Monthly Archives: May 2016

Adoption

Right before I left to pick Elias up from preschool today, I saw a video on Facebook of a little girl holding her baby brother for the first time. When I got to the school, I had to sit in the car for a minute and pull myself together, because I couldn’t stop crying.

There’s nothing more or less special about their story than any other family’s story, I guess, except that I know them. And this is a baby boy that they are adopting, and so their story resonates with me in a deeper way. A way that makes me a faucet, apparently.

The mom in this story, in a message yesterday, thanked me for talking to her about adoption. Honestly, I only half-remember this conversation, and I certainly can’t remember exactly what I said. Not because it wasn’t important, but because I’ve had a lot of these conversations with people who are considering adding to their family via adoption. They have read the papers an agency sent them, probably, and they have Googled until they are simultaneously exhilarated and terrified, and they are a little bit overwhelmed, or maybe a lot. And for sure they have read about the money involved and thought about lying down with a cold rag on their forehead until they recover from the body blow. But no one has been able to tell them what it’s like.

And I can’t really either. Every single experience is different. People are involved, and intense emotions, and anytime you bring those two things together, predictability goes out the window.

One thing I can tell them is that there is going to be pain involved. I have yet to meet a person involved in an adoption that doesn’t experience some pain. Many – not all – adoptive parents are dealing with infertility, which is a saga of its own. All adoptive parents deal with red tape and frustration and invasions of privacy. And low-level anxiety that dissipates only when you walk back through the courtroom doors after the finalization hearing, breathing out the world’s gustiest sigh of relief.

And the birthparents. I wish I could tell you some stories, but they aren’t mine to tell. I’ll tell you instead what I tell my boys every time they ask about their respective birthmoms: She did a hard, hard thing, and she did it for you. She loved you fiercely and completely and she loves you still. These things will never not be true.

So, it is hard.

For us, there are obvious compensations; we are raising two of them.

Punks.

Friendships count among them, too. This is not universally true, but often there is an immediate connection between adoptive families. We speak the same language.

But sometimes compensations come from strangest of places. We were involved in a failed adoption – a rather spectacular one, as these things go. Some of the days during that the time still count as the very worst days of my life. If you had asked me at the time, I would have wished it all away, to never have experienced any of it.

But I saw that baby born, which is something I will probably never get to repeat. I was in the room, and I saw his head crown. One second, there were seven of us in the room and the next second, there were eight. I met his grandmother’s eyes over the doctor’s hands and we both cried, in joy and grief and wonder. I would never give that moment back, no matter what came after. We are still friends with that family, in a way that seems inexplicable to other people sometimes. They are part of us. We see them – not often enough – and our lives would be poorer without them. It’s all mixed up together, the awful and the beautiful and the painful and the unbelievable.

And that is, in essence, what I tell people when they ask me what it’s like. Adoption is hard. It’s scary. It’s messy. But oh, the glorious things that rise out of the mess. You wouldn’t believe.

What’d ya expect?

Levi had an eye appointment yesterday. This doctor has been behind schedule every time we’ve ever been there. Like way behind. (The worst time, we were there for almost three hours for a five-minute eye exam. I had Elias with me too. I won’t lie; I was thisclose to losing it that time.) It’s been a little better lately.

Here’s a conversation I had with a friend while we were waiting.


This is an ongoing joke. It started last February, I think, when our family was getting ready to leave for Florida.

“Are you SO EXCITED?!?” my friend asked.

“Sure,” I said, and she looked at me a little funny.

“Well, aren’t you going to have SO MUCH FUN?!?”

“Oh, yeah,” I said. “It’ll be fine,” and she looked at me a lot funny.

A discussion ensued. How could I not be looking forward to, madly anticipating, dying for my vacation? It was madness.

Weeeeeeeell … here’s the thing, I said. This is not an all-inclusive couples trip to a beachfront hut in Tahiti. We’re going to see Grandma in Florida. Which is great! But the children are going with us. They need things, like, allllll the time. We aren’t driving, which is a mercy, but airports are not without their frustrations. It’ll be good. It’ll be … fine.

She accused me of having really low expectations.

Maybe, I said. But someone’s going to vomit, and there are going to be a couple of lack-of-sleep meltdowns (if we’re lucky, it’ll be the kids), there’s likely to be a delayed flight, and certainly I’m going to have to say no a lot whether I’m in Ohio or Florida, because I don’t magically stop being a parent when I cross a state line. So if I pump myself up for a glorious beachfront Tahiti experience and somebody pukes on me, then all of the sudden I’m having the worst vacation ever.

There was kind of a long pause, during which I wondered if maybe she was going to write me off entirely.

I’m not saying it’ll be BAD, I hastened to add. I’m looking forward to it. I just don’t think it’ll be, you know, transcendent. 

She finally decided I wasn’t entirely stupid.

Maybe I am. I can argue the other side. Sometimes the anticipation is most of the fun. Why ruin that?

It works for me, though. I anticipate what I think will actually happen, maybe with a little side of pessimism. If I’m wrong, I get to be pleasantly surprised.

The only real downside is that, having used it as the panacea for so long, I can never go on that all-inclusive couples trip to a beachfront hut in Tahiti. I have no idea how I’d manage expectations for that. Although if Paul and I went off by ourselves for a week and were in one another’s company 24/7, I’d find something to be annoyed about. He probably would, too, though he’d never say so. We’d still be ourselves, after all.

So probably we can go. We just have to find someone to pay for it.

You talkin’ to ME?

The boys and I went to a benefit dinner last night. Paul stayed home. I told the boys he wasn’t going with us, and Elias said, “Papa’s in trooooooouble!” (Because why else would you be forced to stay home from an outing?) He seemed pretty happy about that, for some reason. I was just happy not to be mowing the lawn, which is what Paul stayed home to do since it rained all week and we were afraid the lawn might actually start to take over.

What was I saying?

Oh, right. We went to a benefit dinner for a local school that specializes in conductive learning, which I frankly don’t know much about, except that it is designed to help kids with serious motor challenges and it appears to be doing amazing things for the kids that attend – a friend of mine has a son there. Also that keeping a school like this funded is as easy as pushing a boulder up a hill while trying to keep your toddlers out from underfoot. Hence the benefit dinner.

Levi in silhouette, watching the auction for the goldfish that were to race later and being resentful because I didn’t bring enough cash to win a bid for one of them. Oops.

So when the most excellent World War II veteran sitting next to me at the picnic table started talking about being a Mason and all of the medical services they provide for children, I didn’t think very much about it, because that kind of thing was sort of in the front of everyone’s mind. He mentioned there is a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania. “Oh yes!” I said. “I think another of my friends has taken her son there several times. It’s wonderful.”

He was terribly glad to hear that, since sometimes people are too proud to ask for help, he’s heard. “Well,” I said, “it’s true that it can be really hard to accept help. Even if you need it. But everybody needs a little help from time to time, I think.” He seemed delighted with me.

He kept bringing it up, in between stories about his late wife (they were married for 67 years) and places he’d lived, and he told me that anyone needing help for their children could ask anyone they knew was a Mason, and finally, he turned to me with all the kindness in the world in his eyes, and said, “And you know, I think God chooses special women for these special children**.”

And finally, FINALLY, the penny dropped.

When we sat down, he’d seen me pull little containers out of my pockets and put a whole whack of pills down in front of Levi. Who then swallowed them six at a time, clearly having had a lot of practice.

He was talking about us.

I was so surprised I almost laughed out loud. I’m not in denial that Levi has a medical condition (believe me, I know), but mostly, when he’s not coughing like it’s his job and there’s no special stuff going on, I just don’t think about it very much. I don’t think about the pills; the pills just are. And because I have the loudest mouth in my little corner of the internet, pretty much everyone I know already knows what the pills are about too.

Every once in a while I’m thumped over the head by things I know to be true but had forgotten, or just not thought of much lately.

  1. We really have no idea how we appear to others. It’s not something we should spend too much of our time thinking about, because constant image management is a black vortex of failure and despair, but sometimes we get snapshots of how we look from the outside. And isn’t that educational.
  2. Human beings can get used to almost anything. And on the list of Things That Must Be Endured, I think what we’ve got going on is pretty manageable.

And can we talk about the 91-year old man who did his very best to get through to the mom of the little boy he’d just met, who might need some help? Even though she was terminally oblivious?

Isn’t he great? Lots of people are just great. It’s easy to forget that, too.

 

 

** We can argue this philosophy some other time, but I’m not so sure that’s true. (Even know I know he meant it kindly.)