Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Bravest Thing

Yesterday Jim at Irregularly Periodic Ruminations completed an interview meme and offered to interview the first couple of people who commented on his post and asked to be interviewed. Since I am apparently a real quick-draw, I am one of them! (If you aren't reading Jim already, you totally should be.)

Here we go:

What is the bravest thing that you feel you've ever done? Physically, emotionally, or whatever?

The bravest thing I've ever done is both something that I have done and also something that I hope to do: Adopt.

Anyone who is a regular reader here (hello all 3 of you!) knows that my son Grasshopper was adopted domestically by JR and me in June of 2006 when he was 20 days old. He is the single greatest gift I have ever been given and is the reason for almost every smile that crosses my face.

Adopting him, however, did not require a whole lot of bravery. Yes, it took time and determination but damn it, it was EASY. The phone rang on a Friday night and by the following Wednesday I was in a small Midwestern city holding my new baby boy. It was perfect, he was perfect and we all lived happily ever after. Almost.

Our second adoption attempt came when Grasshopper was just 6 months old and didn't require much more bravery than the first. The story begins similarly to Grasshopper's adoption story; with a phone call. This time, though, it was the attorney who had represented Grasshopper's birthmother (I'll call her Allison) in that adoption. She told us that Allison's younger sister (I'll call her Vivian) was pregnant and wanted to place the baby she would give birth to in about 6 months for adoption. Her first choice for that placement was with us since we were already raising Grasshopper.

We thought about it for a day or two and decided that even though it was a lot sooner than we'd been planning to add to our family we could not imagine looking Grasshopper in the eyes one day and telling him that we hadn't opened our home and our hearts to his cousin because it hadn't fit our timeline.

So for the next 6 months we spoke to Vivian and the attorney regularly. We kept abreast of her doctor's appointments and also her bills, 80% of which we were paying. For those of you unfamiliar with domestic adoption, this is TOTALLY NORMAL. Typically if a woman is creating an adoption plan, it is because she is unable to afford that child. So paying for medications, food, rent, utilities and the like is a normal part of the adoption process.

In May of 2007, we loaded up the car and drove back to that same Midwestern city where we had first met Grasshopper in order to be present for the birth of his new cousin/sister (Vivian had learned she was carrying a girl). When we finally arrived (after a 3 day drive with an 11 month old), we were told by the attorney that Vivian had gone AWOL and that no one knew where she was or what was going on. We were of course very concerned, but there wasn't a whole lot that we could do besides check into our hotel (with an 11 month old, remember) and wait.

The waiting didn't last long because the next day a doctor from the hospital phoned the attorney (who was paying all of Vivian's bills via us) to say that she was there and had given birth to a healthy baby girl. The attorney promptly went to see Vivian in the hospital and discovered her there with her boyfriend (whom she had been claiming to have been abandoned by) and they told the attorney that they were keeping the baby.

Because I had had a good relationship with Vivian during the pregnancy, the attorney thought that I should go to the hospital with Grasshopper and try to talk some sense into Vivian who would be homeless once we weren't footing the bills anymore and who also had several warrants out for her arrest etc.

I stood in the hallway outside her hospital room holding Grasshopper and shaking for I can't tell you how long before I finally knocked on the door and let myself in.

Vivian was sitting in the bed with her boyfriend, eating chips and watching Maury Povich while the baby slept in a plastic tub nearby. She knew immediately who I was, but was distracted by staring at Grasshopper and saying, "Oh my God he looks like his Dad!" over and over again. (Allison had always claimed not to know who the father was, but her sister kinda blew that lie outta the water.)

I set Grasshopper on the bed at her feet and handed her a gift that I had bought for her older daughter. She took the present and handed it to her boyfriend and then picked up and placed her new baby IN MY ARMS. It felt like an out of body experience, like I was drifting away from myself.

"She is beautiful." was all I could say, and she was.

Fortunately, Grasshopper started fussing and that grounded me. I handed the baby back.

"So what are you going to do now, Vivian?"

"I think we're going to go to Ohio, he has family there." she said indicating the baby's father.

"Well, good luck. Good bye."

And I walked out the door, and out of the hospital until I got to JR and the car, at which time I handed him Grasshopper and threw up in the parking lot.

I have never forgotten the slight weight of that beautiful little girl who I thought would be mine in my arms.

One month later, the phone rang again. Again, it was the Midwestern attorney.

"Allison is pregnant again, and she wants you and JR to adopt the baby."

We told the attorney that we were apprehensive following our experience with Vivian and also that thanks to Vivian we were out of money.

She assured us that Allison understood what we had just been through and that she was not her sister and that she would need very little in monetary assistance throughout her pregnancy as she was getting a job and would be living with her uncle.

We borrowed money from JR's parents (the attorney wasn't going to trim her fees afterall) and signed the contract. We were scared, but we new that we had to try. If we could give our son the gift of a biological sibling in his life, well, we just had to try. (this is the past tense bravest thing I've ever done)

Almost immediately Allison began needing money for things: cab fare to and from work because she was pregnant and just couldn't walk that far anymore, money for a TV because she was bored and couldn't go anywhere and do anything because she was so pregnant. Then she got kicked out of her uncle's house and so we had to set her up in an apartment. Then we had to pay off her $400 in outstanding electric bills so that she could get the power turned on to her new place. Then we had to bail her out of jail. Twice. Then she lost her job. You see where this is going, don't you?

Finally, it was Thanksgiving weekend 2007 and Allison was scheduled to be induced. We loaded up the car and made the 3 day trip, this time with a 17 month old. When we got there, Allison was AWOL. Yes, really. It happened to us again.

3 days of waiting in a hotel with a 17 month old later, she had been located giving birth to a daughter in a different hospital than the one where she had been scheduled to be induced.

She refused to take our phone calls. She refused to take phone calls from our attorney. Finally the attorney representing her managed to get in to see her.

When he left the hospital he called and told us that she was claiming to have changed her mind after the birth of the child blah blah blah. None of us believed it. Her own attorney called her a waste of human flesh.

We got conned. And there's not a damn thing we can do about it. Adoption laws are written to protect birthmothers, not adoptive parents. We had no rights to that child or to the money we had spent on her mother (not that Allison had it to give back).

And yet.

I want to adopt again. I will willingly prostrate myself at the altar of adoption again if it means that I can raise another child. Currently, the money isn't available. We've only just finished paying JR's parents back for the last time. But I hope. I hope and I hope and I hope that we'll get to try again.

And then that will be the bravest thing I've ever done.

What one talent do you wish you had that you don't?

I wish I could sing. As opposed to off-tune caterwauling.

I would love to rock my baby to sleep while singing him lullabyes, but already he covers my mouth and says, "Mommy stop!"

We all have our reasons for blogging but what would be your ultimate goal for your blog or as a blogger?

I am really new to blogging, and I began in an effort to put to "paper" all of the small and wonderful (and also small and not so wonderful) things that motherhood has brought to my life. I didn't expect to like it so much, or to "meet" so many great people because of it.

Ideally, my words would be read and adored by millions. Okay not really. Millions would sort of creep me out.

I guess I just want to form the kind of relationships and friendships that I see evidence of elsewhere in the blogosphere (and I'm getting there, which is so rewarding) and keep keeping track of myself and my life in this wordy way.

Also, making money off of it would be great, especially enough money to adopt again. That would rock my world!

You can trade lives with any one person for a month. Who would it be and why?

I would trade lives with Grasshopper's birthmother, who I'm calling Allison.

Seems strange, I know, but I really have hated her since she conned us on the last adoption. And I don't want to hate my son's birthmother. The anger is waning, but I still have very few good things about her that I can tell him with any honesty and sincerity. Fortunately he isn't asking about her yet.

I would hope that by trading lives with her for a month I might understand her and her choices better, and also be able to make Grasshopper feel better about who she is.

Besides, if she was living my life for a month she would get the chance to see how wonderful and amazing Grasshopper is and what a fabulous life he leads.

There's a fire and your family is safe but you have the chance to save any one item from your house. What would it be and why?

I would save Grasshopper's ridiculous grinning, grimy, orange stuffed T-Rex that he got at the zoo last year. He is incredibly attached to it, and as it came from the clearance bin I doubt that it could be easily replaced.

I couldn't imagine trying to deal with the fallout of a house fire while my 2 year old didn't have his favorite comfort item.

You have the chance to go back in time and warn yourself before making a bad choice. What choice would it be and what would you tell yourself?

I am a firm believer in our past making us who we are today, so I wouldn't change a damn thing.

Even the stuff in question number 1!

The end.

Whew. I'm sure that Jim, and any readers still with me, got more than they bargained for on this post!

Thanks Jim for making me feel so welcome in the blogosphere and for taking the time to think of such great questions!


Heinous said...

I am so sorry to hear about the failed adoption attempts. Being an adoptive father, that just tears me up.

I admire you for wanting to understand Grasshopper's birth mother too. I'm not sure I could ever be that noble.

Thanks so much for answering the questions!

Manic Mommy said...

I can't believe you labled this a meme. It's so much more. I remain shocked that people prey on another's hopes and trust in such a way. I'm also sorry for your son's birth sister and cousin being raised by such people.

I have a good friend with two adopted children who was treated similarly by her daughter's birth mother. I have another friend who chose to adopt from China partially because of these fears.

You are indeed brave in fact, you are heroic.

hayseed said...

I was just popping by to thank you for stopping by my blog, and then I read your story. It's heart-wrenching. Thank-you for sharing it, and I hope adoption happens for you again, you seem to have weathered those difficulties so gracefully.

Dysd Housewife said...

Girl, I had NO idea you went through that. I can't imagine. YOU have just managed to leave me speechless. and THAT is a feat in itself. :::HUG:::

Anonymous said...

In contrast to my last comment, I too am speechless. You are an incredible, strong woman. I am so sorry you had to endure all that, but thank you for having the courage to share it with us. I pray that sometime soon, you will have another adoption story to share, but one with a happier ending.

natasha the exile on Mom Street said...

Thank you, all of you, so much.

When I wrote this post, there were tears in my eyes.

As I write this comment, there are tears in my eyes again, but of a much happier variety. Turns out that sometimes when you bear your soul no one tries to take advantage of you!

And honestly, if this is truly the bravest thing I do in my whole life, I will feel grateful.

Lots of people have it so much worse than me!