Meeting Him, Part I

We woke up yesterday expecting it to be a fairly unremarkable day.  Our attorney (Anna) was picking us up to take us the the adoption center, to sign something or talk to someone (fun fact: you rarely know what the heck is going on in adoption).  We wore our nice clothes anyway, partially because we weren’t completely sure what the nature of the trip was, and partially because everyone in Poland always seems to be very smartly dressed.  In the elevator leaving our building, we agreed that neither of us could remember much mention of this step in any of the adoption blogs we have read, so there must not be much exciting or significant about it.  Our game plan was to go to our appointment, come back home to change and have lunch, then take the train to Ikea to pick up a high chair and schedule some weekend sightseeing tours.

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Our apartment is in the heart of the city, which although has many winding, cobblestone streets, is mainly restricted to pedestrian use.  Because of this, it took us a good twenty minutes and lots of backtracking to locate our attorney’s car, which was parked as close to our building as she could get it.  She greeted us warmly, apologized for her poor English (which was actually quite good), and we were on our way.  As we drove, Anna chatted about learning English in Canada when her family fled during the invasion of communist Russia (everyone in Poland has a crazy story) and the frustrations of “old city” traffic compared to her home city of Warsaw.  At one point I casually asked her what the plan was for our appointment at the adoption center.

“Oh, is procedure for all adoptions.  You meet with center, they know you better, you ask questions.  Maybe take one hour.  Then, at one o’clock, we visit foster mother.”

Maybe we were supposed to have already known this was coming, but it was news to us.  Anna explained that the foster mother (We’ll call her “Baba”, short for “Babcia”, which means “grandmother” in Polish.  This what Baby W knows her as.) was home for the weekend after spending the week with Baby W in the hospital for his in-patient physical therapy intensive.  I told Anna that we didn’t know we’d be meeting Baba today, but that we were happy to meet her even if we couldn’t yet meet Baby W.

“Oh, W____ is there!  He his home from hospital for weekend.”

And just like that, the day flip flopped from unremarkable to the one I had been dreaming of for over a year.  I was about to meet my son.

This was still sinking in when we finally made it to the adoption center.  We took the elevator to the fifth floor and were greeted by a kind-looking Polish woman who looked about my age, like someone I might like to be friends with.  Anna told us that the woman was named Katarzyna, and was the representative of the adoption center who would visit it us in apartment during our bonding period with Baby W.  Katarzyna spoke only Polish, but Anna assured us that she would assist the conversation by translating.  Anna gestured to the coat rack in the corner of the room.

“Now, you take off clothes.”

And we’re off.

Katarzyna handed us pictures of Baby W that we recognized from the file on him that we were given long ago, except these were in color.  She said that she knew him and his foster family, so we were welcome to ask her any questions we might have.  We spoke for awhile about Baby W’s history, because I know one day he will want to know.  She told us about his rehabilitation and his progress.  Katarzyna described Baby W’s foster family as an older couple with grown children.  Baby W was their first foster child, and he came home with them from the hospital after he was born and has lived with them ever since.  They are very attached to him, Katarzyna said, and Baba loves him very much and has been worried that whoever adopted him would not give him the same level of care that she did.

Oh, so many emotions.  Incredible relief that my son was not only one of the “lucky” ones who was placed in a foster family rather than an orphanage, but that his foster mother was devoted him to the point of questioning whether anyone would be able to take her place.  Fierce admiration that she spent the last eighteen months adoring him without abandon, never holding back, while knowing all along that one day she would place him in another woman’s arms.  My arms.  Grief, that my joy would be her pain.

I was struck by the fact that this day, that at first seemed so ordinary to me, would be one that would profoundly alter all of our lives.

The next two hours sped by.  Anna was gracious enough to brave the “old city traffic” again to get us back to our apartment momentarily.  We grabbed our camera, the foster family scrapbook, and Polski – who we quickly wrapped in colorful paper.  I glanced in the mirror to reapply my lipstick, and laughed to myself about how I had previously planned to carefully choose what I would wear on the day I met my son.  I guess I am wearing this.  Oh, adoption.

Everything was happening in a blur.  I didn’t have time to mentally or emotionally prepare for the gravity of what was about to happen, which in retrospect, might have been for the best.  Before I knew it, we were rolling through a village deep in the country, dotted with low-slung, ivy covered, stone buildings, roaming geese and chickens, and farmers who paused from chopping wood to tip their hats as we drove by.  It reminded me of a village from some movie or TV show, like “Black Beauty” or “Lark Rise to Candleford”, like a place time had forgotten.

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And then we were there.

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I suddenly felt unable to move, like I was dreaming or watching this happen to another person, as Alex opened my car door and somehow my legs remembered how to stand me up and walk me toward the home in front of me.  A woman, Baba (I recognized her from the videos), was waiting for us on the door step, holding her arm out to usher us into her home.

Our gazes met and held for a brief moment, and I will never, not as long as I live, forget the look I saw in her eyes.  She looked tired and cautious, like she might have been tossing and turning all night over this coming meeting.  I saw a look of determined obligation, intent on following through on the promise she made to love this boy with her whole self, but only for awhile.  Until I arrived on her doorstep.  More than ever before, the complicated, contrasting realities of adoption washed over me.  I have lost many hours of sleep longing for this moment, and I didn’t need a common language to hear loud and clear from her that she had done the same, out of dreading it.

The moment passed, and Baba ushered us in, insisting with gestures that we leave our shoes on, even though we knew it is customary to always remove your shoes when entering a Polish home.  I got the sense that she wanted in some small way to make us feel comfortable, and I silently thanked her for that.  She motioned to the adjoining room, and I took a deep breath.  This was it.

We rounded the corner, and there he was.  He was sitting in a baby walker looking out the glass patio door at a cat sitting in the backyard, exactly like a video of him that I have watched a thousand times.  He heard us approaching and curiously turned to look at us, unaware of the gravity of the moment.

His searching blue eyes met mine, and just like that, my whole world stopped turning.

 

Part II coming soon …

 

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  • Brenda

    Well, Part I has just made my day! Jessica, your writing makes the rest of us feel like we’re right there with you!

  • Auntie Asha

    Ahhhh! It’s like a form of torture!! How beautifully written! I can’t wait to read the rest! And to meet him myself!

  • Kathy Kalous

    Your story is so touching. I was a little disappointed that it ended. I can’t wait to hear the rest.

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