1. I never felt like a super hero until I became an adoptive mom.
Every morning, or after a nap, my daughter Julia greets me with a reception formally bestowed on me by men when I sported a low-cut evening dress. The gift I give my daughter is consistency. And she gives it right back. What a lovely, lush circle our love forms.
2. The sound of Julia’s breathing is better than a Bach cello suite.
The sound of a baby issuing out the life beat, Julia’s deep sleep coos, oohhhs, and giggles ignites a fireball of emotion in the center of my chest. There’s a peacefulness to her soft chortle, a self-satisfaction, which, I believe, signifies that Julia knows she’s home. No small thing for an eight-month-old who has lived in six places during her brief time on earth.
3. A baby is a warm, wriggling, ball of life lessons.
The sound of my heartbeat never impressed me quite the same way as it did once I held my daughter. Our hearts synced up like a lyrical, throbbing, Muslim call to prayer, the kind I heard from across the hills of Addis Ababa, into our room in the guesthouse. A mystical, magical wonder that makes me believe, and ultimately know, all things are possible.
4. Sometimes, not having to share, can have a plus side.
Every book, pamphlet, website, social worker, therapist and psychologist I encountered during my more than three-year wait foretold the importance of bonding with my adoptive child. Not once, ever, did I believe being a single baby mama would make the act easier.
I watched in the guesthouse in Ethiopia as couples struggled to connect to their children—each parent in their own way. One 20 month-old cried every time her dad tried to feed her, bathe her, or soothe her. Every time.
Another mom, who adopted a boy little over four years of age, ached as her son solidly attached to her husband, and only her husband.
“It’s just that I’m use to being the mom, “Heather said, as we watched from the sidelines, while her husband played soccer with their new son in the sun-soaked courtyard of the guesthouse.
“You’re still the mom, “I said. It’s good that your son has bonded with your husband, more. After all, the boy lost his dad.”
Heather exhaled a long, hard breathe but said nothing.
Sure, my logic made sense. But it was still twenty miles of rough road when the first word that your son , the boy you’ve worked for three years to bring home, a child who only spoke Amharic, first words in English were, “Da-dd-ee.”
5. As the Arrested Development song goes, “Mama is always on stage.” (And that’s not a bad thing.)
From the single baby mama point of view, a lot of dust-ups between partners—single and married—center on who does what around the house. And for their baby bundle. Who changed the last diaper? Unloaded the dishwasher? Who was last to get out of the house without the baby in tow?
I can’t have that fight. I have no one to fight with. It’s all me. All the time. I won’t claim it’s easy, (or that I desire the life of a single baby mama all my life, after all there’s a reason why it takes two people to make a baby) but it’s not the challenge I feared. Maybe because I’ve done more than my share of traveling. And hanging out. Or, maybe because I find caring for Julia is a deeply peaceful, an almost meditative act. Most days. I’ve wanted this life for so long, now that I’m living it, I revel in it. It also helps to have a background in advertising, an industry that must have, I truly believe, invented the act of multitasking.
Secondly, the other source of fights among couples —from what I can tell, other than money—is how much time the baby spends with whose family. At the moment, Julia has one family, mine. So I don’t have a mother-in-law hovering over me, dolling out her childcare creeds whether I want them or not. Sure my mom churns out her share of unsolicited advice but she changed my diapers back in the day, before the invention Pampers, Huggies, and such, so she has home field advantage.
6. People look for ways to help a single baby mama.
Since Julia’s long awaited homecoming, friends have sent over food (an amazing Bolognese sauce, a delicious chicken potpie, bags of breakfast goodies and treats from Barney Greengrass: whitefish salad, nova, chicken soup with matzo balls, and enough bagels to feed an army or a single baby mama with adoptive Jewish roots fresh off a 17-hour flight from Ethiopia.)
Some friends have offered babysitting services, lovely, stylish sweaters, Magnolia Bakery deserts, even a hundred dollar gift card to buy myself a treat. Folks look for ways to help me. If you’re a married mama— at least from what I’ve seen and heard—friends assume you have help, from your husband, which may and may not be true.
7. The sound of silence is changed forever.
There is a special kind of peace, one with a rich, creamy center when Julia falls into a velveteen slumber —legs and arms tossed in their independent course— her grandmother naps near her play yard, on the sofa, her crossword puzzle book tented over her bosom, and the only sound that laces the air of the apartment is the click of computer keys compressed by my fingers; an emptiness that contains nothing and everything, a moment as lovely as a Bach cello suite.