Eight years ago, I received a phone call from our adoption lawyer in New York. A couple in Missouri were eight months pregnant and looking for adoptive parents for their soon-to-be-born baby girl. Eight months pregnant! We’d only just completed the paperwork. Would it be processed in time? Was this moving too quickly? Our lawyer emailed us a photograph of the birth parents with their two other children. I burst into tears. The children were so beautiful (as all children are) and she was very pregnant in the photo, which nudged me further to imagine what this yet-to-be-born baby girl would look like. Seeing her two siblings there, I felt as if I were looking into the future. We sent the birthparents our profile then spoke with them on the phone. They quizzed us on our way of life, our attitudes about education, the traveling we’d done and planned to do in the future. All the things concerned parents would want to know regarding the future of their child. We did our best to make a good impression. We wanted them to like us. But we were realists. We told ourselves not to get our hopes up. The birth parents would be speaking to other prospective adoptive parents too. It was their choice. All we could do was wait.
A few days later, the birthmother called to tell us they’d chosen us! In one month’s time, we would be parents. That month remains a blur. We bought furniture. We filled out more paperwork. At some point, my friend Megan guided me around Babies-R-Us to buy onesies and diapers. Then somehow I was at the hospital cheering on this gorgeous woman I’d only just met as she went into labor with a baby she was going to give me. It was a white knuckle birth. The cord got wrapped around the baby’s neck. She was rushed into the E.R. For four agonizing minutes, her husband and I paced and fretted and hoped and prayed. Then a nurse came in, told us both baby and mother were fine, and asked if I would like to meet my daughter. I’ll never forget the first time I saw Adelina. She was soft and brown with a shock of black hair. She was perfectly formed and full of life. She lay in a clear plastic crib surrounded by bright warm lights, screaming bloody murder with her tiny hands contracted into hard, stubborn fists. When I went to her side and extended my little pinkie toward her, she gripped it. That was it. I was hers forever. The nurses bent the rules to let us stay at the hospital for three nights while the birth mother recovered from the emergency C-section. Then we all went off to court to see the judge. It was a routine adoption. All the paperwork was in place. The birth parents agreed to terminate their parental rights and we were granted custody. After an emotional good-bye to Addie’s birth parents and two siblings, we boarded a plane with our tiny new addition to begin the ultimate journey of our lives.
She’s nearly eight now. She’s a spirited, affectionate, spitfire of a girl. She laughs like her father and walks like me. She has the saucy lingo and mannerisms of a North London teenager. She does well in school but has little interest in impressing anyone or performing on command. She’s her own person, a true original. She has challenged us, pushed us to the limits of our patience, thrilled us, shocked us, and made our lives so rich, so joyful, so full of meaning, I can hardly remember who I was before she came along.
I always knew I would adopt. Ever since I was a teenage babysitter, I’ve known how easy it is to fall for a child. For any child. It’s not blood that binds people into a family. It’s unconditional love. When a tiny squalling newborn wraps her tiny fist around your pinkie, she doesn’t care about your genes. She’s telling you she needs you. She’s yours. It’s an invitation. To everyone embarking on this journey–the children, the birth parents, and those seeking to adopt–welcome. And to those just now considering it, who may have doubts and concerns about whether or not it’s the right thing to do, I leave you with some words of wisdom from my eight-year-old daughter who looked up at me one morning after a long cuddle and said: “You’re the Mummy I always wanted.”