This weekend marks the first anniversary of our adoption referral. For those outside the adoption community, this means after a two-year leap of faith we landed on solid ground holding the picture of a gorgeous baby girl born in Jiangxi, China.
The portrait of our doe-eyed baby motivated everything we did for the next two months until we could travel to China.She motivated us to transform our restful coffee-bean colored TV room into a pink and green girls’ nursery. She motivated me to spread paperwork on every flat surface in my living room and dining room as I filled out travel visa applications, health forms, insurance forms, leave of absence requests and so on. She motivated me to stay up late night after night shopping and packing and planning on what to bring in one small suitcase for a baby we’d never held, didn’t know anything about.When we met baby girl on Oct. 30, 2006, we were strangers for sure, but the unrequited love affair wouldn’t last for long. Over the next 10 months, baby girl would fall in love with us, too, and learn to love all that life with a family had to offer.All this leads to this week, when I watched baby girl in a candid moment. She lay on her back, holding her baby doll “Mei Mei” aloft and softly singing. She rocked Mei Mei over her head, letting her “fly” just as I do with baby girl.They say you can learn a lot about a child’s emotional state by watching her play. What I see is that baby girl has come a long way from the frightened infant who howled when we set her on the floor.The reason why stay-at-home motherhood has been so frustrating for me is that I assumed that by being a woman and a second-time-around mom it would all just come to me. What’s to know? What’s to learn?I soon realized that there’s plenty to know and learn. The hardest part for me was admitting I had a lot to learn. To let go and learn from women who’ve mastered this role was a huge turning point for me.The best piece of advice I received this year was from a mom of four who told me that it took her TWO YEARS to figure out how to do it all and be happy. Two years of trial and error and anti-depressants and near nervous breakdowns and threats of divorce. There is no magical formula for her to pass on to me or for me to share with you. So, I just have to keep that portrait of the wide-eyed wisp in plain view. Even though baby girl has changed greatly from that image, it serves as a strong reminder why I did all this and how far we’ve all traveled.
The husband half of this relationship has been out-of-town covering a convention for the last week. So, it’s been baby girl and me putzing around the property.
Mainly, she’s playing and I’m pulling and endless array of weeds poking up everywhere. We had our play dates, our time in the pool, at the park, visitors and trips to the library. And now it’s back to the weed pulling. Between weed wrestling, I watched the lawn sprinkler go back and forth, back and forth, while the hands travel slowly around the clock face until it’s time for baby girl to go to bed.
Perhaps there’s a connection between the sprinkling and the weeding? There was a time in my life when I yearned for this lifestyle. And it’s not all bad. Let me repeat: It’s not all bad.
I sat up late every night watching “Weeds” seasons I and II on DVD. I can’t get enough of that show. I’ve seen every episode countless times and I never tire of it. Why? Well, it all started with five or six random strangers telling me I looked like Mary-Louise Parker. (They used to say I looked like Elizabeth Perkins in her “Big” era). Both Parker and Perkins star in “Weeds.” That piqued my curiousity.
I don’t really think I do, but hey, I’m not going to argue with random compliments. Curiosity is a gateway addiction. After a few episodes of “Weeds”, I was hooked. For the uninitiated, “Weeds” has nothing to do with unwanted garden plants. These plants are very much wanted. And, if you grow them, you are wanted.
Part of the draw is the characters, which are all fantastically played by a cast of top-rate actors. The writing is smart. Plus, I love looking at the way the characters dress, the way their homes are decorated, and how they drop those F bombs left and right. Oh, love the little fantasy world that plays out over and again on the TV screen. A little fantasy to forget sometimes about the real weeds poking up through the concrete jungle.
MILESTONE, ROADBLOCK, MILESTONE
I have realized, in this tenth month of stay-at-home motherhood that I can’t honestly gush about it. I will not be laying down bouquet offerings at the altar of the domestic goddess. Martha Stewart isn’t going to be inviting me for a guest spot on her show. (Does she still have a show?)
This has been wonderful break; I’ll give it that. But recently I am left with a sense of “Now what?” “Is this it?” Can I ever be satisfied being “just a housewife?” I put that in quote marks because those are my words. I don’t want to suggest that it is accepted language or attitude.
The past few days are a perfect example of what I’ve been facing: Cloudy, rainy, excessively humid weather make it nearly impossible to do anything outside. I’ve found myself at a loss for what to do indoors to keep it interesting. We’ve played Fisher Price Little People to death. When the Little People see us coming, they hide. We’ve gone to the library. Our community center playrooms are closed for the summer. I’m avoiding the mall: too much temptation in there.
More and more I’m thinking about the next steps: Getting little girl in preschool and getting mom back into the workforce, even if it’s part time at a plant shop. Whatever.
I had hoped during this extended break that I would receive some kind of a sign, that I would be guided toward the new direction in which I should go. So far, either I’m too blind to see it or I’m just not ready to move on. Could be a combination.
In other developments, girl from the west is at summer camp for two weeks. I sent her a care package today filled with magazines, candy, crackers and other goodies. I really miss her as well as the help she provides with baby girl. With older sister away, little sister leans all the more heavily on mom. This is fine, but requires more caffeine that one should ingest in 24 hours.
It worked! We went away for four days with both daughters and it was fun. No major injuries, head traumas or mental breakdowns to report. Just a few mosquito bites.
I’ll admit I had my reservations about packing (and I mean to the limit) our Jeep with baby gear and camping gear and heading out of town for four days without any advance planning. No arrangements to have someone come to the house to feed the cats, pick up after them, no one to water our plants, gardens and lawn, no one to take in the mail, collect the newspapers from the porch. I’m not sure we even TOLD anyone we were going.
On top of that, this was our first venture away from home with Girl from the East. How would she fare in a primitive cabin without electricity, running water, plumbing?
In the end, we decided that modern utilities were not a consideration when deciding if a BABY would be comfortable. She doesn’t nuke her milk in the microwave or the use toilet. What we’re really worried about is our own mental stability.
However, Girl from the West does use above mentioned appliances and facilities and prefers not to have her locks gunked with sweat, bug spray and scented with wood smoke. As she emphatically states: I am not a nature girl. Even she managed to have some fun, mostly in the form of getting her first driving lessons on the endless maze of traffic-free back roads. I discovered a whole new level of anxiety on the horizon.
Girl from the East didn’t seem to be fazed that we were not home. I mean she must have had some clue; if so she didn’t express it until our final night when she awoke, almost by coincidence, when both flashlight and lantern batteries ran out of juice. She wailed and cried and carried on for quite a long time while we groped around in the thick blackness that is nighttime in the woods. Once we located matches and lighted our cabin, we assured her that all was well. In the end, all she wanted were some grapes. At 4:30 a.m.
I also discovered that a handful of pinecones and a few wildflowers plucked from the roadside bought a lot of entertainment time. More than any battery-operated gizmo.