PAGE # 35
9:20 am

Tom and I did not drive straight to the hospital.  We stopped first at a local florist.  The woman there asked what type of occasion we were shopping for, and I didn't know what to say.  
"We're going to the hospital," I almost stuttered.  "I mean, we need flowers for a new mom.  But we might be adopting her baby too."
The woman created a beautiful bouquet for Kendra, but once we were back in the car, I felt nauseous from the scent.  I do love the smell of flowers, but only when they grow in nature.

On the other hand, flowers that get cut and sold, well, I think they smell like the inside of a funeral home.  This olfactory association with death--a direct neural pathway from my nostril to the mental image of a coffin--started after my father's wake and burial.  The funeral home was literally stuffed with flowers--I remember the facility could not even fit all the floral arrangements into the room where my father was laid out.  The experience left me with an aversion to cut flowers ever since.  I think of it as a psychological allergy.

Now, I clutched the vase between my knees and wished we had thought of something different. 
"Ugh...Why did we buy these?" 
"What's the problem?" Tom asked.  "They're pretty."
"They smell like a funeral home," I said.
"I know," Tom replied. "I know you."
We got on the highway--the hospital was about 30 minutes north of us.  
"But do I know myself?" I wondered aloud.
I was thinking about an apparent contradiction within myself:  that I did like some cut flowers:  daisies!  Especially gerbera daisies!     
"Do daisies smell?" I asked
"Don't know," Tom shrugged.
"I don't think they do.  They can't."  I was probably shaking my head.  "We should have bought daisies for Kendra."
"Forget it," Tom said.  "Too late for that now.  We need to get there already."
"I can't believe Kendra wants us there so soon."
"Well, that's what Shelley said."
"What else did she say about the birth?" I asked.
Tom had been the one to speak with the attorney over the phone earlier.
"Nothing much more than I already told you.  That she got the Pitocin.  That her and the baby are doing fine.  That her husband, Johnny, was there for the delivery."
I was relieved that Tom and I had not been called to participate in the the actual birth.  I felt it would be intrusive and inappropriate.  I could not imagine giving birth while a couple of total strangers looked on.  And what if Kendra decided to keep her?  I did not think we should be there when mother and child met for the first time.  Even if Kendra chose to relinquish, I thought she should have time alone with her baby.  

When our friends, Jim and Tracey, adopted Ricky, they were present for his birth.  Ricky's biological mother was a teenager whose entire family refused to accompany her; if not for Jim and Tracey, the young woman would have been alone, minus the medical staff.  

But Kendra's situation was altogether different.  She had a husband.  They had been through labor and delivery twice before.    
"What are we supposed to say when we get there?" I wondered.
"I don't know," Tom admitted.
"This is really strange," I said.
"There's no way she's going through with this adoption plan," Tom said.  "I still don't get it.  I just don't."
I felt the same as Tom.  As did several family members and friends.

In fact, lots of people had been asking us this question over the last couple of weeks:
"But what if she decides to keep the baby?"
And we always said the same thing:
"We hope she decides to keep her!  If that turns out to be the case, we would be thrilled for the baby.  Who wants to see a baby separated from her mother?"
Some people thought we were strange:
"But you guys already spent thousands of dollars on this!"  They were referring to the attorney's fee.  
And Tom would always respond:
"Yep.  And if she decides to keep the baby, we're going to spend even more--we're going to give her and the baby a few thousand bucks for Christmas.  We're going to try and help them out."
And people thought that was strange too.
"But you're doing everything to prepare for this baby.  Aren't you going to be pissed off?  Disappointed?  Feel tricked?"
And we would always respond:
"No!  We would be relieved for the baby, and her brothers, and her mother."
To this day, Tom and I cannot understand how any prospective adoptive parents could feel otherwise.    

But a few people have challenged us on this too:
"Well, you would feel differently if you were infertile and if you didn't already have kids."
I don't particularly like when people tell me how I would or should feel.  

And I don't think having children is an entitlement.  Life isn't fair.

I would like to think that my empathy for others is not dependent upon my own gains or losses.  I would like to think that my moral compass is not subject to mere relativism.  I would like to think that I am able to make the harder but better choices, even when it feels terrible for me personally.

I can't prove to anyone that I would've felt otherwise, had I no children of my own, because these were not my circumstances.    

We were almost at the hospital when I probed Tom on the issue:
"If we couldn't have kids, do you think we'd really feel the same way?"
"Well, we can't know, so why bother asking?"
Tom hates hypothetical questions.
"We probably would feel desperate," I decided.  "But I still think we'd be hoping for the same outcome."
"I think so," Tom agreed.  "Life is hard enough without having to start off with losing your mother at birth."
If I hadn't any children, maybe I would feel angry and pissed and used if Kendra decided to parent.  But emotions aren't solitary manifestations--humans are complex enough to feel many different things at the same time.  I could imagine being disappointed for myself while simultaneously feeling joy for a baby and her mother.
"I feel bad for the baby," I said.  "I feel terrible for her."
"I know," Tom said.  "But if Kendra decides not to parent, we're going to give her a great life."
We were quiet until we finally reached the hospital.  Tom pulled into the parking lot.
"Oh!  I almost forgot to call the attorney," he realized.  "She said we need to call first before going in."
"She needs to call Kendra's husband when we get here.  He's supposed to come down to the lobby and bring us upstairs."
"Okay," I said.
Tom called Shelley.
"We're here in the parking lot," he told her.
I waited for Tom to hang up.
"Ready?" I asked.
Tom hesitated.
"Maybe we should have listened to Jim's advice and rented a car for the hospital," he said.
"What for?"  
"I don't know," Tom replied.  "It's probably nothing.  But Shelley just told me that there's no record of Kendra's name at the front desk.  She said that we need to wait for Johnny to come get us in the lobby."
"What do you mean?"
"That if we just walk inside and ask to see Kendra, no one at the hospital desk will know who or what we are talking about.  The hospital staff has no record of Kendra being here.  Shelley said it's a safety precaution.  To protect her from the birth father."
"But Kendra told us that he's not a danger!" I was horrified.  "Kendra said he's just a spoiled brat who wants nothing to do with either her or the baby!"
"Maybe it's standard procedure in adoption?"
"Maybe," I said.  "But Kendra did also say that he punched her in the stomach."
The birth father was a paradox in my mind.  My brain kept receiving contradictory input regarding the man.  My head hurt, but I could find no explanation to resolve the cognitive dissonance.
"We need to ask Kendra about him again," I insisted.  "Thank God that attorney isn't here."
"For sure," Tom said.
We were finished talking, but we didn't exit the car just yet.  We looked around to make sure no one was watching us.  And we walked with our heads down as we approached the hospital's entrance. 

The fear factor was back.   

To Be Continued...


I never got to say goodbye said...

I wish all prospective adoptive parents felt as you did... and do... I truly do. I am reading on a adoption board about the paps expecting to be in the room and the first to hold the baby and even attempt to breastfeed the baby in the hospital right after delivery in front of the birthmother! Total lack of empathy. Blinded by their own wants. I am again anxious to read your next post. Thank you for posting this.

ROBYN Chittister said...

"To this day, Tom and I cannot understand how any prospective adoptive parents could feel otherwise."

I think it depends on the situation, both the adoptive parents' situation and the birth parents' situation. I think it is different for people who already have children, whether by birth or adoption. I remember, before we adopted our son, my arms literally ached for my child. When we were in the process of adopting our daughter, I always had our son to love and hold. It still hurt, not having our family completed, but it was different.

And some birth parents are completely capable of good parenting. But some aren't. I think it would be easier to say "If she changes her mind, it's OK" if the child really would be OK.

Every situation is different. Of course, hypotheticals don't matter that much, as you and your husband noted. You feel how you feel.

BumbersBumblings said...

I'm arriving at your blog for the first time! Really enjoying reading this. Can't wait to hear the rest of the story.

Carlynne Hershberger, CPSA said...

It's such a relief to read a prospective adoptive parents view that does not involve extreme entitlement attitude. I've read so many PAP blogs and comments that are incredibly lacking in compassion and empathy for the mother. It's all about them and their wants as if they're shopping for a puppy.

Being in the room with a mother during labor and delivery is not only inappropriate, it's coercive. IMO, just making this "plan" for the mother during her pregnancy is coercive. The planning shouldn't even begin until after the baby is born and she's had real time with her baby. I think it's not only better for the mother and baby, but more fair to the PAPs.

Like someone said above, I wish all prospective adoptive parents felt as you do.

Becky said...

Just found your blog and am on the edge of my seat to read what happened next! And I feel a little bad saying that, because obviously it was traumatic (for many people).

Jessica said...

I'm new here.
How long do we have to wait for the next installment?
(Thanks for sharing your story.)

Anonymous said...

We are infertile and we felt the same way you did. We hoped the baby would stay in the family born into. And we did tell everyone in the hospital room that. We told them that nobody knew we were there except them and the agency and if they decided to parent we are very strong and have been through many ordeals. We would be ok, so don't think of us at all. Just think about your baby and you. It gives us a bit of comfort that we said that. But still. We identify with so much of you talk of. Adoption is traumatic and there is no way to pretty it. We dream of siblings for our child but we will not adopt again. It's just too traumatic. We luckily do have open contact with her first families and see them. It would have been dreadful for us all to not even have an email to communicate directly. I totally do not understand how anyone can adopt and not feel the true trauma and tragedy of it all.

Jennifer said...

Hi Anon,
Thanks for reading and for your comment. I could never go through adoption again either. Some people think I'm generalizing an individual experience unfairly regarding the whole institution of adoption, but unless someone brought a true orphan to my doorstep, I just can't be involved.