I wasn’t there the day my son was born.
On no other day of the year is this fundamental truth so striking. He had, or maybe still has, another mother, the one who was there the day he was born.
While I’m conscious of this a lot of the time, that my son was given his life by another woman, his face is as familiar to me as if I’d dreamt him in a dream before he was conceived. At the same time, he can seem a stranger to me and I often wonder, like many people who see us together, what accident of fate made us related.
He was 21 months old when he came to this country and to our family. When my husband, exhausted after traveling a very long day from Nicaragua, handed me our new son, it was if God himself had decided to find me a child to raise, not because I deserved this gift but because I had so much yearning that to not respond to me would be cruel and maybe ungodly.
It is very often that I forget that I once felt this way, so overwhelmed with this extraordinary favor shown me, so drenched in gratitude. It’s a sealed-over thing, that level of happiness, and now I am an ordinary mother of an adult son, with a list in my back pocket of the things I think he should change. He needs a haircut, I wish he’d go back to school, his apartment’s a health risk, he should pay his bills on time. The list overflows my pocket now and then but I remember that he’s an adult and my standing is now more of a loving spectator than a problem-solver or worse, a perpetual critic.
The other night I sat in my living room with several other adoptive parents of children not only of the same age but from the very same orphanage. As new parents 25 years ago, we were flush with joy and amazement. Now we listen to snippets of their conversations in the dining room, hear them laughing and joking. They’re not taking swings at a piñata any more, they’re talking about their jobs and relationships, their kids, what’s right and what’s wrong. If they are wondering about the women who were there the days they were born, they don’t say.
They don’t remember the beginning of their lives and neither do we.
Tomorrow is my son’s birthday. I know that because the date is on his adoption papers and typed on his Nicaraguan passport, the one with his solemn baby face, his beautiful brown eyes and his tiny head of black hair.
Yes, tomorrow is his birthday. It’s his anniversary of being born. It’s mine of being grateful.