My Girls. I think they'll drive around in big hatslike this when they're 80, too!

When Caroline laughs deeply, I sometimes hear faint echoes of my grandmother’s laugh. Someday, we will pull out old VHS tapes and introduce Caroline to the sweet woman whose melodic joy lives on through her great-granddaughter.

And then there is Amelia.

Amelia, whose nose crinkles when she smiles silly. Whose sing-song voice can reach operatic octaves. Whose eyelashes reach her eyebrows, and whose pinky toenails grow folded so she points to them and laughs. Sometime, somewhere on this spinning globe lived others with crumpled noses and toenails, with stunning voices and eyelashes. People who passed bits of their own flesh and traits to a womb, to the pair of cells that would rapidly divide and grow and become Amelia.

Somewhere in Africa, there is a first mother whose existence cocooned and nurtured the beginnings of this baby I call mine.

I am occasionally jealous of Amelia’s first mother. Her right to claim Amelia is etched deeply into the strands of her DNA. What I would give for even the stray cells left on my toothbrush to testify that Amelia is mine.

Instead, I have papers made by man and notarized in court. I have a mother’s heart beating love. I have fifteen months of memories, the hope of a future, and the sound of my girl calling, “Mama!”

I can tell you that Amelia hates eggs and loves books. I can predict her exact mood based on the hour of the day. I can make her laugh and tell you she’ll count to thirteen, skipping six every time.

But never, never can I explain from whom she inherited hair that grows quickly and strong. I can’t explain who before her was as affectionate and cuddly as she is. Why she is so delicate, so feminine, so tall.

Every now and then, I buy into the subtle lie that my claim to her is forged. I grieve for the history I cannot explain to my child. Will she cry the day she understands adoption’s beauty is watered with tears and grown from ashes? Will she ache for a woman named Grace who birthed her, then carefully left her in a place known for its Christian love?

My jealousy for Amelia’s first mother is waning. Love replaces rivalry. Gratitude brings me to tears. How can a perfect stranger knit together a part of your soul? She tore materials from her own body and built up our family – surely leaving a gaping hole in her own heart. Can she imagine all she has given her daughter?  Given us?

The deeper I dive into the adoption world, the more I fear drowning. I feel the brokenness that created our joy. The pain that led to our blessing. No, I no longer envy Amelia’s first mother. My cells don’t hold my baby's DNA, but my mismatched hand holds hers.  My eyes cry gratitude.  Grace's eyes, perhaps, simply cry.


(First posted here 4/16/2012)