Mama Kat had this prompt in this week’s writing workshop: If you could re-live any moment in your life, what moment would you choose? For me it would be a moment in two parts, each several months apart.
March 10th, 2006 was a Friday. The weather was mild and the sun was shining. I was a month short of 28 and a few hours short of changing my life forever. We get up early that morning, didn’t really wake up for we had not slept; double-check the bag, the car, the route, and set out down a familiar road, yet down a path we had never traveled before.
Three hours later we are there. We take some pictures for posterity. This is us minutes before our world was turned upside down. Can you tell from the pictures how clueless we were? We thought we knew what it would be like; we had the bag packed to prove it, but nothing prepares you for when the moment comes.
The social worker carries a wrapped bundle in her arms. Out of the bundle a little hand comes out to move the blanket so two huge, brown eyes can peer at us. Curious from day one. Then she is placed in our arms. “Here is your daughter.” I always imagined I would cry. But I can’t. I can only stare. And she can only stare back. We lock eyes. I never knew I believed in love at first sight. People are moving around me, talking, asking questions. I hear nothing. Time stops. I can only stare. And fall in love some more. She is beautiful. And so small. I count toes and fingers. I breathe in her scent. Something awakes inside me. Something instinctual and as old as creation. I feel it and I can’t name it. Not yet.
“Gaby, repeat after me: I promise to be your mom forever….” I can’t repeat that. I want to but nothing would come out of my throat. I am crying now. I want to repeat it, but all that comes out are tears. Of joy. Of gratitude. Of I-cannot-believe-this-amazing-baby-is-mine. We take pictures for posterity. This is us minutes after our world was turned upside down. This is us when us became bigger than two.
This is us, parents at last.
She is strapped in her car-seat. Our hands are shaken and the door is shut behind us. Go, be blessed, be a family. We stop to eat at a restaurant. I don’t know how to hold her. I feel awkward and inexperienced. A woman approaches us: “Your daughter is beautiful.” Thank you, I whisper. My daughter. How did she know? It must show. We must look it. The happiness must glow. This is the moment, part I.
Isabel is a year and a half old when the phone rings. “There is a boy,” they say. They share blood. Do you want him? What a question! “You can get him when your paperwork is complete,” they say. We are not prepared; we have no paperwork. Three weeks of running around and rushing. Three weeks of torture without him. Finally, September 6th comes. It is a hot Saturday. We load the car, we pack the bag, we find the route, and set out down a familiar road, and down path we have traveled before but are no less nervous to take.
Two hours later we are there. We walk in. They bring him in. He is so small. And so beautiful. The siblings meet for the first time and it is a joyful meeting.
I knew this time I would be able to repeat the vows: I promise to be your mom forever... But when I open my mouth, only tears come. Tears of joy. Tears of gratitude. I am overwhelmed with love as I was the first time. I can only stare, again. And fall in love, again. And count fingers and toes, again. And breathe his scent, again. We take pictures for posterity. This is us when us became four. Double will be the diapers, the laundry, the mess, the happiness.
How similar and yet how different from that moment months ago! I no longer feel awkward and inexperienced. I am no longer terrified. This time I am prepared when deep inside me the rumbling that is as old as creation stirs again. This time I know what it is: love so fierce and overwhelming it uproots me and my heart is forever wrapped around his. My son. This is the moment, part II.