By Lesa Quale Ferguson
Babies R’ Us aka Space Mountain
It was 8pm and we needed to get to the store before it closed at 9. I had kept a few essentials from when Sam was a baby: car seat, crib, changing table. I kept them in my Mother’s attic. My sister-in-law had a cradle that had been passed from brother to cousin and back again. But, we needed supplies and the birthmother present.
Babies R’ Us seemed a shop of horrors to me. I had avoided stores like this for years. After 10 years trying to make babies appear, I learned to fear baby stuff. My aunt sent me a silver baby rattle. After the first miscarriage, I pulled a blanket over my head, held that rattle in my fist, cried and didn’t stop, for a long time. I didn’t buy a single item for my son Sam until I was seven months pregnant. I bought him a hat and leather baby shoes. Now, I keep them in a shadow box as a remembrance. We spent so many hours and days and months waiting on pregnancies and then later profiling opportunities. Birthmothers never chose us but that didn’t mean we hadn’t chosen them—our profile was always out and about. All those theoretical babies and I never got to push their wee arms through a sleeve or diaper their bottoms or shake a rattle as their hands reached for it. Baby things were the stuff that kept my grief going. That’s why I was so unprepared. And now we had been chosen but this baby could just as easily pass from real to another one of my theoretical babies. Minds might change; funds might be unavailable.
So I did what I always do when faced with anxiety, grief, and uncertainty. I detach from my thoughts and emotions. I space out. And then when I can, I rely on other people, my posse in this case.
Dave, who usually has enough focus to sustain us during these times, was on the cellphone still trying to figure out the money with our mothers, his brother, sisters and brother-in-law. He had one hand pressed to his ear and the other pulled packages of onesies into our cart.
I looked at the basketful of stuff. So haphazard: a changing table pad but no cover; cradle sheets, no mattress; 24 onesies but only one outfit. It was February in Buffalo. My mother had rescued some of Sam’s clothes’ from my many trips to donation centers. I hoped she was in her attic pulling together baby stuff.
I wandered away and found the aisle with the frames and photo albums. I turned one over and over in my hand. Picture frames and albums usually hold treasured memories. Would the birthmother want to display his picture? How could I know?
I texted Megan, a person in our posse with a lot of know-how. I met her on Facebook through a friend of a friend. She had adopted her second baby a few months prior. She helped me consider the complicated issues of biracial adoption and trans-racial families (meaning a family comprised of more than one race). Through discussions with Megan and others, we had opened up our adoption possibilities to include biracial children. Not any one adoption story would be the same as ours, but through them I would learn how to navigate.
The baby awaiting us in the hospital was African American and Latino; we are Caucasian. The gulf between discussing biracial adoption and becoming a trans-racial family seemed to widen with each step we took toward the baby. In keeping with my coping strategy, I detached from the thought. I did not want to lose my footing now. My cellphone beeped with an email. Megan wrote, “WHAT!!!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!! … Okay, People sometimes get a necklace with the baby’s birthstone. And those necklaces are very modest, beautiful, and run around $125. I thought it would be a special gift but I left a gift receipt in there in case she wanted to exchange it for cash. Will you please call me tonight if you have ANY questions about birth mom protocol or anything like that? So so so happy for the soon to be 4 of you!!!!!”
The birthstone and receipt seemed right: practical, commemorative, and less complicated than the frames and albums. The jewelry store had already closed. Buying the present would have to wait until our already over-booked morning. Our goal – 1pm Meet the Baby seemed to be getting farther and farther away.
A Good Night’s Sleep L
I tossed; Dave turned. I wandered down to the computer to seek comfort from my Facebook friends (many of whom live in other time zones or are insomniacs). Much of the posse was formed there. When I create our profile, I had appealed to my FB friends to edit it and then they helped with several revisions. Initially, I put in numerous pictures of Sam because I thought that would say to prospective birthmothers, “Proven Parents”. My online community disagreed. They said a birthmother would read, “You already have a kid to love.” I changed our profile based on their suggestions.
I knew I couldn’t yet broadcast our news (minds might change; funds might be unavailable). I longed to hint. I felt like they deserved to know. Many of them were there from the beginning. Maybe if I talked in code…
The next round of people we gathered into our posse guided us through the homestudy. They had enough of a past with us to vouch for our future. The posse expanded when I had to fill out a background check that asked for every place I had lived for the past 25 years. On Facebook, an ex-boyfriend and ex- roommate volunteered to drive around Seattle to help acquire 16 years’ worth of addresses.
Later, the posse grew larger when we tried the “private track” adoption process. Private track is the “six-degrees of separation” form of adoption. We tried on our own to locate a possible birthmother. The people on our Christmas card list received our personal adoption materials to give to OB/GYN doctors, school guidance counselors, priests, whoever might know someone who might know someone who might be putting a baby up for adoption. I rallied my cousins’ friends on Facebook. They peppered their college campus health centers with our flyers. No leads came from this effort, but unwittingly we had told our story so often that we widened and deepened our associations and connections.
Even though I tend to over share, I didn’t that night on Facebook.
In the Car and on Our Way
The next morning, my mother and sister/brother-in-law drained their respective liquid accounts. They rushed to our house to give us two cashier’s checks. It was a loan. When the 401K came through, we paid them back. Their quick action and generosity overwhelmed me. Minds might still change but the funds were available.
We were in the car on our way to the mall before our meeting at Adoption Star. As we approached the exit to the mall, we did a quick time check. Too late. Shopping would wait until after our meeting at Adoption Star and before we met the birthmom at Denny’s. I knew her name now. Missy had faxed the complete Birthmother Profile. Rachel the birthmom had been honest, very honest and yet I still didn’t have a sense of her. I tried not to project into the future. If I was going to get through this day, I had to take it one minute at a time.