Monthly Archives: December 2005

Some general Christmas-related ramblings

The answer to the question everyone keeps asking me is that, yes, I am ready for Christmas. “Somebody’s organised, then,” the receptionist commented when I gave her this answer on Thursday. “Yes,” I agreed, “my husband.” The dear man has done half my ordering/picking up of presents and nearly all of my wrapping, as well as the cleaning. I knew there was some reason I married him apart from his good looks, dazzling intelligence, sense of humour, warm-hearted compassion, sexual prowess and gorgeous arse.

The other question people keep asking me is whether this is my son’s first Christmas. It isn’t, of course, but it feels as if it is. Last Christmas he was just five weeks old – more of a permanently feeding little blob than a person. Even though everyone talked beforehand about how much he would enjoy Christmas, with all those amazing lights to look at, he really didn’t give any sign of noticing that it was any different from any other day. There weren’t many presents that he could enjoy, either – he was too young even for rattles. (Not that such considerations stopped my mother from buying him a train set and a set of alphabet blocks.) I fixed my eyes on the far-off Next Christmas when he would be a proper little person, a toddler running around the house and into everything, driving us crazy by trying to grab ornaments off the tree, but it all seemed so far-off and unreal.

And now, of course, it’s real. Well, not the running round the house, not quite – for about six weeks now he’s been able to wobble a few steps at a time, but it’s still quite an endeavour for him and, although his standing is improving noticeably, he still prefers crawling when he wants to get anywhere. But the active-exploring-into-everything-driving-Mummy-and-Daddy-nuts bit – yup, that’s happening, all right. He’s been far better than we expected about not attacking the tree (Daddy’s laptop and the television amplifier are much more interesting) but he is interested in the lights, and on one occasion tried banging two of the red ones together to see what would happen. It was quite a disappointment – really didn’t prove to make the kind of satisfying noises that other things make when they’re banged together.

He’s also developed a liking for an ornament I bought last week on a whim when I saw it on a day out – a wooden mitten shape with a Santa Claus picture on it. He keeps crawling over and taking this one off the tree to look at, then trying to put it back (and getting rather bewildered and frustrated by its infuriating refusal to go back onto the branch and stay there). My advent calendar this year has tiny board books for each day which each tell a fragment of Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” and which are designed to be hung on the tree, and he loves those as well. (They’re books. Books are good. Board books aren’t as good as books with proper pages, which he loves riffling, but board book pages are still good fun to turn.)

He had his first present this afternoon. (We’re going to try the same plan that we did for his birthday, giving him his presents at intervals throughout the day rather than all in one overwhelming go.) I’d got him a ride-on, since Libby Purves says they’re indispensable for the toddler period. He was quite interested in it, but since it wasn’t dangerous or fragile the interest value was somewhat limited. However, he did like the squeaky thing in the steering wheel, and the plastic phone that came with it (though it was a disappointment that none of the buttons on the phone did anything. Not nearly as good as Mummy’s radio alarm clock.) I’ve also got him a stacking toy and a hammer-and-peg toy, which were recommended in Nanny Knows Best as being very popular with this age group (yes, I am a complete sheep who cannot buy a present for her own child unless it’s recommended in a book. Sue me.) I think he may well be bemused by the stacker, but he’s really going to like the hammer-and-peg toy. I may live to regret that one. However, it turned out MIL had bought him the same toy, so one of them is going to live at Granny’s house and one of them at home.

So what will he be like next Christmas? How much more will he have changed and grown? He’ll be two years old then. He’ll be walking properly, talking more, maybe even helping put the ornaments on the tree. We may well be struggling with potty training. Hell, he might even be sleeping at night. (I can hope….)

Talking of sleep, I’m in dire need of some, and will head off to bed before this degenerates into even more drivel. Merry Christmas, and may you all get what you wish for this Christmas. And for people like Magpie and Karen, who won’t be getting what they most want this year – what I wish for you is that this will be the last year when that’s so. I’m so looking forward to the things your blogs will say this time next year, the rushed postings you’ll make when you can spare a few minutes from running after Evie and Maya, the postings about what motherhood is like and how amazing it is to have that first Christmas with your respective daughters. Just think – this time next year, you’re going to be just as incoherent with exhaustion as I am right now. Happy Christmas to you all, and the very, very best of years to come.

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Send three and fourpence….

In my last post, I made passing mention of people who felt that it was an optional extra to read what they were giving an opinion about before giving said opinion. It may not have been clear from that brief comment that this was the bit that I objected to by far the most in the whole Parking Spot Wars shebang.

The rest of that post was just a case of “OK, our opinions differ and here, for the record, is mine”. But when it comes to people sounding off about something they haven’t bothered to check out for themselves – well, that’s against my principles. I really wish I could be sure I wasn’t being a total hypocrite about that, but, of course, the odds are against it, because it’s bloody difficult to remember to check out the data before jumping to conclusions, and I’m sure there are plenty of times I’ve omitted that step myself. But it’s still a Bad Idea. The fact is that second-hand stories do get garbled. If you haven’t checked a source out for yourself, all bets are off as to whether you’ve picked up anything like an accurate impression of what it says.

The particular reason why I’m commenting on this now is because one of the people who commented on my last post admitted to not yet having read Karen’s blog, but didn’t let this stop her from expressing an opinion that Karen might be too bitter to be ‘in the right place emotionally to adopt’. She was concerned that the fact that Karen still wanted to go through pregnancy, or at the very least to get treated in the same way as pregnant women, might mean that she was seeing adoption ‘as a consolation prize or second best’.

Apart from the general ‘giving-an-opinion-without-reading-it-for-yourself=Bad’ concept, here are my more specific thoughts on that.

Firstly, having actually read the blog in question, I would say that Karen has now been in the right emotional place to adopt for so long that she’s getting cabin fever from being there. And she’s still stuck with staying there for an unknown number of months before being able to move on to the next and much more fun place of actually being a mother. So, quite apart from anything else, she is rather understandably frustrated. That comes through in a lot of her posts (to put it mildly), but it isn’t the same thing as bitterness.

Secondly, I can understand that the idea of adoption as second-best can be, rightly, a major sore point with a mother who’s happy with having adopted. But I think that the main reason for that is that it gets confused with another common, but entirely different, belief – the idea that an adopted child is somehow second-best. And I think it’s very important to realise that there’s a difference. The means aren’t the same as the end here. If you really wanted to experience pregnancy and birth, then adoption is a second-best – not because the child is in any way second-best, but because the way of getting that child was.

Reading Karen’s blog, and the other amazing infertility blogs out there, has taught me (among other things) that fertility is not a single loss but a whole collection of linked losses. The absence of motherhood is far and away the greatest of those losses, and that’s the one that adoption is a path out of – in spite of her infertility, Karen will eventually be a mother, and there will be nothing second-best about that. But she still won’t get to be pregnant, to give birth, to breast-feed, or even to experience the first few months of her baby’s life (her daughter will be at least six months old, and probably older, by the time she’s given to Karen). And, because those are things Karen wanted to experience, not getting to experience them is a loss for her, and one that should not be lightly brushed aside.

These things have different levels of importance for different people – the person who commented on my blog apparently wasn’t bothered at all by missing out on those experiences, and that’s nice for her. (I wish I could think of a way of saying that that sounded less sarcastic, because it was sincerely meant – I genuinely am glad that this unknown woman wasn’t bothered about that aspect of adoption.) But that doesn’t mean that they are going to be unimportant to every woman. I know that they were important to me, and that if I had not been able to get pregnant, I certainly would have felt that I’d missed out on something in my life, though I have no doubt that I would have loved whichever child I would then have gone on to adopt just as much as I love the one I was lucky enough to give birth to. I’ve realised how important it is to recognise that difference. Karen’s love for the daughter she will get next year will not be any less for her grief over having missed the chance to give birth to that daughter. It is perfectly possible to feel both emotions simultaneously.

But, thirdly – I don’t think Karen is exactly bitter, any longer, over having missed out on the chance to be pregnant. I think the main issue for her now, apart from her frustration over having to wait so long for her daughter, is not so much over adoption being ‘second-best’, but over having to live in a world that sees not only adoption, but the adopted child, as second-best.

Karen has had to deal with this in all sorts of ways, and will spend the rest of her life dealing with it in all sorts of ways. The post about the perks of a pregnant woman was a joke, and clearly meant as such. The experiences that inspired it – the times she’s told other people she’s adopting only to be met with blank looks or commiserations or none-of-your-goddamn-business questions instead of with the congratulations that would be automatically considered her due if she had, instead, announced a pregnancy – are no joke. Adoption leaves you dealing with the torture of the clueless. It leaves you dealing with an endless succession of “But what about her real parents?”, and “Couldn’t you have your own children?”, and “Well, if you’re adopting, that means that now you’ll get pregnant!” and so many other subtle denigrations of your motherhood, so many assumptions that an adopted child is just a fake, borrowed, fertility aid.

Karen faces a lifetime of dealing with this sort of ignorance not only on her own behalf, but also on behalf of the very real child to whom she will, some day in a few months time, become a very real mother. I’m bitter about this on her behalf, and I haven’t adopted and probably never will. If Karen is managing to deal with this without any bitterness at all, then she’s a better woman than I am.

So – if you want to pass judgement on Karen or her blog, read that blog first. Actually, even if you don’t want to pass judgement, read her blog anyway. For one thing, unless you’re more than usually clued up about adoption you’re likely to learn quite a bit from it. For another, it’s a bloody good read.

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