The thing about paperwork for adoption is that the experience of completing it is so dry, so far removed from the moment there's a child in my arms. I remember sitting in our room at Mr. Martin's Cozy Place in Addis, looking at the photo we'd first seen of Zinashi and then looking at her standing right in front of me, and being unable to believe the connection. We saw a photo, and then the girl in the photo became our daughter. It's all so unreal. And the beginning of the paperwork is even worse on this account. What connection do these papers that I'm dutifully filling out with Sharpie pen have to do with a real live human being that will be in our family? Well, everything. Everything and nothing. It is hard to do something so mind numbing as typing and printing and signing and connect it to a living, breathing little person.
I have thought a lot about this next baby, but she seems so far removed from all of this that we are doing now. Still, there are moments--and I remember this happening while we were waiting for Zinashi, too--that there is a sudden realization that yes, all these papers will indeed lead to someone new to love. As much as I've felt that Baby Barbecue is out there, somewhere, I still hadn't made that connection, not yet. It had all been so vague so far. A feeling last May that the sadness which came up suddenly and wouldn't leave was somehow connected to my second daughter, the understanding that we were to proceed as planned instead of changing course--these were the things I had to hang my someday-mother-of-two hat on.
Today on the bus, I was sitting across from a couple of confused teenagers. They were amusing to watch, and eavesdropping on their conversation did not disappoint (Martha Stewart Living makes a great cover for eavesdropping activities, FYI). About halfway through the ride home, a couple with a toddler got on. The toddler was wearing some Tiny TOMS, and one of the teenagers said, "Oh, I didn't know they made baby TOMS." I smiled quietly to myself (in the direction of the article in Martha Stewart Living, of course) and thought about which Tiny TOMS I would choose for our next baby (these). I thought about taking the little shoes to Ethiopia to put on her little feet and that was when I just about started crying on the bus, right into the Martha Stewart Living article on fanciful gardens, no less. Because it suddenly occurred to me, in a more real way than it has thus far, that I would indeed be putting little shoes on little feet, the feet of a real live baby that would be a member of our family.
We joke about Baby Barbecue, but she'll have a real name someday--two of them, actually--the one that I chose* and the one that was already chosen for her by someone who loved her first. That part breaks me wide open, too. She'll have a name, and a story, and just like with Zinashi, she will come with so much hurt already meted out into her little life. As much as I'll love putting those little shoes on her feet, at the same time it breaks my heart a little that I'll get to do it at all. And maybe that's the purpose of the paperwork, of the mundane things we do to make the adoption a reality. It connects us to our children while shielding us from the pain of feeling the injustice of the situation so acutely each step of the way. At the end of the paperwork and the wait, there's a little person who will come with her own sad story, who will bring us joy born of her sorrow.
It doesn't seem fair, does it? It isn't. But when I know her shoe size, I will order the Tiny TOMS just the same. Because at least that's something I can do to begin being her mother**. Even if I wish I weren't necessary, I will gladly step right in and be the mother I never would have been in a more just world. Out of that great sorrow, there will indeed be joy, and that joy will be wearing some Tiny TOMS.
*When I asked Jarod if he had any ideas for names for our children, he said, "Not really. I figured you already had some picked out." And I did. More on that in another post.
**I'll admit I did a lot of over-shopping, for clothes in particular, when we knew that Zinashi was coming to us. It made me feel better to provide something for her when I couldn't be there to mother her in person. Thus we have many gently worn items that Baby Barbecue will never suspect were worn at all. I won't have any reason to buy any more clothes, at least not in size 18 months and up. Shoes, however, are a different story. A whole different story altogether.