Return Policy (or, How My Mother in Law Won the Baby Shower)
One of the tremendous benefits of being adopted after birth is that you get to attend your own baby shower. My sister and my mom’s best friend Mrs. W threw a baby shower for Baby and it was magnificent. Mrs. W had an elephant theme, cupcakes, she even took the time to tape over every little “mom to be!” with “Welcome baby!” on each decoration. Robin had some fun games, like throwing a baby shower for a baby and nobody in the room is allowed to say the word “baby.” Friends and family came from all over and made it a truly joyous occasion.
Everybody gave us wonderful gifts. Clothes, toys, gear, contraptions, things that did stuff. The generosity was astounding. It felt like everybody was telling me Baby was cherished and celebrated, that his arrival was joyous for the village that would help us raise him. I also got to hear that it’s OK to say raising a baby is very hard work. I think adoptive moms are afraid to say so because we worked so hard and felt the need to appear perfect. To appear worthy of motherhood. That worthiness doesn’t jibe with wanting to lay on the floor and cry because you can’t clean the house, diaper the kid, go to work and make food all at once. Only one of those things can be done at a time, and sometimes it feels none of them are being done very well.
The baby was all dressed up in his baby finest for his shower. I mean, come on. A vest. And a TIE? Can you even believe this child? Of course you cannot.
The other guest of honor at the shower was Mac’s mom. You may remember that Mac was born and raised in Canada, where people are so polite their government’s Nuclear Option is a strongly-worded letter warning the next strongly-worded letter may contain foul language. Mac’s mom was a nurse, now she enjoys hiking, sewing and belonging to church groups. That said, my mother in law is still pretty steely under the polite. She once made the newspaper by climbing onto her nurses’ station and putting out a hospital fire raging inside the ceiling. After she was done I bet the hospital wrote an apology for getting the firefighters out of bed for nothing.
Anyway, she and Mac’s dad were down to meet Baby for the first time. Baby was three months old and especially, especially precious. It may have taken 5 seconds for them to fall totally in love, but I am probably running very long on my estimate.
This is why it was ultimately not a surprise that she won the baby shower. I don’t mean the games, I mean she won the entire night with a single sentence. We were all sharing stories about (surprise!) babies. That in and of itself was fun, both because it was a great way to hear stories from friends but also because everyone tried so hard not to say “baby.” We had lots of perspectives: the older generation told my generation about when we were born, we talked about when our kids were born, the adopted people talked about their homecoming stories, the adoptive moms told of endless paperwork and waiting. One of my friends asked if anyone had been unkind about the process. I told her that yes; as much as it beggars belief, some people say shitty things about adoption.
What did they say? Well, let me see. I heard “you know you won’t be his real mom, and you should just accept that.” I heard “if you were supposed to have kids, you would.” Or what about “isn’t it a little like getting a used kid?” Then I told of one woman who said to me “Don’t you think those babies are better off with their own people?”
All of the women in the room looked shocked. They cringed. They looked at the baby sitting among all his presents, in his vest and bowtie. The thought that he was less than mine, or not “one of us.” And my mother in law looked around the room and proclaimed “I think I know what I would have said to that woman.”
And that, dear readers, is how my mother in law won the baby shower.