April 11, 2012
When I say the words “the situation” what comes to your mind? Do you think of that dude, Michael Sorrentino, from the MTV reality show “Jersey Shore?” Or do you think of something adoption related? Maybe you think of both? Neither? Something all together different?
Today when I heard the words “the situation” I first thought of adoption, felt a bit sick and then thought of Mr. Sorrentino, who is sometimes, call The Sitch. While the colorful reality star has nothing to do with my work place, I will share why I thought of him. I will explain to you my situation (pun intended).
Not quite a year ago, I hired a supremely talented woman to join my web team (I manage a team of web editors). I liked her immediately not only for her education and experience but her style, her personality. She is someone I would have had as a friend had we met under different circumstances. She is friendly, creative (has these great chunks of red color on her dark asymmetrical bob), fashionable, an English major, web junkie, mother of two young sons and around my age. We have lots in common. During the year or so she has worked for me she has completed an amazing amount of work including helping us push our way into the mobile application space by writing content for our soon to come mobile app while simultaneously managing the editorial efforts of our member portal. Like I said, cool, amazing, talented, someone I really like. As such, I was a bit nervous when she approached me and asked if we could “talk”. I said “sure” and invited her to sit down on my cushioned file cabinet/seat. She then asked if we could find a room and talk in private. It was at this point my internal manager alarm went off and I said “uh-oh” quietly to myself. This type of request usually means, in my experience, someone is resigning or has some other major problem. We found a room.
“So, I don’t want you to be nervous or anything. It is nothing bad” says editor extraordinaire.
“Okay. So what’s up?” I ask.
She appears nervous and a bit jumpy. This is not her usual style. If she is not resigning, it’s nothing bad, what is making my usually calm, cool, collected editor so skittish?
“Well, my husband and I are adopting a baby. We just got called a day or so ago. It was a complete shock. We had registered with an adoption agency several years ago. We were able to get pregnant via IVF and have our sons and it was long and hard and expensive but we did it. We totally forgot to take our profile off the active registry with the agency and they called us. They have a baby girl for us…Utah…end of May…leave of absence…situation…four kids…mom 26…dad in his 40… “she says.
She is speaking a bit rapidly (which is normal for her, another thing I like about her as I do it as well) but rambling. Or maybe it’s me? Normally I could follow her but the adoption word has unnerved me and done something strange to my cochlea. I am hearing her yet simultaneously reeling inside and trying my best to keep my professional shit together.
Tears well up inside me. I DON’T WANT TO FUCKING DEAL WITH THIS AT WORK. JESUS EFFIN CHRIST I DON’T BELIEVE IN WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME? CARL EFFIN JUNG WHY DID YOU SAY “THAT WHICH WE RESIST, PERSISTS”. HELLO! UNIVERSE? DID YOU MISS THE MEMO THAT SAID I AM IN THE MIDST OF A MAJOR HEALTH CRISIS AND TRYING TO AVOID ADOPTION. DID YOU? HUH?
I notice my breathing is a bit rapid and shallow. I let her ramble on while I get my internal feces collected so I can be the professional manager type and not the teenager girl traumatized at the loss of her child that the adult mother found and was told by that child to please go away, I don’t think of you or adoption, like ever.
By listening and doing that internal feces collection, I learn:
- Baby girl due end of May.
- Will be induced (kid cannot even pick her own birthday!)
- Parents are not married. Mother is 26. Father is in his 40s. They have one child, six years old that they are parenting. They have surrendered four (FOUR?) children already. Due to their “situation” they are placing this one as well.
- She has been invited to be in the delivery room. Squeee! She feels so honored!
- Oh, I should see the picture of the six year old. The agency sent her a picture and the six year old is all malnourished, unwashed and clearly abused. (Why is the agency sharing a picture of an allegedly abused child and NOT reporting that to authorities?)
- Mother and father are in Utah.
- Staff member and her husband are OH! SO. HAPPY. They are going to proceed ahead with the adoption for clearly this was meant to be.
- She would like to know if she can take a few months off for adoption leave and come back.
As she finishes and she sits in front of me, waiting for my response, the first words I can muster are:
“Do you know my background?” I ask.
She is clearly utterly confused. What does MY background have to do with what she just told me?
“Huh? What? Uh, no” she responds.
So I tell her. I share I have a daughter, surrendered to adoption when I was 18 after a five month stay in a maternity home located one thousand miles away from my family and support system. I tell her my agency was a baby broker that coerced mothers, lied to them, made promises and then sold the children to families who had money. I tell her I am an activist in the adoption field and that I support adoption only as a last resort and even then I believe all ties to the family of origin, medical history, etc. should be maintained. I tell her my husband and I are in the process of forming a not for profit foundation that will provide education scholarships to single moms struggling to parent and finish their education.
At this point, I realize I am rambling and vacillating between the 18 year traumatized pissed off mother and my present day self. My voice is either shaky and on the verge of tears in one breath or firm and resolute in the next. My cochlea must have fixed itself for now I hear not only her, but my own voice and it sounds, well, a bit scary.
Manager Professional Suz enters the room.
I try to bring it back to her request. I tell her we value her (we/I do) and that I will consider her request and share it with my boss as well. She is very appreciative and continues to go on a bit more about “the situation”. I share a bit more including telling her to question everything the agency tells her, Utah is a major red flag, and that she should get all the medical history possible, names, etc.
She responds by stating the agency is very ethical, this mothers situation is not like mine was (she said this with a bit of a defensive tone to her voice), it’s legit, necessary, the right thing, etc. At this point, I note that sweet sugary smell of Kool-Aid dust that wafts up into your nose when you are making, or exposed to the making, of Kool-Aid. The suggestion that my situation is not like this one and that somehow I am unique or different or whatever has angered me (and invalidated me, thank you very much). I realize it is time to wrap up the conversation. I let her know I will get back to her, reiterate my sincere belief and liking of her as a person and a professional and we leave.
She returns to her desk and I go to the ladies room and cry.
Adoption at work is not something I have prepared myself for.
Knowing that in a few weeks another baby girl will lose her mama and suffer a primal wound makes me sad.
Knowing that my friend, a woman I respect and admire, has sipped the Kool-Aid and may be in the process of being duped by a Utah adoption agency makes me angry.
The pressure to be the professional non traumatized “birth-mother” overwhelms me. If I could leave the office I would but it is not an option. I return to my desk and immediately turn to my Facebook (thank goodness I work in ebusiness and we have access from work) and I vent to my private adoption list on my Facebook (you guys know who you are, thank you for being there).
I spoke briefly to my staff member today. Let her know my boss and I support her request and that we will look for a temporary staff member during her leave. I will also look at our current resource plan and see if I can adjust things amongst the other team members. She is appreciative.
I said nothing else about adoption. I want to but I am still formulating my thoughts. I don’t want to come across as this AntiAdoptoNazi. I do respect and want to retain this person on my team. But how do I help her, help me, help that baby girl? What do I share? How do I do it effectively and gently?
A few of my friends on Facebook recommended a few books for me to share with her. I ask you now, dear readers, what would you recommend I share with a PAP (or not)? If you were in my shoes, what would you do?
Please note it is highly probable she has, or soon will, google me and find this blog, so, feel free to write your response not necessarily to me, but to her.
Artwork Credit: Julie Rist