In January of 2011 I went to my first information sessions at IAC. Â I got a loan. Â In May of ’11 my friend Lisa congratulated me on finishing my homestudy. ( She’d adopted from Ethiopa not too long before so she was my first close adoption contact.) Â And I’d been so nervous – I hired professoinal housecleaners for the first time, and then I spent the whole next morning trying to put all the clutter back so it would look “normal.” Â Lisa said everybody does that! Â :)
Â And for the record, no, the social worker did not notice that I’d cleaned the inside of the fridge.
In June I was crossing practical details off the list – life insurance, driving records, FBI fingerprinting clearances to make sure I’m not a criminal. Â My email fromÂ August of ’11 is full of drafts of my first Dear Birthmother Letter, back and forth with my agency, editing.
In your opening paragraph in the sentence: â€œI hope to hear from you, and I hope you find what you are looking for during this journeyâ€ needs to be changed instead to: â€œI hope to hear from you and that you find what you are looking for during this journey.â€ The phrase â€œI hopeâ€ is repetitive in this sentence and needs to be adjusted.
And the photos – oh god, the photos. Â Photo shoots with professional hair-and-makeup. Â Photos shoots half-posed with patient but puzzled children. Â Photos scrounged from old friends’ albums. Â Â Photos taken in lucky, perfect kodak moments. Â I hate having my picture taken. Â I hate it. Â But it had to be done, so I took all my anxiety about how weird my hair looks in pictures and all my sorrow over how much weight I’ve gained, and I handed my heart with trust and hope to a few loved ones with good cameras. Â And I signed 200 copies of the letter and sent them off to the agency’s central office.
And then I waited. Â For a year.
What to do while waiting?
I kept busy. Â I had a love life. Â I had hobbies. Â I spent time with my friends and my family. Â I took vacation trips. Â I started thinking about going back to grad school again. Â I started learning to play the guitar. Â I did the stuff I know I won’t have time for when I have a baby in my arms. Â I set up the nursery and took it all down again and set it all up again.
In September of ’12, as you probably know, I was matched but anxious – a lot was uncertain.
from an email to Amy:
My news is still only half-news, but (!) we’ve moved from maybe to probably, maybe even definitely-probably.Â I am maybe-definitely probably going to have a daughter at the end of October.
And from Amy:
This is great news!Â When/how do you find out for certain?Â Do you get to name the baby?Â How does this work?Â At what point after birth do you get to bring the baby home?Â How involved will the birth mother be?Â Does she get to go back on the deal at any point?Â What is the birth mother like?Â Do you get to know her backstory?Â How does this work?!
Super happy for you:)Â Do you need anything?
I told her – and everyone – what I needed most was advice! Â After all, I figured people were likely to start giving it to me anyway, so I might as well welcome it. Â And I absorbed as much information as I could, from all the moms I knew, about how to correctly install a car seat, prevent a diaper rash, braid curly hair in little rows, mix formula without airbubbles…
Here’s a story I haven’t told:
One of the best pieces of advice came from MY mom. Â When I met with the birthmother we talked a little bit about the baby’s name. Â I had just spent the past four years thinking in powerful-magic ways about baby names. Â In my mind, finding the right name had begun to seem like what was going to make the baby EXIST. Â And I had gotten very firmly attached to a few specific names that were simple, traditional, and deeply meaningful to me. Â When I mentioned them, the look on the birthmother’s face very clearly said, “You are out of your f-ing mind,” but she was polite enough to merely raise an eyebrow. Â So I asked her what she’d had in mind, and she shyly offered up the lovely but completely strange-to-me, obviously made-up name she’d been imagining for her daughter. Â I am pretty sure I didn’t even raise an eyebrow, but man, I was thrown. Â I wanted to give the baby a name from my family, as a sign forever that this child was truly part of my family, even though she wasn’t born to me. Â That was a hard idea to let go of. Â I wanted to give her a name that meant something about hope, and blessings, and powerful love. Â That was even harder to let go of. Â With an invented-spelling name full of dashes and apostrophes, what could I tell my child about what her name meant and why it was chosen for her?
My mom had the immediate, simple, perfect answer and it set my head back on straight.
You will tell her, “Your birthmother wanted to give you a gift, something beautiful and unique, that would be yours and only yours, forever. Â So she made you a beautiful name of your own. Â She created it for you as a gift of love that you could take with you everywhere, all your life long.”
Once I realized it wasn’t all about me, everything made a lot more sense.
So yes, a year ago I was matched with a birthmother and expecting a baby girl, for almost two whole months. Â Baby clothes appeared out of nowhere, in giant pink frilly drifts. Â I worked long, long hours to get ready for a sudden maternity leave. Â I begged pardon of my friends for having to step back from volunteer work I’d committed to, and was delighted at how smoothly other people stepped up to keep things moving forward. Â I asked for books on baby-sign-language. Â I asked for a car seat. Â I asked for help, which is a thing I rarely do. Â And everywhere I looked, it seemed the world was full of YES. Â It was an amazing experience, and I have no regrets at all. Â Two days before the baby was due, however, the birthmother changed her mind. Â I heard from the agency that she had discovered her family would be able to help her much more than she had thought would be possible. Â This is, of course, a happy ending to that part of the story, and we must see it that way.
It was very hard, though, and I grieved the loss for a very long time. Â The only people who seemed to understand were my friends who’d had miscarriages, grieving for children who never were theirs, or never were there, or never were, in a world that has little respect for what doesn’t exist, and in which we are expected to get up, get over it, and move on. Â So now I will confess a great secret: Â when I’d met with the birthmother and talked about names, I’d asked her to write down the name she invented, so that I could see how she imagined the spelling. Â I still carry that little piece of paper with me everywhere I go. Â Somewhere in the world is a little girl who is not my daughter, never was. Â But she might have been.
I believe that the heart is a muscle, and as with all muscles, serious exercise makes it tired, and sore. Â In fact, hard exercise actually tears the muscle a little bit, and it’s in the process of healing and growing back that the muscle becomes stronger.
After this I waited for another year, and here we are.