Yesterday we celebrated our 2nd family day. I wrote this article about it and I thought I would share it here.
It was the most important day of my life and all I could think of was, Would I make it to the toilet
My husband, Dave and I were in China in a van going to our hotel to see our child for the first time. We had been told that we would meet our baby, the day after our arrival in Nanchang. I had it all planned. I’d have a bag of Cheerios for the baby. I knew I would sing “Baby Mine.” I would wear red—the color of joy in Chinese culture.
Why I should have expected this day to go as planned when nothing whatsoever in my motherhood journey had done so, I don’t know. First we went through fertility treatments. The medical establishment has innumerable ways to take the “sex” out of “sexy”—leaving me to wonder “y?” Was I fully a woman if I couldn’t bear a child? How was my marriage to work when sex became a chore—and someone other than the two of us made the schedule? After yet another doctor’s office called to tell me that the latest procedure hadn’t worked, the decision to adopt wasn’t so much a decision, as a level of defiance: I was going to be a mother. We chose China.
If I thought fertility treatments had been invasive, the adoption journey brought invasiveness to a whole new level. We cleaned up our messy home and prayed that a speck of dust wouldn’t take our dream away when the social worker visited. We asked our friends to write recommendations for us. How many parents today would have children if their friends had to write references for them? We were fingerprinted so many times that it might have been cheaper had we built our own crime lab. We were “Paper Pregnant” and remained so for close to seven years.
Then we got the call, an email with sporadic information, and a picture. A little girl who was born the day I had miscarried my only pregnancy, was to be our child. She was sitting, unsmiling, against an orange background. She was wearing a pink outfit with yellow socks. She was the most beautiful baby we had ever seen. Another three months of hacking through the bureaucratic red tape and we were in China, our daughter’s birthplace.
The day before we were supposed to meet our daughter, Dave and I, and another couple that would be meeting their soon-to-be-adopted daughter got off the plane in Nanchang, China. We were assured that our guide would find us—and it was easy to see how. We were among very few Caucasians there. Our guide, Claire, introduced herself, helped us get our luggage, and told us, almost parenthetically that our babies would be waiting at the hotel and we had to get into the van quickly. I stared at her. Was she trying to maybe make a joke? The other soon-to-be mother smiled and made joyful sounds. She obviously processed this better. My brain was a blank. I looked at my husband and I saw he was just as scared as I was. Then, of course, my body got into the action. I needed to use the bathroom.
In most of China a toilet consists of a ceramic hole in the ground with a place to put your feet. This is supposed to be excellent for your colonic health. If you’re a Westerner needing to defecate, it is the devil itself. I had used one, but I wanted to go to a Western toilet in the hotel. I was hoping I would make it.
I tried to imagine our baby, soon to be renamed Lotus in my head. Was she walking? Did she have a temper? The information we had was eclectic and maddening. It said that when she got sick she got well quickly—but not what she had recovered from. It said she liked music—but not who sang it to her. It had the measurements of her anus—and I had some degree of pity for the poor worker who had to record that bit. All that info and I didn’t know her. What did she like to eat? What made her smile? Laugh? What made her fist her hands? Would she like us? Would I like her? Would I make it to the hotel to use a bathroom or would I embarrass myself before I met her?
We arrived at the hotel and I ran full-out to the Western toilets—in time! Afterwards, I walked to the ornate lobby of the hotel. The sun streamed in as I looked for Dave. I’d be lying if I said I remembered the expression on his face—all I saw was the little girl he was holding in his arms. She still didn’t have much hair. She was wearing a long sleeved striped shirt in 95-degree weather and, her face was very red. That might also have been because she was screaming her lungs out. She didn’t seem to be afraid, more pissed off. I ran to my husband and held my arms out for our baby.
He placed a screaming weight of about 20 pounds into my arms. I started jostling, hoping to comfort her, and she screamed louder. I opened my mouth to sing and every song I’d ever learned went out of my head. I would have been hard pressed to do the ABC song. I jostled more and her crying got even louder. I held her closer and she screamed right in my ear. Finally I heard myself singing:
“Oh stop your crying, it will be all right.
Just take my hand, hold it tight.
I will protect you from all around you.
I will be here, don’t you cry.”