Don’t do The Thing
Attention! Due to extenuating circumstances visits to the doctor’s office are now limited to the following scenarios: baby is too hot, baby is too cold, baby eating too much/too little/too often/not often enough/without perceived appropriate amount of zeal, baby farts in a manner inconsistent with previous farting behavior, or baby displays ambivalence towards the color teal. Calls concerning the health of either parent will be adjudicated on a case by case basis if and only if the other parent has time and a winning lottery ticket.
We need to take Baby for an extensive, and I do mean extensive, set of tests, checkups, metrics, go-sees, drop-ins and passing glances. This happens when an adopted baby doesn’t have any medical history forms for one or both sides of the family. In our particular case there was such a lack of info on Baby it was almost like we had negative background. Less than zero, on a scale of 1-10 we had -3. Consequently he needed to see a pediatrician while we were in Council Bluffs. The doctor, who was friendly and never let on that she was capable of destroying the entirety of my womanhood with a single sentence, suggested I should breastfeed Baby. In Nigeria (the doc’s native land) I guess it’s common practice for women who have not given birth to still breastfeed a family member. They get the milk to flow by placing the infant on their breast several times a day.
It hadn’t occurred to me this would even come up. Some insane person who was using my vocal cords chirped “Hey! That could sure be worth a try!” No, Sarah. NO IT WOULD NOT. I have no clue what my vocal cords were thinking. This was a genuinely terrible idea. You see, we didn’t simply adopt because of the reasons one would imagine, like I need to keep my figure for my big time Hollywood career or my eggs are lazy. Nope, we adopted because I live in North Korea.
This is not to say that my body is located in North Korea. I am contained within a perimeter that surrounds North Korea. You cannot imagine a more contentious, petulant little war zone than the one located between my ribs and knees.
I have spent a long time making peace with the war zone. An especially painful detente came in 2009 when, like most childless couples, we tried to cook at home before getting carry out. Permit me to sum up how hopeless fertility treatment was: when we got back the final batch of tests my doctor came in, sat beside me, and in a friendly tone started my diagnosis with “I want you to know I have two adopted children I can’t imagine my life without.” I’m not just barren, or infertile, or whatever weird thing the Tea Party seems to think makes me worthless as a human. My reproductive organs wage all-out war on my body. I had North Korean ovaries. They were so committed to shutting down my system that after I removed the first one (Kim Il-Sung) AND the second one (Kim Jong-Il) they left behind a SURPRISE SUCCESSOR, a non-cancerous tumor I called Kim Jong-Un because everybody was surprised he showed up after we thought we had cleared out the worst of the insufferable shittiness. Also because he was tubby, potentially dangerous, and a very literal pain in my side.
There were procedures, pills, shots, treatments, therapies, acupressure, yoga meditations, visualization exercises, and surgeries. A lot of them. This is how I became a young(ish?) person who sometimes walks with a cane. I won’t offend people with a genuine disability by saying I have a disability. I don’t. A cane is nothing more than a tool I have in my arsenal to keep my less-than-optimal body running around. When my insides are cooperating I don’t need the cane. As it happened when we got Baby I needed the cane constantly.
So here I am, in Council Bluffs, trying to radiate New Mommyhood Glow and basking in all the attention Baby gets. I’m trying to radiate and bask but I’m also carrying my cane and suddenly feeling very defensive, old, defective. If I were meant to have this baby I’d have working breasts. I wouldn’t be afraid of what all the hormonal stimulation would do to me. I’d go off of all the medication I have needed since 1996 and give Baby pure, nourishing breastmilk no matter what it did to me personally. Hell, nothing would matter what it did to me personally, it’s not just a food issue.
If he had gotten the right mommy, not an old defective one, he could take 20 car rides a day. His mommy wouldn’t need help to lift him. His carseat would be in the middle of my backseat, not off to one side because I can’t reach the middle when I need to use the cane. His younger, healthier mommy wouldn’t need to leave him (as I was about to) to go to a pain clinic for 3 days where they evaluate and treat nerve damage due to scar tissue. In short, I should have been the perfect mother babies are supposed to get when they get their big Second Chance through adoption.
This is when my best friend, henceforth known as “AJ,” comes in. I call her AJ because when I say “AJ!” she responds. AJ listens to my self-pitying tale of basking, glowing, canes, Kim Jong-Il etc and then puts on her Stern Voice and sends forth an astonishing piece of wisdom which I now pass on to you. She says “Sarah, you are doing The Thing. Don’t do The Thing.”
AJ explains to me that The Thing is something all mothers do, biological, adoptive, step-, everyone. The Thing is letting “the best I can” not be good enough. Mommies hear about the Ideal. Ideal mommies behave a certain way, do a certain thing, have a certain appearance, they are perfection. The perfection doesn’t exist but we think it does because somehow our society has gone way, way the fuck overboard on telling women how to be the Perfect Mommy and we’re too tired/overwhelmed/outnumbered to sit society down and give it a good talking to. The Ideal is not always possible so we do what we can. As I tearfully admit I can’t have his carseat in the middle, I just can’t reach that far, she looks at me with compassion (with a soupçon of mockery) and says “what do mothers of twins do, Sarah?”
She continues “your Baby is the one always meant for you, right?” Yes! Of course he is! “So, exactly how would you have gotten the son you were always meant to have if you didn’t adopt him?” Holy crap. She’s right! We never would have adopted him if we had conceived a baby, and while I know we would have loved that baby it also makes me sad that we wouldn’t have had this one. Because this one, this particular baby, was always meant to be my kid. He didn’t get the perfect family– he got his family.
So, a million doctors appointments for him, because we don’t know anything about him. And a million more for me, in case my abdomen ever wants to call a truce. A constant, expensive reminder that the Imes Bordens are good enough– we don’t do perfection. We don’t do The Thing.