Here’s Where I Start To Confess

She’s Not Sleeping

But that’s nothing new. Our daughter didn’t start snoozing “through the night” (i.e. for 6 hours) until nine months. What’s new is losing the one thing we had going for us…her fall-asleep-fast by 7 p.m.. It’s gone. I’m not sure whether it’s tummy issues, a recent trip, the heat, or having a cold, but the past month has been…there’s just no nice word. “It sucks” is moderate, but not adequate.

After two to three hours of singing, rocking, cajoling, and every-baby-whisperer-trick-we-know, she passes out only to pop back up again after a few hours.

I Don’t Want to Complain

I get that sleep is this THING. I’m not here to swap war stories, because, frankly, with only one child under a year old, I know I’ll lose. I read your blogs, moms: I know.

What makes me tired-upon-tired is the bigger reason I don’t complain: I’m an adoptive mom. Grateful and maybe chagrined or determined, I can be those things. But end-of-rope-tear-spilling-weary? Nope.

I Know What You’ll Say

Oh, sure, you’ll write nice comments (I hope) and tell me how an adoptive mom is like any other mom, and that we are ALL bone weary. But I don’t believe you. I know better.

And you, adoptive mamas, I think you do, too. Even if we aren’t supposed to admit it. There’s a higher standard:

Our own.

It started with the home study, right? When we had to select pictures of ourselves, and few of them were good enough? And then the letter we had to write. And then, the match interview, or interviews, and meetings. And the way we worried about what to wear to the hospital? Casual, but not sloppy. Motherly but not so motherly it seemed we were making assumptions.

This is Where I Start to Confess

And then, just when we think we’re done, there’s the parenting part. The open adoption part.river
The visits, meetups. Our house, the park, parties. Hosting. Welcoming and open-armed. Making space for everyone, for family-of-origin misunderstanding and ignorance, for birth family nervousness and grief. Holding everyone around the child together.

And through it all, being real and vulnerable, but not so vulnerable you can say all the secret things you think: about how you are so tired.

About how no one said it was this hard. Precisely THIS hard.

How Adoption is Different

Being an adoptive mom is no different than being a…what’s the right word…normal/standard/usual/expected mom. Every new normal/standard/usual/expected mom is exhausted, and shocked to discover exactly how tired she feels.

But those moms get to complain. And I don’t feel like I can.

Because I’m the lucky one. The million-in-one-chance-someone-chose-you-so-don’t-mess-it-up one.

And So I Tell Myself:

Your child needs you to be present, not wallowing in selfishness.

Your child needs you because your child is separated from her first mother, the one who was normal/standard/usual/expected until she chose you.

And you are standing in the gap of that loss, for both of them. You are the one in the river of need up to your neck, holding the tiny hand of the child and the hand of the mom and the hands of the families, and they are all depending on you to keep your head above water.

Don’t you dare, for one second, drown.

The point of writing this now…

is not to elicit sympathy or praise. Or speak for all adoptive mamas. Or make us seem heroic (god forbid). Or, in any way, even the smallest, minimize how hard it is for the moms who chose adoptive parents to raise their children. Or imply that open adoption is a bad choice because it is “too hard.”

The point is just to admit that I’m tired, and to let you see me.

It’s Brené Brown’s Fault

She said to be real is to risk being seen.

My what-would-I-do-without-her adoptive mama friend says that I should get a T-Shirt that reads “where I come from, there’s shame.” And she’s right: it’s shame of being found out that keeps me quiet and makes it worse.

I’m ashamed of my weariness and deeply afraid that you’ll read this and think me selfish or ungrateful or self-aggrandizing or entitled or callous or broken.

So Here I Am

If to be real is to risk being seen, then here I am. I’m an adoptive mom. And I’m tired of adoption. I’m tired of what it adds, for me, because of MY standards (which are my own problem, I know) to the daily life of parenting.

I just want to show up and tell you this, and risk your reaction.

For although I am ashamed of my tiredness and my inability to own it, I am also determined to stand in that river and BRING IT with all that I have, to claim all that I am, even the parts that work against me and make me weep.

It Isn’t About Me (thank goodness!)

graduationRecently I celebrated a big achievement in my life. My friends and chosen family cheered for me. And even though I knew, in advance, that I wasn’t likely to get a congratulatory gift, or card, or call, from my family of origin, it still hurt. Still does hurt.

I am the lesbian daughter of conservative evangelical southern Baptists. The complexities of parent-child disappointment are not lost on me. I know it exists on both sides, that the hurt runs both ways.

But this was a BIG achievement.

As I talked myself through my tears on the morning of commencement, I heard myself say: Maybe I didn’t work hard enough. Maybe I did it wrong. Maybe it isn’t really much to be proud of. None of that sounded true, but it felt right.

Then I remembered a conversation I’d had earlier in the week…

We were sitting around the kitchen table, eating our tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches (is there a better lunch in the world?) and talking about Father’s Day. We talked about being a mom-only household. And we wondered about how our daughter will navigate the role her birth father has (hasn’t) played in her childhood.

I said: it is hard for kids to understand that the actions of adults in their life aren’t about them, the child. It takes growing up to realize that when your parents let you down, it isn’t about you. It’s about them.

So on the morning of my big achievement, I remembered that conversation, and I realized: I think it is about ME, but it’s not. What really hurts is feeling like I don’t deserve to be celebrated, because I am wrong, or shameful, or not-good-enough.

Some small but vital gear of hope and understanding clicked into place, and the complex clock-like mechanism that regulates my emotional balance and well-being began whirring again in a very reassuring way. I pulled myself back, and I looked again.

What do I honestly think about me? I think I rock. I think I did a really good job, not just according to arbitrary educational standards, but according to MY standards, which matters way more. I showed up. I took risks. I was brave. And I saw people respond to me, I saw the way my work made them think and question.

So while my heart is still a little sore, I know for certain that the lack of celebration isn’t about me. It is about my family of origin, and that difficulty we have, on both sides, of seeing and valuing each other when our values are so different.

The best part about this? The reason I’m writing about it now?

Well, the super-awesome thing is this: if I keep learning to become, as Brene Brown would say, shame resilient, then I can model that for our daughter.

So on Father’s Days to come, if and when my daughter wonders why a member of her family doesn’t celebrate her, I can embody for her what it means to claim your own life, celebrate your own value, and cheer for yourself because YOU KNOW, deep-down, that you are amazing.

Because our daughter IS amazing. And so am I.

But She’s Just a Machine

I didn’t even want the thing. My ex bought it. I worked overtime for YEARS to pay it off. Now I’m selling it. Finally.

And I’m sad. Not just a little sad. Tears. TEARS. Over a CAR. Ok, a Jeep. But still…a machine.

I spent last Saturday presenting my thesis. My master’s thesis. A degree five years in the making. I cried a little at the end. Relief and a bit of fear over the future. Those tears made sense.

But this car thing confuses me. Granted, I have heard that GUYS cry over cars. Quick little tears squeezed from the corners of their eyes that they don’t let us see. But I’m not a guy. I know very little about how cars work. I’m intimidated about fixing them. So what is my DEAL?

I guess maybe there’s that Velveteen Rabbit thing.

Jeepie

Jeepie

After I moved to the Midwest to be with my ex, I drove the Jeep to work every morning. Homesick and lonely among cornfields and NASCAR, the Jeep was my friend then, my only one.

I was driving the Jeep when I realized my ex was having an affair.

I was driving the Jeep when I crossed the state line back into Oregon..HOME.

I was driving the Jeep when I started going to poetry readings (to read my poems out loud, for the first time ever), and then to promote my chapbook when it was published.

I was driving the Jeep when I started dating again, navigating through new relationships, making new friends.

This many years into my new life, the one I rebuilt a decade (a decade!!) ago, I think I forgot. I forgot how scared I was back then, being on my own for the first time since college. I forgot what it was like to move back into my own life, reclaim the self I’d given away, trying to be someone else’s perfect something.

So yeah, I guess, maybe cars can be real. When they are the body that carries us through fear, loneliness, and meeting ourselves again for the first time in a long time, then maybe they are real.

lifted-jeep

Jeepie’s Second Life

If I had processed all this yesterday, I would have asked more for the Jeepie when I listed her on Craigslist.

Within two hours of my ad going up, I had three calls, two emails, and a guy standing in my driveway with a roll of cash in his hand. They are going to lift her, give her big tires, and take her out adventuring.

I hope they are kind. I told the guy who bought her: Be good to her. He promised. But I felt guilty, so I made him promise again. And again.

And I was grateful for that guy thing, the quick little tears that we don’t have to mention.

Goodbye, Jeepie, and thank you. I hope you like your new life as much I like mine.