My niecelette N coined a new word: nerxcited. It is a state of being both nervous and excited. I wanted to share it because it is the perfect descriptor of how I have been feeling ever since we started down the adoption road. I constantly feel like a kaleidoscope of butterflies have taken up residence in my stomach, living side-by-side with a pit of nervousness.
In other news, I am now suffering from some voluntary sleep deprivation and loving it. I have mentioned before that I work for a company where almost everyone works remotely. A few of my colleagues are in town this week for the Write the Docs conference, which means I have the pleasure of their company. It also means that I get to be an ambassador for this lovely place I call home.
My colleagues are visiting from Phoenix, LA, New Jersey (Philly area) and Toronto. Two of them are vegans and one cannot tolerate gluten. It has been a pleasure to been able to show off the marvelous food options we have here and watch their faces as they enjoy treats not usually available to them.
For example, yesterday we went to Petunia’s Pies and Pastries for lunch. Petunia’s is all vegan and all gluten free so everyone was able to enjoy pretty much everything available. And to Petunia’s credit, there was only one item that had soy in it, which is a rarity in vegan restaurants. After we all gorged on an absolutely delicious meal, we then proceeded to share 3 HUGE slices of cake amongst the 6 of us.
As someone who has dabbled in gluten-free baking, I must publicly recognize that Petunia’s bakers are miracle workers. Their party cake can hold its own next to a glutenful cake. Usually gluten-free baking is regarded as “good” when it can closely approximate its glutenful counterpart. Therefore, a gluten-free baked good that can stand up to its glutenful competition is a truly outstanding feat.
I has been a while since I did the food tourism thing in Portland and had forgotten just how filling it can be. I feel like I have been continuously full for a couple of days now, and I still have at least a couple of more meals to go. Then I have one day of recovery before I head to Chicago and overindulge on that city’s offerings. Although it is Spring, I feel like I will need to go hibernate and digest when I return home from my travels. Unfortunately, the following two weeks are pretty busy so I will neither get the chance to hibernate nor get back into my normal walking schedule.
I know I sound like I am complaining, but really it is just me appreciating the wonderful people in my life and just how much fun they are to be around.
Right now my mind is anything but still. I have unfinished projects (some with looming deadlines), a lot of research to do, friends coming into town, trips to prepare for and then there is the whole getting ready for a baby part of the show. I am a strong proponent of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird practice, so I decided I tackle some discreet tasks this morning while I drank my coffee and hung out with Dancer.
First, I decided to research baby formulas. This was a very poor choice on my part because I was not yet awake enough to deal with the onslaught of guilt-inducing tirades on the importance of breastmilk. I get it. Breastmilk is the best. And if I was having a bio baby, I would choose no other option unless medically required. Although it is possible for adoptive moms to force their bodies to lactate, it is not easy. And I have yet to find a good reference to adoptive moms who have actually managed to pull it off. And unless I can get a prescription from our pediatrician for a breast milk bank (which tend to have very limited supply and distribution is prioritized by medical need), formula is our only option.
Once I managed to wade through the tirades against formula, I discovered that they all contain questionable ingredients. So it is a matter of choosing the best of the worst. I got excited when I read about a European brand that has probiotics (which naturally occur in breast milk), until I read that that brand also high high amounts of aluminum. There is a good second choice option from Europe, but expense aside, I would have to buy it on e-bay. Which in itself feels sketchy.
That pretty much leaves me back with the less-than-stellar US-based options. Where in addition to questionable ingredients, I have to decide whether I want to go with a family-owned manufacturer or not. This is about where I reminded myself that we are not yet in the adoption pool and that I do have some time to ruminate on this issue.
Then I decided to explore travel insurance options. Not sure what I was thinking there either. Adoption/birth are only covered in “cancel for any reason” policies, which are both more expensive than standard travel insurance policies and only cover 75% of trip costs. My favorite caveat is that cancel for any reason coverage requires that you notify the company 48 hours before your trip. So, if we get “the call” less than 48 hours before we leave or if our trip gets interrupted we end up with nothing.
It was at that point that I decided that the time had come for me to step away from the computer. I had actually done a fair amount of work (even if I didn’t like any of the answers I found) and I had to get ready for my acupuncture appointment. My acupuncturist is very skilled at quieting even my busy mind, so the timing could not be better. Plus, Dancer had just left my lap to go harass his brother, so I snatched my opportunity to get up and go.
Last week was fairly tough for me emotionally, but I seem to be over the worst of it. In fact, I even got out and walked yesterday and it seems very likely I will get out today as well. If for no other reason then I need my bike tomorrow and the tires need some air. They are not low enough that I couldn’t just use my own air pump, but the pressure gauge is broken and that seems like a useful thing to know when pumping up one’s tires.
Speaking of bikes, I think we have finally hit on something that will get David to ride with me. A child. We live in a very bike-friendly neighborhood a block from bike boulevard and an elementary/middle school. So every day we see parents on bikes with their kids. The bikes being ridden range from large cargo bikes to regular bikes with a kid seat on the back. And while it will be a long time from the time a baby is placed with us before we would take her out on a bike, it is the first time in almost 17 years that David has volunteered any interest in getting out on his bike. I see that as major progress.
The purge has kind of stalled because of last week’s wane in mojo. But I am going to Chicago for Memorial Day and I have some colleagues* coming in this weekend, so I kind of feel like I need to do double-duty this week. On the flip side, the week is already pretty packed with an adoption support group meeting, theater and David’s writing group. That being said, this is still the most free time I will have for a good long while, so I will just find a way to make it work.
I have recently read that purging works best in shortish (15-30 minute) increments. My MO tends to be setting aside a big chunk of time (2-6 hours) and just digging in. Maybe I will try the short chunk of time method this week and see how far it gets me. I am not optimistic given both the amount of clutter we have and the amount we are trying to get rid of, but I am open to being proven wrong on this. I know David would certainly prefer to do his share of the work in smaller chunks of time.
*Can I just add how incredibly fortunate I am that I have the kind of colleagues that I am super excited to get to hang out with? I will get to see even more of them while I am in Chicago. In fact, they are the reason that I am going to Chicago.
Last night I went to go see Listen to Your Mother at the Alberta Rose Theater. The audience was almost the exact reverse of what I see at tech events. The room was filled with women with a few token men scattered throughout the audience. I can’t remember the last time I was in a room with that particular gender configuration, which says a lot about where I choose to spend my time. But I digress.
While I was waiting for the show to begin, it became obvious (although not at all surprising) that I was surrounded by mothers. I was there alone and didn’t know the WiFi password, so I mostly just sat there and eavesdropped. The chatter in my immediate vicinity was primarily women either expressing relief at getting a night out with friend or sharing an anecdote about their child(ren).
The show was comprised of 13 mothers telling stories of motherhood. All but one spoke about their own experience as mothers. The exception was a woman telling her story about being the daughter of an abused mother.
Personally, I felt uncomfortable during the readings. Like I was intruding on someone else’s private space. The audience was vocal with their recognition of the joys and challenges of motherhood while I sat there mute.
What I am feeling is not at all related to my feelings of competence around parenthood. I feel like I am as prepared for that as anyone can possibly be. My issue is that I feel like a poseur around parents. Which is particularly unnerving because I felt perfectly comfortable with my friends who are parents before we initiated the adoption process.
There seems to be something about the process of becoming a parent that has me feeling like an “other.” Like I am no longer simply a woman without children. I am now a woman embarking on a journey towards parenthood. And that has left me feeling awkward and uncertain about where I fit in.
Let me be abundantly clear that my friends who are parents have embraced me during this process. At no point have I felt lesser than or excluded by any of them. And I am 100% confident that they will welcome my child into our community with open arms. The issue lies entirely with me. I am the one feeling like a fraud.
All of the adoption books I have read have mentioned the importance of support groups during the adoption process. And to be completely frank, I was confident that I would not need one. They were obviously talking about other people. But I am now beginning to understand the wisdom of finding a support group to help me (and us) through this transitional period. It makes me genuinely curious to know if other prospective parents are feeling the way I am.
Lately I have been feeling really down and insecure. A friend (who is also an adoptive mom) is attributing my moodiness to hormones. And there is data to back her up. Apparently, it is not uncommon for adoptive parents (and yes, I do mean parents. The data shows that fathers-to-be also have hormonal changes during a partner’s pregnancy) to experience hormonal shifts while waiting for placement as well as once the baby comes home. I keep trying to remind my endocrine system that it is being too proactive because we aren’t even in the adoption pool yet. But so far I have seen no changes.
I know there are many things I can do to make myself feel better. Walking is the obvious one. But starting this evening, my life starts getting busy for a while. And I am hoping that all of the distractions in my future will kick me out of my funk. Which will be nice because just sitting at home on the couch cuddling with Dancer is not working for me right now.
I was feeling even worse yesterday (and even wrote a very whiny post that will never see the light of day), but my usual antidepressant bolstered my mood. One of my niecelettes, N, lost a tooth. And how can I not feel better when I get sent a picture of one of my favorite 7-year-olds showing off the new gap in her mouth?
And then, a few hours later I got to Facetime with both girls. And there is no time in the past 7 years when talking to one or both girls hasn’t given my mood a boost. And yesterday was no exception. It started with my brother reading me a composition by A where she wrote about how N is her most important friend. And then the two of them showed me a dance that they had choreographed themselves.
Obviously these girls are two of the greatest joys in my life. And it thrills me to no end that they are excited to meet their new cousin when she arrives. Especially A, who was extolling the virtues of cute babies yesterday! It reminds me of how I felt when my baby brother (aka their father) came home from the hospital when I was about a year younger than the girls are now. It was truly one of the most thrilling days of my life.
I wish I could put moments like these in a box where so I could re-experience them from time to time when I need them. The niecelettes may not know it, but I am going to be relying on them in the weeks and months to come as we wait to be matched. They are the perfect reminder of why we are going through this process at all.
Many of my recent posts have been about what I need to give up or let go of during or because of the adoption process. But there is plenty that I want to hang on to.
I have many good models of parents who have remained friends with folks without kids (as well as people like myself who have plenty of friends with kids), so I know that I don’t need to become that annoying parent who can only talk about their kid’s poop. But ever since David and I have announced that we are adopting, I have been invited into the not-so-secret world of parents.
I have been hearing from a wide range of friends, some new and some long-cherished, all eager to share their experiences with me. And the best part is that not one of them has said “this is the way to do things,” which is in complete opposition to every baby book I have read recently (which is a lot). Most of them have recommended their favorite parenting book to me (which is why I am reading so many), but they have also been very clear that each child is different and what worked for their kid may or not work for mine.
I have spent enough of my adult life reading about developmental psychology to know that there is no one way to do things. But I have also read enough to know that there are some parents out there who are completely convinced that they have unlocked the secret to perfect parenting. And kudos to them if they have. I’m just not convinced that what works perfectly for their kid(s) will work perfectly for mine. But fortunately for me, my friends have a different perspective and for that I am grateful.
And speaking of friends, a couple of them without kids have expressed their own concerns to me about how our relationship is going to change when the baby comes along. And as with my niecelettes, I am mourning that inevitable change as well. But I take it as a good sign that they have felt comfortable enough in our friendship to express their concerns to me. So coming back full circle to the beginning of this post, I will do my best continue to place a high priority on my friendships with non-parents and parents alike. Because in all honesty, there is no way I am going to be able to pull this off without them having my back.
Another piece of wisdom I have received from friends who are parents is to use this transitional period before parenthood to ready myself for my new role. I can already feel a major identity shift coming on and for the most part I am very much looking forward to it. But there are some pieces of who I am now that I am having trouble letting go of. The most difficult one is silly aunt Eva.
I have said many times before that I see the biggest difference between being an aunt and being a parent is that I can give 100% of my energy to my nieces and niecelettes. I can do so simply because I have the luxury of going home to recover from the energy expenditure. Whereas parents need to always retain a bit of a reserve for whatever unexpected events lay in wait. Whether those events are a temper tantrum, a sick child or simply a child refusing to go to sleep, parents need some kind of reserve to draw from.
For the past 7 years, the wallpaper on my my laptops and mobile devices has always been a picture of my niecelettes. Yesterday, I realized that (hopefully sooner rather than later), my future daughter will always appear front and center on all of my devices. David is convinced that I will be so in love with our daughter that I will not mourn the displacement of my niecelettes. I suspect he is right. But we are not there yet and for now, I am sad at the prospect of losing the image of my niecelettes’ beautiful faces greeting me on almost every screen I look at daily.
I am also kind of dreading the prospect of my relationship with my niecelettes changing. I am sure my niecelettes both understand that right now they are the most important children in my life. (this is not to dis my nieces, who I also love dearly, I just don’t get to see them as often as I would like, which is unfortunate). And I strongly suspect that they understand that this will change when the new baby arrives. This seems to be ok with them. But at least for now, it is not ok with me.
Don’t get me wrong. I have no intention of disappearing from my niecelettes’ lives. I plan to continue talking to them on the phone or video chat and I even hope to continue seeing them on a regular basis (although I suspect my visits will be less frequent). I know in my heart that there will be an inevitable shift in our relationship. I also know that this shift will be both natural and appropriate. But at least for the moment, that makes me sad.
That is also why I hope to be able to squeeze in at least one more visit with my niecelettes before the baby arrives. It will be our first visit since the girls learned that David and I were adopting. I see it as an opportunity for me to have one last time when I am just their silly aunt Eva and they still get 100% of everything I have to offer them.
And after that, who knows? Because as much as I mourn the change in my own relationship with my niecelettes, I am even more excited to introduce them to their new first cousin whenever she comes into our lives.
Lately several of my friends have been giving me the exact same advice. In a nutshell, they are all saying do everything I want to do now because soon my flexibility and mobility will be seriously compromised for a good long while. I don’t tend to go out much anymore for a what I thought were fairly legitimate reasons, but now that I am looking for excuses to do things, it seems like most of my excuses were bogus.
Excuse # 1: There is nothing out there that I want to do– This is the worst excuse ever. And I am ashamed to admit that this was the most common excuse I used. There is a ton of stuff happening in Portland. I just was too lazy to do the research to find out what and where. In the next few months, I now have tickets to see a storytelling event, Kids in the Hall, Phantom of the Opera and Wicked. We also went to go see a very good local production of Grease yesterday. And while we were out, we discovered a new brew pub that we had never been to.
Excuse #2: I already travel so much and tickets are too expensive, I can just wait to see my friends: I have an opportunity to see several friends and colleagues in Chicago in May. I went back and forth on the trip for a little while after seeing that it would cost me more to get to Chicago than it often costs me to go to New York. But ultimately, I decided that it won’t likely ever be as easy as it is for me to travel as it is now, and I can afford the ticket. My only issue was sticker shock. So I booked my ticket and I remain glad that I did.
I am also not-so-secretly hoping to get to see my niecelettes at least once more before the baby arrives. I am feeling a sense of loss associated with my transition away from just getting to be their aunt and always being able to give them my full time and attention. But that is a post for another day.
Excuse #3: I am too old to stay out very late and/or go to venues without seating: Sadly, this excuse remains valid. Just because I am eagerly signing up for a indeterminate amount of sleep deprivation doesn’t mean that I should start on that now. Case in point. I would love, love, love to see They Might Be Giants here on May 8th. But the show doesn’t start until 9pm, and they always have an opening band, so they likely won’t hit the stage until 10pm. By 10, I am almost always asleep. Plus, the standing for 3+ hours will add to my exhaustion. I will just have to wait and hope that I will luck into one of their kids shows in New York (future daughter is not necessarily required for this excursion) or play one of their kids shows here.
So, if you are asking me to hang out with you any time before my future daughter makes her appearance and I turn you down, feel free to bust me and make me justify my reasoning.
In the past couple of days a couple of folks have commented on the optimism in my posts about the adoption process. David seems particularly committed to making sure I have a realistic handle on the potential timeline before we are matched with a birthmother. I have to concede David’s point, especially since he will be the one that has to deal with any potential emotional meltdowns if the waiting drags on longer than I think I can bear.
However, I would like to think that I can hold both an optimistic and realistic view in my mind simultaneously. I do recognize that the timeline is completely out of my control. But at the same time, I like to take comfort in the idea that my future daughter is already in utero somewhere. This dual mindset is not new to me. Let me pull an example from the completely opposite end of the life cycle. I don’t really believe in an afterlife. But at the same time I take comfort in the idea that the people (and cats) I love are enjoying themselves wherever they are.
It makes me happy to imagine Phyllis and Marvin reunited somewhere. I particularly like to picture her greeting him with open arms. And I love the idea that Didi (my first cat) has been reunited with his 3 siblings and his first human, Gwenda. In the image in my mind, she is wandering freely and no longer tethered to her oxygen tank. When I am feeling mischievous*, I like to imagine Didi wandering off to find my father and sit on his lap while my father reads the paper. Because if there is one thing I am sure of, it is that given his druthers, my father would spend eternity with a New York Times open in front of him.
Coming back to the present reality, I am fully aware that I am walking a fine line between unrealistic expectations and optimism. But in this situation I think context really matters. Until recently I had reconciled myself to never being a parent. And I was ok with that. In fact, I enjoyed the freedom of being childless. Never mind that I used a not insignificant amount of that freedom to go east and dote on my niecelettes. I had the luxury being an aunt and not dealing with any of the challenges of parenting two smart, energetic girls.
But for reasons that I will not discuss publicly, my life has recently taken a 180. And even though the shift has me going in a new direction that I am beyond thrilled to be heading in, I am still dealing with the whiplash of that change. So I think I deserve to be cut some slack because no matter how long the adoption process takes, it will end with me as a parent. A role that I thought I would never take on. And as eager as I am for the waiting process to be as short as possible, even if it takes a year or more, it will still happen sooner than I would have thought even 6 months ago.
*My father always swore that he disliked my cats. However, despite his protestations, my father could often be found reading the paper absentmindedly petting Didi.
I remember when I first learned the meaning of the word anticipation. Back in the dark ages (sometimes referred to as the ’70s), there was a Heinz ketchup commercial that used Carly Simon’s song. Given the music my mother listened to, I am sure I had heard it a million times before then, but it probably never occurred to me to think about the lyrics or what they meant.
Obviously, for anyone who has even glanced at this blog recently, anticipation has become kind of a mantra around here. But I am not the only one going through a significant life transition. There are people very close to me who are waiting on life-altering news of their own. Not that everything has to be about me, but this morning I realized that focusing on their transitions is a welcome distraction to my on perseverating brain.
The adoption process is progressing at its own pace. There is nothing I can do at this stage of the game but wait. The ball is very firmly in other people’s courts and there is very little that I can do to expedite that process. And the little that I can do, I won’t. Because that would involve nudging people who are doing extraordinary acts of kindness for us. So right now any distraction is a welcome one. I don’t really believe that sending a desire out into the universe will help make it so. But, I also figure that a little extra push never hurt anybody. [See how I carefully skirted any discussion of theology there?] So instead of spending my time envisioning what I hope my life will look like in a few months, I am focussing my attention on those I care about.
I was listening to a Freakonomics podcast yesterday on my walk on the most effective ways to get people to make charitable contributions. The bottom line is that people give out of self-interest. That self-interest can be big, like caring about someone who has a disease that you want cured. Or it could be just wanting that uplifting feeling you get when doing something good.
I see a parallel between the podcast and my own situation. I am wanting something to focus on so I may as well direct my attention to something good. Because in the long run, it will make me feel very good if things work out well for the people I care about.