Category: International Adpotion

Shot through the Heart

I thought after viewing the morning news at the dawn of last Wednesday my next post would focused around Steve Martin was becoming a first time Dad at the age of 67 and the second coming, so to speak, of Alex Baldwin’s fatherhood as he and his third wife await their new baby.

I though I would craft prose around the disparity between the treatment of over forty moms verses dads, how society gives older fathers nearly visible high fives, and few snickers behind their backs at their news of “a bun in the oven,” while many first time over 40 Moms, receive wide eye stares, and looks reserved for Hollywood alien spacecraft landing on suburban lawns. Two years ago, a Whole Foods cashier not once but twice, integrated me during the same transaction about my claim of motherhood to Julia.
“ You sure you’re not her grandma?” The girl with the Kool-Aid colored red hair and pink slacked lips, asked.

I thought I would write about the documentary I’d seen a few months back featuring an Indian woman who finally achieved motherhood, at the age of seventy year-old, through an egg donor program and a willing doctor.

I thought I’d write of her glowing pride, as she held her baby, while her wrinkled, brown-skinned husband nearly levitating off the floor. “Now we are no longer ashamed, now we have a child,” he said, the curse of childlessness had ended. I knew for sure I wanted to write about the broken pride I held for this Indian couple, half a world away.

Then I clicked on an email around, noon and I found out Julia did not get in my first choice school for her, St. Hilda’s.
Even before Julia came home, even before the miscarriage that led to the journey of adoption, riddled with stories of bribes and terrors, I braced myself for the private school process in New York City. Five years earlier a Wall Street executive, Jack Grubman was brought down, not by the Feds or a money mismanagement scandal, but from his attempt to bribe his way into an Upper East Side pre school.

Every nursery school ,that I know of, our home is private, requiring an application and “play date test.” So if I must pay, why not give Julia the best, what I considered the best, what I had seen as the best. For the past five years I’ve watched two extraordinary boys at my church grow into talented, smart young men before my eyes, through the efforts of their parents, and St. Hilda’s. I wanted St. Hilda’s before I wanted Julia.

But the email said “ We sincerely regret”

I had prayed. “that we were unable to offer your child”

I had affirmed. “a place in our school.”

I read the e-mail, and let out an audible gasp reserved for witnesses to a pedestrian mowed down by a drunk driver.

I haven’t felt this low since my adoption of Julia was almost annulled.


“You know, after everything you and Julia have been through the past three years, this is just a blip on the screen,” my brother Jeffery said. “ Sure, schools matter but the parents matters more.”
I stood staring at the sea of Manhattan traffic trying to figure out just when my baby brother had become so brilliant, so statesman like. Gandhi of Michigan.


I walked into my home Wednesday night, and before I removed my coat, I removed a bottle of wine from the sideboard.
“St. Hilda’s said no,” I told my nanny’s curious eyes, the answer to the why’s and what for’s of my actions, my opening and pouring a beaker of wine within minutes of entering the house was unseen in the year that she has worked for our family.

“But we had the second playdate!” she yelped.

“Yeah, that seemed a good sign.”


“I’m in shock, did they say why?” My mom asked.

“They never say why,” I explained. “It’s like a mob hit., two to the chest, one to the head. And adios.”


Julia’s not quite three years old; plenty of time for disappointments, more than enough time to learn life uses them as paving stones. This I know. But this was a new variety of a disappointment. Disappointments of mine, I can weather. Disappointments for my girl, my Julia, well, talk to me in a month.


“I’ll see what I can find out about other pre-schools,” Ronda offered, later that night.

“Sure,” I said, and took another gulp of wine. The Cabernet burned its way down my throat. This is not a wine consumption enjoyment moment. This was self-medication.
“A blip on the screen.” Really?


The next morning, remembered the date, February 14th. A shot to the heart and your to blame, your give love a bad name.

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.

A True Easter

Like the rings of a tree, where and how I’ve observed past Easters, has shaped the woman I am today. I spent my first eighteen Easter Sundays parked on a wooden pew in New Bethel Baptist Church as Rev. C.L. Franklin delivered his healing words of faith. Six of those years, from age four to ten, I rested in a sweaty relief after my Easter speech, a memorized ode, was successfully delivered before the two hundred-member congregation without the fatal flub that I’d feared for weeks.

Since the mid 1990s, as an adult,  I’ve celebrated the resurrection at Unity Church of New York City and as far away as The City of Lights. After being shipped out for a week-long, global marketing meeting for a Procter & Gamble product that—I’d learn in time—would never, ever see a commercial store shelf, Notre Dame served as my consolation prize.

I’ve had an illustrious buona Pascale among the beautiful, green grounds of a walled-home on the isle of Sardinia, my hair damp and curled from backstroking through the cool of Maurizio and Luisanna’s pool, the eye of a golden sun watching overhead. Later, that day I witnessed the arrival of Easter dinner to the communal table through a veil of tears. The view of the Melis’s lovely family—their daughters Marta and Alle, Maurizio’s brother, his wife and his baby daughter, and both Nonna’s, the grandmothers—sharing their al fresco family table with Tom and I, produced an overwhemlming, saturating love.  Later that afternoon, although the sky had clouded over, Tom’s eyes sunned over me—a man I deeply loved and was loved by. At the time.

The morning of Easter 2011 began at half past seven, with a bottle for Julia, a cappuccino for mom, followed by, around nine, a warm rice cereal laced with organic spinach, peas and pears, for baby. As I spooned the mixture into Julia’s bud of a mouth, before church service, she shared a broad, gummy smile with me, the variety that seemed to launch from her toes, gaining traction through her core until
it exploded across her cheeks, nearly extending to her ears.

Nothing new there.

Her grin waned, as grins do. Julia stared, directly, into my eyes, holding the connection for a long while, without blinking, long enough for me to begin weeping silent tears.

This connection— as frail as a flower, yet as strong as a thousand-year-old vine—produces new fruit, a fresh layer of lush love. I love differently because I am a different. On this day of rebirth comes a rich realization.

Then surprisingly, haltingly, Julia laughed. It wasn’t her typical, amused chuckle. Nor one of her, long strong string of giggles. The sound echoed in the air. The city still creaking to a Sunday start. Her laugh was more of an awe shucks guffaw that seemed to say to my ears, “I love you too you, silly mommy. Now feed me.”