Saturday, February 21, 2009

Questions of Faith

I've been loathe to let myself blog much these days. I've got a bad case of the dreaded Referral Fever, where all you do is wake up in the morning and wonder if this will be the day where everything changes. Poor Papa Dog. Every morning he brings me a cup of coffee and is met with my chirp of "Is she coming today, do you think?!" And every night I say "Well, maybe tomorrow then." Although lately it's been more like "Spfttttttt!, there's never going to be a baby, is there?" Papa Dog recently diagnosed me as a "bladdict," because all I seem to be interested in doing any more is tearing up over others' waiting posts or tearing up and shouting hooray over successful court date posts or spending long periods of time staring at the computer screen with my chin in my hand as I consider attachment posts or marriage posts or multiracial family posts. It's strange that my most intimate conversations seem to be going on completely in my own head, as I try to digest the very thoughtful musings of women I've never met.

Sometimes I wish I had a stronger sense of religious faith to lean on during this whole process. I'm agnostic, or "Unitarian?" as I apologetically told our social worker during the home study, hoping she wouldn't immediately mark a big giant red X by our names. I was one of those people who really feared the home study. And then, horrors!, our social worker did a bum rush on us where she called 45 minutes before she was due to arrive and said she was in the neighborhood and could she just stop by then. So much for running the vacuum! We'd prepared all these dainty plates of food, and Papa Dog had made cookies, and when she arrived she would not accept anything to eat or drink. Not even a cup of coffee. And she was wearing very shiny, very high black heels, while I had inexplicably failed to put on socks, let alone shoes. And she dropped the name of the mega church she attended in Fort Worth within the first five minutes of conversation. We were toast!

I thought I had special reason to be squirrelly about the visit. I'd had very wise, reasonable people suggest to me beforehand that I ought to just leave out the whole history of my mom's depression and her eventual suicide when it came time to talk family history. "Say she died in a car accident," one friend suggested. "That sounds better than admitting she was a train wreck." (I love this friend, and she me, so forgive us for leaning on sarcasm when discussing sadness.) I was so unsure how to handle what was apparently such an unmentionable reality of my past, and started worrying that the truth would somehow sabotage our adoption. Papa Dog, wise and generous, told me a lie was the absolute wrong way to begin this very sensitive process, and could only cause further anxiety down the road. So I decided I had two missions for the home study: I would always tell the truth and somehow, I would not cry. (The older I get, the more I find myself growing into a sentimental fool. Rare is the movie in which I don't tear up, and that includes Step Brothers and Sex & the City.)

Well, one thing they don't tell you about the home study is that more often than not the person coming to your house will be incredibly warm and empathetic, and that she will not just inquire into the existence of working fire alarms and your thoughts on higher education, but she will ask you questions that you have never even considered. Like, would you tell your child if she had been a product of rape? We were both so stunned by this question because we simply hadn't imagined this scenario and then my eyes started welling over and Papa Dog had to tag off while I composed myself and then we proceeded to really wrestle with the question. Then the social worker posed an enraging hypothetical scenario about what we would do if our black child, who was clearly gifted in the arena of math and science, wasn't fast-tracked by the school like her similarly talented white peers. Now I can get a little growly when it comes to advocating on behalf of the people I love so I started spluttering about suing the school system and rant, rant, rant I went until Papa Dog gently pressed his foot onto my inexcusably bare toes, telling me to take it down a notch. And so I promised the social worker that I would always live in a house with a private room where I could get all my hollering and frothing out of the way before inflicting it upon others. All this to say, the social worker does not present you with rote multiple choice questions with clearly right or wrong answers. These were HEART STUMPERS.

But the most alarming part of any home study is when THEY SPLIT YOU UP, as if only then could they ferret out the holes in your story. So off Papa Dog went to the back yard, where he would pretend to relax in the sun with the cats, and I was left alone with this very kind-eyed woman, who proceeded to ask me about my parents. And then, because I am a ninny, I started crying again, and told her some about my Mom, and then she started tearing up, and she told me that she understood manic depression very well because her ex-husband also suffered from the disease. And so I figured as long as she was crying, then I could stop apologizing, and we just proceeded to talk and talk and it was kind of like the best therapy session ever, and when she left, she said she couldn't wait to return in the future for the post-placement visit. Now I'm not saying all home studies are so fuzzy and productive, but man, this lady rocked.

I've gotten off track. What was the point of all this? Oh right, faith. Flip through any adoption blog roll and it quickly becomes obvious that the community is largely, loudly Christian. (Incidentally, me and the old man both come from Catholic backgrounds, but prefer to worship at the altar of breakfast tacos come Sunday morning.) I remember on the second adoption meeting we went to we were seated at a table with another couple, all of us just staring awkwardly at one another. I asked the woman why they had decided to adopt from Ethiopia and she crisply replied that "God put it on my heart." And that was all she said. And I didn't know what to say back to that.

See, as far as I know, God didn't put it on our hearts to adopt from Africa. What did happen was we received an infertility diagnosis that knocked us to our knees and then had the honor of watching one of my closest friends go through a successful, beautiful adoption experience that introduced her to her two exquisite daughters from Ethiopia and my father's girlfriend of 20 years is black and that gave me real courage about my ability to create my own multiracial family and well, Papa Dog is a big nerd and hasn't stopped reading about Ethiopia or calling it the cradle of civilization since we filled out our application forms, and, if I'm really going to go there, the truth is I've gotten to the point where I don't want to have sex around the time I ovulate each month because, on the off, off chance, I don't want anything messing with our adoption. Maybe all that was put on our hearts by God. I'm not sure. But it's all part of our story, which is long and immense.

Sometimes it can feel a little embarassing to be an agnostic in the adoption world. You might even feel a little nervous outing yourself. I finished reading a perfectly fine novel this morning that had an extraordinary passage towards the end. The main character Holly, who can be a little judgmental and a little rigid when it comes to people behaving in the RIGHT way or the WRONG way, and in this respect sadly reminds me of myself, was coming to terms with her relationship with God:

"More and more often these days, though, Holly found herself thinking that perhaps what God wanted was not to be feared or obeyed or even worshipped—but maybe God just wanted to be wondered about. Wasn't that at least a possibility? Why else would this all be so confusing? Why else would there be so many different ways, and so many conflicting ideas, everybody so convinced that they're right and everybody else is wrong, and the people without anything unwilling to even look for something, because the people with something seem so darn unappealing? Who knows, maybe it is a gift to be able to believe in God and still get tripped up on the how.

And the journey from "knowing" to "not knowing" wasn't the same thing as losing your faith. It wasn't the same as believing in nothing, either. Even if it might look like that from the outside, from the inside, Holly knew for sure, it was different. Faith should take you further and further into life, and give you a way to engage, somehow, with the mystery behind it all, and if she was going to live a life without the comforts of dogma—and yes, she missed her dogma sometimes, the warm soft blanket of complete and utter certainty—well, the least she could do for herself was figure out a way to go forward."

So this is me, going forward, trying my best to trust that one day the phone really will ring, and it will ring with news of a child, and that there will be much rejoicing, and that that night, before we go to sleep, I can turn to Papa Dog and say, without really knowing what I mean, "Thank God. She's here."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My First Tagging

My Darling Dandie Rose tagged me. (I think this is the term for what has happened, although I'm a virgin when it comes to these winks on the blogging world.) The task at hand was to post the fourth picture in your photo library. Please, please, I hoped, as I opened the folder, don't be that one where I'm not wearing any pants. Happily, it was instead a shot of me and the old man from September 2004, taken on our Brooklyn deck on the dreamy blue sky morning after our wedding. (Shout out to 7th Avenue!) In a few hours we'd be up in that perfect sky, on the way to Paris. Boy, were those ever the days.

(Also, harumph!, I'm looking at my chin and it appears I was storing nuts for the long plane ride ahead.)

I think I'm supposed to tag people now but I feel shy. Also, I don't forward chain emails or dress up for theme parties. Buzz kill!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Aw Nuts

Dang. Well, for about six months there I was having an easy breezy time with the wait. It was quite odd for this anxious old bird to feel so calm. I think reaching the finish line of the paperwork race left me with a nice runner's high that I was able to coast on for a blissfully long time. But that apparently is all over and done with now. I'm a wreck. I don't know what triggered it, but I am just a HOT MESS.

The wait times keep shifting on us, as is to be expected with international adoption. The health of the referral coming our way is unpredictable, as is expected with international adoption. With every passing day, I cringe as we nudge closer to the rainy season. I'm beating back nauseating waves of gloom and doom that the program will implode in on itself, submerged under bureaucratic nerves and inflated demand. I am so scared this will not work out in the end. I'm going to my book club tonight, which I love, and dreading the cheery, wide-eyed, innocent questions of whether we've gotten our referral yet and then what happens after that anyways, hop on a plane, no?, court date blah blah blah, wait time blah blah blah, glazed eyes blah blah blah. No referral this month, but any day now I'll chirp. Any! Day! Now!

I'm making myself sick with this dour post. Buck up, Mama Dog! One foot in front of the other now...

My best friend, the Pup's Godmother, was living with us for two months until recently. I'm now of the firm belief that every waiting adoptive mom should have their best friend swoop into town for a good chunk of the waiting time. Your best friend will make you laugh until you throw up (true story!) and she'll peel you grapefruits and she'll do spot-on impressions of the ladies on The Bachelor and she'll blow dry your hair all pretty and she'll make you pies. She won't make you feel dumb at all if you have to practically be shoved into a Baby Gap then only to tear up over a little white shirt dotted with cherries. She'll understand that after you spend $67 on the dearest clothes imaginable you'll immediately start worrying that you've singlehandedly jinxed your whole adoption. She won't wince if you then start indulging in some gallows humor about how if the adoption does fall through maybe you could give away some of these new outfits at friends' future baby showers with stone-faced proclamations that this little denim jumper was hand-dipped in a vat of tears and bitterness and these little corduroy pants have our infertility diagnosis tucked in the front pocket so go on now and enjoy. Your best friend will join in on such morbid humor and before you know it you'll be laughing again. Best friends are the best when you are at your worst.

And I seem to be grinding down to my worst. Pretty, pretty please let this all work out. Baby, you get here when you need to but just so you know, we're ready to meet you. Your Godmother wants to shower you with laughter and pies. Your Papa Dog wants to make you homemade food and tell you not to pull the cats' tails. Your crazy Mama wants to look at you while you sleep and whisper in your ear "Thank you for getting here bunny rabbit, we're so happy to know you, we're going to have so much fun together, you and I, so sleep tight, perfect child, and trust that you'll wake up to people who will do their best to always do right by you."

**Went to book club and had fabulous time, cocooned in glow of good will. When I admitted I'd never read a single Harry Potter, one friend said "That is the perfect book to read while you wait to meet your daughter." At the end we said goodbye, until next month, and I made dumb joke about maybe March making a mother out of me. Same friend leaned over and said "Oh please, you're already a mother." Now that's a quality lot of ladies right there!