It all started 10 years ago….

Just about this time of year, ten years ago, baby B was put in my arms.

Three weeks before, my mother had died suddenly in London, and during her memorial service, the planes hit the twin towers in New York. The adoption agency was calling to tell me that my baby, so long sought for, was ready and waiting for me. As much as I tried not to link the two events – a death and a “birth” of sorts – it became clear that we could not go back to the US, so we went the rest of the way around the world to bring her home.

In adoption circles, this day is sometimes called a “gotcha” day. I got her, caught her right up in my arms. She had, and still has, beautiful luminous eyes and a happy smile for all. She practiced standing by bouncing off my knee, while I, tearful, tried to understand instructions about formula preparation and sleeping schedules.

That’s how I became a mom  and at the same time lost my mom. It was a mind-blowing time, obviously, for everyone. But my world got very focused very fast. It became all about learning to deal with sleep deprivation (my charming girl did not sleep worth a darn),  handling upset tummies (the cure was to bounce her strongly along my forearm which terrified me), and getting used to having a permanent appendage. She was very unhappy whenever I left her, even for something like a shower, and like any new mother, when she cried, my gut turned to acid and I cried too.

In that weepy, exhausted atmosphere infused with personal and national grief, I began to understand that parenthood, something that everyone can warn you about but no one can prepare you for, was a ride that I couldn’t get off, not for a minute, not for 20 years.

I had never been that committed to anything or anyone, not even myself, if I’m honest. And little B needed the whole enchilada from me. I sank into the commitment aspect of parenthood like it was one-part bubble bath, one-part boiling oil. My head was reeling from din of the new, endless, mental soundtrack that was always saying “Where’s my baby? How’s she doing? Is she ok? Is EVERYTHING ok?!”

Ten years later and the soundtrack is fainter. The girls are generally ok, and they can talk to me more, which helps me know whether everything is ok. And my overwhelming sense of responsibility – how it was all UP TO ME to make their whole lives perfect, has been buoyed by enough successes to help me relax. And honestly, my parenting has also been battered by enough failures to learn there’s only so much I can do, no matter how I feel about it. They’re alive. They’re growing. They say thank you occasionally. That’s pretty good.

Formula, onesies, booties strewn across the floor, being whacked in the face all night long, vomit on planes, operatic concerts from the rear-facing car seat; mud, bubbles, and paint; the trauma of leaving her at pre-school. Suddenly, she’s standing on the verge of teeny-bopperhood.

I carried B in a front carrier with her facing me for as long as I could to build a strong elemental connection. And during the first months, she was charming but bemused as she adapted to her new home. During a mountain walk several months into our new partnership, we paused in bright sun. She looked up at me and grinned, her wonderful eyes, beautifully illuminated beaming right into me. It was then I felt we were really finally here together. And we still are.

Gotcha baby.

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8 Responses to It all started 10 years ago….

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I often wonder what it’s like for an adopted family and how the bonding takes place. When you become a mom through pregnancy, you bond for 9 months and by the time they are born you already feel like you know them. The story is enchanting and photos beautiful.

    • growingmygirls says:

      Sandy, now having done both things, I can tell you that they are different but lead to the same end — adoption happens in your mind, daydreaming, planning, wishing, and pregnancy happens more in your body, although there’s plenty of daydreaming and planning. But I think the maternal body kicks in the minute that baby is sitting in your arms, hormones, pheromones, everything, the minute you know that YOU are the mom. Both wonderful, I feel very lucky

  2. laurie says:

    oh my cynthia, this is lovely – and powerful, so rich with so many emotions. love it.

    • growingmygirls says:

      Thanks so much Laurie! That was such a powerful time and I’m glad you were there to share it with me. I haven’t forgotten the Chicken Marengo you brought me once we got home!

  3. Christine says:

    Awesome
    What a lovely blog!

    • growingmygirls says:

      Thanks Christine! It was awesome — part of a couple of years when life completely turned itself in another direction — thank goodness! Would love to hear your baby stories one day…

  4. Talie says:

    You span three generations on the page, and link all of us to your intimate maternal world with all the *write* words. This ten year anniversary of 9.11 was big for you in ways I never knew. Thanks for sharing the puzzle pieces, photos, and commentary. Just wonderful to read!

    • growingmygirls says:

      Thanks so much Tal. It was intense to have those three generations so active at the time, and then to have my mom miss the next stage. It took a lot of adjustment.

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