Sunday, December 15, 2013

In Which Jill Word-Vomits Some of Her Ugly Feelings

This blog used to be a painfully open book about every single thought and feeling that I had about adoption. It didn't occur to me to filter what I wrote, because it didn't occur to me that anyone would ever really read it.

People read it. I have been told that it was helpful, but mostly I find myself embarrassed that I shared as much as I did. If I could go back I would probably say a lot less. But I can't go back.

What I can do, and have done, is be much more thoughtful about the things that I share. Because I was so candid in the past I find myself being excruciatingly careful in choosing every single word anymore and as a result I don't blog nearly as much as I used to. I'm a worrier; I don't know how much I have mentioned that in the past but the first 25 years of my life were basically one long panic attack. As I've grown up I've gotten better at channeling my worry when I can and stuffing it down when I can't. My blog became one of the places I shifted this mental energy. I agonized over every word of every post and quite frequently I would write entire posts - they would take hours! - and then I'd decide at the last second that they weren't good enough to share.

It's exhausting. I'm tired of worrying so much. I'm going to try to worry less and just say what I feel. It worked for me in the past; I think it's what grew my readership. I've never been numbers-focused in my blogging. I don't care how many people read it; I just want the people who do read it to get something out of it.

So, I'm just going to get some feelings out right now. That's what I used to do. I'm going to try doing it again. And I'm not even going to proofread. How's that for living dangerously?

I turned 30 in October. I had a great week of birthday celebrations but then it ended and I felt like I had this itch I couldn't scratch. I'm not where I wanted to be at 30. I don't feel like I have much to show for my life so far.

I want a husband and I want children. I want children very, very badly. Not having any has made me miss Roo more lately. Not the real Roo, who is four, but my baby Roo, the tiny newborn who for a brief time made me a mother. I miss her. I miss being her mom. Babies are awesome. It seems like everyone I know is either engaged (seven engagements in two weeks, I kid you not) or having a baby, and I can't even get a first date.

In the 4-ish years since placement until the end of November, I was asked maybe a total of three times whether I had any kids. It just never came up for some reason. Then this past week I was asked twice if I'm a mother. The second time was at work. A very adorable and chatty five-year-old asked whether there were any lollipops in the library that she could have, and I apologized, telling her that we don't usually keep candy there. She felt bad for me.

"Next time I come in I'm going to bring you some candy. I'll bring lots. You can have some and you can take some for your kids. Do you have kids?"

I don't even know why my brain did what it did but for some reason I said, "I have a little girl." I felt like I was hearing myself say it more than I was making the conscious decision to speak.

"Well, she can have some candy, too," the girl told me, and then her grandmother said they had to leave.

And I was really glad there was a line at the circulation desk, because I think if I hadn't had work to do right then, I would have gone to my desk in the back room and just cried. Because I don't have kids. Because I don't have a husband or even a boyfriend. Because I don't have any money, or any plan for the rest of my life, or anything that I thought I would have at 30. Because maybe I never will.

I always get depressed around the holidays. It used to start at the beginning of October but I was still pretty happy then and I thought maybe I'd get a break this year. I was wrong. I've been a mess since just after Halloween, and I've spent the past 2 weeks in particular desperately fighting off a panic attack. It's like swatting a fly that won't go away. No matter how many times I beat back those feelings, they keep pushing at me.

It's exhausting. I'm tired of it. I'm tired of constantly thinking and feeling. I wish I could just shut that part of my brain off for a few weeks. I wish I could stop worrying and just enjoy my life and be happy with what I have instead of defining myself by what I lack.

That's the trick, though, isn't it? Because the world I live in is determined to define me by my lack. No kids, no husband. No college degree. Not tall. Not thin. Not pretty. Not enough. (I've had self-esteem problems lately, too, in case that isn't coming through.) It's hard to remember the good things about yourself when society only sees the bad.

One of my problems ... blah. I wasn't going to mention it but as long as I'm being honest, I'm going to just be completely honest and get it all out there.

I've kind of lost my head over a guy I know. He doesn't feel the same way about me. My friends and my mother and my therapist all have opinions on the matter but I don't feel comfortable with any of the advice I've been given. In the meantime I have all of these stupid feelings jammed inside me and I can't shake them. I am desperate to shake them. I have spent hours asking God to take away my feelings for this guy but whether I have them for a reason or I'm just not strong enough to get rid of them, the feelings are still there.

This, too, is exhausting. It's like having a toothache that doesn't go away. Some times it hurts worse and some times it's not as bad, but the pain is always there, waiting for a bad time to remind you of its presence.

I have had many days lately where I think that this whole adult human thing just isn't working for me. Of all the stupid things I've done in my life, being an adult is on the top of the list.

I know that what I need to do is focus on all of the things that are amazing in my life. Lately I have come to truly realize and appreciate how fantastic Roo's open adoption is. I feel like my relationship with Roo and her family just keeps improving, and it is a great blessing in my life. I'm a lucky girl. I know way too many birth moms whose open adoptions haven't turned out the way they'd hoped or planned.

I am so, so proud of Roo. She is the most awesome little kid ever. She is very smart and very cute but more importantly she is very kind. It does me a lot of good, when I'm feeling like a wreck and a failure, to look at Roo and her life. No matter what else happens to me, no matter how many things I mess up, I grew and gave birth to this precious little girl, and I found her family. I love the way that she is being raised. I think she's going to be unstoppable when she's an adult (and maybe even before then). How lucky am I to be able to see these things firsthand?

I am trying really, really hard to stay positive and to have hope. I had a motto for myself this year that I abandoned ages ago - probably back in March - that was cheerful and optimistic and then life happened. My new motto is something I try to remind myself of every single day --

It's not always going to be like this.

It's not. It won't. Things are already different than they were a year ago, and next year will be different, too. "Different" hasn't meant any of the changes I had hoped for but at least if I have problems, they're different problems. I like variety in my heartache. But I do hope for less heartache.

I hope that someday I will have the opportunity of falling in love with someone who loves me back. I hope that someday I will remember how to sleep. I hope that someday even if I don't have what I wanted for myself, I'll be happy with what I have. I hope that someday I will make Roo and her family proud of me. (I should want my own family to be proud of me, but they know me too well for that. Best to stick to attainable goals.)

I will. I have to believe that. And in the meantime, I will follow the brave example of Liz Lemon:

Monday, November 11, 2013

What Still Hurts

Last week I got to be on a panel at an adoption conference. Two other birth mothers and I answered questions from new birth moms and expectant parents, and I think it went really well.

One of the questions we got was whether placement still hurt years later.  I said no, and it was the truth. It hurt a lot for quite a while but that's in the past. But lately I have been thinking about the circumstances that led me to choose adoption, and I realized that that's where the pain comes in. That's what still hurts.

I may write about all of these circumstances in the future but today I'm going to focus on the one that tapped me on the shoulder yesterday and said, "Hey, I know you were happy a second ago, so I just wanted to remind you that you should probably fall into a bout of tears and self-loathing."

Yesterday was H's birthday.

There's no point in remembering an ex's birthday, but I always remember dates, whether I need to or not. I'm sure that I have been vaguely aware in past years of H's birthday, in the same way that I am vaguely aware of minor holidays like Arbor Day or the start of Brumalia.* But I never thought much about it, and I doubt that I would have thought much about it if I hadn't been trying to do a favor for a friend.

Saying I was doing a favor for a friend makes it sound like I was being generous and thoughtful but the fact is this favor included scouring Pinterest for a picture that in the end I didn't even find. What I found instead made me think of H, and I cried.

What I found was this. More pictures and the full story can be found on the photographer's website here. Go ahead and look, I'll wait.


Good? Okay.

Anyway. The four pictures from the pin broke my heart. I thought back to my time in the hospital four years ago. It's nothing I would have wanted photographed. It's nothing I want to remember.

I've always wanted to be a mother. I know that's probably appallingly unambitious in today's modern, post-feminist society but it's the truth. In my younger years I used to imagine what my life would be like when I brought my first child into the world. The reality was so far from what I'd imagined, it was devastating. I cried through most of my time in the hospital and very little of my tears were due to physical pain. I cried because this wasn't how I wanted to begin my motherhood. This wasn't how any baby ought to be welcomed into the world.

I had imagined a devoted husband holding my hand, telling me I was doing great. I had imagined both of my parents in the waiting room, talking about the day that I was born. I imagined my brothers and sister anxiously waiting for my parents to call so they could tell their children about a brand-new cousin. I imagined dozens of people - friends, family, church members - all excited about the birth of my child.

Instead, it was just me and my mother. She cried a lot, too. The fluorescent lights in the hospital buzzed in and out and at times the room I was laboring in seemed so dark that I fought my contractions, unwilling to deliver a baby in a place so devoid of light and joy.

I am grateful that my mother was there with me. But her emotions got the better of her. She tried not to cry in front of me but there was nowhere for her to go. "This isn't right," she sobbed at one point. "You should have a husband and he should be here with you. You shouldn't be alone."

I needed her to be strong for me, but she hardly had enough strength for herself. I didn't blame her. I blamed myself.

You may be wondering where H was during all of this. I have no idea. The last time we had communicated I had been planning on placing my baby for adoption and although I had vacillated between placement and parenting since then, I knew better than to bother H with my ambivalence. He had been very clear that if I chose adoption he would be out of the picture.

It wouldn't have been any better with him there at the hospital. He wasn't my husband. He didn't want this child. He didn't love me. I don't think he ever did. And I felt ... oh, so many things. But mostly I felt as though I had given him too much of myself already, trusted him with too much of who I was. There didn't seem to be anything left of my identity that he hadn't colored. I wanted to labor without him, to try to find myself somehow in the beautiful, terrible pain of giving life.

I have learned over the years to not dwell on dark days. I take from them what they have to give me and I leave them behind me where they belong. But every now and then something will take me back down the rabbit hole of my past. Every now and then I get a reminder that once I gave my whole soul to a man with the most beautiful, sad brown eyes, and that he didn't want it. We created life together and it still wasn't enough. I wasn't enough. There was nothing on earth I could do to make him care, to make him love me.

Oh, don't mistake me, please. I don't need him to love me now and I don't need him to have ever loved me. I was foolish then; I still believed in fairy tales. I'm smarter now. I know better. It just stings, the remembering does. The thinking. The wondering.

H was my first boyfriend. H was my only boyfriend. No one wanted me before and no one has wanted me since. If I didn't have eight years of therapy to lean on these facts would break me. Even with the therapy it's easy, when my defenses are down, to imagine that no one will ever want me. It's easy to imagine that my choice is between loneliness and cats. Out of everything emotionally wrenching thing that has happened to me since I found out I was pregnant, that's what still hurts.

Thank you for slogging through these emotions with me. I promise my next post will be happier and include a picture of my Tom Selleck birthday cake.

*Oh, don't pretend you don't remember the start of Brumalia. I can't be the only one ... well, I guess I can. Never mind.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What's Your Excuse?

Oh, Internet. I can't leave you alone for one minute, can I?

I went to New York City last weekend and when I got back, everyone online was raising a stink about a photograph.

I'm not going to post it here because reasons, but if you have spent any time on a computer in the past week you have probably seen it. It's a photograph of a mother with her three small boys. The mother is wearing a body-baring sports bra and booty shorts, so we can admire her impeccable abs. The caption at the top of the photo reads "What's your excuse?"

"What's my excuse for what?" I thought, because I enjoy being deliberately obtuse. But obviously, this woman is asking what my excuse is for not having a body like hers.

There are a lot of things I'd like to say to the world about pregnancy and childbirth and a woman's body. But Beauty Redefined says it better than I could, so I'll let you go there. The world isn't very kind to women who don't bounce back from a pregnancy with the speed and precision of a celebrity. You know what makes it even worse? Not having a baby to show for it.

I think that even though society has these expectations of new mothers, we're willing to make allowances for a woman if she's pushing a newborn around in a stroller. "Her midsection is doughy," Society says, "but she did have a baby a few months ago." When I went to the store with Roo, my baby belly was excused. I had proof that there was a purpose to how I looked.

After placement? I was just another fat girl. No one could tell that my body had done something amazing in growing a human from scratch. No one could tell that I emotionally gutted myself to give that tiny human a wonderful life. And it didn't matter - in the eyes of the world, I wasn't a birth mother or a woman or a child of God. I was just fat.

I don't like that word, by the way. Fat. I don't like the way it's defined today and I don't like the way that it's used. My sister-in-law doesn't allow her children to say it. They're allowed to speak in terms of healthy and less healthy, but never fat, and they understand that you can't tell if someone is healthy just by looking at them.

I've struggled with my weight and with disordered eating for 2/3 of my life. When I was 19 years old, I finally got skinny. I had flat abs and slim legs and I fit the societal definition of health because I could wear a certain jeans size. It's worth noting that at that point in time I still wanted to lose 10 pounds, because according to the Body Mass Index I was overweight. But, hey, I was skinny - my body looked a lot like What's Your Excuse Lady's, right down to the washboard abs, so I must have been fit, right?

Wrong. I had hypertension, my cholesterol and triglycerides were atrocious, I was sleeping 3-4 hours a night, I was a mental health disaster, and I got winded if I tried to run from the front door to the sidewalk. My physical appearance gave the impression of health, but I was as unhealthy as it was possible to be without a fatal disease.

I looked good, and I was constantly given compliments on my appearance. But my looks didn't tell the whole story.

What's Your Excuse Lady is probably much more physically fit than I was at my thinnest. Or, you know, maybe she isn't. Because all I know about her is that she looks fit. What's Your Excuse Lady might find my body repulsive, and wonder why it looks this way. I'm single and childless - why am I not working out an hour each day?

For the record, here are my abs as of three weeks ago:

Please note the myriad stretch marks. I am very proud of them. Roo gave them to me. When I see them, I think of her and how much I love her. You may also notice a few odd little horizontal white scars. Those are from the surgery to remove my gallbladder. Because when I was skinny and by all appearances healthy, I had gallstones. (When my gallbladder was inspected post-surgery, they lost count at 15 gallstones.)

These are my abs, and I am, at the age of 30 years minus a week, the healthiest I have ever been in my life. I probably can't convince you with the picture above, but it's true. I can do 10 pushups with perfect form. I can hold a full squat for a solid minute. I can do a 20-minute ab workout without a struggle. I can run - not super fast, but I can do it. My cholesterol is on the low end of normal. My triglycerides are perfect. My blood pressure? 93/50. I am happy and mentally healthy and, by the way, I weigh 155 pounds.

So, what's my excuse?

My excuse is that I think there are at least 600 things in this world that are more important than flat abs. My excuse is that "have a perfect body" isn't anywhere on my list of priorities - health, yes, "hot," no. My excuse is that I am so much more than what I look like. My excuse is that I would rather live a full and interesting life and have a doughy belly than spend 365 hours a year at the gym. My excuse is that I have value and worth beyond my physical appearance.

My excuse is that I am capable of doing things, not just being being looked at. My excuse is that I am strong, and strong doesn't have a single look, nor should it, nor should we expect it to. My excuse is that I earned this stomach, stretch marks and scars and all, and I love it. My excuse is that I am happy with who I am, regardless of the fact that no one covets my abs.

My excuse is a precious, perfectly imperfect little four-year-old girl named Roo who is going to take her cues about health and worth and womanhood from the influential women in her life. She is blessed with an intelligent, clever, and media-savvy mother to guide her, and I am so glad! I can't talk M up enough. If I ever grow up I want to be just like her.

I don't know how big of an influence I will end up having on Roo and the woman that she becomes, but I refuse to take any risks. I refuse to sacrifice any part of myself at the altar of "hot," because I don't want Roo to think it's something I place any value on.

I know that her parents will teach her well, as they already have. But if she ever looks to me as an example or a role model or even just as a genetic roadmap, I want her to see a woman whose imperfections give her strength. I want her to see a woman who is more concerned with making the world beautiful than she is with making herself beautiful.

My excuse is that I don't want the person I love most in the world to ever have to feel she needs to make excuses for the way that she looks. She is more than her body. She is precious to me because of who she is, not because of her looks.

I have made a lot of excuses today, but you know what? I don't need them. There are only a handful of things you can tell about me by looking at me, and none of them are important.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Four Years, and Five Years

I neglected to celebrate my blog's birthday at the end of August. I did have cake, but I didn't blog. I never blog anymore, you guys. I'm sorry.

But one day I won't neglect to commemorate is today, the 9th of September. This is going to be as unfocused as all get out, but I have things to say. Today marks four years since I placed Roo for adoption. It also marks five years since my dad died. I remember thinking, back in 2009, that it was a good idea to place Roo on the anniversary of my dad's death, because that way I would have one day a year to feel sad and I could be happy the rest of the time.

Worst idea EVER.

I find myself experiencing a sort of mutant weather system of feelings this time of year because I'm thinking of two different life experiences and processing the emotions that each of them brought, and sometimes the hot and cold fronts collide and there are violent storms. Last Monday I felt every feeling I have ever had all at once. I ended up slumped on the floor in my closet, sobbing to the point of hyperventilation. I had to go shoe shopping to make it okay.

I'm sure I've mentioned this before but it bears repeating. When I grieve placement, it's nothing to do with the real Roo, the world's awesomest four-year-old. My grief is for my baby, my tiny newborn. I miss being a mother, and I miss being her mother in particular. The fact that I have a milestone birthday coming up and that I am still very, very single only compounds that pain. I want children. I wanted Roo. I want more just like her. Letting her go was the hardest thing I have ever done. Losing my dad was awful, but placement in the moment was a million times worse.

But it's okay now. It is absolutely okay. 

I was going back through my archive and reading what I wrote on previous September 9ths. I had this to say in 2010:

“A year later, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Yes, it hurt. It hurt for a while. But time has dulled the pain, and continues to do so. Roo's happiness is worth every tear. If me being sad for a while is the price of her being happy forever, I'm glad to have paid it.”

I stand by the words of Past Jill. She was pretty insightful. I miss her sometimes. I haven't had a single insight lately. Well, that's not entirely true. But my last insight was inspired by a YouTube video; it wasn't much to brag about. (Also, the video was the one about what sound a fox makes.)

I miss being a mother when I stop to think about it. But every single day, I miss having a father. My dad was a pretty awesome guy. My mother is fond of saying that he was the most fascinating person she had ever met. She's not wrong. I had a great dad. He's been gone for five years and I still can't make it okay.

Tonight I went to the planetarium at Mesa Community College and watched the coolest video of the universe, as generated by computers, set to the music of Pink Floyd. It was absolutely amazing, and I wanted to cry because my father would have loved it. When I was a kid he would take me outside after dark, set up his telescope and teach me about the stars. He pointed out planets and constellations, and the occasional airplane, along with the thought that he liked airplanes because it was nice to be going somewhere.

He has been gone for five years and I still miss him so much it hurts. I have made so much progress with adoption in four years; the pain is hardly worth mentioning because it is so fleeting and faint. It's a good place to be in. I wish I could get there with my grief for my dad.

I have always liked the idea of space travel in theory but in practice it scares me. Too many things can go wrong, and there is precious little keeping you alive. When my family was in Washington, D.C. for my sister's wedding, we went to the National Air and Space museum and saw the tin cans they used to use to send astronauts into space. I could not believe how small they were, or how thin. A million things could have gone wrong and the men inside would have died pretty horrible deaths.

"I could never go up into space," I told my dad.

"Really?" he said. "I'd go in a second. I want off this planet. We're all trapped here, you know." (Only my father would feel trapped on a planet the size of ours.)

He's not trapped here anymore.

There are a lot of things I don't understand about the afterlife, but personally I like to believe that my dad has seen planets and stars and galaxies and that they are every bit as amazing as he used to imagine.

Today was a good day, it really and truly was. I am blessed to have a lot of people in my life who love me and who say nice things to me when I need a boost. I had an entirely adequate day at work (good as it gets with the government). I had the very best time at dinner with Roo and her family - they are my favorite people ever - and I felt so purely happy! And the planetarium was amazing, and I was there with friends. It was a lovely day, better than I expected and certainly better than I deserve.

There was just this moment when I got home a little before 10:00. I hadn't been home all day, and my apartment was dark and empty. I was reminded of the day my dad died, when my mom and I went home to a dark, empty house. I went to the kitchen (tonight, not 5 years ago) because I thought eating my feelings* might help, but mostly I wanted a cookie and there were no cookies, so I cried instead.

And then I went on with my night, and here I am. I have survived another September 9th, and I only cried once. My sister-in-law said on Facebook that instead of just being sad today I should use the day to celebrate the choice I made for Roo and the awesome person that my dad was. I like her idea much better than the crying that has been my tradition. Every September 9th that passes is a reminder that I am so much stronger than the things life throws at me. I'm not broken. I'm not bitter.

I'm better.

*Eating my feelings is number 148 on my list of faults. I don't recommend listing your faults. You will not be a happier person. You will, however, have a humorous anecdote to share when making small talk. So it's up to you.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I'm usually pretty good at remembering important dates. I'm pretty good at remembering unimportant dates as well. For instance, I remember that my high school graduation was on May 24th, 2001 (it was Bob Dylan's birthday). I remember that my mom's due date for me was October 6th (sorry, Mom). I finished beauty school on October 17th. I know my therapist's birthday.

I certainly prided myself on remembering every Roo-related date. I think I've blogged about most of them, likely extensively because after four years of blogging, I think I've covered almost everything extensively.

But when I woke up this morning I noticed the date on my phone and I thought, today was important once. The letters and numbers glowing on the screen didn't tell me why I ought to remember August 22nd. I stared at them for a minute and then the screen dimmed and just as they disappeared, I remembered that in 2009, August 22nd was a Saturday. It was the day I decided I needed to place Roo for adoption.

Despite my unnecessary thoroughness on many other Roo- and adoption-related topics, I don't think I've said much about the circumstances that led me to decide once and for all that adoption was right for Roo. And I'm still not going to. I'll probably get there eventually, but today is not the day.

Today I'm just going to remember. I went to bed on August 21st, 2009, as someone's mother and I had no reason to believe I wouldn't always be her mother. When I went to bed on August 22nd, I knew my time as Roo's mother had an expiration date. It was devastating and terrifying for me, and absolutely the right choice for Roo.

But I don't want to dwell on the sad. That's not what I want to remember today. What I want to remember is how I changed as a mother that day, once the decision had been made. I can't say with any objectivity whether I was a good mother to Roo. I know I certainly loved her more than I had ever loved another human being before. I know that I would have done anything in the world for her. I still would.

But I had never taken care of a baby before. I'm the baby of my family so I didn't have any younger siblings to practice on. And I was raising Roo alone. It was stressful and lonely and I worried constantly. It seemed like there were a million things to do, and no time to do any of them. I did what I could while Roo napped, but I was so tired, and so lonely.

Then came the 22nd. I had not yet found P and M. I didn't know how much longer I'd be Roo's mother. I just knew it wasn't going to be long. I knew I had to maximize my time with this tiny person I loved so much. So I stopped trying to get things done. I stopped getting anything done at all, and I started holding Roo while she napped. I spent dozens of hours sitting on the couch with a sleeping baby in my arms. I hardly ever put her down. I thought of Albus Dumbledore telling Harry Potter that Harry's mother's love for him was in his very skin. I hoped that Roo would somehow absorb my love by osmosis.

I stopped stressing out about the future - mine and Roo's - and started enjoying the moment. Every second I had with Roo became precious. She would be tiny for only so long, and she would be my daughter for an even shorter time. Deciding to place Roo for adoption made me a better mother to her. The last two weeks I had her were the happiest sad weeks of my life, and I miss them terribly.

Today, on this almost-forgotten anniversary, I'm going to take a lesson from the Jill of 2009 and slow down. I have become so impatient lately, and I feel like I am always in a rush, always stressed, always worried. It is too easy to forget that my life isn't always going to be like this. I'm not always going to have this job, this apartment, this social circle. Things will change. Things are changing already. I'm going to be 30 soon. I need to stop rushing to the next thing and enjoy the moment. It will be gone before I know it.

I'm going to start by enjoying some ice cream.


Oh, and speaking of anniversaries, this blog is almost four years old. There are a handful of you readers who have been around pretty much from the beginning, and I thank you for it. It hasn't always been pretty - my blog or my life - but it's been one heck of a ride, and I am so blessed that I haven't had to go it alone. All of y'all, seriously - thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Roo just had a birthday. She's four years old. I have found that whatever age she is becomes my favorite age for a child to be. Every birthday she has is the best birthday.

I can't speak from experience but it seems to me that when you're a parent, your child's birthdays are a bit of a production. There are presents to buy and a party to plan and of course there will be cake, because as Julia Child pointed out, a party without cake is just a meeting. I suppose a lot of these things are up to the family and child in question, but regardless of what exactly goes on the point is that something goes on, because a child's birthday is special.

So, how do you celebrate the birthday of a child you gave birth to but are no longer parenting? I'd like to say that I've got it all figured out, and that my handbook on birth mothering is going to be published in the fall. But the truth is that I don't have a clue how you're supposed to celebrate the anniversary of the day you gave birth to someone else's child. I've done it four times and I still don't know what I'm doing.

The consensus among birth mothers I have talked to is that birthdays are hard. I've heard this from women with open adoptions and women with closed adoptions, from married birth mothers and single birth mothers, from those who've had children since placement and those who haven't. Even in the best of situations, birthdays can be bittersweet.

I don't know that I would classify Roo's birthday as a bittersweet day. I wouldn't want to paint it with such broad strokes. Every year has been different for me. I haven't had exactly the same feelings or done exactly the same thing. My emotional needs have been different each year as well, and my schedule, and Roo's family's schedule, and so many other things change from one July to the next.

Every year so far, I have had a visit with Roo around her birthday. Her family has been very kind in obliging with this, sometimes at the last minute (July 7th crept up on me this year). It's never been so important to me to see her on her birthday, but I like to see her within a few weeks of it, so that I can take a million pictures and give her presents and tell her how fantastic she is.

On Roo's birthday itself, I will inevitably look at pictures from when she was brand-new and I will cry unattractively and hold the blanket M made for me and allow myself time to be sad and miss my baby. The amount of time I spend feeling sorry for myself depends on the year. I think I was sad for about fifteen minutes last year, for instance, but this year I cried for over an hour. In my defense, I was alone for a lot of the day, and my mom was out of town, and my plans with a friend fell through, and I was stressed out because I was facing a 12-hour drive the next day.

In general I'm happiest when I treat Roo's birthday like an extra birthday for me. There are no presents, but I like to make a cake (I adore cake) and go out to lunch with my mother or a friend. I make an effort to look nice, because it is a special day. Anyone I talk to that day has to hear at least 15 Roo stories, and look at every picture of her I have on my phone. Actually, that tends to happen to anyone who asks, "How's Roo?" But people must not mind too much, because they keep asking.

For the most part Roo's birthday is a joyful day for me. I know that she's happy it's her special day, and it makes me happy that she's happy. There's just that little edge, that reminder in the periphery of my joy that although I have a mother's love for Roo, I am not her mother.* I celebrate her birthday without her.

But it's not such an odd concept to celebrate someone's birthday without them, is it? I think of my dad each year on his birthday. I make a cake for him, too. I look at pictures. I watch a movie or TV show that we used to watch together. I remember him and I miss him and I love him, even though he's gone.

It's the same with Roo, even though she's alive and well. Every day, but especially on her birthday, I remember her, and I miss her, and I love her. I celebrate in my own way, and if that way happens to vary from year to year, or even from hour to hour, so be it. The details aren't what's crucial. The important thing is that Roo was born, and she is amazing and lovely and fantastic, and the world is a better place because she's here. Everything else is just filler.

*I know I'm going to get the same comments I get every time I make this statement, the comments that I am still her mother, and people are certainly entitled to that belief, but I don't share it. I'm her birth mother, not her real mother. That's good enough for me.

Monday, July 15, 2013

FAQ: What About H?

Today I am going to answer a question that I have been getting a lot lately from people I know when I have been talking to them about adoption. It's a series of questions actually, and they're all about Roo's birth father, H.

I've mentioned him before and I used to mention him a lot, particularly in years past when I was still angry at him and wanted to hurt him for hurting me. I don't think I've mentioned him in quite a while, and I only really talk about him in therapy every so often, so newer readers of this blog and more recent acquaintances may not know much about him.

Parenthetically, if you're dying to know more about him and you're emotionally buoyant you can go back and read the posts tagged "boyfriend" but for today, all you need to know is that we met on MySpace in 2008 and that he is to this day the only man who has ever told me I was beautiful. (I don't know if he meant it or if he had just been single for longer than he liked. I suspect the latter.)

I digress.

Q (and Q, and Q, and Q, and Q): Do you ever hear from H? What does H think about the adoption? Does H get to see Roo? Do you want him to? Do you hate H?

A: I'm going to answer the last question first, because it's important, and I want to make it very clear: I do not hate H, and I never did. I used to be angry with him, and I used to want to hurt him because he hurt me and punish him for breaking my heart and leaving me alone and pregnant.

But I have an excellent therapist, and I have reached the point where 99% of the bad feelings are gone. I'm going to allow myself 1% because when I'm having a really bad day I sometimes still stew about how I had a baby with a guy and even that wasn't enough to make him stay, and what does that say about me? I must be completely unlovable.

Hey, we all have those days, right?


Just me?

Anyway. I have actually had many moments wherein I simply felt grateful to H for giving me Roo, because she is the best thing that ever happened to me. It occurred to me the other day (Father's Day, in fact) that I am terribly grateful for every single one of H's character flaws. Because if he hadn't been exactly the man he was four years ago, I wouldn't have placed Roo for adoption, and that would have been a shame.

I have never thanked him personally, because I haven't actually seen him in person since 2008 and we have not communicated since right after Roo was born. This does not surprise me or hurt me at all; he told me when I was pregnant that if I chose adoption he would essentially disappear.

I don't know how he feels about the adoption. I don't know if it's something that he ever thinks about. To the best of my knowledge he has never met Roo or had any contact with her parents. Do I want him to? I'm going to play politician and give a non-answer. I want what's best for Roo, and I trust P and M to make that choice. If the time comes when they feel that a relationship with H is in Roo's best interest, I will support that.* She's their child and it's their decision to make, not mine.

I don't know where H is now or what he's doing. I told that to a friend the other day and he said, "Isn't it weird? Someone can be such a big part of your life for a while and have such an impact on you, and then you don't see them again for the rest of your life."

It is weird. It is weird to think that I had a baby with this man, H, and he's no part of my life and never will be again. It's weird that our genes are forever merged in Roo, but that our lives are so separate. It's weird, but it's okay.

I used to think that I needed to confront him to find closure, which terrified me, but I was wrong. I've made my peace with him, and I hope that he's made his peace with me.

*I'll confess to the odd sporadic desire for H to meet Roo, but it's a selfish one. I sometimes think that if H ever thinks of Roo or adoption, it might be with anger or bitterness towards me and how things turned out. In my more fanciful moments I think that it would be nice if he could see her - see what a fantastic little person she is, how smart she is, how happy she is, how beautiful. It would be nice if he could see what a good thing came of our relationship and out of adoption. I think it might be beneficial. But beneficial to him and tangentially to me, not necessarily to Roo at this point. I'm glad it's not my call to make.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


Today my baby girl is four years old. Not a baby anymore, but I always think of her as my baby girl. I'm not quite sure how it's been four years already. And also, I'm not quite sure how it's only been four years. Sometimes I find it hard to remember who I was before her. I don't think it's anything worth remembering. I wasn't a very happy person and I hadn't done much with my life. But then, four years ago, I first met my baby, and I fell deeply and irrevocably in love.

I became a different person that day, in that moment. My heart grew and changed I hardly knew myself, and it was a good thing. I haven't gone back. Being first Roo's mother and then her birth mother has made me a better woman. She saved me. I owe her so much!

I am the woman I am today because I love this little girl. Every good decision I make, every right and good and kind thing I do, it's all because of her.  I want her to be proud of me. I want to be someone she can look up to. I'm not there yet, but she inspires me to try.

I know that I'm pretty selfish with details about her. But she really is the most fantastic little person I have ever known. She is so smart, and so happy, and so sweet, and exceptionally cute. She talks constantly, and she's an excellent reader. She has a lot of confidence for such a small person. I love her like crazy, and I am more proud of her than I can say.

Happy birthday, Roo!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


You know what I love? Going on vacation. I should do it more often. Two weeks ago I took a trip to San Diego, which was lovely and amazing and fantastic and wonderful and lots of other words that I tend to apply to both important life experiences and particularly good pizza (but I repeat myself). 

I went with my friend Emily and she unwisely allowed me to plan our itinerary. I tried to warn her that I have military fangirl tendencies* but she wouldn't listen. I think she regretted this when we ended up on the Russian submarine that is part of the Maritime Museum. Also later on when my camera and I wanted to spend 4 hours on an aircraft carrier. I probably should have joined the Navy in my younger years. I may have missed my calling in life.

Fortunately for Emily I only planned for one day of "Oh my gosh, look at that navy shipyard!" We spent the next day in Balboa Park, and we both touched dinosaur poo.

(Yes, I got sunburned. Laugh. Laugh at my pain.)

Anyway. Day three of our trip included a visit to Sea World. I've been to Sea World before, but it was a while ago. And by "a while ago" I mean "in 1987." A few things have changed at Sea World in the past 26 years, but it still felt vaguely familiar to me because I remember being there when I was little. I didn't think I would remember, because I had a traumatic encounter with a puffer fish and I thought I probably repressed most of that particular vacation. But I got back to the penguin exhibit, and I saw this:

and I remembered. (Unfortunately, I also remembered the puffer fish.)

Roo is the same age now that I was then. Roo is at an age where she will remember things. I suspect that, because she is so clever, she will probably have memories of being younger than she is now. I have memories of being about 18 months old. (I know that Science would probably call shenanigans on that, but I know what I remember.) But my clearer memories start at about three-and-a-half, Roo's age.

Which brings me to my point (hey, I've got one this time!). I've been more aware during the last couple of visits that Roo is forming memories of me. It's made me more than usually grateful for the progress I've made and for the person I've become. I'm far from perfect - every day I seem to discover some new flaw or weakness** - but I am so much better than I used to be, and I think I'm starting to be the kind of person Roo can be proud of.

I certainly wasn't there a few years ago. I forget that at times. Fortunately(?) I got a reminder the other day. I decided to start using Twitter again last week because I don't want to miss my chance to be personally victimized by Amanda Bynes. While I was trying to decide what to say to my two followers, I felt this compulsion to read through old tweets, and it was educational. I used to be a hot mess, you guys. If you don't believe me, feel free to browse the blog archive. Scary stuff.

But I think my wrong turn down memory lane was useful. Sometimes I need a reminder of how far I've come. Four years ago I was unemployed and poor and alone and eight months pregnant. Just look at me now - still poor and alone, but now I've touched dinosaur poo!

Seriously, though. I used to have more issues than Newsweek, and I am so, so grateful that at that time Roo was too small to get a sense of my personality. I'd hate for her to remember me the way I was when she was a baby. I hate to remember me the way I was when she was a baby.

I have decided, however, that every now and then I need to remember. Especially lately. I've been frustrated with where I am in life (single, poor, have touched dinosaur poo). I thought that my vacation would be a break from feeling like the last single woman on earth, but it wasn't. I felt like I was surrounded by couples in love - is it normal to see so many kissing people in public? - and the fact that Emily spent a lot of time text messaging her boyfriend didn't help. (I still love you, Emily.)

But there are worse things in the world than being single, and I've been through those things. More importantly, I've made it through them, stronger, happier, and better. And that's something worth remembering.

*Raise your hand if some of your happiest childhood memories are of watching "Wings of the Luftwaffe" on television with your father.


Just me? Okay.

**A comprehensive list of my faults and weaknesses is available upon request.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mother's Day, Take Five

This month I celebrated my fifth Mother's Day and my fourth Birth Mother's Day. I’ve written before about Mother’s Day. Every year. I did it in 2010, and in 2011, and again in 2012. (click for link)

I was going to repeat myself, because I do that a lot. I'm not one to stop talking just because I've run out of things to say. I had a Mother's Day post planned. But more than a week and seven drafts later, I've given up. I don't have anything else to say about Mother's Day.

I'm sure it won't always be that way. It is entirely possible that next year will warrant multiple blog posts about this particular greeting-card holiday. But this year, I think I'm good.

I got a video of Roo wishing me a happy Mother's Day, and it's pretty much the only thing I needed, even though I didn't know I needed it until I got it. Can you believe Roo will be four years old this summer? I swear she just barely learned to walk. Anyway, this video is the best Mother's Day gift I could have gotten, and I kind of didn't care about anything else that happened that weekend. My sister sent me a card, which was unexpected and thoughtful and lovely. And, to cap off my weekend, when I was on the way to Casa Grande with my mother, I saw the Wienermobile headed south on the 10.

The only thing that bothered me all weekend was a few hours after the Wienermobile (there aren't too many occasions to use that phrase, let me tell you). My mom and I had gone to Casa Grande to take my grandmother to lunch for Mother's Day. After we ate we talked for a while. When we said goodbye, my grandma wished my mom a happy Mother's Day but she didn't say anything to me. I was surprised at how much that bothered me.

My mom reckons my grandma didn't want to bring up what she might consider to be a painful subject. That makes sense, I guess. My grandma isn't the sort of person to talk about painful things. When my dad called to let her know his cancer was back and he was going to die soon, she said, "Well, these things happen," and then told him about a problem she was having with her satellite dish. My grandma will be 87 next month, and she's outlived her husband and 4 of her 6 children. She knows what it is to hurt. She just doesn't talk about it.

I don't know how to not talk about it. Maybe it's a generational thing, maybe it's seven years of therapy taking root in my brain. I just don't know how to not express a feeling, even if I'm only talking to myself.

But then, Roo's not a sad feeling or a hurt. Roo is my happy place. I'm sure she has moments with her parents where she is absolutely rotten but the advantage of being her birth mom is that I don't have to see any of that. She always behaves herself around me (because kids save their worst behavior for their parents) so I can pretend she's a little angel all the time and refuse to believe otherwise.

Anyway. Where was I?

Mother's Day. Not a big deal this year. I have had too many other things on my mind. It's not that I love Roo any less, or that I feel less like a mother or birth mother than I did in years past. The fact remains that I spent 41 weeks growing a small human from scratch (just two ingredients!) and 36 hours of labor attempting to evict said small human, who then had to be surgically extracted (yes, there's a scar; no, you can't see it). That will always be part of me; having Roo helped make me the person I am today.

But I'm much more well-rounded than I was in years past. There are more things competing for attention in my brain. My feet still itch (not literally; see my previous post for clarification), and I'm trying to plan three different trips before my birthday, and I'm turning 30 this fall and not taking it particularly well, and the Summer reading program is about to start at work, and this stray cat in my neighborhood has decided it belongs to me, and I frequently have to open the patio door and yell, "Stop meowing! I'm not letting you in! You are not my cat!" and the last time this happened two police officers heard me and I was too far away to offer a proper explanation.

("You don't have normal problems, do you?" my mother often asks.)

It's nice to have reached a point in my life where being a birth mother doesn't define me. It used to define me; the first year after placement it was pretty much my whole self, and it took another year before I didn't feel disloyal for not wanting it to.

I'm proud of myself for taking a whole week to write about Mother's Day. I'm proud of myself that Mother's Day is such a non-issue for me, that it was a blip and not a breakdown. I've come a long way.

I've been blogging much less frequently than I used to, and last night when I was waiting to fall asleep I figured out why.

I started this blog for Roo - to tell her story, so she'd never have to wonder why she's where she is and so she'll never doubt my love for her. Over time it's become less about Roo and more about me, which parallels my life pretty neatly. I have different things to say now. But because so much of my readership found me because of adoption, I feel like there are things I should be saying and writing about.

The problem is that I want to write about those things less and less. I feel like I've said it all before. I'm not done blogging, not by a long shot, but I think that much less of what I write is going to be so narrowly focused on adoption. This is my blog. I ought to be able to write about whatever I want, and tie it to adoption as loosely as feels appropriate, if it feels appropriate at all.

If you're okay with that, stick with me. I've got a lot more to say.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Itchy Feet

This is going to be one of those personal posts that has very little to do with adoption. Except that it kind of has a lot to do with adoption, eventually. I promise.

Lately I've been restless.

I should be more specific. I tend to be restless physically as a general rule. I can't remember the last time I sat still. But lately I've been mentally restless as well, and it's getting worse.

I'm convinced it's a genetic trait. My paternal great-grandmother (for whom Roo was named) was born to an unmarried mother, her biological father having been the sort of man who does not stay in one place for very long. She married a man, my great-grandfather, who was also the restless sort. They had two sons, and their second-born became my grandfather.

But years before that, he got itchy feet. (Not literally.) At the age of sixteen he fudged his birthday and joined the United States Marine Corps. They gave him a gun and a knife, and then they shipped him off to the Pacific to fight in the second world war. When he got back, he married my grandmother. After a few years they moved. And again a few years later. And again a few years after that.

When my dad told people he moved around a lot as a kid they assumed his father was in the military, and he was. But my grandfather was in the Reserves after the war. The constant relocation was his own choice. He worked as a pipefitter and a foreman and he had a temper. Every couple of years he'd get sick of his boss, quit his job, and move the family to a new place. The wandering life seemed to suit him.

It did not suit my father. He wanted roots. Once my oldest brother started school, my parents were settled, and if my father occasionally felt restless like his father he hid it well with car trips or new ways of arranging the furniture. I spent the first 18 years of my life in the same small town ... and I hated it.

My father wanted roots; I wanted wings. I felt stifled; trapped. I was envious any time there was a new kid at school; I felt they'd seen more than I had, experienced more, been more free. My world was so small. I grew to resent it. I took any chance I could to shake things up. When we had a family trip planned, I would pack my suitcase weeks in advance (and end up unpacking one day at a time because I had nothing to wear). I loved moving furniture around, painting walls, planting flowers. Anything to shake up the monotony of my tiny world. Every couple of years I had to do something, anything, to make a change.

I never outgrew it. At college, I was the girl who would say yes to any trip, anywhere (even an ill-planned trip in an aging truck to the top of a mountain, in the snow, at 2am, to help my friend Connie look for her camera. None of us brought a flashlight, and I was wearing flip-flops. Sorry, Mom). I was desperate for new experiences, new people, new scenery.

Since the age of 14, I haven't done any one thing for more than two years. I had one job from 14 to 16 and another from 16 to 18. Then college for roughly two years, another job for two years, 16 months of beauty school, a salon job for about two years. Then two years of unemployment, during which I grew a human being in my free time. Then my library job - one position for a year, and 18 months in my current position.

And I am getting restless. I don't know how to have the same job for so long without getting itchy feet. I keep shuffling pictures around at my desk, trying to make things look new. But I'm starting to feel trapped again. It hit me a few months ago. I was refilling my water bottle and my brain was idling and I suddenly couldn't remember what day of the week it was. This happens regularly, but that day I realized that it happens regularly. That there is precious little to distinguish one day from the next. That the past year of my life has flown by as if it had hitched a ride on a cannonball. I had this horrifying feeling that the next two, five, ten years of my life could easily be the same kind of a blur.

I managed to shake the feeling for a few months but it's back in full force. My twenties got away from me and if I keep on keepin' on, my thirties will be an endless cycle of damnation - work-sleep-work-sleep-work-sleep. No progress, no change. There is no opportunity for advancement at my library, and the county has not given pay raises in over five years. I have reached a dead end. I'm not unhappy with my life, but I feel like there has to be more out there for me and I find myself getting more and more desperate to find it.

So a few weeks ago I reminded myself that I am not a tree. America is a big country - the land of opportunity. I have options. I'm not stuck. I can go anywhere I want. I started looking for library jobs in other cities (thank you, Houston, for letting me know how grossly underpaid I am). I imagined myself in Illinois, in North Carolina, in Texas, in Virginia. My itchy feet danced at the thought of a fresh start, a new city, something different to get tired of in two years.*

I would be alone in a strange city, and that made me a little nervous. But, I asked myself, isn't it worth the risk? What do I have to lose? What is there for me in Arizona?

And right away I knew the answer. Roo. Roo is here in Arizona. She is my precious, amazing, wonderful little anchor to the Grand Canyon state. Roo is here. How can I go anywhere else?

I am so spoiled to live so close to her - in the same city, maybe a dozen miles away. When I want a visit, it's a matter of weeks and very little planning (on my part, anyway). I've been able to go to her dance recitals and play with her at the park and have breakfast with her at a restaurant. I could do none of those things if I lived in Houston, for example. Visits would have to be carefully orchestrated, and they would be expensive for me. I'm afraid I'd feel I was missing out on the little things - things I'm invited to now because I'm close but that might slip past if I lived a thousand miles away because it would be so difficult for me to go.

Roo is getting older (she will be four this summer. Four!). The older she gets, the more important it is to have a good relationship with her and her parents. I don't ever want her to feel abandoned by me. I want her to be able to see me when she wants to. To get to know me if she wants to. I don't want to be some distant figure, someone talked about but not to.

The simple thing to do would be to find something new here in the valley. A new apartment, a new job. But ... I can't explain it. Arizona almost feels too small. Yes, all 113,990 square miles** of it. I have lived in Arizona for thirty years. I know it too well. It's too familiar. There's nothing new here for me, and my feet want to go somewhere new.

But how can I even think of going anywhere that Roo's not?

Yes, I know that I'm being stupid and that Roo probably wouldn't be bothered by my relocating. The truth is that I'm the one bothered by it. The thought of moving away from her scares the heck out of me. And yet the restlessness grows.

How can I make my feet agree with my heart? I wish I knew. I don't know if there's a compromise. I don't know which part of me is going to win.

But I do know that it's time to start rearranging the furniture. 

*If you're thinking the whole two-year-itch thing means I'd make a good military wife, you're probably right, and I've thought so too. But single Mormon military men aren't exactly thick on the ground in the Phoenix metro area. So if you know of any, do a girl a favor, won't you?

**Thank you, Wikipedia! Also, I know that people have these ideas about Arizona because of Sheriff Joe. So I would just like to remind you that we are also the state that brought you Grumpy Cat. You're welcome, America.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Comparing Losses

I'm feeling introspective today; please indulge me.

Once upon a time, I was a psychology major in college. I was young and full of hope in those days and I hadn't yet realized that a bachelor's degree in psychology isn't worth anything; that more advanced degrees are required for any sort of enviable job in the field of mental health. Anyway, during one of my courses the instructor discussed stress. For fun (she had an odd sense of humor) she had each of us take a stress inventory. It was a list of life events - both good and bad - that are stressful and each event had an assigned point value. If you had, in the past twelve months, been through a life event on the inventory, you gave yourself the appropriate number of points, and you added up your score at the end and the total was, presumably, supposed to give you a good idea of how stressed you were. 

Personally I felt that if you needed a psychological inventory to determine whether you were stressed, you probably weren't. But I mention this because a few years ago I think I broke the stress inventory. In the space of twelve months I experienced the death of a parent, an unplanned pregnancy, the dissolution of a romantic relationship, the birth of a child, and the placing of that child for adoption.

I've been asked by more than one person whether it was harder to place Roo than it was to lose my dad. Without context the question seems a bit insensitive but I'm not bothered by it. I can see where people might wonder, as these two events occurred exactly a year apart, and both caused a grief, and both have shaped me, and both have left me to live my life without someone I love dearly.

But I can't say with any certainty that one was harder than the other, because they were such different experiences. I'm not even going to say they're apples and oranges, because apples and oranges are both fruits. Let's call them apples and roast beef. At the time, each experience was the hardest thing I've ever gone through. The difference is which I struggle with, several years out.

I once thought that placement was harder. My dad's death was a single event, with a very clearly defined end point. He was dying, and then he died – a medical fact. The rest of us were left to arrange things, because my father was gone. I remember being amazed at how quickly he was gone. One second my father was in the room and the next he wasn't, even though his body hadn't moved. My father's heart stopped beating and he was gone, his body a foreign object.The room had changed, just like that.

Plenty happened for those of us left behind, but it was the end of the line for my dad and for our lives with him. It was an end.

Placement, on the other hand, was a beginning. It was the start of a whole life of not being Roo's mother, a life of things that I'd miss and wonder about and mourn. Every day she'd grown a bit more, changed a tiny bit. For nine weeks plus nine months I was an expert on all things Roo. I knew her better than anyone. Placement marked the end of my being the Roo Jeopardy champion. I knew less and less about her. P and M took my place as Roo experts.

At first each day without her felt like an injustice and I almost longed for the relative simplicity of mourning a death. It seemed so much easier to handle, its trajectory so much neater. I had decades of memories to cling to in mourning my father. I had sympathy. In this sense, and at this time, placement absolutely was harder.

I find now that I have changed my mind completely. I prefer not to have to compare the two experiences but if I must I'd say that my dad's death was the hardest and continues to be the hardest and probably always will bring out the lost little child in me.

I am not Roo's mother, but she's still alive and happy and healthy and growing, and I get to see her and know her and love her. I have read books to her and been to dance recitals and I woke up on Christmas morning to a phone call from her. Roo makes me happy. Thinking of her brings joy. She is, as a friend of mine remarked, an affront to frowns. Roo is still here, and I still get to see her and be a part of her life. Placement was so hard, but it got better. I got better. I still have the occasional bad day but by and large the hurt is gone.

It is a million times harder to miss my dad, because he is gone not just from me but from this earth. I can't phone him when I get stuck on my taxes, or ask him to fix something on my car, or tell him that I love him, and I can't get a hug from him – the kind of hug only a dad can give, the kind that makes you feel completely safe and loved and okay, even if just for a moment. I miss those hugs. 
I can't write about him without crying. I miss him terribly. I kept thinking it would get easier, but it hasn't and I don't know that it ever will. I don't know if I'll ever get over the utter injustice of my father's absence. 

When you don't see someone for a while, you develop a mental backlog of things to talk to them about. My brother, for instance, lives in Utah now, and I find myself making mental lists of things to tell him and show him and ask him about the next time I see him. When he was in town for Christmas I didn't shut up for a few hours because I had so much to say.

When the person you want to talk to is dead, that backlog never eases up. The unasked questions, the unspoken conversations keep piling up until they become overwhelming, an entity, sentient. I've lost count of how many times I have thought or said, “I wish I could ask/tell Dad ...” More than once I've caught myself saying, "Dad will love this!" And then I remember: would have, not will. He has been in the past tense for 4 ½ years.

If I want to know something about Roo, I ask her parents, or Roo herself when I see her. That option is pretty much always available to me. But my dad's thoughts and opinions and memories left this earth years ago and I can't get them back - any of them. Every now and then I'll realize I've lost something more of him – the exact color of his eyes, his laugh, which of his front teeth was chipped – and I mourn him all over again. I dread the day when I lose the bigger things. What will I do when I've forgotten the sound of his voice or the feel of his arms wrapped around me in a hug? The less of him I remember clearly, the more gone he seems. 

I chose adoption, and so much good has come from it. Lives have changed for the better. There is so much joy! I can see so clearly how it fit into God's plan for the happiness of a few of His children. There was and is a purpose to placing Roo for adoption, and it is beautiful, and it is good. I can see that. All of that makes the sporadic bad day much easier to bear. 

I'm still waiting for that kind of reassurance in the loss of my father. I'm still waiting to see how it's been good for me or my mother or anyone else on earth. If I was supposed to have learned something by watching my father die, I'm sorry to say that I missed it.There's very little to cling to on days when I miss my dad. There never will be. It's okay that I'm not Roo's mother. But it's never really going to be okay that my father is dead.

I think this is the difference between the losses we choose and the losses that are chosen for us. We spend our lives learning to make choices and accept the consequences of them. We learn to be okay with our choices, good and bad. We learn from then, we're shaped by them, we let them make us better. I can see the good in the loss that I chose in part because I know why I chose it. 

I can't see the good in being deprived of my father. I never would have chosen this loss. It is monstrously unfair, and more than four years later I still struggle with accepting the consequences of his death. Part of me thinks if I always will.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Few Things You Should Know

I have a lot of new readers and new blog followers, and although many are familiar with adoption, just as many are new to it. Welcome! Adoption is rad.*

As someone who is well-acquainted with adoption I feel the burden of educating others. I considered doing some sort of FAQ, or a glossary of adoption terms, or something like that. But I feel like I've done it before. Today I want to clear up some misconceptions that I've encountered as I have discussed adoption with people whose first real introduction to adoption was me telling them that I'm a birth mother. The people who need to read this - friends and acquaintances who have said, "You have a blog? I'll have to read it some time" and then never do - probably won't read it, but I want to say it anyway. 

So, let's get right to it.

I'm a birth mother; I placed a child for adoption. There is no need to apologize or feel sad for me. I'm neither sorry nor sad. If you're going to pity me, let it be for the fact that I'm too short to buy groceries without using low shelves as a stepladder, or because I'm pushing thirty and still single, or because  I kind of can't afford to be alive right now. Those are the things that keep me up at night; those are the things I personally feel sad about. But adoption? SO not a sad thing! Adoption is a happy thing. Thinking of Roo makes me happy. So thank you for sympathy; it is appreciated. But it's not needed.

When people see pictures of Roo on my apartment wall or my phone or wherever, they will often say, "Is that your ..." and trail off awkwardly. I get that. What do you call someone's child who isn't their child? I usually just smile and say that yes, that's Roo, and isn't she gorgeous? I've never cared for the term "birth daughter." It's a mouthful. But it also doesn't feel right to just say that she's my daughter, because she's not. She's just my little Roo. Sometimes I will refer to her as "my baby" which feels a bit more comfortable, I think. She used to be my baby and it doesn't matter how old she gets or how tall she grows, I think I'll always think of her as my little Roo.

Roo is not my child. When I placed her I signed papers, and P and M signed papers, that made Roo the official, legal daughter of P and M. She's theirs. I do see Roo fairly regularly, but I don't "get" her for weekends or "have" her for outings. Adoption isn't a joint-custody agreement. I grew and delivered Roo and I love her dearly, but I am not her mama. And I am okay with that! Roo has what I wanted most for her. I don't need to be her mother to be happy. I am happy that she has the mother she does.

Also, I dearly love Roo's mom! I think I would be sad if I didn't get to see her when I see Roo. How weird would it be to just see Roo? I can't imagine saying to M, "Gosh, you're a wonderful mother, thanks for taking care of Roo, but do you mind if I take her to the zoo for a few hours without you? I'd like some alone time with her, without you in the way." Also, this feels like the sort of thing in which Roo ought to have a say, and although she knows I love her, she also knows that M is her mama, and I imagine that if she were at the zoo, Roo would be happiest pointing out the animals she knows to the woman who taught her their names.

That said, yes, I do get to see Roo every few months or so, as occasion warrants. I do not, however, get to see Roo "whenever I want," because that would be ridiculous. I don't think there's anyone on earth I can see whenever I want. Even my mother has limits. I have my own life and schedule, and P and M have theirs, and I certainly don't expect P and M to drop everything so I can see Roo whenever I want. I wouldn't want Roo to have parents who would disregard Roo's routine and that of her siblings just to cater to my whims.

Roo's adoption is open. Openness is a choice that was made. It is not a legal obligation and I wouldn't want it to be. P and M don't owe me anything. It's not about me. I've been told how nice it is that they let me see Roo, and I always think, "Yes, and it was nice of me to give them a baby." Niceness on either side isn't the reason for openness. It's about what's best for the little girl we all love so much. 

Roo knows who I am. She knows that my name is Jill, and that I love her lots and lots, that I always kiss her cheeks about fifty times when I see her, and that she grew in my tummy. She doesn't get confused about who her mother is any more than a child who sees an aunt or grandmother regularly would get confused. Roo knows exactly who her mother is, and she knows who I am, and she knows that M and I are friends, and that we both love her. It's not complicated. People who think that openness confuses a child aren't giving children enough credit.

Yes, placing Roo was hard, and what an odd question that is - was it hard? When people find out my mother was widowed, no one ever asks, was it hard to lose your husband? Placement was so, so hard. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life and I sincerely hope I never have to do anything harder because I don't think I could. But it is also the best, most amazing and wonderful thing that I have ever done. It was worth the hurt.

I have made many mistakes in my life (and I will probably make a lot more) but Roo isn't one of them. Having Roo is the absolute best thing I've ever done. If I could live my life over I think I'd make exactly the same mistakes again, because if even one little thing were different I might not have had Roo, and wouldn't that be awful? I can't imagine my life without her. I can't imagine the world without her.

And yes, I would absolutely, one million percent place her again with P and M. I couldn't have placed her with anyone else. Roo changed my life forever for the better. Adoption allowed me to return the favor.

*I am acutely aware that there is a constellation of very angry people in the world who would vehemently disagree with that statement. If you are among that number, this is not the blog for you; please go away.