I’m Still Learning

It seems like “everyone” is pregnant right now. My oldest friend (we were best friends the very first day of kindergarten) had her baby shower a couple of days ago. Upon arrival to the shower, I realized the hostess was also pregnant. I honestly didn’t even question whether I was in a good place to go through with this event, but it was once I was seated between two happily pregnant women and holding a stack of newborn diapers for the first party game that I had an “oh sh*t” moment.

I sat there staring at the little Huggies diaper thinking of what to write on it as directed. Then I was caught up in the idea of Max being across my lap needing a change. Then I was acutely aware that he was a good-sized baby at birth and would by now be out of newborn sized diapers. All of these things crossed my mind as I subconsciously focus on the buzz of conversation going on outside my emotional bubble.

Finally, I zoned back out and was able to write cute things on my stack of diapers. Then the onesie came around to be signed and I explicitly denied myself the fantasy of buttoning one onto Max. I didn’t try to be creative with my message, I scribbled something and passed it along quickly. After that, we engaged in about two hours worth of birthing and baby stories which was surprisingly really good for me. I have been writing a lot about how I feel and what happens, but I so very rarely open my mouth and verbalize on anything baby related that it was relieving. My friend Alison was the only one there who knew what I’d recently done and was also one of the few people outside of immediate family who visited me and Max in the hospital. A couple times I caught her looking at me to see if I was fine. Luckily, I was.

Then one of her extended mothers asked me how many children I had.

Boy, being caught off guard sucks. Royally. But I should have expected to be asked after volunteering stories on hospital staff and experiences. She was a very sweet woman and I knew that she wasn’t prying. “I have two at home and I recently placed one for adoption,” I told her quietly.

She didn’t bat an eye. She smiled and replied almost immediately, “Oh, how wonderful. Three babies!”

I was shocked, relieved, and could have hugged her neck off. I have never been more relieved to have been stuck in a room talking about babies…but it was the good fortune that Alison makes such genuinely good friends. Everyone there was sweet, unassuming, and gave wise and funny parenting advice. There was a lot of love and affection in the room and in the spirit of her first child, I was glad to be able to finally get my feet wet in the ‘baby subject’. While I’d congratulated her on her news of the baby’s arrival, I’d distanced myself…and I told her that as we were leaving. She wasn’t shocked at all. Pangs did come as I realized just how well suited all the people were around me to have children whenever. Everyone had homes with extra rooms that could be converted into nurseries. Everyone was happily married. And most of them had killed their career paths with precision. I briefly felt derailed for that…I no longer fit those categories. The feeling of being ill-prepared and insufficient is not one I’m used to and am inwardly desperate to get rid of.

Through this numerically short, but emotionally vast period I have gone through phases that made me feel borderline crazy. I’m not used to not being in full control. I’m not used to feeling like my life is in chaos. I’m not used to missing anyone. I’ve always lived life precisely. I’ve always known what I could and would do and how to handle what came at me. I’ve always had everyone I needed nearby.

Alison’s pregnancy was a shock to most people. No one thought she would be able to conceive. Then she stepped up to the plate and hit us all with the proclamation that she would be delivering naturally with a midwife at a birth center. She really knew how to keep us on our toes. And after becoming pregnant there was fear that she would have a hard pregnancy. Everything seems to be going great. Against all her odds she has always made the best of it and approached her difficulties with a WILL DO attitude. She doesn’t bother with CAN…she just will.

She reminded me with her news how I can manage this situation. First I was wrecking my brain trying to figure out how I would “get over” this with Max, but there’s no getting over relinquishing a child. You manage it. You cope with it. You deal as best you can. And I’m too soon in to tell you how that’s going. Reading back through the published writings over the last few weeks leaves me wondering if I should do more active work to cope with my situation. The extremes are very disconcerting. Either I’m mostly fine or I’m mostly not. And even when I think I’m in the middle, I’m not…I’m still extremely mad or extremely sad about some detail of this process. I was acquainted with the term Ancora Imparo by a wonderful person…it loosely means “I am still learning”. Well, I’m coming to terms with what I do and didn’t know about myself. I knew that I have an issue with repetition; I hate it. Repeatedly coping? Yay…..

Alison and I bonded over our love for our dads and our sticky relationships with our mothers. The only difference is that my dad was the man my mom married when I was five years old. There is no biological connection between us, but he has never been anything but wonderful to me. It only recently occurred to me that adoption didn’t particularly frighten me before Max was born because I knew how blood didn’t necessarily deter love. If my dad loves me so much, Max is not lacking. A lot of this rush to make the decision was so absolute in my mind…no real doubts hit until after he was born, which was something else that plays against my control issues. I was not only pressured by the relationship I’d built with the a-parents to go through with it, but myself. I’d made the decision and I couldn’t fathom changing my mind after getting people involved and letting it be known that I’d made such a decision. The latest breakthrough has been realizing my biggest hurdle is me. Not the agency (that I’m still irked with), not the parents (that I have been taking cheap shots at mentally), and not anyone around me.

I can’t make myself feel less sad, but I can make myself see the good  of this entire thing… and in that the possibilities are endless. I could continue to be mad at myself and make myself pay with endless “what ifs” or I can choose to think of what blessings there are ahead. Who knew that being ok with the decision would be the most illusive thing….ancora imparo.

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Anxiety Downgrade

I moved my bed and found the adoption documents I’d hidden before I wanted anyone to know I was even pregnant. The parent profiles were there. I swaddled myself in blankets and began reading them again. I feel like a psychopath for not realizing sooner in my negativity tirade that I had chosen Max’s parents for a reason…that they were exactly as they read on paper. Candid, loving, open, and real. I really like them. They love my baby and I think he has a good chance of blooming as a part of their family.

I had been analyzing all these ridiculous things. Now having said that I hate Max’s new name, I would feel awful for that name to be from someone who helped mold either one of them into the people they are today.

Though I tried to clarify that I don’t resent them, it’s pretty obvious that I’m jealous of them. Besides having a great family and relationship, they get to have the precious moments with my child that I’ll miss. I don’t feel like I chose to give up those parts of Max’s life. I feel like I chose to ensure that he had a good life. Even though I was raised in a home with both parents, I know how it feels to not have a connection or to be unsure if one parent even cares about you. And after my first two children began asking about their estranged father plus Max’s father being so willing to disconnect, I did not want that for him.

Had I kept Max, I would have made sure his basic needs were met. I’d have done everything I could to make him happy, but there’s something very fundamental and beneficial about being a part of a loving two-parent household. While I don’t feel like Max’s older brother and sister are lacking much by not having their father around, they are missing out on having the balance and love of a second parent. As a single parent I will defend any man or woman who has been left to care for a child or children on their own; it’s tough. But having the easily identifiable difference in the warmth of the relationship I had with my dad and the coldness of the relationship I had with my mother, I realized how much it sucks to have a parent (either in the house or out) that you’re not sure where you fit in with. This thought also lead to the anxiety I had of Max becoming an adoptee. Even if his a-parents love him to the moon and back, I know that adoptees wonder about their biological roots. I want him to be sure that I love him very much. I don’t want to have to explain that I don’t think his biological father has a heart to even make him capable of loving another person.

With Max’s new family, there’s a great history to their love and it’s obvious that their love hasn’t stagnated at all… I am glad that he has that as a base and not a story like his siblings to dwell on. The story of mommy and daddy’s love, your name, what type of relationships your parents had with their own parents, and the lifestyle your parents live have significant impacts on how you develop and grow. From what you learn from those instances to how you behave based on those things to how the world around you responds to the formers, development is key.

I’m never going to stop missing Maxton or wondering what I’m missing in his growth. I’ll always have a feeling of guilt, shame, and fear for what has been (for me to come to the decision of adoption) and what could be (as a result of the adoption). There is no doubt in my mind that he was meant to be in this world. So many things along the journey of my pregnancy made that glaringly clear. The way he came into this world wide-eyed and conscious of nearly everything around him also made that clear to me. No matter what my heart wanted that day or the day he went home with his new family, I did what was best for him. Keeping him would have been what was best for me, but as I learned with parenting my first two children, parents come after the kids. And I have to make sure that my emotions are not misdirected at people who were just fulfilling functions of their own lives.

For the Record

I need to make sure that people know that I don’t resent or even vaguely dislike Max’s adoptive parents. As of this moment, they have not been anything but greatful toward me and are obviously drowning baby boy in love and affection.

My negative feelings are not directed specifically at them…the sticky circumstances surrounding the adoption, my regret, and my feelings are not in any way *because* of them. It’s sincerely regardless of them. I’d feel this way whether they or someone I knew personally had him. These feelings come from another place.

Yes, I hate the name they chose. It’s nothing personal. Yes, their eagerness for *a* baby makes me wonder if they’d have welcomed ANY other baby the way they did Max…those kinds of things cross an anxious birthmother’s mind among many, many other questions. Is my baby a plug-n-play peripheral to what they felt their set-up lacked in function and wow factor? Unfortunately, my brain went into micromanagement phase AFTER the signing, not before when my mind could have been put more at ease. Maybe…

I felt a warm connection to the a-mom and her wonderful family. Max is so doted on and welcomed by them. His addition seemed like a sigh of relief to them. I didn’t get the deep read on a-dad that I wanted. I think he is a generally good man, though. It’s just that I picked up on something subtle that gave me the impression that there was an unsaid gap there that the kids (a-parents between in-laws) may have to mediate. I could be wrong…that’s entirely possible.

That aside, Max will likely be funny, smart, and warm. But I want more than anything for him to be confident, self assured, and happy.

No, his nursery isn’t posh…they are well off, but laid back, and down to earth. Woot! I wanted Max to have a mom AND dad who loved him. Check.

Despite everything I like about them, I feel like I do because for many reasons I HAD to go through with the adoption whether or not I wanted to. When I’m not such a mental wreck, I will elaborate because in that explanation lies some key things pregnant moms will need to know.

“Dear adoptive parents” was written both to general a-parents and based on other anxieties I picked up as it was time for us all to leave the hospital.

So, no…my regret and pain has less to do with any “who” as it does questions I should’ve gotten answers on before.

I’m Grounding Myself

No internet surfing for a month; longer, if it helps me stop torturing myself.

The reading I have been doing is not helping–it’s driving me batty. I’m a “fresh” birthmother. Less than eight weeks post-relinquishment. I’m already on a very negative path for the choice that I’ve made. And since it was a choice, I feel even worse about the multitude of feelings that are now swirling within me.

I entrusted my friends to help me find happy birthmother blogs and happy adoptee blogs….I’ll update as soon as I receive something. I really hate to ask, but I must wonder: if the adoption industry has changed so much from the “scoop” era, then why haven’t birthmothers’ perspective shifted?

As of right now, I feel like I have shamefully bowed out of a path in my life that would have been temporarily difficult, but would not have guaranteed myself emotionally infinite potholes dotting it. That fact is harrowing. I have 100% guaranteed myself pain, whether it lessens or grows, for the duration of my life. And judging by the blogs I’ve read, I’m not sure what I’ve guaranteed Max other than two things: I’ve guaranteed him a life and adoptive parents that are happy to have a baby. Whether it was my baby or another baby, they’d be as happy as they are now. Wish granted. Prayer answered. Life complete (./?) 

 
I swallowed gallons of self and socially imposed kool-aid and am slightly nauseous. Any process that develops into an industry is bound to have flaws. Nothing is perfect. When a $0-2,000 dollar service (via the state) becomes a $2,000-30,000 service (via a private agency), processes will develop to protect profit/interest of the organization and the organization’s customer. And while carrying the child, a birthmother may feel like a customer, but that is untrue and will become clear upon the birth of the child. It’s sad to consider where birthmothers can fall if involved with a for-profit…within that chain of product>service>transaction. Birthmothers need to consider what happens to caseworkers’, counselors’, and adoptive parents’ perspectives when there’s something they invest time, money, and emotions into….they’ll protect tactically.

I feel like a chicken that the farmer stuck red glasses on. What is implied to birthmothers weighing the option of adoption is that the baby will automatically be happy and healthy with the family they (the agency) represent. What is promoted is both the happiness of the child and the adoptive parents. Every negative was, in my case, left for me to discover on my own. Why would a business hurt their chances of sealing a transaction? I’d done research for coping with my choice. I’m beating myself blue figuratively for not seeking accounting from adoptees and birthmothers more beforehand.

I’m grounding myself from web surfing because while my choice was initially difficult, at the time I was closer to solace with that decision than I am now. I’m grounding myself in a way that a totally unaware person takes an aspirin for terminally ill related pain… for the pure placebo. Even if I hate myself for this choice, I have to make myself OK for the two loving, well-rounded children I do have with me. That is not an option. I will do that. I cannot make my grief for Max an issue of parenting for kids that are well within the age range and cognizance of remembering and reasoning.

I’m going to ground myself to make the best of a decision I was previously convinced was good. I must have faith that there was something in those months of deciding that have more validity than the few weeks of scaring myself to death. I can’t undo myself over something that cannot be undone. I have no choice but to try to, in whatever way, make this as good and rose colored as humanly possible.

The Elephant in the Room

It is utterly painful to know just how many women go through the transition of being simply a mother to being a birthmother. It’s painful to know because of the thousands of different feelings that go along with the process. It’s painful because even if you’re not naturally empathetic toward others, a birthmother that can clearly describe her anguish can make you feel it.

I’ve noticed blogs lean one of two ways: angry and bitter or sad and confused/coping. (If anyone comes across something different, please send me a link!!)

Realizing that all the things I’ve read incites either/or of those emotions makes my heart very heavy. Adoption placement is not an easy thing to do. It can be equivocated to other traumatic occurrences that can happen to a woman only in the sense that it can leave a lasting mark on the soul. It absolutely terrifies me to see writings from women who are way further down the line in this transition who are still coping with very heavy emotions. Is any human being supposed to be able to handle decades worth of that? My stomach is lurching and churning at the mere thought of feeling just the way I do another year; the plain hard truth is that I did not consider the possibility of battling emotions of this decision continuously my entire life. Maybe I was being delusional or maybe it was innocent naiveté, but I thought that developing a relationship with the adoptive parents would help. I’m not getting any information that corroborates that. “Help” in regard to this particular subject is like Neosporin on a molten steel burn.

Something that seems to be universal is that none of us came to adoption as a simple “want”. I really wonder if there are mothers who seek adoption placement because they just have the desire to. It is amazing how powerful the hand of society is on this subject…the assumptions, impressions, and strong opinions on the subject…even if a person has never directly participated in the process. Is there any awareness at all that one side of the story is bittersweet at best? That the best excuse to be fathomed is “at least ___”. All the reasons people told me that the choice I was making was great have lost quite a bit of sheen, sparkle, and appeal. Every true benefit lies in the fact that the child is happy and safe and the heartbreaking fact of life is there is no guarantee on happiness or safety. That fact makes it even harder to get over the emotional speed bumps and flat-out road blocks associated with separating from a child. (As I write this, I’m trying to block out the sound of a cooing and garbling infant in the lobby…)

I’ve carried all three children I’ve been pregnant with to term, but I’m even more pro-choice now than before. Although my personal choice would always be life, I would never presume to think every woman should be subjected (or forced to figure out the hard way they are unable to adapt) to the certain torment of adoption. Just like everyone is not cut out to parent, not everyone is going to handle the emotional purgatory of relinquishing flesh and blood regardless of open or closed status. I don’t think I’d wish this on my worst enemy. I’d probably hug my worst enemy if I found out she had gone through this at any length. Since I have a daughter, I’ve hoped that our talks and her watching this experience for me has lessened the chances of her ever needing to make a decision like this. I’ve told her about waiting for marriage and I’ve begun having discussions with her to get her ready for making choices in regard to her health and her body as she gets older. While I think that she understands I don’t feel like it’s quite age appropriate to discuss the full consequences of this decision.

The elephant in the room seems to be whether or not people really and truly know the full scope of adoption. Do people have such strong opinions about a subject that they only know the Hallmark movie joy: a birthmother’s decision creates in the life of a waiting couple? While I’m completely aware of the fact that there are tons of negative and positive stories reflecting the experiences of adoptive and birth parents, is there any real scope placed on the long-term effects on people who have gone through this process? Does the society that so negatively portrays the circumstances in which a woman may become pregnant or seek options  as a result know what the positive choice (by opinion) requires of a human being?

I seriously doubt it.

Name Stigma

I have always been fascinated with people. Ever since I was a child, I’d watch people’s behaviors and actions and would subconsciously find ways to classify or sort them. Everyone does this, really, but I made it into a quiet hobby. It was thrilling for me to discover into my young adulthood that things like quality of tattoos, hairstyles, fidgeting, and names could all carry some weight (however small) in how a person developed. Some things were inconsequential, but others seemed to resonate easily with me. Names seem to have broad impact on people, so I was quite particular when selecting my eight and six-year olds’ names at birth. I even went through the trouble of selecting names that were traditional and modern so that they could choose to go by their first or middle name if it suited their personality better.

Yes, I’m a classic analyzer. And I’m pretty good with it until it’s time for me to date, but that’s another story….fact is, when someone introduces themself by name we may or may not have a connection that strikes positive or negative. Just like with a song, that name can cause a person’s eyes to soften in relative comfort or glaze over. It’s amazing how subtly or obvious a human reacts to a difference in name like Isabel versus Kiki.

Between my 3,500 high school student body, life, work, and all kinds of situations that required me to know a name and face, I felt like I got a good feel of my name game. Now, to be clear, while I do put some stock in my name analysis, it is NOT to the extent that I write someone off or immediately love them on that basis.

As the months rolled by during my pregnancy with my third child, I still sat down and heavily pondered the name I knew he’d only have (legally) for about six months. My social worker had mentioned that sometimes adoptive parents kept the birth mother’s chosen name in some form, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. In fact, within five minutes of the baby being born the adoptive parents were standing confused among my immediate family’s open-mouthed stares in response to not only their selected first name for the baby, but their last name as well.

As it so happened, there were a few coinky dinks….the adoptive parents (whose last name had previously been under lock and key) have the same uncommon last name as my stepfather and his family. This was a pleasant surprise and seemed like a “good omen”. However, the first name left me quickly interrupting my very outspoken mother to say, “MOM, don’t you say ANYTHING!”

My mom, dad, sisters, children, and a friend of mine were all in on the obvious taboo that occurred with their totally innocent selection. They had inadvertently named the baby after the abusive monster I’d run away from while pregnant with my now six-year-old. There was known contempt for the name with the baby’s biological father as well. To say that I hated the name was a severe understatement. But their reaction to my hushing my mother and the fallen faces of six people seemed to hurt them a little and I never mentioned to them why we reacted that way.

On top of a range personal connections with other men/boys with this name, I couldn’t recall anyone notable with the name that was anything that I’d like to link to a child. The name broadly aligned with pretentious, egotistical, and unsavory individuals.

Over the next day or so after delivery, I swallowed my pride and put on a smile. I decided to put faith in the fact that these two people who would raise my baby were honest and good people who would prove my name analyzing to be mere superstition. As time continues to tick by, I find myself thinking about his name more. Especially with the oddly timed resurfacing of the ultimate negative namesake…the circumstances of him contacting me didn’t make me feel any better, either. In fact, his callous demands made me all the more positive that I wouldn’t be able to call Max by his new name without flinching.

Sometimes the mental battle seems childish, and in others, I seemed to get further confirmation that I didn’t want the baby to be affected negatively by a moniker that seemed to be connected to a lot of men who went out of their way to present themselves upwardly and were actually dishonest, mean-spirited, and ruthless. No matter how I feel, I wouldn’t chance insulting anyone for their decision. For all I know, the name was chosen after someone in either of their families and I certainly don’t want to run the risk of insulting a loved one’s character.

Usually my name game has nothing more than superficial meaning/weight to me…but in regard to a child it’s immediately far more serious. I refer to my first two with their modern first names and traditional middle names and see two children who don’t fit any broad mold. Strangers don’t ask their names and immediately connect them to someone else they knew/know, but aren’t so thrown off by the names to think them strange. To me, it seems they have the ability to carve out who they are. Unlike with me…I have a name that has a lot of connotations readily attached. Anyone over the age of 45 immediately knows what my mother’s favorite motion picture was. Due to subconscious and outward assessment of names, people and society tend to place notions and expectations on people based on a slew of letters and sounds. I openly accept my use of name analysis, but I rarely make outward assessments of those names or change my behavior toward someone without any further grounds.

Though “Max” is a common name, the full name I gave him is of English origin. Phonetically, it was natural sounding enough to seem average, but was uncommon enough for there to be little chance of familiarity…good OR bad. When introduced, I think it’s important for someone to have to rely more on what’s in front of them than what they have learned by association over time. I wholeheartedly hope my little one can grow into his own and not the shadow of all the so-and-sos of past and present….because that’s just plain scary.

Or maybe this is classic me (my namesake coincidentally has this awful habit as well) over thinking the situation. I’ll resist the urge to toss in a Shakespeare quote about roses and names….