I've been thinking a lot about expectations (cause I'm a nerdy introvert who sits around and thinks about all kinds of weird shit. all. the. time.) People have all kinds of expectations about pretty much everything (or at least I do). And that's a giant set up for disappointment, in my opinion. As adoptive parents, I think we, by necessity in some ways, have less expectations about our kid than a biological parent might. Or, at least, we try to expect less. Or, rather, be open to more. Because we have less knowledge about the genetic things that may come into play. Our kid isn't necessarily going to look like us or stick out his tongue while concentrating like I do. But I'd be kidding myself if I said there weren't certain other expectations we had - about parenthood, and about open adoption. I don't think we expected an open adoption relationship to be easy - we weren't that naive. But I do think we expected it to be hard in different ways than it is, maybe.

One of the things I struggle with in thinking about our open adoption relationship - one of the ways it is not what I expected - is that it's not the rosy picture painted when we started down this path. It is not the relationship that other families we know have. In short, I am disappointed that it isn't this amazing, happy "we're all family" experience. I know that it is okay that it's not. I know that relationships can be hard and can be different at different times, and things can change. But I wish it could be easier. I wish I was less frustrated and triggered. I wish K (Gus's birthmom) seemed more interested in Gus, the person. And I don't know - I just don't know - what really is best for Gus right now. He is one. He is happy. He loves everybody he meets. Right now, will it matter to Gus when and where and whether he sees K? I honestly can't answer that. Separating out what is best and works for us from what is best and works for K from - most importantly - what is best and works for Gus is really difficult. There are a lot of feelings to maneuver. And also having to think about whether what might be best or work for all/some/any of those people now vs. what might be best for them in the future is a difficult task. Because, let's face it, I'm no Kreskin.

I know that I will feel guilty if we can't make a visit happen soon. I know that before he was born we made a commitment that was about him. I know that fear comes into play. I know that, frankly, we are overwhelmed and inconvenienced thinking about one more possible trip this year, one more thing on an impossibly long to-do list. I know that despite her seeming lack of interest in Gus over the past year, K is grieving and I imagine it is a very difficult thing for her to live each day knowing she is unable to raise this awesome kid she gave birth to. I know that the biological connection is strong and important, and that there is a reason we chose open adoption. I know that no matter what, the focus here, the most important person in all of this, is Gus.

But, of course, with all that I do know, there is even more that I don't. I don't know how to make Gus stop wanting to eat sand at the park or climb into the stream at the Discovery Museum. How to explain to him that he can't swim with the fish in the aquarium at the Academy of Sciences. I don't know where the heck he gets all this energy that allows him to go full throttle from sun-up to sun-down. And I don't yet know how we will handle negotiating this ongoing open adoption relationship.

Being a parent is hard. Navigating the day-in/day-out of it plus thinking about how what you are doing or are not doing will affect this tiny human in the future? Phew. It's like standing at the top of a zipline looking down into a ravine, hoping the rope is going to hold you and then - stepping the fuck off. And zipping at an impossible speed toward a sheer rock face. Over and over again, several times a day. Incredibly scary. But, sometimes, if you remember to breathe, open your eyes, and just let go, it can be a lot of fun, too! Terrifying, nauseating fun.

Full. Throttle.
This was after he tried to crawl in, but before he started
lapping up the water. Like a dog.

Obstacles? I don't see any obstacles.

I've been thinking about obstacles while watching my son. He doesn't know what they are. Something is on the floor in your way? No matter, you crawl over it, force your way under it. There is a step, or a piece of furniture, or a cat in your path? Just keep going. If only it were that easy for the rest of us. One of his favorite games at the moment is to have Mama (me) crawl around behind him on the floor. He crawls a few feet, then stops and turns to make sure I'm following. I'm usually closer than he expects, I guess, and he bursts into peals of laughter, his right cheek dimple on full display. Then he takes off again. Usually under the dining room table and chairs. Despite the bruises on my knees and the pain in my wrists, I kind of love it. But I can't make my way through the chairs like he does, I have to move them. I can't fly across the floor with abandon - I need to move the toys and pots and pans. I choose to go around the cats.

Psychologically speaking, I feel like I come up against a lot of obstacles. Many I put there myself. (I'm working on this) Some were put there for me. Some, quite frankly, are put there by this kid - the one who seems so rarely hindered. I'm not necessarily complaining about this. It's all a learning opportunity - and on the days where I'm feeling okay and I've had enough quiet, introverted time to myself and I've eaten as often as I should, I dig learning opportunities. But obstacles are still hard. They trip us up. Make us falter in our stride. Change direction.

As much as I sometimes think, "How can I encourage him to continue to be blind to obstacles?" I ultimately think that would be doing him a disservice. Not everything should be easy. Learning opportunities are vital to growth. Changing direction is how we deal, how we stay alive, really. But I do hope that he will continue to be mostly unfazed by them, or at least that they won't throw him as far off his path as they sometimes do me. I want him to learn. To grow. To cope. And to get up and keep going if (and, most assuredly, when) he falls down. I hope I can foster in him an ability to meet his obstacles with less anxiety than I meet mine. I hope he will always be willing to try. If his personality now is any indication, I think (fingers crossed) it's a real possibility.

What do you mean I don't fit under here with this pack on my back?


525,600 minutes...

I've written a ton of blog posts this past year. In my head. But i think it's time to put more of it out there. We celebrated Gus's first birthday yesterday and I thought I really should update the blog. So here it goes:
Quick summary: We finalized Gus's adoption. We got LEGALLY married, under a tree outside City Hall with our kid playing in the grass beside us (how cool is that?!). We began the journey of learning how to parent this really cool kid. (also - diapers, formula, teething, tummy time, crawling, smiling, solid food, walking!)
It's been an amazing year. A hard year. A shorter than short year and the longest year ever. The thing they neglect to tell you in those cute diaper and baby food ads is that even though kids are adorable (and mine is the most adorbz of all, of course), parenting is hard freakin' work. Taking care of an infant, taking care of yourself, maintaining a relationship with your spouse, maintaining friendships, staying sane - it's some of the hardest shit you'll ever do. I want to say that all the giggles and big slobbery open-mouth kisses and first steps and that way he twirls his curly blond hair when he's tired and the way the light catches in his eyes when he's full-on beaming at me makes it all worth it. I want to. And many days, even most days, it does. But I won't pretend that there aren't days where I wonder "what was i thinking?" Where I think I am definitely on the wrong side of mental health and on the way to crazy-town.
Some things have gotten easier over the past year. Other things have gotten harder. Finding balance as a stay-at-home-parent (me) is a challenge. So is finding balance as a working parent (Shelley). But what's life without challenge, right? It's adventure we signed up for and that's definitely what we're getting.
The adoption component of Gus's first year is something i'll write about later. I don't think it has necessarily made any of this harder than normal. I just think that once people are through this adjustment period, they forget what this kind of exhaustion feels like. They just look back at the pictures and hold onto the happy stuff. (at least i really, really hope that's the case!)
There's more in my head. So much more. I'll stop for now, though. Hopefully I'll have the time and wherewithal to continue with this.

Adoption Finalization Day