Due to Extenuating Circumstances

Adventures in Unplanned Parenthood

Archive for the tag “#adoption”

A short list of things that confuse me

There are times that I look around at the university where I lecture and think to myself “are we all sure I’m the person who is supposed to be up here?” Don’t get me wrong; theatre and how it intersects with culture is genuinely my passion. I have spent more than 20 years learning about it, doing it and writing about it. Passing that on to other people is freaking great. Generally speaking, I feel anyone who clearly remembers life before the internet has a place on the college campus; we are living history and what we went through will genuinely be forgotten by next Tuesday if we don’t tell people about life BPC (Before Personal Computers).

That said, there are things about baby gear that confuse the hell out of me. I don’t just feel curious, or befuddled, or even inadequate. Baby gear makes me feel DUMB. To wit:

  • why do baby bottles have rings? The ones in the hospital that you throw away every two ounces like you are a rapper in a video don’t have rings. But the at-home model does. Why can’t we just shape plastic like the ring is attached?
  • Without looking it up, tell me the differences between cloth diapers that are AIO, pre-fitted, pocket, hybrid and/or 2 in 1. For extra credit identify what a “leg gusset” is and explain why a diaper has something that sounds like part of a saloon whore’s costume.
  • Nipple sizes. Newborn, 2, 3…two what? three what? If you’re thinking of looking directly at a full bottle and squirting it to see if that edifies you, please take a picture. I’d like very much to know what the expression on my face was.
  • How does my baby know when I’m standing? We can jiggle him for a solid hour while he cries. Jiggle and walk, jiggle and walk. We jiggle him until our hands are numb and there’s a disturbing tic in my eye every time I move my shoulder. ANYTHING to keep him from crying. The second we sit to jiggle? The baby unleashes the hounds of hell directly out of his face. How did he know we sat while we jiggled? HOW?
  • He spent at least 36 weeks in utero hearing Spanish. Do I sound weird to him? If not, why not?
  • Finally, I own this and use this and it still confuses the hell out of me how I got here.
  • nosefrida-the-snotsucker-nasal-7898

Fashion for Infants

As a new parent, one of your most basic obligations is keeping your child appropriately dressed for the weather. Plus, we all know those little tots attract lots of fans looking for adorable photo ops! By following these simple steps your Baby will be Red Carpet ready in a flash!

1. Determine the size of your baby. Baby clothing can be listed in weight or in months. If you have a fat baby, the months will seem too small. If you have a skinny baby the months will seem too big. If you have twins the months will seem to last forever and ever and you’ll drink a lot. The most important thing is that no matter what size your child is now, that will change in a week and you’ll have shrunk all of the clothing in the dryer by then anyhow. Your best bet is to befriend very forgetful people and get them to throw you a shower approximately four times a year.

2. Determine the season. If it’s warm out, dress the baby in that outfit that looks like she’s going to the beach. If it’s cold out, start with that and then add layers until she’s spherical. Then add a hat. Everybody fucking loves babies in hats.

3. If you don’t know how to put on a onesie, follow my handy guide:

  • Baby clothing is often colorful and fun. If your onesie looks muted or boring, ask yourself if you are Amish. If you are not, then you probably have a fun and colorful onesie that is simply inside out. Fix it or don’t, nobody here is judging you.
  • Put your hand in any random onesie hole. Pull the baby’s arm through that hole. If it looks like the baby’s wearing a turtleneck, you’ve identified an armhole. Rotate onesie 90 degrees and put that hole on an arm.
  • If you see snaps over the baby’s head, you’ve identified where his butt goes. Turn the onesie 180 degrees and try again.
  • If your baby has an arm through each hole, a head out of one hole and his butt down by another hole, then I’d call it good because it has been 20 minutes and we haven’t even gotten to pants yet.
  • If you insist on pants, put one leg through a leg hole. Put the other leg through the other leg hole. Notice the pants are too loose. Realize you forgot a diaper. Pull the pants off. Put a diaper on the baby. Diapers are supposed to be colorful and fun. If your diaper is not colorful and fun, ask yourself if you are Amish. If you are not, then you have been using old-fashioned white cloth diapers for no reason and boy, am I about to BLOW YOUR MIND.
  • Now that you know we have colorful absorbent diapers with wetness indicators and all they are costing us is Mother Earth, back to the pants. Put one leg in the leghole. Put the other leg in the other leghole. Then put the first leg back in the first leghole. Repeat until you figure out you have to grab him and slide up the pants over his butt really fast.
  • Socks. It’s important that the socks match, so that when she kicks one off and you file the Missing Sock Report you can tell the police “it looked just like this one.”

In the final analysis, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to dress a baby, unless you put high heels on an infant. If you do that, then I’d like to come to your house and tell you about all the things being Amish has to offer. Otherwise, have a good time and don’t forget the hats.

Hoods are also acceptable

Hoods are also acceptable

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.

The meaning of adoption

Adoption is hard enough to define as an adult, I had no idea how to explain it to kids, even my own. Especially my own. What happens when he wants to know why his biological parents didn’t raise him? Will he question how we were picked? Will he think my definition of a Christmas miracle is his definition of a Christmas forever ruined?

My cousin Maid Marian came to visit Baby along with her family. This makes perfect sense when you know I’m Lady Cluck. Her family includes Sis (age 6) and Skippy (3). She’s married to Dan. I have no idea why you expect she’d be married to Robin Hood, he’s literally a cartoon fox and what the hell goes on at your house?

Moving on, we met down in the lobby so the kids could run around and I could see a different set of walls. When it’s negative 15 degrees every day and your hotel window overlooks the bricked up side of a casino you start to get starved for sensory input.

The kids are playing, we’re discussing how winter break is going, I gratefully receive a gift that includes yet other things we didn’t know we needed, especially XL-sized swaddling blankets. Baby barfs all over one corner? Not a problem! You’ve got plenty left over to clean up, wipe off your own shoulder, clean off the counter, then roll up the messy side and use the clean side for the next burp! In the middle of the Christmas cheer I had one of those moments when real life suddenly throws up many more questions that you have answers. Sis loves looking at the Baby, holding the Baby, noticing how small the baby is. Sis is also as smart as her mom, meaning when Marian says “Baby was adopted! Do you know what adopted means, Sis?” Sis is ready with all the pertinent questions.

“It was this week? Was he ever in an orphanage?” I tell her not exactly, some very nice nurses took care of him for us before we met him. I add that right before Christmas we brought him home from the hospital. She wants to know if he’s going to be ours forever. The answer is yes. I have no idea where this is going.

So, while I’m stumbling over 10 different ways to explain that sometimes mommies and daddies can’t take care of a baby, and they loves that baby so much they give that baby a home with another mommy and daddy, and those parents love the baby just like he was born from her tummy, and it’s hard to understand but everyone did this from a place of compassion and care for the infant, and and and and and…

Sis does the math: Baby at Christmas + forever home + a spirit of goodwill =

“Elf! Your baby is just like Elf!”

I haven’t seen Elf, but Marian says “yep! Like Elf!” and she has excellent judgment so I decide to check it out. Weeks later, I’m home at four in the morning (I stayed awake all night, husband had early morning shift) and Elf comes on TNT. Why playing a Christmas movie in late January represents a good scheduling decision is a mystery to me, but it was appreciated nonetheless. I sit down with some pretzels and begin to watch the story of Buddy. Five minutes in and I’m crying (let’s blame hormones, shall we? Ignore that I wasn’t pregnant). There he is, the inimitable Bob Newhart, telling me that sometimes you work so hard that having kids simply doesn’t happen the way you thought it would, and then one day Santa Ed Asner brings you a mystery child that you will love no matter what he’s good at, how different he looks from the other elves, where he has to go to find himself. I’ll be damned. It’s right there on the screen for anybody to see. I’m Bob Newhart.

I am going to QUIT wasting time when it comes to explaining to kids how this Christmas miracle occurred in our lives. The new standard answer, which has yet to fail me, is “Elf. Our baby is just like Elf.”


Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

It is Boxing Day and we are still celebrating. As a child I celebrated Christmas in a traditional way, with Santa, Christmas Eve church, being the angel in the nativity play, and so on. As our own family my husband and I celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday, a time when we honor our heritage by continuing traditions. That works well in what I consider to be a mixed marriage; I believe in Something, he does not. We also share strong bonds with our families and we like getting together, giving gifts, telling the old stories, all of that. We celebrate Boxing Day since it’s common in Canada and my husband has great memories of roving from house to house eating leftovers with his friends. That’s no different than what he did with his friends most other days of the year but it’s free to call it Boxing Day and it makes him happy.

On Boxing Day 2014 we would be debuting the Baby Swing.  There were certain things that could make life in the hotel easier. Mom would buy them and she and dad would bring them up to Iowa. She mentioned that we should get a swing. My mom likes to shop and she is very smart about shopping for baby things. She gets them at consignment stores with creepy names like “Once Upon a Child.” Seriously? Didn’t a single person involved at the franchise level even hear that sentence out loud before they slapped it on a store?

Mom was buying what we didn’t have waiting for us in NE.  Remember, we had started out with nothing. As people learned of the Extenuating Circumstance they generously donated things we could use at home. My sister ended up running a whole consignment shop out of her basement so friends could drop off whatever they no longer needed for their own little ones. Oh–a word on my sister. She has declined to have her first name show up in this blog. She said she will only answer to “O Captain, my Captain!”  Very well. Robin Williams it is.

So my sister Robin sifted through the donations, reported that there wasn’t a swing available, and mom went to Once Upon a Molestation Charge and bought one. It looks like a papasan chair and a hammock had sex with a space ship. There’s a soothing basket chair hung on a space-agey motorized plastic and metal frame. It has bumble bees hanging overhead, palm fronds, plays music and nature noises, comes with 7 speeds and is generally nicer than my first car. Mom got that up to Counciltucky and could not WAIT to get the baby in it.

We decided we’ll put it in the room she and my dad are sharing, and after Mom helps us give Baby his first-ever bath he can relax in his new swing. Bathing a child in a hotel is hard because they are slippery. If we could safely attach wet babies to a luge (and I am not for one second suggesting we should try) we would revolutionize the Winter Olympics. Anyway. Mom, dad, husband, baby and me; sitting around, looking at the new swing, talking about next semester’s classes, prepping for the bath. Mom asks if I’ll be teaching my Irish Theatre class again. Yes. I tell her about the religion segment, Husband mentions he is adding a new religion segment to one of his theatre history classes. Dad asks why. Husband answers. Baby lays on the bed. I talk about the role religion played in Irish playwriting. Mom asks intelligent question. I pontificate. Husband wonders if we need more towels for the bath. Mom says “yes.” I undress the baby. Dad asks about particular play. Husband pontificates. Baby pees. Mom  goes to look for baby shampoo. Husband mentions Christmas memory. Dad laughs. Mom asks for shampoo. I take key card and go to the room.

I return to my parents’ suite to…silence? I come in with the shampoo. Mom is sitting on the bed with a slightly befuddled expression.

“Mom? Are you ready for the bath? Where is Husband? And dad?”

“Oh! Yes! Sarah! Hi! Yes! Baby is ready for the bath, Husband went to get more towels and your father is an atheist.”


I left for 30 seconds and my father renounced belief in a higher power? What the hell HAPPENED while I was gone???

Here’s the funny thing: as mom and I put down 87 towels for the bath and dad returned from getting a cup of coffee in the lobby it emerged that this wasn’t a very big deal. Mom had suspected it, he hadn’t given much thought to formally putting it into words, and then when everyone was tired and happy and discussing religion it just sort of slipped out. If anything, we can all look for the positive in a 40 year marriage where your spouse still has the ability to surprise you at the holidays.

We gave the Baby his bath, which took three adults 10 minutes and 7 towels plus bathmat, baby washcloth, cotton swabs, shampoo, lotion and reading glasses (“can you see if that’s poop?” “Does it rub off?” “No, that’s why I wonder if it’s poop!” “Could it be a mole?” “Well, does it rub off?” “NO.”). Then we put him in the swing and spent half an hour fretting over whether it was too fast, too forceful, too stimulating, too much. We wondered. The baby didn’t, he fell right asleep, leaving us to think about what celebrating holidays means to different people we love and why we gather with them no matter where they are.

It wasn’t until the next day they discovered I’m Bob Newhart.


I am a roadie

My son stays up until four in the morning, screams at his entourage, ingests dust that costs more per ounce than platinum, and drinks til he pukes in my hair then face plants into it, fast asleep. I’m parenting Keith Richards.

As we settle into our life at the Casino/Hotel, I become aware that there isn’t very much substantive parenting to be done at this stage. He doesn’t need to be disciplined, taken to soccer practice (I married a Canadian. There will be soccer practice. My husband wrote it into our wedding vows) or helped with homework. What I am, in reality, is a roadie.

Everywhere we go the baby is the superstar. His job is to Be The Baby. Everyone will adore him for this. My husband and I have the job of making sure The Baby makes his appearances. The Baby sleeps whenever he wants, throws a fit when everything isn’t to his liking, and is expected to be moody, well-dressed and then covered in vomit. Our job is to stage manage everything that goes on behind the scenes of Being the Baby.

The baby is supposed to meet new family? Great. The first thing people will notice is the New Baby Multi-Sensory Experience. They expect him to be soft, smooth and have that luxurious New Baby smell. Get him bathed, dried, lotioned and diapered. Pick out what Baby will be wearing. Be CERTAIN that is what Baby is in the mood to wear, because you know how he feels about those little tags that poke out. Get him dressed and looking sharp.

Coordinate with staff at the venue. Make sure The Baby will be arriving in a warm car, right at the door, there will be no waiting to get inside. The fans wait for Baby, never the other way around. It’s winter in Iowa and there will be a backup plan for all roadtrips in case there is ice, snow or biting wind. The Baby does not do inconvenience.

Assemble all of the gear you need to travel. You know if he’s gone for any length of time there will be peeing, pooping, spit up and gassy farts. It’s the roadie who loads everything in the car to make sure these events are handled properly. You’ll also need a way to get him around (what, you thought he’d walk? He’s The Baby, not some peasant) and then a place for him to sit. He requires entertainment at all times if the people surrounding him are too much/too little/too whatever to handle. Remember that he has special dietary requirements. He will not be ordering off the menu no matter how swanky the restaurant thinks it is. The Baby eats on his own schedule. Should the roadies also want to eat, they may do so when it is convenient for The Baby. For this reason, roadies ordering food designed to be served at a certain temperature are foolhardy.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all the glare of the spotlight. At the hotel you get to see a side of private side of him when he’s not “on” and that feels pretty cool. Just remember, that doesn’t mean you’re actually equals. He sets the schedule, he dictates the mood in the room, he makes the staff rota. It doesn’t matter if Daddy hasn’t slept since Tuesday, if Mommy is boring as hell and we want Daddy, then Daddy better quit working on his (unapproved) side gig as a “professor” and come back to his only real responsibility. Right. Now. DAMMIT.

To be fair, it’s hard to hold a grudge against a superstar whose shit literally doesn’t stink. **A sidenote here to thank Mother Nature for that grace period. Think about that for a second…two people new at diapering and there isn’t another room in which to throw away the diapers or put dirty laundry.** It’s also fair to say that he never, ever lets down a crowd. Sure, the hotel room looks like a bomb went off and feeding him costs more than the GDP of Finland. Isn’t that the price of stardom? Who ever hears of a really big name that picks up his own socks, eats generic soup and turns in at 9:30?

So I’ll pack the gear and buy the special formula. He can barf on me and I’ll take it. Hell, I even paid for the privilege. Tune in next time, when we cover the Farce of the Swing and it turns out I’m Bob Newhart.

The State of Iowa Congratulates You!

Congratulations! You have decided to become parents in another state over the holidays. Let us be the first to say, your timing is ludicrous. When your adoption agency tells you it will take a few days to settle the Interstate Compact, what they are really saying is “you’ll be lucky to get it done before your child is eligible for Social Security benefits.”

For your reference, here is a guide to what you can expect from the State of Iowa concerning your Interstate Compact.

  1. The fingerprints you have done every year that you were with an Iowa-based adoption agency are not sufficient. Neither are the ones you had taken in Nebraska by both the Sheriff and Police Department. You will need a new set taken in Iowa and sent to the FBI. This must be done before we start the paperwork. You arrived on the 22nd, we don’t work over Christmas, and then after you get it done we won’t submit it to the court until after the New Year.
  2. The only place to get your prints done in Council Bluffs, this is absolutely true, is the UPS store. We don’t know why, either.
  3. While all of this is happening, you cannot cross into Nebraska for ANY reason with the child. This means that you will need to spend three weeks in a hotel. This is above any costs you have already incurred for home studies, adoption fees and necessities for the baby.
  4. All paperwork sent to Nebraska is sent via traditional mail. The government can communicate with people living in the International Space Station, but they cannot use email to complete interstate adoption paperwork.
  5. For anyone wishing to express a grievance with this antiquated system, you may lodge a complaint between 2:00 and 2:07 pm on every other Thursday. The Complaints Division is located at the UPS store. We don’t know why, either.
  6. Incidentally, we are well aware that this is the least-gross way to conduct the business of adoption. Your small, private agency allowed you to apply for an adoption when you were turned away from several traditional Nebraska venues. We know you were turned away because you hadn’t been married long enough (three years for the State of Nebraska, which is understandable) or because you could not register with a religious adoption agency. If you are atheist, as your husband is, you have very real trouble adopting in Nebraska. In fact, some agencies want a letter from your pastor to help prove you’re a good person before you can start the process. It doesn’t matter that you hold good jobs, are involved in your community, pay taxes and genuinely care about helping humankind…if you are Good Without a God then you are also Childless Without a Chance.

Let us not ignore, though, that this bureaucratic bullshit is nothing, absolutely non-existent, compared to what you found when you began looking for private adoption agencies. We are, of course, talking about the sliding scale of race that you got from most of the agencies you researched. The documents that laid out, in black and white (pun intended but still repugnant) how skin color determines what you pay for your adoption.

So that this is COMPLETELY OBVIOUSLY CLEAR, we are going to explain it like we’re talking to a four year old. IN AMERICA, WE PRICE BABIES ACCORDING TO HOW WHITE THEY ARE.

Here is a price list from an agency in Florida. Similar scales were sent from MO and GA.

African American track (100% Black) adoptions are free to apply for. Final cost of adoptions, about $14,000

All other adoption tracks cost a non-refundable $500 application fee.

Biracial (mixed with black) $14,000 to $18,000

Latino, other designations $14,000-$20,000

Biracial (not mixed with black) $18,000 to $25,000

Caucasian boys $25,000 and up

Caucasian girls starting at $30,000

Prices vary according to medical expenses and needs of the birth mother.

You will hear many debates on why this is fair. It mostly has to do with white people not receiving as much government assistance, so the birthmoms deserve more money. Nobody ever points out that these fees can be held separately from medical fees. There’s a mysterious wormhole in the fabric of the adoption universe that sucks up more money when everyone involved is white. So, in conclusion, while there are many conversations to be had, ranging from “this is a supply and demand equation” to “doesn’t this speak directly to why we need to discuss race more, not less in America?” let us not forget the most important factor here: this is fucked up.

All in all, it takes three weeks, tons of money, a paperchase that will end in 2022 and you’re living in a room the size of a postage stamp. But this is what happens when you use a small, ethical agency that collects one uniform fee for one beautiful child. Your child, who is at once the most expensive thing in the known world and the most priceless.

The State of Iowa regrets that we’re out of copies of our free booklet Explaining to Your Children Why It’s Offensive to Designate Them 3/5 of a Human Being but Not Offensive to Charge 3/5 of a White Child to Adopt Them.

Congratulations again on your newest tax break.

Your Guide to Adopting and Raising a Baby in an Iowa Casino

Everyone with a new baby is excited, anxious, head over heels in love. They also have a new routine to build and person to bond with. It’s not just being a new parent. You are now a new type of unit with your spouse. You talk about how you see responsibility, how you picture the future. You can’t help but dream, like they show in the movies, that all those things happen in your own apartment/home. You snuggle your little bundle in the nursery you painted with stuff you picked out amidst a collection of sturdy but tasteful baby furniture made by IKEA, Target or similar.

Believe me, I am very well aware that this is the ultimate White Whine, but having a newborn in a hotel is weird, y’all. Three weeks. I’ll explain the three weeks next time. For now, what’s relevant is we had a small suite with a minifridge and place for the crib. This extra space was heaven sent. If nothing else, it meant one parent could “sleep” in the bed while the other person “worked” or “read” on the couch. In reality these things were never accomplished as every cell in our body was tuned into The Infant Channel. In a space like that, your lizard brain picks up on every minute thing the baby could possibly think about doing. He made so many weird noises we nicknamed him Bubble and Squeak. A very big shoutout goes to all the grandparents, who paid for the room. After all of the adoption expenses thus far, what we could have afforded for 3 weeks was to take turns committing petty thievery and staying in county lockup.

Our friends and family drove up to meet the baby. You can picture how it was to sit with them, trade Christmas stories, take pictures, and play our new favorite lobby game “Winner or Loser?” The game is simple; by watching the body language of people coming out of the casino you guess if they won or lost. The correct answer, by the way, is “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how drunk and undignified you get.”

Our visitors also brought us baby gifts! They were very sweet, with the exception of the Light-Up Rudolph that went berserk at four in the morning and scared the everloving bejesus out of me. More importantly the baby gifts corrected oversights we had committed during our midnight Walmart mission. Now, I believe in thinking through scenarios. I am a strategist. I’d like to think contingency options and foresight help me win most battles I face. And yet.

In the harsh light of day it became obvious we had underestimated the size and scope of matériel needed to win this war. For example: mittens for the baby. We didn’t know babies need special mittens so they don’t scratch themselves. Other examples: sleepsacks, warm onesies and burp cloths. Want to know how naive we were? We had a Christmas outfit, one sleepsack and six onesies. We figured one outfit per day, wash every six days. Christmas onesie? Stretches it to one laundry day a week. One sleepsack, wash with onesies. One package of 5 burpcloths would probably last a week. We also had one package of diapers, the formula the hospital gave us, some things in a diaper bag my sister gave us plus TWO blankets AND A HAT. How much does one family need?

If you aren’t laughing yourself stupid right now, then it’s only because you have fallen off your chair and died.

If you are going to unexpectedly get a baby and live in a hotel for three weeks, then benefit from our lack of preparedness. Print off this list and carry it your wallet.

  • 7 outfits per day+ two pajamas per day. Buy more if, like me, you don’t know you need to place a boy’s penis facing down so he doesn’t shoot pee straight up the waistband of his diaper
  • Mittens, socks, booties. These serve a dual purpose: they make the baby comfortable plus they save you from female relatives constantly asking if the baby isn’t cold.
  • Hats. Everyone knows they are warm, but do you also know how fucking cute babies in hats are? It could be an entire British television series; “…and now back to our popular ongoing series, Little People in Hats.” See? You read that with a British accent in your mind.
  • Formula. Formula isn’t to feed the baby. Have you SMELLED formula? If you came across formula in the wild and had no idea what it was for, would you stick it in your child’s mouth? You would not. You would gingerly replace the cap and give it a decent Christian burial. Besides, all that formula gets burped up anyway. Babies live on the energy they suck directly out of your marrow. This is why new parents are tired all the time. No. Formula is for something much more important. It is for pissing off the Breastfeeding Brigade. You want to feed your baby breastmilk? Great! Good luck and go to it. You want to tell me how to feed my baby? Then prepare for an asskicking while I explain to you it’s none of your business that the both the baby and the food couldn’t be made at home so I catered in.
  • Those swaddling blankets. My sister was right! You need a bunch of them. You swaddle the baby at night, when he cries, when he’s scared, when you want to take that picture everyone calls Baby Burrito. They are also great towels, mops, hairwraps, aprons, oven mitts, hankies, you name it.
  • Diapers that have a strip to show wetness. This is so much better than the “stick your finger down there!” method.
  • Finally, after you have all of these things, put one of each on the baby. If you do it right, it doesn’t matter where you’re living, because you still have this.

2015-01-04 01.22.16

Christmas Eve

The night we bring him Hotel (home wasn’t in the cards for now) there were some hiccups getting him in and out of the truck. The car seat is, in theory, not that hard to use. We think. There’s a handle you use to carry the seat, and then a base, and a red thing you lift up to put the seat in the base…but do you lift the red thing before putting it in the base? Is the red handle supposed to click into place without lifting it? What if there’s no click at all? If there is a click, and seat doesn’t move, and the base doesn’t move, and you put the handle back towards the top of the carrier, and the baby is buckled in the five-point restraint snuggly in appropriate clothing for the weather but NOT a snowsuit because that’s too appropriate/puffy/you didn’t bring one even though it’s December then is this the part where you sing FIVE GOLD-EN RIIIIIIIIIIINGS?

In a halo of lightly falling snow we drive the two blocks to our hotel and count the hours until we show off The Miracle to our entire family.

Then The Miracle becomes less of an idea and more of an actual human being with needs and a tiny, piercing wail.

Right. Down to business. First of all, food. My husband kicks into a previously unseen Primitive Hunter Mode and goes to track down and kill some sandwiches (“where?” “I don’t know, I’ve never been here.” “But what have we seen?” “The inside of a hospital.” “What else?” “I DON’T KNOW, EVERY FIBER OF BEING HAS FRIED WITH HAPPINESS AND SHOCK AND WOMANLYNESS AND USE THE DAMN GOOGLE MACHINE.”).

Now I need to organize a place for Baby to sleep, a place to make his food, to bathe him, change him, and…this is a hotel room. Those are all the same place. Right. Nesting has taken place in far less favorable circumstances than this, so I shall remain very Earth Mother and Zen and just let motherhood….be. Or something.

Nope, can’t do it. Type A takes over and tells Earth Mother to stuff it; we absolutely cannot have the baby formula stored near the diapers. There is literally a saying about not shitting where you eat. Therefore, the formula, nipples, burp cloths and the like must live on one side of the TV. New clothes, the blankets from the hospital, and anything we don’t yet understand will go under the TV. Diaper changes will happen on a towel on the coffee bar. We won’t bathe him because that is unquestionably Grandma’s Advice Territory.

My husband does kill some sandwiches, and then we eat them on the bed with Baby in the middle as a centerpiece we admire from all angles. It’s then time for the playpen farce, where the instructions insist the playpen will unfold easily if you touch the red button in the center and pull the walls up. These instructions were written by the same people responsible for the car seat, and if I wasn’t a Zen-Earth Mother-Christmas Baby Miracle recipient right now I’d push the red button in the center and pull the walls up inside their rectum.

My husband eventually did get it open, the old-fashioned way. He used the Google machine to find a video on YouTube explaining how to do it. Please don’t tell my husband this, but after he fell asleep I picked up the baby out of the playpen and held him all night. It was blissful. And I don’t trust anything that collapses with the push of a single red button, like playpens or nuclear weapon treaties.

The next morning we drove to the hotel that was as close as we could possibly be to Nebraska. It was in Council Bluffs, which a Facebook friend told me is often called Council-tucky. Well, I’ll tell you this: I don’t know what part of town she was thinking of, but we lived in a very nice casino hotel. It was close to a dilapidated mall, horrifying sculptures of metal that shot into the air like Viking warning arrows (see visual aid) and strip malls located within gas stations, but I’m sure that’s not all Council-tucky, er- Bluffs– has to offer.

OK, see? Viking warning shots. It’s obvious. Credit to bloximages for the demonstration that I’m not making this up, and that artist Albert Paley has a lot to answer for:

File photo - Visitors to CultureNOW can view Council Bluffs art online, including works by internationally known artists Jonathan Borofsky, Ed Carpenter, Jun Kaneko, William King, Deborah Masuoka, Albert Paley (pictured) and Brower Hatcher.

File photo – Visitors to CultureNOW can view Council Bluffs art online, including works by internationally known artists Jonathan Borofsky, Ed Carpenter, Jun Kaneko, William King, Deborah Masuoka, Albert Paley (pictured) and Brower Hatcher.

So now we get to the good part, the part where my family meets the baby. By “meet” I mean “I rush into the hotel lobby and say “Mom, this is my son” and then we cry, touch foreheads, and hug so much we look like a commercial for feminine itching. All of Christmas has transported from Nebraska to Iowa because if Baby leaves Iowa it will be Very Many Scary Things. The social worker used the phrase “kidnapping and custodial interference” and the non-adult part of my brain imagined a custodian trying to cockblock my husband while he changes a diaper.

My sister and her family arrive. My four old nephew announces that if the baby can’t talk, then “he’ll be playing by himself.” You can’t blame the poor kid for being less than impressed. The way all the adults were freaking out and carrying on, you’d think Aunt Sarah was bringing the Flash over for Christmas.

My sister and her husband are excited. We’re excited. The baby is expertly swaddled (by whom? Our attempts still require duct tape) and excited. I’d say my mom is excited, but she can’t stop vibrating with joy long enough to really talk. My dad seems pretty pleased that, statistically speaking, we have doubled the chances of someone playing for the Chicago Cubs that will get him good seats.

We all go out for Christmas Eve dinner. This is rare for us, Mom usually cooks it. While we’re at dinner we learn that the birth parents have signed the 72 hour consent form, meaning the last papers they will need to sign, the “no take-back clauses,” will be signed the 27th. We raise a glass in their honor. All funny aside, I know Christmas 2014 was dramatically different for the two sets of people on those papers, and only one set gets to think of it as the best Christmas they have ever had, or will ever have. I won’t forget that.

We trundle back to the casino and find mom has packed Christmas Eve for us. I mean it. All the presents, cookies, cakes, stockings, the only reason there’s not a tree is because my father would have to lift it. We give Santa the night off in the Imes Borden casino/hotel room and wish a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

I’m kidding. They go to bed and we get up every time the baby moves, snores, whimpers, cries out, farts or has an adorable look on his face.

Join us next time for a Guide to Living with Newborns in a Casino over New Year’s Eve.

The secondary Extenuating Circumstances

Attention! Due to extenuating circumstances, the following things must occur within three hours, so as to drive to another state and become parents immediately: verify there really is a baby and not husband playing the most ill-advised practical joke of the millennium, get fingerprinted for the third time this calendar year, call everyone we know and freak the hell out, ask sister what babies need to survive in a hotel room, throw up. Also, someone should probably do something about the cat.

Nope. Husband not suddenly evil, he is stating the real truth. A baby has been born in [STATE REDACTED BECAUSE PRIVACY AND IT SEEMS LIKE WE’RE IN A REAL-LIFE SPY NOVEL WHICH IS COOL]. It’s a little boy, and he….what? What is he? You remember having the conversation but don’t remember any of the contents? No, you were freaked out. I totally understand. We need to be in the car in three hours. Oh God, I have to call the entire world. I mean, just family. But anyhow.

Tears. Tears and tears and more tears as we explain the good new and sudden departure. My sister screams “I’m leaving work! I’m in the parking lot right now! I’m going to Target!” This is definitely good news, as the sum of our baby equipment is defined thusly: we have a teething ring my nephew used twice in 2012. Naturally we didn’t stockpile a cradle, bottles, anything like that. First of all, we were told that people are chosen while the birth mom is still pregnant. Secondly, imagine the thing you want most in the world. Now imagine everybody else has it. An Oscar, a Super Bowl ring, a flat stomach, whatever. The entire population of your town has one, and there you sit with your Super Bowl-ringless thumb up your nose. Would you keep a room full of footballs or a full-length red carpet gown laying around? You would not. Or maybe you would. I don’t know how you live your life. I wouldn’t, is the salient point.

We run to get fingerprinted. We return to find our brother-in-law installing a car seat. Where did he come from? He has a job. He doesn’t have an extra car seat just hanging out in the trunk in case of emergencies. Yet there he is! Brilliant. Sister shows up with a bag of things babies need. I recognize half of them. Swaddling blankets? Uh, ok. I thought you basically did that once, when the baby is presented to you, and then that’s pretty much over. A variety of things you stick in orifices (the baby’s, not mine) and then we bolt down the world’s quickest lunch before leaving. On my way out the door, I hear my sister on the phone saying “oh God! Yeah, sorry. I should have mentioned I’m not coming back to work today.”

Drive. Pumping for more information about the baby. My husband keeps saying he can’t remember, but with some prodding it turns out he knows at least a little. It’s a boy! He’s healthy! He’s Mexican-American! He has a height and weight but no idea what they are! He’s at a hospital we can’t remember the name of! Everything gets an exclamation point because holy shit we’re going to be parents!!!!!!!!!!

It is the world’s longest/shortest drive. I throw up twice I’m so nervous. I realize I never called anyone at work, or cancelled appointments, or anything of consequence in the real world. I could not, on a literal rather than metaphoric level, care less. We arrive at the hospital and wait for the social worker.

Things happened. People were met. The wishes of the birth family were respected as far as possible in terms of contact, things of that sort. I try harder than I ever have in my entire life to do things exactly as another woman wishes. If her wish was for the adoptive family to receive the baby in a gold-plated canoe while a brass band plays national anthem of Azerbaijan then by God, it would be so.

But it wasn’t. It was me, and my husband, standing in a hospital room with our social worker, as they wheeled in a 7 lb, 2 oz baby boy. There were probably nurses, or workers, or somebody else in there as well. Hell, maybe there was a brass band. I honestly don’t remember. There were two crying cynics who never dared to believe this was happening, and they were holding the world’s single most wanted child.

Other things may have happened, but frankly, they just weren’t very fucking important.

Tune in next time for custodial farce, Wal-Mart at midnight two days before Christmas, and how it takes two people who teach for a living to diaper an infant.

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