Monday, November 3, 2014

Some Thoughts on Why I Chose Adoption

November is National Adoption Month. Yes, again. I swear it was just National Adoption Month like a week ago but you know how these things sneak up on you. I mean, here we are, already a full month into Pudding Season and it barely feels like a day. But I digress.

I had this wild idea on November 1st that I was going to post every single day this month, just like I did that one year. Then I laughed at myself, because if my ADD has reached the point it has where being paid isn't motivation enough to get work done at work, I sure as shoelaces don't have the brainpower to post thirty times this month, particularly when I haven't even managed to post once a month this year.

I think that sentence made sense. Also I don't know if "sure as shoelaces" is a thing but the phrase that came to mind included a word that, while it begins with the same "sh" sound as "shoelaces," is not one I have ever used on this blog before to the best of my knowledge because my mother raised me better than that.

Of course I'm sure she also thought she raised me better than to have a baby with a guy I met on MySpace, but there you are. Roo got here how she got here and she's my favorite, so ... you know.

I'm just full of asides today. Positively bloated with them in fact. Sorry.

I turned 31 last month. It was a much more low-key celebration than 30 last year. My mother took me out to lunch, and I had dinner with some friends. My favorite part of the day is the time I spent with Roo and her family at a park. I took off my shoes and ran - "ran" - around the playground with Roo and her sister. We pretended we were some sort of fairies from a cartoon both of them seemed familiar with but that I had never heard of. It was great fun.

I let the girls lead me on a long walk to the far corner of the park and back (I think we were meant to be on some sort of fairy rescue mission) and on our loop around to the playground I ended up walking next to Roo.

As a general rule I've never seen any notable physical similarities between me and Roo. She is a tiny, adorable girl clone of H. Her eyes are a different color but the shape and poetic depth match his - I always thought his eyes held galaxies. It sounds almost unbearably saccharine to say that I got lost in his eyes but it's the truth. Roo's eyes have that same sort of dreamy quality. She inherited H's ridiculously long, dark eyelashes, too. I wish that H and I had gotten along as well as our genes did. Roo is excellent work.

As I said, I don't see much of myself in Roo at all but I had this moment walking next to her, when I realized she was walking fast like I do, when I wondered if a casual observer would have spotted any similarities in our strides - or our ear shapes, or our postures, or our hands. Would Roo look like she were mine if someone didn't know any better?

I don't need her to. I don't necessarily want her to. I just wondered. Because as we walked it hit me, the magnitude of what I did when I created life. Here was this perfectly formed person, a complete and unique entity. A life. A whole human, complete with hopes and dreams and a sense of humor, and I made her from scratch.

I say this not to wound any of you but because it was a vaguely terrifying thought. I had no idea what I was doing when I got pregnant, I really didn't. These teenage girls who think they're just having babies - they have no idea, either. Babies grow up. One minute you're going to the doctor to hear a heartbeat for the first time, the next minute you're pushing a five-year-old on a swing and watching her point her toes as she tells you you're not pushing hard enough. "I want to go higher," she'll insist, and it will hit you that this is only a fraction of what she wants, and then you'll begin to understand the enormity of what you undertook when you created life.*

This is why I chose adoption for Roo. Because I knew I could give a baby what she needed but, as the saying goes, babies don't keep. People who tried to talk me out of adoption insisted that today's parenting magazines and websites were misleading me - babies don't need much, and they need love most of all. I won't argue that. But babies grow up. Toddlers need more than babies, and grade-schoolers need more than toddlers, and then they become adolescents, and then, heaven help us, teenagers, and the older they get the more they need - not just temporally but emotionally, psychologically, spiritually.

I knew that I could provide everything that a baby needed. But I also knew that my baby would grow fast, and I knew that my ability to provide wasn't going to grow proportionately. I didn't want Roo to struggle or suffer while I tried to figure out how to make it work. She deserves better than that. I wanted more for her than that.

As I walked next to her, this perfect little person with dirty feet and a messy ponytail and a few blades of grass stuck to her leg, I had the thought that this was one of those rare, beautiful, perfect snippets in the space-time continuum. It was a beautiful day, warm for October, with an overabundance of bright sunshine and fresh air. I was walking across a field of slightly prickly crabgrass, matching strides with my favorite person in the whole world, and we were both very happy.

If I had to choose a single moment to live over and over again, I would have a hard time picking just one but this moment on my birthday would be a top contender. It was maybe twenty or thirty seconds from start to finish but for that short stretch of time absolutely everything in the world felt okay. I haven't felt that in a long time. It was glorious.

If I were Roo's mother** I am sure that I would enjoy countless such moments. I would. Roo and I would have great fun. But our lives would be so, so difficult. Those moments would be a sharp contrast to the constant struggle to stay above water. I could have done it. I could have kept her and been her mother and somehow made it all work.

But this is so much better - the way things are, I mean. Whatever else happens in her life, Roo got the best possible start. She's got the very best parents who love each other so much, and who love her and her siblings deeply and forever. Roo is confident and secure and well-adjusted and kind and buoyant and about six hundred other adjectives that I can't even use to describe myself at thirty-one. Adoption was the best choice I could have made. Roo herself is the proof.

I get uncomfortable when people try to pretty up what it means to be a birth mom or turn the choice to place into some kind of fairy tale. There can be so much beauty in adoption, but there is always pain. No woman sets out to become a birth mother. I don't think it's the first choice for very many women. It's beautiful and it hurts.

I am not brave or selfless or an angel or a saint. I'm not extraordinarily strong. I'm not a hero. I'm a bundle of flaws and good intentions and fleeting hope and once upon a time I fell irrevocably in love with this small person and every single day I was her mother she broke my heart because I knew she wasn't going to be my daughter forever and it terrified me. But I always knew.

I don't know if I've ever said that before on this blog, but there it is. I knew the second I first saw her tiny body in an ultrasound that my baby wasn't mine. When I was settled into a hospital room to recover from my c-section I looked up into the doorway every few minutes for at least four hours, waiting for someone to come in. I didn't know what they looked like then but I was watching for Roo's parents.

When I saw their picture for the first time, I knew. I saw their firstborn in their picture and I thought, that's Roo's sister. I saw P and M, and I thought Oh, there you are. And it scared me.

Adoption is scary. It's one of the scariest things I've ever done. But it's also my favorite thing I've ever done; it's the thing I am most proud of. It's brought me the most joy.

That flawless moment walking next to Roo at the park didn't fill me with any kind of desperate longing for her to be mine. There was no sadness that the fantastic little girl matching my steps isn't mine. I was happy because she was happy, and she was happy because she has a happy life. Not a perfect one, but a happy one. She bounces back quickly when things don't go her way. She notices the lovely little things in the world and they fill her with joy. She looks around and sees possibilities. She dreams.

That's what it's about, isn't it? Everything else is just filler.

I want to be like Roo when I grow up.

*I posted a picture of my three-year-old self on Instagram last week and when my mother saw it she said, "That's my baby," and she had this look on her face as though she were blindsided that that baby had just turned 31 - as though I had just been three and she couldn't quite account for the passage of time.

**Please don't comment and argue that I'm still her mother. Please just don't.


Alysa . . . . and Reed said...

I love that you had this lovely perfect moment of clarity on your birthday. I love that you had this moment to reflect on yourself and the good choices you made for Roo and in turn the good job her parents have done so far in raising her. I love how symbiotic the whole thing is and what a great example it is of a great open adoption. Thank you for being that for me. I'm loving that I can say that today without a hint of jealousy and nothing but total happiness for all of you. Thanks for giving me hope! And by the way, you're awesome!! ;)

C said...

I love everything about this. I hate it when people call me a saint, an angel, or talk about my selfless gift. If you would call my daughter a gift, I can promise it wasn't one I ever imagined giving. I can say; however, that choosing adoption for her and choosing D&G to be her parents are the best decisions I've ever made.

Thank you for sharing so openly in your blog. I remember reading it while tethered to my pump, tears streaming down my face, during those early days after placement. I don't remember much from those foggy days but I remember your blog giving me hope. I remember thinking that if I could have the relationship with my daughter that you have with Roo, the joy and self awareness that you have, I would be okay.

I hope my words can one day help others as yours helped me.

Sarah and John Adopt said...

I have been searching the internet for birth parent's perspectives on open adoption. I came across your blog and am really taken by your honesty. I have spent in inordinate amount of time scouring over old posts and digesting them mentally. I just wanted to say thank you for being candid about your experience. Beautifully written!

I am an prospective adoptive mother and the views of women who have already placed have been invaluable to me.

Alice Anne said...

This is beautiful. Thank you for your perspective!

Mother of the Wild Boys said...

This is the best adoption post I've read so far for National Adoption month. You have quite a way with words Jill. Thank you for sharing.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for your words! As an adoptive mother I sometimes struggle with knowing that the joy that I experience everyday with our children came at the cost of someone else living in pain. We have an open relationship with both of our childrens' birthmothers. I have grown to care deeply for them and it is hard to know they walk in pain while I get the opportunity to raise these amazing children.
Through various conversations over the years with them, I know that they still believe it was the best decision they could make. It's reassuring to see another birthmother so at peace with her decision!