Due to Extenuating Circumstances

Adventures in Unplanned Parenthood

Archive for the tag “#adoption”

Love Story: the real sequel

Oh, readers. You’ll love this. I mean it; you’ll love this, because by now you think you’ve copped on. “Sarah can’t possibly have this many physical problems, she’s a head case who exaggerates minor physical discomforts for the sake of the story,” you’re saying to yourself in my voice at this very minute. I do mean this minute. I wait until each and every one of you is reading, then I say it along with you. (Hi, Don & Suzie, congrats on the move!).

Hollywood, I have the ultimate pitch to you. I want to pitch my movie about the sequel to Love Story, only this is very real and the coveted age 40-65 movie target audience will come for this one. They truly will.

We start with the wife, and this IS based on a true story, somewhere out there some superheroes disguised as EMTs and firefighters will corroborate… taken to the ER with what we now know was an extremely sudden attack of benign positional vertigo. The entire world was spinning, I could NOT stop puking, I was lethargic and confused, and wasn’t ambulatory. Simply put, it was like being drunk on a Tilt-a-Whirl after you’ve eaten Thanksgiving dinner then stepped into an anti-gravity chamber. Hm. I need to work on “simply put.” Anyhow, the vertigo is expected to last six weeks or so, and I frequently get so dizzy I have to stop everything and sit on the floor, or I’ll get there one second later but land on my face.

We meet the protagonist, Mac. He’s NOT George Clooney, he’s had to live a real life, so go find an actor that has DONE that, thank you. Mac is now married to a person who cannot pick up their beautiful adopted baby from off the ground, lift the baby or carry him for more than a minute, put him in a carseat, or, for that matter, drive. (I still get so damned dizzy that I get carsick while I’m driving. One or two things my cop father said are rattling around somewhere in my brain, thus I respect a car is a deadly weapon in the wrong hands. I have taken myself off the road before I get myself or someone else killed).

Mac’s school year is all but done, he’s mostly researching and writing. Don’t let that fool you; that’s still a 40 hour work week, when done by serious professors who give a damn and are good at their jobs. Sitting on your butt and writing (for real) is WORK. His day is simple: get baby up, feed him, dress him, drop him at Learning Center (daycare), go to work, get baby, come home, amuse baby til dinner, make dinner, TV, bed. He has made it clear my character is welcome to join in, but if I don’t feel well enough, by all means he’ll get’r done.

Obviously I try to do what I can. Mac can nap while Baby and I watch Sesame Street and count our toes, or I give him an amazing new toy and he can hit other things with it. Today it was a spoon. Yesterday it was empty husk of a highlighter, the innards long-since sent to the Staples in the sky. I helped change the bed after Baby pooped in it and the clumpy, yogurty mess went all down Baby’s pant leg. That mess, by the way, was a grim reminder that Mac should double check he put a diaper on the kid before putting him in the crib.

That’s how tired this man is. He forgot the diaper entirely. Then thanked me for getting a clean mattress pad on the bed. Thanked me.

Think about that for a second.

Hollywood, take note: I am now writing the secret to the greatest screenplay of the last century, and giving it away for free, so at the VERY least give it some thought and then cast an actress who is 40 to play me, not a 22 year old who has a flat stomach and a $300 haircut.

Mac did Love Story, the original. His first wife died very young, of a cancer so vicious it couldn’t even have the mercy to end her days quickly. There was no Ali McGraw, no beautiful soundtrack, no Academy award nominations. It sucked Mac dry then left him for dead, except he was still here.

Now here he is, in a sequel that, like so many others, is a fainter shade of the real deal and nobody’s heard of the actress. A whole decade younger…should have been a safe bet, huh? Nope. Still calling 911, still getting huge medical bills, still seeing doctors shake their head and say “I’ve never heard of this before. Sorry.” And in the middle of all of this…he found enough love in his heart to dream of a son, and then Baby finally comes. Mac is now under studio contract to keep making this work no matter how much the actress is wandering off and on the set, taking weird pills, sitting for no discernible reason in the middle of the floor, making the whole house into an instant parody of the world’s shittiest ashram. The baby screams because he wants Cheerios, the soundtrack to the Wiggles is on permanent loop for the rest of our lives, and after cleaning up the poop, putting everything in the clothes washer, drying it, bringing it upstairs, feeding our kid and spending time with me…

HE thanked ME for putting the mattress pad on Baby’s crib.

Hollywood, I know you’re blowing me off, but believe me when I tell you every couple who has been in love through these times will see this movie. Anybody can fall in love. Hell, it’s so easy the Kardashians, David Hasselhoff, Voldemort and Donald Trump all did it, and remember Hasselhoff was quoted as saying “I’ve got taste. It’s inbred in me.”

The sequel is the better, braver movie here. It’s the choice to be a good man, a good father, a good husband, a good provider, a good son, and, with the time he was allowed, a good brother. THAT’S the angle, Hollywood. Show the choices people make when one has to be at 100% day and night, trusting the other will be there when the time comes.

She is here. No, hon, look down. On the floor. But I am here, and I’m grateful that “romantic movie” gives way to scary EMTs, poopy sheets and the grace to thank me when I do what I can as well as I can.

I love you Mac, as I can and from wherever I am. Yep. Down here again, kitchen floor. Thanks for making the sequel.


The Other Woman

Well, let’s out with it: there is another woman in our relationship. That’s OK, there’s another man, too. Oh, and two small children. And a slightly older child, probably not in the US.

And grandparents.

It’s such a weird and wonderful thing, to know somewhere out there my son has a whole family he knows nothing about. Frankly, I don’t know what’s weirder; we know, but very little, or if we didn’t know anything.We were never supposed to meet our son’s birth family. It was more of an awkward “uh, this is a VERY small maternity ward, and you’re the ONLY white people coming in, unpregnant and excited out of your minds we’re the Mexican man, woman and two very young children stuck in the doorway while they do some paperwork… uh…hola!” We were under the impression they wanted to meet. That was wrong. Through an interpreter, at the last minute our social worker was told that in the Mexican communities of itinerant workers the common preference is for a totally closed adoption.

That’s rare in the US now. Open is the only way to go. I admit a selfish part of me wanted to be the ONLY mom, the ONLY woman he could picture…but our kid is, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, Mexican-American. He’s gonna cop on pretty fast he doesn’t look like Mrs. Gringa over here, who is the color of the underbelly of a frog and can be used as a night light in certain emergency situations. I’m glad his birth family consented to one super awkward picture, so at least we can show him: see? You didn’t come out of thin air. The reading I’ve done, and talks with our social worker, indicate children of color need these cues to feel more secure as they grow up. OK, nobody’s pretending I got a good tan, I do see where I came from and letting me be who I am involves talking about my birth mom and dad.

For me, the weirdest part is wondering when she thinks of him. She must although she has got to be BUSY;when we met they had a 2 AND 1 year old with them. I have a single 16 month old and my husband washed a load of underwear for me last week after he looked in my underwear drawer and saw two swimsuits and a credit card I haven’t used since 1998. I went to feed Baby the other day and found my keys in the freezer. Still though, she must wonder how the son they gave up is doing. What would I say?

Well, he was a VERY non-picky eater until two weeks ago,now he throws tantrums worthy of Gordon Ramsey in the kitchen. He screams his head off at nap time, even though he’s rubbing his eyes and trying not to yawn. He likes strawberries better than grapes. He likes most veggies. He thinks hot dogs are OK-ish, and he loves to eat rice with his hands. He uses his grubby little hands to mold sushi bites, then eats them. They’re gross, honestly.

Mostly, I think I’d say thank you. I did then, but that was for the baby.This time I’d say thank you for the experiences, and insanity, the unexpected moments of grace, and hilarity. I’d say thanks for knowing what you’re about to miss and handing him over anyway.

Finally, I want to say Happy Birthmother’s Day. I’m pretty sure most women don’t set out to become one. Thank you for doing it anyway. I may make light of silly things in this column, but I get to do that because there’s enough buoyancy in my heart to share. Those levels were ROCK BOTTOM before we received your gift. Gracias. As I said to you in my crappy Spanish the day we accidentally met, “desde el fondo de mi corazón, gracias.” From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Screw Batman; Send Robin.

I had a meltdown around Christmas. I choose my words carefully. I didn’t get a little upset things weren’t perfect and throw a hissy fit. We’re talking complete, total, full-on meltdown climaxing with me telling my one year old (yes, really) if he hated me that much he can return his Christmas presents, thrusting him into the arms of the grandma he much prefers then running out of the room into the front yard where it was both dark and 25 degrees and screaming until three elderly neighbors turned on their living room lights and my furry coat hood stuck to my face with the snot running out my nose. If there was a Bat signal for Shady Pines, one of the old folks probably would have turned it on. I was in Trouble.

This was nuclear-level mommy meltdown. I had HAD it. I was DONE. This was for a few reasons, but the most glaringly obvious and painful was that my son is going through a phase where he just doesn’t like me very much. There are a few logical reasons for this, most notable amongst them that since my abdominal issues have gotten worse I can’t pick him up and play with him. Also, he’s one. He throws a tantrum when he gets peach puffs and not sweet potato puffs. But let me tell you, logic has nothing to do with the Mommy Meltdown. It is complete and total pain. That’s all it is. Lest you need reminding, not only did I want this child so much I got this child, I wanted this child so much I involved a fingerprinter, a social worker, two state agencies, a lawyer, a judge, more money than I make in a year and a midnight trip to Walmart three days before Christmas. Mac and I really, REALLY wanted this child. But right now the baby doesn’t want me very much. He thinks the sun shines out of his father’s ass (which makes waking up next to him a real fucking joy) and he thinks Grandma is pretty great. We recently returned from Canada and he thinks Grandma and Grandpa Canuck are pretty awesome. His cousin the Dude is fun. In fact, my son likes everybody that comes into contact with him. Except me. Hence, the complete meltdown.

So, mid-meltdown I realize I can’t stay out front forever. My parents live in a retirement community and I’m not kidding about the lights coming on. This was the most action Shady Pines has seen since they decided hanging beach towels on your deck rail was “unsightly” and the Towelers fought the non-Towlers on the grounds of being stodgy old party poopers (yes, that happened). I was crying, screaming, cursing, crying some more, ugly crying, hyperventilating-crying, and wondering how the hell I was going to spend 17 years raising a kid who screams every time I try to talk to him. It was like starting parenthood with a teenager who poops his pants. God, the level of anger and hurt I felt was overwhelming and massive and unbelievable. I’ve had some epic breakups in my time, some honest Guinness world record holders. But I have never felt as rejected as I have the last few months. He doesn’t get that I CAN’T throw him in the air. I CAN’T pick him up and hold him for an hour or two. I CAN’T put him in his carseat. It has been medically impossible. And he will never, ever know it hurts me more than it hurts him. It hurts me more than anybody has ever hurt.

So I crawl back into my parents’ enclosed porch, because my snot is, and you know how I feel about using this word inappropriately, literally freezing into the fur on my coat hood. My eyes have swollen into puffy little slits. My father knows I’m out there, but good timing or abject fear, doesn’t matter which, has kept him from coming out. Finally my sister Robin and the Dude arrive. Robin sends the Dude inside (“Where’s the baby? I wanna play with the baby! He loves me!”) and asks what happened. To her credit, she doesn’t laugh. Instead, she tells me the story of our Good Friends. Miss Good is 5. When she was 16 months old, she went through a phase where she hated Mr. Good Friend. Seriously, like yelled at him “NO!” every time he tried to interact with him. OK, I think, that’s pretty reassuring. Mr. Good Friend is up for several prestigous parenting awards I just made up, including Most Invested in Raising a Liberal and Compassionate Child and Healthy Diet Without Being Snobby About It. He’s a really Good Dad. She acted this way? She LOVES him now!

Robin tells me to get in her car. We go to the grocery store, and she buys me some really gross treats, including Ho-Hos that were set to expire that week. Have you ever has a Hostess cake less than a year before it’s set to expire? No. I didn’t think they existed. They do. And they are ungodly.

Then we went back. I went inside the house. I tried to wash my face, and we had dinner, which was chili with cinnamon rolls and if that confuses you then you’re not Nebraskan, more’s the pity for you.

There are plenty of signs Baby can tolerate my presence. I’m trying hard to see them. I’ve also gotten the big, ugly cry out of the way for awhile, which feels good. Most of all, this was a good lesson that I don’t need Batman, Superman, Spiderman or any of those other childless, freewheeling, testosterone driven “heroes.” The next time my world is falling apart, send Robin. Robin has a kid. She gets it.

The Paper Chase

We were told after we had custody of baby for EXACTLY six months his adoption file was going to be submitted to the Lancaster County courts, our lawyers would have us sign a lot of papers, the judge would do gavel-related things and the baby would be ours for all eternity.

  1. lack of experience, wisdom, or judgment.

We thought six months meant six months, 180 days, half a year, all those things you tend to believe when someone says a concrete amount of time that equals 24 hours multiplied 180 times. This, of course, was stupid. The same way that we thought 12 bibs was a reasonable number of bibs, this is the level of delusion I’m describing. Here is what 6 months means in the adoption world:

Obtain baby. Unbelievably difficult but necessary step.

Select family lawyer. One with a law degree is best.

Wait until the baby has been in your physical custody for 4,320 hours.

Go to your lawyer.

Prepare the paperwork. Learn that there has been a dispute over what Iowa paperwork and Nebraska paperwork need to include. Wonder why this was never addressed the entire time you have been twiddling your thumbs waiting for the day the paperwork could be handled.

Meet again to have papers reviewed and signed. Notice minor errors in the paperwork that are mildly concerning, like the fact there is no legal record of how the birth mother spells her name. It’s three different ways on three separate documents. Have a panic attack wondering if someone can be un-adopted if the birthmom shows up and it turns out adding a “y” to her name makes her a totally different legal entity with rights over your beloved son.

Take a sedative.

Go back to paperwork and notice that you have all be signing copies showing today’s date as 2012. Wait for everyone to get updated copies.

Wait for a second round of updated copies while everyone tries to remember if the baby needs to be Imes Borden or Borden, middle name Imes. Realize you don’t HAVE to remember, he’s YOUR FUCKING KID AND YOU ALREADY NAMED HIM SO JUST DO IT RIGHT AND WHY HAVEN’T WE BEEN HAVING THIS DISCUSSION BEFORE NOW

Take another sedative.

Be told, for the first time, that after the paperwork is filed (already one month late) the state must hold it between 4 and 12 weeks.

Realize that the tickets you just got to visit the baby’s grandparents in Canada are now $2,300 (CAD) bookmarks. Because baby cannot get a passport without a birth certificate, and he cannot get that without the adoption papers, and those just got pushed back at least another month.

Remove sedatives from bottle and repackage them into Pez dispenser for convenience.




Realize the court date will run into the school year, wonder how we’ll schedule it all.

Pez dispenser.

Ask mother to find outfit for baby to wear to court. Consider the virtues of bowties, tiny seersucker suits and similar.

Get notice to appear in court. Invite family to be there.

Get everyone to court. See another family with a toddler they are about to adopt. Realize we’re about to do something profound and special. Give them the “us, too” nod that only the others of our vast and wonderful tribe get to share.

Explain to squirming nephew what adoption is. Realize the entire concept of “the baby grew in another lady’s tummy but she gave him to us to love forever because he’s our family”, while beautiful and awe-inspiring, sounds a little suspect when you say it out loud.

Go in front of the judge. Remember almost none of it because IT’S HAPPENING.

Tear up when she asks why we want to adopt him. Mac answers “because we love him.” I answer “because he’s our son.”

Put away the Pez dispenser.

Live happily ever after as the Imes Bordens.

Or whatever name they put on his papers.





Breaking Mad

Attention! Due to extenuating circumstances, the following separation anxiety protocol will be followed: if the baby sees you, you must not leave his sight. For those visiting the Borden household, job resignation forms will be available upon request. Once here, should you need the bathroom before baby turns 5, you will provide (at your own cost) a full-sized cardboard cutout of yourself such as one sees of film stars or Star Trek cast members. Showering takes you away from baby too long, be advised there is a babywipe and Axe body spray regimen in effect. Options to be tongue-bathed by the cat will be considered on a case by case basis. Bring photos of your own family unless they wish to join you here with baby. Remind them to budget for cardboard cutouts.

Hey! Six months is a pretty great age. The weird, colicky “cry for no reason” hobby has faded away. Painful teething is still part-time work. His little personality is shining through. Every time he hears music, he turns to see where it’s coming from. He can tell when I’m going to pick him up because he can hear the velcro on my abdominal brace so he kicks and squeals with delight. The only issue, and I hesitate to complain here, is that after years of a completely child-free existence I now cannot leave this particular child for more than a fraction of a second. The universe is making up for those childless years by making certain I must be permanently attached to Baby. The “Separation Anxiety” Phase is a unique time in the development of a child, in which every moment the baby and parent are apart there is tremendous frustration, uncertainty, apprehension and unease. All that, plus whatever the hell is going on in the baby’s mind.

I can’t stand to leave him! It’s not that I love him so intensely it borders on the pathological (although a case could be made for that) it’s the anticipation he will WAIL. And wail and waaaaaail. This developed in the space of a day. Morning, I go to make him a bottle and some carrots–no problem. Afternoon I go to the bathroom and WAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLLLLL. And it’s not even the worst with me! When Mac comes in the baby can’t stand it if Mac briefly moves out of his line of sight. Mac hasn’t left the room and Baby wails merely anticipating the impending possibility of separation.

Meanwhile, when I’m alone with Baby during the day I sound like a third-rate rap star. I’m always talking about myself in the third person when I leave the room, hoping the kid will eventually understand I don’t literally disappear when I go to make the bed. “Mommy is going to the bedroom! Mommy is just making the bed! Mommy is speaking in the third person and verbally tweeting the useless details of her day to an audience who genuinely couldn’t care less!”

After three weeks of this I’m toying with positively insane ideas to combat this separation anxiety. I try to figure out exactly what he’s missing and replicate that. The sound of my voice doesn’t do it, so if I need to go somewhere in the house and I can’t take him with me (at this point I absolutely can’t carry him as I’m recovering from surgery) I put the TV on so he can see other people. I put him in his swing so it feels like he’s being cradled. I even leave a Tshirt I sleep in near him so it will smell like I’m still there. I don’t know why I thought that would work, and it didn’t, but I was desperate. Anything to escape the terrified screeching when momentarily out of Baby’s presence.

It has been a few months now, and we’re still barely out of the baby wipe/Axe phase. I have been relegated to the second tier Anxiety status; he’s mildly concerned if I’m the only person around he knows. Mac, on the other hand, is still First Tier, Code Red, The World is Ending status. God help me if Mac comes and goes several times in a day. Baby just starts to believe the dream is real: Daddy is HOME! Then it’s shattered as Daddy disappears to do trivial things like go back to work, eat, sleep, attend his brother’s funeral. Anything, really, is less pressing than Baby.

Funny thing, the Separation Anxiety phase. It’s loud and demanding and intense and insane. I think we’ll both miss it when it’s gone.

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.

2015-03-25 19.38.06

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.

Destiny’s Niño

I want to share with you a small fact about destiny that I bet you didn’t know: it has been fated since the beginning of all time that I would have a Mexican child. There was no getting around it. If you think I can make up this fate, keep reading. 

There is an old wives’ tale that newborn babies smell like something really special. It’s not the shampoo, or lotion, or anything you use around the baby, it’s just the way the baby himself smells. One night while I was lying next to the baby I took a good long sniff of his hair. It was very strange to me to discover that the old wives’ tale brought out three distinct phases of terror in me. The terror was that fate is real. The Greeks were right. You cannot outrun your destiny, not ever.

Phase One: It was TRUE. What other pieces of wisdom have I foolishly dismissed over the years just because I didn’t see empirical evidence to back the claim? Why was I dismissing the information that may not have been based in science as I understand it but had historical and cultural implications? Oh god. Was I not a feminist because I demanded a hypothesis of behavior rooted in the physical or social sciences and that avenue clearly wasn’t open to women when this wisdom began and oh my lord have I abandoned everything it means to be a woman in a misguided attempt to be a jaded humanist???


Wow, your imagination can run away with you when you’re tired and emotional. I didn’t shit all over the sisterhood, I just didn’t believe babies have a unique smell. Now I do. But that brings me to the second issue:

He smelled, I am not making this up, like crunchy and butter cinnamon-y goodness to me. My first thought was “toast!” I probably thought that because, and my thoughts on this are well documented, I really, really love toast. I think toast is fantastic. Plus that would even make sense, because my mom used to make me special cinnamon toast when I was a kid, I associate it with mothering and love, and blah blah blah. But the baby didn’t smell exactly like toast to me. He smelled like _________. Oh, man. OK. I’ll try again. He smelled like a, uh, uh, a…. ________________.

He smelled exactly like a —————. This is terrible. I can’t do it. Please don’t make me do it. Uh, OK. Bravery. Peace. Inner calm. What would Leslie Knope do? Boldness. Honesty. Integrity. Just say it.

He smelled precisely and utterly like a churro to me.

This was a nightmare. Did it make me racist? Am I insane? Have I somehow transposed memories of a time when I was in Mexico to having this Mexican child and then it all got swirled in my brain? Have I had a stroke? Am I dying? Nope. There’s no way of getting around it. That kid smelled like churros. He did. I was the only one that could smell it but I stand by my madness.

Which brings me to the third point, the hilarity of my fate. Before I met Mac, I dated a man from Mexico. We met there and had only seen each other in person in Mexico although we had a long distance romance for awhile. He was the major relationship I had in my early 30s. I’ll call him Juan, because if I tell you his real name everyone in all of Mexico will be able to find him. His parents had a hippie streak and gave him a name that would be as distinctive in Mexico as Moon Unit Zappa or Blue Ivy Carter is here. Juan is a great guy, it’s just that he needed to live in Mexico where his heart is, and I needed to live in the US, where my heart is.  Sorry, I don’t like to lie. Ireland is where my heart is. However the fact remains that my job, family and psychiatrist all live here and that, especially the last, is not insignificant. Juan had a house in Mexico but living there wasn’t right for me. So we parted and it hurt but we moved on and remain friends.

The hilarity is this: I ate churros quite a few times with Juan. They are damn delicious and go great with hot cocoa. Maybe I did make a subconscious connection. Maybe I do like cinnamon. Maybe I have a serious smelling disorder linked to motherhood and I should ask my psychiatrist about it. One glaring, ridiculous fat fact remains:

I broke up with a Mexican man, to live in the US. In the US I married a Canadian. The Canadian and I have a Mexican son.

You can’t fuck with fate, people. I was gonna have a Mexican kid no matter what.  And he DID smell like churros. So there.


The Garage Sale and My Coke Habit

**a short break from our regular blogging duties to enjoy a piece I submitted to a site a few weeks ago. They didn’t want it but asked to see more of my writing. To celebrate this small victory I am leaving the original submission here. Enjoy and share.**

I made the mistake of having a baby and a garage sale at the same time. To clarify, I didn’t go into labor on a card table in the driveway, although that would have been one way to upstage the lemonade stand across the street. No, I was merely in simultaneous possession of a baby and a garage sale, just not my faculties. If I had been, I would have remembered to put my personal soda supply inside the house before the Well-Meaning Neighbor stopped by. You know that neighbor. I bet you have one, too. She’s not nosy, intrusive, inquisitive, snide and smug. She Aggressively Means Well.

“Hi, Well Meaning Neighbor.”

“Hi there! Wow, look at that baby, he is so big! And wow, you really needed to have a garage sale! What’s in the back? Well wow, you guys sure have a lot of Coke in your garage!”

I’ll be honest: it made me kind of happy when you just said Baby instead of his actual name, because I know from experience this means you don’t remember it. I’ve played the overly casual “so, how do you spell your name?” card twice on this block alone and I’m comfortable with the fact we just don’t care enough to remember each other’s’ names. I have yours narrowed down to a common name that begins with N but not Nancy.

Not-Nancy, I’m also letting the overuse of “wow!” slide because I’m trying to break the “amazing!” habit. I recently watched myself for 45 seconds on a reunion video and realized there is a very real danger I’m going to turn into someone who sounds 13, or, worse, perky. But, Not-Nancy, we’re going to have a frank talk about my Coke habit.

My Coke habit is the direct result of the garage sale condition. That stems from the baby you can’t remember the name of (and good job using context clues to take a stab at identifying gender, by the way). Our garage looks like a disemboweled Walmart for one regrettable reason: we were the last in our group to have a baby. We adopted very suddenly and needed help. When the call went out for baby things, They Came. Like benevolent plagues of Egypt, a thousand friendly mommies ripped open the seams of their basements to disgorge months, years, decades of baby-related detritus they will never want again. The top layers were fabulous items I was thrilled to use for Baby. The underlayers will forever haunt me.

Onesies of uniforms worn by now incarcerated athletes. Bits of plastic toys with tooth marks and bizarre discoloration around the edges. Alarming harnesses with Swedish names and buckles to fit body parts neither gender would possess. Shoes for feet that can’t walk. Mismatched socks and hats with odd fuzz on them. Formula samples expiring years before we began the adoption process. Two doorway jumpers with parts missing and no way to test how critical those parts might have been. Last, but certainly not least, a mountain of clothing that was perfectly cute but for a summer baby. I have enough on my mind without dressing a Christmas baby in a “Surf’s UP!” tank top then facing my social worker.

What does this have to do with the Coke? I’m glad I imagine you asked. Right now, I’m making a house ready for a baby, working, maintaining a semblance of control over my finances and fighting the urge to rapidly defenestrate the next person who chirps “savor each and every moment!” The Coke in my garage is what is keeping me upright because coffee is awful, I can’t afford speed and nobody will tell me what Seal Team 6 uses to stay awake on missions. The calories are a good idea as mealtimes have been reduced to whatever I can eat while I’m making a bottle. The corn syrup is a godsend because the word corn implies I have eaten something plant based. In fact, the more corn syrup I have in my system the better I feel about my choice to drink Coke. I live in Nebraska so supporting local corn growers might provide the karma I need to offset the enormous amount of diapers I’m chucking into Mother Earth. Hell, I’m gonna ride this one all the way to its logical conclusion: high fructose corn syrup isn’t just keeping me alive. It’s keeping America alive. That’s right. I went there. If you don’t support Frosted Flakes, Pop Tarts, Oreos, NyQuil and Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup, then you’re not the kind of American I want on my lawn. You don’t deserve to judge my garage, my mess OR my Coke habit.

Not-Nancy, I am going to sit here and drink this Coke while I figure out how much of my husband’s stuff I can sell before he notices. If you aren’t here to diaper my kid or lay out of season onesies on a card table, then just keep walking. And if you’re walking past the gas station, bring me another Coke.

My son’s homecoming

After three weeks in the hotel, Baby got cleared to go all the way back to Nebraska. It was the first week in January so we’d have a few days to settle in before the semester started. Time was a factor because we had been commuting back to Nebraska one at a time to do work while Baby stayed in Iowa. You’ll remember that we would be charged with Very Bad Things if the baby had spent even a second outside of Iowa before the Interstate Compact was completed. So I would like to state, here on this public forum, that Baby’s homecoming was the very, very first time he had ever crossed into Nebraska. He absolutely never slept in the backseat when we needed to deposit a check so my bank account wouldn’t be in tragic overdraft and that bank account was definitely never, not ever located in Omaha and frankly, I think it’s strange you would even ask.

The baby’s homecoming was everything you’d imagine a long-awaited homecoming would be. My mom loves putting up decorations and she loves being a grandma. Homecoming for the baby was her Super Bowl Halftime Show and she was going to go big or die trying. There was a big sign on the way into the back door, decorations in the living room, huge welcome banners and sparkly decorations saying It’s a Boy! The baby got carried into his brand new nursery and knew he was safe and loved. It was a spectacular homecoming. I hear. I wasn’t there. I was with AJ in Virginia visiting a pain specialist who performs some magic where he injects things near my spine and it stops pain where my spleen is. Hold on there– nope. I just googled where the spleen is, and it’s not there. Regardless, it stops pain in my front which is nowhere near my spine.

Upon my return I was overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and acquaintances. People knew we were blindsided. We had no furniture, no nursery decorations (except four adhesive soccer balls Mac has been saving since 2013. No, really). The Baby had clothes and diapers but we needed someplace higher than the floor to make these activities happen. My parents and Robin chipped in the immediate necessities like bassinet and diapering station which they set up and put in the room that was always-going-to-be-the-nursery-except-it-was-an-office-because-people-facing-infertility-have-complex-emotional-needs-balancing-hope-with-realism.

I was also overwhelmed by my husband’s face. Let me tell you something. Mac has had a challenging life. He has faced serious medical issues, his career involves long hours, he nursed someone through terminal cancer. He has stared into the abyss and the abyss was a little taken aback.

Mac was a single father for 5 days. This cannot be overstated: Mac, with the help of my family, was a single parent for just over 120 hours. I arrived from Virginia at the 121st hour. I walked in with my suitcase, saw Mac, and immediately reached for my phone. My husband had died and I felt someone should tell his mother. That man has never looked so haggard. He stared eerily into my soul, said he was happy the injection went well, and then said “I am going to sleep.” Not “I’m taking a nap,” “I am going to sleep.” There was no preface or qualifier or time limit. He meant it. He went into the bedroom and came out in March.

We’re home. I’m home. The three of us are in our home. All I have to do is organize a few things, make sure Baby gets fed and changed, and then step right back into work and my social life.

Stay tuned to find out how easy that has been.

2015-01-15 00.19.03

A shameful confession in selfish co-parenting

That first stage of parenting settled in and we were aware we had to look out for Baby’s every little need. I worried someone had finally given me my big chance and I was going to screw up the most perfect thing I had ever been given. I would only use bottled water for the formula since I had no idea if hotel sink water is clean. The sink is right next to the toilet, for god’s sake. I worried about SIDS. I worried he missed the sound of his birth mom. My overarching worry was that I’d hurt him. He’d fall when I bathed him. He’d choke. I’d drop him or cut him. At one point I remember thinking “what if I rip out his umbilical cord by mistake and he bleeds and it won’t stop?”

“Fear of horrendous mothering failure” would be the basic message, here.

At this point we have been living in the casino hotel for about two weeks. We have a good routine, if possible at that stage. Diaper station happens on the coffee bar, laptop is on the desk, minifridge stocked with grocery basics to avoid eating out every meal. The pantry (top shelf of the coffee bar) is where we store food. Eddie’s essentials: formula. Sarah’s essentials: chocolate and granola bars. Husband Mac’s essentials: Pop Tarts and scotch. Mac, actually of Scottish ancestry, drinks nice scotch to celebrate big life moments . He will only eat Pop Tarts if we are on a trip out of town. At the intersection of “having a son” and “we’re in a hotel” is my husband, having Pop Tarts and a 14 year old single malt.

The days went by in a pleasant haze of staring the baby and accepting the congratulations of our friends and family as our adoption was made public. We got cards, our students shared wonderful stories of how they cried when they saw the news on Facebook. Mac’s auntie started knitting a sweater for the baby. My in-laws Skyped with the three of us and never, not once, looked at their son or myself. They said, quite rightly, that he was a very beautiful baby and looked quite intellectually advanced for his age, too.

Then one morning I went to pick up the baby and discovered he had been mauled by Wolverine. My first thought was that this meant Hugh Jackman had been in my hotel room in the middle of the night and I’d missed it. That would really suck because like most women my ultimate fantasy is to have one night with Hugh in a hotel room. In my fantasy he’s arranging a a sitdown with his agent so I can sign a seven year deal to write as well as appear onscreen. I assume yours is much the same.

But what the hell happened to my child’s face? It was Death by a Thousand Papercuts. Then I see he’s not wearing mittens. That meant the scratches were from his nails. Right! This is one of those new parenting things I AM actually equipped to handle. One of the things we got as a gift was a little baby grooming set. There was a comb (pointless, his hair stood straight up all the time), snotsucker (pointless, the stupid little bulb was so hard to squeeze I needed two hands thus leaving no hands free to corral raging, angry newborn head) and a nailclipper. This is awesome, because after diapering, umbilical cord care and foreskin hygiene it was a relief to do something to the baby that I had at least done to myself.

This confidence lasted exactly nine seconds. Seven seconds to pick Baby up, one second to grab his chubby little fist and one more second to discover babies are not born with human fingernails. They are born with microscopic razors a millimeter thick that could scratch a diamond. I try to position the clippers but he suddenly moves his hands. What if I cut him? What if I miss? I can’t even see a pinky nail. It looks like a grain of rice. What the hell are my options here? I’ll bite my own nails but not his. Will I? Oh hell, I’ll try. Nope, I can’t get my teeth to work on something that tiny.

This is when, I’m not proud of myself but it’s true, this when I stopped. I didn’t even try. I put his mittens back on and did that whistling thing people do when they’re trying to act like there’s nothing to see here, officer. See, I knew eventually Mac would see the nails. Mac would try. If there was going to be a fingertip bloodbath it wasn’t on my conscience. This is, you will have guessed, exactly what happened.

One morning I bolt upright out of bed frantically heading towards my baby because I can hear he’s being murdered. I rush around the corner and Baby’s wailing while my husband is holding him. In the saddest, most heartwrenching little voice you’ve ever heard from a grown man Mac says “I cut him.” He felt miserable. He had taken the world’s tiniest sliver of flesh from my son’s finger and there was a little drop of blood. I think my husband would have cut off his own finger right there if it would undo this nightmarish scene.

And this, dear readers, is my shameful co-parenting confession. My very first thought was not to look at the finger or comfort my husband. I sort of did those on autopilot but they weren’t my first thought. My first thought, in its entirety, was


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