“I have to buy this for her.”
I held out the picture book for my husband, James, to see. We were finishing a visit to my alma mater with a browse through the campus bookstore.
James nodded enthusiastically. “Let’s buy her some socks, too, maybe in a toddler size, in case she’s a little older when she comes home.”
But we didn’t buy socks that day because, while searching for just the right ones, I recovered the restraint I had abandoned a few minutes earlier. For 17 months, since we submitted our dossier, I’ve attempted to limit baby-related purchases and excitement. Among the bookstore’s racks, I remembered, once again, that our referral was still close to a year away. We did buy the picture book, though — everyone’s allowed to slip once in a while, right?
Once our paperwork was complete, I let myself start window shopping for nursery supplies, so we’d be prepared for the day our daughter comes home — or, at least, the day we get our referral. At some point, I began referring to the crib I like as “her crib,” the stroller as “her stroller.” And then, one day, I bought a hat “for her.” I bought a Christmas ornament “for her.”
I scolded myself each time: “Don’t go overboard, Laura.” As the wait time for China adoptions continues to grow, James and I struggle to keep our anticipation at arm’s length. Yet as the months keep passing, and I keep slipping, I’ve realized that I need those moments. Each time, I revel in thinking and acting, for a little while, like a parent. Like overlooks along a mountain trail, they refresh me and offer glimpses of the marvel ahead.
Little by little, without my noticing, the child of my intention and imagination wriggled into my life and became an entity in her own right. She was first “a baby” and then “the baby,” the abstraction I worked for through the adoption research and paperwork processes. But with time, even though her face remains blurred, she has evolved into “my baby.”
These days, my imaginings blend into my life as seamlessly as the acts of brushing my teeth or reading my mail. Some days, when I walk into my bedroom, I imagine her sleeping in the room next door. At the grocery store, I sometimes picture my baby sitting in the cart, grabbing at items on the shelves. And when I write, I can almost see her toddling on a mat beside me, stacking the red and yellow alphabet blocks that James bought for her.
I never let the fantasies go on for too long, but, each time, I experience the bliss of feeling like a parent. I’m astounded by how much my baby already means to me.
The picture book I bought at my college’s bookstore currently waits alongside the hat, ornament, stuffed animals, and other baby-related purchases I’ve made when I’ve slipped over the last 17 months. No doubt, the sought-after socks, along with the crib, the stroller, and a host of other items, will eventually join them. And some day — maybe this summer? — our referral will arrive. In the meantime, I’ll keep looking ahead to the wait’s end, imagining my baby today while anticipating a very real tomorrow.