Saturday, February 28, 2009

How do you Make a Child Your Own?

In Shelley Burtt's "Lives'" essay in the New York Times Magaine on Feb 15, 2008, she writes, "Your birth children aren't offered to someone else first. As contingent as their existence is on particular circumstances, once they're on their way, there's only one place they can end up. To be confronted, 10 years later, with the physical evidence that my son, this generous soul I loved so deeply, almost belonged to someone else, and almost was someone else, brought tears to my eyes and a knot to my stomach. Ryan was ours not only because we had wanted him but also because another American family had not. How do you make a child your own?"

There are a couple of things that struck me about this passage. First, let me say that I understand what Burtt is getting at. But, I take issue with her first sentence; if you're a birthmother, your birth children ARE offered to someone else first. Second, I think it's strange that after living with her son for almost a decade, she suddenly realizes that he had "almost belonged to someone else, and almost was someone else." She adopted him. Did she completely disregard the fact that he had birthparents and a point of origin before she came along? Why does it bring "tears to [her] eyes and a knot to [her] stomach" only that another American family had not adopted adopted him, not that he was taken away from his original family?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Moment of Truth

It finally happened. I finally told my son I'm adopted. Only in not so many words.

He loves to talk about when he was inside my belly, asking me thing such as "Mommy, did I kick you when I lived inside your belly?"
and I say "Yes"
and he says "and what did you say?"
and I say "Baby! What are you doing in there???!"
and he thinks that's incredibly funny and he laughs.

It's quite the comedy routine we have here.

So, like all things do, it changed: the other day, after a visit from my parents, he asked,
"Mommy, did you kick Grandma when you lived inside her belly?"

and I said, "No, I didn't live inside Grandma's belly."
and he said "WHAT?!"
and I said, "I lived inside grandma CAROL's belly instead."
and he said, "WHAT?!"
and I said, "Yes, I lived inside grandma Carol's belly, and when I came out, she decided I should live with Grandma and Grandpa."
and he said "Why?"

Ahh, the million dollar question. It always stops me cold. Why did she give me away? Oh, I know, I know. I really do. I get it. But how do I explain it to my five-year-old son? (And how do I explain it to my child-self?)

and I said, "because grandma Carol decided it would be a good idea if I lived with Grandma and Grandpa."

and he said, "oh." and was off to play with his Magic School bus. End of story. For now.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

How I Woke Up on Valentine's Day

"You're someone who I'm going to love for a long, long time," says a little person clad in footie pajamas, as he pads into my dark bedroom and curls up in bed next to me. "I love you too, sweetie," I say, putting my arm around his small torso and wondering if my husband has sent him in with a scripted conversation.

"I'm going to miss you when I grow up and move away," he says.
"I'll miss you too, sweetie. But you'll come to visit, right?" I ask.
"Yes, and I'll bring my children to visit you, Mommy." He says.
"Good," I say, drifting back to sleep. It's still early, I'm still tired, and I can barely stay awake, but I'm trying to memorize what he says so I can write it down later. By now I'm pretty sure this is a spontaneous conversation, not a proscribed Valentine's Day one. My husband is downstairs, awake, reading the paper, eating cereal, being the early riser of the family, and my five-year-old valentine is in bed with me telling me how much he loves me because that's just the way he is. Lucky me.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


One of the things that made me feel more connected to the world when I was a child was...a drum roll, please: sucking my thumb.

It was so great that I didn't give it up until I was nine years old. And by that time, boy were my teeth messed up. But I didn't care. Sucking my thumb was a kind of communion. I thought I could contact aliens while sucking my thumb--that's how tuned into the universe I felt when I was doing it. (I don't, however, know why I wanted to contact aliens, but whatever.)

I even told my best friend Robin about it. And 25 years later, when she had a thumbsucking baby of her own, she made me a special birthday card with a picture of her daughter sucking her thumb. The message read "calling all aliens to wish you a happy birthday!!" Now that's a good friend--one who remembers what you said about contacting aliens by sucking your thumb for all those years.