Friday, November 27, 2009

Cast of Characters: Doug and Maura

Doug and Maura (adoptive parents)

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I started talking to my baby. He has always been very easy to talk to; a great listener, never interrupts, and he doesn’t seem to be bothered when I change my mind or when I don’t know the words to figure out what I’m trying to say. He is (quite literally) closer to my heart than anyone. He is my son, he always will be my son, and I have never once thought of letting him out of my life.
Wait a minute, aren’t I giving him up for adoption? Isn’t that by definition letting him out of my life? Not a chance! As soon as I started thinking about adoption as being a possibility, I knew that I couldn’t go through life only wondering about my son. I already loved him too much to even consider the option of not being able to tell him that every chance I got. So when I started looking for adoptive parents, I let them know immediately that we were a package deal, that pictures and occasional e-mail, letter or phone call updates wasn’t enough. Not that I planned on barging my way into someone’s home; nesting into one spot is contradictory to my life style. But I knew whoever my son’s family was, they were going to be my family as well.
Some couples I contacted replied that they were not comfortable with that level of openness in an adoption. Some welcomed it; one family already had an adopted son and wished that his birth mother was more willing to have an open relationship with their whole family. Some couples didn’t respond at all. I later found out that since I was in Thailand when I first started contacting couples from the website, a warning e-mail was sent out to those I had contacted saying it might be a scam. I can see why; some lady in Thailand wanting an American couple to adopt her baby, and she says they have to adopt her into their family, too? Definitely scam material! Fortunately, when Doug and Maura got that e-mail, it just confirmed everything that I had already told them, that I was a traveler and that I found out I was pregnant while I was in Thailand.
As I told them my story and they told me more about themselves, it became more and more obvious that we had several things in common. I had a bachelors degree in social work, Maura was a child and family therapist. I was a potter and had even started going to graduate school for studio ceramics, Doug was a successful potter with his own studio. Since working at a summer camp in North Carolina for 5 summers I had always loved that state, and they lived out in a wooded area in NC. After reading their profile and a few e-mails were exchanged, I couldn’t wait to talk to them. Once we did have a phone conversation, I knew they were the ones. I was hesitant to say that decision out loud because I wanted to give it a little time, to make sure I was making the right decision, that I wasn’t jumping the gun on one of the most important decisions I would ever make. But every time I spoke to anyone about it, especially to my son about the kind of parents I wanted for him, I couldn’t think of anyone more perfect than Doug and Maura.
When they came up to Alaska to meet me for the first time, we were all so excited. I think I smiled the whole day at work in anticipation of their arrival. During that week together we went on walks, ate dinners together, I introduced them to my friends and co-workers, and we talked a lot. We mostly talked about our families, our histories, how we grew up, what our lives are like now. We also discussed some heavier, ‘what if’ issues. What if the baby is born with Down syndrome, or has some kind of physical or mental handicap? What if he discovers he is gay? What if I’m having twins? (We hadn’t had an ultrasound yet, so at the time we didn’t even know he was a boy.) They were so open and honest with all of their answers, and with their questions for me. Our whole time together was smooth, easy and exciting, and our meeting only confirmed everything I had already suspected- that they were wonderful people, were going to be incredible parents, and that we would have no problem becoming great friends.
After I left Alaska and finally arrived in North Carolina, Doug and Maura let me stay at their house until Shelley and Bill arrived and we found a house of our own. We enjoyed family dinners together (along with Maura’s sister and niece who also live with them), and I was able to meet Maura’s parents and Doug’s brother and his family. Everything they did made me feel so welcomed, and their families were eager to embrace me into their lives.
In my search for open adoption bloggers, I came across an anti-adoption website that stated that open adoption is a lie, that the adoption agencies and hopeful adoptive parents will tell the birth parents anything they want to hear in order to “snatch” up a coveted newborn. I’m sure there are some unpleasant stories of things not working out as planned, as there are with anything in life. But even though I wouldn’t be a part of their lives if it weren’t for my son, I have never once felt that it was only about the baby. They have given me no doubt that I will be forever loved as a part of their family.
In my search for adoptive couples, I discovered that there are many wonderful and deserving people who are looking to adopt who would provide an excellent home for a child. It was a huge decision for me to make, but I knew my heart would tell me who the right couple was. Doug and Maura have given me no reason to question or doubt my decision, and Bill and I can completely trust that our son will be in good, loving hands. They have been so supportive of not just the pregnancy, but of me, Bill and Shelley, and what is truly best for everyone involved. I’ve come to know them not only as my son’s future parents, but as friends. They are people I would want in my life no matter what the reason happened to be to cause our paths to cross. And as their friend, I am so excited to see them become parents, because I know how much they want it and deserve it, and I know that they will be great parents. While adoption is seen as a blessing for the adoptive parents, it is usually seen as a tragic and unfortunate circumstance for the birth parents. But because of Doug and Maura, and how much so many people already love this child, I can’t see this as a negative experience at all for me or for my son. He will be surrounded with so much love from all sides (they have said from the beginning that the more people that love this child, the better!). I don’t feel like I’m “giving up” my son, I don’t feel like I’m losing him. In fact, instead of feeling like I’m losing a son, I feel like I’m gaining an entire family who will be only an enriching addition to my life.

Cast of Characters: Shelley

Cast of Characters: Shelley

“You’re pregnant, Rachel Cane,” Shelley says on a regular basis. With my beach ball belly sitting on top of my still skinny legs, it’s hard not to point out the obvious, and Shelley doesn’t resist. “God, she acts like she’s pregnant or something,” she jokes when I take my time to get out of the car or waddle down the street. When we got our printer finally working, the first thing she printed out was a document that said “Rachel Cane is Prego!!” in as many fonts and colors as would fit onto the paper.
I first met Shelley in 2006 while working on a cruise ship in Hawaii. The first thing that drew me to her was her smile and her laugh, and as I got to know her better, her care free personality. In Hawaii we had another friend named Candy, who we of course dubbed “Candy Cane.” We in turn became Rachel Cane and Shelley Cane, and though we’ve lost touch with our third Cane sister, our names have stuck.
On the cruise ship we became friends, but I’d say our bond didn’t seal until a few months later, the first time I visited her in Portland where she was staying. She had every intention of laying roots there, to make it her new home. She met me in the airport and on the train ride home I told her about the last few months I had just spent at camp in North Carolina, and how I was about to go to Zion National Park in Utah to work for the fall season for the second time. There was a spark.. something was going on in her head. A contemplative look came over her face as she started stroking the side of her mouth with her finger. “Zion… huh?” She had heard me talk about Zion before. She couldn’t resist. Her mind was made up. The next day I called the hiring manager there and told him I had a friend who would like a job as well, and she turned in her notice to her employer. Two weeks later, we were both in Utah. Since then, we’ve shared adventures, bottles of wine, and our love of life and making the most of it. While we were in Zion one day we saw an advertisement for “Spa Adventure.” “Hmm… Spa and Adventure… two of our favorite words!” she said. It didn’t take much to convince ourselves into making appointments for hot stone massages. Yes, we needed those massages!
Shelley and I have always shared our love of life and adventure, but there is so much more than only that connection. She is a fellow seeker, one of my true spiritual sisters. A conversation with her is a celebration of life, no matter what life holds or where it takes us. She has lived through her share of trials, past and present, but she has somehow become a master of positivity and gratitude. Maybe it’s because of a lifetime of lessons learned, but she refuses to let anything get her down. I’ve seen her in situations of success as well as distress, and the one thing that is a pervading factor in her life is laughter and making the most of every day. Several of our conversations these days are about this moment in our lives, how we got here and where we’re going. We talk about how amazing it is for my situation to work out as wonderfully as it has; how wonderful Doug and Maura and their families are, how incredibly lucky I am to have Bill around, how the timing of the birthing classes we’ve been going to worked out (it took a while to find one that worked with my labor schedule since I was already in my third trimester when I arrived), how much we love the house we’ve rented and its location, and all the possibilities of the future as we once again plan to head in different directions.
This summer she was working in a small town in Alaska about an hour away from where I was when I told her I was pregnant. Soon after, she made the trip to come and visit me and some other mutual friends. There were four of us having dinner together, I was splurging on a quarter glass of wine while the rest of the group was gladly taking care of the rest of the bottle. I had already chosen Doug and Maura as the adoptive parents, they were coming to Alaska to meet me for the first time in just a couple of days, and I was telling Shelley and the others about it and my plans to go to North Carolina after Alaska. There was a spark. A contemplative look came over her face. She stroked the side of her mouth with her forefinger and said “North Carolina,… huh?” We both knew it was going to be. Later she told me about a story in Buddhism of a young monk who asked an older and wiser sage how to gain spiritual wisdom. “Did you eat your rice this morning?” the sage asked. “Yes,” replied the monk. “And did you wash your bowl afterwards?” “Yes.” And that was it. The sage walked away and that was the end of the story. The point of it is to take life one step at a time, and to learn something from each of those steps, no matter how mundane they may seem. Shelley compared that to coming to North Carolina with me. “I have to do it, it’s like washing my bowl. My step just happens to be all the way across the country to be there for you. It’s just what comes next.” Simple as that. “Besides, you’re going to need someone to tie your shoes when you can’t bend over anymore.”
A book she sent me once, “Snowflower and the Secret Fan,” tells the story of two girls in China and the special friendship between them that bonded them together for life. They became each other’s old same, an expression used to describe that certain kind of bond. Shelley is 20 years my senior, but because of her ability to relate to people of all ages, as well as her young spirit, I don’t notice an age difference (she just has more stories and wisdom to share). The other day she said she should call me her young same, but I told her no way, the names have to be the same for both of us. Shelley Cane my Old Same.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cast of Characters: Bill

Bill (baby’s father)

With us working so closely together at a restaurant in Colorado, Bill and I naturally became very close last winter. However we knew we were going in different directions in our lives, so when the ski season ended and the restaurant closed, we parted as friends with the intention of keeping in touch. Little did we know at that time that we would be connected for the rest of our lives! From the first time I told him that I was pregnant, even in the midst of confusion, fear, interpretation, and lots of questions, he has been nothing but supportive of me and our baby. When I was working in Alaska over the summer, he would send cookies and other homemade baked treats along with a few baby toys, some pregnancy tea, and whatever else he could think of to add into a care package. Because I was in the middle of Alaska and he was in the middle of the Colorado Rockies we weren’t able to talk on the phone for most of the summer, and when we finally could it was only about once a week, but every time we did he would ask me if there was anything he could do for me or if there was anything I needed.
I knew Bill took this pregnancy seriously, and he felt all the responsibility a dad should. As we talked more about adoption, he let me know about his reservations about giving up his son. He wanted to do what was right, what was the best for his son and for him. I told him that just as he has supported me through my pregnancy, if he decided that adoption wasn’t the best route to take, then I would support that decision completely. I knew that for me adoption made the most sense, but I wanted him to be completely on board without any persuasion or coaxing from me. I knew that sometimes the most important decisions we make are not made from the head, but from the heart, and I wanted him to decide in his heart what the right thing to do was. We decided to go along with the adoption, and as soon as I told him about Doug and Maura, he immediately started thinking about moving out to NC to be closer to me for the rest of the pregnancy, and to be with his son. As soon as his summer job ended, he packed up his car and drove across the country with his border collie Bijou, and finally met Doug and Maura for the first time. It didn’t take long for him to be completely convinced that they would be absolutely wonderful parents, and that they would welcome his friendship and his role in our son’s life.
As we continued to make plans, it made sense for Shelley, Bill and I to get a house together in NC. Bill came with his border collie Bijou, and we all soon found a 3 bedroom house close to the birth center. He continues to be my main source of support, giving me back and foot massages, cooking dinners for me, going to birthing classes and doctors appointments with me, providing entertainment just by being his goofy self, and by being an all around great friend and shoulder to lean on. He has never stopped asking me if there is anything I need him to do, and even our adoption counselor has commented on how rare it is to have the birth father so involved. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive man to be with during this time. I also love how random he is. The other day while driving in the car, he asked, “if you were serving a life sentence in prison, who would you rather have as your cell mate- Elton John or David Bowie?” “Ok, same question, but between all of the Beatles, or the Monkeys?” I can't wait to hear the kind of questions he and his son will think of together.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Baby Shower!

Yesterday was the baby shower for our very loved little boy. Some people have already asked me if it was weird at all being a part of it, but I didn’t feel that way at all. In fact, even when I was still in Alaska I was hoping to be a part of the baby shower! There were about 30 people in attendance, and Bill, Shelley and I didn’t know most of the people there. But once again, I was reminded of how wonderful of a place this little boy will be raised in and the incredible people who will be around him.
From the time we first arrived, there were friends and family members who were so excited to meet us. I had people coming up to me saying how happy they were that I was becoming a part of Doug and Maura’s family, how they couldn’t wait to get to know me better in the future, and how excited they were to meet the baby. Maura’s niece led the group in a Mad Libs about our adoption story, which turned out to be really funny! Everyone got to paint a onesie (he’ll be well stocked with a very creative wardrobe for the first year of his life!), and we all wrote down our guesses for the due date, time, and weight . When it was time to open the gifts, Doug, Maura, Bill and I all sat on a sofa and took turns opening them. Bill and I gave them a framed print to hang in the baby’s room of a giraffe walking up to a house, with the title of the painting being “Home Coming.” We also got him some really snuggly winter onesies, one of them came with a little hat with bear ears on it. Doug and Maura gave Bill and I each a photo album, with a card about how wonderful it will be to fill them up with memories of our baby and our times together.
Before we opened presents, one of the guests pulled Maura and I aside and gave the both of us gifts. We each got a card with a hand written note that
(Here we are hard at work painting onesies)
celebrated the bond between us as mothers, and we both got matching necklaces. It was such a sweet gesture, Maura and I really appreciated it and we love our necklaces. We also got a toast from Maura’s mother, who welcomed Bill and I into the family, and thanked Shelley for her special role in our lives. I have to admit that I was thankful when I looked at Maura and saw her watery eyes, which assured me that I wasn’t the only teary eyed sap in the room.
All in all it was a great time. I never felt uncomfortable, and was so happy to see all the people who supported our son’s future family. We were able to meet more of Dougs family who came in for the shower and visited again with some family members we had already met. The guests made it a point to tell me that I couldn’t have chosen better parents (which I already knew!), but at the same time I didn’t feel like it was only about the baby. They were all so supportive of our open adoption relationship and went out of their way to welcome Bill and I into their circle of friends.
(here's my cute little onesie I painted for my favorite little monkey!)