November 4, 1996
I decided I wanted a baby during an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
It was the two-part Borg episode, which I've probably seen ten times because I'm
a sucker for Jonathan Frakes. I started imagining what beautiful, manly little
babies he'd make. And then I knew, in that moment, that I wanted a child. All
the other things came later. At that moment in front of the television my biological
clock didn't start ticking. It suddenly went BONG, BONG, BONG.
I don’t know how many times I’ve said I didn’t want a child.
What I always meant, what I believed, was that I wouldn’t be any good at
it. And I thought it was important to be good at everything I tried. As a kid,
I was told what most kids are: Do your best. But somehow what I heard was do it
better than anyone else.
As I got older I found I didn’t always have to be perfect. I could see
it wasn’t making me happy—just crazy. I was lucky to make friends
who didn’t expect me to always be the best and didn’t care when I
wasn’t. Watching my friends with their kids I learned excellent parents
have doubts and anxieties and sometimes grope for answers too.
I don’t think my change of heart really happened all at once. I think
over time my courage has been building. I don’t think I can stop myself
from wanting a child anymore.
I've never really thought I had what it takes to be someone's mother. I don’t
know if I have enough patience. Am I competent, loving, or selfless enough to
do the job well? I like life clean, organized, and on schedule—three things
kids almost never are. I have an image in my mind of the perfect mother, which,
I admit, was shaped partly by way too many episodes of The Partridge Family and
The Brady Bunch.
February 5, 1997
Now that we've decided to do this I feel almost frenzied to make it happen.
I carry around a lined yellow pad and make lists every day. Today's has a list
of parenting books to find at the library, the date of a back issue of Consumer
Reports that has an article about baby furniture, an herbal supplement they talked
about on the “Today Show,” and the name of the wrinkle cream advertised
in the commercial break.
October 4, 1998 (Beijing)
The group is splitting up. Ten families, including us, are adopting babies
from Wuzhou. The other seven are traveling to Nancheng. We have a new guide until
we get back to Beijing. Her name is Louisa. We're on a China Xinhua Airlines jet
on the way to Nanning. Nanning is the capital of Guangxi province. Wuzhou, where
Lauren is from, is in Guangxi too, farther south. Tomorrow morning or maybe even
tonight we'll see our daughter for the first time.
(Later - Nanning)
Then I heard someone say, "Here they come." And the babies began
to arrive, in their nannies' arms, one after the other, almost like a parade.
Roger called out each child's Chinese name and then the parents' names. I was
out of my chair, crossing the room.
"Where are you going?" Pat whispered. Roger hadn't called our names,
but I'd noticed the second baby at the door. My baby. She was frowning just the
way she was in that little picture I'd memorized. Then Roger called her name and
ours and I was holding my daughter. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever
seen. I couldn't take my eyes away from her. I know they'd said it wasn't possible
to love her on sight but oh, I did. She was very quiet, serious. Most of the other
babies cried, but Lauren didn't. She let me hold her and didn't even try to go
back to the nanny. Mostly she looked puzzled. She was probably wondering, who
is this crazy woman dripping tears all over me?