PAGE # 86
Just Before Bedtime

After a busy day with the kids and Tom's parents, I was eager to go to sleep, but I sat down to write an email to Kendra instead.  It was her birthday, and I'd been thinking about her all day.  This is the email I sent Kendra at exactly 9:51 pm:

Happy Birthday!

I'm pretty sure the paperwork said it is your 25th birthday today!  Happy Birthday from all of us!

It sounds like you guys had a great time on vacation.  Did they decorate really well for Christmas?  It must be lovely there during the holidays.

The coupons you mentioned would be great, thanks!  The next time I see Shelley, I will bring that photo album we got for you, along with some photos of Lily.  Then, you can just add future photos to the album.  I have to tell you, she is an eating machine!  She is already almost nine pounds.  Moreover, I think she is a future Olympian athlete.  I have never in all my life seen a stronger baby.  She is lifting her head all the time and even grabs the nipple and aims it right into her mouth!  She is super coordinated already.  She even looks like she is ready to scoot across the floor when we do tummy time with her.  I'm telling you:  future gold medalist!

Sara and TJ are really enjoying her.  Sara absolutely loves watching her get her diaper changed.  TJ is great with feedings, not so much diapers!  Everyone is simply thrilled.  My in laws met her for the first time today.  They came straight here from the airport.  They said she is a beautiful baby, and I told them she looks just like you. 

I hope you are doing well.  I think about you and your boys all the time.  Our son asks about you too and he says hello.  I think you have left a profound impact on him for the rest of his life.  This experience seems to have matured him, as I'm sure it has all of us, in ways that leave him well beyond his peers.  

I also hope that the trip with your in laws went well.  In laws are never easy, even under the best circumstances!  My friends and I all joke that we should co-write a book about what NOT to do to a daughter/son in law, so at least we will have a written reminder for when we are in that role someday.

By the way, please tell your mom that her story (how her birth mom took 8 years to start a relationship with her after your mom found her) was an inspiration for one of my best friends.  Also adopted, she found her birth mom a few years ago, but after initial contact, the mom declined any future type of correspondence/relationship.  Your mom's story gave her hope, that maybe her birth mom will come around too someday.  It's really amazing how this adoption story is touching the lives of so many people around us in so many different ways.  I hope that people around you, unlike that one friend you mentioned on the phone, are responding to your experience in all this with grace, love & support.  Perhaps you will even inspire someone else to not get an abortion and to choose adoption.  You never know how far reaching your impact can be on others.

One last thing--I'm so happy that we got to spend the time we did together in the hospital.  I think Lily is very fortunate that we were able to connect and share her birth experience together.  

Hope you ate a delicious piece of birthday cake!


At the time this email was composed, I see now that I was beginning to deviate from the social worker's script:  I start off with the more mundane details of feeding and diapers, but then I start sharing more personal subject matter--that I think about Kendra and hers sons all the time, that my son is having an emotional reaction to the adoption placement, and that I've thought more about our time together in the hospital.  I was interested in an authentic and continuous relationship with Kendra and her boys, and I can see here, that I am beginning to share more of my true feelings.

Of course, how I felt about things then, are altogether different from how I feel about things now.  For instance, my opinion on PAPs being present in the hospital and even pre-birth matching has entirely changed.  I now think such methods in newborn adoption are coercive and unethical. 

To Be Continued...



PAGE # 85
Tuesday to Wednesday
12/27/11 to 12/28/11
From one day to the next...

My mom left Tuesday evening.  She took the latest flight possible back to New York, and her departure signaled not merely the end of the Christmas holiday, but also the approaching end of the entire holiday season.  The new year was imminent, and a few days thereafter marked the final day on which Lily's biological father could contest the adoption.  Since we hadn't heard anything further regarding Bobby the bio-dad, the hypervigilance that guarded my heart seemed to soften slightly, and Lily began to feel more and more like a permanent family member.

We barely had the chance to feel my mother's absence on Wednesday morning, because Tom's parents returned home that very day.  They had been off traveling the world, I cannot recall where, as they never stay home for more than two consecutive weeks at a time.  At any given moment, they are likely en route to someplace other than home; in fact, it's hard to even call their nearby apartment a "home" outside of legal purposes; after all, they must claim permanent residency somewhere.

And so, almost two weeks after Lily's birth, my in-laws were coming to meet her.  On the day we brought her home from the hospital, my father-in-law called with a congratulatory remark followed by an apology:  "Sorry we are not around for this."  To which Tom had replied, "Don't worry, we're used to it."  I listened for traces of bitterness in Tom's voice, but there were none.  "We're used to it," was a matter of fact for Tom.  The statement was not intended to convey any underlying hurt feelings toward his parents.  

When Sara was born, Tom's parents had been out of the country on a vacation.  They were not around the two weeks she had spent in the neonatal intensive care unit.  Their absence from significant life events never seems to bother Tom; he merely shrugs it off, as if expecting otherwise would be akin to betting on a nonexistent number at the roulette wheel.  He's a practical man.   

When they arrived, my mother-in-law took to Baby Lily with much enthusiasm and warmth.  She held her for hours, snuggled her, fed her--I was surprised but grateful.  This same woman had scrunched her nose in disgust when Jim and Tracey had adopted Ricky, saying, "I could never do it.  I couldn't love it."

I watched her gazing at Lily's face.  She couldn't get over Lily's beauty, and this seemed to please her very much.  When I showed my mother-in-law a picture of Kendra, the natural mother, there was a gasp, followed by, "I cannot believe it!  She is gorgeous.  Like a supermodel!"

My father-in-law nodded in agreement.  "She is very pretty and the baby is very pretty too, but Sara will always be the number one granddaughter."

I could have pointed out that family is not a competition, but I didn't.  And maybe the truth about all families is that competition is inevitable, lurking beneath achievements and disappointments, carried by sibling rivalry, reinforced by parents across all cultures.  I felt powerless to stop a dynamic that was already unraveling:  Lily might be adored or praised, but she would always be considered inferior to our other children.  I wondered if Lily might have been better off in a family that had no biological children in the home.  

Just as I was doubting Lily's placement with us, my mother-in-law said, "You are so lucky, Jen.  Two kids are not enough.  Three kids is a perfect family.  All of my friends with less than three wish they had more now.  I'm telling you, three is the best amount."

My mother-in-law held Lily all day.  I took a shower, caught up on some household tasks, played with Sara.  Once in a while, I'd peek in to check on Lily and my mother-in-law would smile saying, "I just love babies."

This was such a surprise.  I could not recall her gushing and cooing over TJ or Sara like that.  But then it hit me:  I never let her hold TJ and Sara like that.  I never gave her the opportunity.  I clung to my own flesh and blood fiercely and selfishly.  I didn't share my babies easily.  Not with anyone, really, except for Tom. 

I was not the same mother with Lily.  I was a different mother, an inferior mother.  In a later conversation with Zeni, one of my two best friends, she asked me if it felt different to adopt.  And all I could say was, "I don't know yet.  I'm not sure if I'm protecting my heart from a possible loss, or if I'm going to feel less love for Lily forever."

To Be Continued...