PAGE # 47
Approximately 6:00 pm

We were on our way back to the hospital.  This time, we took TJ and Sara with us too, along with some gifts, but not with the necklace intended for Kendra.  I had finally purchased something a few hours earlier, but I was not about to present it to Kendra just yet.  That felt plain wrong as she hadn't actually signed off on the adoption and might still change her mind.

The other gifts included some cookies and a couple of teddy bears.  I hadn't known what might be appropriate to give Kendra's two little boys, and the social worker had suggested toys, but just any plastic contraption found at Toys R Us seemed impersonal and cold.  I had settled on Vermont Teddy Bears:  they're warm and cozy and last forever.  The company will even repair them if needed.  When the bears arrived at my home, they came in one big cardboard box.  I was a little annoyed--I had envisioned a separate gift box for each bear, and I ended up placing either bear in separate gift bags, which was a shame as the box was really cute.  It even came with a cut-out "air hole" so the bears could breathe easy during shipment.

I had written out a small gift card for each boy.  The cards read something like the following (I can't recall the exact wording):
Please hug me if you are ever feeling sad!

In retrospect, I think those notes were rather depressing, and the bears should not have come with any instructions at all.  I was trying to fill the boys' arms with something to hold, if not a baby sister, for when they were sad about losing that sister, because I was certain that they would be.  Those bears were a poor substitute for human life, cute as they were, but I could think of nothing else.  I imagined Alex and Logan clutching their bears, at some later point in time, as they cried silently in their beds.  At least the 5 year old.  The 18 month old probably wouldn't miss his little sister at all; well, at least not right away.  But they would both likely miss her forever, especially if Kendra decided to have no future contact with us.   

In addition to the two bears, I had selected a bunch of Christmas cookies--the ones my mother had made with the children over the last several days.  There were chocolate chips and butter cookies and of course, the gingerbread people, all of whom were now clothed in full frosting.  I had tried to pick the prettiest ones, not the sloppy ones decorated by Sara or TJ.  I chose the ones hand-painted by my mom, the only family member with any talent for artwork.  

I had stood in the kitchen, carefully placing the cookies into a tin, while my mom peered over my shoulder.
"No!  Not that one!" she exclaimed as I tried to kidnap one of her loveliest characters:  a gingerbread girl with a pretty white dress and red hat.  "I want that one!" 
"Fine," I said, as I quickly grabbed a larger cookie frosted in green overalls with white buttons.  

My mom was about to protest again; I could sense it in her body language.  She loomed over the cookie tin, as if I were about to give away her actual grandchild--not a bunch of gingerbread people mixed with other, non-anthropomorphic cookies.   
"You're taking too many!" she exclaimed followed by a large sigh.  "Come on, there's not going to be anything left for the holidays."

My mom removed a few of the cookies from the tin.  I took them back.  We volleyed the cookies several more times.  I won and threw the cover down upon the tin before she could get back another one.
"Kendra might be giving us her baby!  Her own flesh and blood!  You're getting another grandchild  for Christ's sake!  I think we can spare a few more cookies."

I was upset.  Not so much about mom's reluctance to part with her baked goods--but with the fact that she was counting cookies when the future of a little baby was at stake.  If Kendra chose adoption, would our extended family, my mom included, love her the same as  they love TJ and Sara?  Would we be able to love her like our own?  It seemed like we could; indeed, I love my husband and we are not genetically related.  But, I started to worry.  I worried that the rest of our family--our parents and siblings (the baby's maybe adoptive grandparents and aunts and uncles) might not develop real love for the baby girl.  I was thinking about this on the ride to the hospital, when TJ moved my attention to more immediate matters:
"What am I supposed to say to her?" he asked, referring to Kendra.

"Just be yourself," I said.
"She's really nice," Tom added.  "I don't think you're gonna be uncomfortable at all."

"This is weird," TJ said.

And it was.  

There's simply no natural way to prepare for an adoption.  It is, by its very nature, unnatural.  

When we got to the hospital, TJ carried the two bags with the bears.  I held the cookie tin.  Tom carried Sara.
"Where we go-in?" Sara asked as we boarded the elevator.

"In the elevator," I told her.

"But where we go-in?" Sara asked again.

"To meet a baby and her family," I explained, unsure of how to tell my toddler about our maybe baby.  "But the baby might come live with us and be your baby sister.  We don't know yet."

But it didn't matter what I said then, because the elevator was already wide open and Sara had jumped out of Tom's arms.  She ran down the hallway.  And we chased after her, forgetting all about Kendra's baby for a split second, just long enough to make sure we didn't lose sight of our toddler who was sprinting away from us.

To Be Continued...



Adoption:  An Exercise in Battling Mixed Emotions

PAGE # 46
Approximately 1:00 pm

We left the hospital after eating lunch with Kendra and Johnny.  It was a quiet affair, except for when Johnny showed us some pictures of their two sons on his iPad.  I was relieved that the food filled any opportunity for more conversation. My head was spinning and I really needed to be alone with Tom.

As soon as we got in the elevator and the door closed, I started talking rapidly, as if the short descent down to the lobby was my last chance to say anything further on the matter of the adoption.  
"Oh my God, Tom, the way Kendra described Bobby [the biological father]...she said her dad bought a gun because of him!  What are we going to do?"

"Wait till we get in the car," was Tom's response.

We hurried out of the hospital, back through the parking lot.  Once inside the car, I quickly filled Tom in on all the details of my conversation with Kendra.
Tom did not seem afraid.  "Look," he said.  "I got to hear Johnny's side of the story.  It doesn't sound like Bobby wants this baby.  And we've been judgmental of Johnny, expecting him to want to parent the baby.  He's struggling real hard with this.  He told me that he has pretty much no one to talk to about this.  His parents don't want him to stay married to Kendra.  His friends think he's a total idiot for standing by her after she just delivered another man's baby."

"But they were separated when she got pregnant!"

"I know, but still, think of it from Johnny's point of view.  This is a really rough situation for their marriage.  I don't think we can truly understand what they're going through."

"But what about the bio dad?"

Tom shook his head.
"Look, he hasn't done anything to show any interest in parenting this baby.  He could have called the attorney by now.  And I'm not so sure that he's as dangerous as Kendra makes him sound.  For all we know, she's doing this to save her marriage, but has convinced herself it's all to save the baby from Bobby.  Maybe that's what she tells herself in order to go through with the adoption plan."

I thought this over.  It was possible that Kendra was utilizing some unconscious defense mechanism in order to carry out the adoption plan.  But how could we know? 
"We can't know the inside of Kendra's marriage and we can't know the inside of Kendra's mind," Tom continued.  "I still don't think she's going to go through with it, but in case she does, we'll be there to take care of the baby."

"She'll never go through with it.  She can't.  Maybe if she felt more secure in her marriage, maybe then she wouldn't be doing this?  I mean, Johnny is taking the two boys away for Christmas.  With his parents and without her!  Do you know how terrible she feels about that?  She told me all about it when you were getting lunch."

"I talked to Johnny about that," Tom replied.  "He's changed his mind.  He agrees that he shouldn't leave Kendra alone for Christmas."

I felt a jolt of relief for Kendra, as if this small change in plans was enough to defeat all the misery and loss associated with the pending relinquishment of her baby.
"I still think it's her in-laws," I stated.  "I think they're financially dependent on his family business."

"We can't know for sure."

"This could happen to anyone, you know.  This could have happened to us!  I was the same age as Kendra when we were most vulnerable--when your parents hated me."

"They didn't hate you.  They just didn't understand what you were going through."

"They didn't believe me!"

I was referring to the first time I was hospitalized for severe PTSD flashbacks of childhood abuse.  I had been overwhelmed at the time--and my in-laws did not believe the truth of my childhood.  I did not speak with them for nearly a year.  Our marriage almost didn't make it.  What if Tom and I had separated at the time?  What if I had become pregnant with another man's child? 

Readers of my blog often remark that my empathy for Kendra was somehow remarkable given my status as a prospective adoptive parent.  But really, I felt like I was witnessing some younger version of myself:  a woman in a desperate situation where her husband's parents treated her like a piece of shit.  It made me crazy.  I wanted to save Kendra from all of it, but I didn't know how. 
"We need to go to the store," I said.

"What for?"

"We need to pick out a necklace."

"I thought you had taken care of that already."

"It's harder than you think," I replied.  "I don't know what to give to Kendra.  I can't figure it out.  I can't figure any of it out."

Tom slowed down the car.  We were at a red light.  I remember the intersection.
"We're doing the best we can," he said.  "We'll find a necklace."


"Jen, you need to stop feeling so bad about this.  If Kendra gives us her baby, you need to be a mother to that little girl.  You can't go around feeling terrible--it won't be fair to the baby."

I shifted in my seat, considered what Tom was saying.  

I tried to stop worrying about Kendra.  I tried allowing myself to feel excited about the prospect of a new baby in our home.  A little sister for TJ and Sara.  

It felt a bit like trying to live with a multiple personality disorder.  It seemed impossible to integrate my sad feelings for Kendra with any joyful ones about growing our family through adoption. 

And then there was my fear of the biological father too!
"Enough with that," Tom said.  "I really think your anxiety is getting the best of you.  You can't let TJ or Sara hear you talking like that.  You're going to scare them.  They need to feel positive about all this, not terrified."

Tom was right.  I needed to get a grip.  We'd be taking our kids to the hospital later that evening, to meet the baby and Kendra's two sons.  I was looking forward to both families mixing together.  
"Let's go get a necklace," Tom said.  "Everything will be alright."

To be continued...