Friday, July 31, 2015

Adoption Hopes Dashed, Rekindled

One day, you meet a young couple in a hotel room, and they tell you all about their hopes for their daughter, hopes of her escaping poverty and drug addiction and family dysfunction. And they choose you for their baby's family.  They text you as soon as their doctor schedules the delivery, and you fly there and set up camp.  They invite you to try hospital to meet the baby, and she's beautiful. You hold her.  You feed her.  They let you meet with the pediatrician.  But their families don't like the plan.  They promise to help. And the grief and reality set in for the parents.  And three days after the baby is born, they decide against adoption after all.  You cry in your hotel, and you hold each other, and you start looking for plane tickets home, and you take back the diapers and the wipes and the formula you bought thinking the baby would be discharged to you that day.  But this isn't your baby.

And another day, a young woman you've come to care about is telling you how excited she is for the baby to meet her big brother, referring to your son.  She's been talking to you for ages.  She chose you months ago.  She's using your name for the baby and texting you with updates every few hours. A few days later, the baby is born, and you buy plane tickets in the dead of night.  You know something is wrong as soon as the phone rings, because it's six in the morning, and you are in the driveway loading your luggage into a cab to go to the airport.  Your social worker's tone makes your stomach drop.  Things are starting to look dicey.  You head to the airport anyway, not knowing what else to do with limited information.  At the gate, you learn it's really over.  And you are at the airport with your son, and your checked luggage is full of baby stuff.  But you can't cry, because you're in the middle of the airport.  So you send a nice text to the young woman wishing her the best, knowing she'll never reply, knowing she's already unfriended you on Facebook.  And you hold it together somehow, because what else are you going to do?  And your son asks you if you want a snuggle, and you thank God for him as you say, "Yes, please." You thought you were on your way to meet his sister.  But this isn't your baby, either.

Adoption is not the the faint of heart.

We adopted our son about 5 years ago in a domestic open adoption, and we've been waiting to adopt child number two for the last two and a half years.  We recently suffered our second "hospital unmatch."  That's what it's called when a mother makes an adoption plan with a family during the pregnancy but changes her mind in the hospital after the baby is born.  On the one hand, I try to rejoice in the fact that a child gets to be raised by his or her family of origin.  I am glad that parents have the time to change their minds about adoption after the birth.  Anything else would be monstrous.  On the other hand, I grieve for our dashed hopes.  I grieve for the fear we now feel of continuing to pursue adoption to grow our family.

It is hard not to get your hopes up during a match with an expectant mother, especially since you have to be prepared to take a baby home if the adoption proceeds.  That's a lot of onesies and swaddles to wash without getting excited about the baby.  And it's hard to face the idea of endangering your heart again after it has been broken.  Twice.  It's hard to believe that you'll ever adopt a baby when a mother who sounded so certain of her decision to place her child for adoption during the pregnancy finds herself so uncertain after the baby is born.  If it weren't for our son, I'd have a hard time believing adoptions ever really happened.  Sometimes I look at the pictures of the other families using our agency, people whose adoptions seem to have gone so smoothly, and I wonder, why not us?

So, we grieve and we try to decide whether or not to throw our hats back in the ring.  Perhaps we should be grateful for what we have and accept that our family of three is pretty great as it is. Perhaps we should be happy with the chance to chase other dreams that a newborn baby would forestall or delay.  Perhaps our money and our emotional energy would be better spent elsewhere.

Or . . . perhaps we should remain open to the possibility that we might be the right family for some baby out there in the ether, even knowing that it might not ever happen for us.  Perhaps we should leave that door open and continue to live in uncertainty.

This is incredibly cheesy, and I hate to admit it, but I was quite touched by a pop song I heard in the car on the way home from the airport after our latest adoption heartbreak. Music often helps me come to terms with weighty emotional issues.  Maybe not usually music from a European house producer, but desperate times.  The song is Avicii's "Waiting for Love, and these are some of the lyrics:

Where there's a will, there's a way, kinda beautiful
And every night has its day, so magical
And if there's love in this life, there's no obstacle
That can't be defeated

Monday left me broken
Tuesday I was through with hoping
Wednesday my empty arms were open
Thursday waiting for love, waiting for love
Thank the stars it's Friday
I'm burning like a fire gone wild on Saturday
Guess I won't be coming to church on Sunday
I'll be waiting for love, waiting for love
To come around

You can watch the video here.

When our social worker called us to tell us everything was falling apart . . . in that moment, trying to hold myself together in front of my son and an airport full of strangers, I certainly felt broken.  In the following days, I couldn't face the prospect of continuing to hope, because as far as I could see, hope only brought pain.  As the weeks pass, I'm starting to think maybe I could open my arms again.  

Maybe.  Maybe we can keep waiting for love.

A.M. Manay is a writer and stay-at-home mom whose new novel, She Dies at the End, is available on Amazon Kindle. Her family is once again waiting to adopt. View their profile here, and please feel free to share.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The rosary and the ties that bind

There is some religion in my new book.  I hope it isn't an obnoxious amount.  Because the main character spends the whole story facing the issue of her own mortality (spoiler alert?), it seemed only natural to me that issues of faith and spirituality would surface from time to time.  My protagonist, like most of us, wants very badly to believe that her life has a purpose and that God will protect her, even as she doubts God's existence and benevolence.

I'm a Presbyterian these days, but I grew up Roman Catholic.  And not just a little bit Catholic: I went to Catholic school K through 12.  I taught Sunday school and sang every week at mass.  There are many aspects of Catholicism that I still miss, even though I left the Church for what I think are good reasons. My Catholic upbringing certainly still affects my spiritual outlook. One of the things I still miss and that continues to have an important influence on me and my writing is the rosary.

My first Holy Communion

Protestants tend to frown on the rosary.  The think it's about worshiping Mary, which it isn't, not exactly.  Catholics do revere Mary as the Mother of God.  We ask her to pray for us.  The rosary is part of the rhythm of life when you are Catholic.  When times are tough, there's a rosary in your pocket to remind you that God is with you.  There is a meditative quality about praying the rosary that is largely absent in a mainstream Protestant spiritual life.  The beads add to the centering quality of the ritual: the feel of them, the noise of them clacking against one another, the counting of the repeated prayers. It also fills the need many of us feel for a more feminine spiritual presence in a religion dominated by male authority and male imagery.

Rosaries on my childhood bed

In my new novel, She Dies at the End, the main character, November, carries a rosary that belonged to her grandmother.  She doesn't consider herself particularly religious, and she feels a lot of anger toward God, but she still carries it in her pocket.  It is her touchstone, a tangible symbol of love and family as well as spirituality.

There is one scene in which November, in a moment of extreme desperation, uses the rosary as a weapon.  It occurs to me that some of my readers might find that episode troubling or offensive, and I want to assure you that was not my intention.  Rather, I meant it to be a physical manifestation of the spiritual armor many of us who are religious need in order to withstand the slings and arrows of our lives.  You know, like one of those metaphor type deals.  Yeah, I'm pretty deep.  It's okay if I'm blowing your mind.

Moreover, the story of Mary is the ultimate example of a strong woman who accepts a heavy burden for the good of the human race, much like other heroes both fictional and historical.  Then there's the motherhood aspect of the Blessed Mother: November has lost her earthly mother, but she can still turn to a spiritual mother in her moments of distress.

None of us will get into a fight to the death with a super-powered fairy in a gas station bathroom (well, I certainly hope not), but we all have moments of desperation, and when they hit, I still find myself saying a Hail Mary or clutching a rosary.  It seemed fitting that November would do the same.

Read my book! She Dies at the End, available exclusively on Amazon Kindle.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Can I get that novel with soy milk?

I love to write and edit at Starbucks.  I know it's a waste of money.  I know I should prefer my local independent artisanal hipster fair trade coffee shop, man, but that's a fifteen minute drive and has questionable WiFi.  There are few things I enjoy more than pulling out the laptop or tablet at the closest Starbucks, setting it up next to a caffeine and sugar delivery system, and getting down to work.  So why do I love it so much?

1) I have a terrible sweet tooth
I love sugar.  I love carbs.  By a stroke of genetic luck, I'm still skinny.  Of course, I also have Lupus, so maybe that wasn't really a winning ticket in the genetic lottery after all.  Anyway, I try not to go too overboard (only two pumps of sweetener, please), but I do love a scone or chocolate croissant to go with my creativity.  I had a green smoothie for breakfast, so it's cool, right?

2) Home is too distracting.  Starbucks is just distracting enough.
Starbucks may be bustling, but there's no laundry to do there.  No dishwasher to empty.  No dinner to prep.  No bills to pay.  No garbage cans to roll to the curb.  No children's torn clothes to mend.  No floor to sweep.  There is just me, the computer, my characters, and a bunch of strangers who won't bother me.  The music and people coming and going are just the right amount of background stimulation for me.

3) My local Starbucks is the best
No, for real.  Starbucks #6532 is the best one I've ever been to, and it's less than half a mile from my house.  The drinks are always perfect.  The people are super nice, and they are really good at their jobs.  The place is always clean, including the bathrooms.  The music is never too loud.  The parking lot isn't too crazy.  The WiFi always works.  They've never poisoned my dairy allergic child.  Pretty much the perfect Starbucks experience every time.

4) Seeing/Spying on my fellow humans
Being a stay-at-home mom can be isolating.  So can being a writer.  Thus, I find being around other adults energizing even if we're not interacting all that much.  Also, people do an interesting variety of things at Starbucks: dates, job interviews, meetings, catching up with friends, snacks with the kids, etc.  It's kind of fun to see what other people are up to, and it's all grist for the inspiration mill.

I suppose I will continue being a cog in the corporate machine and do a fair bit of my creating at the neighborhood Starbucks.  I don't drink, smoke, or do drugs, so I guess a frappuccino and a petite vanilla scone or three isn't the end of the world.

Read my novel, She Dies at the End, available for pre-order exclusively on Amazon Kindle.