Hard to believe that six months ago today we were in China, holding our baby for the first time. As a milestone I’ve reflected on how my life has changed in the last six months.
It’s true what they say; nothing can prepare you for having a child. You don’t realize how much will change and in where the changes will pop up. I think about the major concerns I had before we left for China. Will Penelope be getting into the nest of wires behind our computer? Will she sleep through the night? Will our pets try to harm her? How will our marriage change when we have a daughter?
Not one of my concerns played out the way I anticipated. Penelope sleeps through the night. The pets have never tried to attack her. Jenn and I are, in my opinion, doing great. My concerns are now more long-range. What choices will we make for her education? What language will we use to describe her adoption as she gets older? Should we proactively search for her birth parents or wait until she gets older?
1. I am (or try to be) always present.
Before Penelope I spent a lot of time on the computer. A lot! That meant time spent in a room other than the one Jenn was in. I also meandered more. If I passed a bookshelf and something caught my eye, I grabbed it and started reading. If three days ago I heard about some hilarious YouTube video I would stop what I was doing and go look it up. Distractible.
Now I try to be present. Some things I just have to do on a computer so I sold my tablet and got a cheap laptop. I can do whatever I need and be in the same room with my family. I’ve also spent less time on the computer. If I were not writing the time would be minuscule. When Penelope is awake Jenn or I are always with her. And why wouldn’t we want to be? She’s amazing. Conversely, when she’s asleep, Jenn and I try to spend time together. All of that adds up to less wandering, less distraction, less wasted time. I want every moment to count. The only way it’s going to happen is if I am present. I’m not there 100% of the time, but I want to be. I’m happy to say it hasn’t required much effort.
2. “I” am not as important anymore.
How do I unpack this one? I don’t think about myself as much. I’ve noticed that things I wanted or had to have before don’t mean much now. I feel like I could give up anything or take on any task for my family. Before I made an effort to put others before myself. Now I make an effort to make time for myself, to focus on things I love. I started this site as a creative outlet. It’s turning into more than I could image but its original purpose stands. When Penelope is older I want her to know the importance of not giving up on things you love. I have a full time job and come home to spend time with Jenn and Penelope. I make time to write, where before I would have made time to spend with Jenn and written without focus. On paper it sounds backwards but in practice it’s beautiful.
3. “I” as in “Income” is more important.
We made a decision that Jenn would be a stay-at-home mother (SAHM). It wasn’t easy. Jenn had a job she enjoyed and co-workers she felt a connection to. Her income was enough to cover daycare and have some left over. If something were to happen to my employment there would still be something coming in.
I’ve never taken my job for granted because I genuinely feel fortunate, not only to have work but to be part of a great team. When Jenn resigned, the weight of our decision struck me. Every dollar means a lot more now. A lot of things I thought I had to have, well, I don’t have to have after all.
For now I’ll just say I couldn’t be any happier that Jenn is home with Penelope every day. If every penny I made was spent to maintain the arrangement for the next couple of years you’ll get no complaints from me. The bond they have is priceless.
4. I laugh a lot more.
Every day I can count on one hearty laugh. It’s not what she says, it’s how she says it. “Floor dirty” she’ll say as her face scrunches up and repeats it several times. Or when we drive past the playground near our house and she says “slide broken”, coming out as “slide boken”. She will say this as though the greatest tragedy has befallen her, repeat it matter of factly, then scream it out “SLIDE BOKEN!”. Jenn and I try to contain ourselves and fail with regularity.
As I’ve said before, there are times when I feel like my heart is going to burst with joy. Penelope has that effect.
5. I’m more thoughtful.
You could chalk it up to sensitivity to the complex issue of international adoption. Before we left for China I read Scott Simon’s “Baby We Were Made For Each Other” and thought it was the perfect book about adoption. It’s short, filled with the stories of people adopted from around the world, their parents, and Simon’s own experience adopting his two daughters from China. In retrospect it was just what I needed as we drew closer to our departure with frayed nerves. For Saturday morning listeners of NPR’s Weekend Edition the voice of Scott Simon is familiar and assuring. He weaves stories and interviews together, creating a digest of recent events and vignettes about life from celebrities to strangers.
Simon hints at larger issues like the “primal wound” some believe every adoptee experiences. He mentions the circumstances that lead to thousands of children needing to be placed for adoption. But my lasting impression of the book was how life is full of wonder and the expansiveness of love. Exactly what I needed before we left.
When we returned with Penelope my thoughts traveled down paths I either neglected or remained ignorant of. The more I read about parenting and adoption the more overwhelmed I became. I talked to people; some online, some in person. With each page and every conversation I found I had less to say and more to consider. I’d been so focused on our experience dealing with mountains of paperwork, official seals and approvals, and home preparations I neglected to think about Penelope’s experience. Part of that may have been my hesitation to get too connected to a child I’d never met. Or the fear we never would.
When we returned from China my mindset shifted from Jeremy-centric to Penelope-centric. What had she experienced up until now? What questions will she have when she gets older? What steps can I take to connect her to the rich culture and heritage she was born into?
The first six months have been terrific. I’m looking forward to May 28th, 2013 to celebrate our first Gotcha! day. It will be interesting to re-read this and see what’s changed and what’s the same.
And the wires? She hasn’t touched them once.