I was in my early twenties. The woman in the Palm Reader tent at the Renaissance Festival told me to make a fist, then she counted the creases near my pinky finger and announced I’d have five children! I forgave her in my thoughts, even as a pain stabbed my heart. She couldn’t have known of my recent miscarriage, let alone the years of infertility challenges I’d endured and would continue to endure for years to come. She didn’t know about the yearly surgeries to burn off wayward endometrial tissue that had migrated into places it shouldn’t be, causing pain and scarring. There would be eight or nine surgeries in all, over ten years before I finally told my husband, “No more.”
Years passed. A dream visitor with almond eyes and olive skin told me to be patient, that she would come one day to be my daughter. But she didn’t come, and I wasn’t patient. Then a call came late one Friday evening. I wasn’t home. The answering machine spoke with the voice of a woman named Dorothy from Anoka County Social Services. She said there was a blonde haired, blue-eyed girl, nearly 3 years old, who needed a family. She thought ours would be perfect.
When we picked her up a month later, she gently patted her foster-mother’s tearful face, telling her it would be all right as I reached for her, my own face covered in tears, and carried her away. She stuck to me like glue. One day as she trailed me into the bathroom, yet again I said, “Honey, mommy is going to take a shower, can you give me a little privacy?” “Sure!” she said, and marched out the door. I was surprised but pleased with how easy that was and stepped into the shower. The curtain opened soon after and her little blonde head poked in, “Mom, I looked all over for a little privacy, but I couldn’t find it anywhere!”
Two years sped by, and another phone call. This time we were home to answer the call. I yelled for my husband to pick up the other phone as the adoption agency told us there was an 8-week-old baby boy waiting for a family. Could we pick him up tomorrow afternoon at 1PM? YES! A quick run to Target for what we thought a baby might need, and he was ours. A few nights he slept in a drawer until we could set up the crib. He was serious, and stoic, and perfect.
But a marriage neglected because of a singular focus on infertility for more than a decade soon unraveled. Dark days followed as relationship problems, long ignored, were not cured by parenthood. It will take years, coming out of that darkness, to see transformation and light. A new relationship. A chance to change, to do better, to be better.
I am in the midst of the adoption process again, with my newly beloved, when we are surprised by a pregnancy that was thought to be impossible. At 39 I am suddenly pregnant with that almond-eyed, olive skinned child who had admonished me to be patient 15 years before. She is a beautiful combination of my Chinese-American husband and me. On a summer morning a few years later, I will awaken with a start! Opening my eyes I will see her in bed next to me, smiling. “The angels came and wanted to talk to you again, but I said, ‘NO!’ and so they put you on the heaven slide and you went ‘PLOP!’ back into your body!” she will say to me. Yes, talks with angels in my dreams happen often.
But, my new husband and I, we are still on that adoption journey we began before the surprise pregnancy, and we see his little face staring out at us from the waiting child website for Korea. Yes, this is him, we know it immediately. We travel to Korea to get him. His foster sister has added red highlights to his black hair, just like hers. He has been well loved in the year he has spent with them, and he grieves deeply for months after he comes home with us. We understand his pain. We take turns holding him through his sorrow and love him into this new family.
Are you keeping count? Yes. Four children so far.
We are content with our big, diverse family. Sewn together through serendipity and love. I am 45 years old. I settle into the parenting role I always wanted, all those years ago when I thought it would never happen. My children are 18, 14, 6 and 3 years old.
Then one night, on a solitary weekend retreat, I dream again. This time it’s about beets. I dream my body needs iron, craves it. In my dream, I am feeding something inside of me that is ravenous for beets. All through that surprise pregnancy, I crave beets. Our daughter is born just three months shy of my 46th birthday. A second miracle by all common-sense standards. She is funny, outgoing and bright, and a never ending source of quotable conversation. One day she is playing at the toy kitchen in my home office on the porch. She has her apron on, and a doll on her hip as she says in an exasperated tone, “I should not have married Justin Bieber, he never does any work around the house!” Another morning I wake to her standing next to my bed, staring straight into my bleary eyes. “I think heaven is different for everyone,” she whispers, “For some people it’s like a beautiful meadow, or like Candyland. For me it would be just like my life, right now, here with my family.”
Yes. Heaven on earth. Happy Mother’s Day.
Mammaste~Divinity in the Everyday.