Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What child is this...?

A cousin of mine, through marriage, is in China with her husband where they have just adopted a daughter. Reading her blog brings back so vividly our experience, fourteen years ago almost exactly, adopting our oldest girls. We had been through the misery of infertility, surgery to remove scar tissue, two pregnancies, and two miscarriages. One of the few things I've always known clearly about myself was that I wanted to have kids, and after going through all that, i was a basket case. After the second miscarriage, my husband - who is the sweetest, truest, and most patient of men - took things in his own hands and announced, "We're going to adopt." I know he wanted to be a father, but at that point what I think he really wanted was a his wife back instead of the pitiful creature who wept every day and could only go to the grocery store after 10 pm, when all the babies were safely in bed (so as to avoid more and public weeping).

We tried, first, to adopt from China, because I was born in Taiwan. But the bizarre, internecine world of international adoption made that impossible. Then, on a fluke, we tried an agency that had been working in Cambodia (where I had also lived). They were no longer working there, but were working in Vietnam. Two months later, we were on our way to meet our daughters.

I have to say that it is one of the weirdest feelings in the world, knowing there is a kid out there in the world that is your kid - that is being held for you, like a priceless artwork put away for you on a K-mart shelf - but that you haven't seen, touched, held yet. Pregnancy is a whole different thing; the baby is separate in ways, but also so directly part of you - eating your food, sapping your energy, making you waddle like a manatee on stilts at the end. But with adoption it's tenuous, theoretical, mystical. Yet every atom of your being is vibrating toward that little mysterious baby that you might, someday if you're lucky, hold in your arms. And if she's in an orphanage in the third world, as our girls were, there is the agony of knowing that a host of things - cholera, malaria, hepatitis, dengue fever, and untreated infection - could kill her at any time.

I'll post, some other time, about the joys of finally holding them, of our wild parental ineptness those first nights we had them, and of being terrified that they'd be snatched away from us, I'd lose my babies again, until the moment our plane lifted off the runway in Vietnam. But today, what I'm feeling most, is the unfathomable mystery, and though I'm a pretty earth-bound person, mysticism of it. Fourteen and a half years ago, a woman in rural Vietnam gave birth to twin girls. I wonder if any part of me knew, that day, that moment, that my daughters had just been born? Or was I just dragging my sorry ass through another sad day beating my head against the brick walls of pregnancy, and of adopting from China? Then, amazingly, the barriers evaporated, as if the universe had just been waiting for us to finally blunder onto the right path. A few months later we were parents.

My mother and I took the twins to the mall today. Thing 1 had to buy a Christmas present for her boyfriend. Thing 2 was sick of everyone copying the clothes that she and her sister wear. Grandma was buying and the girl was eager to blaze a new fashion trail, shake off those imitators. They're gorgeous, elegant young women who observe the world sharply and critically behind a quiet reserve. They are bright, artistically gifted, make good grades, and are popular. ' Why, thank you, yes, they are great kids. They take after my husband,' I tell people. Because they're our kids and I don't think about the fact that there was once a time when they existed in the world and I didn't know it. Or a time when they were orphanage babies with scabby infected cradle cap all over their shaved heads and eczema all over their faces. that when we flew home the American stewardesses looked at us with pity because the girls were so unpromising. That somewhere in the world, there is a woman who carried them in her, gave birth to them, made the wrenching decision to leave them behind in the hospital.

So reading my cousin's blog brings it all back and bowls me right over. This strange story, with its many twists and sad turns, that ended, at last, with the only possible, imaginable, right ending when I took them in my arms and held them, finally, against that place in my heart that only they could fit and fill.


Willym said...

Elizabeth - I am doing a bit of crying today over a few things - this post made my tears those of joy for the wonderful discovery you and your guy made 14 years ago. Thank you and love to all

Will and Laurent

Elizabeth said...

I'm crying with and for you, my dears, knowing that now there will always be an empty place in your hearts where he was and which can now be filled with only your love and memories of your darling pup.

more cowbell said...

Thanks for sharing this, Elizabeth.

sageweb said...

That was really nice. What a wonderful thing.

Elizabeth said...

As ever, my pleasure, Cowbell.

Elizabeth said...

Sageweb: Thanks. They're such great kids, and I'm so lucky they're mine. it's good for me to remember, once in a while, the strange, uncertain path that tooke me to them.