Friday, 30 July 2010

One Year Old Twins

Are really, really tiring. Lately, I've been falling asleep during their nap out of sheer defeated exhaustion. But not today, dear people, today I have uploaded eleventy bajillion photos instead. And now I'm staring at my screen, totally unable to think of a coherent sentence to describe any of it. There are quite a few more 'oh no, it's time for bed, haven't taken a picture yet' pictures in here than there have been in previous months. That's mostly because the days have felt a lot more intense and difficult lately than they used to be, and I'm spending less time capturing it because frankly, I'm too busy tearing my hair out. And yes, I'm sure you needed to know that. Mostly, they're a waste of pixels but I've left them in because project 365 means project 365, dagnabbit!

In case anybody cares, the thing that is driving me around the bend is feeding. I mean eating. Actually I no longer have any idea what I mean - what I mean is the process whereby the children ingest calories in some form or other and end up not starving themselves . Which always sounded really simple, until one of them (Baby I! I'm talking about you!) decided that eating is for sissies and he'd rather not, thank you. And of course it's especially fraught and laden when children have already been malnourished once.They used to eat pretty well. I made homemade food for them (because I'm cheap, not for nutritional reasons), I'd read a bit about Ellyn Satter's divisions of responsibility and basically I thought that I had this stuff licked. I thought I knew a reasonable amount about making it work, but the last few weeks feel like they have chewed me up and spit me out and I realise that I know nothing. NOTHING. Low point was Wednesday when baby I was perfecting his new feeding scream of death. It's high, scratchy and then rapidly drops in pitch and volume - it sounds for all the world like he is being pushed off a cliff. I keep expecting to hear a splash at the end, or at the very least the ring of the doorbell because the neighbours have finally called social services on us. This scream comes out whenever I put a spoonful of food near him - not forcing him to eat it, just offering it to him. And then there are tears. And I know he must be hungry, and it's food he's eaten before, but it's just tears and screaming. Reading that, it doesnt' sound like too big a deal - nothing a bit of friendly feeding advice wouldn't sort out. (But please don't. Seriously - don't). But on Wednesday I felt like I JUST COULDNT' TAKE IT ANYMORE and I decided that I needed this book RIGHT NOW. So I went inside, ordered it from Amazon, all ready to pay next day delivery, found out it was on one-week back order and burst into tears of my own. My sister will verify that I came within an inch of calling her in the middle of the night, her time, so that she could read bits out to me from her copy. (I know that I have fixated on this book way too much, by the way, but it's my hope object at the moment so if you don't like it, I dont' need to know right now).

So anyway. That's why I'm feeling a bit fragile. Here are the photos.

Despite these outfits, we are often asked 'is it two boys ?' I'm thinking that if it's two boys, we don't like one of them very much.
This was a good day.

(So was this one)

Oh, I wish that I had a spoon.
Now, I have the object of my desire. And yet it seems that happiness still eludes me.

ice cubes! (just in case you thought she was eating plastic)

looking at this boy's arrangement of chins, it's hard to believe that he's on hunger strike. But he is. Oh, yes, he is. How can someone so adorable be so utterly frustrating? It's the question of the ages.

mummy, this is what I think of your dancing.

I got a wide angle lens for my birthday. I really like it.

I don't want him ever, ever to grow out of doing this. It almost makes up for the hunger strike. Almost.

Trial run of birthday cupcakes (yes! They're baked in the cone!)
Mummy, Ellyn Satter called. She thinks you're a loser.


(The photos that follow are all from their birthday gathering on the day after their party. I have indulged myself with quite a few, because hey, you only turn one once).

here they are again (a different batch - we finished that first batch in about 2 days)
and here are two more batches of a different flavour (passionfruit and marshmallow - tasty but unattractive)
baby boy discovers cake icing. He hasn't looked back. It's the exception to the hunger strike. He's flopped forward to be at one with the icing.
Could their birthday outfits (all the way from Texas!!) be any cuter?

one of her smiling
and one of me smiling, which adds up to one good photo
grandparents holding two very sugary children
back to normal life.
you had me at hello
gosh, can you tell that this is one of those end of the day photos I was talking about?
perhaps, mummy, perhaps.


If metafiction is fiction about fiction, and metatheory is theorising about theorising, then I guess blogging about blogging must be metablogging. And I'll be honest with you - I'm not a big fan. I think it's boring. It makes me yawn. When I see in my google reader that a post is essentially about the act of blogging rather than, you know, ANYTHING else, anything at ALL, I pretty much fall over onto my keyboard, stabbed through the heart with the ice pick of boredom*. And it seems I'm not the only one - I just googled 'metablogging' to see if it was a real word and the first page of google is basically people saying: enough already with the metablogging! Including, hilariously, someone from 2005 saying surely it's over by NOW, people?

And yet here I am, about to do some of it myself. All I want to do is apologise for the stupidity with the comments system lately. My intentions were good, honestly. All I was trying to do was get a system in place that would allow me (and others) to reply to individual comments. I feel really bad that I don't do this more - people say nice, or thoughtful, or thought-provoking things (sometimes all three!) and I want to engage in conversation but blogger's native comments system feels too linear to really let us do that.

So I tried the intensedebate thing, and it sort of worked, except for the small issue that there wasn't actually a link to the comments from the main page. Minor problem, folks. I contacted the tech people, and they were very nice, but it's been weeks now and it's still not fixed so I have got sick of waiting and deleted the whole thing from my system. I saved the intensedebate comments to my computer, planning to paste them into blogger's commenting system. However, old posts don't come up with a space for comments, unless the commenting option was turned on at the time when they were published. Which they weren't because I was trying intensedebate. Sigh.

So anyway, it's all back to normal now I hope. Apologies for blogging about the blog, but I wanted to explain why all your comments have disappeared. I'm really sorry about that (and also a little skeeved at the intensedebate people for taking so long with the tech support, if I'm going to be totally honest, because I thought we were going to be good together).

So, I think that's my metablogging quota used up for the year. I'm just left with one gnawing question. What on earth did they sell at a shop we saw in Addis called METAFURNITURE?

*Am I imagining it, or do I sound today like I've had one too many glasses of wine? I haven't, honestly.

Friday, 23 July 2010

I Was Not There

A year ago today, my babies were born. I was not there.

I've known this for a while, of course, and I shouldn't be so surprised. After all, I think I would remember, if I had been in the room when it happened. I think I would remember, if I had seen them emerge, red and screaming. I think I would remember, if I knew what happened next, who said what, who laughed, who cried. I think I would remember.

But this morning, J carried the babies into our room, as he always does in the morning. We sang happy birthday while they drank their bottles and they just blinked, milky and uncomprehending. I stroked baby L's face and said Babies! You are ONE! Today is the day that you were born! A year ago, you were inside your birthmummy's tummy and then today you were BORN! And then --

And I realise, too late, that I didn't have an ending to the sentence. And of course I already knew that, but now it really hits me. I can't really tell this story, because I was not there. And now it feels like those words are following me around. Washing the dishes - I was not there. Cooking their lunch - I was not there. Opening their presents - I was not there.

I feel like a fraud, on this happy day. What do I have to do with their birthday? It has nothing to do with me. Why am I accepting people's congratulations? I was not there. I was half a world away, typing numbers into a spreadsheet or vacuuming the floor or -- okay, almost certainly not vacuuming the floor. But in my family, birthdays were a time of shared memories. My mother had a horrific pregnancy with me that very, very nearly miscarried (early labour at about 21 weeks) so my birthday dinner always started with a stirring little speech from my Dad about how I nearly died, and how glad they were that I didn't die, and how nice it was that I was still around. I pretended to be embarrassed but I loved it. But we can't tell any of those stories, or stories about rushing to hospital, because I was not there. And of course, I know that there's another, much harder, side to this. I missed out on that, but their first mother is missing out on this. I was not there, but she is not here.

On a day like today, I worry that all of these complications are going to mar my babies' birthdays for them. This day isn't easy for me, unexpectedly not easy, but I can take it. I'm the grownup. I don't really ever want them to know, either, because this day isn't about me, it's about them. But when I wasn't a grownup, when I was little, my birthday was my favourite day in the whole year, a day of days, long looked forward to and long remembered. I find myself intensely thankful that children are so self-centred. I expect that, for a few years at least, the presents and cake will loom larger in their minds than what they have lost. I hope they can have the same set of happy childhood memories that I do, minus the stirring speeches. But I'll be surprised if it doesn't get harder for them as they get older. As they become more aware that getting born means that someone gave birth, and that this someone is always absent from the party. (And if anybody reading this- adoptees, APs, first parents - has any advice on how to handle children's potential birthday grief, I would be glad to hear it).

But for now, I'll bake cupcakes. I'll wake them from their nap, hold them tight and thank God that they have had a year of life. I'll dress them in their birthday clothes and go out to buy the paper plates and cups that we need for tomorrow. I'll do my best to make today the first link in a chain of happy birthdays. And I'll do my best to make sure that I'm the only one who can hear the words in my head. I was not there. I was not there. I was not there.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

No Thinking in This, Just Cuteness

For my Project 365, I've been trying to take a few more videos. But I'm too incompetent to sort out the order properly, so they're getting their own post.

Six seconds to show you that the next Tchaikovsky does NOT live at my house

Nine seconds of the view from my seat in the car. He's about to outgrow this car seat, and I can't imagine the next one will give me such a cute cyclops view.

Baby L learning to crawl and squeak. If you've only got time for one, this is the one.

Some people are just insanely good with children. Our friend Abi is one of these people. Watch her tickle the babies! (If you've only got time for two, this is the other one. And incidentally, it was her feet in the previous video).

Friday, 16 July 2010

Birthday Hypocrisy

Two years ago, I turned 29. And I longed for a baby.

Then last year, I turned 30. And still, I longed for a baby.

Tomorrow, I turn 31. And this year, I'm longing for a babysitter.

Hypocritical? Probably. But just for the day, I think I'm okay with it.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


Suddenly, it seems that the whole world is pregnant again. This year has been quiet, but it seems that the next one is going to be another festival of babies because last week, I was getting announcements at the rate of two per day. Not even exaggerating. And despite how happy I am mothering my babies (extremely happy) and how happy I am for my friends (happier than this, at long last) I'm surprised to find that the news can still really sting.

It's hard to work out why. Do I want to be pregnant at the moment? I honestly think that the answer is no. My medical stuff aside, even if I was guaranteed a live healthy baby at the end, I honestly think that the answer is no. Right now, adding that kind of chaos to this kind of chaos is not appealing. I think. Although I can't shake the rogue thought that it would be nice to at least have the choice.

Maybe it's to do with the babies growing up. They turn one this month, and I'm simultaneously elated and horrified. I can't believe how far they've come, physically. I can't believe how far we've all come in learning to understand each other. But I wanted a baby for so long, and then I had one (two!) and soon I won't. Stupid relentless unstoppable passage of time! I had hoped this year might be the exception to the laws of time and space, but it seems not, and I don't feel ready to leave their babyhood behind. We may decide to adopt again, and we may not. It's unclear. So we may have had our turn at cuddling squishy milky little babies; maybe that part of our life is over, and I can't help but feel a little sad about it. I know that dealing with that is hardly unique to adoption. Maybe every mother with growing-up children feels a pang when she hears about the next batch on their way. Maybe this is what leads women forty, fifty years on to accost young mothers in the supermarket and regale them with stories about their own days as a baby mother. Usually somewhere around the jam, for reasons unclear to me.

But I'm sure this isn't all of it. Because if I'm honest with myself, it's still particularly hard to hear about pregnancy successes of the formerly infertile. Together with my joy (real joy, finally) that dear friends are going to be mothers, I can't ignore a bit of disappointment that I'm crossing another person off my list as a potential real life adoption friend. There was a time, not so very long ago, that I thought it wouldn't really matter how our baby came to us - that the important thing was that we would belong to each other. And so I didn't think it would make any difference how my friends' children came to them, either. I knew that adoption loss was real, but I don't think I really faced up to the fact that it was lifelong. Because the further we go down the road as an adoptive family, the more and more and more I realise just how much we have all lost.

And yes - not just the children, us as parents too. It's all related, of course, and my losses mainly centre around lost ability to provide what I would like to give my children. It's a strange feeling to love two little people with all that I have, but to know that I can't give them a normal life with a normal family they can take for granted. To know that my life is absolutely unimaginable without them, but that the reverse is not true - that their life without me isn't just imaginable, it was absolutely real. To try to feel my way into giving them a proper family that doesn't try to pretend that their first family wasn't a proper family, too. I read the words of adult adoptees, and they change the way I think, and I am grateful. But sometimes I'm so aware of what I am not, to these children, that I feel unable to be what they need me to be without looking over my shoulder and making sure it is okay with every other triad member as well as our city's social services department.

I know it won't do them any favours if I hold them at arms length, emotionally, because these children do need mothering. I know it's a tragedy that their first mother couldn't be the one to do this, but in the end the job falls to me and I want to do it properly. But sometimes I feel like holding them at arms length, slightly away from me, is what I should be doing. If I show off the photos of my beautiful babies, sometimes I feel like I need to say at the end the author of this post does not wish in any way to minimise the loss and grief and pain of the children in these pictures. I know they look happy but we are already saving for therapy, okay? I feel so selfconscious about my love for them, sometimes. I scan what I've written above for signs of hopeless adoptive-parent entitlement, and yes, I can see that they are all there. I think of these babies as mine, feel personally proud of all their achievements, their lives are basically all about me and yes, being their mother makes me happy. Worst of all, I've talked about the fact that I've still got some of my own demons to face.

I would gladly do without this emotional complexity. I would gladly do without weighing every word. I wish I could give my babies an uncomplicated life. I wish I could give myself an uncomplicated life. I wish we could have an uncomplicated family. Somehow, magically, with exactly the same children, but joined by biology. And then I gasp at what I've wished for - I've just wished away their first parents! I've ignored their real adoption narrative and fantasised a new narrative with ME at the centre! I NEED TO BE PUNCHED IN THE FACE!

And so I think this is why I still reel a little when I hear about others managing to form their families in the normal way. Their families won't be better than ours. There's no way on this earth their children could possibly be cuter than ours. I could never, ever wish for any other babies than ours. But their experience of family sure is going to be different from ours. And sometimes it's hard not to wish that the four of us could have that too.

By the way - I've installed a new commenting system that should allow replies to comments. It seems the least irritating of the options available, but it's hard to know for sure. If you want to comment, but can't make it work, or just find it too annoying, leave a comment on an old post to let me know. Thanks!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Just testing something

Against my better judgement, I've just installed a widgetty thing on this blog to enable nested comments - so I can reply to the words you all type so thoughtfully. There's no way for me to find out if it has worked without doing a new post. I'm going to delete this post once I've figured it out - but am apologising in advance to those of you who have google reader and will end up seeing it anyway.

Here's a reward for having inadvertently read this testing post. This link made me laugh so hard I nearly passed out.

Monday, 5 July 2010

The 'O' Word

There is a word I would like to ban in adoption discourse. I suspect I'm not the only one. That word is 'orphan'.

A lot of these 'orphans' have families, actually. They have families already. Their parents are not dead, or at least both of their parents are not dead.

I think that when we read the word 'orphan', or think about 'orphan care' or 'orphan ministry' we isolate the children - the sweet, lovable, photogenic, mostly brown-skinned children with huge, sad eyes - from their parents. Who, as I said, are often not actually dead. From their older siblings. From the society they are living in. There is no doubt that many of these children are in need. But the needy children are just one symptom of whole societies suffering. And those we classify as 'orphans' do not have a monopoly on that suffering. I don't think that's what James 1:27 means.

In this post-Oliver-Twist world, the word orphan has unavoidable 'save me, kind lady' overtones. There is no doubt that many of the children so classified need compassion, and practical help. But I think that concentrating our compassion on 'orphans' can be a way of sentimentalising a brutal reality. Of packaging up the AIDS crisis into something that we can stomach. To be even more cynical - of marketing it. All those adults are giving each other HIV, oh dear, never mind, here's a photo of a sweet two year old. Don't you just want to take him home?

Because worst of all, the word orphan has a connotation of availability.

So can we not use it any more, please, unless we are talking about a specific child who really has lost both of his parents to death? If we mean needy children, let's say needy children. If we mean children in poverty, let's say children in poverty. And if what we actually mean is 'child available for adoption' then let's be honest with ourselves and say that, too.

Friday, 2 July 2010

More 365 action

It's taken me the babies' entire nap to download and sort these photos. It feels like it must be impossible that it's been a month since I posted photos - the time is racing by, and I don't seem to be getting anything done. And now I can hear them starting to squeak - happily, so far, but who knows for how long- so no words today, just pictures. Okay, not very many words.

And this time I'm going to be disciplined and choose only ONE photo from every day. And it's going to be in order. I promise. So:

End of may - we went on another family holiday, this time with J's family. Not much time to take photos in the leadup

but it appears that baby L is still plotting world domination in the bath.

Here we are, having arrived after a VERY long drive. I think you're all clear to go back to school, daddy, I can't see a single nit.

Some quality baby-and-grandpa time.

Some quality family time. I feel like someone's missing... naaaah. I'm sure I'm just imagining it.

Lots and lots of firsts this month.
First time in swimsuits!

and first....

first crawling. Life really hasn't been the same since.

First time being synchronisedly tossed in the air with a cousin

First time that C has taken a week off project 365 (pretend there are 7 blank spaces here, in honour of that fact)

First trip to a National Trust property

Okay, NOT the first time she's been excited about a pretty dress

First time realising just how HUGE the babies really are compared when with a proper baby (welcome to the world, little Isabelle!!!)

First month it's been warm enough to really start living at the park. He looks so cute until you jam your fingers in his mouth and find out what it is he's been eating.

First group photo

NOT the first time this boy has been covered in kisses. In case you couldn't tell from his face.

First time on a swing!

First time for a boy in a box

First time for a girl in a box

First appliance obsession

First time absolutely refusing to stay still for monthly photo

First time at a Roman orgy, apparently

First time putting daisies in her hair (it won't be the last)

First time in a sink (does anybody know if there is a human version of

First time working out that now he can now be upside down without the need for parental involvement

(nothing first-y about these. But they were good).

First time pulling up to standing

and first time for a boy and a girl in a box together.

And suddenly it feels like we got quite a lot done this month, after all.