PAGE # 67

When I imagine the private life of the adoption attorney, it's hard to picture her with any true friends or loved ones.  I see instead a perfect sociopath--not the kind that relishes in the physical mutilation of others--but the kind that enjoys manipulating people for nothing more than the exercise of power and control.  And adoption is a perfect arena for the execution of such a pathological disposition:  all the involved players are likely in some degree of despair, whether in the form of a crisis pregnancy or infertility.  Tom and I were in neither of these fragile predicaments, and this afforded us some strength against Shelley's evil, but the attorney would play with us nonetheless.  

What was the attorney doing this evening of December 20th, 2011?  

One can only imagine.  But if she maintained any sort of diary or personal journal, I imagine the entry from that night reads something like this:

Dear Diary,

I was successful in getting Jennifer and Tom to write a $1500 check for Kendra.  But it was not without effort.  These people are so self-righteous and concerned about what is ethical and fair and other nonsense.  I had to really guilt the husband and plead total and utter desperation on Kendra's behalf!  Sure, she needs the money for her car and all.  But!  More importantly:  I needed to up the adoptive couple's investment in fighting for this baby.  The greater the money spent on this baby, the more time spent with this baby--well, that will improve chances that the couple will behave according to my plan.

Tomorrow I will tell them about the putative father registry.  The biological father did indeed sign it--it is one of the most important steps toward him establishing his paternity and is a necessary one to contest this adoption.  

In fact, he signed the registry a full 8 days prior to the baby's birth!  When I tell Jennifer and Tom tomorrow, it will be a total of 13 days since he signed the registry.  Almost two full weeks!  They may not have taken the baby home in the first place if they had known this little fact. 

I will tell them that I checked with the registry daily--that I've only just learned of this myself.  What choice will they have but to believe me?  They don't know how quickly (or in this case, slowly) things operate in the office of vital statistics!

Yes, tomorrow I will tell them.  And I will handle all their questions and concerns according to my plan.

Remember:  I've done over 2,000 adoptions!  I'm a nationally recognized leader in this industry!  I've made case law!

Cheers to me!

Love myself,
December 20th, 2011


Although this journal entry is a construct of my imagination, and is arguably a paranoid take on things (I cannot prove that Shelley knew about the putative father registration earlier than she claimed to know about it), it feels like it captures the essence of what happened.

What was written for sure that same evening included the beginning of an email correspondence between myself and Kendra.  At exactly 6:01 pm, I sent Kendra the following:

Hi Kendra!

I set up this email account for us--before I write anything more, just confirm that I've got the right email for you and that you have received this message!

Jennifer :)

After pressing send, I checked the email account constantly.  Finally, I breathed a sigh of relief when Kendra wrote back at 6:54 pm:

Got it!

Her reply was only two words--two tiny words!--but I felt better immediately and actually started to break free from my ongoing state of derealization.  The promise of ongoing contact with Kendra enabled me to enjoy Baby Lily--finally! I was feeling less guilty about having Kendra's baby because I felt confident we could do this together.  I imagined future holidays where Lily's natural family would celebrate alongside us.  My fantasy never considered any potential difficulty in this; I did not consider myself the slightest bit presumptuous.  Instead, I started to feel confident in the whole adoption situation.

I went to sleep more easily that night, blissfully ignorant of what I would learn the following day.

To Be Continued...



PAGE # 66
Approximately 10:00 am

The cure for derealization (and weird sex dreams) is moral outrage.  

But that would come later.

First:  more cookies.  With coffee.  Sometimes milk.  Mostly gingerbread, but also the chocolate chip kind.  I gained another three pounds trying to eat myself into feeling more real, as if the added weight on my ass might help ground me.  Fat is one hell of an anchor.  

My mother watched me take down another frosted gingerbread man.

"You know I'm not one to talk, but you're eating way too many cookies," she said.  "We're not going to have any dessert left for Christmas."

"Do you feel like someone died?" I asked.


"I don't know.  I keep thinking about Kendra and how her milk is in but she doesn't have a baby to feed."

My mother sighed.

I started to cry.

"Maybe this will all turn out okay.  Maybe Lily will just have two families and we'll all be at her wedding someday."

"That sounds crazy," my mom replied.  "Two families?  Wouldn't that be confusing for the child?"

"I don't think so.  Not if she grows up knowing her real family all along."

"I don't understand," my mom said.  "You are going to be her real family.  Isn't this baby going to belong to you?"

"It's not the same thing!  She will always have another family too."  I tried to rationalize things.  "You can't have too many people that love you.  Maybe TJ and Sara will end up being jealous.  Maybe it will be even better for Lily in the end."

"You're not making sense.  I don't understand this.  In my day, when you adopted a kid, it was your kid."

"What about Kendra?  Can you imagine her sitting all alone without her baby?"

"I don't want to think about that," my mom admitted.  "God, you're depressing!"

My mother looked more nervous than irritated.

"Nothing feels real," I said.  

"It's real!" my mother jumped up from the couch.  "I'm real!  You're real!  This baby girl is real!  You have a family to care for that is real!  Look, she's already fussing in there," my mother pointed to Lily in the bassinet.  "She's starting to show some personality!  I think she's waking up from her newborn slumber!"

"She needs a bouncy chair.  She needs to be able to look around."

And so, at exactly 10:12 am, I wrote Tom the following text message: 

If you guys can, go to Target and get Lily a baby bouncy chair.  She is waking up from her post delivery slumber!

Tom wrote back:

Sure.  We will do that.  Sara and TJ so cute together in class.  I cannot be happier. 

I could picture Tom seated at The Little Gym, trying to catch up on work email, but glancing up frequently to watch TJ help Sara across the balance beam.  Tom was so content!  He was so able to enjoy everything!  Why didn't he worry like I did?  

Just before leaving the house, he had grabbed Sara's diaper bag, then come over to kiss me goodbye.

"I love having three kids," he whispered in my ear.  "I feel like our family is so complete now."

He loved that baby girl so freely!  He didn't consider his own self-preservation.  It was sheer recklessness.

But Tom never got to Target for the bouncy chair.  Those plans were interrupted by Shelley, the attorney, who called soon after I texted Tom.  Her voice was urgent and commanding:

"Kendra needs money!  She's having a problem with her car and she just got a new job, but how can she get there if she can't drive there?  She needs $1500.  We'll just call it a Christmas present, but you need to do this today.  Either wire me the money or bring a check over right away."

I called Tom immediately.

"I don't like this," he said, his voice rising.  "We're going to be spending money on Lily for the rest of our lives--why should we have to pay for Kendra's car?"

"Shelley said it's a Christmas gift and that it is customary to give a birthmother money at Christmas."

"That's ridiculous!" Tom exploded.  "I wanted to give Kendra money for Christmas if she decided to keep the baby herself!  Why should we give her money if she's not keeping the baby?"

"Shelley said that it's customary to help a birthmother get back on her feet."

"This is bullshit," Tom said.  "And it's not that I don't feel bad for Kendra--it's the principle.  We shouldn't have to pay Kendra because she gave us her baby.  I'm not buying a baby!"  Tom paused to catch his breath.  "Look, I'm gonna call Shelley right now," he said.  "Don't worry about this--I'm taking care of it."

Later, I would ask Jim and Tracey about the money request.

"Is this normal?"

They laughed out loud.

"Are you kidding?  We gave Ricky's birth mom a lot more than $1500 for Christmas.  We gave her a college fund," Jim said.

"And Shelley would call us all the time and tell us what we had to do," Tracey added.  "We would take Ricky's birth mom to the mall shopping for clothes.  We took her out for meals.  Hell, we took her boyfriend out for meals!  Seriously, you guys are getting an easy adoption.  We had to take care of Ricky's birth mother during her pregnancy!  I had to talk to her every day!  I had to talk to her family!  It was crazy."

"Don't you still talk to her?"

"Not really.  In the beginning yeah, but you know, we all moved on.  Look, you're not going to be talking to Kendra all the time.  You'll see.  I mean, I remember when we gave Ricky's birth mom the college money, and she asked us if we'd come to her college graduation someday.  And of course we said yes.  But are we really going to do that someday?  Come on."

"I don't understand.  I thought you guys were having an open adoption?"

"Semi-open," Jim told me.  "It just means that she got to pick us and all, but we don't have a fully open adoption."

"But doesn't she want to see Ricky?" I asked.

"She asked to see him on Skype the last time we talked, maybe six months ago," Tracey said.  "But we told her no--that's a decision that needs to be in Ricky's hands someday.  He needs to be able to decide when and how he meets his birthmother someday.  It's got to be on his terms."

I did not agree with this approach; it made me feel like Ricky's birth mother was now cast aside and being punished.  I would discuss the issue of Ricky's birthmother with Tracey again--at a much later date--months after starting this blog even.  Despite it being none of my business, I'd share my thoughts with Tracey.  She took a moment to think and replied, "Well, maybe we should give Ricky's birth mother a call soon."

It was a small triumph for me--a sliver of redemption.  Because even though my heart was always in the right place--at least I do know that--I also believe that I failed Kendra miserably in the end.  I wish I had done one thing very differently.  But...that part comes later too.

To Be Continued...     



PAGE # 65
Approximately 3:00 am 

I was dreaming about sex.

I saw legs and arms.  Intertwined.  Bare skin.

There was no sound.

It must have been somewhat titillating, at least initially, because when I did finally wake, a layer of arousal was detectable beneath the crushing force of horror.

The sexual imagery, faint at first, had given way to a stark picture:  a man was penetrating a woman, with force, and when their heads turned, I saw Tom and Kendra.  I couldn't tell if they could see me or not; either way, they seemed too preoccupied to care.  

I woke up just after their faces were revealed to me.  

Baby Lily was still asleep--she slept for hours between bottles.  Tom was totally out too.  I could only blame my own brain for disturbing my slumber.  How rude!

I didn't move, my body paralyzed by competing needs:  I felt sexually frustrated on the one hand--my unconscious had teased me into a state of arousal--but had ultimately taunted me with this disturbing image of infidelity.  Tom and our baby's birthmother?

In total contrast to my physical state, was my cognitive one:  What the hell was that?

I could explain the physical response easily enough:  it's normal to have a sexual response to a sexual dream; on the other hand, I could not ignore the psychological implications of such a nightmare.

What did the dream mean?

My analysis then:

My brain was trying to explain the sudden appearance of a baby in our lives.  My body had not created this child, so how was she ours?  The dream, though primitive, created an explanation of how the baby could belong to us (at least to Tom) in an official, biological way.

A more disturbing element of the nightmare was the forcefulness Tom employed during his penetration of Kendra.  Although the dream did not indicate any protest from Kendra, there was an element of rape implicit in the nightmare.  For my unconscious, rape seemed to symbolize taking a baby away from its mother.     

My analysis now:

Although I never felt threatened by Kendra, I cannot ignore the obvious:  dreaming about one's husband with another woman is bound to be about jealousy, at least on some level.   

Since starting this blog, I have become a reader of other adoption related blogs.  I have now learned that many birthmothers, originally promised an open adoption, are later dumped by the adoptive family.  People often speculate that perhaps the adoptive parents are too intimidated by the birth mother; that they don't want to "share" their adopted child with the natural mother.

But, after rethinking this dream--this crazy dream--I offer a new explanation:  I think it is very likely that such adoptive mothers may not want their husbands around this other woman.  As an adoptive mother sees her husband grow to love their adopted child, I think it's entirely possible that she may also resent this other woman--likely younger, more attractive, more fertile--as a potential usurper of her own status as a wife.  I'm not suggesting this actually occurs on a conscious level (although that could also be possible in some cases), but I think it must be hard for an adoptive mother to "share" her husband.  It must be some territorial instinct to get away from this other woman.

Make no mistake:  I'm not condoning the behavior of adoptive parents who renege on their promise of an open adoption.  I think it is tragic for the child and the natural family.  I think it is downright selfish.  I'm merely using my own nightmare, and some analysis of it, to suggest a possible explanation for why some open adoptions turn otherwise.

Perhaps it's an entirely normal phenomenon for adoptive mothers to feel some jealousy toward the birth mother, even on a sexual level (after all, a baby does come from sex!); moreover, because such feelings are likely considered "taboo," it's probable that an adoptive mother never finds a safe place (i.e. good enough therapy) to acknowledge and work through any negative emotions one might be experiencing.  Instead, jealous rage gets acted out, open adoptions close, and birth mothers are denied any and all access to their biological children.

In the story of Baby Lily, our adoption experience ended before I experienced any conscious resentment of Kendra.  Maybe I never would have.  But the passage of time, coupled with the ambivalent nature of the human condition, and mixed in with the challenges inherent in any adoptive family--I'd bet jealously is a common experience in the adoption triad, albeit an unspoken one.

To Be Continued...