Where the Hell Did the Time Go?

Where the Hell Did the Time Go?

I remember being pregnant with Eric, trying to envision our lives – his and mine, distinctly separate – when he was 18. That’s the magical number to many a birthmother, as it’s the age of consent. They no longer need trouble with pesky adoptive parents when considering contacting the child they placed for adoption all those years ago. Of course, I exaggerate. I don’t have any idea how many birthmoms actually try to circumvent the adoptive family to reach their child, but I’m sure there are some. Particularly if the adoptive family has been extraordinarily stand-offish or breached the agreement after promising a certain level of contact.

As heartbreaking as such behavior no doubt is to birthmothers – birthfamilies – I actually understand it. I don’t sanction it because it’s more than likely born out of fear, but I can imagine an intensely overprotective adoptive parent thinking they’re doing the right thing by shielding their child from his or her family of origin. I believe this thought process is utterly misguided and will do more to hurt their child and harm their relationship with their son or daughter – but I get why they might behave that way.

Fortunately, I had none of those worries. Thanks to Kathy, our adoption has always been open, and I have had nearly unfettered access to my son – to whatever degree he was comfortable with. She always let him set the pace, and I never once got the impression that she felt threatened by me or my presence. And even so, I had a very hard time imagining this unborn baby – barely a seed of a human – at 18 years of age, or older. I used to ask my sister what she thought Samantha would do with her life, and she would tell me she didn’t want to speculate. She preferred to watch Samantha’s progress and growth unfold in real time. My niece is an interesting individual. She is simultaneously both one of the most amazing people I have ever known, and one of the most narcissistic and caustic ones. Cori got to see Samantha reach her 25th year – and given Sam’s extreme behavior the final year of Corina’s life, it’s probably best that my sister didn’t envision it ahead of time (or have a crystal ball).

It’s an interesting thing to be involved in your child’s life from the sidelines. This is NOT a complaint, merely an observation. I made a choice about which I have few regrets. But as Eric’s birthmother, I saw things through the very long lens, rather than through the day-to-day microscope. I received his annual school photos, vacation pictures, and occasional updates about this class project or that sports event. The good news is that I didn’t have to imagine him as he was growing up – I always knew where he was, what he was up to, and that he was safe and loved. Birthmothers – both domestic and international – in closed adoptions have spent their children’s entire lives wondering how they were turning out. I still can’t imagine how difficult that must be.

Five years ago, I received a somewhat last-minute invitation to Eric’s high school graduation. Kathy didn’t want to invite me until she knew there would be a ticket available for me – and she managed to wrangle one at the eleventh hour. It was quite a trip – not my first visit to Eric’s family’s house, but the first where I was fully enveloped into the family. I arrived a few days early and spent them driving around the Stanfields’ little New Jersey hamlet with Kathy, preparing for the graduation party. Everywhere we went, Kathy would introduce me to the clerk or attendant as her son’s birthmother, and they were fairly uniformly impressed by our close relationship. The woman who was our server at the restaurant on graduation night was straight out of Central Casting. Big hair, made up like a cancan girl, authentic New Jersey accent. She teared up when Kathy introduced me, and told us she was going to include our story in her memoir, which she said she was in the middle of writing at the time.

Many, many things have happened and changed in my life in those last five years. And now, our son sits on the precipice of Real Life – about to graduate from Northeastern University with a degree in civil/environmental engineering.

graduation invite

 

Due to the extremely limited number of tickets, I didn’t receive an invitation to this year’s graduation. I know Kathy feels bad about that, because it’s in her nature to want to make everyone happy. I’m OK with missing the graduation, but a bit disappointed to miss the graduation night dinner. Nevertheless, I’ll be there again for the big family party. As much as it won’t be new to me this time, it will be different. This time, our kid is all grown up. He’s an amazing young man of whom I could not be prouder. He’s got his whole life ahead of him, and my heart swells, thinking of the amazing future I hope he will have. Only he can really decide that – but from what I’ve seen, he’s got a giant heart, a brilliant mind, and a whole caravan of people who love and support him. In other words, a huge head start.

When it came to his high school graduation, I didn’t want to give him anything as impersonal as money as a gift. I was stumped about what to get, but then John’s dad came up with the idea of a gift card to the Boston Garden, since we knew he would be attending college in Boston. His pleasure at receiving that seemed genuine. I also gave him the info I’d tracked down about his birthfather – call it a side gift? This is a bigger occasion, so the gift will be commensurate. I’ll write more about that after I return from my East Coast visit in May, as I don’t want to spoil anything ahead of time.

So far, all I know is that I have plans to spend four days in New Jersey. My plane reservations are for a week, though – my plans are open for the rest of that time. Eric will undoubtedly be the center of attention that week, so I’m just going to plan, as usual, to go with the flow. I can always find a way to entertain myself, so there’s no need for anyone to worry after me, although I do hope to get in at least one private meal with the kiddo while I’m there.

Right now, he’s in the middle of finals, so I’m just sending good thoughts and keeping busy with my life in Arizona. I blinked and 23 years flew by. I’m not sure where the time went. Before long, we’ll be sending his kid off to college!

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Laura Orsini is an author who works with other authors to help them make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

If I Could Do That, I Can Do Anything

If I Could Do That, I Can Do Anything

I was 27 when I got pregnant. Employed full-time, with health insurance and paid maternity leave. Probably in better straits than many women who find themselves Bravepregnant. Yet I wasn’t ready to be a mom, especially since there was a very good likelihood that my son’s birthfather wasn’t going to stick around. I say “very good likelihood” because he told me he wasn’t going to stick around. Never mind that after I signed the papers, he conveniently changed his story and said, “You know, I would have stayed.” Thanks for nothing, big guy.

Even as I never really waivered from the adoption plan that formed in my head pretty much as soon as I confirmed the pregnancy, I wondered daily how I’d get through it. When I was about six months pregnant, I attended one meeting of the Spence-Chapin birthmother support group and took comfort from being introduced to a handful of birthmothers who had placed their children for adoption, even though one of them, with whom I became good friends later, told me she hoped she’d never see me after I left that night. She knew what I would have to go through, and from her perspective, I would be better off not doing it.

Whenever I would wonder how I could ever go through with the adoption – bring this amazing little person into the world and then walk away from him – I thought of Peggy and Lynn and Cathy. They had done it and lived through it, so living through it was something people did. They didn’t die. The earth kept spinning, sunrises and sunsets right on schedule, every day. They went back to work. Two of them got married – not to the birthfathers – and had other children. Their lives moved forward.

It was clear, even from that single meeting I attended, that these women still had issues and challenges and strong emotions related to their adoptions – but they’d moved on, as best they could. Moving on was possible – they were proof of that.

It’s funny. I’ve lost count over the years of how many people have told me how lucky I was to have found such a great family for Eric. While I will happily agree they are a great family, I have always taken issue with this idea that I was lucky. I’ve detailed in many of my past posts how much effort I put into making sure I found the right family – so from where I sit, luck actually had very little to do with it.

The thing I’ve only heard one or two times was that I was brave. As Merriam-Webster.com defines it, bravery means the quality or state of having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty. Danger? No. Fear and difficulty? Yep, in spades. And I faced them. So I guess maybe I was brave.

Just as I used my meeting with Lynn and Peggy and Cathy for encouragement to get through the adoption, later in life I used getting through the adoption to get me through other challenging times. If I could live through the adoption, I could live through losing my dad and my mom, and my sister’s illness and passing. I could live through moving and impossible clients and the challenges of marrying after 40. Thankfully, it hasn’t come up in a while, but when the going gets tough again, as it inevitably will, I will take comfort in knowing I’ve already done perhaps the most difficult thing I will ever have to do. Whatever comes next, I’ll be brave enough to get through it.

I’ve never been a Disney gal. My sister despised Disney, and my husband has pretty similar reactions to all things Magic Kingdom-y. So I haven’t seen many Disney films. But on a friend’s recommendation, I did see Brave, and I really liked it. I loved that this imperfect little girl with unruly red hair was the protagonist. I loved that she stood up to the boys and did things her way. I loved that she really was brave.

I promised last post that this one would be about bravery. So now I am complete with my trio of posts drawn from three randomly selected words: Bravery, Caves, and Song. If you think you might like to participate in the 52-Week Ultimate Writing Challenge, drop me a line and I’ll let you know when we’re planning to begin and how to register.

In the meantime, practice up by sharing the bravest thing you’ve done so far this year in the Comments section below.

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Laura Orsini is an author who works with other authors to help them make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Two Reunions and a Wedding

Two Reunions and a Wedding

Tomorrow is John’s and my 7th wedding anniversary. We chose St. Patrick’s Day, a Thursday, because of my affinity for the Irish part of my bloodline and because it was pretty nontraditional. As important a day as it was, the day before – seven years ago today – was perhaps more important, because it was the day I had a face-to-face reunion with my son for the first time since he was 2 days old.

It took John and me a while to figure out the right date and decide what we wanted to do for the wedding. We decided on an outdoor wedding (at Bell Rock) in Sedona. As soon as we knew the details, I phoned up Kathy and told her that she, Bruce, Eric – and Jill, if she could make it – were invited. She was quite happy for us – and nervous about telling Eric. He was 16 at the time and, understandably, we weren’t in as direct contact as we are now. Though Jill wasn’t able to attend, Kathy, Bruce, and Eric made the trip.

Next, we had to plan that first meeting between our son and me.

I invited Eric and his parents to meet me at our favorite diner – the place John and I had breakfast almost every weekend the entire time we lived near downtown Phoenix. John decided not to go, as he didn’t want to crowd the meeting. He figured there’d be enough tension without Eric having to meet my husband, too. I was giddy – and nervous – for the whole week leading up to the meeting.

Thankfully, I tend to have some common sense – so I planned for what I figured were the two significant possibilities: Eric would be like Tony, close-lipped, quiet, reserved, smart as hell, and saying very little. Or he would be like me: open, warm, and easy to talk to. Strangely, I didn’t feel like I had to do that much in the way of psyching myself out for possibility #1. Though the odds were pretty much 50-50, he’s a guy, so I tended to lean toward the assumption he would behave like Tony. And I was ready.

I felt I had done very little in the way of pestering or interfering with Eric and his family through the years. I’d let Kathy know that I was available if Eric had any questions (he never did), and he and I had exchanged a few emails. I sent a Christmas ornament for their tree every year, and acknowledged his birthday with a humorous ecard and the occasional gift. But I’d been as hands-off as I could be, because I didn’t want to overreach or scare either Eric or his parents. Kathy had told me several stories to indicate that our kid was a caring child, growing into a caring young man, but this was going to be an unprecedented meeting for him. How do you get ready to meet the woman who gave you birth and then gave you away?

Quiet and uncommunicative would have made sense to me. Turns out, I needn’t haveEric & Lo worried at all.

 

My sense of our son is that he took after Tony physically, but he seems to have more of my emotional makeup. He was obviously nervous at the meeting, but we sat, him between his parents, and I on the other side of our booth. We all chatted for a bit – and then Kathy and Bruce made a gracious exit and allowed Eric and me to talk, which we did for about an hour.

I was ready – expecting – for him to be quiet, and he was anything but. We talked easily like old friends catching up. He chuckled as I described my initial meetings with his parents. When I told him that their social worker, Anna, had described his dad as “hard to get to know,” he laughed out loud.

“Yeah – pretty much exactly,” he agreed with Anna’s assessment.

His folks swung back by to pick him up when we were done. Kathy said she asked him how it went – that was when he got quiet. “Fine,” was his only response. I’m sure he told her more later – but he probably needed time to process things. As far as I was concerned, the meeting could not have gone better.

The wedding was the next day at about 2 in the afternoon. Earlier that morning, we all made our independent ways up to Sedona from Phoenix: John and I; Eric and his parents; my sister and her husband; John’s family; our wedding officiant; and our photographer. Corina and I had hired a caregiver to look after our mother during the ceremony and throughout the weekend, but our mom came down with pneumonia a couple weeks before the wedding and we decided the day before that she wasn’t strong enough yet to make the trip. The caregiver didn’t get the message, though, so other than the gal who married us and the photographer, she was the only non-family member in attendance – other than the hikers and tourists who gathered around to watch. It was quite an experience!

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may have seen mention of the many powerful coincidences that punctuate our adoption experience. It was a monumental coincidence that helped us open the adoption in the first place. There are also all kinds of birthday coincidences, too. On the day of our wedding, we learned of another astounding coincidence that did not involve me or my family at all. As we all gathered in the parking lot of the hotel to drive down the hill for the ceremony, it was the first time the Stanfields were meeting my sister, and also the first time they were meeting John and his family. So imagine all of our surprise when both John’s grandmother, Mary, and Bruce did double-takes. “Don’t I know you?” one of them asked.

Mary and Bruce

“Yes – from the bank in New Jersey 30-plus years ago.” Mary had been a teller when Bruce was starting in auditing at the same bank branch back in Clifton, New Jersey, decades earlier. I still shake my head at the odds of such a thing occurring. There had never been any doubt that Eric was where he was meant to be – but this was absolutely uncanny.

After getting over our shock, we made our way to Bell Rock and had a beautiful ceremony. The reception dinner followed at Heartline Café – and Eric was so gracious as John’s dad (unintentionally?) pummeled him with questions about his plans for the future. I was so pleased that Corina got to meet and chat with Kathy and Eric. It was the only time they ever connected, but important to all of them, I think.

Life with John has been such a blessing – it’s hard to believe it’s already been seven years. And right alongside that wonderful relationship, I’ve been developing one of the other most precious relationships in my life. So glad to be connected to you, my beautiful son!

Lo with Stanfields

PHOTO IDs

Cover Photo: The whole wedding – pictures courtesy of master photographer David Bell. L to R: Matt Bustos, Corina’s husband; Corina, my sister and maid of honor; Gayle Kelemen, John’s stepmom; Laura; John’s dad, John Sr.; John; Ed Snible, John’s bro-in-law and best man; Charlotte Snible, John’s niece; Gayle Snible, John’s sister; Kathy Stanfield, my son’s adoptive mom; Mary Kelemen, John’s grandmother; Eric, my son; Lauralee Green, our officiant; Joan Pearlman, my mom’s would-be caregiver; Bruce Stanfield, my son’s adoptive dad.

Eric and Laura

Mary and Bruce meet again

Kathy, Laura, Eric, and Bruce

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Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

The Challenge of Naming a Baby

The Challenge of Naming a Baby

I was recently visiting with my friend Sunil, whom I’ve previously mentioned as my relationship guru. He’s a brilliant, thoughtful, calm, soulful person who has been a mentor and teacher to me in many realms, relationships chief among them. I suspect that if I’d known him back when I was dating Tony, my son’s birthfather, I might have been guided to leave sooner. But, as my husband and I were discussing this morning, it was all the steps and missteps of our pasts that led us to where we are today.

Everyone who knows Sunil was shocked to hear that he’d suffered a severe stroke back in November. He’s coming around, but still has a long road ahead of him toward a significant recovery. The good news is that his mind is still sharp, and we were able to have a nice chat. We spent a lot of time catching up, as it had been some years since we’d last connected.

Sunil asked about Eric, and I was proud to give him an update. Then, rather out of nowhere, he asked me if I had chosen Eric’s name. The short answer is no.

Although we’ve had a nearly picture-perfect adoption experience, there were some Eric as Zorochallenges. The first major one surrounded the name of this as yet unborn little boy. I was open to hearing the name Kathy and Bruce wanted to use, until they said Eric. I’m not sure why, exactly, but I had a visceral negative response to the name. For one thing, I’d gone to school with a guy named Eric who was tall, blond, and one of the biggest goofballs I’d ever met. He got drunk at a Halloween party where he was dressed like Zoro – and the whole Zoro thing followed him through the rest of his school days. I just looked him up on Facebook and he’s become an immigration attorney – seems like a pretty solid guy. But back in high school, he was just odd. I didn’t want to think of my kid in relation to this eccentric guy every time I heard the name.

The other part was the sense that the name Eric belonged to a blond-haired, blue-eyed person. I have dark hair and a medium to olive complexion. Though Tony was platinum blond as a kid and my father had blue eyes, it never occurred to me that our son would inherit all the recessive genes. Our kid did, in fact, turn out to be tall, blond, and blue-eyed. The name his parents had chosen for him was a perfect fit – even though I was resistant to it for quite some time.

I counteroffered with the name Thomas. The only problem was that Kathy’s brother is Thomas and, as our social worker Mary explained it, Bruce wasn’t too excited about their kid having his brother-in-law’s name. If their son was going to have a family name, it should be his father’s – but no one really wanted to name the new baby Bruce, so we had to come up with another option.

Perhaps the strangest part in the whole naming process was the fact that Tony wanted no part of it. When I asked for his input, his answer was, “He’s their kid – let them name him whatever they want to.”

I remember Mary trying to reassure me that it was a good thing that Kathy and Bruce were still so sold on Eric as the name for this kid. Apparently, had either of their first babies been a boy, they’d have named that child Eric. As Mary saw it, the fact that they still wanted to use that name was proof that they were already embracing this adopted child as their own. I wasn’t buying any of it.

My next choice – and the name I actually put on the birth certificate – was Christian. And I referred to my son and thought of him as Christian for probably the first 5 or 6 years of his life. Kathy and Bruce didn’t really care for that name at all. They asked their daughter, Jill, her opinion about the name she liked for her baby-brother-to-be; her answer was Christopher. Close to Christian, and still a no-go for the Stanfields. A couple years later, I ran the name Christian through a website that purported to analyze the vibration of the sound of any name. Christian, allegedly, has a very weak vibration, while Eric is strong and commanding. Hmmm…

As it turns out, Kathy and Bruce met me part way, and included Christian as his second middle name. So our son has the WASPiest sounding name on the planet: Eric Thomas Christian Stanfield. It did not escape me (nor, presumably, him) that the first three initials comprise etc.

Corina and Jane honored my decision to call my son by the name I’d given him. I think my parents were just a bit confused about what his actual name was – but they tried. Somewhere along the way, however, it occurred to me that Eric was the only name our son had ever known, so for me to insist on calling him something else was not honoring who he was. So on a dime, I shifted. Cori, Jane, and my parents followed suit.

I don’t know if there’s anything to that name vibration thing, but I’m sure that in the long run, Eric suits him much better than Thomas or Christian would have.

____________________
Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

What Were You Reading/Watching/Listening to on 24 February 1995?

What Were You Reading/Watching/Listening to on 24 February 1995?

Turns out that, historically, nothing much of interest was happening on February 24, 1995. The date changed my world – and that of Kathy, Bruce, Jill, and many other people whose lives Eric has brightened – but it was a fairly ho-hum day, otherwise.

EW 5th anniversary

According to the website TakeMeBack.to, here’s a brief snapshot of that day in history:

  • It was a Friday.
  • Bill Clinton was President of the United States.
  • “Famous” people born that day include Brittany Raymond and Rachel Levin. (I do not know who either of them is. I googled both, and I still do not know who they are or understand why they are labeled “famous” by TakeMeBack.to.)
  • NY Times front page headlines that day: “CARTER RECEIVED COOLY IN HAITI,” “BALANCED BUDGET NEARS 67 VOTES NEEDED IN SENATE,” “Giuliani Seeks To Sell 3 Hospitals And Shrink Public Health System,” “Clinton, in Talk to Canadians, Opposes Quebec Separation,” “Announcing for President: Old News, but Still News,” “Dow Finally Breaks the 4,000 Barrier,” “Ex-Florio Aide Pleads Guilty in Kickback Scheme,” “The Hidden Question: Beyond the Northern Ireland Framework, What Do People in Ulster Want?” (Ah … the good old days.)
  • Popular movies showing at the time: Shallow Grave (not a horror fan, so missed this one); Billy Madison (not much of an Adam Sandler fan, so I probably didn’t see this one, either); The Quick and the Dead (caught it on cable many years later); In the Mouth of Madness (more horror, so no); Before Sunrise (the first and best in the trilogy – I loved this movie!)
  • Most popular TV show: ER. (According to tvaholics.blogspot.com, the U.S. received only four broadcast networks up until December 1994. Then, in January 1995, WB and UPN debuted with limited schedules, so Eric was literally born at the start of the expansion of TV beyond the three to four channels all of knew till that point. I didn’t realize how recent a phenomenon cable was until uncovering that nugget in my research for this post.)
  • #1 song on the U.S. pop music chart: Madonna’s “Take a Bow” (I don’t believe I have ever heard this song.)
  • Top magazines: Entertainment Weekly announced its 5th anniversary collectors’ issue; Fidel Castro was on the cover of Time; Czech model Daniela Pestova graced the cover of the 1995 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue
  • Top books: Sisters, by Sharon J. Wohlmuth; Accident, by Danielle Steel; Eyes of a Child, by Richard North Patterson; The Death of Common Sense, by Philip K. Howard (I’ve never read any of them.)

top books

Seriously, not a thrilling day. Kind of like when Tony and I saw a taping of the David Letterman Show (right after he made the move from NBC to CBS) and the guests were Mike Lupica and Adam Sandler. Really? No Rod Stewart, who’d appeared the day before, or Johnny Cash, who was on the following week?

A couple of events that occurred during my pregnancy do stand out, though. The first was the infamous OJ Simpson car chase. I had just found out I was pregnant and was holed up in my apartment, hiding from the world. I remember the room being very dark as I watched – inexplicably hypnotized – while the news covered this non-chase “chase.” I was talking to my husband just last night about how I believe that the OJ trial was the beginning of our descent into news as entertainment – and the lowering of the bar for journalists as truth tellers in lieu of them behaving as performers.

Another thing that happened, more personal to Tony and me because we were both big baseball fans, was that the unheard of occurred: the World Series was cancelled that year because of a protracted strike by the players. The strike began in August 1994 and went through to Opening Day of the 1995 season, making it the longest work stoppage in MLB history. We stayed fans – but many people did not. It was thanks only to the 1998 homerun record chase between known steroid users Mark Maguire and Sammy Sosa that baseball ever came back – and even today, it’s considered boring by people who are unaccustomed to a game at any slower a pace than the crazy cuts of a contemporary action movie.

Kathy asked me when I was pregnant with Eric if there was anything, specific, I wanted them to be sure to do with him or teach him. I told her that I wanted her to make sure he noticed the moon. It’s hard to put into words my lifelong fascination with the moon. When I was a little girl, my dad used to refer to the super-waxing or waning moon, when it appears as just a sliver, as the fingernail moon, as in the part you clip off when you trim your nails. I still think of that when I see a tiny crescent moon. And across the years, I would occasionally look up at the moon, wondering – perhaps hoping – whether Eric might be seeing the same exact moon from his corner of the world. We’ve never discussed it – but it would be interesting to ask him whether that was ever a thing for him.

The other thing I mentioned in answer to her question was that it would mean a lot to us if Eric played baseball. Not that we wanted them to force him into it, but that he just be given the opportunity to try it out. I remember being perplexed by Kathy’s response: “We’ll be sure he plays Little League Soccer.” Um … two different sports not remotely similar.

As it turns out, he did play baseball AND soccer – and wasn’t really a fan of either. His sports turned out to be hockey, cross country, and golf. Guess not everything is inherited, eh?

It was kind of interesting to go back and look at the events of the day for February 24, 1995. Might even be interested to try it for my own birthdate. I’m willing to bet things were even more sedate in May 1967.

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Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Someone Called a Cab?

Someone Called a Cab?

Being carless in Jersey City wasn’t that big of a deal most of the time. The entire time I was there, I either lived on a well-trafficked street which the buses and jitneys traversed (Palisade Avenue) or just a block away from a major street (Kennedy Boulevard).

I think back and laugh out loud, now, at the memory of our first night in Jersey City. I moved in July 1992, and Tony drove out with me from Phoenix, staying one night before he turned around and flew back. (He moved out to Jersey about a year later.) Rather than stay with my sister that night, we got a motel. We hadn’t yet moved up to hotels – and knowing nothing about the area, we went where we saw the signs, to Tonnelle Avenue. Imagine Tony’s surprise when he went in to get a room at one of these local establishments and the clerk asked, in response, “You want it for the whole night?” Yeah, we were in red-light district, flophouse squalor.

Interestingly enough, a couple years later, when I moved out of the apartment I’d shared with Tony and Mike, I wound up just two blocks away – up the literal hill – from those same by-the-hour joints. My street, Liberty Avenue, was right in between Tonnelle and Kennedy. That was where I was living when Eric was born; the whole timeline seemed like coming full circle.

So we could usually catch public transportation either at our front door, or just a block away. Unless it was super cold, snowing, sleeting, or the middle of the night. Those times, you had to call a cab – Uber was not even a gleam in Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp’s eyes. And sometimes the cab actually showed up. To be safe, like in the event you really needed to get somewhere on time, you usually called two different cab companies – slightly increasing your odds of one of them actually arriving to get you to your destination.

These were the things I was thinking about on the cold, snowy, sleety February days before the baby came. How would we get to the hospital? If we had to take a cab, would it actually arrive within the hour after we called it?

Eric was due on Monday, February 20. The day came … and went. No contractions. Just the feeling of my belly being swollen beyond where its skin could stretch – and having to sleep in a reclining position, as there was no other way to be comfortable. At my checkup that week, the doctor decided that if the baby didn’t come on his own, we’d induce the morning of Friday, February 24.

I’ve often wondered if there are any statistics about babies whose moms have made adoption plans being overdue. Would make sense that the mom wants to hang onto that kid for as long as possible – even if it’s just one extra day or two. And, perhaps, the kid wants to hang onto her, too. As it turned out, my son didn’t want anyone to tell him when he would make his entry. I went into labor that Thursday evening, so there was no need to induce.

You know how in every single movie or TV show they make such a big deal about the pregnant woman’s water breaking? I do not remember my water breaking. I’m sure it did – but there was no dramatic puddle on the floor. The contractions just began, became more insistent, and got closer together – so we called the doctor’s service and they said it was time to get to the hospital. The transportation gods were with us that night, the cab showing up within 10 minutes of our calling it.

Labor was longish – 13 or 14 hours, if I remember correctly. Again, Kathy probably has all of this much better recorded than I do. I mentioned in a previous post that the epidural didn’t really work, more than likely because of my scoliosis. So the labor was painful – plenty painful – I shrieked and wailed between every push, the nurses doing their best to calm me down to conserve my energy. But then he came – and he was beautiful. Tony was in the room – and he was a champ. He stayed with me, tended to me, made sure we were both OK.

I’d been in the room when my niece was born, three-and-a-half years earlier. Samantha was just hours old, my sister still in immense pain and slow moving when she needed to get up to go to the bathroom. Her husband was there, and she asked him to help her. He took his time getting out of his chair, and then on his way to the bed dropped the coins he was holding in his hand on the floor. As I write this, it occurs to me for the first time that he might actually have dropped them on purpose. So he stopped, picked up them up one at a time, and eventually made his way to Corina’s side – by which time she’d pretty much gotten to the toilet on her own. As much of a dick as Tony was at times, he never behaved that way in the hospital.

Some birthmoms choose to have one of the adoptive parents in the delivery room. It feels a bit selfish now, but I couldn’t do that. We needed something that was just ours, so we asked Kathy and Bruce to wait to come to the hospital until we called them. They arrived maybe four hours after Eric was born. The sight of Kathy picking him up and so expertly holding him warmed my heart and crushed me at the same time. That was the reason I’d chosen these people, this couple, to be his parents. They’d already been through it – they were good at parenting and I trusted them not to make the mistakes new parents would make. It would be a new experience for them, though, because this was a boy. They’d had girls first, so there would still be a learning curve. But the feeding and washing and tending and caregiving would be the same – and I knew they’d do a fine job.

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Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Running to Stand Still

Running to Stand Still

No post yesterday. My goal was to write 50 posts in a row – for you, my readers (and, full disclosure, for the search engines). I got to 49. I knew I wouldn’t have the time, thoughts, or discipline to write them every day, so I wrote about 3 weeks ahead. Then we moved, we lost one of our dogs, my husband’s been going through some personal challenges, and I just hit a wall. I used up all but one of my pre-written posts, and the remaining one is not finished. I have a list of at least 20 more topics, to which I keep adding, but I’ve not had the time or inclination to write ahead these last few weeks or days.

John and I have had some huge losses over these last three years, as I mentioned in a prior post, punctuated by the loss of some beloved pets. While different than losing a person, to be sure, the grief over pet good-byes is sometimes inexplicably heavier than the grief over losing a human. If you’re not a pet person, this may not make any sense at all to you. If you are, you probably understand.

As I’ve gotten older – matured, I like to think – I find myself more and more attached to my pets. We were always a dog family when I was a kid, but cats entered my life right around the time I met Eric’s birthfather and have had a place ever since. When I was pregnant with Eric, I had a cat, Quincie, and Koko, a beautiful merle-colored Australian shepherd. They’d made the move from Phoenix to New Jersey with me, and while Quincie was a typical cat, friendly on her terms, Koko was my pal and companion. She got sick quite suddenly, about six weeks before I was due, and I was concerned about how to manage getting her to the vet without a car.

I lived on the second floor of a four-family apartment and was trying to coax Koko to come down the stairs so she could go out to pee, when I lost my footing and fell down the stairs. At 34 weeks pregnant. Now I not only had a sick dog, but I had to worry about the baby. I immediately called the doctor’s answering service. They asked if there was bleeding – there wasn’t – and told me just to take a Tylenol and watch to see if any complications developed. I remember being alarmed by how calm they were. No complications – other than some really lovely black and blue marks.

Timing was everything, though, as Koko slipped away that night.

I don’t remember, specifically, telling Mary, my social worker, about Koko’s death – but I missed a couple days of work due to my fall, so perhaps I missed a meeting with her, too. At any rate, the agency freaked out. I got a call a few days later from Judy Greene, the birthparent coordinator, evidently in an effort to assess my grief about Koko. What it came down to was they were worried that because my dog had died, I wasn’t going to go through with the adoption. To this day, the idea of it just grates on me, because I can’t fathom how you could draw a causal relationship between the two. Nothing else in my life was different. Tony still wasn’t promising to stick around or marry me. My family still lived 2,700 miles away. And if I were to parent, I would still be trying to juggle all the costs, responsibilities, and emotions as a single mom. All the same fears and concerns I’d had the day before were still there, even though my dog was gone.

As I think on it now, Quincie was probably the one who got me through the adoption. If it hadn’t been for her, I’m not sure how I’d have handled losing Koko and then Tony’s leaving right on the heels of letting go of the baby. She didn’t make the move with me back to Phoenix, when that finally came 5 years later, passing away suddenly about a week before I left. It was as though she knew exactly when she needed to be there, and she was.

I watch, these days, as my husband hugs the two remaining dogs and loves on Isis, our cat. They help us cope with all kinds of things, don’t they?

People I know – my sister in particular was rabid about this – get upset when folks don’t call them back. I can almost always relate to the non-caller, though, because I know I’ve been that person more than once. When I get into this stuck place where I’ve found myself lately, I’m like a turtle, pulling my head inside my shell to hide from the world for a while. It doesn’t help the people who want or need to hear from me, but it’s been my way for a long time, and it will take more work, yet, to change that pattern. If you’re reading this and I owe you a call or email or blog posting, please accept my sincere apology and know that communication is forthcoming.

I was beating myself up about my stuckness when my husband reminded me that this time last year, I was still on the couch, pretty much 24/7, getting over pneumonia. Yeah, the first three months of 2017 went by with a whimper – so I suppose I’m ahead of the game if I’m comparing my now to my then. Point is, it’s time to get unstuck.

running to stand still
With props to U2.

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Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.