At a recent farmers’ market, I ran into someone I hadn’t seen for years. We were never actual friends, just acquaintances — but I did once visit her at her home to talk about her experience in adopting her daughter. My husband and I were considering adoption but we had no idea where to start; we were still in the discussion stage when we found out that I was pregnant with our now seven-year-old daughter, and the adoption idea was shelved.
When I saw my acquaintance this time, I was carrying the new addition to our family, my ten-month-old son. I remarked to her that we had come full circle, back to adoption, almost ten years after I’d sat down with her. She smiled and said how happy she was for us. I asked about her adopted daughter, and also her other, biological child, and she said they were well. Then she said, “It’s just the same, isn’t it? You love them just the same.”
It struck me, momentarily, as an odd comment to make in casual conversation. But, actually, I applaud her for answering the question that must be considered by most pre-adoptive parents who already have a biological child: Will I love the adopted child as much as the one who is my flesh and blood?
Adoption is a leap of faith in so many ways; you must simply believe that there is a child out there in the world who is meant to be yours, and you must continue to believe that even after (in our case) your first birth mother goes MIA two weeks before her due date, as your suitcase is packed with newborn diapers and pink layette sets for the trip south. For months, there was a baby growing in a woman’s belly and it was to be our baby — we had clothing for her; and her own room, in our home; and a big sister who asked about her every day; and a name, Louisa. We could barely wait for her arrival.
Then, suddenly, the baby was gone. And as much as I completely respect the right of every birth mother to change her mind, I just wish she had been able to say the words: “I changed my mind,” or, “I can’t do this.” It was the disappearing that got me. Of course, she had no idea that my mother would die just days later, nor did she know that this idea of the “circle of life” was my life jacket during the weeks leading up to my mother’s death.
And that was only the beginning of the drama as we started all over again with a new birth mother. After more months of waiting and phone calls and a trip to Cincinnati for a lunch meeting with our birth mother, she was finally in labor — at the exact same time that our moving truck arrived at our house in Amesbury. I quickly said goodbye to my husband and daughter, who would have to spend the first weeks in our new house in Newburyport without me. My neighbor drove me to the bus station in Newburyport so I could get to Logan for a flight. I cried the whole way — it was too chaotic and I felt like I was leaving my husband and daughter when they needed me most.
Then, as I sat waiting for the bus to the airport, I got the call that the labor had been very quick and the baby was already born. The baby was healthy, but the lawyer in Cincinnati said that there was some unexpected news. No one wants to hear those words in relation to a newborn baby. The news in this case was that our baby, Georgia, whose clothing was folded neatly in the suitcase next to me and whose big sister could not wait to meet her, was a boy.
I know that it shouldn’t matter at all, and that what we all really wish for is a healthy and happy child. But on that moving day, when we’d been packing for weeks and dealing with buying and selling houses, and I was exhausted already and stressed beyond belief and just beginning to really grieve for my mother, it did matter. I am a list-maker, a planner, and I was sick and tired of my plans all falling through — and besides, I didn’t know anything about boys! I flew to Cincinnati in a bad state of mind, feeling like I was still taking a leap, but without the faith. Doubt took over: was this really our baby?
The plane landed. I hopped in a rental car and nervously followed directions to an unfamiliar hospital, where a social worker met me in the lobby and escorted me to the maternity ward. And that’s when I first saw him. It’s the only time in married life when you are allowed to fall in love with another (tiny) man, which is what I did with my son, in the hospital and then in the hotel we stayed in for ten days, waiting to get the green light to come home. And once we got home and we were a family again it became immediately apparent how absolutely, awesomely lucky we were, and are, to have this amazing, joyful soul in our lives. We’ve never looked back.
So, when my acquaintance made the comment about how “You love them just the same,” I immediately replied, “Yes! Yes, you do.” Because I know exactly what she meant — that we love them just as much, and did from Day One. But I’m not sure it is the same. We plan to be very open with our son about his adoption; someday not too far down the road, I can hear myself telling my kids the story of how “You (my daughter) grew inside my belly for months and months and I could feel you kicking every day and I couldn’t wait to meet you! And you, my little man? We searched all over the land to find the baby that was meant to be with us and when I met you when you were just a few hours old, I knew for sure that it was you.”