You Know What’s Weird?

Being in therapy is helping me notice what motherhood is teaching me. Emotional things. The other stuff: how to hold eight things with two fingers, open a car door with your chin, and put a diaper on a baby who is simultaneously climbing the blinds above her changing table and chewing on her handmade turtle mobile…that is kind of happening without me thinking about it overly much.

chickenglass

http://www.savagechickens.com/

The emotional stuff is both more obvious and more sneaky. Little changes in my emotional temperature (I meant to say temperament, but temperature is right on). Like being very rooted in the present, because NOW is pretty much all I can handle. Accepting limits to my energy, ability, and schedule: check. Letting it just be what it is: yep. Do I have any choice?

I used to take pride in being a pessimist/realist. My sister and I have a joke. Some people say the glass is half full, some say it is half empty. We say: sometimes THERE IS NO GLASS. Sometimes the glass is lost. Broken. Incapable of holding liquid. Unavailable for reasons unknown.

The other day (in & after therapy) I found myself uttering strange words. I said: maybe everything is ok. Like really, for-reals ok, not just “ok-for-now” or “ok-until” or “ok-if.” I talked about how life is beautiful, the bitter-sweet magic of it. I said that perhaps expecting dire consequences is something I was trained into. I always thought pessimism was hard-wired into my cells, a pervasive mitochondrial cynicism.

But now, with this mommy path I’m on, I wonder.

I have graham cracker paste caked in my hair. The cat’s food was combined with sippy cup water to make stew and is congealing at the foot of the stairs. Every single kleenex in the box (how do they fit so many in there?) has been ripped and scattered across the floor in a blizzard of downy soft goodness.

And I’m good. I mean, mostly. (Except when I’m watching the clock and texting my wife to find out just exactly how bad traffic might be on the Banfield.)

But I’m way better than I expected.

All I have to do is look at her face. (Ok, sometimes I have to look twice. But that’s about it.)

I look at our daughter’s face and feel it roll over me like a sneaker wave, a surging tide of exasperation and joy that realigns my priorities while pinning my face firmly to the glittering, suffocating sand. The metaphor’s a bit faulty but you see what I mean: this being with her, being her mom, it’s what matters.

Sometimes the momblogoverse can seem like a contest: for the most disgusting mishap involving excrement, the most sentimental epiphany of it’s-all-worth-it, all rolled into one god-awful-awe-inspiring day. I don’t like that competitive feeling but I do deeply appreciate the invitation to write in nap-long (20-minute) or wow-she’s-still-sleeping-type-faster (45-minute) increments. Writing and reading and commenting nourishes me, even if the majority of my comments never get published because laptop-buttons-are-irresistible-i-MUST-push-them-and-also-chew-on-the-cord is happening.

Therapy is a lot like blogging. I get to notice how I’m doing.

And lately, shockingly, I am noticing all the good stuff.

Know what’s weird? I have a glass. With disgusting baby back wash in it and no ice because someone ate/lost/relocated my ice. But still, a glass. I have a glass.

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What’s good in your life? I love hearing from you!

In the Tangled Thick of It

Arya Stark of Winterfell

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and I’ve missed this space. I’ve been busy chasing a one-year-old toddler reading the Game of Thrones. After five years of graduate school, it is such a pleasure to lose myself in reading-for-fun.

But so many people are dying, or almost dying, betrayed, bloody or lost, in these books. It is a bit dizzying. Arya is my favorite character. She is ten years old, orphaned (we think), and her home is a smoldering, ransacked ruin. She is presently at sea, on her way to a country she has never seen and knows little about. I adore her.

My father always said, “expect the worst and you’ll never be disappointed.” That quit working for me about a decade ago. I’d rather expect the best — of myself, of life, of others.

But the best, the list of all the things I want to be and do, is so long. It isn’t just that I don’t have the time or money. I don’t have the energy. When did I get so old?

The Game of Thrones novels are thick, the stories long and twisting. Sometimes, reading, I get tired. Part of me imagines the conclusion — all ends tied, all journeys completed. But then I settle back in, content to travel, ready to be dismayed, excited, surprised, afraid, elated. I am so hopeful for Arya, even though she has been through so much and is so far from home. She is fiercer than she looks. I know she will do well.

Each morning as I drag myself out of bed, I am glad to hear my daughter’s voice. Within an hour, I am tired, yes, but that’s not all I am. I am fiercer than I look, too.

I want to know that I will do well — today, tomorrow, next year. Not always. I make plenty of mistakes. But I expect great things of myself and this life, the only one I have been given. Even though I’m tired. Even though some days it is all I can do to turn the page.

I won’t be a heroine or save anyone’s life. But I’ll be faithful to my own. My life is thick and, right now, this moment, I’m so glad to be in this…my messy, exhausting, complex story.

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What about you? How do you manage your expectations? What is it like, living your story?

Lessons from the Great Airport Debacle of April 2013

chicago

Chicago on April 18 (credit: Stephen J. Serio)

I’m a new mom. 32 hours at O’Hare with a baby: definitely a new experience. When our flight was finally cancelled after a 13 hour delay, I realized we were going to run out of formula. I sat on the floor and sobbed. Strangers stopped to ask if they could help, but I turned them away, ashamed of my tears.

After security reopened its gates at 4am, my wife left the airport for a nearby drugstore. When her taxi couldn’t get through because the interstate was closed (semi-truck wreck), the roads were closed (extreme flooding and sinkholes), and the driver didn’t know the area, my wife got out and walked in the driving rain. A kind stranger stopped and gave her a ride. Another gave her a ride back from Walgreens. This took five hours.

I spent those five hours with our baby walking the K gates in Terminal 3. Somehow being alone in the airport with my daughter was infinitely worse, and my need to survive without help finally broke. I found an outlet, charged my phone, and started texting. The first text I sent was to my daughter’s mother: not the one walking in the rain, but the one at home, my daughter’s first/birth/bio/tummy mom.

delaysI know all new parents probably struggle with figuring out this adventure called parenthood. Maybe others are quicker than I am to realize that being a good parent isn’t something you can do alone. But as an adoptive mom, my determination to be a good parent is compounded with the layer of being-good-enough-to-adopt. My wife and I had to prove — to ourselves, to the social workers at the agencies, to the world in general — that we would be good parents, just to get the chance to try.

When other parents hear that we have a very open adoption, with weekly contact with our daughter’s birth/first family, they often say: “I could never do that. Too much pressure.” I won’t lie…it DOES hook into my need to get it right, my drive to do it well, my hope to be an awesome mom. But my relationship with my daughter’s bio mom also gives me support I wouldn’t have otherwise, because we love each other.

I suspect that this is not how it is SUPPOSED to work. I should be heroic, invincible, always reassuring my daughter’s bio mom that she made the right choice in picking me. Instead, I’m imperfect and flailing, a chaotic mess of brave struggle and hopeful love.

My daughter’s bio mom wrote me back right away. She checked in later as we waited through more delays, more weather. She was one of the first people to welcome us home. Maybe this isn’t the way it is supposed to work. Maybe other adoptive parents will call this “co-parenting” or accuse me of failing to hold up my end of the bargain: my daughter’s bio mom shouldn’t have to worry with me through the ups and downs of new parenthood.

But I’m a new mom, new to parenting, new to adoption. And I find that my daughter’s mom, more than most people, not only knows my daughter but knows ME. She gets what it means for me to be alone in the airport, frantic with worry about my wife, terrified about food for our daughter. She gets me and she loves me, just as I am.

So I don’t know if I am doing this adoption parenting stuff in the best way. But I do know this: love is never one-sided. Love is connection and vulnerability, helped and helping, giving and receiving back. That’s what it means when I say that, in our open adoption, we love each other. We, none of us, do it alone.