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Through the Glass

by Leah Van Divner

My daughter didn’t arrive as an eight-month-old bundle of joy, lovingly handed over to me by a smiling adoption worker, nor did we witness her entrance into the world, after receiving a call that the birthmother was in labor. I’d chosen an arrival different from these scenarios, yet I was in no way prepared. Oh, her room was ready; I was on leave from work; drawers were full of clothes and shelves packed with toys. But it wasn’t until that moment, when I looked at her through the glass of the airport arrival gate, snuggled tightly in my husband’s arms, that I knew what all the preparation had been for.

And I was seven months pregnant.

"Are you still getting the girl?" people would ask, within minutes of learning that I was pregnant. Getting the girl? Did they think it was like ordering furniture? Did they think that, after flying halfway around the world to meet our daughter, a tiny, little…humongous thing like pregnancy would change our desire to adopt? When I informed the airport security officer that I was there to greet my newly adopted daughter, her gaze landed on my obviously pregnant belly, and I saw confusion and surprise wash across her face.

I hadn’t seen my daughter for nine months, since visiting her orphanage. A few months after that, another family from our agency had traveled to the same orphanage and agreed to take some photos for us. Propped up side by side on our table sat ultrasound shots of my soon-to-be-born son curled up inside me and photos of my soon-to-be-home daughter, in oversized, mismatched clothes, Bozo-the-clown shoes, and a wild haircut, sitting alone on a worn couch.

I watched passengers stream from the plane, then, finally, I saw their outline in the doorway. My husband was laden with shoulder bags and a five-year-old girl, the size of a skinny toddler half her age. Her skin was pale, her expression blank. She clung to his neck as he struggled to walk. One look at his face was all I needed to feel his utter exhaustion.

I moved closer to the wall of glass that separated the waiting area from the departure hallway and smiled at my husband—only half of his mouth managed to smile back, but his gratitude at being home shone in his eyes. Through the glass I could hear his muffled voice: "There’s mommy," he pointed at me. "There’s mommy," he said again, and she looked in my direction. I reached out and pressed my hand against the cool glass. Nothing in her eyes changed, but she reached out and placed her palm against mine on the other side. All I could think, with our hands pressed together through a thick pane of cold glass, was that, at that moment, she and I were nothing more than two strangers about to embark on a long, uncharted journey.

Just the other day, I watched my 11-year-old daughter play in the backyard, shiny, dark hair tumbling from her ponytail, her long legs dangling from the crossbar of a playset. When she saw me through the window, she ran toward the house, yelling, "Mom, wanna come out and play horseshoes?" Her six-year-old brother was not far behind. I placed my hand on the thin screen between us. She reached up and pushed her palm against mine. I could feel the warmth of her skin, see her eyes bright with anticipation. She smiled and wiggled her brows, enticing me to play. There’s mommy echoed softly in the back of my mind. There was nothing between us now but the love between a mother and child.

Leah Van Divner, a freelance writer, has just completed her first novel. She and her husband adopted their daughter, Sevi, almost six years ago, from Bulgaria.

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