Baby Lily
7 Pounds, 9 Ounces
PAGE # 34
8:20 am

Baby Lily was born on December 16, 2011 at 8:20 am.  She weighed 7 pounds and 9 ounces. Both she and her mother, Kendra, were healthy.  I have included a few more newborn pictures below:

She was beautiful.

Sleepy Girl

Welcome to the World, Lily!



PAGE # 33
All Day Long

Christmas was coming and I was getting fat fatter.  

My thyroid and pituitary glands--the usual culprits--could not even be blamed.  Although my entire endocrine system seems to favor a roly-poly physique nowadays, my ass had widened beyond medical explanation.  My upper arms were busting out of my sleeves--and not in a superhero-transformation kind of way.  Oh how my face resembled a puffer fish!  The kind that inflates into a giant ball of fear if disturbed by a snorkeler or two.  I swear, even my ear lobes appeared twice their normal size.

This was one disgusting metamorphosis. 

I don't know if all prospective adoptive mothers gain weight.  I guess it makes sense.  Some women might develop sympathetic pregnancy symptoms, weight gain being the most obvious one.  If I were a less honest narrator, however, I'd forget to mention one other detail:  The Cookies.

While Kendra's home was infiltrated by child protective services, my home was invaded by dozens of gingerbread men.  They cluttered the kitchen:  men, women, boys and girls.  They did not come alone.  There were chocolate chip cookies, butter cookies, and others too. 

My mother baked for days:  she sorted through cookie tins, rolled dough, and even resurrected recipes from my own childhood.  I forgot that other food groups existed.  Well, except for coffee.  I ate cookies and drank coffee and ate more cookies.  I could not be stopped.

On this morning, my mother caught me in the gingerbread man tin before noon:
"Jennifer!  Don't eat those!  They're not even painted yet!"
My mother planned to paint the naked gingerbread men the next day.  She and TJ had bought food coloring and frosting ingredients.

I was out of control but tried to look on the bright side:  for every naked gingerbread person I consumed, I saved myself the frosting calories.  If I left them all to be frosted, well, that would be really unhealthy.  I grabbed gingerbread people by the handfuls when my mother wasn't looking.

I am certain it was on this day--the morning when I learned that Kendra was visited by child protective services--that I fully surrendered to the gingerbread army.  I was exhausted.  It was just easier to eat them than to locate food elsewhere.

The first thing I did upon waking that day (and every morning those days) was check my phone for text messages and emails.  I also happened to wake earlier than usual.  So, at approximately 6:30 am, I read this email from the attorney, who had sent it out after midnight:
Kendra emailed a little while ago. 
She said she’s trying to hang in there.  If she doesn’t deliver tonight, she might agree to an induction tomorrow night.
She had a visit from DCF [Department of Children & Families] tonight because of an “anonymous” complaint.  She said they told her it was obviously bogus and they might look into prosecuting whoever made it.  The children [her two boys] were clearly safe and well cared for.  She believes it was Bobby [the bio dad] who made the call, but she is only speculating.
I’ll keep you posted.
Tom was already at the airport trying to get home, so he had not only already seen this news, but had also sent me an email-reaction as follows:
I do not like any of this.  He called DCF for a reason and not because he wants nothing to do with the baby.  This baby is not ours until his signature.  We cannot for one second think otherwise or we will suffer like dogs. 
I read these two emails and ate through an entire family of gingerbread people--extended family and friends included.  And with each bite, I wondered less about who had called protective services on Kendra, and worried, instead, how a Freudian analyst might interpret my compulsive eating.

Was there ever (in the entire history of the world) a prospective adoptive mother (besides myself), who, on the day before her maybe baby's birth, filled her belly with boy and girl shaped cookies?  

Any reader who can cite a precedent for this disturbing binge behavior (regarding an adoption case), please comment below.  



PAGE # 32
7:00 pm & beyond

When I discovered the flood in the laundry room, I was too preoccupied with Tom's absence (and our pending adoption) to appreciate this gift the universe had thrown at me.  A great flood is often featured in literature, and if I had known then, that I'd be writing about it all now--well, I might have felt connected to some of the most influential writers in our recorded history.  At the very least, I'd have felt some amusement over the whole mess.  But on that particular evening, I felt no such enthusiasm about the water pooling inside our home.

I was able to turn off the washing machine, but for reasons I will never understand, water continued to rush inside.  I needed to turn off some faucet located behind the machine, but that was impossible to reach.  And the machine, having neither legs nor wheels, would not move.  The washing machine of my dreams--a stainless steel front loader--was heavier than an elephant.  

The man who was finally able to make it all stop, nearly gave himself a heart attack in the process.  He goes by the name of 'Neighbor Vic,' and he is the size of three men rolled into one.  He is a chain-smoker from a bygone era, eats whatever he pleases, and works outdoors all day long minus any sunscreen or even a shirt.  He is invincible.  

But very dirty.  

As Neighbor Vic wrestled the washing machine away from the wall, I saw that this man sweats soil.  He was literally dripping with wet earth.  He's a landscaper, so at least this made sense.  It would have been a cognitive assault otherwise--say, if he were an accountant or something like that--and I'm grateful that the whole experience, however disgusting, at least aligned with my expectation of things.  I didn't need another surprise that night.  

Of course, I tried to use the great flood to my advantage:  I sent descriptive text messages to Tom, hoping to torture him with just the right measure of guilt for being away on a business trip.  Not too much guilt or he might retaliate.  Unfortunately for me, I do not possess the unsung superpower of subtlety.  Tom swore to forever save these text messages.  He plans to use them in the future, if needed, to show the world at large that his wife is insane.

I will not include the original text messages here.  I'm all for using primary documents in the writing of this memoir; however, I must spare myself this particular humiliation.  I simply did not have my shit together that night.

On the other hand, this is probably a fine moment to introduce the personal references written for our home study evaluation.  These letters of recommendation, a total of three, were composed by some of our dearest friends.  They are flattering indeed; in fact, when I first read them, I considered pinning them to my physical person, like how people wear medical identification tags, just in case my life happened to intersect with some fatal accident.  These letters might secure my place in heaven:
"Take me in God!  I've been a kind person, and despite the fact that I'm a chronic skeptic and haven't received communion since forced to do so, I come clothed in documentation attesting to my utter goodness."
I will include some of my favorite excerpts from those letters now, not for the sake of some self-promoting ego-boost, but to illustrate the disparity between what was written about our marriage (by others) versus the mad text messages written about our marriage (by me).  I am a fan of contrast, so please indulge me. 

Some of my favorite excerpts include:
Jennifer and Tom love each other very much and their home is full of joy.  Jennifer always knows what is best for her family and children.  She is flexible and quick to volunteer help to others in need.  Tom is an excellent father.  He is dedicated to his family and always makes time to take care of his children.  Sometimes, when we are far away on a business trip, I realize he can't wait to go back home.
As a couple, Jennifer and Tom are each other's Yin and Yang.  They complement each other so perfectly, one would think they were created for each other.  Both individually and as a couple, they are patient, loving and caring.  They do what is right not only because it is right, but because it feels right and is part of who they are.
There are ways people get lucky in life, and not everyone gets lucky in the same way.  Jennifer and Tom are lucky in marriage.  They met and married under non-conventional ways.  They married, loved each other, and had a baby while their peers were too immature to understand that level of commitment.  Yet, their marriage is stronger than most.  They understand each other well.  They are patient and loving with each other.  They make their marriage a priority in life and nurture their love for each other.  They have made the choice and promise to each other to ensure they work together despite any external circumstances.  They have made the harder and better choices such as having a child young, moving to a place away from family, various career decisions, all because they knew it was best for their family.
What letters!  There was much detail about our parenting skills too, but I've chosen the above passages because they provide a window into our marriage, if from the outside looking-in.  And on that very night, after the water had been scooped away with buckets, and Neighbor Vic's soil-sweat was washed clean, and even after I composed my mad monologue via text message to Tom, I opened my email account to reread those lovely sentences.

I'm not sure if I was hoping to remind myself that our marriage was full of love, despite my feelings of isolation and abandonment, or if I just can't resist a good dose of irony in general.  Probably the latter.

I did not fall asleep easily that night.  I tried some relaxation exercises, but mostly I wallowed in my own self-pity and waited, in terror, for the phone call that Kendra was in labor and that I must go to the hospital immediately.  And all alone.

But Kendra did not go into labor that night, and she was not induced the following morning.  Instead, she had a surprise visit from child protective services. 

To be continued... 



PAGE # 31
The Night Before Mother's Day

Dear Birth Mother,

I've been thinking about you a lot, especially with Mother's Day being tomorrow.  I checked your Facebook page recently, and even though we are not friends there and your page is not public, I could see your profile picture and your friend list.

It looks like you changed your profile pic to one from when you were pregnant with Lily.  There is a man seated next to you, but the picture is cropped, so I can only see a fraction of his face.  I can't tell for sure, but it looks like it is Lily's biological father.

You look beautiful and happy in this picture.

Then, my gaze shifted down toward your friend list--I didn't click on it--I just saw the "featured friends" that a viewer sees on the side.  And I saw your name again, so I clicked on that.

I guess you have two Facebook accounts. 

This profile page, unlike the other, has the updated timeline feature.  The inset photo is one of you, your husband, and your two boys.  The large photo is a picture of a beautiful flower.  It's a lily.  Of course.

I started to feel a bit of panic, because having a therapist background, and a significant knowledge of complex trauma (both personal & professional), I could not help but view this as proof of dissociative phenomena.  NOT something severe like a multiple personality disorder.  Just that you might be fragmented now.  Like the pregnant mother you were got split off from the person you have to be now.  The mother you have to be without Lily.

I've felt a lot of anxiety since this Facebook discovery.  It's hard for me to figure out whether my concerns for you are accurate, or whether this is just some manifestation of my own PTSD.  My own transference issues, so to speak.  Perhaps it doesn't really matter.  Maybe it's a bit of both.

I had a vivid dream a few nights after this Facebook discovery.

In the dream, I had found Lily.  I was running with her.  I held her close; I was worried I might drop her by accident.  The landscape kept changing and it was hard to stay balanced.  I ran through fields of tall grass, through parking lots of empty cars.  I was looking for you.  I was trying to bring Lily back to you.  But I couldn't find you.  

When I woke up, it was still the middle of the night.  I was sweating and my toes were rounded and clenched.  My body felt weighted, like I was pinned down by some unseen force.  I wake up like this a lot nowadays, and I have to work really hard from launching into a full blown panic attack.  I'm usually okay during the daytime.  The panic episodes mostly happen at night.

My therapist has pointed out that my concern for you is a bit obsessive.  Perhaps.  I acknowledge that on some level, focusing on you has maybe protected me from feeling my own pain.  It is hard for me to give myself permission to cry about Lily.  I feel like I'd be usurping your grief somehow.  But during that therapy session, I was able to cry.  And I guess that's okay too.

Just today, the whole family was out shopping.  We were in the kids' department, buying new shoes for Sara.  I saw a baby--she had to be the same age Lily is now--so I got up real close to see if maybe she was Lily.  Remember the birthmarks Lily had under her nose?  The ones the nurse said were called stork bites?  I always look for those when I smile at babies.  The nurse said they would fade away eventually, but you never know.  

I guess I feel forever linked to you.  We both lost the same baby girl to the world of adoption.  She is your daughter, and I want you to know that we loved her too.

Happy Mother's Day to both of us.  




PAGE # 30
6:00 pm
"Where the hell is that Elf on the Shelf?"  
I was talking to myself, but my mom was there too.
"It's over there," she pointed toward the bookcase.  "When's the last time you moved him?"
"How should I know?"  I asked.  "I can't keep up with him this Christmas."
"You're very irritable," my mom noted.
"I'm sorry," I said.
She hugged me.  
"It's okay.  I'm here now.  I can take over Elf duty from now on."
"Shh!"  TJ scolded us.  "Don't let Sara hear you!"
Sara was playing quietly in the corner.  A few days earlier, I had tried to prepare her for our maybe baby.  I explained that she might be getting a baby sister.  Her response had been short and somewhat surreal:
"Two mommies!" she had said.
Sara is a very bright two year-old, but this seemed extraordinary.
"Maybe she heard you talking on the phone," my mom reasoned.  "Maybe you said something about the baby having two mommies."
TJ had a different explanation:
"Maybe she thinks having a little sister means she is going to be a mommy too.  Maybe she thinks the two mommies are you and herself."
My mom nodded.  "That's probably it."
"I still think it's weird," I said.  "Because if this adoption happens, this baby really is going to have two mommies."
I looked over at Sara.  She was still playing with her stuffed Mickey Mouse.
"But the baby isn't going to know that," my mom said.
"Of course she will!" I exclaimed. 
"Are you going to tell her she's adopted?"
"Mom!  Of course!"
"Well, that just seems very confusing for the child."
"Grandma," TJ interjected.  "You're not supposed to lie about it.  You're supposed to tell the baby all along."
"Oh, what do I know?" my mom asked.
I could see TJ was getting excited to talk about all the adoption research he'd been doing.
"There's so much information on the internet," TJ explained.  "I found this one website that has all these ideas for projects we can do with her.  One of them is this family tree, where you branch together both sides of her family:  biological and adoptive.  We have to help her integrate everything," he clasped his hands together.  
 I was proud of TJ.  He was growing up to be a kind and thoughtful young man.
 "It's not easy to be adopted, Grandma," TJ added.  "We have to learn all about adoption issues so we can help her throughout life."
"Oh, what do I know?" my mom repeated. 
"Sara!" he called out.  "Come sing with me!"
"Brother!"  She ran to him.  
My mom watched as the kids sang and danced together.

I took the opportunity to sneak into my bedroom and check my phone for text messages.  

Tom was gone.  He was probably eating dinner with some very important people.  We were informed earlier in the day that Kendra was likely getting induced in the morning.  But she might not make it till then.  Tom had promised he'd catch the last flight home.  

At exactly 6:32 pm that night, he sent me the following text messages:
No flight after 8 and will not make it.
Traffic would be impossible.
Will take 6 am flight.
I wrote back:
I thought you said there was a late night flight?
He wrote:
That's only in the summer.  
It's winter so less flights.
Did not realize.
I managed to text back:
I thought you checked!
Before making this decision!
You said last night, "I am sure that there is a 9:30 flight out." 
Remember, you looked it up.  And then reassured me.
He wrote:
My mistake.
Must have made an error.
And I wrote:
What the fuck are we doing?
And then I dropped the phone.  

A terrible sound was coming from the laundry room.  

I flung open the door and saw that water was flooding everywhere.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" 
I was talking to myself, but my mom was there too.

To Be Continued...



PAGE # 29
10:00 pm

Dear Birth Mother,

If you are considering an adoption plan for your unborn child, I sincerely hope you read this blog first.  If anyone is telling you that another couple is more fit to parent your child, because of money, or age, or whatever, please remember that all couples have problems.  

I shared an inside view of what my own marriage looked like a few days before the birth of our prospective adoptive child (see previous two blog posts).  Our marriage is imperfect.  All marriages are.  In fact, a couple may adopt your child, only to get divorced later.  Or worse.  As my husband always says, "No one can see the inside of another couple's marriage."

It's unlikely that the people in your personal life are encouraging you to keep your baby.  If they were, you probably wouldn't be considering the adoption option in the first place.  And the people working in the adoption industry are not going to tell you to try and keep your baby.  They want to make money.

Have faith in yourself to parent your child.  If you are considering placing your child for adoption because you have been told that your child will be better off, think again.  I think this is the worst insult to a woman.  And you deserve to know that you are strong and capable.  There is no power greater than motherhood.

Former Prospective Adoptive Parent
Now a Concerned Citizen
Who Worries About The Coercion of Vulnerable, Pregnant Women



PAGE # 28
Still Early Morning

The fight was brutal.  

Thank goodness the children were still asleep.  They were momentarily shielded from their parents' flaws, if only for a short time; for back then, I had no knowledge of the future:  that a crazy writer, posing as myself, would expose the less attractive details of our marriage for all the world to read about.  (Including the children themselves, who just might stumble upon this post someday).

But on this morning that I write of, the kids remained blissfully unaware of anything.  There was one casualty of the battle, however, and that was our dog, Jersey.  He trembled against a pillow, and if we did not already have a diagnosis, we might have misinterpreted the dog's terrible anxiety for a full-blown seizure.  I hoped the episode would pass quickly and not warrant a phone call to the veterinarian.

Jersey suffers from a chronic anxiety disorder called 'White Dog Shaker Syndrome.'  In case the reader is not well versed in canine psychology and/or thinks I am inventing some fiction in the interest of dramatization, I have included the Wikipedia link here:

An episode of white shaker dog is typically triggered by severe acts of God (i.e. thunderstorms), but also by acts of human celebration (i.e. fireworks).  Clearly, Tom and I had unveiled a third category responsible for inducing canine terror--good, old-fashioned marriage.

Moreover, I had lost the battle.  I fought hard using my superpower of extraordinary autobiographical memory, but at the last moment, Tom pulled a fast one.  He utilized the superpower of profound loyalty to his family of origin, when he should have stuck strictly to one superpower--the superpower of denial.  This was unjust.  I could not help but pull out my own additional aid.  I opted for a defensive strategy by selecting the severe case of moral indignation superpower.  It was a miscalculated choice.  Alas, the family of origin triumphed over justice.  I had lost.

What follows is a play-by-play description of the battle, but first, a short recap as to why we were fighting in the first place:

Our birth mother was about to deliver a baby.  Any moment now.  Tom had a work meeting in another state.  I did not think Tom should attend said work meeting.  I thought he should stay for the birth of our maybe baby.  Tom thought otherwise.  

The first assault came from my side.  Using my superpower of extraordinary autobiographical memory, I described in "as if we were there again detail," our most recent experience with childbirth:

On the morning after Sara's birth, I struggled to get her to latch onto my breast while Tom sat nearby in a hospital chair.
"How's it going?" he asked.
I was scared.
"Tom, there's something wrong with our baby!" I trembled.
"What are you talking about?" Tom said.  "She's perfect."
But Sara did not appear perfect at all.  She was struggling for air.  A strange, grunt-like noise accompanied her every breath, and then her entire chest seemed to collapse into a deep cavity.
"Oh my God!" I gasped.  "She's not breathing right.  Go get the nurse!"
Tom examined Sara.
"Relax," he said.  "All new babies breathe like that."
And with that, he left to go home and take a shower.  

I was terrified for my baby.  Moreover, during my epidural, the anesthesiologist had punctured the wrong spot.  I was suffering from a spinal leak and could not stand up without suffering excruciating pain.  With all the power that only a new mother has, I managed to place Sara back into her bassinet.  I "raced" down the hallway toward the baby nursery, my brain banging against my skull.  
"Hey!  Momma!" a woman called out to me.  
I couldn't tell if she was a nurse or just someone visiting another new mom in the hospital.  I didn't stop.  I had to get my baby to the nursery.  I had to find help for my baby.
"Momma!" the woman called out again.  "Your backside is showing!"
I was still wearing the hospital gown from delivery.  It was open in the back, but I didn't care.
"Momma!"  the woman ran up to me.  "Are you looking for the nursery?  I can take your baby for you," she offered.  And then, her voice fell to a whisper.  "Your butt is exposed and you are covered in dried blood, honey."
"Which way to the nursery?" I screamed as I pushed the bassinet.  "I'm not giving you my baby!"
By the time I rang the nursery buzzer, I could barely speak to the nurse who opened the door.
"There's something wrong with my baby," I managed to say.  "Her breathing..."
Several hours later, we learned that Sara had a spontaneous pneumothorax.  Her lung had collapsed and some of her organs had shifted.  She was in respiratory distress and it was an acute medical emergency.  She could have died without intervention.  Sara spent two weeks in the neonatal intensive unit and recovered fully.  Only long-term consequence:  Sara will never be able to go scuba diving.  We were lucky.

The memory of Sara's birth had me crying.  Of course, she was fine now.  But the feeling of abandonment and rage I had experienced toward my husband--it was fully activated again.  Tom had abandoned me then.  And I felt that he was abandoning me now.  
"You left me alone at the hospital!"  I screamed.  "And now, you are going to leave me alone again? I cannot do this alone."  I was devastated.
There was no way Tom could win this fight.  His superpower of denial would never overcome my painful memories.  He could not deny the truth of what had happened.  


He could deny the future.  He could minimize the entire act of receiving a baby from another woman.  He could deny that it would be difficult.  And he did.
"I can't do it alone," I begged him.  "I can't do it alone."
"I have to go," Tom declared.  "I have to see this business transaction through.  You're going to have to man up and take care of this without me."
"I cannot man up!" I yelled.  "I am not a man!  I cannot be the mother and the father!"
"And I have to meet my father for this meeting!" Tom yelled back.
And with that, Tom pulled out his sneak attack.  From the bottom of his weapon bag, he grabbed the superpower of profound loyalty to his family of origin.

About a decade ago, at Tom's 30th birthday party, my father-in-law gave a speech in front of about a hundred or so of our friends.  In it, he referred to Tom as 'The Messiah."  While this was certainly humiliating for my husband, it amounted to a full blown epiphany for me.  And now, with Tom leaving me during this adoption process--I realized it was not about money or business or any of that.  No, this was an unconscious force, formed long before Tom ever even knew me.  This was about a small boy, cast in the role of the perfect son, doomed to abide the wishes of his (narcissistic?) parents, at any and all cost.  Cost to himself, his wife, his present and future children.  At least in my not so humble psychoanalytic opinion.  I'm sure Tom holds an entirely different, almost equally valid, perception of things.

Tom and I really do love each other.  This is just one of the dynamics in our marriage that we unconsciously enact, again and again.  I believe all married couples are cast in their own unique marital plot.  Sure the years go by and things ostensibly progress:  there are costume changes (fashion evolves), new scenery (people tend to move around quite a bit), and there are the exits and entrances of background characters (friends come and go--well, at least before Facebook). But the basic theme of a married couple's life is impervious to change.  Sometimes, we try to fight against it, and other times, we merely 'go with the flow.'  But inevitably, we are all doomed to recreate some aspect of our earliest relational trauma with our spouse.    

By the time I pulled out my additional superpower--that is, my severe case of moral indignation, it was far too late.  What could I expect?  By definition, moral outrage is never on time.  I was so mad at the injustice of it all.  How could the primitive bonds of early childhood still be impacting my current middle-aged life?  It didn't seem fair.

I took the only logical next step and called my mother.  

Mom booked the earliest flight she could find.  She would arrive the next day at noon.  I imagined her plane would pass by Tom's as he flew away in the opposite direction.

I thought of Kendra too.  Her husband was planning to abandon her as well--after the birth of her baby, just after the relinquishment of her very own flesh and blood.  He would be taking their two sons on a Christmas vacation.  And with his parents.  And Kendra was not invited.  It seemed clear to me that she too suffered from the devastating effects of a husband's profound loyalty to his family of origin. 

And so, I became more and more psychologically enmeshed with this mysterious woman.  It was one-sided, of course.  I have no idea what Kendra was thinking about me.  I only knew that I was emotionally identified with her, or my idea of her, and the more I thought about it, everything seemed to link me with Kendra.  It felt as if Kendra and I had been weaving our own separate lives, oblivious to each other's existence, until this adoption plan happened.  And suddenly, we found ourselves trapped together on the same sticky web.