Saturday, October 31, 2009

new camera

This may look like a blog post, but actually I am writing a paper right now. (I promise that while my fingers are typing this my brain is busily working away on feminist theology!!)

So, a couple weeks ago I made a somewhat rash decision to buy a very nice camera. Not the one I linked to a while back but something similar. I was a little disappointed when it didn't come in time to go to Atlanta with us, although that doesn't matter now.

But it did get here this week! And in absence of a baby, I am forced to hone my photography skills on my innocent cats.

And yes, internet, I will be inflicting the results upon you. (c'mon, everybody loves kitteh pictures, right?)
Sam and P both standing ready to defend themselves from this terrifying new device.

My shoes are Sam's security objects. I expect once we get a baby he will make every effort to move into them permanently.

This is the best picture I've taken so far. Penelope is over her fear of the camera and this is the real P. I wake up to this expression almost daily, it means "pleaaaaaaaaase wave that feather thing, I NEEDS IT!!"

That was fun, wasn't it Internet? Okay, back to eating candy corn and writing about the ontological question, God, and womanity!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Modern Family - not quite Adoption Free Friday

It's time for a comedy break.

I'm fascinated by the different ways in which adoption is portrayed on television - from shallow and sappy to complex and sappy to difficult and....sappy. In my opinion most of the ways in which adoption is dramatized is very. dramatic. and. serious. Which is fine, adoption can be dramatic and serious. Just read the past several posts on this blog. But it's not always that way! I would not be on this path if I thought that seriousness and drama were the only highlights of my future as an adoptive parent.

But, when adoption is featured in a comedic way it's just not done well. Bruno comes to mind.

Lately, though, I've been loving the adoptive family of Mitchell, Cameron, and Lily on ABC's Modern Family. While not completely realistic (I haven't researched this at all, but I don't think that gay couples are accepted into our agency's Vietnam adoption program and it's not because WACAP has an issue with them, I think it's a Vietnam government thing, but why nitpick), it's nice to see a "normal" adoptive family on t.v. without it being a big dramatic deal. The dads are already making many of the well intentioned white person mistakes as they try to do their best for little Lily - when they take her to their Asian pediatrician Cam launches into a speech about how they are planning to connect her to her heritage only to have the doc dryly inform him "I'm from Denver." But what I'm really loving is their normal first-time parent-ness. The clip below, from this week's episode, had me howling. (clip doesn't work if you're outside the US, my apologies!)

It was a good reminder to me that no matter how "alternative" your family is - and like it or not all families built through adoption are choosing to step into the categories "alternative" and "controversial" to some degree - a good 90% of parenting is pretty much the normal stuff of life. And, as Lily's doctor from Denver reminded Mitch and Cam "Babies are built to survive new parents."

Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that if this happened to us Andrew would be the one charging the car door with a trash can, and the thought of that makes me giggle. ♥

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Don't worry, we're grieving. (or, no promises but maybe my last melancholy post for a while)

Some people are worried about us. About me. I feel the concerned looks, the gentle unasked questions. And then, some of you have said it or written it to me. Make sure you grieve this loss. It's real. Are you grieving? How are you grieving?

You are right. It is important that we let this be a real loss and that we grieve it.

I ran into a bench today. It was dark, after class, and I was walking out with a friend and the bench was shin level and I just walked right into it. It hurt. If I had been with Andrew I might have screamed out loud, or maybe even collapsed to the ground in tears. But, seeing as I was with my friend who is not Andrew I just crossed my eyes in the darkness and made a joke about needing to be escorted so I don't fall down and waited until I got to the car where Andrew was waiting. Then I whined the whole way home about how much my shins hurt.

That's just how I work. I am generous with my joy and selfish with my pain or grief. I feel like sadness/loss/grief is one of the most real things a human being can experience. They are, in their way, sacred things. And sometimes when you talk too much about the sacred it becomes less special, it gets a little cheap. So I keep it to myself. I show it to my husband, who understands its depth even when I joke about it, who understands that it is sacred even if I whine, who is even more private than I am with his own present and real sadness.

But we're doing it. Grieving, I mean. A lost or dead dream isn't the same thing as a lost or dead person. And our dream, the general one where we are parents together of a unique and special beloved someone, is more alive than ever. It's just the specific dream -the one with that incredible head of hair, and the dry skin on her feet, and those perfect little lips - that dream is gone for us.

But I want you to know we're dealing with it. We're doing the process we need to be doing, separately and together.

It's just ours, is all. We don't share well, with something as precious as this.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Number 100.

So - this is my 100th post on the A+A Adopt a Baby blog.

I had a plan for this post. It involved pictures of a certain baby and some sweet satisfied commentary from me about the symmetry of it all and how the sleep deprivation was all worth it and oh heck, who knows. It was going to be awesome, though.

So, scrap that. I can't write a 100th post that will be anything but the post that wasn't that post so I choose to bore you with some housecleaning type details instead.

1. Goodbye Liz, hello Marla. Our sweet Liz has moved on to managing the Thailand program at WACAP, leaving us quite bereft. Well, actually any sort of change leaves me feeling bereft at just this moment. Anyways, apparently someone in power looked around and realized that Liz speaks Thai and that this other lady, Marla, has actually adopted domestically before and some quite appropriate changes were made. I was feeling a little resentful of it, seeing as I can be irrationally loyal, but Marla was the WACAP person who actually saw us through this experience and she was great and will be great I am sure.

2. Back out there. Marla has assured us that she emailed all the WACAP matching agencies last Friday to let them know we're once again available to be shown and matched. Yesterday I decided I want to know whatever she knows, at least these first few weeks, as far as us and being shown goes. I feel like knowing other expectant moms are looking at our book will help bring some final closure to the Y chapter for me.

3. Georgia Agency feels real bad. V informed us before we got on the plane back to Seattle that we'd been moved to the top of their list. I'm not sure what exactly that means but from what she said it's the list for anytime a first mother decides to let the agency choose parents for a baby. I can't imagine that it happens very often, but V seemed to think that it does and she knows more than I do. So...that sounds pretty good.

And my brief philosophical reflection on this, my hundredth blog post? I no longer believe in symmetry or pattern in this whole family building process. When we were trying to get pregnant I was always looking for symmetry. If it happens this month the baby will be born on our birthdaversary! If it happens this month we will have been trying for exactly one year! Throughout this adoption process I've been doing the same thing, to some extent. It'll happen as soon as I start school. It'll happen as soon as we plan a vacation. It will be SURE to happen by my 100th post. Now I feel suspicious of my logic - there was so much symmetry in this match and then it failed.

Oh well. It'll happen when it happens. Or, more importantly perhaps, this will happen.

There. That's pretty much as jaded as I will allow myself to get. ♥

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why (we don't) ask Why?

We've been home a couple days now, and the rather immediate traumatic jolt of disappointment is fading. We're left to take stock of our gains and losses of the last week (yes, there were gains) and incorporate these into the new reality of life and the adoption process.

Under losses we can file:
Naivete. Next time we get the call we will not feel the thrill of unadulterated excitement that we did when Liz called to tell us about Y. We will never again move forward with the sweet assurance that this couldn't happen to us and that everything will work out.

Trust in the process. This is related to the one above, but a little different. It will be a legitimate challenge to trust the process if we are again matched before birth and relinquishment. We probably won't travel before the next baby is legally free. This makes me sad. It would have been so sweet if it had worked out for us on the very first try.

Four weeks. All in all this is not so bad. I am so very grateful for WACAP's policy of not allowing matches to happen before the last trimester of pregnancy. I have read blogs of matches that fall through after literally months of being matched and cannot imagine what that must feel like.

About $1700. And we aren't getting it back. This is not a small amount of money for us. We are not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination and now we have spent almost half of what we had available to us for travel expenses. This is a big part of why we won't travel before the next baby is relinquished - it was iffy for us to risk this money this time. It absolutely cannot happen again without imperiling our nest egg of agency fee money. Of course, the longer it takes to re-match, the more we'll be able to rebuild that nest egg.

Under gains we can file:
Certainty of purpose. This is more true for Andrew than it is for me. He has been the perfect partner through all of this: on-board, honest, game for anything. But he would be the first to tell you that on a scale of 1-10 his desire for a child (completely independent of my 12+) was probably wavering around a 5 or 6. Like many men facing the prospect of planned fatherhood, he was pretty sure that this was the right time and the right age for him to become a dad and he loves me to pieces and I obviously really want it, but didn't think he would really know until he held a baby in his arms. Well, now he knows. It wasn't our baby he held, but she was close enough to ours for him to realize that he is indeed ready for this. That's right folks, my husband has baby fever. Finally.

A+A is stronger than ever. Andrew and I have always been thankful that the biggest challenges in our relationship and marriage have consistently been situational and not interpersonal. This was a big situation and we're still dealing with it. But we know that we're bigger than this situation, and that it's a situation that in the end was really not about us(which is both reassuring and sucky, actually). We've been through a lot together: separation while touring, unemployment, infertility, and now a failed match. The good news? We have yet to encounter something that even comes close to shaking our love and commitment to each other. So far each challenge has just made us more of a team. (Although, side note, I am ready to find happier way to become more of a team now. Thanks.)

The Why Question
I think it's natural in a situation like this one to attempt to find "the reason why" things happened the way they did. I am a person of faith, and I understand the desire to know "God's plan" or to attach some sort of meaning to negative experiences that will somehow make it okay that a "bad" thing happened. You might be tempted to read what I wrote up there and think "Aha! That is why they went through this, so Andrew could get baby fever for reals!" or "Aha! Y needed to face this choice in order to really love her baby that must be why this happened" and on and on and on.

We're not doing that. Andrew and I are on the same page here, but I'll go ahead and decouple from the "we" language and just tell you straight up - that's not how I look at the world. I feel that the "why" question is really and truly not the right question with which to approach the difficult, devastating, sad, and undecipherable parts of human life. There are no good answers to the why question. "Really? We had to travel hundreds of miles and spend that much money when Andrew could have just discovered his baby fever when we had an actual for-us baby??" or "Really? We are so disposable to God (or the universe or whatever you believe guides the plan for our lives) that we can get jerked around for someone else's parenting process?"

You see? Not helpful. I need a better question.

So here is my question, when I am faced with a situation like this one, a situation that has no easy pain-free solution, a situation in which I have tried everything I can think of and there is just no changing the reality of the way things are. My question becomes "How can I respond to this situation in a way that is true to my own best self?" This, for me, is where the God-stuff comes in to play. Not in the why, but in the how-I-survive-this. I, personally, do have faith that there is a bigger picture here. But I don't need to decipher it in order to move on and move on well through life. Trying to would just make me angry or tired. I have to believe that the why is bigger than what I can figure out or comprehend.

So, right now, we (coupling it up again, we are a team and what-not), are working on answering the question that is most helpful to us, the How do I respond question. Sometimes right now the answer to that is tears, sometimes it is yogurt covered pretzels and pumpkin pie, and sometimes it is long rambling blog posts that are more than a little preachy. (well that would be more "me" and less "we" obviously.)

We remain ridiculously loved and supported by all you who read here and by our friends, family, and co-workers. That doesn't hurt either, in fact it is so incredibly helpful that I don't have enough good words to emphasize it.

Thank you. THANK YOU. Thank you.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Home Again and Perspective

We're home,and glad to be here.

Here's the timeline, if you are interested:

  • Thursday morning we arrived in Atlanta, checked into our hotel and headed to the hospital.
  • Thursday afternoon we spent with Y and the baby, holding the baby and talking with Y. Everything felt great and finally Y asked if she could get on with signing the papers. We left for the lobby and waited.
  • We waited for about four hours.
  • V. found us, and told us that Y just couldn't sign. She wasn't sure yet, and needed the night to think about it.
  • Thursday night we watched TV(thank you ABC Thursday nights!), cried, watched more TV read books, sent text messages, made a blog post and prepared ourselves for a change in plans. Spent hours on the phone with V. And cried.
  • Friday morning we headed to the hospital and Y told us that she couldn't place the baby. She did it in person, which we appreciate. We gave her the little outfit we had planned to bring the baby home in. She told us the baby's name, which is Choice. We hugged, and cried, and she asked us to be Choice's godparents. We said no. And we all cried some more.
  • Friday afternoon we got on a plane home. I started crying every time a service person asked us where the baby was (because of the car seat). A teensy tiny part of me was amused at how quickly my tears discouraged further questions.
  • Friday evening during our layover in Charlotte we deleted all the pictures we had of Choice.
  • Late last night we landed in Seattle, and now we are home.

So let me tell you what is on our minds/hearts right now. This was an excruciating experience. It was emotionally and financially expensive. We are sad and we are disappointed and a little exasperated. But we're not angry and we do not regret the experience. Choice is not our baby. We do not want anyone else's baby. And we absolutely respect Y's choice. We may wish, for our own comfort and well being, that she had made it sooner or done it differently. But we're not in her shoes, we have no idea what she went through, and I believe that it was important for her relationship with her baby daughter for her to make that choice. We head home to life well equipped to recover and move on. She headed home yesterday to a completely different set of options. Our prayers go with her, even though our connection to her needs to end.

So some perspective: no one is dead, here. There is a healthy beautiful baby who is going home with a mommy who loves her very much. There are two sad but hopeful people here who love each other very much and have such amazing and firm support from their community that they could (knock on wood) survive much worse than this. We are - all four of us - through this experience alive and hopeful and moving toward happier things.

We love you, we appreciate your support and care and sharing of our disappointment. We ask that you also share our hope, optimism, and complete respect for Y and her decision.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

just a warning, blogosphere

Things are not looking good. We are preparing ourselves to come home empty handed this time.

I wanted to prepare you, who have journeyed with us. We are also preparing ourselves. Like all things in this process it is not a done deal yet...but. There it is.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

commencing radio silence

Baby C was born today at 1:21 pm Atlanta time and is by all reports a happy, healthy, perfect beautiful amazing 6 pound 11 ounce little lady.

We're scrambling to get things moving and will be on a red eye to Atlanta tonight.

We decided a while ago that during the waiting period we will be observing radio silence, and won't be posting publicly until she is or isn't ours forever. So far everything looks really good - in fact bio-dad E. has offered to pick us up from the airport in Atlanta tomorrow morning.

Wish us luck - the adventure has already begun!

See you in 12 days.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

our boodlebag

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, my mom splurged and bought me a super special made-to-order diaper bag and we got it today! It's a boodlebag, a company that my friend and fellow parishioner Angela designs for. She brought it to church this morning and I. LOVE. IT. Andrew is also a fan, which is good because he basically picked the fabric. (I also really love the fabric, however.)

We both modeled it a bit today:

I think it is adorable, perfect, and works suitably for either of us, which is what we wanted. ♥

We're also going to be stoked that it stands up on its own, comes with a matching changing pad that holds diapers and wipes AND that it is all completely machine washable. I already love that it was designed and made locally. By an adorable work-from-home mom, no less!

And, because I'm feeling photo-y and also like bragging about the amazing creative people in my life I'll share my favorite pictures of us from a wedding we went to a couple weeks ago. It's what I'm holding in my mind as another "last" for us, the last time we'll get all dressed up before the baby(maybe). These pictures capture what the day felt like, filled with promise and laughter and light.

Photos by our friend and neighbor, M. The dress was made just for me by Ruthie from Ruthie's Uniform.

I don't for a moment forget how lucky and spoiled we are. Regardless of what the next few weeks bring, we love our people and our life. (that means you♥)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

taking stock

My lovely Mother-in-law came over today and we took stock. She was a little surprised to see how set up we are for clothes already.

So far, and this is just newborn sizes, we've got:

14 onesies, some long sleeve some short sleeve and in various colors.

8 pairs of jammies.

4 of those thingies that have arms at the top and are just a little sack at the bottom.

4 receiving blankets.

1 lovingly knitted rainbow baby blanket from Grandma Sue.

1 changing pad, 3 changing pad covers and a stack of those things that apparently go under the baby's little behind to catch messes and keep the changing pad covers as clean as possible.

I want to pause here to say how amazing it is to have a brother with kids and a wife who keeps stuff around. They have pretty much singlehandedly clothed our child for her first year of life. (Andrew notes that the clothing selection is woefully short on rock t-shirts and converse however. I tell him that this is why we register for stuff and baby will do just fine in regular booties until January or so when we have a shower.)

In addition we have enough small prefold diapers and covers to take us to 12-15 pounds.

MIL helped with inventory today and then we shopped and returned with the following:

burp rags
a lidded garbage can to serve as diaper pail
a box of Pampers newborn swaddler diapers to use in GA.
teensie fingernail clippers
wipe warmer
swaddling blanket thingy
2 born free bottles
2 pacifiers like from the hospital
oh, and because it is absolutely necessary, this:

It's a little baby snowman suit/sack thingy!! Modeled fetchingly by "Uncle" Jayme who is over currently for some television and cookies.

So...we're pretty much set, right?

And! We got ultrasound pics in the mail today. It is pretty amazing to have these first pictures of baby J, even if we did need to immediately scan them and email the files to Grandma Nancy. She is an ultrasound tech, and so was able to explain to us that there are two pictures of baby J's face, one of her profile, and a few that, um, prove she is a girl. So at least I won't be waving those around too much!

Okay - time for Saturday night relaxing. We feel loved and lucky. ♥

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Suspended Animation

I haven't felt much like blogging lately, probably because it feels like there isn't a whole lot to say. Y is still pregnant. Things are still on-track. The issues that V was concerned about are still issues, but both V and I are less worried that they will be the sort of issues that cause a change of heart for Y. I think about Y every day, pray for her, imagine what she looks like, try to remember what she sounds like. I would talk to her every day if that were remotely possible.

It's not. She barely has time to make it to doctor's appointments, much less talk to me, the person who will be going home with her baby in a few weeks. I get it, I totally understand. When we do talk it's good, though. V assures me that it's not just me who hangs up the phone feeling better about everything.

Y saved ultrasound photos for us, and V has apparently put them in the mail. I was touched that Y would think to send them to us. V told me that after Y got done with her ultrasound they were looking over the pictures together and neither one of them could tell which end was up. Apparently Y said to V, "It's okay. Alissa will be able to see the baby in the pictures, she'll know what she's looking at."

I hope I will. Y sounds so confident in me, I don't want to let her down.

So that's what's up. I feel like there isn't much to tell, in some ways everything is suspended while we wait for baby J to make her appearance, and for whatever is going to happen after that to happen. But at the same time there is a lot of animation, much movement here. We are slowly collecting what we'll need, taking inventory of the mountain of sweet hand-me-down clothes from friends, scrambling to finish one last purge of our clothes and things, deciding on bottles and swaddles and sleepers and many many more things. I want this camera. I want the perfect nursery. I want to finish all the schoolwork I can now, so I can be all about her when she arrives, if she is indeed to be mine. (I want to believe that this is really going to happen.)

V asked Y how important it is to her that we are there when the baby is born, on a scale of 1 to 10. She said 10.

So we are trying to protect ourselves in little ways. I don't use the name we picked out, I literally say "the baby" or "baby J." Andrew is even more careful than I am. We don't say "our" or "my" when we talk about her. I don't think the word "daughter" has been spoken aloud in our house. Other people jokingly refer to us as "mom" or "daddy" but we don't use those words to describe ourselves.

Instead we get ready, we make a place for her in our home and our hearts and we wait, fingers crossed and eyes open, in suspended animation.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

How to tell people they sound racist

This was linked on another blog I love today, and I thought I'd share it here. We don't have any new news, and A+A is deep in studying for school and spending as much time outside enjoying the brisk fall as we can, so I'm running low on new and interesting blogging material.

But - for your viewing pleasure, an excellent piece on how to tell people they sound racist. (really, on how to appropriately challenge any sort of behavior that has a negative impact on you.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

OA Roundtable #7: blogging, privacy, and open adoption

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. To for links to what other bloggers are writing on this topic, click here.

This month's OA Roundtable topic is Blogging, Privacy, and Open Adoption. The question on the table is this: Where do you draw the lines--on your blog and in your personal life--and why? What, if anything, don't you tell?

At a birthday party a couple weekends ago Andrew and I were approached by another attendee that we didn't know.

"Hi," she said. "I..I feel like you're famous or something, I have to tell you, I read your blog." I felt both surprised and flattered. This was a first! And it was also a reminder. Oh yeah, people we don't know actually do read this!

This isn't my first public blog. I've been writing about my life on the Internet since early 2003, when I became addicted to my friend Andrea's livejournal blog and decided to launch one of my own. Livejournal played a big part in the social life of my early-mid twenties, and the blogging I did there, while public, was almost exclusively for my own circle of friends whom I knew in "real life." The biggest exception to that rule turned out to be Andrew. He and I read each other's livejournal blogs before we ever met. Which is all to say, blogs and blogging have been a part of our identity from the very beginning. Anonymous blogs and blogging, however, never have.**

For over a decade now, I've been a fairly public person. That's a choice that was made when I decided to be in a rock band, and then made again when I chose to pursue a vocation as a priest. Andrew is/was more visible as a musician than I ever have been, so he gets this too. In fact, I've been recognized by strangers as his wife almost as many times as I have for playing drums in my own musical project. Our wedding was written up in the local alternative weekly paper, and while we aren't famous by any stretch whatsoever, we've learned a thing or two along the way about how to be public people who still have a rich and private personal life together.

So I don't feel the need to be anonymous on the Internet. I find writing here to be an interesting personal discipline and a helpful place to express myself, developing a public life that is authentic, open, and honest without sharing what is actually private.

That being said, as our family grows and includes people I don't know well, such as our child's first family, I do want to be careful and respectful. I also do not expect that just because I have found a balance I'm happy with in my public/private life that this same balance will work for our child. What I don't know yet is exactly how this will evolve for me, as we don't quite have a child yet. After we have baby J I may want to be limiting the number of pictures I post. I already often use initials or aliases instead of names when I am writing about folks who don't have an Internet presence, or don't have an Internet presence under their own name. I have a feeling that a move to a different blogging platform might be in order, where I can have more control over who views what, with more options that just private/public to choose from. I have watched carefully as some of you have made your blogs private, started over anonymously, and worked on these issues with care and intention. I have a good grasp of the options, if and when I want to change things up.

I guess the bottom line for me is to always be telling my story, and not anyone else's. I can only speak authentically to my own experience. And as the parent of an adopted child there will parts of my child's life that truly don't belong to me, that really are not mine to tell. That dimension of her life will be private and, along with the truly private dimensions of my life, and my shared family life, will never be discussed in a blog.

**I just want to note that this is in no way a negative judgement on those who do blog anonymously. There are lots of good reasons to blog that way, and I read lots of bloggers whose identities are part of what is "private" for them. ♥

Sunday, October 4, 2009

out there in the world

O always gets to church early, meaning that he's one of the first kids to arrive for Godly Play. I've written about him before, he's one of my favorites. (Okay, I feel that way about every kid I work with, but that doesn't make it any less true.)

Yesterday O's dad paused for a moment before heading for the pot of coffee I brew up for parents on Sunday mornings to ask about our adoption process. I gave him the update, and he looked fondly at his son. "They're getting their baby, O." He said. "Isn't that exciting?" O gave a non-committal shrug and wandered to the other side of the room. He is at the stage where displaying any sort of obvious interest in something is viewed as childish, I think. After his dad left, however, he started trailing around after me while I straightened up the classroom.

"Is it a boy or a girl?" He asked.

"A girl" I told him.

"Why didn't you get a boy?!" O seemed genuinely offended by the news.

"We didn't get to choose," I told him.

"Well, if you got to choose, would you have gotten a boy?"

"We would have been happy to have a boy or a girl."

"You could adopt again, you know." O told me, forgetting his cool demeanor in favor of communicating this vital information to me. "My friend's family, they adopted four kids. And my neighbors, they have a black kid and a white kid and they're both adopted and now they're brother and sister."

"That's really cool." I said. He nodded.

"So if you adopt again, will you get a boy?" I laughed and told him I didn't know, for now we were just focused on getting this first baby. He asked where she was, and I told him. His eyes widened when I told him that I had talked on the phone to her first mama.

"Does she have other kids?" he wanted to know. I told him that yes, she did. "Why isn't she keeping this one?" he asked.

Ah, I thought to myself. This is good practice.

"I don't know everything about it," I told him. "But I know she is doing this because she believes it is the best and most loving choice for the baby."

"Did she do it on purpose?" He asked.

"You mean, get pregnant?" I clarified. He nodded. "No, I don't think she did it on purpose."

"I've been back to Guatemala." It seemed like a change of subject, but I had a feeling that O was still in the same conversation, somehow. He was born in Guatemala. "I went back there with my dad, but I didn't meet my biological mom or anything."

"Do you know anything about her?" I asked.

"I know she's out there," he said. "I know she's out there in the world."

His voice was light and confident and clear. He didn't sound wistful or sad. I had no idea what to say, so I just smiled into his clear brown eyes and nodded. He looked right back for a moment, then scrunched up his face, an expression I associate with mischief when he wears it.

"I know how they do it." He announced.

"Do what?"

"How they make babies. I know about it." He looked at me as if to dare me to disagree.

"Oh yeah?" I replied. "Well, good for you, I guess."

He leaned in, as if to tell me a secret. I braced myself for the worst.

"I know," he whispered. "And it is so. gross."

I laughed, I couldn't help it, and we headed out the door to the rest of our Sunday.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Every child is entitled to parents who understand they cannot transmit the child's birth culture if it is not their own.

"We use oil," Y said to me yesterday during a phone conversation. "And don't wash that hair every day! Once a week is just fine, maybe less." It sounded from her voice like she was smiling, and I was also smiling.

Our current plan is to talk about once a week, and while V has deftly deferred offers by both of us to exchange phone numbers directly she is more than happy to conference us together and stay silent while we chat. Yesterday Y and I were talking about our families, especially her kids and her past pregnancies, how they compare to this one. I can tell she really loves her children, including baby J. I had been telling her a little bit about my own mom, who is planning to fly out to Georgia with us.

"She is so excited," I told Y. "She has been doing all sorts of research on how to do the baby's hair, asking her black friends for advice and making lists of products to try."

"Well." Y said, obviously warming up to a topic that she has definite opinions about, "I have plenty to say about that." We both laughed.

She proceeded to describe her hair to me, and her oldest daughter's hair. She told me how their hair was similar and different from each other, and what she does to style her daughter's hair. She told me what she thinks I'll be able to expect from the first year or so - apparently her first daughter didn't have hair to speak of for quite a while. "You find one person (hairstylist) you like, and then you stick with that person to do her hair."

"I'll be honest with you Y," I said finally. "I hope I'll be able to call you for help on this stuff."

"Oh yes," She replied. "I'm gonna be looking for pictures of this baby, and you better believe I'll be checking on her hair."

This is a much different place then where Y was when we first talked. We talked about that, too, how we are both so happy that we feel comfortable and connected to each other.

But I meant it about the hair. I think I can learn how to braid and care for baby J's hair, but I don't for a minute suppose that I can fully know what her hair means in the context of her racial culture.

Every child is entitled to parents who understand they cannot transmit the child's birth culture if it is not their own.

Hair is sort of a high-profile example of something that carries a lot of cultural weight for African-American women. Tyra and Oprah have done shows on it, Chris Rock is making a documentary about it and I see multiple pieces that address the subject roll across my Reader every week. I would imagine you are going to see a lot of posts here on this subject in future years, as I figure out how to care for my kiddo's hair.

But while I can learn to care for her hair, to style it and keep it healthy, I can't know what it's like to live with. I haven't had the experience of growing up with kinky-curly dark hair and having to decide whether to let it be, straighten it, braid it, shave it, or chemically relax it. There are few things, really, that I can do with my fine, straight, hair that will cause a fuss - no matter what choices a black woman makes with her hair there is someone who won't like it, either within her racial community or outside of it. (Do you remember that illustration of the Obamas that ran before the election that portrayed them as terrorists in the white house? Do you remember her hair?)

My child will need to be connected to people who can transmit to her what she needs to know about the experience of having the hair that she has. And that's just one example - there are many others I could have chosen.

It is my hope that Y will be a part of that. I know that there are other women in my life who will also want to love and care for my child in this way, who have the ability to help her figure this out. But make no mistake, I don't expect that Andrew and I alone could do it.