothing to lose.

I felt that more was at stake with friends and acquaintances and co-workers. I thought more than once that if I said the wrong thing, or the right thing the wrong way, I could ruin a relationship. The first adoption conference I went to offered a class called “Who, When, and How to Tell Your Adoption Story.” I was desperate for this class, which was taught by two birth moms who had the experience and perspective I lacked.

The women who presented had very different ideas about telling their stories. One of them was very open about it. She said she tended to tell men she was a birth mom on the first date. I knew that would never be me. The other birth mom was more private, and she validated my idea that sharing my story was a matter deserving much consideration. Although I liked and respected both women, I connected more with the latter, and I decided to follow her example.

When I did occasionally feel that I needed to share my story with someone, I spoke carefully, mentally filtering out details that felt too personal or too irrelevant. I was careful not to appear too excited, because I didn’t want to give the impression that I didn’t love Roo, that placement hadn’t been hard, that I didn’t miss her. The people I told seemed hesitant to ask questions even when I told them I didn’t mind. Adoption made them uncomfortable and very often it was never brought up again.

I’m a little embarrassed at how long it took me to realize that these people were taking their cues from me. I was awkward about adoption, and it made them feel awkward. I had to ask myself what I thought was going to happen if I were ever completely honest with someone about adoption. I was afraid that they would think less of me. I knew that was stupid. Rationally I couldn’t think why anyone would think less of me for being a birth mom. And I decided that if someone would think less of me for having placed, I didn’t need them in my life anyway. Keeping quiet felt like an act motivated by shame, and I was certainly not ashamed of my choice. Placing Roo is the best thing I’ve ever done. I realized I needed to start acting like it.

The next time a question came up, I didn’t dodge it. I told the truth – that I had a baby girl, that I placed her for adoption, that it was the hardest thing that I’ve ever done, that it was worth it, that I love her. And I waited.

“That is so cool!” was the response. I showed them Roo’s picture on my phone, and that was it.

I know that I was lucky – the person I talked to could have reacted very differently. One or two people have, and I'm sure one or two more will in the future. But I decided then that I liked the feeling of being straight with someone about adoption. Once I realized that, it became much easier to talk. Or if not easier, then maybe a little less scary. I don't think I necessarily owe anyone my story. But neither do I feel like I'm doing anyone any favors by keeping quiet. I'm certainly not doing myself or Roo any favors.

The fact is that Roo is and always will be an important part of my life. It only makes sense that the people who get to know me know about her too. So much of who I am is because of Roo. So many things remind me of her. If I keep her a secret, I have to filter every word I say, and if there's one thing I am terrible at, it's filtering what I say (apologies to my mother, who tried her best to teach me better).

Most people who know me know that I’m a birth mom, and they think it’s cool. It like to believe that it doesn't define me in their minds; it’s just one of those things that are true of me like my height or my eye color or the fact that I talk really fast. (I hear things like, "I heard about adoption the other day, and I thought of you" less often than I hear, "I corrected someone's grammar the other day and thought, 'this must be what it feels like to be Jill.'")

So far, every date I have been on has been with a man who knew about Roo before he asked me out. Not that I have been on a lot of dates, but still. I have saved myself a lot of worry by being open about being a birth mom. The men who have taken me on dates knew what they were getting into when they asked me. I didn't have to worry about slipping up in conversation, or about an impending awkward discussion of my past. Everything important is already out there.

I have become that birth mother that was never going to be me. I am the woman who tells new friends, acquaintances, and random strangers that she placed a child for adoption, and I love it. I love being that woman! I want people to know about Roo. I want them to know that adoption can be an amazing thing. I want them to know that even if they know of fifty other adoptions gone wrong, or five hundred or five thousand, adoption can still be an amazing thing.

Roo's adoption is an amazing thing. And I'm telling everyone.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Openness and Contracts

My dad was almost never sick, but when he was in his late twenties, he was sidelined by a bout of pneumonia. If I had been allowed to choose what I have in common with my father, pneumonia would not have been on my list.

A few weeks ago I thought I had the flu, which depressed me because I have never had the flu, and I didn't want to break my 28-year streak. The urgent care doctor told me that he didn't think it was the flu, because his office gets a memo from Maricopa County any time there's an outbreak of something like that. I wanted to tell him that I get those memos, too, because I actually work for Maricopa County, but I was having trouble breathing. The doctor suggested a chest x-ray (I can cross that off my bucket list), and forty minutes later (I apparently wasn't suffering enough for them to hurry) I had something new in common with my dad. There was a colony of intrepid little pneumoniae in my left lung. But I am much better now, and on the bright side, I managed to lose 4% of my body weight in a week. Achievement unlocked! I bought new jeans to celebrate.

And that concludes The Happiest Sad's version of What I Did for My Summer Vacation (the abridged version, anyway. The full version includes a lot of Doctor Who). Back to business. And by "business," I mean, "expressing an opinion that is going to make me a handful of angry enemies." It's been a while since I've done that, hasn't it? I think it's time.

A few days ago, the Salt Lake Tribune ran an article about open adoption. Specifically, the article addressed the idea of a legally enforceable openness contract between the birth parents and the adoptive parents. It's an interesting read, although in typical internet fashion, most of the comments will make you weep for humanity.

Many of the people I colloquially refer to as my "adoption peeps" have taken to blogs and Facebook to opine. They're making a lot of good points. But I wouldn't be me if I didn't have my own little opinion about things. So here's what I think about this issue as it pertains to me.*

The argument on the birth mom side makes sense: an openness contract gives a birth mom peace of mind. It also gives adoptive couples a push to be completely honest about how much openness they're comfortable with in an adoption, which can save a birth mom from the heartbreak of an "open" adoption that suddenly closes. Such an agreement would be periodically re-evaluated to suit the changing needs of all sides of the adoption triad.

I understand that, I really do. And I don't have a problem with an enforceable openness contract if both the birth parents and the adoptive parents want it. But I think such an agreement should be optional, not mandatory, and I would not have taken that option had it been presented to me.

I want to make it abundantly clear that this is just my opinion about my individual situation. There are likely countless adoptions where an openness contract would have been beneficial. Mine just isn't one of them, and I want to explain why. 

I realize I'm not the best person to talk about the problems that can arise in an open adoption, because although my relationship with P and M has been imperfect, we've been able to work through the problems that have come come up. I am acutely aware that the openness I've got is what many would consider a best-case scenario. Our level of openness has changed from time to time, but there has always been communication and love and respect. I know that there are plenty of birth moms who placed with couples that later reneged on the openness they agreed to at placement. I've never felt their particular pain, and I am grateful that I've never had to. I've never been there. I can see where a contract would have benefited them. But I don't think it would have benefited me.

In my case, an enforceable openness contract would have made me suspicious of any contact I got from P and M. The openness I have now means the whole world to me, because it comes from love rather than legal obligation. If there were a contract, I would always wonder - did I get a picture and an update because P and M wanted me to have it, or because they felt like they had to give it to me? At the time that I placed, part of me - the part of me that never got over being bullied in grade school - was always slightly suspicious of people who regarded me with any affection. I think that if my openness were a matter of legality, I would feel like a burden to P and M. I would never quite have trusted that they loved me, or that they really wanted an open adoption. I would be grateful for contractual openness, but I would worry that it wasn't freely given.

Relationships are about people, not paper. I would have been uncomfortable with a piece of paper dictating the terms of one of the most important relationships in my life. Part of being an adult is learning to work through problems rather than hiding behind a legal document. (I refer to adoptive couples as well as birth moms. I know of at least as many immature adoptive couples as I do immature birth moms.)

But (I can hear you saying) what about couples who promise openness and then disappear, leaving a birth mom heartbroken? It happens. Shouldn't there be some kind of legal safeguard for the sake of the birth mom?

I'm going to say no, and despise me if you will (I can take it). Because adoption isn't about the birth mom. The choice I made to place Roo for adoption was the first decision I ever made in my life that had absolutely nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with her. I placed with the hope of an open adoption, but I also placed knowing that openness wasn't guaranteed and that it might not be forever. I had to be okay with that.

I reminded myself of this dozens of times in the two weeks between meeting P and M and placing Roo, and I am glad I did. I had to know that I was making the right choice. If I had faltered at the thought of a closed adoption, I think I'd always wonder if I really, truly made the right choice for Roo. But each time I thought, they could close the adoption at any time, my next thought was and if they do I will learn to live with it, because this is the right choice for Roo.

My conviction had to be about what Roo was going to get out of adoption, not about what I would get from it. My choice for her wasn't open adoption. It was simply adoption. Openness was a happy by-product, not the end goal.

The thing is, I trust P and M to make choices for Roo that are in her best interest. If I didn't trust them to do that, I wouldn't have trusted them enough to place her with them. I will admit that in the beginning, openness was very much about me and my needs. I feel kind of bad about that in retrospect. The most important person in Roo's adoption is Roo. Every decision about openness that is made should be made in her best interest.

The Tribune article about openness contracts says:
"In Utah, courts have ruled that adoptive parents can [close an adoption] because after the adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents are the sole and absolute judges of what’s in the best interest of the adoptee."

Adoptive parents are real parents. I don't use modifiers when I talk about P and M. They're simply her mom and dad. Roo's welfare is completely up to them. They are the sole and absolute judges of what's best for her, and that's how it should be. They know her a lot better than I do. If there ever came a time when openness wasn't good for Roo, I would expect them to close the adoption, because Roo comes first. I'm sure I'd be wrecked for a while if they closed things, but I trust them completely, and I trust that if they closed things, it would be because it was best for Roo, and that they would communicate that to me with love and respect. I would do my best to weather that storm. I've been through worse.

But that's just me with my happy little open adoption. I reckon if Roo's adoption had closed abruptly and without reason, I'd be singing a different tune. (But, trust me, you don't want to hear me sing any kind of tune.) I think an openness contract should absolutely be offered as an option. But I wouldn't have wanted one, and I wouldn't take one now.

I do think the idea of a legally enforceable openness contract has merit. But I also don't think it's for everyone. Adoption isn't for everyone. It's a choice that some people make. I think that openness should also be a choice. 

I recognize that I'm probably oversimplifying a lot. I'm in a really good place with adoption right now precisely because of the openness I've had. It's easy enough for me to say that I'd have gotten to this point even with a closed adoption, but I don't know for sure.

So let me say this about that: I think that couples who want to adopt should think long and hard about what they're really willing to do as far as openness, and they need to make this decision before a child is placed with them. I think that a verbal agreement should be honored, because that's part of being a compassionate human being. If a couple agrees to a certain level of openness and they realize after placement that it's not working for them, they should have the decency and maturity to discuss it with the birth mom like grown-ups instead of cutting her off without a word.

If a couple needs a legally enforceable agreement to tell them to be decent and kind and respectful to the woman who gave birth to their child and then broke her own heart to give that child the best life possible, open adoption or no, then they have no business adopting.

*Me, not you. You (whoever you are) have a different adoption situation than I do, so your opinion will vary and rightly so. I'm not going to presume how to tell you to think or feel about this. I won't judge you for whatever opinion you have about this and I ask that you extend me the same courtesy.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Today is an important day.

It's marked on every calendar I have, and I've been thinking about it for months now, trying to figure out what I want to do to celebrate, trying to anticipate how I might feel. It's been a source of some anxiety and wonder and excitement.

Three years ago, I fell in love.

I was in love before. For nine months, actually. I had thought my heart couldn't possibly grow any more. I was nervous. I wasn't sure what it was that I was supposed to be thinking or feeling, and I had no idea how much longer my c-section might take. It seemed to be taking a long time.

Then there was an intake of breath from my doctor, and everything was quiet for a moment, and I heard a nurse say, "Oh, she's beautiful!"

I waited to feel something different. I didn't feel anything. Just tired. And then ... and then I turned my head to the left and there she was, this tiny bundle of new baby, and I knew I'd loved her before but that love had been nothing compared to what I felt that moment, meeting my baby girl.

I became a different person entirely.

* * *

Roo is three today! I am so proud of her. She is the cleverest, sweetest, happiest, cutest three-year-old I know. She is my favorite thing ever.  I am so blessed to be her birth mom!

Happiest of happy birthdays, Roo! I love you.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Change of Plans

It's Father's Day. If I were more thoughtful and a better planner I'd have something deep and meaningful to say about the importance of fathers; or something about birth fathers, and H in particular; or something about how my big brother has been a good substitute dad since my own father died.

But in thinking about Father's Day I've found my mind consumed with thoughts of my dad, who died almost four years ago. I've been missing him a lot lately, more than usual. In honor of him, the best dad in the world, I want to share something I wrote last year for a college class. I also used it as a speech in Toastmasters. Now I'm blogging it; I think my dad would be proud that I've found so many uses for this essay.

I typically write about pretty personal things, but this feels somehow more personal than usual, so please restrain any urges to critique my writing and know that it did earn me an A. This is a little long, but I think it's worth soldiering through.

When I was little, I decided that I wanted to grow up to become an astronaut. My parents were supportive, as all parents of six-year-olds are. My mother took me to the library for books on the stars and planets, and my father took me with a telescope outside on clear nights to help me find Mars. The city offered a summer kids’ program about space, and I attended with great enthusiasm, certain that the knowledge I gleaned that June and July would help me on my way to a successful career as an astronaut.

Then I discovered opera. I adored opera. I decided that my new aim in life was to headline at La Scala. I had a delicious mental image of myself wearing a horned helmet and ornate breastplate, hitting notes high enough to shatter glass. But my newfound enthusiasm came crashing down much like the chandeliers in my opera fantasy. I couldn’t be an opera singer if I was an astronaut. I turned to my parents for guidance. My mother told me, as she so often did, that I could do anything I set my mind to, and that there was no reason I couldn’t sing opera in space. My father was a bit more pragmatic.

“Well,” he said, “you might find it hard to do both. But the nice thing is that you don’t have to decide right now what you’re going to be when you’re older. You’re allowed to change your mind as many times as you want.”

“Did you ever change your mind?” I asked.

He replied that he had. It wasn’t until I was much older that I came to understand just how much his mind had changed over the years.

My father was the fifth child of a Marine Master Sergeant and a homemaker. The homemaker, my mild-mannered grandmother, has always been the kind to take life in stride and brush off awkwardness or insult with a few murmured words. Master Sergeant Barber was a horse of a different color. I’ve heard his behavior explained away with any number of diagnoses. One relative suspects Grandpa had bi-polar disorder. Another of them chalks it up to a dangerously short fuse, a gift from his Scots-Irish forefathers, ostensible pugilists. Yet another says it was his gypsy blood. But whatever the reason, every few years, my grandfather would lose his temper at work, quit his job, and move his family to a new city to start over.

This had no small impact on my dad and his brothers and sisters. While they became accustomed to frequent uprooting, they never took to it the way Grandpa did. My dad was still in Little League when he made a vow to himself that he would never, ever allow himself to turn out like his father. At this point the Barber children numbered six. The colloquialism these days is “menopause baby” but in 1965 my uncle David was simply called a surprise. My dad, who was nine, had absolutely no use for a baby brother.

“What was I supposed to do with him?” Dad said once. “I couldn’t throw a baseball to him and he couldn’t fire a pellet gun. He was useless.” Dad had no previous exposure to babies, and so his experience with David soured him on the prospect of parenthood. He decided then and there he would never have children. “I always hated kids,” he would frequently say of his younger self.

Kids were off the list, but marriage was still a possibility until his sister wed, also in 1965. Her marriage was hasty, precipitated by a surprise pregnancy (those seem to run in the family). My aunt Patty was still in college at the time, as was her new husband, and their first apartment together was, my father reported, “a hole.” The newlyweds simply couldn’t afford creature comforts. Dad added to his list of personal vows: he would never, ever be a poor, married college student.

He would, however, attend college. Bad vision killed his dreams of becoming a fighter pilot, so the military was out. In the fall of 1974 he packed up his baby blue Superbeetle and moved to Flagstaff to study computer science at Northern Arizona University. He drove home on the weekends to visit his girlfriend, but his plans for the future were firmly set in his mind – a college degree, a successful career in the burgeoning computer industry, and a solitary life of academic pursuits. But the longer he dated his girlfriend, the harder it got to leave her on Sunday nights.

“One night I was driving home,” he recalled more than once, “and I realized that it physically hurt to be away from her. I decided I had to marry her.” He dropped out of college after three semesters – he was not going to be a poor married college student - and got a job working for Salt River Project. My parents married in October of 1976. My oldest brother was born the following July, and my dad must have discovered that babies aren’t so bad after all, because I am the youngest of four.

I couldn’t have asked for a better father. Sometimes he worked long hours, and he frequently threatened to throw away the toys I left on the floor, but I never doubted the depth of his love for me and my siblings. He wasn’t perfect, of course. He worked hard and he expected the same of his children, even the one who is by nature a lazy girl (that would be me). He yelled at my brothers for fighting on a regular basis. I don’t remember the words he shouted, but I do remember overhearing a subsequent conversation between my parents. My father was frustrated.

“I never wanted to be like my dad – never. And dang it, I’m just like him. Just like him!” my dad told my mother. The older I got, the more I came to realize that precious little of my father’s life had turned out according to plan. Every few years he would talk of taking a few college courses so he could finish his degree, but the money was never there, or if it was, he lacked time. SRP paid the bills but we were never wealthy. My dad did keep one promise well. He moved his family exactly twice, and both times were before my oldest brother was in school. Mine was a very stable upbringing.

I think that’s why my father’s brain cancer diagnosis was such a shock. It was unstable. It didn’t fit in anyone’s plans. “Man plans, God laughs,” my father quoted when I complained. Still, it seemed terribly unfair. Why did this have to happen to my daddy?

His attitude was the exact opposite. “Why not me?” he said more than once. “I’m not so special that I can’t get cancer.” He didn’t seem to realize that to me, he was special. He was my daddy. But I suppose he was right. He wasn’t invincible. Still, he pulled through the two surgeries that followed better than his doctors had hoped. He seemed to respond well to radiation, and the chemotherapy pills he took each month kept the cancer at bay.

We planned a family trip to Disneyland for the following year. My father knew his prognosis, but he was determined to beat the odds. He also knew that he needed to keep working until he turned 55 in order for my mother to get the best benefits when he died. He went back to work as soon as he was able, and for a little while it felt like business as usual. The only sign that anything had happened to my dad was a pencil-thin white scar that ran along his hairline, vertically bisecting his left temple.

The day before his 52nd birthday, my father attempted to write a grocery list and failed, suddenly unable to properly write his letters. We took him to the hospital. The news was bad. A snip of tumor that had, in June, been the size of a shelled peanut, was now the size of a lime. My father was going to die. Soon.

“Well,” my father said with equal parts Zen and Midwestern stoicism, “we knew this was coming, and here it is. I’m going to die.” There was a catch in his voice as he said the word “die” and I wondered if it really hit him just then as he said the words out loud.

I was stunned and devastated. I’m sure I sputtered something about out forthcoming trip, about retirement, about grandchildren. I don’t remember my words from that day, just the feeling that the laws of physics had failed me, and that a black hole had managed to open up in that curtained-off half-room, sucking away light and joy and air. But I must have listed off a number of things that my father would never get to do, because of what he said to me next.

“It’s okay,” he said. It seemed strange for him to be consoling me. After all, I wasn’t the one with a terminal cancer diagnosis. But there was a strange sort of peace about him. Several times over the next few days he would say that he didn’t much care about his own mortality but he felt awful for those of us he was going to leave behind. At that moment, he told me it was okay.

“You know, it’s not like I’ve got a list of dreams that will go unfulfilled. Nothing’s really left on my bucket list. I married a great woman, I have four children and seven grandkids and they're all on the right track. I know where I’m going when I leave this earth. I’m not going to be able to re-trace the path of Lewis and Clark, but I don’t think your mother was looking forward to that one, anyway.”

It wasn’t that he wanted to die, he explained, but he didn’t have a say in the matter, and he felt like he was as ready as a person could ever be. He’d lived all the life he’d hoped for. To him, death was just another adventure, another change of plans in a life full of them. He died a month later with one last shuddering breath that left me gasping for my own.

In the time that has passed since then, I have thought plenty about my father’s words in the hospital that day. It seemed wholly implausible that he could die without a single regret, without any unaccomplished goals. How could that be possible for a man who had once had so many ambitions? It was illogical.

But the more I think about it, the more grateful I am for that last meaningful lesson my father taught me. It’s not our grandest accomplishments that define who we are, or that even bring us the greatest sense of achievement. It’s the things that seem little that mean the most. My father was the smartest man I knew. I think he could have cured cancer if he’d put his mind to it. Instead, he died of it. But he was content with the life he led, because he had a family he loved, who loved him, and of whom he was immensely proud. It was not the life he’d planned, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t just as fulfilling. He would have made a fine fighter pilot or computer engineer. But he left a much greater legacy by being a good husband and father.

The life I’m living at present is the complete opposite of what I planned so carefully in my younger years. Sometimes I get frustrated by that. So I try to remember what I learned from my father all those years ago. It’s never too late to change your plans, and sometimes the new plans we make – the unexpected changes - can lead to much greater things than we can ever imagine.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


A few days ago, I missed Roo.

This is nothing new. I miss her quite a bit, not in a sad way, just in the sense that I love and adore her and I don't see her every single day. I don't need to see her every single day, mind you, and I certainly wouldn't expect to. But when you love someone, and you're not around them, you miss them. It's not a sad or angst-filled thing. It's just ... a thing. I miss her, and I smile at the thought of her because I love her so much and she is so precious and amazing.

Anyway. I happened to mention this - that I missed Roo - to a friend, and she said, "It's always going to hurt, isn't it?"

I think I responded in the affirmative, because it seemed like the thing to do. But I've been thinking about her question since then, and the more I think about it, the more I think that I gave the wrong answer. It's not always going to hurt, and I know this because it doesn't hurt.

I should say, it doesn't hurt in the ways that my friend and that others probably expect. But even then, I don't think that hurt will always be there.

I've been trying to figure out how to explain this for a few days, because I feel compelled to talk to my friend and tell her that she was wrong about hurting. This is how I've worked it out in my head.

I still cry when I tell Roo's and my adoption story. Not a lot, and maybe not every single time, but I do cry. Usually the tears start when I talk about the day I met P and M, when Roo's daddy held her for the first time. These are happy tears. I have tried several times to blog about that day and that moment in particular but I stop each time because it was such a sacred moment and I don't want to cheapen it by reducing it to mere words on a blog.

When I tell that part of the story, I cry. And because I've got some kind of short in my brain, once I start crying, I find it very difficult to stop. So when I talk about placement, the tears are already there. I'm sure those who listen think I'm crying because placement hurt and I'm still upset. Placement did hurt, but it doesn't hurt anymore. Even remembering it doesn't hurt so much. It feels like something that someone else lived through, I think because I have changed so much since that day. I know rationally that it hurt, but whether it's mental health or a defense mechanism, I have a hard time feeling sad when I look back on that day.

It doesn't hurt. The part of my brain that remembers almost can't believe that, because I hurt so deeply and for so long. But that pain is gone.  Roo is a happy thought. I can't think of her and feel sad. Those two ideas - Roo and sadness - cannot coexist in my mind. It's like they each require the complete attention of some cortex or other, and as soon as Roo comes to mind, sadness is forced out. There's never any pain.

Not when it comes to the real Roo, anyway. I've mentioned before that there are different Roos. There's Roo, who will be three - three! - this summer, and who is clever (genius, really) and sweet and busy and whose lion impression sounds more a like a dinosaur (but it is still the cutest roar I have ever heard). This Roo is my happy thought, my little friend, and my favorite person in the world.

The other Roo, the phantom Roo, is the Roo who was my newborn baby. This Roo ceased to exist when I signed placement papers. She's the one I grieved, and quite often when I mention "my baby" this is the Roo I'm talking about. I do miss the real Roo, but sometimes my arms just ache to hold newborn Roo again and be her mommy - to be a mommy, period.

This is where any pain factors in. It's not that I'm not Roo's mother, because she certainly doesn't feel like mine and I wouldn't change that. It's that I'm not anyone's mother, and I'm not getting any younger or any closer to motherhood. I like to think I've gotten through my grief but the fact is that while the heavy adoption grief is gone, I'm still grieving the life I thought I was going to live and the woman I thought I was going to be.

It's getting better. I am finally starting to be okay with who I am and where I am and the life I'm building on my own. But the one thing I am completely okay with - better than okay with, in fact - is the choice I made to place Roo with her parents. It's the best thing I have ever done. It always will be.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Birth Mother's Day

I didn't know this until a few years ago, but the day before Mother's Day is Birth Mother's Day. I'm guessing Hallmark is unaware of the potential marketing implications inherent in such a holiday, because I have never seen a Birth Mother's Day card in a store display.

I think I've probably blogged before about Birth Mother's Day. The risk in having a blog with such a narrow focus is that I'm bound to repeat myself every so often. So please forgive me if this post feels redundant. But I keep hearing more and more about Birth Mother's Day, and I feel the need to opine.

I don't celebrate Birth Mother's Day.

It's not because of any feelings of sadness or bitterness or unresolved issues surrounding placement. It's not because the more time that passes, the less connected I feel to the adoption world. It's not because of any kind of modesty on my part.

I don't celebrate Birth Mother's Day because I don't need to. You know what holiday I do celebrate? Mother's Day.

I am not a mother in the traditional sense of the word. I am not parenting a child. No one calls me "mom" and when people ask me if I have any children, I respond with a carefully crafted "None of my own."

But my current lack of maternity doesn't change a few basic facts, and those facts are all reason enough in my mind to celebrate Mother's Day. Fact 1: I conceived* and carried and delivered a baby. I celebrated my first Mother's Day three years ago a few months before Roo was born, because the tiny feet digging into my ribcage (and sometimes my kidneys) meant I was already a mom. I was, at that time, only a mother in the biological sense of the word, but that was enough for me.

Every birth mother was a mother plain and simple before she signed paperwork.

Fact 2: For the nine weeks between Roo's birth and the day I placed her, I was her mother. I'm not her mother anymore, but that doesn't take away the weeks in which I was. I celebrate Mother's Day in part because of those precious months I spent loving and caring for the baby that was mine. I'm not a mother, but I was a mother. I always will have been a mother. Nothing can erase that.

Fact 3: I am not Roo's mama, but I still have a mother's love for her, and I always will. I think anyone with a mother's love for a child should celebrate Mother's Day.

I appreciate the thought of Birth Mother's Day. But I don't need it. I don't need a separate holiday that indirectly suggests I'm not celebrating Mother's Day because I chose adoption. The choice I made to place Roo was made as her mother. I can't separate my love for Roo like that. I celebrate Mother's Day as a former mother, as a birth mother, and as a woman with a mother's love in her heart.

I will not be offended in the least if you wish me a happy Birth Mother's Day. I'll be happy you thought of me, because even though I celebrate Mother's Day I know most people won't think of me on that day. I love hearing from adoption friends on Birth Mother's Day. Roo's parents have been so good to let me know they're thinking of me on past Birth Mother's Days (they are awesome like that) and it means the world to me. But please know that my heart doesn't need a different day.

I'll be celebrating on Sunday.

*For the record, I think just the first of those qualifies for motherhood. A miscarriage or stillbirth doesn't take away the hope and excitement and love that a woman felt for the child she carried. She's still a mother in my book.

Friday, April 20, 2012


(Not to be confused with the other post I wrote that was also called "Enough." I should probably invest in a thesaurus.)

Way back at the end of January, I got my W-2 in the mail. I said to myself, "Self, this year I am going to do my taxes in February." And then all of a sudden it was April. I got my taxes done with two days to spare. The point is, sometimes I mean well, and then time gets away from me. I was going to blog once a week in April, and all of a sudden, it's the 20th. But that's neither here nor there.

I've been thinking about something lately. Actually, I've been thinking about a lot of things lately, because I am an adult human being and that's how I function. But I have been thinking about blogging and Roo and what I feel like I still need to say here (don't worry, there's plenty). One thing keeps coming up for me, and the visit I had today cemented it for me.

This is probably going to come out all wrong. Words have been failing me a lot lately, and it's not a comfortable thing for me. It seems to happen most often with things that are important. I wonder if it's a product of happiness. When I was super depressed I could find the words I needed pretty quickly. Now that I am mentally healthy, I stutter.

I digress.

I was thinking a few weeks ago about how I am definitely not where I thought I would be in life if I'd had to predict my future in years past. I'm not where I thought I'd be as a teenager picturing her late twenties, and I'm not where I thought I'd be 2 ½ years post-placement. I always pictured a husband and children. After placement, I thought I'd at least have the husband.

It used to bother me a lot more that I'm still single. I'm okay with it now. I've been working on being okay with the no-children part as well. And that brings me to my point today.

I spent a long time feeling like God owed me a baby to make up for placing Roo (I know it sounds stupid, but it's true). I felt like there was going to be this emotional hole in me that only a child of my own could properly fill. I thought that some part of me would always hate having placed Roo until I had children of my own to parent. I thought that I would be lacking because I had a baby but I'm not her mother.

What I have come to realize is that none of those things are true. They might have been true of the Jill who placed a child for adoption 2 ½ years ago, but they're not true of me now. 

I left my visit today feeling almost crushed by the weight of my gratitude to my Father in Heaven for Roo and her awesome family. It was such a lovely visit, and Roo is the most marvelous little person. She is sweet and feisty, clever and talkative and entirely too smart for her own good. And she reminds me so forcefully of both of her parents that I have a hard time seeing myself in her at all and I absolutely love that. 

I prayed as I drove, trying to find the words to thank Heavenly Father for this amazing little girl I love so much and for her family. I felt unequal to the task. How can I ever find the right words? All I could think was, I certainly don't deserve any of them but I want to become the kind of person who does. I want to be a better person because they love me. How blessed am I to have people in my life who love me and make me a better person?

As I drove home, I realized something that's been itching at my brain for months now. There are no guarantees in life. I may never have a child of my own. I don't know what God has in store for me. But - and here's the kicker - if I never do have children, if I become the crazy old single lady that all the neighborhood kids are afraid of, it won't matter to me, not one bit.

Because I am Roo's birth mother, and that's enough for me. Roo is enough. If she's all I ever get, then I am still more blessed than I have any right to be.
How can I believe the Lord owes me something when He gave me so much more than I deserve? He gave me Roo, and even though I am not her real mother, I get to love her with a mother's love. I get to love her forever.

If she's it for me, I have nothing to complain about and I never will. If she's all I ever get, she's more than enough, and she always will be.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I haven't ranted in a while. I think it's time :)

I want to state at the outset that this a really stupid, ridiculous thing to be bothered by. I am acutely aware of that. In the grand scheme of things, this matters very little if at all. But I'm going to complain anyway, because I'm Jill, and that's what I do.

In the past 3 years I have heard a lot of opinions about adoption and parenting and the choice that I made. The things that I hear tend to fall into three categories. There are the nice, appropriate comments that people make; there are the stupid, inappropriate things comments that people make; and there are the ostensibly nice comments that people make that seem nice and that come from a good place but that actually kind of bug me, especially when I think a lot about them. (I know this is going to be kind of a shock, but I am the sort of person who overthinks things.)

Last week I heard something from the third category. It's something I've heard before and it's always bothered me a smidge, but I tended to put it in the second category based on the people who said it. But this time it was said by someone I love and respect, and I think that's why it bothered me.

I was telling her about how proud I am of the choice I made, and how happy I am with it. And she said to me, “Well, of course you're proud. You did the right thing.”

I know that I did the right thing. If I hadn't been one million percent sure adoption was the right thing, I wouldn't have done it. When I talk about adoption, I often say the words, “I know I did the right thing for Roo.” So why does it bug me when someone agrees with me?

It bothers me because it's a judgment. It's a judgment of my behavior by someone who has no stake in the choice or the consequences; someone who has no right to choose or to judge my situation. I know that I did the right thing. But it's not for anyone else to tell me I chose right. Because it was my choice to make. “Right” was my judgment call.

Adoption was the right choice for Roo. I know that. But I feel like when people tell me, “You did the right thing,” they're really telling me that they judge women who don't choose adoption. If my choice was right, not placing must be wrong. They're telling me, “If you hadn't placed Roo, I would think you made a poor choice.”

But you know what? I don't think that adoption is just this big Band-Aid that covers every situation and fits every person. I may have thought so before I got pregnant, but I sure as heck don't think so now. It's so easy to look at a situation from the outside and think that adoption is obviously the best choice. But it doesn't matter if you think it's the right choice. What matters is the opinion of the one doing the choosing.

When I was pregnant, pretty much every person I talked to (including my family) told me that adoption was the right choice and that parenting would be a mistake. It was pretty awkward when I parented, because I knew that no one thought I was doing what was right; they felt I had made the wrong choice. Whether my choice was right or wrong isn't the issue here. The issue is that everyone else thought it was for them to decide what was right for my baby.

I know that people mean well. I figure that when people tell me I made the right choice they think they're complimenting me. But there are so many other words that they could use – brave, selfless, mature, heroic, incredible. I don't feel super comfortable with any of those except maybe “selfless.” I mean, it's not like I pulled a family of five out of a burning building. But “right” … it's beyond uncomfortable. It raises my hackles and puts me in a defensive position.

I know I chose right. And I want you to know that I know I chose right. But I don't want you to decide that I chose right. Does that make sense?

I didn't say any of this to my friend. I'm hoping that her conviction that I chose right grew out of seeing my own conviction in my choice. I'm hoping that she has seen for herself why I know my choice was right. It would hurt my heart if she thought it was her place to decide whether I did the right thing. It's no one's place but mine.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Last night, I had an emotional earthquake.

It wasn't as scary as it sounds. There were no aftershocks. Once the initial seismic activity stopped, I regained my balance. I was fine. I've weathered this kind of storm a few times before, and I have always been better and happier for having been shaken up a bit. Last night was no exception.

Here is what happened.

I was thinking about taking an Advil for my toothache. I was sort of surprised that I even have any Advil, because I pretty much never take any medicine anymore. If I'm sick I take antibiotics, but rare is the time I take so much as an aspirin. This wasn't always the case; before I had Roo I was taking seven different prescriptions for depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia and migraines, and I was quick to take NyQuil or a decongestant or whatever I needed.

Then I found out I was going to have a baby, and I had to drop all 7 prescriptions. I probably could have taken a Tylenol or something safe like that if I needed it, but at the time I figured my baby was starting out at a disadvantage having me as her mother* and I wanted to do everything I could to make sure she was healthy and grew right.

Once I got out of the habit of taking medicine for everything I never really got back into it. Drugs have never worked particularly well for me; my pain tends to be stubborn. Besides, I live alone, and have you ever tried to buy a small bottle of an over-the-counter medicine? If I end up taking 96 Tylenol before they're out-of-date, I think I've got bigger problems. I buy bottles of 24 and end up throwing 20 away because they've expired too quickly.

Anyway. I actually had Advil in my bathroom cupboard, and I was going to take one and I was thinking about how I don't ever take medicine anymore and why. And it hit me like a blow to the solar plexus - the magnitude of what I have done. My emotional ground shook.

I had a baby - a child, a little person that I grew in my womb and who shares my DNA - and I placed her for adoption. I had a baby. I had a baby, and I am not her mother. Someone else is her mother, even though I grew her. And for just a second, I thought, I'm not sure how I feel about that, even though I should have figured that out in the past couple of years. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about that. Happy? Sad? Abnormal? Somehow cheated?**

I had a baby, but I don't have a baby. That is HUGE! How did I do that? How could I do that? How am I okay? I love her so much! My love for her is bigger than anything I've ever felt before. She is the most precious little thing in the whole wide world. And I am not her mother.

And it's okay. I'm okay. Roo ... Roo is more than okay. That's why I'm okay, why I settled on "happy" as the way I should and do feel.

This choice I made, this huge thing I did, wasn't for me or my piece of mind. It was for Roo and Roo alone that I chose adoption. I've never doubted that I did what was best for my little girl. People can say what they want, judge as they see fit, but I have never known anything as deeply as I know that I made the very best choice for Roo and that she's where she belongs. I would do it again in a second.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, has the greatest magnitude of all.

*I felt she was at a disadvantage because at the time I found out I was pregnant, I was not at my healthiest, mentally, and I had a lot of growing up left to do. By the time she was born, I was in a much better place and I think any perceived disadvantage had disappeared.

**For the record, I do not feel cheated. Roo's not mine to raise. If I ever feel cheated, it's that I'm not a mother, period. Not because I'm not Roo's mother. Any feeling of being cheated comes from being crabby about being single and childless and closer to thirty than I'm completely comfortable with.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

That Which Does Not Kill Me

Four or five years ago, when I was making decent money doing hair, I bought a lot of vintage clothing on eBay. Among my most prized purchases from that era is a pair of blue and black Foster Grant sunglasses. They lean a bit too far toward the Willy Wonka end of the sunglasses spectrum to be considered stylish or cool but I knew as soon as I saw them that I had to have them.

In the time that's passed since then, I misplaced them. I recall seeing them a couple of months ago and thinking that I'd probably developed the chutzpah to pull them off. So I put them ... somewhere. And I couldn't remember where, and it was driving me crazy.

I thought that perhaps they'd ended up in some of the boxes of stuff at my mom's house, and so a few weeks ago after work, I went to her house to do some digging. I discovered a number of interesting things lurking in those boxes, none of which is my Foster Grants. I found thinning shears, Hello Kitty checks for a bank account that I no longer use, Mr. Sketch markers (they still smell!), a wooden model of a human hand complete with movable joints, a case for my iPod, several records, my old baseball mitt, and a stack of magazines from 2005.

There was one more box I thought my sunglasses might be in. As soon as I opened the lid, I found a handbag I'd been looking for. I seemed to remember having my sunglasses around the same time I had the handbag, so I dug deeper into the box. I'm sorry to say that I did not find my Foster Grants (they showed up later in my closet). What I found instead was a manila envelope that I quite purposely had not looked at for two and a half years.

I did not look at it again at this time, but I did slip it inside the handbag and I took both home with me. A few hours later, when I was home for the night, I sat down with that envelope and decided I was finally strong enough to read the contents.

The heading on the first page: Birth Mother Consent to Place Child for Adoption.

My heart beat a little faster, but I was surprised to find that I felt mostly okay. I read farther down the page.

"The undersigned represents and declares ..." There were my name, date of birth and address. Below that, "I am the birth mother of [Roo's name at birth] born on July 7, 2009 at [hospital name and address]." I was surprised to find myself smiling at that. Surprised mostly because last time I attempted to read this paperwork, not too terribly long after I signed it, I fell apart before I got to the third line (which reads "I am not presently married and was not married at the time of conception or birth of this child," which felt like a forced confession of sorts). I'm not sure what's changed - everything, maybe - but I sat there, uncharacteristically sanguine, and read every single paper in the stack, including the one that uses the word "sever" in a way that always punched my gut a little.

I read the whole thing, and I didn't hurt. I can't explain it, but reading through these papers, the very ones that cut me to ribbons a few years ago, left me feeling happy.

I am happy I signed them. I am happy for what they say and what they did. One line in particular jumped out at me that night. I never noticed it before probably because I was too caught up in the "sever" part which, incidentally, is in the very same paragraph. The paper says, about the adoptive parents, that "They will be the child's parents."

I realize that's probably very obvious and stupid, but it struck me as very profound, and I loved reading it. I think it's because more and more lately I've heard the uninitiated make reference to birth parents being the "real" parents. P and M are Roo's real parents. It says so on a binding legal document (and it says so in their hearts). They are the child's parents; Roo's parents. And I am so happy for all of them!

I read through every single page I signed 2 ½ years ago, and I felt happy. I am so happy with my decision! I have such peace. I don't think I've ever made another decision in my life with the certainty of this one. I've had reason to question a lot of the choices I've made, but never this. Not every birth mom got the result I did, and I'm sorry for the ones that didn't. But here's the truth of my experience: I don't regret it for a second and I never have. My pain has always been for my loss, not for my choice. My loss was Roo's gain. And now my loss doesn't feel so much like a loss at all. I still love her. I always will. She has everything I could want for her and so much more. Her gain has become my gain. I'm happy because she is.

Instead of pain, I found peace in that manila envelope. The paperwork that I once thought would kill me, didn't.

It made me stronger.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

FAQ: I Would Keep My Trap Shut

I used to get a lot of questions about my perspective on adoption. I probably still get a lot of them in my e-mail but I'm sorry to say I am several months behind on my e-mail. Anyway. There's a question I was asked more than once and I always meant to answer it but I never got around to it until now.

The gist of the question is this - what would I do if I disagreed with how P and M were parenting Roo? Would I say something? Would I try to get them to do things my way?

The very short answer is that I'd keep my trap shut, because how presumptuous would it be for someone without children to offer parenting advice to a couple with two children? I don't know what the heck I'm talking about. I have zero credibility.

Maybe not quite zero. (This begins the long answer, by the way.) I mean, I think I did okay in the time I parented. But before I had Roo, what I knew about parenting could fit in a text message. I didn't know what made a good parent, or what characteristics a good parent would have. When I started considering adoption, I made a list. It was short, but I thought it had the important things on it.

It wasn't until Roo was bigger - more than a year old - and I saw her interact with her parents - that I started to see things that were more important. P and M are good parents in ways that I never even would have thought of before. I find myself almost taking notes, thinking, "If I am ever blessed with children, I want to make sure I do this." It's not always things that seem big, either. It's little things, like the way they encourage Roo to speak for herself, even though she's very small. She is so confident for such a little thing. I know her parents taught her that.

Granted, I don't see or know everything. But I know P and M, and I know they are the very best parents for Roo. How could I think to question their parenting choices? The only thing that I can seem myself taking exception to is spanking. I don't think it's ever okay to hit a child (I know some of you are going to disagree with me here, but that's how I feel). When I was trying to choose a family for Roo, one of the first questions I asked was about discipline. There were a lot of areas in which I was willing to be flexible, but this wasn't one of them. I did not want Roo spanked. Ever.

In this, P and M and I are in accord. They believe there are more effective ways of disciplining a child. I was and am inclined to trust their authority on this because they already had parenting experience when Roo came along. I know that some birth moms want the children they place to be the first in the family, but I didn't want Roo to be the test pancake. I liked that she was going to have a sibling already, and that her parents knew what they were doing!

But even if they didn't, even if I happened to disagree with something or think they should do things differently, I would keep my trap shut. Because it is not my job to tell them how to raise their children. When I placed Roo with them, I did so trusting that they would act in her best interest. I did so, trusting them in general. If I thought they needed my parenting advice, I wouldn't have placed with them!

This isn't to say that I think P and M are absolutely perfect in every way and that I am never, ever going to disagree with them. We're all human; it would be creepy if we agreed on absolutely everything. But it doesn't matter if I would do things differently. It's not my call. I know that they love Roo every bit as much as I do, and if they've decided on a course of action, it's not my place to question them. If I'm blessed with children of my own, I'll do things my way. P and M get to parent their children their way.

I love them, and I trust them.

Monday, February 13, 2012


I try to avoid a lot of the adoption-debate drama on the internet. I don't make a habit of reading blogs that are angry and use words like “always” and “never” and whose authors tear apart people who disagree with them.

I also try to avoid being the sort of person who stirs the pot. I don't think the pot needs stirring, and even if it did, I don't think that's my job. I don't write this blog to educate the world or to convince anyone of anything. I get woefully unfocused at times but I really do want this blog to be for Roo. I want her to be able to read it when she's older and to understand things.

But it's impossible to avoid meanies all the time, and I have read my share of anti-adoption propaganda written by self-described first mothers. One thing that seems to come up a lot on this sort of blog is the word “enough.” Apparently many disenfranchised first mothers were told by adoption agencies that they weren't good enough or old enough or rich enough or whatever enough to parent their children. They were ostensibly guilted into placement. This is wrong on so many levels!

I am not going to get into that today. But I do want to address this idea of “enough” and how it fits in with placing Roo.

I have been told by those who disagree with my idea of an adoption that my agency lied to me, that I am all my baby needed, that I am good enough and smart enough and doggone it people like me. But my agency, as it happens, never once told me I wasn't good enough to parent Roo. They never said that she deserved better than me. It never got personal in that way.

I was Roo's mother for nine weeks. I know that I was enough. I know that I was a good mother, that I took the very best care of her, that I could do it – no matter what, I could find a way to provide for her. But none of those things were factors in my choice. I didn't place her because I thought I was a bad mother or that I couldn't do it or that I couldn't take care of her. None of those things made my decision for me.

I don't believe for a second that Roo deserved better than me, because I was certainly enough.

I didn't place her because I wasn't enough. I placed her because I couldn't give her enough. Do you see the difference? It's not that she deserved better than me. It's that she deserved better than I could give her. The former is about me. The latter is about her.

I was a good mother. I took excellent care of my tiny girl. And I love her so much! Nothing in the world puts a smile on my face faster than Roo. I love her so much that I gave her the things I knew she deserved – an eternal family; a stable, happy home; parents who are utterly devoted to each other. (Please note that none of those things have to do with wealth.)

I couldn't give those things to her as her mother. So I gave them to her by giving her parents who could.

I was enough. I am still enough! But adoption wasn't about me. I'm glad that I knew that then and that I know it now. I am grateful that no one tried to convince me that placement was an admission of my failure as a mother. What an awful thing to live with! I'm glad that's not my burden to bear (I have enough, thank you).

I am sorry that there are some birth mothers out there who are burdened with that idea. But I am also sorry that some of them want to convince expectant mothers that they needn't even consider adoption because “you are enough!” It's not about being enough or having enough. It's about giving enough, and it's not personal. Adoption is no failure, it's not about giving up. It's about giving more.

Adoption wasn't about my lack; it was about her gain. I placed Roo because I was enough – mature enough, considerate enough, loving enough. I was enough – I am enough – and because of that, Roo has enough.

And that's enough about that.