Hope for the Fragile, Dangerous and Bacteria-Laden

My daughter is relentless. Every morning for the past 12 months (but who’s counting?), she watches me drink my morning coffee and cries because she can’t have the cup.

Rational explanations about caffeine, warnings about hot liquids, musings on my responsibility as a parent, theories about “mommy drinks”, distractions and soothing shushes…none of them really help. Yet as frustrating as it is to see her frustrated, I am proud of my daughter’s persistent spirit.


Last Sunday at church we lit the first candle on the Advent wreath, waking the first bit of light. The candles mark four weeks of longing and waiting for Christmas, that holy night of mystery and magic.

We asked hope to come stay with us a while.

We prayed for an end to hopelessness, poverty, injustice, despair.

We said that Love is always coming into the world.

I hear myself tell my daughter: “honey, sometimes we don’t get everything we want” as I comfort her.

Right now I could use some comforting. Every morning I wake up and reach for what I want — a second child, a sibling for my daughter — and every morning, I remember: “honey, we don’t get everything we want.”

Top of my daughter’s other unrequited longings:

  • the ceramic kitty cat (hand painted by her cousins)
  • snow globes
  • toliet bowl water

Which makes me wonder: How much of what I long for is fragile or dangerous or laden with bacteria?

When will I grow out of it, this oversize, ill-fitting longing?

And where is the mama that I want for myself, the one whispering “hush hush, it’s ok, climb on my lap and let’s read this book together”?

I don’t know.

I don’t know how to slip the knot of this suffering. I don’t know how to trade my longing for something useful like deep wisdom or spiritual enlightenment or something – anything – witty or funny or not-boringly-exhaustingly-the-same.

All I know is PLEASE and HOPE and WAIT and NO and TRY AGAIN.

This evening in therapy I realized that I have three things going on: depression (unremarkable, tenacious & boring), personal growth challenges (usual life circumstances), and bat-shit crazy (hormones). So there’s that.

Sometimes it is awfully hard to tell the holy from the laden-with-bacteria, is all I am saying.

I want to let go of this longing when I am done with it, not when I am done in. But I don’t know if I’ll get to make that choice. Too much is out of my control.

So I hope until it is time to sleep, and then I sleep. I sleep and dream, and then I wake, and ask again.


What do you hope for? How do you keep your balance?

p.s. Can I just admit that this  actually makes me feel better? Maybe it’s a personality disorder….

The Real “Dear Birthmother” Letter

A year ago today, approximately two-and-a-half months before we met our daughter’s mother, I wrote this letter. We had long since completed all the agency paperwork to adopt and were waiting to be chosen by an expectant parent. (Part of our profile as a hopeful adoptive family was a “Dear Birthmother” letter that had to be approved by the agency.) While our profile letter went through multiple revisions, this letter (below) was written in one sitting. I never intended to show it to anyone. I wouldn’t write it the same way now (for one thing, I would say ‘expectant mother’). But now that I am starting to blog about life as an adoptive mom, I thought I’d share it.  So here it is…

A_Dark_Starry_Night_Wallpaper_by_s3vendaysDear “Birthmother,”

We don’t know each other yet. It’s 2am and I am working on a paper for my last year of grad school and listening to Pandora. All I can think of is you.

I close my eyes and imagine you sleeping. All those stereotypes of birthmothers — that your life is chaotic, your boyfriend a jerk, your future uncertain — I don’t know if those are true.

I have a confession to make: MY future is uncertain. I’m 37 and no amount of wishing-working-trying can make me conceive. I thought I’d be a mama by now. But I’m not, and you are.

What do I do with my envy? Do I tell you that I’d take the jerky boyfriend, the chaotic life, for the chance to be pregnant? If I could trade places with you, I honestly don’t know if I would.

We’re stuck, you and I. I can’t be a mama, and maybe neither can you. They’ve come up with this plan – this industry, these agencies – called adoption.

Their plan is this: I take your impossibility and hand you mine. I don’t know if that is fair or good or right. I don’t know if it is the best for either of us.

But I’m stable and safe and quiet and I am supposed to know. That’s what adoptive moms who aren’t moms yet are supposed to do. We are supposed to look good in pictures – warm, nurturing, non-judgmental. No cooking pictures, the agency tells us, everyone does that. Not enough men in your photos, the agency tells us, don’t lesbians have male friends?

I can’t sleep and I can’t work and all I can think of is you. This plan they have made for us, is it a good one? Will you regret it? Will I? I don’t know. I haven’t met you yet. I don’t even know your name. And I long for you, for the impossibility of your life, so that I can hand you the impossibility of mine.

I want to meet you more than I have ever wanted to meet anyone. Does this mean I wish you suffering and grief? No. Am I selfish? Yes. I want only goodness and light for you. And I want to raise your baby. Your baby. How dare I?

All I know is that it is 2am and you are sleeping or not-sleeping and I am thinking of you. I am closing my eyes and blessing you. I am closing my eyes and blessing myself. Your impossible life and mine. One world and one night sky, full of stars. Anything can happen. I hope, for both our sakes, it is good.

March 17, 2012