Maya, age five, hands me an anniversary gift along with a question. Her family has joined me and my husband, Larry, for dinner. She places a candle in my palm and looks up at me.
“Darci, did all of your children die?”
I swallow hard and look at Maya’s father for help. He is busy feeding her baby brother. Her mother is talking to Larry.
“Did they?” she asks again.
“No Maya. I haven’t had children yet.”
She looks at me, confused, and twirls a noodle into her mouth.
“But Larry and I are going to adopt a baby from China.”
Her face lights up. “Is Larry Chinese?”
When I was ten years old, I read The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck and fantasized about adopting a baby from China. One night, I snuck into my mom’s makeup and extended my eyes with thick black eyeliner. I sleeked back my curls with Dippity-do, slid into one of her dresses, tiptoed outside, and rang the doorbell. When my mom opened the door, she was greeted by my cry, “I want my daughter!”
In seven or eight months, Larry and I will receive a referral of our daughter from China. We will be given her name, picture, medical records, and any other information on her from the orphanage. We will not know who her birth parents are or why they chose not to raise her. We are told that China's one child per family rule creates a preference for sons. We are also told that my infertility is due to my DES exposure. But in truth, we will never know the exact reason we were brought together with our daughter.
“A true conception” is what my friend Liz calls it. She adopted her daughter, Hana, from China in 1995 and has become my guidance counselor during this process. “Get five original copies of everything.” she advised, as we began to gather our required documents. Within a few months, our ability to parent was scrutinized by state and federal bureaucrats and our life was divided into folders marked “Fingerprints”, “Finances”, “Medical History”, “Addresses since 1975/Sexual Abuse Clearance.” I wonder if all people wanting children should be required to do this.
But this pregnancy defies the norm. This pregnancy will never show itself to the outside world, but inside there is a swelling of anticipation. Even my husband can feel her kick. One night, he lay awake in bed. “We should send a prayer to her parents,” he said. “Maybe she was just conceived.” Each night since, as I shut my eyes in prayer, I picture her tiny body with wonder. What will her fingers look like? And her legs? Will they be long or short? Does she lie curled in a womb or in an orphanage bed? Night after night, these questions divide and multiply, growing large in my head. Is she hungry? Is she held? How often? By whom? Does she long for me as I do for her? “Faith,” Larry whispers. “We must have faith.”
Faith implants itself within me and begins to gestate. I know that anytime a child is brought into this world, there are no guarantees. But there are gynecological visits, amniocentesis tests, and prenatal vitamins that help ensure a healthy delivery. Our daughter’s delivery will have its own safety measures provided by our adoption agency and government authorities in both the United States and China. But ultimately, who she is and when she is delivered is in the hands of foreign officials whom we will never meet. They will read our numerous documents and select our child accordingly. How they know which baby goes with which parent is an equation that I cannot fathom, for this conception goes beyond reason. This conception stems from a yearning and a desire to love that transcends my mind and overtakes my heart.
The day our documents receive their final blessings before being sent to China, I can hardly control myself. “I’m going to be a mother.” The words jump out of my mouth and land on any ear that is in close proximity, like those of the lady behind the copy machine, the notary, and the police officer who processes my record. Complete strangers have become midwives in the birth of my child. When they slap the bottom of our documents with their seals and stamps, I can hear her cry.
Excerpted from CARRIED IN OUR HEARTS: The Gift of Adoption; Inspiring Stories of Families Created Across Continents by Dr. Jane Aronson with the permission of Tarcher/Penguin. Copyright Jane Aronson 2013. First trade paperback edition 2014.