10.11.2013

# 85: THE OTHER (PROSPECTIVE ADOPTIVE) GRANDPARENTS


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...

5 comments:

Jay Iyer said...

Another beautiful post, Jennifer - so glad you are continuing the story. It really is a tribute of love for Lily.

Jennifer said...

Hi there Jay,

Thanks. It's been tough for me to get back to writing after the final Veronica Brown outcome. I can't even address it yet in writing. It made me physically ill.

Hope you are doing well.

Best,
Jennifer :)

Jay Iyer said...

Dear Jennifer,

I could well imagine your difficulty in carrying on. The Veronica Brown case impacted many of us like no other and I still feel emotionally drained that it is possible to effect a legal adoption in this country, in this manner. But more stories such as yours need to be told, if we are to see serious adoption reform. So thank you for continuing the story.

I am well but, as I said, feeling this lack of energy and some amount of hopelessness at what has happened. I plan to send Dusten and Robin Brown a personal note - but after a while, after I have worked through my emotions to some degree. I tried to stay away from his last press conference as I was pretty sure what was coming, but of course I couldn't. And I cried, buckets, as I knew I would.

Best to you and your family,
Jay

Evan Riley said...

I was so excited to find this post! I truly cannot wait for your next post!! I have been crushed by the Veronica case also. As a first mother I was curled on the couch crying after watching Dusten crying during the press conference this week. The adoption agency that finalized the adoption is the same agency that did my son's adoption and they did some pretty dirty stuff to me and the father of my son. The whole thing just ate me up in so many ways. I've been trying to move on to baby Desirai now who is in a similar situation and hope to see change with this case.

Jennifer said...

Jay--

Exactly--there is so much to process and I too want to mail a letter to Dusten and Robin.

Evan--

I am so sorry for your loss. I'm glad at least there is a place online for everyone who has been negatively impacted by the adoption industry.

Thanks for stopping by,
virtual hugs,
Jennifer :)