"Fear Not!"

Throwing myself down a zipline in the Caribbean was scary. But not as scary as deciding to adopt as a single mother.

Being a single mother can be scary, but this mother overcame her fears

Last summer, Eleni and I traveled to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. We had been invited on a trip to sample the pristine beauty of the island and embark on some outdoor adventures. On the first day, our group piled into an open-air Jeep, which proceeded to wind up mountainous roads, then careen past banana, mango, and cacao trees. The next day, we ziplined through the rainforest, wearing only a harness and helmet for protection. We soared along cables suspended high above treetops and gullies. Another day, we sailed out into the Caribbean, diving into deep, crystal-clear waters.

Each morning, I woke up to a brilliant sun — and did my best to steel my nerves for the day’s adventures. While Eleni and the other kids stood fearlessly in the front of the Jeep and waved to passersby, flew through the rainforest like Tarzan, or swam like dolphins in the water, I gingerly approached each activity and had to talk myself through my fears. When our Jeep turned sharply through the mountains, I took deep breaths and told myself to hang on. As I glided past palm trees in the rainforest, I tried to commend myself for being brave. (It helped when Eleni said, “Wow, Mom! You did it!”) And when I climbed back up on our sailboat, after communing with blue-striped fish and coral reefs (and seriously thinking I would drown), I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing I was safe and sound.

I sometimes felt queasy, before or after our adventures. But because I was with a group, I pushed past my fears, so as not to embarrass myself or Eleni.

I also thought back to the time, years ago, when I sought to adopt a baby on my own. At each stage of the process — from choosing an agency to boarding a plane to China — I was petrified. In fact, minutes before we received our babies, in a registrar’s office in Changsha, I half-jokingly asked our facilitator, “Has anyone ever changed her mind at the last minute?”

But during those 18 months, as I rode an emotional roller-coaster, I never seriously thought once about abandoning my plan for adoption. In the evenings, before falling asleep, I would see the face of a little girl, halfway around the world, who needed me. When I was frozen with fear — about finances, the future, or my abilities to parent single-handedly — I would say to myself, “You can be scared and turn back, or you can move forward and become a mother.” The road to China won out every time.

One morning, when Eleni was two, we were playing in the park, when a group of parents I knew began asking about Eleni’s adoption. They remarked how brave I was to have become a single mother. By that time, Eleni and I had been home for awhile, and my initial fears had long ago slipped away. (I was also too exhausted and busy to feel “brave.”) So I laughed and said, “Being a single mother isn’t that hard. You just get up in the morning, and do it.”

I had a similar feeling in St. Lucia, as I stood on a platform, 50 feet high, looking out at a stretch of treetops before me. I knew there was no turning back, so I let go, had faith, and enjoyed the ride.


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