Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Big Adoption Series - Chapter 6


We were a family of three. Our days were no longer ours for the wasting. This notion jolted us somewhere around day three or four, as I'm sure it does to every first-time parent. The only difference in this case is that our guy was nearly 5 months old. He was learning to adapt to a brand new time zone, he wanted to crawl, he was obsessed with his pacifier, he had better things to do than sleep. Unless we were trying to give him a bottle, then we struggled to keep him awake. He was in an unfamiliar world with people who looked different from anyone he had ever seen. The smells were different, the sounds were different. It was all new. He had a lot to figure out.

I wish I could tell you - really tell you - what those early days were like. The truth is, I don't really remember them. And I was too exhausted to write any of it down.

One of my top priorities was to teach Mr. Lee to sleep through the night. Sleep is a big deal with me and the Mister, and it was about to become a big deal to Calvin, too, like it or not. So, I read a book and I carried it around like it was my job in life. And really? It was. I dog-eared and highlighted and I had my experienced sister-in-law on speed dial. Little by little, our guy started to sleep. It happened more quickly and easily than we expected, though he was and is still prone to bouts of middle-of-the-night mayhem. The lightness of his sleep is exceeded only by my own, so between the two of us, we were often at the fringes of bleary-eyed existence.

But the daylight hours, those were the ones that stretched out of my reach and back around again. They went from roughly here to approximately eternity. I just wasn't sure how to go about filling that big pot of time with a baby who was on the go, but didn't really know me, but really seemed to like me, but couldn't exactly communicate with me.

So, I did the only thing I knew how to do. I talked to him - all the time. As if he understood every word I said. I sang to him, aglow in the knowledge that he found my squirrely alto altogether pleasant. I read stacks of books to him. I called him every nonsensical name I could possibly piece together. I changed all of his diapers upstairs on his changing table, just for the change of scenery. We took stroller walks. We got groceries.

In no time flat, he was me and I was him and when Daddy walked through the door at the end of the day, we all smiled a little bigger (and sometimes, yes, I handed a cranky Calvey right over and scavenged a moment of peace for myself, gnawing that little bone clean).

I don't remember if I thought it was hard. No wait, I do remember. I thought it was kind of hard.

I didn't know when to shower and my voice got tired on account of all the talking to myself. What I can say now, in blessed hindsight, is that it really wasn't that hard. Calvin was a mostly-easy baby and attached so quickly to us that we never truly imagined a different possible outcome. He was stitched seamlessly into our life. Our days were redundant and sometimes bland, but they were straight and even, the needle passing through one side with the moon and then rising through the other with the sun. In and out. Days into weeks into months.

Something I was not prepared for was the hovering presence of well-meaning strangers, at every turn. On most days, I happily obliged their questions. On other days I grew weary of being asked if he was Chinese. On all days, I was proud to be his Mommy. I wondered though, Does every mama get this kind of attention? That's a question I still can't answer, since I have no frame of reference. Suffice it to say that back then and even more so today, we don't ever show up unnoticed.

Along with the inquiring minds came a host of questions, many of which were down-right ridiculous.

A friend of ours, a very successful, intelligent guy, asked us early on if we intended to tell Calvin that he was adopted.

Um, yes.


More people than we could count asked us if he spoke English.

No, he speaks gibberish. He's five months old.


Some asked if he would know karate.

One, before his arrival, asked, "will he be black?"

All I can tell you is, I felt like the luckiest Mama in the world, toting my happy, no-necked baby to and fro. He was mine. He was so mine that I forgot that we looked different.

We kept right on singing our way through those next months. In October I sang about apples and leaves, in November we talked turkey, in December I reacquainted myself with every Christmas carol I had ever known. We sang in the car, we sang as a diversion to strained peas and squash. And always, always we sang Twinkle Twinkle, since this tune was our only common ground in the earliest days.

Sometime near the first of the year, Cory's Grandma Big Joyce (that's right) mentioned that a friend of the family had a co-worker who was pregnant and might be interested in placing her baby for adoption. I laughed and the words escaped before I had really even formed them. "Of course we would be interested!" And then I laughed again, because it was all so absurd. Of course we wouldn't be adopting again so soon. My heart didn't even skip a beat at the thought. It was just silliness, that's all. These things never pan out so easily, in real life.

A few short weeks later, sitting on the worn Berber carpet in front of the ancient TV, corralling the day's toys into their appropriate corner, the sky dark outside the window, the phone rang.

"My daughter is pregnant and we heard you might be interested in adopting the baby."

My heart skipped one beat, two beats, ten.

"Would you be willing to meet and talk with us in person?"

And just like that, every hesitation we had about domestic, open adoption melted down and slid out through the tiny crack in the dark, the very same crack that blazed bright and warm. The light was coming in. This story was not our own. It had never been.


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Join me here next Wednesday* for Big Adoption Series - Chapter 7

(To catch up on Chapters 1-4, click here and start from the bottom.)

*Yes, I am officially switching to Wednesday for the duration of the series! Also? Thanks for being patient with me today.