"You sure look great for just having a baby." These delightful words came from a complete stranger who bent down to look into my baby cart as I maneuvered it through the crowded mall. "Why, thank you."
I didn't tell her that I was adopting him. I figured, What the heck, let her think I look great. It gave me a boost to have someone think, for once, that I was in good shape and not slightly overweight! After all, at 40 we should be in the middle of the infamous midlife crisis, shouldn't we? It seems that's what everyone, especially the media, tells us to expect. Yet this is when my husband, Mike, and I got our baby boy.
I never expected to be a first-time parent at the ripe old age of 41. In fact, after a long and painful journey through infertility and numerous miscarriages, both my husband and I thought we might not have children at all.
"Have you two thought about adopting?" my father-in-law asked one day.
I wasn't prepared for this line of questioning. Adoption isn't anything new for my husband's family. His older brother was adopted when he was 5 years old. Mike was all for adopting, but I seriously thought I could still get pregnant. My mother had seven children, and my grandmother had my uncle when she was 41, so why couldn't I? I ignored the statistics showing the odds of my getting pregnant getting worse the older I got. What did those doctors know, anyway?
It wasn't until after my last unsuccessful infertility treatment that I was ready to pursue adoption. As it turned out, I had some time to get used to the idea, as the paperwork was enormous, and getting everything together took longer than either of us had imagined. After submitting the paperwork, I decided to put it all as far out of my mind as possible. Our social worker, Dennis, had told us that, due to our age, it might be a while before a birth mother chose us. So I was unprepared when I received "The Call."
That day I had a feeling that something important was waiting for me at home. My nerves were like a taut wire ready to break. But I ignored this feeling; we'd already settled in for a long wait. I went to a yoga class. When I got home, I found a phone message from our social worker, asking us to call him at home. Dennis never had us call him at home. That feeling rushed back in full force. I dropped my gym bag and dialed the number.
"Hi, Dennis. You wanted me to call?"
"Oh, yes. I need you to go to a meeting for me tomorrow afternoon."
"I can't do that. You know I'm working."
"You don't understand. This is an important meeting."
"Okay, let me get a piece of paper and write down the information. What's this meeting about?" I tried to ask casually as I searched for a pen. Then Dennis delivered the punch line:
"Oh, it's just a meeting with your birth mother."
My heart dropped to my stomach. A birth mother? For us?
The next few months were a blur. Before I met our birth mother, Joan, I expected a hardened, troubled 14-year-old. But what I found was a soft-spoken girl who reminded me of one of my nieces. In her big brown eyes I could see the pain she was going through.
As we waited for the birth, it all seemed unreal to me. I couldn't believe that now, after 16 years of marriage, we would become parents! And I wasn't prepared for some of the comments that came my way.
"Oh, you are so lucky you don't have to go through a pregnancy. If I could do it your way, I would," my pregnant friend told me one day. Didn't she know that I'd longed for years to go through a pregnancy like hers?
"How much will the baby cost?" I actually heard more than once.
But not all comments were so insensitive. As a teacher, I worried about breaking the news to my students. I shouldn't have. My first-graders were excited for me. One little girl, Vanessa, told me that she and her mother prayed every night that God would find some way for Mike and me to have a baby. Her innocence touched my heart. And now it seemed like God was indeed answering all of our prayers!
I was totally unprepared for what motherhood would do for me. It seemed as if, overnight, I'd joined an exclusive club. Yet, with this membership, I've left others behind. One of my friends, Karen, shared tales of her trip to Europe one day soon after my baby, Brandon, came home. Then she asked what I had been doing. Instead of going to Italy, I had had the experience of feeding Brandon at 3:00 a.m. Not just one morning, but every morning!
Another friend was finally able to buy the red Mustang convertible of her dreams. Mike and I just hope our old truck will last another year.
And while my friends discuss going to Las Vegas or to Los Angeles on shopping excursions, I'm trying to push my way through crowds with a baby cart -- and finding that not all places are baby-friendly. Try making it into a video store without the door slamming on you!
While others are trying to find themselves, I'm chasing after a rambunctious 6-month-old. But I'm also recapturing the wonder of simple things. The glow of Christmas lights strung on our neighbors' homes. The brightly colored plumage of our parrot eating from his bowl.
So if this is our midlife crisis, what a way to go! Who knew that this would be it? But I welcome it, as I've welcomed my son, with open arms.
Kim Rapier lives with her family in Southern California.
?2003 Adoptive Families. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. This article is reprinted, with permission, from Adoptive Families magazine.
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