Tears streamed down my face as I realized I stood at the pinnacle of the first two-thirds of my life. In two hours, I would board a red-eye flight to the East coast; there, I would meet my son for the first time. At 39 I had lived a full life already, most of which spent as a self- proclaimed anti-parent. It is not that I didn't love children--on the contrary. I had always relished being the best aunt I could to all my friends’ children, showering them with gifts and love. Who can deny the fun in the challenge of finding 15 unique berets from five different street vendors along the Seine to take back to discriminating “nieces” and “nephews”?
But just over a year ago, my heart and mind began a shift from the stance of anti-parent. My Mother and I were traveling in Peru, learning about Inca spirituality from local Shamans. Early one cold Andes morning we boarded a boat on the shore of Lake Titicaca, bound for the small island Isla de la Luna. Shaman guides said the Island of the Moon was where the Incas brought the women to learn to be Shamans and Mothers.
After half an hour of sailing along deep blue water under an even deeper blue sky, we arrived at the small island, disembarked from our small craft, and began to hike. The dry grass at our feet was bright yellow in the sunlight, contrasting sharply with the blue water and white capped Andes which served as a backdrop. Our goal was a plateau, where according to our guides, we would find one of the areas oldest ruins. When we reached the top, we removed our shoes and walked in the grass, enjoying the feel of it under our bare soles. Out of nowhere, I had a vision of, me holding a fair haired baby boy. No matter what I did, that divine image would not leave my mind. Then it clarified. At one point, as the little baby looked up and smiled, I was struck with a strong impression that I had to become a Mother. It was a foreign concept...a shocking realization for one known to stand on a soapbox and profess how much she doesn’t want a child. When we left the island, none of my traveling companions were in shock when I described that vision and announced that I would adopt a baby.
The only one in shock was me.
Having accepted this new mission in life, I began to take steps to make it a reality. Over the course of the next year, I was subject to several home studies, visits by social workers, meetings with lawyers, and discussions with adoption agencies across the globe. After being approved as a candidate adoptive parent, I would get notice of potential prospects and sit and wait with high hopes for calls that never came. Or worse, calls that came after promising chats to tell me that birth parents had considered placing a baby with me, but ultimately decided to select another couple or someone with a differing religious experience than I had.
After a year, my home study ran out of time. I seriously considered giving up on being a Mom. Maybe there was a reason no one selected me—maybe I wasn’t Mom material. Maybe it just wasn’t my fate to raise a child. Maybe it was a crazy idea from the get-go. I cried a lot during that time; it was gut wrenching to contemplate abandoning something that felt as right as having a child of my own did to me. Circumstances would be different if was able to have a child naturally.
But it is...as they say, always darkest before dawn. The phone call came while I was at a family dinner. Seeing the caller ID, I resolved not to get my hopes up. Yet as the call progressed, I realized that this one felt different--even without not knowing a thing about the baby in question. A little spark of hope ignited and would not go out. I began to get excited. There was a question about his health, which ramped up my anxiety. You’d think that after four false starts, my enthusiasm would be held well in check. But no..., I felt truly anxious. I shrugged it off as a concern related to a decision not renew my home study. This would probably be yet another false start...just like all the rest.
The first false start was crushing; the baby was perfect and the birth Mother liked me. Her parents felt that my Buddhist religious leanings were too bizarre that the child needed to be brought up a decent Christian home. I couldn’t argue with that. The second false start was equally promising and the Mother liked me, based on the extensive profile she was given on my life. She asked my lawyer about me, “Has she considered exposing the baby to Wicca?” “Ask her whether Buddhism counts as Wicca,” I asked my lawyer to reply back. Knowing that it was not comparable, I remember thinking to myself it might be out-of-the-mainstream enough that she will love me. The Mother’s response: “Buddhism is passable, but a two-parent Wiccan home is better.” I was beginning to feel I couldn’t win for losing.
The third and fourth false starts were equally disappointing.
After a week of research, decided, I wanted that baby boy who was looking for a Mother. In embracing that commitment, I realized that a massive part of my life story was ending; I wasn’t turning the page on the first chapter in my book of life, more like the tenth chapter. I had arrived at the second act in a three act play. I sobbed in my living room, acknowledging the meaning and significance of the first act of my life and now the second. The third was an unknown—we never know where our stories will end up. With joy and terror, I made the call to say I wanted my baby boy.
To say I had no doubts about any of this as I sat at the adoption agency would be a lie. There was great fear, worry, maybe even a small crisis of confidence. Very soon, a small helpless being would be given to me, and I would call him my son. To reduce tension and not let on how scared I was, I laughed things off and acted bored. What if they realized I was afraid and took him back? Decided I was not capable? Refused to release a child into the hands of someone perceived as weak? I hadn’t even seen or held him yet and already I was afraid someone would take him! Three hours of waiting, I could feel that something was about to change.
Have you ever been so startled that your heart skips a beat? Where it feels as if someone is squeezing your heart? When the door to the adoption agency opened and a woman entered carrying a baby, that’s exactly how I felt. Then I saw my son for the first time. The thumping heart was replaced by a click, the sound a lock might make when the right key is inserted into the tumbler. Instantly I felt as if something missing had been put back in place. There before me lay an infant with eyes as yet unable to focus and socks on his hands to protect him from scratching himself. He showed a large smile, trumped only by the size of mine.
Ten days later, the state completed our paperwork, and we were permitted to depart. Having gotten our feet wet in terms of infant care and demands during the stay in the hotel, we felt prepared and ready. After several flights, a few lay-overs, and running out of baby formula, I would be proven wrong. That day, I made the first of what would be a continuous flurry of mental notes. This one read, “Always bring 150% of what we need.”
We’ve come a long way since then. And yet...once again, I sit here sobbing. My son is now in his fourteenth month. Over the last year, I have settled into being a Mom fairly well, taking change in stride. Why am I crying then? Because I just looked down upon my sleeping son, his small pale hands curled under his head, and in that moment I realized a few things. First, I realized that my son has taught me what ten years of Buddhism was trying to teach me: that the present moment is the only moment--anxiety comes from what hasn’t happened and might not. The second thing I realized was that over the course of his life, I will probably have many reasons—joyful and sad—to sob about my son. Lastly, I realized that even though I fought the idea and my own nature for a long time, I was always meant to be a Mother and this little boy was meant to be my son. I have never been more full of hope or more confident that I am doing the right thing. This is love.