Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Why adopt?

My darling husband and I are in the process of adopting a child. This is going to be an international adoption and some people have asked, "why?"

Namely, why choose adoption when you don't even know if you are infertile?

Why choose adoption when your only child is so DARN adorable? (He really is. My god, you should see this child. Cuter than cute, and smart as a whip and sweet natured as all get out. I'm telling you.)

And why choose the added expense of adoption from overseas, when, you could adopt from own county for FREE because A. you are a lawyer (a lawyer whose firm does A LOT of adoption work) and you wouldn't even have to pay attorney fees and B. your county has a no fee adoption program?

Okay, so, why adopt when we don't even know we are infertile? Well, I have an answer, but, it's complex. But, I started this blog as a means of analyzing my own motivations, so, here goes.

Post partum depression. Post partum anxiety.

My son was born in February of 2000. He came to us in the usual way - we didn't even try hard. In April of 1999 I threw out my birth control pills, and we spent 6 weeks vaguely avoiding pregnancy using the time honored "pull out" method. (My doctor had indicated that maybe I should wait a few weeks before actively TRYING to get pregnant until all the hormones from the bc pills were gone.) (At least I think that's what she was saying. She was about 112 years old and spoke with a thick Iraqi accent.)

In June 1999, we began trying to get pregnant in earnest. We had a LOT of fun mattress dancing, and four weeks later we had a stick that turned pink, and we were in the baby business.

I was a miserable pregnant woman. I was bitchy. I was crabby. My body hurt and I complained about it. Loudly. I was hungry all the time, and when I didn't eat something every two hours I became the nastiest person around. My co-workers kept granola bars in their desks that they would lob over the wall of my cube (I was working as a research analyst at the time) when they were too afraid to come talk to me.

I hated being pregnant. HATED IT. I felt like I had an alien invader sitting on my bladder. I listened to other pregnant women talk about how "peaceful" and "spiritual" they felt, and I thought, "They must be on crack. They are INSANE." They talked about how "close" they felt to this life growing inside of them, and I thought, "I don't feel "close" to this baby. I feel like I've been invaded."

February of 2000 was just letting go, and it left with a rather impressive snowstorm that sent me into labor two weeks early. There were some minor problems with my delivery, mainly that no d**n doctor was available to catch the baby that was coming out of ME, since so many other babies, brought about by the snow storm, were coming out of other people. My epidural had not worked, and, as my need to push became all consuming, I sat up on my knees on my bed, leaned over the hospital headboard, and announced, "I'm PUSHING". The nurse's first (idiotic) response was to say, "you have an epidural, you're not supposed to be able to feel your legs enough to stand up like that." (Well, perhaps this is a clue to what I had been telling them for several hours - that my damn epidural was USELESS.)

Her next response was the yell, I NEED A DOCTOR STAT into some device. They made me lie down. I began screaming obscenities. A doctor came in, gave me an episotomy while the mirror reflecting my crotch area was still pointed right at my face, so, I saw him come at me with the sciccors, and, while I continued to scream like a sailor, my son slid into the world.

I really hated that baby at that moment. (Seriously, that was my first reaction.) The pain was mind blowing. The assault with the scissors was fresh in my mind's eye, and I just couldn't believe the phenomenol pain. (They told me I would forget that part, about the pain. To which I say, BULLSHIT.)

The insanity of resenting my own baby lasted a few seconds. And then I heard them say something about needing a neonate specialist, something about the cord, something about "is he breathing?" My heart stopped. And I thought, "I swear to god if this damn baby dies and I have to go through this again I will just kill myself." And then Gabriel starting crying. And he worked himself up into a great howl, and I was relieved.

They took my son away to the intensive care unit to make sure his oxygen levels were okay, or something. And that's when I started crying. And I cried, and cried and cried and cried.

And I pretty much didn't stop crying for nine months.

We took our baby home and he learned to nurse. The beginning of the nursing experience was a nightmare for me, but, he was a determined baby and we got the hang of it. And he nursed. And I cried. And he nursed and I cried. And he was AWAKE.

He was the most AWAKE baby I have ever heard of. He wasn't unhappy or colicy and he didn't cry too much, as long as he could nurse. (He would have nursed for six hours, given the opportunity.) But he was AWAKE. He would sit in his bouncy chair and watch everything. He never napped for more than 15 or 20 minutes. Everyone told me, "sleep when the baby sleeps." Hah. That was hysterical. Sleep in 20 minute increments? Once every two or three hours?

He didn't sleep at night, either. And while he was a very happy baby when he was sitting in his bouncy chair or his swing or his car seat, when he laid down on his back, he became DEMON BABY. I gave up trying to get him to sleep lying down, and put him to bed at night in his car carrier. It was the ONLY place he would rest.

Exacerbating the problem with the crying (mine) and the bizarre level of alertness (the baby's), I developed what I can only term as a "insane fixation". This fixation came from insane thinking, and I was aware that the thinking was insane, I was just incapable of DOING anything about it.

The fixation was this: If I fall asleep, my baby will not be able to breathe.

Let me repeat that: If I fall asleep, my baby will not be able to breathe.

I know. I KNOW. It's crazy. But, I BELIEVED it. Believed it as surely as I have ever believed anything in my life. I was aware that this belief had no basis in reality, yet, I was powerless in the face of it. So, even when my baby was sleeping, I was not able to truly fall asleep. I would rest my fingers against his rib cage, my arm hanging off the bed into his car carrier, so that I could feel him breathing. I would fall asleep while he nursed and wake up when he stopped, because I could be sure he was breathing if he was nursing. I couldn't allow him to be in a separate room from me when I was at home - if I couldn't see where he was, how could I know he was breathing? (Curiously, I did not worry about this while he was with his day care providers - his presence at the day care during the daytime fully relieved this obsession. It was only when he was with me that I worried about his breathing.)

The sleeplessness led to deeper depression. I began to think, "if I was dead, I would be able to sleep...if I was dead, I could sleep."

Now, I KNEW that was dangerous thinking. At Gabriel's check ups, the doctor (our family doctor) would ask if I was okay. He confided in my husband that I was exhibiting all the signs of ppd.

One day the doctor asked if I ever thought about hurting the baby. I answered him, honestly, no, not the baby. He asked if I thought about hurting myself, and, rather than answer him (because I thought the whole "if I was dead I could sleep" thought pattern PROBABLY fell into that category), I told him about my fixation on Gabriel's breathing.

He asked me if I was aware that the baby didn't need me to be awake in order to breathe. I told him, 'logically, yes. I graduated summa cum laude from college, I had to pass a biology course to do that, I'm not a moron. I'm just insane."

He kindly told me he didn't think I was crazy, just suffering from post partum anxiety and depression. He asked me to stop nursing and take some prozac. I said no.

(I refused to quit nursing because I felt it was the only thing that made me a "good" mother. I felt like a failure as a mother on so many other levels, that I didn't think I could stop this one thing I was doing well at. On another level, I don't think I felt like I would know what to DO with my baby if I wasn't nursing him. If I was nursing him or singing to him he was happy. What would I do with him without one of those options? I could nurse and read a book at the same time, or nurse and watch Law & Order, or nurse talk on the phone. When would I be able to do those things, if I wasn't nursing? Topping it off, the child REFUSED to take a bottle, how would he eat? I told the doctor - "it's the only time I have any peace or satisfaction with the whole mothering process. You want me to end that?")

The doctor relented on his request that I stop nursing, and prescribed Xanax instead. (I think he hoped it will chill me out and help Gabe to sleep a little more.)

Later, when Gabe was about 7 months old and I was in my first semester of law school, he prescribed a new antidepressant that was supposed to be safer for nursing moms, the name escapes me right now. It didn't work much. Nor did any of the three or four others we tried.

The depression and anxiety that plagued me from the day of his birth lifted only gradually. And only when, at the age of 3, Gabriel began to sleep through the night. Yes, it took him three years to sleep through the night. He stopped nursing when he turned a year, but, he would still wake up 3 to 4 times a night, just wanting company or a cup of milk. It was maddening. He didn't nap - his day care providers commented that he was the most awake baby/toddler they had ever cared for. (And this was a LARGE (naeyc approved) center, with 24 babies and 24 toddlers and one teacher for every 3 babies and one for every four toddlers. We are talking about women who KNEW babies and toddlers. And mine was the winner of the least sleep award. (A distinction he holds to this day, where he attends that same center's private Kindergarten.)

So, that's the beginning of the answer. Post partum depression. Post partum anxiety. Three years of never sleeping more than 2 hours at a time, because, either the baby was up, or, I was up having to listen for his breathing, incapable of relieving the bizarre obsession that plagued me regarding my child's ability to breathe.

I guess the rest of the answers will have to wait until tomorrow.

Law Mommy


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