Thursday, July 9, 2009

Attachment, Blankee Style. Why Couldn't You Love a $2.00 Washcloth Instead?

Sorry, folks, this isn't an article on the heavier attachment issues. It's about a Cabbage Patch kid, a hideous plastic monkey, a shred of sheepskin, and a blue teddy bear. And of course, a special blankee.

I remember being a kid, and seeing other children getting attached to 'things'. My sister Angela became 'attached' to her Cabbage Patch Kid Brigitta. She was convinced not only that Brigitta was alive, but also capable of flight. Sadly, these two facts were simultaneously and traumatically disproved during a holiday dinner. Without warning, Brigitta the Cabbage Patch Kid was hurled skyward across the dining room table before landing squarely in our grandmother's Yorkshire pudding.

Sorry, Angela. Brigitta was NOT a flying doll. And if she WAS alive at one point, she wouldn't have survived the scrubbing our grandma gave her to remove the gravy from her navel.

But attached they remained. Angela brought Brigitta EVERYWHERE. She threatened death if I touched her yarn-hair, or tried to change her clothes. "I am her mommy. YOU are a pest. Hands OFF my Brigitta! I NEED her, and she NEEDS me!"

When I met my husband Kevin, his mother recounted the story of the tragic loss of Kevin's favourite Blue Teddy. During a routine tantrum, Kevin dropped this special bear. The story goes that it was flung out the car window, but one can never be sure when legends are involved. All that mattered was that Blue Teddy was gone. And Kevin NEEDED it.

Even when we met as teenagers, Kevin wasn't the crying type. He's a manly man's man. But I thought I caught a hint of a tear in his eye when the story of Blue Teddy brought up old memories. "You let him lie there on the road!" Kevin protested. Fifteen years later, the wound was still raw. But he won't talk about Blue Teddy today. Even when I gave our ring-bearer a blue teddy bear instead of a pillow to carry up the aisle, Kevin wouldn't tell me why that particular teddy was so special.

I asked my mom why Angela was soooooo attached to her Brigitta. "Well, Sarah," Mom said simply, "Angie brought Brigitta to the hospital with her when she was diagnosed with diabetes. It's her comfort thing."

When my twin brothers came home at age two, they didn't bring much with them. But they, too, had their "things". One had a monkey. A HIDEOUS, gnarled plastic monkey with matted fur, and a withered banana in its claw-like hand. It was repulsive. The other had a little square of sheepskin that he rubbed constantly across his cheek. Mom washed the sheepskin and my first brother cried until she gave it back. She tried to bleach the monkey but its hair turned orange. My second brother cried.

Mom quickly learned not to interfere anymore with their special "things". She washed them while they were off at pre-school and let the boys keep their special things for as long as they needed to. "Why on earth does he love that ugly monkey, mommy?" I was pretty horrified at his chosen toy. "Well, Sarah, the boys have just joined our family. They need these special things to feel comfortable and attached. And your brother loves his monkey. That's his special thing."

But I was not attached to any 'thing'. Never, ever.

I had a doll named Sally. She got carried around enough by one arm to render her shoulder malformed and completely void of stuffing. But I didn't NEED Sally. I could let her fall under the bed for weeks at the time, give her a big hug when I found her, and carry on with my life. I had a baby blanket that I kept for years, but usually it remained folded at the end of my bed. I didn't NEED it. I had stuffed animals and toys and I think I even had a washcloth at one point.... but I didn't NEED any of those things.

I wondered, since everyone else was, why didn't I feel attachment to "things"? Maybe because I was blessed with an unusually blissful childhood. Maybe because I was breastfed til I was three. (Don't be so horrified, boob-o-phobes, I had severe allergies and breast milk was one of the few things I could digest!) Maybe I just never connected to 'things'. I was the odd duck out.

Fast forward twenty years. Our son is home, he's attached. Connected. No hospital visits, no toddler transitions. He's still in contact with his foster family, he knows who his mother and father are. I wondered if he'd need to attach to a "thing" like his father, aunt, and uncles did.

I didn't mind the idea. His foster mother (now his grandmother, lucky boy!) sent over a few teddy bears that had been in his crib so that his sleeping quarters would look identical to his foster crib. I thought maybe he'd take a liking to one of those.

Nope. Okay, then where's that hideous monkey my sister bought as a gag gift? Thank God, he did not fall in love with that either. He briefly showed some interest in a plastic two foot tall tyrannosaurus, but, wouldn't you know it, that toy just *disappeared* without warning as soon as it became apparent that infatuation was sinking in.

So he settled on his blankee. No, not a ten dollar Walmart special. Not a mass-produced example I could pick up at the Bay or Babies R US. Oh, no. Not my son. He fell in love with the one blanket I can't afford to keep replacing.

It's a pretty thing. Soft and plush and fluffy on one side, smooth and colourfully patterned on the other. The brand name is something ridiculously cutesy about monkeys and moos. (See? I just can't avoid the monkey!)

It was a gift from my husband's mother for his baby shower. He slept with it most nights, until he learned to talk and quickly learned to beg for it every night. We indulged him, and it became a daytime friend, too. Linus became one of our son's many nicknames.

When he's sick, he whines for "Blankee". When he falls out of bed he can climb back in, but needs mom or dad to get his "BLANKEE". During car rides, no matter how hot it might be in our vehicle, he needs to snuggle up with Blankee.

He plays with other toys, he'll watch snippets of movies or TV shows. But if Blankee is near, every once in a while, he'll run over to it, scoop it up in both hands, and bury his face into the soft side of it. He'll rub his chubby cheeks back and forth for a few seconds, bite the cloth with toddler-sized determination (that's big, in case you were wondering) before casting Blankee to the floor and carrying on with his day.

Then mommy got a new job. And our toddler went to daycare.

We're lucky enough that Kevin's mom was able to watch our son while we both worked. She got him into a routine for nap time but quickly realized that he would NOT sleep without his special blankee.

But some mornings it was dirty, so we'd have to send him off without..... not a good idea. "He NEEDS his blankee," Grandma implored. "Please send it, it's just as important as packing his diapers and lunch." (Please note, the same woman who gave the child this blanket is now requesting it to be available at all times. Thanks, Grandma!!.... and yes, we still love you.)

Since when is a blanket as important as feeding and clothing a child? Well, when you're attached to some "thing", I guess it's pretty important.

Which leads me back to my complaint.... why God. WHY? Why did our son fall in love with this particular blanket?? It took me two hours on the Internet and phone to locate a store that had it in stock. I was horrified by the listed prices from websites in the US (none of which, of course, shipped to Canada).

I drove over an hour from my home to pick up a duplicate of this blankee, so he'd have one at home and one at daycare. I was absolutely horrified at the price..... sit down for this please. Including tax, it came to $69 and change.

Gah!! Why couldn't you love a two dollar washcloth instead?? My boy's got expensive taste!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Grrrrrr! I'm Happy! Now Get Out of My Way!

I'm not, I repeat, NOT jealous.
Not jealous.
At all.

There's no maliciousness perched on my shoulder.
There's no sense of envy carved into my heart.
My eyes are blue, not green.

I am happy, darnit. GRRRRRRRRRRR! Now get out of my way!

When I was a kid, I always knew I'd grow up and get married and have babies. Granted, I thought it would be through pregnancy first and adoption later on, but things happened this way for a reason. I've got my baby boy and all I see is joy. Adoption wasn't an alternative, it was our path.

So WHY, why, WHY are people walking on eggshells?

My brother's wife is having a baby girl next month. Hurray!! Pink onesies, pink blankets, little pink booties. Am I jealous? No! I`m happy, darnit!

My other brother`s wife is having TWINS in October. TWINS!? Two times the fun, double the trouble, twice blessed. Am I jealous? Heck no!! (These are their first kids, poor innocent couple.... they have no idea how much work this will be!) Am I happy? You bet!

My other, other brother's wife is due in January. Am I happy? Of course!!!! I'm thrilled. To bits. Another blessing. Another cousin for my son. Another grandchild for my parents.

My family's great. My colleagues? Awesome. They 'get' adoption. They've lived and breathed it and understand it completely.

It's the well-meaning friends who *still* need a bit of education that get to me.
"Oh, you must be so jealous," they offer.
"Jealous? Are you crazy? Of what?"
"Well, they're all pregnant, and you're..."
"I'm WHAT? Oh, that's right. NOT pregnant."

Not bloating up over the sunniest summer in recent memory.
Not stretching my diabetic body to its hormonal limits.
Not worrying about how I'll possibly chase around a two year old with a toddler in my tummy. (I forgot to mention, babies in my family frequently surpass the ten pound mark at birth.... so I would be like a mother elephant, ready to deliver a 10 pound baby, probably with an extra pound or two thanks to my diabetes.... um, no thanks!!)

Don't get me wrong. I'd love to be pregnant. But I don't control the weather, I don't decide when the seasons change or when the sun goes down at night. That's how I see pregnancy. It's some cosmic opportunity, a biological bingo game. If my biological baby number never comes up, that's okay. Even if all eleven of my siblings around me get to shake their lucky troll dolls in the air every year for the remainder of their child-bearing years hollering: "BINGO, I'm baking another baby!!" I'll be happy because I know adoption has blessed us and made us a family.

I'm happy, DARNIT. Not jealous.

"But you must be a little envious," Well-Meaning Friend offers.
Um, no, swidiot. I'm really not. (Swidiot being my hybrid word for sweet, well-intentioned idiot).

To all the swidiots out there, please listen carefully.

I am not jealous of pregnant people.
If you're pregnant, and a close friend or family member of mine, please don't wait until you're seven months pregnant to tell me you're expecting. I'll just be hurt that you waited to share your news. If you're having complications or aren't telling anyone, by all means, keep things to yourself if you'd rather. But don't put me last on your list because biological reproduction is not our forte.

If you're avoiding telling me because you don't want me to be jealous, please reconsider.
When you avoid sharing your happiness, you assume that I'm sad.
And that annoys me to no end.
Not because I'm happy (AND I am happy, darnit!) but because you're inferring that failing to get pregnant must mean that adoption feels like a consolation prize.

Nothing could be further from the truth. When I first held my son, he was two weeks old. I didn't know then that he was my son, but there he was, cradled in my arms, waiting for the traffic light to turn green, for the light bulb to turn on inside my head, for social workers and court systems to all line up for that big "Ah-Ha!" moment when everything made sense and we finally got word he would be coming home.

THAT was my pregnancy. I have no stretch marks to show for it, no baby weight to shed, no ob/gyn to thank, and no labour story to publish. (That's probably a good thing, I'm far too direct!) You had your two week wait between ovulation and a positive pregnancy test. I held my two-week old son and waited to see if he would really be mine. You gestated, I got frustrated. By the waiting, the what-ifs. You worried that you'd miscarry. I worried that my beautiful baby would be taken away, or given to another family. You envisioned your delivery day. I dreamed about the day I'd bring my son home.
I waited for my baby to be born into our family, just like the pregnant folks waited for your child to be born.

I am HAPPY for you, darnit. I wish you joy and love and many years of bliss as you grow your family. But please, stop walking on eggshells. I'm the happiest I've ever been, and I don't need memories or plans for a big round belly to prove my parenthood. I have my son, and I'm proud he came to us through adoption.

For the last time, Grrr! I'm HAPPY! Now get out of my way!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Family Reunion Fun Times

Every year my mom's side of the family gets together for a golf & giggle weekend. This year's retreat was just outside of Hundred Mile House, BC. For those unfamiliar with the BC interior, picture rolling hectares of land, grazing cattle, miles and miles of highway.... and very little else. (Sorry to anyone that lives here, I am a city girl through and through... or at least a modest suburbanite.) The middle of nowhere is kind of a nice place to get in touch with your roots.

It was the first time a lot of my extended family had seen Little Man since his baby shower over a year ago. He'd gone from a docile and drooly seven month old to a delightfully feral 20 month old. He even has an out of control baby Afro to match his wild spirit. From the time we arrived on Thursday evening until we hit the highway again on Sunday morning, he was RUNNING.

Thursday, 4pm: Pile my son and his overgrown Britax car seat, my 15 year old sister and her forty pound makeup bag, my six foot tall 19 year old brother, my six foot three 19 year old cousin and BOTH of their golf clubs, a few bags of clothes, oodles of baby items, a stroller, six thousand disposable diapers, and about four ipods into a terrified Honda civic. (Can cars be terrified? I would be!!)

We put the car in drive and hit the highway. The distance was supposed to take about six hours. I foolishly fell asleep and let my brother drive most of the way up. Maniac. Excluding stops, we arrived in five.

Thursday evening, 10:30pm: arrive at the ranch. Pull up to our cabin. Little Man looks ready to crash. He spots Grammy and Opa. Then the candy dish. While he stuffed three pieces of licorice into his mouth I considered that perhaps it was a good thing I'd gotten some serious sleep in during the drive up.... I was right. Little Man was still jumping on the bed (in the dark) at midnight, after consecutively escaping from the loaner playpen, cot, and single bed. He wiggled his way into my bed and exclaimed "SNUGGLE MUMMA!" before headbutting me and sticking his finger up my nose.

Friday morning, 7 am: Pass the coffee if you want to live.

Friday afternoon: I had the chance to catch up with my cousin and her linebacker baby. Seriously, I though Little Man had a bit of a baby beer belly. At 20 months and 34 inches tall, he weighs a healthy 27 pounds. Well, little cousin is barely 6 months old (Yes, half a year!) and already he weighs the same as my son. Wow. God Bless breastfed babies!!

It made me feel a little jealous that my attempt at breastfeeding failed miserably. My son is still chugging away on soy milk at almost two years old. (Milk allergy.) Before he came home, and against my husband's horrified opinion, I'd taken prescription domperidone and consulted La Leche League to try and establish a milk supply. Baby was supposed to come home at five months, but delays pushed his move-home date to the seven month mark. Nothing wrong with nursing a tiny babe, right? Well, in theory, no....

Long story short, Little Man was NOT a boob man. He thought I was trying to assassinate him every time I tried to get him to latch on. You know the expression "lead a horse to water...?" that was him. After months of herbal and prescription drug treatments, battles with my husband, wars with the breast pump, and finally success in the milk department, my son had the final say. And it was a definite no.

So there I was, one year later, feeling stupidly inadequate that my 20 month old was nearly outweighed by his beautiful breast-fed sumo-cousin. Give up the guilt, momma. I'm still surprised how often I need to tell myself this! ;)

Back to the reunion....

the rest of the weekend seemed to fly by. Little Man played with his cousins (well, my cousin's children as he has no first cousins, at least for a few more months!). We petted the horses and hugged the donkeys, swam in the pool and stomped around the ranch.

I thought I might feel a bit left out as all the aunts and uncles -- mom's generation -- oohed and aahed at how cute and how much so-and-so's baby looked like their mom/dad, etc. I was wrong. Instead of comparing differences, the family didn't have to look too hard to find similarities between my son and his new extended family.

"He's wild just like his cousin Dan!" (Sorry, Dan, your reputation will always follow you!)
"Look at his hair! He has the same curls as Bridget did.... does everyone think he's a little girl?" (Yes. And NO, we won't be cutting them anytime soon!)

After two days, my cousin's wife Niamh had him speaking with a Derry accent. He now asks to go "dow-un" instead of down, which endeared him to her irrevocably.

Inevitably the question of "next baby" came up. Little Man is losing his baby look, and getting into everything, and other than at 3am when he's supposed to be sleeping soundly in his toddler bed, rarely asks for snuggles or any other baby-ish thing. My husband didn't join us this weekend, so of course I brought it up when we returned.

The Next Baby. To me, it sounds wonderful. I firmly believe that every child deserves to grow up with siblings. To my better half, the idea sounds like the title of a horror movie. Every time I mention adopting again, he threatens to jump off the deck.

"Honey, what about bringing another baby home?"
"I'd jump off the deck!"
"What if we happened to get pregnant?"
"I'd jump off the deck!"
"What if a child showed up on our doorstep?"
"I'd jump off the deck."
"Well, do you want to talk about it later?"
"I'll be on the deck."