“Let’s not stack all the gifts in one place,” I’m saying to my daughters. “I don’t want it to look like we went overboard.”
Stuffed toy rooster, farm-themed bowl and plate and cup, plus baby riding outfit featuring actual jodhpurs. It’s a theme. It’s a farm theme, because we live on a farm, and our friends, Robin and David and baby Amelia, are coming to visit, and maybe we can dress the baby in the riding outfit and hold her next to our pony for a picture.
My girls are drawing pictures, envisioning Amelia as a stubby creature with vast cheeks and curly locks. “Welcome to America!” Anna writes on one picture. She’s taping the pictures to the front door. “Am I going overboard?” she asks.
I tell her, no, of course not. When it comes to welcoming a new baby, you can’t go overboard.
And when it comes to welcoming a baby through adoption, well, look out. It’s my thing. Woe is the person who even hints at a desire to adopt. Ker-pow! I’ll hit her with my love story, insist it will be the best thing she ever does with her life, and soon enough I’m passing along phone numbers of adoption agencies, and, yes, I happen to have an extra immigration form if you’d like to get started right here, right now, today. Robin and David never needed my convincing, but they were kind enough to let me participate with celebrations of each paperwork milestone.
“I just don’t know how I’ll make it through this wait,” Robin said to me on the phone one day. She asked if she and David could come visit us for a weekend.
That was a year ago. Robin had a notebook full of questions. Most centered on the one so many prospective adoptive parents face: bonding. Somehow, you get all twisted up in the thought that, just because the kid didn’t grow inside of you, you won’t connect. Or the baby won’t bond with you. Robin had been reading a lot, and she decided that she and David would forbid anyone else to hold the baby until she knew the bonding process was complete.
“How will you know it’s complete?” I asked.
“Well, I have no idea,” she said. “How did you know?”
I told her that with Anna, I felt connected the moment I touched her, and with Sasha the process may have been a millisecond shorter, or longer. I couldn’t remember exactly. “It’s your baby. You’re the mom,” I said. “You bond.”
Then my husband, Alex, piped in with the embarrassing story of what he blurted out on the bus shortly after we got Anna. We were with eight other newly created families. “So,” Alex yelled. “Does everyone think they got the best one?” It was so crass and so true, and we all fell into uncomfortable laughter.
There we were, adoring our babies — feeling a bit sorry for others who were not blessed with the privilege of parenting this most amazing creature to ever grace the planet — and it turned out everyone else was likewise entranced. “You’ll see,” Alex said. “You’ll see.”
So here we are, and now, finally, they are pulling up our driveway. “They’re here!” I shout to Alex. I’m so excited, I might explode. I hope it’s all happened for them the way it happened for us, so instantly, so profoundly, so mysteriously: a family.
They’re walking up the path. Robin is carrying Amelia. I’m on the porch going up and down on my tiptoes. Amelia has apple cheeks and a crazy ponytail on top of her head. Robin sees my eyes welling up, or maybe I see hers. We are about to lose it, and I am wishing someone would make a joke. I open my arms for a hug, and Robin loses it first. “The best one,” she says. “Oh my God, we got the best one.”