An adopted child is destiny’s gift, with all its joys and complications, writes this mother.
I HAVE no photos of my daughter’s first months of life, no tasteful black and white images taken by an expensive professional of tiny toes and downy head. There was no delivery room drama, capped by the triumphant delivery of a healthy, bawling baby with which to regale dinner guests with. When you adopt a child, rituals of memory are, by necessity, different.
My daughter’s first weeks with us were spent in the Intensive Care Unit of a nearby hospital. We found ourselves researching the best strollers and infant bottles to buy, alongside reading about neonatal complications. She was what is termed a high-risk baby. It’s a phrase we only learnt after we adopted her, which is not to say that we were blindsided by her situation.
We knew what we needed to know just by looking at her. She was tiny, with wrinkled skin over fragile bones. She had no eyebrows or eyelashes, yet came with a full head of glossy, black hair. Her toenails were like the edible rice paper used to wrap milk sweets.
She came with a hematoma on her belly button, harmless but usually a result of prolonged crying. That’s a tough one for me to think about, still.
Family and friends shared the news of the adoption with unreserved joy. There were, however, those whose concept of family is delimited by bloodlines and genes.
One friend was thrilled by our decision to adopt, because, she explained, I was now bound to get pregnant, and we’d finally have a child of our ‘own’.
It’s a popular urban (uterus) myth, in which families dogged by infertility “cave in” and adopt only to become pregnant soon after. I found it annoying, the assumption that adoption was Plan B for my husband and I.
Even more offensive was the hierarchical distinction between biological and adopted children her comment implied. Was my daughter merely a means to an end, a simulacrum that would get my ovaries juiced up and provide me with an authentic, biological child in the near future?
Yet another friend, an Evangelical Christian, counselled us not to go through with the adoption because it was not God’s will for us to have an ‘imperfect’ child. This misguided interpretation of the biblical promise of blessing, was perhaps the point of no return in my already fragile relationship with the fundamentalist church I’d been raised in.
Yet, at the same time, I drew closer to God, filled with gratitude for the gift of our beautiful child.