Here we are, in Buffalo, the first session of our home study classes complete. Tomorrow is the long slog, 9-5, a marathon of sitting and absorbing. I am planning to do a whole post on what the home study classes are like, and I have been taking meticulous notes (and looking like an insane person who is doing some kind of undercover journalism or something in the process) so that I can share with you what goes on during the classes. It's good stuff.
It does not escape my mind that a year ago, we had just come home from Buffalo and I was recovering from the hysteroscopy that would result later in the uterine scarring that put the final nail in our conception coffin. Thursday and Friday of this week are the Washington, DC trip days at school, and so last year I took advantage of those days to have time off for the surgery without needing sub plans, and this year our home study classes just happened to fall on that Friday as well, so again I took advantage of no sub plans to take a personal day and get stuff done about the house and for paperwork before driving out to Buffalo. For an entirely different kind of experience.
Last year at this time, we had already had one highly disappointing cancelled cycle with our new clinic, and we were going in to have polyps removed that had showed their ugly markers in my endometrial biopsy. We were frustrated, but still hopeful that maybe IVF would still work, although we were tired and the cancellation was my first after 4 and a half years of treatments -- it threw me for a loop. The hysteroscopy seemed to go without a hitch, although I had a lot of pain afterwards.
Now, going into these classes knowing that we will become parents through adoption and that our infertility treatments are on hiatus if not completely over (still puzzling over those frozen embryos we weren't able to use, a discussion for another time), we feel at peace. Excited. I do not miss shooting myself up. I do not miss the physical and emotional pain. I do not miss hoping, always hoping, and always, always being met with disappointment. I feel pretty well-adjusted, actually.
Which was put to the test during our home study class tonight.
One of our classes was "Talking About Adoption," and it was amazingly informative and made us feel like we were absolutely on the right path for us. I am trying to squelch my inner Hermione a bit, the piece of me that makes Bryce cringe and shows that I was THAT person in classes. I can't stand it when people say, "Do you have any questions?" and there's crickets. I feel badly for the presenter. I HAVE to raise my hand. I HAVE to volunteer for things. I am usually the one in groupwork who ends up presenting. So, I ended up talking, a lot, in this first night. Hand shot straight up in the air. At least I didn't correct anyone's pronunciation...I can control my Hermione that much. (Levio-SAAAAAAAH...)
One of the icebreakers was questions in little manila envelopes that one person at each table opened, and read, and answered, and then it was put to the rest of the room to answer as well. So few people volunteered that it was a little painful. So, when the question was, "What is the first storybook that you remember being read to you?," I shared about a storybook that was read to me when I was a child, The Dream of the Little Elephant, published in 1977 and given to me for my 5th birthday in 1981. Very pink-and-green, very seventies color scheme. (I don't really remember it being read to me per se, but it's special to me.) I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it before, but it is a beautiful story about a little tiny green elephant who is living with all these big elephants who mock him, and he feels like he doesn't belong. So he has this dream about a place with green grass on the other side of the ocean and elephants just like him, and he goes on a quest to find this place, which he does after asking the waves and getting the wind to take him over the sea and asking a stone, and a worm, and following a bird, until he gets to a nest with another little green elephant and he's finally home. I CRY EVERY TIME I READ THIS BOOK. And for some reason, I read it to my class every September as part of my "Important Book" project modeling, and I tear up then, too. And I teared up a tiny bit telling the summary to a room full of prospective adoptive parents. I said that it was given back to me a couple of years ago, leaving out that my mother gave it back to me along with my little mahogany-stained rocking chair the last time I was pregnant. Because elephants were one of my fertility charms.
So, anyway, back to the classes. At this point, everyone knows that a) I wear my emotions on my sleeve and b) I am a teacher of reading.
Fast forward to a discussion about how important it is to have books about adoption in your home. Not just books for you, about the process of adoption, but picture books for your children, to tell a story of family that is familiar to them and to show how normal and natural adoption is as a way to make a family. Several picture books are presented, covers only, and the facilitator offers up one book that is great for talking about the curiosity children have about their birth mothers...except he has a terrible reading voice per his own admission and would like a volunteer to read it.
Guess who is encouraged to volunteer, by her husband and also people who caught on that I read books as part of my living?
So I set myself up on a chair at the front of the room, do the one-handed book hold that all reading teachers know (so we can see the text and everyone can see the pictures), and I read THIS book out loud for the class:
Everything is going swimmingly, as the little girl in the book is asking her parents about her first mother, and whether or not she loved her. And the parents in the book decide to share with the little girl the beautiful letter that her first mother wrote to her when she was still in her tummy. STILL IN HER TUMMY being the operative part.
I did great until I realized that the entire middle section of this book was going to be about pregnancy. That the first mother is telling her about how she found out she was pregnant, and then she felt her like a tickle in her tummy, and she loved her so much, and her belly grew, and all of her hopes and dreams for her baby, and how she could not provide those hopes so she found two parents who could give her all the things she could not, and that she was sad but that she was so happy that the baby would have the life she dreamed. It was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.
AND COMPLETELY HEARTWRENCHING FOR SOMEONE TO READ WHO WILL QUITE POSSIBLY NEVER FEEL A TICKLE IN HER TUMMY, OR SEE HER BELLY GROW.
But I did it. I did it without out-and-out crying. I think I disassociated a bit. In the middle of the book, where the first mother is explaining how she could not be the little girl's parent, and when the little girl hugs her parents and exclaims how much her first mother loved her, I did get dangerously close to spilling over and yelled "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!" so that I did not start sobbing. Most people laughed, and I could not look up because there was an awful lot of sniffling and I wasn't the only one feeling intensely emotional.
As someone who never made it to feeling a baby on the inside, or having a belly that grew to noticeable proportions, it was somewhat painful to read this very detailed description of what it's like to be pregnant and love your baby so much but not be able to parent. I felt emotional for me for describing the pregnancy part, but I also felt emotional for the first mother. I could imagine myself in her skin, having these experiences I have never had and in all likelihood will never have, and feeling an intense grief that I could not provide the dreams and hopes I had for my baby. It is a freaking miracle that I made it through the book in one piece.
I walked back to our table and Bryce had tears running down his face.
"Are you okay, babe?" he whispered as I tried to calm my pounding heart and keep the tears from pouring out.
"Yes. I think I went outside my body a bit, but I'm good. If this was last year, I would NOT have been okay. But I'm okay. That was NOT easy."
I completely understand why that book was chosen. It offers an opportunity to talk about different terminologies for birth mothers, to discuss first mother as a great option, and to talk about not skirting around the grief when you share information with your child about his/her story. It showed that the child clearly discerned the difference between her first mother and her parents, and that it was so comforting to know that she definitely, DEFINITELY loved her to place her with parents who could make those dreams possible...and that it was very, very hard and sad. The message was overwhelmingly love, though. Love tinted with grief encompassed by love.
However... I could have used a warning. It would have been helpful to know that the book was hugely pregnancy-focused. I probably would have read it anyway, but I could have steeled myself a little earlier, rather than four pages in when I realized, Oh holy jeezum this book is going to stomp on my heart just a little.
So Bryce went up during a break and shared those thoughts with the facilitator, not to discourage the book from being read (because it is fantastic), but to just give feedback on the helpfulness that a simple warning could be helpful to people who are coming to adoption from the pain and loss of infertility.
The book is amazing, and I will probably buy it. I don't regret reading it out loud, because in a way it helped me see how far I've come (last year or even four months ago I probably would have been a puddle in the fetal position on the floor mid-book). It also showed me that my sense of empathy is really healthy, which I kinda already knew, but it's nice to have confirmation.
I feel like it was a test of sorts. A feat of emotional athleticism, quite possibly medal-worthy.