Month: June 2011

David Copperfield Goes to Hell

As the wait to bring home a child from Ethiopia became more and more elastic, stretching from six to nine months, to twelve, then eighteen, and finally reaching a whooping twenty-four months (two years for those of you who do not measure time in thirty day increments like waiting parents-to-be, and prisoners held in solitary confinement) the adoption agency, at one of those month juncture’s, suggested I move my application to their newly formed program in The Congo.

The pluses were numerous: the wait far shorter. The fee quite smaller. The children just as needy, just as brown-skinned, and almond-eyed as me.

A few days later, over drinks with my good friend Beryl, under a veil of tears weighing me down I listened as my  news producer pal—way more plugged into the world and its woes than a heartsick writer who’d give just about anything to finally, at last, become a mother— spoke flatly over her glass of chilled Pinot Gris.

“The Congo is different than Ethiopia. The children are orphans not because of famine, not AIDS, but war. And that makes them very different.”

Now a year and a half later, I am so grateful that I listened to her with my mind, not my heart.

Please click on the link below and read the heartbreaking tale of orphans in The Congo from The New York Times courtesy of Nicholas Kristof’s blog featuring Amy Ernst.

Notes From a Young American in Congo:

Orphans on the Edge

The Slippery Slide of the Sippy Cup

The text arrived in the middle of my work day. An innocent click, and it launched. And, in second. A sea of woe and excitement rose from my heart.  The  image was clear. Julia, lying on her back, drinking from a cup, a lime green sippy cup. And just like that, she’s growing up. (Just this morning she ripped the long, rectangular, wooden, hand-painted plaque of colorful, folksy Ethiopia angels from her bedroom wall, hung within reach of her tiny arm’s because of Julia’s new big girl bed.) Well, bigger girl bed. And now the sippy cup had landed.

The Sippy Cup has Landed

It’s official I thought studying the image, she’s leaving babyhood.

Sure ,I realize of the few jobs babies have other than eating and pooping, growing is an 24/7, dedicated proposition. But as a single baby mama, there a slight, bitter coating of sadness over such highlights, the updates that come from your nanny regarding your child, your very own natural wonder.

I wanted to believe that my role as Julia’s mom was to serve as top guide, the chef introducer of all things new. Yet, as a new world voyager, like Columbus, I didn’t always arrive where I’d planned, on my schedule. As a single-baby-mama-wage earner I give and get all the glory, and all the responsibly. And as much as I would like to believe I am the Mistress of the Universe, the universe does not work on my schedule. And neither, it seems, does my daughter’s developmental progress, which often first appears, outside the office hours of 10 to 6, Saturdays and Sundays.

Happy Birthday to Miss J.

Sunday was Julia’s first birthday. We didn’t spend the day the way some would have, with colorful streamers, bright balloons, a fluffy frosted cake and cheering friends. Well, we did met with friends, the Fabulous Bozoma and the Lady L. The adults held chilled flutes of champers and had a small toast to Julia’s birth then enjoyed a long, leisurely afternoon catch-up chat over some baked branzino prepared Senegalese style, with fried plantains and onions, that we’d ordered in. Julia dined on organic peas and turkey, the Lady Lael, a bit of rice and fish. After the meal and playtime as Bozoma’s daughter headed to a nap into the late afternoon, Julia and I headed for home.

As the baby and I made our way south, we passed the new buildings and old, kids on bikes, forty something men in Spandex working Rollerblades. We crossed at the new French style round about at 110th Street, with the green light, and strolled from east to west, into the Central Park. And as the murky, green water of the Harlem Mere, its broad-football-bodied geese, the summer children, running, playing, skipping, came into view, slowly, I remembered.

How long had it been? Six, seven, eight years ago? I wandering through this ground, clawing my way toward home, so lost, so alone after finding out that I hadn’t ovulated, that the month was a bust, that I couldn’t try to conceive. That day I fled the fertility doctor’s office on east 90th Street, trailing a back wash of misery, so despondent, so crushed by grief and regret. How amazing to know, years later, I stood on same ground born a new. Just another mother and child.

In the evening  as I prepared Julia for bed, removing her purple sundress, I studied her naval, a small star burst of skin sitting within the curve of her belly. Her first portal of connection. Small words of thanks started up in my brain, a spontaneous jester, like, I believe a curtsy would come to a commoner before the Queen Mom. I  thanked the woman who’d given birth to my daughter. The woman who had more courage than I could ever gather. The woman who let Julia go. What was this day like for her? Did she sit with a friend and silently, solemnly, slipping into grief? Did something deep down in her fill up, over flow and crack under the weight of memory and loss.

As I lowered Julia into the soft, cotton candy pink sheets of her bed, I knew why I’d spent Sunday, as I had, why I didn’t want to a big party, a big to-do, to whoop things up for my daughter’s first birthday. For all that I have gained, a couple, somewhere on the other side of the world, has lost more.  I thought of what they’d given away with open arms, a wide open, reinforced heart. They set their tiny daughter on the waters of faith and believed someone would be on the other side to bring her ashore.

I am eternally grateful.