Weekend in New England
There is a lot to be said about the weekend, and I'm not sure where I should start. I took notes during the whole weekend, not notes on the agency's policies or practices, but on issues I wanted to explore more in my own mind. But as I look over my list, the problem becomes clear. It's not my mind that needs changing about adoption — because in our case, what could be more obvious? — but my heart. And at the moment, after 36 hours of immersion, my heart is feeling decidedly fatigued. Maybe this anecdote will tell you something about the emotional climate I found myself in over two uncomfortable days. Ready?
Meals were served at large communal tables in the dining room of a down-at-heels country inn. Naturally this made for any number of easy, freewheeling, congenial conversations. "No, no, don't tell me. Let me guess. Male factor? Oh, I just knew it." "How strange that your shower was cold — we had plenty of hot water this morning, and a son at home." "So! What brings you here? Six failed IVF cycles and the most depressing decade of your life? Well, hey, what do you know about that! We're utterly crippled by grief and feelings of inadequacy, too!"
At every meal and every break, I talked too much and made too many jokes, made manic by a discomfort I couldn't seem to shake. On Saturday night, most of the others skipped dessert and left dinner early, so Paul and I found ourselves marooned alone at the end of a long table. At the other end of the table, a couple sat talking with the agency's birth mother panelist over coffee.
Feeling conspicuous and kind of lonesome, I impulsively dragged Paul over to join the others. As I was sitting down, the woman was saying, "And we had all these early losses, which were really hard. And then...[deep breath]...we lost our son." The man reached over and silently squeezed her shoulder.
Never let it be said that my timing is anything short of impeccable.
Because Paul was waiting for his dessert to be served, we couldn't even quickly bolt our coffee, look at our watches ostentatiously, yodel, "My, would you look at the time?" and make a hasty exit. No, we sat there for twenty of the most excruciating minutes of my life while the couple and the birth mother continued their conversation as if we hadn't ineptly barged right into it, as if we weren't even there. Believe me, I wished I weren't.
The whole weekend was like that. I felt myself buffetted by other people's emotions when I'm not even sure of my own. It wasn't just the prospective adoptive parents, either. Every panelist who spoke — the birth mother, the new adoptive parents, the adult adoptees, the adoptive parents of many years' standing — ended up in tears. I told one of the agency personnel that that surprised me. "I must have told that story fifty times," she said, at a loss to explain her own tears, "but I guess that's why we call that program 'Lifelong Issues in Adoption.'"
I cried, too, of course. But then I'm easy that way. It is no particular feat to make me weepy when you tell me about your son waking in the night crying, asking, "Is my birth mother okay?" and having to answer, "I don't know."
I leaked like a fucking faucet all weekend. Mostly that was okay. The only time I hated myself for it was during the ten-minute video presenting the theoretical thoughts of an unborn soon-to-be-adopted baby: "Don't be surprised when I'm four and I won't come out of my Spider-Man sleeping bag. It's warm and quiet and safe in there. I wish you could have given birth to me." Yeah, kiddo, so do I. But then I'm easy that way.