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No signposts

I have had enough varied experiences in my life that I generally know how to approach situations and handle them fairly well. I don’t claim to be perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I do reasonably well. Being a prospective adoptive parent in what (if nothing goes wrong in the meantime) will be an open adoption, however, is completely beyond my ken. I don’t have a clue what I should or shouldn’t be doing, but I know that I really, deeply do not want to screw this up.

Part of the problem is that we don’t live close to the other people involved. I can’t just swing by and say hello. I can text, which helps, and I do go down regularly, but if an appointment gets scheduled at the last minute, I can’t necessarily make it there.

I’ve been reading a lot about open adoption, and what I’ve read is that sometimes adoptive parents make promises they don’t end up keeping. We’re making promises and we will keep them. We are still not completely comfortable with open adoption, but we will do what we agree to do. I’m not willing to raise our child to adulthood, have him or her decide to track down his or her biological connections, and end up hating us for not keeping a promise we made before he or she was born. It isn’t fair to anyone to set that problem in motion. The promises we make, we keep, just as in other areas of our lives.

I enjoy cooking. People tend to like eating what I cook. I’m trying to use that as a bridge here. I bring bread or food when I go to visit. It’s the only way I can really express all of the mixed up feelings going on. I can provide this small thing, at least. I can bring good food, and in doing so perhaps help them be more comfortable with what must be a terrible decision to have to make. We will take good care of this child if we are able to bring her or him home.

I feel like I am trying to prove something, but I’m not sure what. I have not had the chance to just sit down and talk with the other people involved without having someone basically chaperoning the discussion. I am hoping to take Nyx for a visit soon, and if I can do that we’ll have time to sit and relax with no time pressure. I think that might help. It is hard to know what to say, though, or how the other people are feeling about us. We are doing everything we can to make this work, as are they, but I feel disconnected. I don’t know if what we are doing is helping the other people or not, making it easier or harder.

There is no guidebook for any of this. We’re trying to find our way in uncharted territory. We have another few months before any of this stabilizes into reality, and in the meantime it would be best if we could avoid upsetting anyone. When I have asked for help or guidance from the person who has experience in this area, the response has been, “Well, every adoption is different.” That is it. That is all of the help we are getting from that quarter. Not terribly useful.

I am a little bit of a control freak with no control over the biggest things going on in my life right now. I’m dealing with this by running, which keeps my stress level down, and working on the house. If this all falls apart, at least the house will be clean. I am trying to not get too wrapped up in anything. I am not very good at letting everything just flow by, but I am attempting to learn.

I suppose I’ll just have to keep feeling my way blindly through a confusing world and hope I don’t do anything exceptionally stupid.

No plans

I like planning things. I’m reasonably good at it. I stay on top of what needs to be done, make lists to make sure I don’t miss anything, keep from leaving loose ends, and try to cover all the bases. It’s comforting to me to have lists. It gives me some structure; when things need to be done, they will be done, because they have been crossed off the list.

What happens when I have no control over events which will have a huge impact on my life?

We are waiting for the possibility of a baby. We have done everything we can from our end. At this point, we’re just waiting. If we get to the end of December without a match, we will reassess. Some part of me would love to make a room for the baby, set up books and toys and clothes, and start making sure we have a place that works when a baby comes home with us. Unfortunately, it isn’t a “when”. It’s an “if”. I know that, for my peace of mind, I can’t set up a nursery right now. It would be built on hope, not reality, and if it didn’t end up working in the end it would be very difficult to have to take everything down. I know this may not work, so not setting up a room is a protection of sorts. It keeps me from getting too emotionally invested when we haven’t even been matched with a biological family.

I can’t plan for this. I can’t make it work. I can’t fix anything or make it more likely. I am in limbo.

There’s another piece of this, too. We’re planning to move out of this town eventually, but the timeframe might be pushed up. It has nothing to do with me or my decisions. I support the idea, and I’m happy with it, but at the same time it is, again, something I can’t control, despite it being a life-altering change.

I, the one who likes making sure everything is lined up, can’t plan for anything over the next few years with any certainty at all.

I can adapt when plans change. That’s life, and I have become accustomed to dealing with change. I’m not always graceful about it, but generally I handle plan changes cheerfully and just shift as needed.

I’ve never really been without plans altogether.

Right now, I do not feel like I can reliably plan anything more than about a month away. Maybe a biological family will show up and be due almost immediately. I don’t know. I can’t predict that. I can budget. I can make sure that everything at home and at work runs as smoothly as possible. I have my own limited little area that is not completely without form or focus. If I look further than a month out, though, I end up lost and afraid to plan much of anything because the maybes are much too big.

I am learning to sit back and let the world go by. I am trying to accept the fact that I have no control. I am learning to run (not fast, but at least I’m doing it) and that is helping, because I am simply putting one foot in front of the other. I do not have to plan anything but my route, and that is simple. Once that is done, I just take one more step until I turn around, then one more step until I get home. The most important thing in flying is the next thing. I suppose I am learning to apply that to the rest of my life, though it is rather difficult for me.

Perhaps I will eventually learn to be happy with not planning too many things. I rather doubt it, as I have liked planning much of my life, but I don’t know. For the moment, I am working on accepting the present, enjoying life, getting enough sleep, making sure the animals are happy, eating good food, making sure we stay on budget, and not really worrying about the rest of it. Sometimes that’s all I can do.

Looking for the good things

I haven’t been writing much of anything lately other than Indie Ink Writing Challenges. I have been enjoying those, and I’ll keep participating. I thought, perhaps, that I should write something else once in a while as well, so I’m going to try to get back to posting twice a week, even if it is only snippets of things.

I’m not very good at waiting. The adoption process is going well, as far as we can tell. The home study is being reviewed and should be completed soon. It’s nice to have that done. Now, though, the wait begins. We have no idea how long we will have to wait for a match. We’re a little hard to match in a couple of ways. We are not religious, which is one mark against us. We also don’t want extensive contact with the birth family. We’re comfortable sending letters and pictures as often as they’d like, but we’re not interested in having the birth family directly involved in the child’s life. In this age of completely open adoptions becoming the norm, that is not a particularly politically correct stance to take. On the other hand, when I go to sites that list people thinking about giving up their baby for adoption, a lot of them say they want letters and pictures and don’t mention visits. I’m sure that someone will come along eventually that matches up with us. For the moment, we wait, and waiting is not something I have ever been very good at. I suppose it is good practice, though.

Overall, life is pretty good. We’re stable, have enough income, and we’re both basically healthy. I know that’s more than many people have in these bad economic times. There are days when I wish we had enough to relax about money, but we make enough to cover bills and go out once in a while, which is good. I still budget everything, and someday I’d like to not have to worry about that, but as long as nothing catastrophic happens, we’re fine. I have to remind myself of how lucky we are when I get frustrated at having been on a very, very tight budget for years. It’s okay to be frustrated, of course, but a tight budget means that we have enough, and that’s a very good thing. I have to turn it around and look at the fact that, for the first time in a few years, we can get some of the luxuries. Not a lot, but some, and that’s really nice. I get to buy new work clothes soon, which will be especially good since the ones I have are starting to fall apart. Someday soon we will have a stand mixer, which we’ve been talking about since we got involved. It’s one of the few things neither one of us had in our kitchens. We took a day off and went to see movies and eat out, which is very unusual for us, and it was a very nice day. There are a lot of good things going on in our life, even if sometimes I forget. I only have one job. I work forty hours a week instead of the seventy that drained me for two years. We have good friends and interesting jobs. We get to go to two weddings this year of people who are very dear to us.

I think I’ll have to come back and read this the next time I get into a funk. It’s important to remember the good things.

We’re starting to plan our yearly BBQ. I love this tradition. We started it the year we bought the house, and every year since we have had an Inauguration of the Grill. Xander makes excellent burgers, we provide beer, buns, and anything to go on the burgers, and everything else is a potluck. There are people we don’t get to see often who show up for this like clockwork, so we get to see them at least once a year. There are always new people, too, and somehow they always manage to fit in with the people who have been coming regularly. We have musicians, dancers, fencers, work friends, and a variety of other people. One of the neat things about having intelligent and interesting friends is that they can almost always find something to talk about with other intelligent, interesting people. I love hearing conversations ranging from childrearing to physics to card tricks. A lot of work goes into making the party go well, but it is absolutely worth it. I love seeing the interactions, feeding people good food, and getting to reconnect with people I don’t see nearly often enough. It makes me happy on many different levels, and I’m looking forward to it this year.

I’m getting my brain back on track. I try to be a relatively positive person, but the past few years have been a long, hard slog. The death of my grandmother knocked me back in some ways to the death of my brother, which was wrapped up in the infertility grief, which was also surrounded by working too much and a lot of stress. I just have to work on remembering the good things and focusing on what we are working towards rather than looking back for too long.

I’m taking a few deep breaths, looking around for a good thing to think about, and moving on. The only way in life is forward, whatever else happens.

A grey day

Sometimes the words just come. Sometimes they don’t. Today is one of the latter days.

I’ve been thinking a lot about adoption, of course. People keep saying that it will all be worth it in the end. I hope so. The process is not pleasant, to say the least. That isn’t helping my state of mind. The worst is almost over, though. I am feeling more often that everyone involved in the process is advocating for someone else, and that nowhere in this are our needs really being noted. We want a child who does not have fetal alcohol syndrome and who was not drug exposed. If we were capable of conceiving, neither one of those would have been an issue. I don’t want them to be an issue now, but the feeling I get is that we should cut some slack in that area. What if the biological mother didn’t know she was pregnant while she was drinking? We’re not passing a moral judgement on drinking. All we’re saying is that we don’t want to deal with that issue, because we wouldn’t have to if the child were genetically ours.

I’ve been thinking about Daniel, too. I still miss him a lot. Baseball season starts again in a few months, and, while I am very much looking forward to that, it is a little bittersweet because it is one of the things we both loved. Our team was the feeder team for his team, so we even saw the same players over time.

It’s a confused, emotionally messy kind of day. I’m not in a bad mood, or a sad mood, just kind of grey. I’m home sick today, which probably has something to do with it, and by tomorrow I should be a little more positive in my outlook. For the moment, though, I’ll spend the day on the couch, drinking broth and watching Netflix, and that will be good.

What void?

“Our lives, our past and our future are tied to the sun, the moon and the stars We humans have seen the atoms which constitute all of nature and the forces that sculpted this work and we, who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos, have begun to wonder about our origins star stuff contemplating the stars, organized collections of ten billion billion billion atoms, contemplating the evolution of nature, tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet earth Our loyalties are to the species and to the planet. Our obligation to survive and flourish is owed not just to ourselves but also to that cosmos ancient and vast from which we spring.

We are one species.

We are star stuff harvesting star light.”
–Carl Sagan

We were asked recently how we fill the void in our lives left by the lack of religion. We don’t see it as a void, as a lack, at all. We are sustained by our curiosity, our interest in other people, our relationships with family and friends, just as most humans are. We live knowing that we have one life, that we need to make the best of it, and we both think it is important to have a positive influence on the lives of the people around us.

I was lucky enough to attend a lecture given last week by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, a well known astrophysicist. The talk he gave was about looking at the world through the lens of scientists. He went through several views, including a chemist, a biologist, a mathematician, and, of course, an astrophysicist. Each of the views showed the world in a different way.

Chemists see the world in terms of atoms, molecules, bonds, and interactions. They see the world as a combination of elements. The history of chemistry is intertwined with the history of the world. Elements were primarily discovered by countries with money and power that set great store by science and supported the scientists. Some elements were named after planets, some after places, and some, like Technetium, were named because of what they are – “tech” means “man made”, and this element does not appear in nature.

Biologists look at the world in terms of life, how we fit in, and how incredibly small a part we play, as well as how complex and fascinating life can be. They’ve recently found organisms that not only survive but flourish in extreme conditions, everything from ice to volcanic heat. When you look at a diagram of the tree of life, you can see the huge diversity of organisms on our planet. What was even more amazing to me is that this diagram only shows about three thousand species. Just to be clear, that is out of about nine million species that could have been shown. We are one tiny branch of that tree. The diversity around us is astounding and beautiful.

Would you like to know how to make a mathematician twitch? Take one onto an elevator where the floors go 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15. Mathematicians want the world to make sense, want precision. In much of Europe, the ground floor is zero, the first floor is 1, and the basement is -1. That makes sense. Some of the people quoted by Dr. Tyson were things like a Congressman saying “I’ve changed my views 360 degrees on that subject!” Every day, walking through the world, experiencing the headlines and silliness that so many of us spout, mathematicians are subjected to inaccuracies and assumptions that are not reflected by reality. How about “Eighty percent of the passengers who survived had studied the locations of the exit doors on takeoff”? The correct answer to this is “So what?” We can’t ask the dead people. Maybe one hundred percent of the dead people studied the locations of the exit doors, but there is no way to know that now. Mathematics can be used to slant how people perceive the world, and that is deeply frustrating for those people who really know what the numbers mean and, more to the point, what they don’t mean. Mathematicians see beauty in numbers, in order and in chaos, in the patterns surrounding us.

Astrophysicists look at the world as a tiny speck. We are a mote, surrounded by billions of stars in the sky, more galaxies than I, at least, can imagine. They see the possibilities of all of those stars, many of which have planets called “Goldilocks” planets (planets that are just right), which are planets which are earth-like enough that life could develop there.

Every one of us is made up of pieces of stars. Every molecule, every atom of our beings used to be part of a star that exploded and provided the building blocks for more stars and planets. Some of those eventually became the goo that held the beginnings of life on earth.

How do we fill the void left by religion? How is there a void? We are surrounded by billions of stars, other galaxies, all of which are made up of the same stuff we are. We have families and friends who are very dear to us. We have jobs that make a difference in the world. We are good, caring, loving people, and we are in a stable relationship. We enjoy each other and the life we share.

What void? There is no void, for us. We are made of star stuff. We are part of the universe in a very real way.

Adoption process frustrations

I figured out one of the things that makes the adoption process so hard. It’s like the two week wait, but it takes a lot longer and there are more people poking at us.

For those lucky enough to have avoided infertility treatments, the two week wait is the period between the time that the egg and sperm are supposed to have joined and the point at which you can do a pregnancy test. It’s a bad time. Hope wars with fear. You know the chances of everything coming out well (generally not great chances, just to be clear). You can try to keep your mind off of it, but that date on the calendar is looming. When that date comes, you will either be cautiously joyful (you still have to get to the second trimester, after all) or you will be sad again and have to either gear up for the next month of trying or make the decision to stop.

Two weeks of holding your breath, hoping, fearing, and daring to dream a little is pretty exhausting.

Imagine how much fun that would be if it were extended indefinitely. Add in social workers, doctors, a home study, applications, and awkward communication.

We don’t know how long this will take. We don’t know if or when biological parents will like us enough to choose us. We don’t know if we will find someone who wants to give us a healthy child.

There are a lot of variables. Just as with the two week wait, we’ve done all we can. We’ve submitted fingerprints, medical records, applications, proof of employment, and anything else we’ve been asked for. We have a few things left, but we’re reaching the point at which the best we can do is sit back, relax, and hope for the best.

I’ve been trying to sort out my feelings so I can understand why this process has felt so frustrating and invasive. The more I understand, the easier it is for me to get through this process.

Daniel’s birthday

Sometimes I can sit down and write and everything comes easily. I don’t have to work at it; I have an idea and it just flows.

Some subjects, though, leave me groping for words, stumbling around trying to find a sentence that works, writing and deleting and then doing it again.

Daniel’s birthday is January 21st. Just to start off with, I have a hard time writing that. Should it be present tense or past tense? It isn’t important. It’s distracting. I think that’s why it keeps coming up, because if I’m distracted I can’t write about him, his death, how different life is without him, even from several states away.

I write postcards ever week. Daniel used to be on that list. Now, of course, I can’t send him postcards since they wouldn’t go anywhere. I still find myself picking out a postcard for him every couple of weeks, just going on automatic pilot until I remember that I can’t write that postcard.

He would have been 29 this year. He would have gone to baseball games, listened to music, danced along with his current favorite musical, and he and I would have tried to make each other laugh over the phone. He said it was okay if I had a child with Xander when I asked a few years ago, and I was looking forward to introducing him to a niece or nephew, one way or another. I didn’t know we’d be going through the adoption path rather than the biological one, but I know he wouldn’t have cared, any more than the rest of my family does – our baby will be our baby, no matter where he or she comes from.

I miss him terribly. I miss seeing him play with Nyx and laugh at her. I miss hearing his chuckle over the phone. I miss his hugs.

My little brother would have turned 29 on January 21st. I can’t call him this year. I can’t send him anything.

He was born when I was about to turn seven years old, and he has been a central part of my life ever since. I didn’t live nearby for the last several years, but I thought about him, wrote to him, talked on the phone when he felt like it, and sent him neat stuff. We sent him a blanket from our baseball team because it is a feeder team for his baseball team. I was hours away, but he was still a big part of my life. I don’t think I realized how much until he wasn’t there anymore. It still feels like there is a hole, a spot where someone important is gone. It’s like having a tooth missing but it hurts more.

The pain is dulled now, an ache instead of a constant, piercing reminder, but it is still there. I still think about things he’d like and how I’d like to tell him about them before remembering that he isn’t here anymore, that I can’t reach him.

I’m not sure how to deal with the absence of my little brother some days. It’s life, now, but over half a year later I still miss him, and I don’t think that will ever go away.

New language twitches

I have twitched about a lot of words. Some of them are admittedly silly – empathetic versus empathic, for instance. As we’re working through the adoption process, though, I’m finding other words and phrases to twitch about, some of which I had never thought of before.

Just to start with, we’re supposed to create an introduction of us for people considering us as adoptive parents. In a lot of places, this is called the “Dear birthmother” letter. This has started to make me twitch a little. The person reading this information is not a birthmother. She’s a pregnant woman. She may not have even completely decided whether or not she wants to move forward with adoption. She may still be considering keeping the baby once it’s born. “Dear birthmother” seems like it makes assumptions. It also draws a line in the sand, almost like all this person is can be defined in that word. Birthmother. This shuts the relationship off. I don’t know yet how I feel about open adoption (we’re working through that) but we don’t use the word “birthmother” in this society for anything other than adoptions, and the line stops there. Biological, not nurturing, not being part of this possible child’s life. Just birthmother, emphasis on birth, with no expected contact after that. It’s like the birthmother is some kind of breeder. I’m probably being oversensitive and trying to understand all sides of the issue, but this puts my teeth on edge.

Next up is adoptive parents who refer to “our birthmother”. The first time I read that phrase I stopped, went back, and read it again. This person is the child’s birthmother, not the birthmother of the family. “Our birthmother” just strikes me as really weird.

I’d prefer a little more clarity, I suppose. Biological parents, perhaps, and adoptive parents. That’s clear, and there’s no way I would ever say “Oh, she’s our biological mother” because I already have one of those. “She is my child’s biological mother” is easier for me.

I have a hard time seeing this process from the perspective of a pregnant woman thinking about trying to find another family for her child because we have wanted a child for so long. I understand that circumstances force this reality, and I know that she will have to gain some level of trust to be willing to relinquish her child to us. I know that, at least to begin with, this adoption will be open to an extent, because the biological parent(s) will be looking through possibilities and choosing people they would like to be adoptive parents. That scares me a little, but we’ll handle it as we move forward, I’m sure.

The language surrounding adoption is awkward. We talk about how we would raise our child, because by the time we are dealing with education and discipline and exercise the child will be ours. The child, at that point, is not a child, he or she is our child. At the same time, it is awkward talking about that in the introduction because we are talking about a child that we don’t even know yet, that isn’t born, and it feels almost assumptive to say “This is what we’ll do with our child, and maybe it will be the one you are carrying, maybe not.” It’s semantically odd. We can’t say “We want your baby” because that runs creepy right up to the edge. I wouldn’t be happy with someone saying that to me, so I will certainly not say it to someone else.

We’re trying to communicate to someone who may be young, may be scared, may not be sure if this is the right thing to do. We’re trying to show our life so that person understands and we are trying to avoid saying anything stupid in the process. It’s just very strange. I hope it works out well, because at the moment it feels very much like we’re walking blind, trying to figure out how to explain who we are to someone who has never met us. We’re asking someone to trust us with a child, and we can’t meet them until after they’ve decided that we might be good enough. We have to try to get the words right now so they make sense to an unknown audience.

We are doing the best we can, and we will have help from professionals who have done this before. We will manage, I’m sure, and hopefully we will appeal to someone. Right now, though, I just don’t want to screw it up, and I don’t even know how to avoid that yet. We’re still learning the language.

What would you change?

One of the questions that keeps coming up on the many, many forms we have been filling out is, “If you could change anything about your spouse, what would it be?”

This has given rise to many snarky comments, including “…your face!” and “Wait, I have to pick just one?!” When we come down to it, though, neither one of us can think of anything in particular.

We’ve known each other for seven years. While we have been involved for all but five months of that time, we have, more importantly, been friends. There are certainly minor irritants in the relationship, but we have gotten used to them. It would worry me at this point if his irritating habits went away, and, furthermore, they really aren’t irritating at this point. They are part of him. Neither one of us came into this relationship looking for the other person to change in any specific way, and we accepted that the other person would change in ways we could not predict.

When I met Xander, he was training to be an archaeologist. Now he’s a mathematician and a teacher. When he met me I was working for the school district, and since then I’ve settled into a new career in housing that I didn’t even know existed. I have changed in other ways, too, as has he. People we love have died on both sides. Our infertility caused a strain on the relationship and changed how we perceive the world. We have been through job loss, raising a puppy, and working on the house. We came out of each experience with a stronger relationship, appreciating each other more and with a deeper love for each other. We are still friends. Coming home to him is the best part of my day, and, while many things may change, I seriously doubt that this will change.

I understand the question, and I know why they ask it, but all I can come up with is “Nothing”. I love all of who Xander is and I believe that I will continue to do so, even as we change. I know that no one goes into a relationship, a marriage, expecting that it won’t work. I think we are doing pretty well so far, and I’m hoping that we will continue to grow together and appreciate the changes we see in each other.

While many of the questions are repetitive and irritating, it is interesting to talk through them and understand why each of us responds in the same or different ways.

Taking the next step

Adoption is a process. I keep having to tell myself that, because at this point the process involves filling out a lot of forms. Forty pages for one place, ten for another, all kinds of questions I never expected to have to answer. Our history, our families’ history, health, emotional involvement, how we see each other, how we see our families, our relationships with everyone, and all kinds of odd pieces of information.

I keep reminding myself that at the end of this whole long drawn out repetitive process we will hopefully have a baby to show for it. All of the questions are to help a birth parent be absolutely sure that we are acceptable people so they can be comfortable with their choice. I understand that. At the moment, it’s irritating and frustrating and rather tiresome.

In flying, there’s a saying. “The most important thing is the next thing.” It works in many situations, and this, I think, is one of them. We can’t get anywhere without jumping through all of the hoops. We’ve made the decision to go through with this process, which means we have to take these steps. The better we do, the less time we will have to wait. At least that’s what I’m telling myself at the moment.

The biggest unknown in this is how birth parents will see us. It’s like a popularity contest but we don’t even get to see the judges. We’re supposed to lay out our lives, try to help other people understand who we are, and then we will wait. Maybe they’ll like us, maybe not, and all we can do is hope that what we write and the pictures we send out will appeal to someone.

It’s a little scary in a strange way. We’re putting everything out there and hoping that someone will like us, like our dog, like the cats, whatever – that something will appeal. We can’t write to a particular audience, since we don’t know the audience. We just have to be ourselves. I’ve always disliked that phrase. “Be yourself!” Who else am I going to be? We have to write the way we do. In my case, that’s pretty much how I speak. We have very different writing “voices”, and writing answers to all of these questions requires that we combine voices, which is sometimes a bit odd.

At some point we will have a baby. That’s what matters. That’s why we’re filling out forms and putting up with all of these questions. Someone will like us, someone will want us to raise the baby they birth. It’s a little hard to see right now, so I’m back to the most important step being the next step. We can get through reams of paper if we need to. We know what we want. It’s just going to take a while, and we’re just at the beginning of the process.

On to the next step.