Saturday, April 30, 2011

it gets better

1. baby

When I was a college student working weekends at Book Soup, it was my job to shelve the childcare section, which is how I found myself reading The Kid, Dan Savage’s memoir about open adoption. (I was less intrigued by What to Expect When You’re Expecting, with its cover mom staring sedatedly from a rocking chair.) I wasn’t even out to myself at that point, although I had to admit I had a little crush on my fellow weekend-shifter Nancy. But I read The Kid with more interest than any straight girl with bio babies in her future should have.

This weekend, AK and I attended a two-day registration seminar with an open adoption agency. We’re still mourning the Squeakies; I think we always will be. But adoption takes a long time, and I figure I can fill out a few forms while I mourn. It also feels good to know I’m doing something to actively pursue having children, and that it doesn’t start with someone telling me to undress from the waist down (I know this is more or less how all babies are made, but it’s much less romantic when you hear it from an exasperated nurse with a Hello Kitty tattoo on her neck, although I suppose that’s what some people are into).

Here’s how open adoption works, to the extent that I understand it: You fill out a lot of forms. You ask everyone you know to fill out forms testifying that the information on the forms you filled out is true. A social worker visits your house and interviews you and your spouse separately and together, like on Law & Order. When it’s determined that you’re not a psychotic, debt-ridden, terminally ill criminal, you create an online profile and basically go on for babies and birth moms. A pregnant woman decides she likes your smile, or that your spouse looks like her cousin, or that you love hiking just like she does and contacts you.

If the three of you like each other in spite of (although maybe because of) the deep emotional shit you’re all going through, you call it a match and enter what one guy in our seminar described as baby escrow. When the baby is born, she signs some forms of her own and seals the deal. Or she doesn’t. Usually she does, but sometimes she changes her mind at the last minute. The State of California says it’s her right.

So even though AK and I left the registration session excited and hopeful, I still have a sense of having to work ten times harder than most people for a baby, with less chance of getting one. The gratitude/frustration dichotomy continues.

But once we find a birth mother who says yes, our baby—like Dan Savage’s—will always know who gave birth to him or her and the amazing journey all his moms made, and hopefully that baby will grow up with a sort of aunt/tia-like relationship with his or her birth mom.

2. heroine’s journey

This afternoon, I signed books (meaning I sat around and chatted with some nice literary people) at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. Then AK, Amy and I caught Dan Savage talking about the book version of the It Gets Better Project.

“All that crap you go through, that you don’t think you’ll live through, makes you stronger. It’s part of your hero’s journey,” he said. AK, who reads Homer and Jung in addition to Savage Love, was particularly moved by this idea.

At the signing afterward, I wanted to tell him that we’d spent the morning listening to a birth mother and an adoptive family talking about their experiences.

“My girlfriend is shy,” said AK, “but we wanted to tell you that we just registered with an open adoption agency. We both read The Kid a long time ago and were inspired.”

“Open adoption is the way to go,” he said. (FYI, he’s very cute in person—buff arms and sincere hazel eyes.) “And if you have a match that falls through, hang in there. Terry and I lucked out and it worked the first time, but we know so many couples who had a situation that fell apart and went on adopt kids. If it doesn’t work out at first, that’s not the baby for you. No matter what happens, don’t give up.”

I just nodded stupidly, hoping my face conveyed how much it meant to hear someone whose advice I’ve been taking for more than a decade give me advice about my own actual life. I fell apart a little afterward. Trying to have a baby has brought more hormonal and emotional change, scariness and uncertainty than I’ve had since I was a 14-year-old kid, lying awake at night terrified that I was gay and not being able to imagine what was on the other side of that ocean. But Dan Savage told us that this part gets better too, and I believe him.


Amy said...

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH I can't believe I had to duck out before I got to have a book signed.
My other favorite book about adoption is "The Family Nobody Wanted" it is barely in print and therefore wildly expensive, but I have my mother's battered copy if you would like to read.

Cheryl said...

The agency assigned us two additional adoption books to read, so the pile next to my bed is getting quite tall, but as soon as I read it down a little....

Tracy Lynn said...

I have a lot of straight friends who struggled with infertility, so it's not just you. But I agree with Dan Savage that your baby is out there and you will find him. Or her. Let's go with It for now.

You know I love you guys, yes?

Peter Varvel said...

My cousin and her husband also spent a lot of harrowing emotion (and a boat load of money) trying to overcome infertility before choosing open adoption.
Their daughter is now 28-months-old, and I can't imagine our family loving her any more if she were a bio daughter. She's a natural fit in our hearts.
Please hang in there.
(also, the facebook addict in me wants to reflexively click on a 'like' button for Tracy Lynn's last line)

Claire said...

You and AK continue to be in my thoughts. For every moment I've thought of dropping you a line to see how you're doing, I've then thought I don't want to accost you with "how are you?' I'm thinking of you guys though and hoping the best for you.

I agree with Dan Savage too (he sounds pretty awesome). Hang in there, your baby is out there.

Cheryl said...

PV: I'm collecting inspiring stories like that, so keep 'em coming. And yeah, Blogger needs a "like" button. It is so 2005.

C: You are so kind to think of us. Please know the feeling is mutual! I hope you're doing well too.

Michelle said...

Hi Cheryl: I just read about your loss and I wanted to tell you how very sorry I am. I'm sending many positive thoughts your way that you find your baby. I have a friend who was struggling with getting pregnant and unsuccessful with IVF. She started the adoption process and quickly was matched with an adorable baby girl. We all love her. Someone in her adoption class said that there are baby spirits floating "up there" waiting for the right parents. That it doesn't matter if they come to you biologically or through adoption...that they were meant to be yours. I think you are going to be an awesome mom when you your baby comes.

Cheryl said...

Thanks for your kind words and thoughts, Michelle. I'm officially collecting adoption stories these days, especially ones that involve phrases like "quickly matched." :-) I hope you and Larry and your kiddos are doing well!