Posts Tagged ‘the APC adoption conference’

“I’ve never known a writer who didn’t feel ill at ease in the world. We all feel unhoused in some sense.  That’s part of why we write.  We feel we don’t fit in, that this world is not our world, that though we may move in it, we’re not of it.”

~Andrea Barrett

When I saw that quote I felt the warmth of knowing I’m not the only one, the comfort of knowing I’m not alone.  There are other aliens, people not entirely comfortable here.  I feel particularly alien lately.

Some of it comes from having spent 8 hours talking with prospective adoptive parents on Sunday in Brooklyn.  I knew to bring tissues; sure enough, they were gone by the end of the day.   I know the hope these people have.  I know the fear that hope may remain just that – hope.  I know how hope can become something to be afraid of, to even acknowledge.  In a backwards, strange way, I know.   They are special to me, the longing-to-adopt.

There is a surreal aspect too.  They long for a baby, and I long for my boy.  It is parallel and perpendicular at once.  Someone will ask if I have children, and I answer that I have a boy who is nine.  A few people get confused, thinking Jonah is the adopted child.  “No,” I explain.  “I’m adopted.  My son is biological.”  One lady asked me if I had a hard time conceiving.  I admitted that I did not.  She looked steadily at me, her eyes entering mine with heavy envy.  “You’re so lucky,” she sighed.  “You’re so incredibly lucky.”

I realized she was envying me the same way I have envied mothers who kiss their kids each day, waving to them as they board school busses…the parents whose children play games.   Who do homework, or argue that they don’t want to.  Kids who tell Santa what they want for Christmas.  The truth is, I know nothing about all these people beyond that which I see in a fleeting glance, just like the lady telling me I was lucky knew nothing at all about where my so-easily-conceived boy is now, and why.  There really is no greener grass.

Another man at the conference had just married his long-time boyfriend, and they wanted to adopt a child.

He read The Story of Amy

…a book my mother made for me out of one of those circa 1970 gold-ring-bound, red cloth, cling-paged photo albums, hand-written on white paper and illustrated with all the cards my parents received to congratulate them on their new baby girl.

I always bring the book with me to adoption conferences because I think it was a great way for my parents to tell me I was adopted.  My mom read it to me every night from the time I was a baby, so I always knew I was adopted, and as a result, being adopted never felt strange to me.

Usually people flip through The Story of Amy quickly, giving it an appreciative glance.  This guy, though, picked it up, stood aside, and read the whole thing, slowly, page by page.  When he handed it back to me, tears were streaming from both his eyes.  He couldn’t even talk to me.  He picked up my business card and walked away.  I almost cried with him.

And speaking of crying, I can’t seem to stop thinking about Mr. Fleischer.  I should have sent him a care package, I’ll think, or I wish I had told him he is the answer to one of my password prompts on almost every website log-in:  Who was your favorite teacher?

If I don’t use Ned Fleischer, I use Patrick Meanor from SUNY Oneonta, my favorite college professor.  I don’t intend to make the same mistake with him if I can help it.  I’m going to look him up and see if we can visit in Oneonta.  I want to tell him he is my password prompt too, and another one of the few greatest influences in my life.

Tomorrow, though, I’ll have Thanksgiving with my mother, my boy, and Andy.  And then, later, with M and Jack and Almanzo.  I’ll stop thinking “I feel like an alien” and I’ll concentrate on gratitude.  For so many things…

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It’s 7am and Jonah’s already attacked me – he asked for “train-a” (he’s been putting an “uh” sound on the end of a lot of his words lately) so I told him it was a school day but we could go to see the train after school.  This is a pretty standard conversation in our house so I didn’t expect it when he tore at my face, scratching me near the corner of my eye and mangling my glasses.  For the second time since I bought them on October 23rd, I’ll be at Lenscrafters today to get the glasses fixed.   I think I’m going to be their best customer.  Now the almost-brand-new glasses are really mangled – no matter how I try to push and pull them back into shape they sit crooked on my face.  I look and feel like a broken doll.

It’s “special persons day” at Jonah’s school which means both my mother and father will be there, and Jonah’s classroom is preparing a special Thanksgiving feast; I pray to God and little baby Jason that Jonah’s a good boy, at least for most of the time.

This past weekend Andy took care of Jonah (with help from my mom) while I went to NYC for an adoption conference for work.  Because I am adopted I especially enjoy talking to the prospective adoptive parents, agencies, and attorneys – I was an exhibitor at the conference because we facilitate adoption advertising, and because I did not have Jonah for a day and a half I enjoyed the guilty pleasure of freedom.  In addition to manning an exhibitor table, I was on a panel of parents who spoke about “raising a challenging child.”

All the other parents on the panel had adopted special needs kids – the kids had separation trauma, fetal alcohol syndrome, bipolar disorder, you name it.  One couple had actually adopted 15 kids (!), 3 of which they had to place in a home because of violent or out of control behaviors.  Jonah’s all I’ve got, and to place him is something so hard to comprehend that I’m wild to try everything/anything else we can, as quickly as we can, to seek another way.

Would I have deliberately adopted a special needs child?  My first reaction is to say hell no, but when I was pregnant I told God (naive little big-bellied me) that He could give me a disabled child or a gay child, that I would be okay with either.

My running joke now is that Jonah is probably both disabled and gay.

Someone I met on an autism group on Linked In sent me an obviously self-published book they wrote about their “journey home from autism” – and a children’s book they’d written as well.  Very kind, to send me the books for free, and I haven’t read them yet, but I’m going to use this as an opportunity to bitch that I’m tired of the whole Jenny McCarthy “you too can rescue your child from autism” schtick.    Most of the time I think these “rescued” children were mis-diagnosed in the first place.  I believe that 50 years from now it will be apparent that what we now call “the autism spectrum” is actually about 10 different things.  Jonah was unquestionably born with autism- our family physician noticed issues before he’d even had his first immunization, and in hindsight I can easily see how he was very different from neurotypical babies.  How can that be the same thing as the child who develops normally for however many months, gets a shot, and suddenly “falls off the planet,” losing all his or her social, verbal, and other developmental accomplishments?  It can’t. The symptoms might mimic each other but the underlying cause and condition isn’t the same.

If anyone had figured out a real, viable way to “rescue” these kids from autism, we’d all be on that fucking bandwagon, trust me.  But what works for one child doesn’t work for another, and the “here’s our amazing story of how we  pulled our precious child out of the bowels of the hell that is autism” books are a dime a dozen nowadays.  You can’t throw a stone at a bookstore without hitting something written by people who want to share the inspirational tale of tirelessly helping their child become “normal” again.

The parents of kids with autism don’t need to feel guilty about what the Superparents accomplished that for some unknown reason the rest of us haven’t been able to.  Since the market is flooded with these Superparent success stories, I think what parents need is for someone to write: this sucks, and I don’t know what to do either, and I’m trying hard, and I’m afraid, and I understand, and I’m in the same boat, in the same perfect stormI’m drowning too.

I understand.  I’m drowning too.

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