Month: January 2010

Pass the Baby on the Left-Hand Side

My home answering machine blinked a bright, red “F,” it’s message tape full. My cell was burned-out. So was I. For a week now messages had come at me heavy and hard from every communication device I held.

Beep: “Hey I haven’ t heard from you, are you in Haiti? Getting a baby? Hope so. Call me back!” Click.

Brutal images on the broadcast news, websites, and newsfeeds, had smashed my brain and those of every other human being for nearly two weeks. Brown skinned women, men and children lacquered in dust and terror, the lucky ones, who’d been excavated from the rumble of a country that exists now mostly in name.  The children, orphaned, homeless, dirt-covered, tragedy stamped on their faces.

“Can’t you get one of those kids?” everyone wants to know.

In truth, I hadn’t asked the adoption agency in fear of giving them the appearance my commitment to Ethiopian had faded. Turns out, there was more to it I learned from a pal in my waiting group.

“ All those kids that we saw on the news, except for eight, were spoken for claimed my social worker.” Arlene spoke as if she stood before a wall in her Brooklyn home, considering punching her fist through it.  She sighed nto the phone. “And she said, people in those communities have been protesting those Haitian kids. With so many black kids in foster care, they think American kids should be given homes first. We didn’t see that on the news.”

Everyone has ideas on how adoption should work, kind of like skiing. Trying to balance on two sticks and not end up bumping your butt down an ice-covered mountain looks way easier when you’re sitting on the sidelines sipping a cup of hot chocolate.

Domestic adoption is everyone default setting, at first. Then the agency hits you with the news that you must make contact with the birth parents four times in the first year of the child’s life. Twice the second year. Send photos. Write letters.

That was all I needed to hear. I knew myself too well. I’d wind-up not just with a kid, but a whole family.

So the wait continues.

Images of helpless kids continue to pepper newscasts. Gripping footage served up with your morning cup of Joe. The average waiting time for a Haitian adoption, prior to the devastation, was four years and counting. Now, instead of becoming easier, it’ll become a knife in the heart of every waiting adoptive parent, single or not.

“ My social worker said the government doesn’t want to let the kids go, a whole generation…who’ll rebuilt the country?” Arlene said.
“ I read they’re ten-years away from any normalcy,” I said.
Arlene sighed. “ And she said the agencies are worried about baby’s being sold on the black market.”
“Truth is, we’d get a kid faster,” I said.
Arlene and I laughed, the kind overdone bellows people employed to fight-off tears.

New Year, New Name

I’ve been called a loving woman, an emotional chick, a crazy runner for donning my jogging gear in winter and trotting through Central Park, a fair poet, a passionate writer, an overtime thinker, a supportive sister and a daughter who has made her parents’ proud. But I’ve waited a lifetime to be called, mom.

Once I believed with my fingerprints taken and submitted, letters of recommendation from valued friends crafted, support group attendance made, every government I-you name-it-issued, and the home study submitted, the two year and half year wait for my daughter would soon come to an end. I’d head to Ethiopia and bring her home.

Well, it wouldn’t be my first miscalculation in life.

That shinny new thing I saw up the road turned out to be just another gleaming bus stop, a new place to rest and wait. And wait.

As an African American woman who came of age during the wild social ride of the 1970’s and 80’s, my parents’ instilled me with confidence. “You can achieve any goal,” they’d said. They never gave excuses in their lives and work. So, neither had I.

They never told me some challenges; some journeys would be easier with a partner or a sidekick. A ride or die guy.

The married couples I sit across from at the monthly waiting families meetings had faces coated with the same pain I saw in mine. But while I lie awake alone in bed, as nagging thoughts lit up my brain like evil fireflies, they had one another.

My sense of aloneness hadn’t just kept to the nights. It had the ability to rise up and cover me any and everywhere: standing on Manhattan’s the crowded streets, in jammed subway cars, even during a sumptuous meal at Babbo. The stillness took me down into a muted world, home to the silence of doubt and the silence of fear. The two silences hadn’t produced the same sensation but often yield the same result: a crushing, debilitating sadness.

But once I skimmed the bottom of the sea, churning up plankton and weeds, I realized an adoptive single mom in process had much in common with a long distance swimmer. I had to work my way to the surface, keep my head down, and reconnect to the energy required to reach dry land, with single steady stokes.

This blog is dedicated to every single baby mama-to-be, treading in the deep water, alone, waiting to finally be called by the name, mom.