Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Quote of the Day/Shameless Filler

"All I can say with certainty is that my husband and I love Pie with everything we are and want the best for her. Pie's birthparents love her with everything they are and want the best for her. We'll figure out the rest as we go."

This, for me, is the very essence of adoptions that can work. Courtesy of Sara when she commented here on a previous post. I wanted to bring that to everyone's attention.There are a lot of people who are hurt terribly by adoption. Namely those people are everyone ever involved in an adoption. I've said for years that the happiest life is not the best life. It's only been recently that I've understood that to be a half truth. The concept I wanted to address was comfort, not happiness. The most comfortable life is certainly not the best life. After all I've never known a person to say "I'm so terribly comfortable and well resourced, I think it's time for some seriously difficult personal growth." For years I've struggled to make this idea a positive statement instead of a negative one. If the most comfortable life isn't the best one, what is the best? I didn't know. Slowly dawning on me is an idea. This may be the foolish idealism of youth, and I fully expect to look back on this and laugh, but I think I have an idea of the best driving principle for life. I've toyed with honesty, respect, integrity, compassion, awareness, education, and even self-sacrifice. The conclusion I've come to is all of these fall short. The only complete picture appears when all of these are combined into an understanding of love. Love requires that I respect. It urges me to understand and educate. Love insists upon honesty and integrity. Love lets me sacrifice my ego. The best life is love.

In totally unrelated news I'm feeling much better! The doctors took the stint out today and I only have one day of antibiotics left. I took myself off the pain meds earlier this week. Detox was horrible. I had become dependant. Thank goodness I'd only been taking them exactly as prescribed for a little less than two weeks. I went home and immediately ate a bowl full of steamed carrots. I felt like a new man. Eating a bowl of spaghetti afterward made me feel even better! I can't believe how hungry I've been! Hopefully in a few days I'll be able to return to work. Unfortunately my job is very physically demanding so that may take a little while longer than I'd like.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Thoughts on Child Centered Adoption

***I'm still on medication. Please forgive me if this post derails or doesn't make sense. Please point out mistakes or areas that need clarification. I don't want you to ignore my mistakes. I want you to help me make them better***

In discussing the "right-ness" or "wrong-ness" of adoption I've discovered a trend. People tend to speak directly for children when children cannot speak. It's not uncommon to hear people say things like "your baby wants to be raised by you," or "all a baby wants is to be loved." In the former I'm paraphrasing statements I've heard from people who are pro-parenting/anti-adoption and the latter pro-adoption/anti-parenting depending on your person taste for terminology. I take serious issue with this proclivity even though I don't doubt that I've been guilty of it myself. These statements are troubling because of the processes one must go through to make them.

At first glance it looks a lot like compassion. To speak for the child one places him/herself in the child's position and attempt to understand the fullness of that experience. From that exercise s/he then speaks from that experience on behalf of the child. The ability to put oneself in "the other guy's shoes" is fundamental to compassion. That exercise has many practical applications and generally keeps humans from treating one another poorly. Unfortunately in the adoption related debates I've encountered that is this tool has been turned around. Instead of compassion it is used to fan the flames of conviction. This may be due to the strength of the emotional experiences encountered when applying this tool to adoption.

Most people, in my experience, involved in adoption debate have been involved in an adoption plan. The parties involved are typically a member of a first family, adult adoptees, current or prospective adoptive parents, and on rarely adoption workers. In these situations everyone has an experience to bring to the table. On the part of first families those experiences are, uniformly, emotionally intense and often traumatic. On the part of adoptive families the experience is often one of great joy muddled with the pain of infertility and loss. Very often both sides of the adoption equation have lost children yet that commonality is rarely discussed. That is something I wish to address, but not now.

After all, the point of this post was discussing child centered adoption, right? So where's the child in all of this? Well that's precisely the problem. Adults are jumping through a lot of mental hoops trying to understand the experience of the child in order to speak for their experience. Bringing their own experiences into the process of imagining the experience for the adoptee adults have amplified reactions. Before the adult can attempt understanding the adoptee experience s/he is typically overwhelmed by his/her own emotional experience. That's when people start speaking for themselves through the voice of the child. That is not only disrespectful to the adoptee experience. It disallows for adoptee experiences that differ from the adult's perceived experience. I consider that malicious behavior.

There's another level to this. The question of how a person does compassion is important. I described the exercise of "putting yourself in the other guy's shoes" as fundamental to compassion. It is a necessary step. Compassion doesn't stop there. That's how we teach compassion to children. An adult requires an adult understanding of compassion. "Spare the rod, spoil the child" isn't what I'm talking about. The real point is abstraction. Early compassion says I know your experience and I will behave how I wish others had behaved toward me. Abstract compassion says I don't know your experience and will behave with respect and kindness toward you.

Why can't I know your experience? Why must I assume I'm ignorant? Because there are billions of neurons and billions of discrete experiences that separate my experience from another person's. I can never know the full subtlety and depth of another person's emotions, thoughts, or choices. This is why I try to speak only for myself. When I do speak for others I attempt to do so in terms of probabilities (Billy probably doesn't want cockroaches in his sandwich, birth fathers probably aren't universally jerks). I do this because I believe no one has the right to speak for another in positive terms. At the very best we can make guesses but must do so with full admonition of our ignorance.

How does this apply to child centered adoption? It means in the often heated debates about whether adoption is right or wrong I put a few lingual filters in place. Let's take my paraphrases above as examples. When a first family member says "your baby wants to be raised by you," I hear "I wish I chose to parent." When I encounter the same statement from an adult adoptee I hear "I wish my first family had chosen to parent me." These are very valid statements that cut to the quick of the emotional experience they represent. There are more reasons than I can imagine for a person to have these desires and they are legitimate. Similarly "all a baby wants is to be loved" from an adoptive parent arguing against openness says to me "I wish my love is all my baby ever needs."  This, too, is a legitimate desire. Wanting things and experiences, if honest about the needs they're attempting to address, is perfectly healthy. Knowing desires are often terribly unrealistic is also healthy.

I can feel my brain starting to fog over, so I'll wrap this up quickly if, perhaps, tangentially. No doubt you, the observant and critically engaged read that you are, have noted that I've not spoken to whether adoption is right or wrong here. That's intentional. I'm not concerned with whether adoption is the correct choice or a morally abhorrent choice at the moment. My concern is how we speak about adoption and how that reflects our attitudes toward each other. Adoption is polarized on many levels and I'm growing tired of seeing people turning their past injuries into weapons to further injure others. It feels like an east wing versus west wing cancer ward battle to the death. We've all been taken by surprise*. We've all been hurt by the same thing** and are in various stages of healing. A little kindness doesn't seem like so much to ask for. I suggest you be a trend setter. Tell someone that you don't understand, but you care anyway. Tell them you'll never fully know, and you love more deeply because of it.

*Whether it be unplanned pregnancy, infertility, unethical adoption workers, or even being raised by "the wrong family" and encountering stigma externally and internally everyone involved in adoption has encountered a situation in his/her life that s/he would not seek.

**Adoption hurts people. So does chemotherapy. No one wants it, even if s/he needs it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Further Delays

Last week I had oral surgery to remove all four of my wisdom teeth. This week I go back to the doctor to see about treating the thumb-sized bulge of infection in my jaw that resulted from that surgery. Life is fun.

In much more positive news I've returned to my regular work and look forward to visiting with Ms Scarlet, Prof Plum, and little Festus this week! We normally try to schedule our visits for the weekends so Athena and I can travel to their home. That usually results in long, relaxed visits. Good times. Unfortunately this month that just wasn't going to happen, so instead we're all getting together for dinner mid-week. It's not quite as fun but we are going to a really good restaurant so that's something. Hopefully I'll be able to get back on the horse soon. Thanks for your patience and support.

This morning's appointment didn't go nearly as well as I'd hoped. Instead of a check up, more antibiotics, and a pat on the shoulder I got something else. I can now say that on my list of "things to get as surprises" surgery is rock bottom. I now have a stint in my jaw and a follow up appointment on Thursday afternoon. Until then I'm not allowed to eat anything. All liquid diet until further notice. To put the stint in the doctor basically redid the wisdom tooth removal exactly, just without a tooth there. I'm in rather an awful lot of pain at the moment. I may miss the monthly visit as a result. I'm sure I'm terribly bummed out over it, it's just that I'm in too much pain to notice anything else right now.

***Update Mark II***
The follow up appointment on Thursday didn't go well. The stint is still in. The oral surgeon was an oaf who milked my jaw without warning. That hurt. I'm still on a liquid only diet. I can't even have jell-o. I'm struggling to maintain my strength. It's been almost two weeks since I've had solid food. I'm getting weak. The doctors added another anti-biotic to my cocktail of meds. It messes with my brain chemistry a lot. I'm very tired, foggy, uncoordinated, and sometimes dizzy. It comes at random intervals. Some times I'll be fine apart from mild soreness in my jaw. The next thing I know my brain is stuck, incapable of shifting gears, as I stare into space. Athena has come to recognize these times and gently touches my arm or hand to bring me back. She's been an incredible trooper through all of this. She's been taking care of me so long it is starting to show on her health as well. Next appointment is Tuesday afternoon. I'm having the surgeon take the stint out regardless of their suggestion. I can't survive on this diet and I can't heal if I'm starving to death. Here it's worth noting a few things. I'm not allowed to consume anything that requires my jaws to move. Gelatins are out. Nothing fibrous either. Pureed vegetables, unless filtered through cheese-cloth or steel strainer, are out. The major problem with this? I'm hypoglycemic. Not just any old kind. No, no that would be too simple. I have a rare form of hypoglycemia largely unrelated to diabetes. The form I have keeps my metabolism running full tilt no matter what I'm doing. I burn as many calories sleeping as I do working. As an example, I have taken to drinking a large protein shake immediately before going to sleep. I burn through those 700 calories and awake with hunger pains about 6:00am. Doctors often recommend people with my condition set two alarm clocks. One to wake them in the morning for work and the other to wake them in the middle of the night for a meal. So my typical 5,000-6,000 calorie diet has been reduced to about 1,800 because I simply can't push the calories in fast enough. The meds make me too nauseous and tired. I hope to be well soon. I can't take much more of this.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

P.S.A. - I'm out of my mind

That's putting it a bit far. I had oral surgery and will be recovering all week. As a result I'm on significant pain medication (ugh, I hate this stuff) and generally distracted and managing with disjointed thinking and very, very low resources. As such there will be no posts from me this week. Additionally I ask your patience with any strangeness that may appear in any comments I put forth on your posts. Much obliged.

Friday, August 6, 2010

State Birth Father Registries: Call and Response

In review: I asked you to read an article and post your replies. Thanks again to everyone who did. To those who didn't feel compelled or comfortable doing so I understand. I'd also like to know what, if anything, I can do to remove any hurdles you may encounter to sharing your experience. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any inspiration. Back to the topic at hand I'll now pick apart the article in question myself. I began writing this post last week. I delayed publishing it for a few reasons. The biggest of them was my realization that the post length was out of hand. After reviewing three paragraphs I had better than two pages. I'll attempt to be more succinct this time. With that in mind please be aware that I can't dig as deep into this article as I'd like. There will be a lot of subtle connections glossed over. If there's anything here that you find confusing, as always, please ask and I'll try to clarify my thinking. Without further ado, here we go:

In approaching this article the title interested me. I found the article by Mardie Caldwell looking for online resources and support networks for birth fathers. As I read the article I was particularly horrified by her obvious bias. In the first paragraph Mardie describes birth fathers as men who have impregnated multiple women without regard for financial or emotional support and willfully block the adoption of their children without justification. She does admit that some birth fathers are "devoted." Her definition, however, is deeply troubling. A devoted birth father, according to Mardie, is "interested in being part of an adoption plan and supporting the birth mother as she tries to make the right choices for her child." Here I must become the pedant. The birth father, in order to be devoted, must fully back the adoption decision in total deference to the birth mother. This is evident in the statement that he is "interested in being part of an adoption plan and supporting the birth mother." The implication is that he must support the birth mother's decisions to be dedicated. No mention is made of participating in the decision. Only being part of the adoption is necessary. Nor can he expect support from the birth mother. That doesn't sound like a relationship of equals to me. Furthermore the distance is imposed upon the relationship between the birth father and the child. This is evident in the author's choice of pronouns. It is the birth father's job to support the birth mother as "she tries to make the right choices for her child." The birth father is not making the decision. The child is not his.

On and on she rants about women in poverty caring for multiple children by multiple fathers. The birth fathers in this article are described in unilateral and defamatory terms. I was particularly shocked by the implications that most birth fathers are also wanted criminals incapable of entering a court without immediately being incarcerated. Later the author mentions cycles of abuse and poverty. Unfortunately poverty isn't actually addressed here. That troubles me as poverty is a significant factor in many adoption decisions. I believe it is important to remember that poverty is more than a lack of money, but rather a lack of resources of various types. Lack of time, money, energy, health, relational/emotional support are all forms of poverty that can play heavily into adoption decisions. Instead of discussing this very real problem Mardie speaks only to abuse. Sort of. Here we find one of the most disturbing intimations yet. Here's what she has to say; "[i]f a little girl sees her mother abused, then she will often be attracted to men in her life that will treat her as her mother was treated. The mothers that call us are trying to stop this cycle." Remember that this article is about birth fathers and reread that quote. She has now implied that women making adoption plans are doing so for fear of domestic violence against their children. Birth fathers are now non-monogamous, habitually unemployed, drug addicted, ego-centric, sociopathic, woman and child abusing felons. Among her other irrational claims, Mardie suggests this justification for men objecting to the adoption of their children: "When birth fathers do object to an adoption, 85% say they don’t want the child placed because it will make them look bad." I question the validity of this statistic. More than her numbers I question the point this "article" was attempting to articulate and her reasons for writing it.

Mardie calls for state birth father registries. Her suggested function for these registries is to make adoptions easier for women who's partner's stand in the way of adoption proceedings. The exact process by which this is to happen is, perhaps, the most infuriating proposition yet. Men are to sign on to the birth father registry to confirm their desire to support their child and the child's mother emotionally, financially, and legally. If the men don't sign onto the registry their paternal rights are terminated. This is a legal rat's nest. In order to have rights birth fathers must first be aware of their status as fathers. They must also sign on before the birth of their child. I am unaware of any other area in the United States' legal system where ignorance of one's rights can be used as sole legal justification for stripping those rights. Further, the author mentions no recourse or ramifications should a mother fail to inform a father of her pregnancy. But there's another issue of discrimination here. Among married couples parentage of a child is, legally, presumed to belong to the two members of the married couple. Thus married men are automatically given parental rights of their children. A state birth father registry presumes unmarried men have no parental rights. This would also apply to common law marriages and domestic partnerships. So were a couple to live together in a domestic partnership, have children, and later separate the father would be, at best, presumed a birth father who failed to sign onto the registry. Hence, in our hypothetical situation, he would have no parental, visitation, nor custody rights. The notion of a birth father registry has ramifications far beyond its intended purpose.

Reading this article landed one important point home for me. My interpretation is very simple. Mardie Caldwell's goal in this article is character assassination against birth fathers. When approached as a collegiate argumentative essay her thesis statement is "[birth fathers] refuse to sign for the adoption yet will not provide any assistance in the form of financial or emotional help." State registries aren't mentioned until the final quarter of the essay. That this rant masquerades as support for involved birth fathers is profoundly troubling

Thank you to everyone who read the article and responded. I'm terribly sorry for putting you through such an experience. To be honest I have never encountered such open faced libel against birth fathers. However, despite her best efforts, Mardie did get something right.

"These children need to grow up with parents that love them, committed to giving them the opportunities to be all they can be in life." I can't think of a better description of a first family.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Timeline - An innacurate account off the top of my head

As requested here is a rough timeline for the series of events pertinent to my adoption story. There are two important notions to keep in mind while reading this:
1) Athena still has he calendar from the year of her pregnancy. I don't have it in front of me. I may mix up a few things here and there. No promises on 100% accuracy. I'll try my best.
2) I'm posting this because a reader requested it. I really do take everyone's input seriously and respond directly. If you have an idea, question, or anything you'd like to share with/say to me I'm all ears.

About 2008 - This year I found myself living with a couple (one a good friend, the other his partner at the time) in a house 44 miles from work. Two years post college I was 25 years old. I had been hired at the university in August the previous year. Athena was living with her family and continuing to struggle with Crohn's Disease. Not a fan of major surgery and a lifetime of steroids she was attempting to control it through diet and Traditional Chinese Medicine (herbal decoctions, tinctures, and the like).

February 2008 - Athena contacted me via an art website to commission a piece. It was quite complicated, I was a bit lazy, and getting adjusted to 60 hour work weeks for the first time. It took months or working and revision.

July 2008 - Athena and I met for the first time. The intention was to hand off the piece or find all the niggling details to revise that couldn't be expressed properly over e-mail. We walked better than 12 miles talking and stayed up all night staring at each other. I was in deep smit. I also moved into my brother's empty house. He moved to LA and asked me to watch the place until he could find a renter.

August 2008 - For reasons I'll not get into, I moved out of my brother's house. Significant family strife involved.

September 2008 - Athena and I started talking about moving in with each other because we suck at being apart. The hunt begins.

November 2008 - We moved into our first apartment. I dubbed 2008 "the year of the move." It was also Athena's first move. I was old hat at changing homes and had some difficulty understanding what's so hard about it. Removed head from sphincter and attempt to be supportive.

December 2008 - Athena's health declined. Stress went up. December 27th we get the big news. Stress went up more.

January 2009 - By the end of the first week we'd told both our sets of parents. In the middle of January I decided therapy was a good idea for me and started looking for services. By the end of the month I'd found a therapist and start weekly sessions. Somewhere in there is the visit to the Pregnancy Counseling Center.

February 2009 - We'd settled on adoption and had concluded that extra-familial is the only way to go. Adoption within either of our families felt too messy to consider. I believe this was the month we found Catholic Social Services and started working with them. Lots of reading and crying ensued.

March 2009 - Ultrasound with terrible, terrible, terrible doctor. Immediately transferred care to midwives. Athena's Crohn's symptoms were dramatically reduced.

April 2009 - I was put on seasonal leave at work (annual four month lay off without the benefit of collecting unemployment. My stress about money sky rocketed). Athena and I began crafting the birthing plan. Touring the hospital was a significantly traumatizing experience which lead to the realistic fear that Athena would run away into the woods to deliver the Visitor. Alternative plans started hatching.

May 2009 - Ultrasound with the awesome tech. First positive hospital experience! Midwives found in Athena's home town associated with a private birthing center. Athena and I read piles of prospective adoptive parents profiles at Catholic Social Services. After reading the 11 that fit our initial screening criteria we took three profiles home. There were two that really struck us. One that seemed too good to be true in most respects, with a couple significant reservations. One pretty damn good without much to question. One was a ringer. Just in case. I read each profile at least twice every day for the following ten days. Clawing my way away from depression I managed to celebrate my birthday.

June 2009 - We scheduled a meeting with Ms Scarlet and Prof Plum. Once they're back in town we met. The significant reservations were all flipped on their heads in that conversation. Each concern became a boon. We exchange e-mails and start working out times to meet for dinner et cetera. Athena transferred prenatal care to the midwives in her home town. We became half time residents in her parents' home (practically speaking) for the check ups.

July 2009 - My brother asked that we consider him and his wife as adoptive parents. In the discussion I told him we'd already considered it and laid out our reasons for not going with intra-familial adoption.

August 2009 - We wait-wait-waited. Half way through the month I resumed work. Athena's due date was August 29th. We were praying the Visitor wouldn't show up on her birthday, the 31st.

September 2009 - The Visitor arrived! He went home with Ms Scarlet and Prof Plum from the birthing center. I took a week off work to help care for Athena at her parents' house. The labor was long and difficult. Athena lost a lot of blood and was structurally unsound for some time. After a week I returned to work, leaving Athena at her parents' house to continue her recovery. On the drive home I talked with both of my brothers for three hours about why they were not parenting Festus and why asking for custody now was inappropriate and disrespectful. Athena stayed with her parents for two more weeks before returning to the apartment with me. It was one of the most difficult times in our relationship and in my life.

October 2009 - Visits with Ms Scarlet and Prof Plum continued. Contact was a little weird at first, and somewhat stressful. I often felt, in the early visits, like I was going to a job interview (if I didn't dress right, impress them, make everything easy and pleasant, they'd decide I shouldn't be a part of Festus' life and cut off contact. I didn't really believe it, but that's how it felt). We confirmed that Athena's Crohn's was in full remission.

December 2009 - Athena's family joined us for a visit to Ms Scarlet, Prof Plum, and Festus for the first time.

January 2009 - I terminated treatment with my therapist.

Fast forward to the present. . .

Contact with Festus, Prof Plum, and Ms Scarlet continues and is getting better all the time. At this point I consider them friends I would enjoy spending time with regardless of an adoption agreement. My family still hasn't seen Festus. That continues to be difficult for me. Athena's health remains better today than it had been at any point since Crohn's first manifested. Her pregnancy, in a very real and literal way, saved her life.

Today Athena and I are still together, still living in our little tree house apartment (there's a bay window surrounded by trees. It's quite lovely). We're making plans for our future and long for a dishwasher.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Open Adoption Roundtable #18

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don't need to be part of the Open Adoption Bloggers list to participate, or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you're thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points--feel free to adapt or expand on them.
More of the Roundtable
We each interacted with at least one professional during the adoption process (agency, lawyer, facilitator, consultant, hospital social worker, etc.). What was one thing that they did that was most supportive of open adoption? What one thing was least supportive?
Strangely I thought this would be difficult to write about until I spoke with Athena about it. In our conversation we came to realize that we didn't encounter much direct opposition. In truth we didn't encounter any direct opposition from any of the professionals we encountered. Oddly the person who was most directly supportive of adoption was also the least professional person we encountered. That was the pregnancy counseling center woman (the full account is here). But it feels like a terrible cop out to simply put up a link to an old post and say "there it is." However I can't ignore the role that woman had in my experience of Athena's pregnancy and our decision to make an adoption plan. Instead I'll take a different tack and talk about two pairs of people. The two negative experiences we had with professionals and the two most positive experiences we had.
The woman at the pregnancy center was hugely supportive of adoption. She frequently referred to it as "the bravest," "most courageous," "most loving" choice. She was also, flat out, the least supportive of us as human beings. She did, after all, threaten that Athena would die of breast cancer if she had an abortion.
The close second in "least supportive professional" category goes to the obstetric gynecologist at the hospital. The full account of this can be found here. I honestly don't know how much of her terrible bedside manner was related to our adoption plan. It's possible she's just not very good with humans. Early in the visit she mentioned there was a note in Athena's file indicating we were considering adoption. She asked us if that was correct and we confirmed it was. The reason she hits number two on the list is how she ended the appointment. For the most part it could have been brushed off as a bad doctor's appointment and left at that. Until she left the room. Just before closing the door she uttered the one word we couldn't bear to hear. "Congratulation." Here I'll quote from my earlier post because I don't think I can do justice to how I felt hearing that word right now. 
" She had slipped out the door before I could react. I wanted to grab her by her highlights and pull her down to a chair. I wanted to lecture her about the gross insensitivity she'd displayed. I wanted to grab her by the head and shake it until she understood. We didn't plan this. We don't want this. We shouldn't be here! But we're dealing with it. We're being responsible. It's taking everything we have to put one foot in front of the other and survive but we're doing it! This is so hard that I lock myself in the hardware room at work to cry, but I'm still here! Every day takes everything we have but we got to this appointment. We even put up with being treated like cattle on a conveyor. We're trying so hard to do the right thing! "Congratulations." One word and it felt like every sacrifice we'd made had been spat upon. I wanted to breathe fire and melt the building down to glass. "Congratulations" meant this shouldn't be hard. It meant we shouldn't make the adoption plan. "Congratulations" meant we should choose to parent and give up everything we want for each other. "Congratulations" meant she was too busy to attempt understanding us or any situation she'd not found herself in personally. "Congratulations" meant we were too alien to matter."
Those were the bad parts.
Now that catharsis is out of the way let's move on to something sunnier. There were a lot of good experiences with professionals during the creation of our adoption plan. The single most supportive person I encountered was Julie, our adoption social worker at Catholic Social Services. Julie was incredible. She lent us every book she had to read about open adoption. Actually she was the one who introduced us to the idea of open adoption. Neither of us had heard of it before. We were still thinking of closed adoption days where we'd have to negotiate if we wanted to see our boy immediately after birth, let alone after placement! Julie consistently affirmed the difficulty of the work we were doing and reminded us over and over again that this was just a plan. We could change everything at any time. The most important thing was to be honest with ourselves and each other. There wasn't one thing she did. It was everything Julie did.
With an eye at symmetry it only seems right that I should mention another positive professional interaction. This one caught me by surprise. Athena and I went to the hospital for her ultrasound. I believe it was the six month check. We had been preparing myself for a terribly emotional experience. I wasn't sure if I could even be in the room. I promised Athena I would try. Imagine my surprise when the ultrasound tech had us both laughing within minutes of entering the room! We were there for about half an hour chatting away. That was a very important moment for me. Not only did the ultrasound give me the chance to see the Visitor in a new way, but the tech gave me the chance to see the pregnancy in a new way. In observing his approach to us I began to understand much more about the apparent dichotomy we were in. Pregnancy was funny and scary. It was lovely and terrible. It was joyous and horribly sad. It both connected us to life and isolated us. Most importantly all of this was okay. All of it was normal. The Visitor was rolling and tumbling and showing off for us for a solid twenty five minutes. The tech had taken over 100 images. He sifted through and selected the best 30, printed them for us, and headed for the door. Just before leaving he said something that surprised me. "Good luck."