Thursday 28 May 2009

Diversity Curtains, and Other Stories

So, the shopping is going extremely well.

So far we have managed to buy:
Two bags of cotton wool balls
A baby activity book with jingles and tags
A top and tail bowl
That's it.
It's not for lack of trying, I swear. But we're kind of hampered by not knowing how many there are going to be, what size they will be, what gender they will be, oh, and also some chronic indecisiveness. We went out on Monday afternoon (which was a bank holiday) to get the process started and did nothing except make giant fools of ourselves and seriously confuse some shop assistants. We wanted to suss out the double pushchairs (because, as it turns out, a good double pushchair is hard to find) but for some reason neither J nor I felt comfortable spilling our entire life story to the pram lady, so we didn't really explain what we were looking for.
We looked at some of those snazzy three wheelers designed for hyperorganised hyperfertile people that have a 'doubles kit' - so that you can buy a single pushchair for baby #1, but then add an extra seat below or above the first one when baby #2 comes along before #1 is walking. But the second seat is really tiny, and after looking at one of those I said hmmm, this is really for a baby and a toddler, isn't it, not two children the same size? The pram lady said yes, you're right, are you looking for something to fit two toddlers the same size? I said No. Not toddlers. But not newborns. Older babies. Two older babies. Maybe six months. Or eight months. Or eleven months. Or not.
To her credit, the pram lady didn't flinch. A small cloud of confusion passed in front of her face, but she didn't actually say what in the world are you TALKING about even though she was clearly thinking it. She also didn't say: you're CLEARLY NOT EVEN PREGNANT why are you asking me about twin pushchairs you bizarre fantasist? for which I am truly grateful.
Instead: Well, she answered, for two.... (pause)
me: older babies
her: ...older babies, I recommend this model here, which has a blah and a blah blah.
Now it turns out that her recommendation was a spectacularly bad pushchair - one of those giant contraptions that doesn't really fold down, just gets disassembled into its megalithic individual components, one of which seemed large enough to double as a climbing frame when not in use for transportation. But at least she was nice enough, even if we couldn't quite find a way to say: hello there, we need to buy a pushchair, and can we look at the double, please? We are hoping to adopt twin babies from Ethiopia.
I don't really know why I find that so hard to say. I am absolutely and in no way ashamed of our story. I only know that on the few (very few) times I have said that to a shop-assitant type stranger, it's accompanied by my rictus grin face, my 'yes that is exciting but no I don't want to answer a lot of questions about it' face. Because I've come to realise that, to most people, our situation is a novelty situation. An interesting story. Which is natural enough, I guess, because I suppose it is unusual. But it's not an interesting story to me, dangit, it's my LIFE. The only one I've got. And these are my real babies that I'm looking forward to, not my novelty babies, and having to answer a whole load of questions about this WEIRD thing we're doing, however well intentioned, just makes me feel even more like a freak than I already did.
And speaking of freakish, the social workers and their crazy ways have really gotten to us. One thing that goes over really well in the alarmingly in depth homestudy process here is if the physical house (furniture, decor etc) is obviously a place where many cultures are valued. Which is good, obviously, but the only two cultures getting a look in at our house tend to be the ancient civilisations of dust and cat hair, and we scored pretty low on that one. So, straight after the pushchair debacle, we were looking at curtain fabric for the baby room and came across fabric that was called something like 'people from across the globe'. It had a person next to the Eiffel tower, someone in a kimono, a big red london bus... you get the picture. And for a moment, with unspoken understanding, we actually considered decorating our child's room with curtains made from this fabric, purely to impress social services. We didn't even like it, and I doubt our child would, but I think we have now been officially brainwashed.
Gah. Anyway, it seems like it's not going to matter for a while whether our baby room has diversity curtains, or indeed any other type of curtains. It seems that the Department for messing me around is as inefficient as ever, and yesterday they gave me an estimate of NINE WEEKS to send our papers to country. I phoned and reminded them that they promised us priority processing at this point after they messed up so hugely last time, and they've now said okay then, five weeks. Which means DTE late June / early July. And while I know, I know we would have only the tiniest tiniest chance of making it through court before closures, even if the dossier went today, I hadn't realised that I had that slim sliver of hope left until it was taken away from me (a couple last week were given a court date of June TWELVE, which is freakishly quick and fanned my little tiny hope-flame. But that now seems irrelevant).
So anyway, I'm now tearful (again!) and extremely crabby, which is about as attractive a combination as you might imagine. I'm finding it so hard to really, really trust God with this sequence of delays. Okay, not hard, impossible. I find myself feeling really angry about it, which I know is not the right response. While I hate what's happening, I also really hate how much it reveals the dark underside of my own sinful self - the bit of me that can only imagine being happy if I get my own way, in my own time. And I've found out that delay after delay doesn't necessarily teach patience, if I don't have a teachable heart. I just keep wishing I knew WHY all this was happening - and I have to remember that I do, or at least part of it. Romans 5: 3 says:
3 ... we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope.
And of course, it's not talking about just hoping for a baby, or for my life to turn out okay, but something much more real than that:
5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. 6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
I've got to get my priorities straight.
I've also got to find some better curtain fabric.

This definitely needs its own separate post, even though it's short:

Congratulations, Julie and Steven. I just couldn't be happier for you!

Friday 22 May 2009

Recurring Dream

Other people's dreams are boring, so I'll keep this short. But. I keep on having variations on the same dream. Each time in the dream, we adopt a baby, but something seems wrong. No matter how much I tell myself I love the baby, I just don't really love it. And then every time - every time- it turns out that it wasn't really a baby, it was a four year old / six year old / seven year old who was just masquerading as a baby. I end up realising - and think 'ah ha!! No wonder I knew something was wrong! No wonder it was difficult to bond! No wonder it didn't like the sling!' but think 'well, this is our child now' and take the fake baby out of its too-small crib / high chair / car seat / other piece of baby equipment that always makes its way into the dream, and start treating it like the child it is, rather than a baby. I dredge up everything I know about older child adoption and do my level best to start being the mother the child needs, but the back of my head is always screaming 'no fair! I wanted a BABY!'

Needless to say, I always wake up from this dream feeling incredibly guilty.

Any amateur Freuds want to help me on this one??

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Woo to the Hoo

Well, our papers have now been to the Ethiopian Embassy, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and our Notary, and they've had their stamps! We heard today that our papers have now returned from their holiday and have been sent back to the good, kind, efficient and worthy people at the Department for C.hildren, S.chools and F.amilies. You know, the ones who took three months to issue our C.ertificate of Eli.gibility.

I'm kind of assuming they're going to sit on our papers for another 12 weeks. But what if they don't?? They seem to have implemented some kind of new, long overdue caseworker system whereby someone is actually responsible for our paperwork rather than everything just being shoved into a cupboard. So, you know.... our papers could go really soon.

And then, when they've gone, we could get a referral anytime. No. Really. Literally. Anytime. Some people have had referrals the same day that their papers have arrived. And we don't think that's going to happen to us, especially if there are twins involved but it could. It might be six months later, too, but it could. [And let me take this opportunity to remind my viewers that while we may, possibly, get what looks like a very fast referral once our papers actually go to Ethiopia, getting through the UK process has given us our fair share of fun and time spent on the adoption merry go round. If we do get a fast referral once our papers actually make it to Ethiopia, this is only because there are SO few people who adopt from Ethiopia, or in fact anywhere internationally, to the UK. Last year there were fewer than 250 international adoptions here. Total. That is probably a pretty accurate indication of the brutality of the process before our papers make it to country. I know nobody's judging, but ... just sayin'].

And then... I know I've said this before, but once we get the call, I need to be on the plane in about a week and won't be back for a few months, complete with baby/ies. And at the moment, despite numerous hours spent looking on ebay, we have NOTHING for this kid. Nothing. And while minimalism is nice, children need to eat out of something. And poo into something. And be cleaned by something.

So.... we'd better start getting ready and buying stuff, yes? I now declare baby shopping season.... open.

Friday 15 May 2009

And now for something completely different...

I'm joining in with crafting it forward! I've joined the chain from the ever-lovely emaye's blog and now it's your turn...

Here's the deal:The first three people to comment on this post will get something made by me! My choice. For you.The catch is that you must re-post this on your blog and give the same offer to the first three commenters who will also craft it forward.
This offer has some restrictions and limitations:

1. I make no guarantee that you will like what I make!
2. What I create will be just for you.
3. It will be done this year.
4. You have no clue what it's going to be.
5. I reserve the right to make something extremely strange.
6. You must post a picture of what you win when you get it. (actually I'm not so bothered about number 6 but that's in the original rules, so I'm including it - I won't be offended if you don't do this!)

That's it! I've got a Saturday on my own tomorrow as J is finalising the cleanup of his uncle's house. I feel a lot better than I did on Wednesday when I posted last (thanks in no small part to those of you who said encouraging things - thank you!) and I think I'm in the mood to spend the day with either my sewing machine or my big box o' beads making stuff. So go!

(By the way, I stand by number 4 above. But if you could tell me whether you have pierced ears, that would be great. I hasten to add that earrings are only ONE SMALL POSSIBILITY, because I'm not even sure if I can find any earring backs, but I may possibly be feeling earringy. Maybe. Also maybe you should tell me if you have particularly large or tiny fingers. Same disclaimer as above. You can tell me what your favourite colour is too if you like. And if you are allergic to anything. Or not. I don't mind).

**updated to say that it doesnt' matter where you live! I have a quasi-post office in the basement of the building where I work, so everywhere is fine. A package I once sent to the US from there did go via Sweden, but it did get there in the end!!**

Wednesday 13 May 2009

A book review, of sorts

I read a book, quite a long while back, that I found incredibly interesting. It's quite out of date, and also out of print, and not all of it was relevant, but at the time when I read it, bits of it gave me that 'aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh' you only get from writing that expresses thoughts that you didn't even know you had. It's called 'adopting after infertility ' by Patricia Johnston (and I'm going to continue to use 'infertility' as an inaccurate shorthand for my own weirdo problems here) and the first chapter lists six key infertility losses. The author says they are: loss of control over many aspects of life, loss of genetic continuity, loss of creating a child with your partner, loss of the emotional gratifications of pregnancy and birth, loss of the physical gratifications of pregnancy and birth, and loss of the opportunity to parent.

She then goes on to say that adoption adresses only one of these losses - loss of the opportunity to parent - and that all the other losses still need to be faced separately, because adoption isn't going to deal with them. Reading this was a real lightbulb moment for me, and I've thought about it a lot since. I'd been really struggling with the feelings of 'but we're adopting! I should be happy! How can I still feel sad?' and it really helped me to separate out the different reasons for the sadness and the joy I was feeling, and to start putting them in the right emotional boxes. I've found it really helpful to try to separate out which of our big sack of losses are directly related to the adoption (eg missing the first few months of THIS baby's life), and which are only to do with our fertility problems and would persist whether or not we ever adopted. This helps me not to blame the adoption process for things that aren't its fault. And allocate the blame with more accuracy, because who doesn't want to be able to do that?

I'm not sure why, but some of these losses feel very intense to me right now, and these days I feel like I'm walking around under my own black raincloud. I find the first loss, the loss of control, particularly difficult - but I guess you all already knew that. Somewhere tangled up in that, I think, is the lost opportunity to be NORMAL. The assumption that your life will be unremarkable in a good way, and that you will be able to enjoy what those around you are enjoying. That whole 'oh, we're planning to have a summer baby' thing, I guess. Of course, when I say 'normal', I actually mean 'blessed beyone measure', but I hope you know what I mean. Although actually, I hope you are lucky enough NOT to know what I mean - like you feel that you're living your life behind a thick pane of glass that separates you and all your experiences from those of the people around you. I don't necessarily mean in a depressed way, just in a 'our lives really aren't the same, are they? I think we're operating under a completely different set of assumptions' way. I guess that as life progresses, more and more people end up behind their own pane of glass, whether through serious illness, bereavement, divorce or any one of the other things that could make a person feel not only grief but intense isolation. I think a lot of us just got ours earlier than we would have liked.

I can't imagine the shock it must be if you've always assumed that you're fertile and then find out there is something wrong. But I still sort of envy that experience because I have always, always known that I was broken and I did not even get TEN SECONDS to happily grasp my husband's hand, look into the future and assume everything would be okay. And at the moment, for some reason, I'm really sad about the fact that I never even had this false normality. In my alternative life, where I don't have anything wrong with me, or at least I don't know about it, I get to spend the first few years of being married saying 'wow, I feel like I should really have kids at some point, but right now I'm just enjoying how my career is taking off, and I'm SO BUSY, you know?' rather than feeling defective and anxious.

And I think this opportunity to feel normal is now completely lost to me - gone forever. Even if we ditched this now (which we definitely aren't going to) and I got healthily pregnant tomorrow (which I don't actually want to) that opportunity would still be gone because so much of the not-normal has already happened. I am not normal. My life will not ever be normal. It will never have been normal. There may come a time when I don't care about this very much, but whatever I do I can't change it. Right now, all this unwanted differentness makes my heart feel really heavy. I don't think it's better to be normal, but dangit, it sure looks easier, and I feel weary of this.

Not helping is the fact that 'our' orphanage in Addis is having constant internet problems, and the director is unable to read or reply to email. And since we can't use an agency, we don't have a country rep to contact or send a message to. So we're still waiting for an answer to our query about twins, and that was sent a month ago, and I worry that it's a problem with power, too, and that there will be things they need to do for the babies that they can't do, and what if our baby/ies is/are there NOW? He/She/They might be! And when am I going to know how many there will be, so I can construct my sentences properly?

When is all this going to end?

Monday 11 May 2009

Dear Mothers' Day

Dear Mothers' Day,

I don't like you. I hope this doesn't hurt your feelings, but I don't like you at all. You make me feel left out and sad. You remind me that this is yet another year where it's just Claudia and Mr Claudia and no baby, and you make me wonder whether things will ever be different.
This year, you also remind me just how much I miss my grandmother. You make me want to phone and talk to her, but I can never do that again and I hate that. You make me miss her so much I feel like I'm being stabbed. All in all, you make me want to break down and cry. Okay, you did make me break down and cry. I guess you win this year, mothers' day. I hope you get a personality transplant before 2010.

Friday 8 May 2009

I just can't believe this

I know I shouldn't be upset about this but I am. I really am.

Someone has taken our girl name!!!

It's a lovely name. A lovely Ethiopian name. With a beautiful Ethiopian meaning. And while we've heard of other adoptive families who have used this name (showing great taste, I think) J and I have often joked that, no matter what the trials of an international adoption, at least you don't have to worry that someone you know in real life is going to steal your favourite Ethiopian name.

We've been thinking a lot about names lately, and while we haven't firmed up any decisions (if we're thinking of twins, we need to be ready with a total of EIGHT names, including middle names) this is our joint favourite name for a girl. When I think of my Ethiopian-dream-baby, and I'm thinking about a girl, this is the name that the dream-baby has.

I can see why they used it - it sounds really pretty - although I have no idea how they came across it. And I know this shouldn't bother me, and we should name OUR baby however we want to. But we know these people quite well, and they know lots of people in my family, and it would be really weird for us to look like we're copying their incredibly unusual (to Westerners) name.

Also, it was my mother who told us about this new baby's name and I got the impression she didn't like it.

Sigh. I guess we could always change our gender preference from 'open' to 'boys only'...

Saturday 2 May 2009


Well, with so much stuff going on in my life at the moment (much of it boring, and involving either spreadsheets or moving furniture or scrubbing floorboards or paying someone £270 per hour to do some photocopying, aka getting our dossier notarised) I forgot to tell y'all that I officially got my British Citizenship last week. No, really - I went to a ceremony and everything. It was all a bit weird - J has been really busy at work, and we need to save every day of his leave for trips to Ethiopia, so I went on my own and looked like a TOTAL billy-no-mates (see how well I've assimilated into British culture? If I was thinking in my birth language that would have been nigel-no-friends). Everyone else had about ten family members with them - in fact, one person felt so sorry for me that she asked her friend to take a photo of me with the giant pictureof the Queen that was in the corner of the ceremony room, which she later kindly emailed to me and I definitely won't be getting framed.

So! Explaining all this is really just an excuse for posting my current favourite video, which is named for my home country (although to be honest I don't have the faintest idea why). LOVE this song. And love the man dressed as a tree. This video alone makes me glad that Ididn't have to give up my original citizenship and can be a dual national.

For some dual-nationality balance, here's Lily Allen scooting around London as well. The thing I love most about this video is the cake in the middle. Oh, and does anyone else think she should be wearing a helmet?