Thursday, October 6, 2011

Revisiting Thailand

There are so many things I could have been writing about since I last entered anything into this blog, but time passes, procrastination happens, and then the things add up so much that I don’t even know where to begin.
After my visit to see Reed and everyone in Colorado which I wrote about in my last post, I got back to Singapore and hit the ground running. I moved from my tiny room in a condo unit to a ground floor room with an Indian family, jumped back into my normal working schedule, planned for the book club meeting that I facilitate every month, and prepared for the arrival of my dear friend Staci.
Staci and I met as roommates on the cruise ship we both worked on in Hawaii in 2007, and from the day we first boarded and met each other, we became fast friends. A year later, we took a road trip together from Oregon to Alaska where we worked in Denali National Park. A year after that in 2009 she was still in Alaska and I returned for my second summer of working there. I had just flown straight from Thailand where I had spent a month on vacation, where I found out I was pregnant. She picked me up at the airport and as soon as we got in the car I told her the news. “Well, I guess this won’t do you any good now,” said her boyfriend, tossing the wine bottle holder that they had gotten me as a gift into the back seat. We laughed and they both gave me their immediate support.

(Staci and me in Alaska, summer of 2008)

When she arrived in Singapore for her 3 week visit, it was the first time I had seen her since that summer in Alaska. We wanted to make the most of her first trip to Asia, so we booked a weekend in Bintan, a small Indonesian island that’s just a quick ferry ride from Singapore, and one to Krabi, Thailand.
Krabi is a special place for me, but I didn’t know how surreal it would be going back there. That was where Reed became real to me, his presence came into my life. In the spring of ’09, I was traveling through Thailand when I got sick, and stayed sick for the next 6 months. About two weeks into my trip, I realized I was pregnant, despite all my arguments with myself that I surely wasn’t. There was a snorkeling trip we took though, where I had come to accept the fact that I was, and as my mind was reeling and my face was underwater looking at these beautiful blue and yellow fish in clear turquoise waters, I thought, “I’m not alone, it’s not just me anymore. It’s you and me, baby, we’re doing this together.” They were my first thoughts towards Reed, the first of many words and thoughts I spoke to him.
After that snorkeling trip, I spent another week or so with him alone in my thoughts. Then I broke off from my traveling partner Rene (who, incidentally, will also soon be making a visit to Singapore!), and spent a couple of days alone on the beautiful beach of Railey, often considered one of the most stunning in all of Thailand. It was there, sitting on the beach at night digging my toes in the sand gazing out over the ocean, that I really spoke to Reed about where we were, what we were doing, and about adoption. From there I took a ferry to Krabi on the mainland, found a drugstore, and finally took a pregnancy test.

(Railay Beach Thailand)
Later, when I was in North Carolina going to birthing classes, we were coached to have an image or object to focus on through the contractions. I had chosen a print of a painting that someone had given to me that had special meaning for me, but when the time came and I was in the bathtub pushing through labor, my mind automatically went back to those clear, turquoise waters, those blue and yellow fish, surrounded by the tall rock walls jutting out of the water in a semi-circle to form a cove, and me telling him, “we’re doing this together, baby.”
So there I was, two years later, back in Krabi. I send a postcard to Reed from every place I visit, and I definitely wanted to send him one from there. I found a shop and looked for cards from Krabi, but then I found one of Railey Beach, and I knew I had to send that one. I sat down and thought about what to write to him, and was able to send it off immediately with tears in my eyes. Staci waited patiently for me, and then we were off to find some sunscreen. My thoughts were a bit distracted when I followed her into a drugstore, but as soon as we stepped in, I recognized it immediately. I pointed out to her the corner where the pregnancy tests were, and told her how I had to mime what I wanted to the non-English speaking woman behind the counter.
The next day, we went on a snorkeling trip. Not just any snorkeling trip, but you guessed it, the exact one from 2 years ago. Every spot was as beautiful as I remember it, and of course we went to Loh Samah Bay. So much came flooding back to me then, from my first acknowledgement of Reed up to his birth, all tied with this scene I was in. I put on my snorkeling mask, dipped my head in the water, saw the blue and yellow fish swimming around me, and started to cry. Have you ever tried crying into a snorkeling mask? It’s not easy! I would come up to take a breath and recollect, then dip my head back under and start bawling again. All of the feelings, amazement, fears, wonder and questions came barreling back, and I realized why that place, that moment was so special to me; that was when he was mine. All mine. I hadn’t told anyone about him, I hadn’t decided on adoption yet, no one knew about him, I wasn’t sharing him with anyone, he was all, completely, utterly, unquestionably mine. That may have been the only time he was really mine, that it was just him and me, because it didn’t take long for me to realize that he actually belonged to someone else, plus I wanted to share him with Bill as soon as I could. I wasn’t thinking this two years ago, but oh, that sweet, wonderful moment when he was mine…

(Loh Samah Bay, July 2011)
This of course begs the questions: Then do I wish he were still mine? Do I regret the adoption? Should he have been mine?
No, I do not think ‘yes’ to any of those. I think I will always struggle with the concept of loving him so much and yet not wanting to keep him. Yup, I said it, I didn’t want to keep him. This statement conjures up images of women dumping their babies in garbage bins, leaving them at friend’s houses for days at a time, abandoning them to whomever will take them off their hands. But I never said I didn’t want Reed in my life, that I wish he had never happened. Even before I took the pregnancy test, when I thought about the possibility of having a miscarriage or any other way to get out of being pregnant, my soul cringed and my heart cried out. Once he was there, I didn’t want him to not happen. And yes, it was beautiful when he was all mine, a feeling I’d never experienced before, a feeling I’m sure so many other mothers know well.
That’s the struggle, how do I reconcile those two seemingly opposing sides- that I love him dearly and deeply with everything I am, yet I didn’t (don’t) want to keep him? As Reed grows older and comes to understand more, how will he deal with the fact that his mother didn’t want to keep him? What about when he hears that I don’t regret placing him for adoption? These are all harsh questions I have to ask myself, and I don’t have answers for. In the video posted on this site made when I was still in NC, I read an excerpt from the journal entry I wrote after taking the pregnancy test, which said, “is it possible to truly love something that you don’t want to keep?” What didn’t make it in the cut of the video was the sentence I wrote immediately after, “I don’t know how it is possible, but my heart somehow tells me that it is. And now, it’s reality to prove it, and for my life to live it.” I may not know all the depths of how it works, but I am still able to confidently say that I am glad he belongs to Doug and Maura and that he was meant for them and not for me, even say that I am glad he is not with me, and at the same time profess my undying, unconditional, inexhaustible love for him while producing tears galore from missing and longing for him. Like I said, I don’t know how it works to fully love something you don’t want to keep. Maybe the beauty of it is that I don’t need to know, that I only need to listen to my heart that tells me it is. And my life is certainly proving it true.
The rest of Staci’s time in Singapore was wonderful and way too short, and my summer continued to get busier. My next post will come soon, with another project I was working on for the month of July that had to do with Reed.

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