I think of you, in the foyer of the world, waiting to come in. You are meant to be our child, just as the son born of my womb was meant to be mine. We will call you Milagro, and when people ask, I am prepared to answer. My son came to me through the miracle of birth, I will say, and my daughter through the miracle of adoption. We find our families through different paths, that’s all. Why should it be any less right?
Sparta and I are confident that we have a good plan. We don’t want to go to Herculean efforts to have our “own” child. Fertility treatments are not for us, we both feel there are too many people in the world anyway. We will keep trying to conceive, but we will focus on adoption. A little girl, probably from Guatemala. We both lean towards international. We don’t want to compete with other families to adopt a U.S.-born baby. We want to provide a home to a child that really needs one. And, too, we want to know she cannot be taken away from us.
You will be the daughter I’ve always imagined: loving, beautiful, smart. We will all speak Spanish together, you and me and Niko, and Daddy Sparta with his American accent. We’ll study the history of the Mayans, your ancestors. We’ll travel regularly to Guatemala. You will flourish, be bright, inquisitive, good in school. Eventually you’ll attend a big-name University and we will discuss New Yorker articles. >We will be a rainbow family.
“We are done with our bios, and our references and criminal checks are in process,” I report to our adoption agency officer. My muscles are like wires, volts of excitement flowing through them. I pace back and forth as I speak.
“Wow, that’s great!” she responds, “Your home study should be done in about six weeks then, and then four to six weeks after that, we should have a referral for you.”
I do some quick math in my head. Six plus four. “You mean — like in a couple months?” I say, an odd viscous goo slurping at my ribs, pooling in my gut.
That night I can’t sleep. So I read for a while and try again. No luck. I do a crossword. Attempt deep breathing. Finally I just lie in the dark and let it come at me, the real terrain we might be negotiating here, with all its crenellations and potholes, its storms and quicksand.
What will it be like for you to look different than your brother, your mom, your dad, your grandma, your cousins, all your aunts and uncles? Will you long for a mother that I can never be? One that looks like you, has the same fingernails, the same way of tilting her chin when she smiles?
I think of my father who — as I tell Niko — “has become a star in the sky,” and a little fissure cracks open in my heart. What do stories about my father mean to an adopted child? I want to tell her about his green suede jacket, the blue Austin Healey he drove, how he made his own jewelry and art, rigged his own car alarms, cooked buffalo burgers. Why would she care? He is not a part of her story, is he?
We won’t travel to Budapest to see where my grandfather went to military school, where my grandmother studied chemistry, where my mom learned to ride a horse. We won’t look for the church in Ampfelvang where my mom’s family landed as refugees after the war, or admire picturesque Zell am See where my uncle worked in a mine, or imagine them in Salzburg where they lived in barracks for four years. My ties to my family’s past are unraveling with time. I don’t speak Hungarian, don’t know the stories well enough. If I lose my mom, I won’t have anyone to tell me the significance of all these places. And an adopted child? Won’t that snip the fraying yarn to my past clean through?
Heat vibrates in my cheeks as I think more disturbing things, and I try to push them into the darker recesses of my mind. But they are thoughts with sharp edges and they poke at me, insisting to be acknowledged. I sigh. I am so petty, so small.
I can’t assume you’ll be smart. Attend a good college. Or be an intellectual. Chances are you’ll be short, not tall and thin like us. Kids will come up to your brother and say, “She’s your sister? What is she — adopted or somethin’?” You may come to resent us for taking you away from your land. Maybe you won’t even . . . maybe you won’t even love me.
This is crazy. It’s just so risky. The adoption agency will send us a FedEx package with a picture of a week-old baby, and a brief pediatric report. We’ll know the mother’s name. And whether she signed the legal paper in writing or with a thumbprint. Usually it’s the latter. We have to think this through. Maybe we’re not ready. I’ll talk to Sparta in the morning.
At 7 a.m., Sparta is already in uniform and kissing me goodbye in the blurry morning light. “You understand we won’t know much about this baby?” I say.
“Are you having doubts?”
“It’s just clearer to me now, the ways that it might be harder than having our own.”
He sits down on the bed, holds my hand and sighs, “We don’t have to, you know.”
But that thought fills me with sadness, not relief.
Inviting my daily tasks to consume me, I try to keep the nervousness dormant. But in those rare quiet moments, I feel it, trilling in my backbone. Fear.
So I’ve waited. And the fear is definitely not going away. I’ve read about adoptees who call themselves “abductees” and about adopted children who never felt like they belonged until they found their birth parents. About the identity crises, the feeling of having to keep other people’s secrets, even among adoptees who are grateful for their adopted families.
But I am slowly getting back to working on the paperwork anyway. It turns out “getting a referral” doesn’t mean you are handed a baby; it’s just the beginning of a legal process that can take months. We are working out a timeline in which we’d likely receive a baby in January or February of 2006. I still wonder what our daughter will be like. I still wonder how our family will be changed by a new member. I still waver between thinking this is somehow meant to be and thinking it is more mundane than that. She will be who she will be. My mind-pictures are fuzzier now. Assuredly we will stumble, we will make mistakes, we will have doubts. Life is not perfect. But there are babies that need love and we want to love another child.
So we’ll just have to wait, little miracle, to find out who and what you are.
Mommy Athens and Daddy Sparta have been together for over ten years. They have a beautiful little boy and are expecting an adopted baby girl. Sophia’s writing has also appeared in Stanford Magazine, Using Our Words: Moms & Dads on Raising Kids in the Modern Neighborhood, and in two collections: Tied in Knots: Hilarious Stories from the Big Day and Mexico, A Love Story (Spring 2006). She can be reached through her Web site at www.sophiaraday.com.