Referral Day – One Year Later

2 02 2011

Last year on this date we saw Little Dude’s face for the first time.  He looked overwhelmed.  He looked chubby.  He looked very, very white.  We honestly thought we were matched with the fattest, whitest, Ethiopian baby ever.

Our referral was not a surprise.  We were expecting it.

Because our agency was handing out referrals fairly quickly, because our personal social worker was based out of our agency’s main office where matches were made, because I was active on my agency’s yahoo board, I knew our referral was coming.

Despite expecting it, when the call came on a Tuesday morning, I was a little unclear about what to do next.  I am pretty sure I called SAG, we made a plan and then I just went to playgroup and hung out with friends while keeping one of the biggest secrets of my life.

SAG and I decided to rendezvous at home during lunch time to open the emails together, while PJ napped.

I set up the video camera to film our reactions and was sure that SAG was annoyed with my preparations.  He wasn’t actually annoyed, just curious and supportive (his common M.O.).  I wanted my video to be like the one at Dandies in the Sunshine.  If you don’t know the one I am talking about, go watch it now.  But get some tissue first.  Don’t worry, I will wait.

If I am remembering correctly, I already knew from my brief conversation with our social worker that there would be NO chance to meet our son’s Ethiopian family.  (For more on my disappointment with that, look here.)  And our son was older than I was expecting, closer in age to PJ than I hoped.  What about all the milestones we had missed?  What did that mean for attachment?

It is safe to say, I was already a fair distance from “isn’t this perfect?.”  But, honestly, this is my normal M.O. – “buyer’s remorse” (pardon the expression – save your hate mail for later) before I finalize any major decision.

Due to all of these factors, opening the email was not the rainbow and lollipops moment I was hoping for.  Of course the moment they put my daughter in my arms at the hospital also was not a rainbow and lollipops moment.

The normally stoic SAG did tear up a little and my floodgates opened as well.  But it was not my tear ducts that were flowing.  The gate that opened in me led to my insecure, dark place where every fear and doubt dwells.

How can I possibly be a good enough mother for this boy?  Everyone faces challenges in their lives.  But, wow.  Just, wow.

I am hesitant to even write these next sentences because I truly believe your life is what you create it to be.  But I also believe there are some realities in this world.  First, we do not start on a level playing field.  And every thing that makes you “different” which may eventually make you stronger, also means you have an extra burden to carry – at least until you learn how to set it down.  While I never want Little Dude to think of any of these things as a burden they are factors in his life that might at different times present challenges.

If nothing else it is fair to say that Little Dude will have to process some facts and come to terms with some things that many other children never have to deal with.  He is adopted.  He is brown in a pink family.  He will be a black man in America.  He will not have the “nicely wrapped” story of his first family, that many of his adoptee cohorts have.  (And by nicely wrapped, I do not mean happy, I mean more answers, less unknowns.)

Of course I knew almost all of this before referral day.  Of course I had though about it (and thought about it, and thought about it, and thought about it.)  I read books, followed blogs, went to classes and tried to learn all that I could.

I think seeing his face for the first time, matching that little, tiny human with all that I learned, all that I feared about the world, all that I doubted about myself was overwhelming.

SAG was surprised by my freak-out, which was reassuring on one hand, and made me feel worse on the other.

I needed to process, and for me that usually means TALK, TALK, TALK.  But who, besides SAG, was truly safe to talk to about this?  I was unclear about much of what I was feeling and I was mortified by what I thought I was feeling.  I was also afraid.  Afraid to talk to some of my friends who had been supportive about our adoption, but who I suspected were actually, at best,  lukewarm about the idea.  I was afraid to talk to other friends, people who knew me less than a decade, people who might think differently about me.  I was thinking differently about myself, so why wouldn’t they?  And I was cognizant that some of the things I felt I NEEDED to talk about were actually important to keep private.  (If you want to read the best post ever written on why that is so important, go here.)

In the end I did talk to a handful of people.  My sister’s reaction was probably the most telling.  I told her my fears.  I told her I wasn’t sure we would be accepting the referral, then I sent her the pictures.  She showed them to her kids and her friends, anyway.  They all started celebrating and moving forward as if it was a done deal.  Today, I choose to believe this is because she knows me better than I know myself.

There you have it.  This might be the first (and last) adoption referral post you ever read that does not include the notions of love at first sight, a match made in heaven, PAPs’ dreams realized, rainbows, lollipops, sunshine and angels singing.

Please understand that I am able to write this post today because I know without a doubt that I love Little Dude with all that I am.  Our family is how we were supposed to be.  There may not always be rainbows and sunshine but there are lollipops (at least every time PJ remembers to use the potty).

Tomorrow’s post:  Day two of our referral purgatory.

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3 responses

2 02 2011
Sarah

I keep trying to think of clever things to say. But…just thank you. I really enjoyed this post; and can relate.

I just got back from, “My Fascinating Life,” and “Dandies in the Sunshine,” and boy are my arms tired. Good blogs.

I’ve felt reserved about sharing about Ray’s history; but really had no plan on how to go about that. Fascinating Life articulated it well.

2 02 2011
Christine

It means very much to me that this post is not all rainbows and lollipops. A friend shared with me her referral experience which was not all rainbows and lollipops and it was the hugest relief. I had already experienced having a kid and, like you, when they handed him to me in the hospital, it was not like cue the choir, let the angels sing. I felt that sense of the gross responsibility I had just taken on and in photos I look anything but happy. I had never felt an emotion like that before. Overwhelmed. So you talking about your referral in this way is extremely valuable to me. Thank you.

2 02 2011
leigh

Every experience deserves to be validated. It happened the way it happened. And now you are a real true family. 100%.
Love all around. Hugs hon.

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