At 37, I was unexpectedly pregnant. This was not happy news to me. It was the wrong man, it was not Richard, who had just broken my heart, cancelled our wedding plans and it would be the wrong baby. Richard and the children I had dreamed that we would have were still in my heart, in spite of the fact that I was now living with Gregg.
But then I kind of settled into it. By the beginning of the fourth month, I knew that the baby was right because it was mine. I was never so peaceful, never so full. The father could have been the devil himself. No matter because this baby-to-be had developed a life of its own, a meaning of its own. I knew that this state – the condition of pregnancy — was woman’s purpose on earth. This was not an intellectual understanding. It flew in the face of all the principles I had built my life around –- my pursuit of my career first, my insistence on independence. It was just pure, raw, gut motherly nesting.
And then I miscarried. I couldn’t believe it. I felt that my body had completely betrayed me. This body that I had put only the absolute purest of food into, this body that I had honed into the best physical shape possible. This perfect, flawless body had failed me when it came to doing the one thing that was its natural, God-given right and talent.
A friend suggested a fertility specialist. I wondered why. She said he specialized in difficult pregnancies. I still wondered why. She said any woman trying to get pregnant at the age of 37 constituted a difficult pregnancy. I finally got the point. Getting pregnant again, carrying a baby to full term might not be so easy.
In coming to terms with the fact that I was not a superwoman, could not accomplish bodily feats that defied the law of gravity, I came to develop an obsession around my running. Knowing that an elevation of temperature kills sperm cells, I decided to not run on the day I was ovulating. Then, since I wasn’t exactly sure when I was ovulating, I stopped running for a day before the time I thought I was ovulating, the day of, and the day after. Then I thought that maybe I would kill the fetus if I kept running after conception. So I stopped running for the two weeks after I ovulated, until I got my next period. I joined the ranks of the millions of women, all the perfectly normal, non-superwomen who actually make accommodations in their lives, like those who do things like stop running to have a baby. Running became what I never thought it would become, a phase — that horrible, ugly concept –a passing phase. Yet, with all this accommodation, there was still no baby in sight.
For the first few years after my miscarriage, everyone kept assuring me that if I didn’t get pregnant again, I could always adopt. The suggestion was always made, without sensitivity to the difference between adoption and biology. Everyone was well-meaning. No one understood that they were just reminding me that the one thing that almost every woman on earth was able to do — women without intelligence, women without money, women who couldn’t run a marathon, women who hadn’t been vegetarians for 20 years — was now eluding me. No one wanted me to feel the feelings of defectiveness that I was now plagued with, and nobody wanted me to feel hopeless about my plight. Especially the hopelessness. That was the real kicker. It’s like the physician assuring the terminal cancer patient that there’s always a new drug. Banish hopelessness from your world of feelings. Feel anxiety, feel rage, feel anything at all, but don’t feel hopeless. Hopelessness, people were always saying, is a feeling unlike any others. It leads to death; that was the message I got.
Good girl that I was, I didn’t feel hopeless. Not that adoption was ever, for me, the rescuing recourse that everyone suggested it should be. Rather, I simply decided that if I wasn’t going to have children of my own, I just wouldn’t have children. It didn’t mean enough to me to be a mother to raise someone else’s child. Anyway, my life was too full as it was. I wasn’t even so sure that I was going to make a good mother. I wasn’t sure that my narcissism would be willing to make the usual give-up-my-life-as-it-is kind of sacrifices that I knew good mothering would demand. Anyhow, not being a mother didn’t seem so bad. My friend, Ronnie, described my attitude about getting a baby as a “so there!” with pouty lip protruding — more of a “baby, you gotta’ come and get me” than a pleading “baby, where are you?” Any baby that was going to get to be my baby was going to have to do a lot of work to get through my so-thereness. Yet, even with my so-thereness, I put a lot of work into this endeavor of getting this hypothetical baby. I spent the next few years checking my cervical mucus, taking my temperature, charting my cycles, and making sex dates with Gregg. He felt used (as he should have); I felt indignant (as I should have, since I had made it clear at the beginning of our relationship that having a baby was on my agenda, and that if he didn’t want to participate — in whatever it took — then we should call it quits before we got started). We both felt what we should have felt.
But the difference in our priorities and our desires put stress on the relationship and on our sex life. It stopped being fun.
I began to play around with the idea of adoption. I didn’t want to adopt — not yet, not really. I just wanted to see how it felt to think about it. I went to see an attorney, a baby broker, and he assured me that for $20,000, in three months he would have a precious little one sitting contentedly on my lap. I fled from his office. Maybe it was his secretary’s dyed platinum hair; maybe it was my asking if Theresa (the presumed borrowed womb that he had in mind for me) ate Twinkees in front of the television all day, and his non-committal answer; maybe it was my fear of getting a less than stellar baby. The nature side of the nature/nurture argument was winning out in my head. I thought: no matter how much good nutrition I put into this baby, no matter how much cognitive stimulation I would give to this child, there was no way I was going to be able to supercede the effect of nine months of Twinkies and brain-dead satisfaction with The Edge of Night. I was a snob. Not yet ready to be a mother. Only ready to be a conditional mother, a mother to the right baby who passed muster.
Adoption out for the moment and sex getting too difficult between Gregg and me, I tried a new plan. I followed my friend’s suggestion, and joined the ranks of the not-yet-hopeless-still-trying-even-after-it-has-killed-your-sex-life women who were flocking to the fertility specialists.
Given my predilection for barring foreign, non-organic things from my body, I was a difficult patient. I was kicked out of the offices of the most famous, respected fertility doctors. They got tired of fighting me on every invasive test, every pill that they wanted me to take that I knew with absolute conviction was going to give me cancer.
After seeing virtually every fertility specialist in the city, I settled on a doctor who was devastatingly good-looking and began this arduous process of having sex with a test-tube. It was actually a relief to not have to force Gregg. It also made our relationship more honest. Most of all, I wanted his sperm. He was welcome to come along if he wanted for the rest of the stuff, the huggy/kissey/poo part of the relationship, but his real value to me was his sperm.
I wasn’t looking too pretty. I was a snob about the baby I wanted, and I was more interested in using Gregg than in loving him.
Finally, after two years of this fake sex, the time of resignation came, and hopelessness arrived. I almost knew that at 44 I wasn’t going to have my own child. But in such matters, hope dies really really hard. I asked my doctor if there was any point in my continuing to try. Diplomatic as he was, he said that he wouldn’t tell me to stop trying (these doctors, after all, do feed on hope), but he could tell me that in all his years of experience that he had only gotten one woman my age pregnant.
I never mourned this never-to-be baby. I never allowed myself to feel the pain of the fact that I was never going to have that biological attachment that outdoes all other attachments. I just made a decision. That’s how this whole process seemed to be going. I was a driven woman. Feelings were not involved or pertinent. I was just out to get what I was out to get. I became real practical. I decided that being a not-real-mother, a mother of someone else’s child, was better than not being a mother at all. I seriously entered the fray of adoptive baby hunting.
This search for a baby, however, proved to be none too easy.
First I was going to Rumania. There was a whole network of women who were knowledgeable about how to get a baby from Rumania. I spoke weekly for months to a woman who had gotten a child out. She had seen a piece on 60 Minutes about the abominable state of Rumanian orphanages. She saw one child, a boy about six, who was featured on the piece. She determined to go over and find that child. It took her eight months. She didn’t have his name or the name of the orphanage where he was living; she didn’t speak the language. Yet, she found him; adopted him and brought him over. I asked what called out to her that she wanted that child, no other child. She said, “It was his eyes.” It took six months for me to get the paper work done so I could leave. My plane reservations were made, and then Rumania decided to stop giving away its babies. Then I was going to Latin America, but the agency handling those babies stopped talking to me when they decided I would be 45 by the time I got a baby.
Then I heard about Chinese babies, and Russian babies; I even went to a meeting about Cambodian babies. Nothing was working out.
Then I started the ad route in the good ole’ U.S. of A. Composing the ad needed the talent of a Madison Avenue advertising executive. You had to remember that your ad was going to run with another 50 ads, all couples looking for babies. How to make your one ad stand out from all the others? The lawyers gave you samples, but then you had to remember that the lawyers were giving the same samples to all their clients, and in New York City, that was a considerable number of people, a lot of competition.
I ran lots of ads all over the country, and got lots of midnight phone calls. What I learned quickly is that 16 year olds, rape victims and girls who seduce their mothers’ husbands don’t necessarily know that a 201 area code is a two or three hour difference from their own reality.
“Hello, I’m calling about your ad.”
“Yes” (with real excitement and fear — fear that she wouldn’t like me and fear that she would). “Tell me about your situation.”
“Well, do you mind if I don’t know who the father is.”
“How did you get pregnant?”
“I was gang-raped.”
I cared enough to say no to that baby.
“Hello. Are you Christian?”
“Hello. Would you mind if I breast-fed my baby for a few months before you took it?”
Then, there are the relationships formed. Mothers and to-be mothers as desperate about their pregnancy as I was about my non-pregnancy. There was Carol from Oregon, recently separated from her husband with whom she had had three children and was pregnant with their fourth. She discovered him in the bedroom of the youngest holding a pillow over the child’s head. As women we were separated by more than a country of distance between us. We were separated by economic conditions, by success, by achievement and by self- satisfaction from all of these; we were separated by the amount of pleasure in our lives — separated by a thousand intangibles that made forging a liaison an unlikely event.
And then, the disappointments. Being inched out by another couple, presumably “better” suited in the eyes of the to-be-mother to raise this child. I was either the wrong age, the wrong religion, had the wrong profession, maybe just said “hello” with the wrong inflection. Being inched out by a change in mind, and the surgeon’s knife because the nausea was, after all, not worth the hassle, or because the boyfriend’s preference, after all, really did prevail, or because the mother of the girl/mother-to-be/almost-woman threatened to kick her out of their house. As one 18-year old prospective mother wisely said: “Gee, it’s a little like having a miscarriage, I guess.” Yes, it is a lot like having a miscarriage. First, hoping, and then having these hopes dashed.
And there were the babies I rejected. Such is the shame of every woman searching for a baby — that just as the biological mommy evaluates the adoptive mommy, the reverse is just as true. After talking to other women looking for babies, I realized I wasn’t the only snob. Every prospective mother looking to take another woman’s baby wants that child to be pretty, smart, sane and healthy, and the best indicator of all that is the state of the mother. Most adoptive mothers are not willing to be promiscuous in the choice of their babies.
In fact, I had turned down several babies. One mother I actually met. That was a mistake. Her image — her looks, her emotional make-up — became too real. I kept thinking that at every point of the child’s development, I would be looking for that mother. I would see her nose on the child; I would look for her eyes that already at her age of eighteen had turned flat with too many disappointments, too much harshness of life.
I decided to limit my contact to the phone. One woman I spoke to expressed no interests, no hobbies, nothing that gave her life any richness. This was not mere reactive depression to a bad situation, or feeling overwhelmed or desperate, all of which I would have understood. It was no feeling. It was the absence of any zest for life. I wanted my baby to be exposed to a lot of hormones and chemicals in the womb that would make it a feeling-full human being.
There were also the twins who had tested positive for drugs. Some mother, somewhere, was willing to take a chance on them. I wasn’t.
There was also a mother with whom I developed a fabulous rapport. From the first phone call, we understood that we shared basic philosophies in child- rearing. We talked for hours, not just about her pregnancy and the kind of home I would give her child. We became friends. Then in our fifth phone call she revealed that each of her other three children had serious congenital health problems. This was a terrible conflict for me. I wanted her baby. Every feeling in my body wanted her baby. In fact, this was the first baby I had wanted. Yet, my intellect told me that this would be a mistake, and that the chances of her having a healthy baby were not great. I hadn’t yet really come to a resolution about whether to proceed with her or not. I was just thinking a lot about it when the mother simply, inexplicably, stopped calling me, and then stopped receiving my calls.
I was about to give up, having been rejected and having rejected more times than I like to admit, not knowing which step to take next, and having spent more money than I had ever imagined it would cost. I was now $6000 into this project, having advertised all over the country, and no baby on the horizon. It was getting expensive to not have a baby.
Then, I got a call, ironically, from the state I grew up in.
The call was from Diana, an 18 year old. It was to be her second baby, her first given up for adoption after she unsuccessfully tried keeping him for four months. Diana herself had been given up, at the age of five and had been bounced from one foster house to another and state homes as well. Up until a few months earlier, she had been a ward of the state and only recently granted her independence. This girl/woman, who had fought all her life to just survive, was no stranger to combat. Diana let me know right away where I stood. She had called several other couples, she informed me, and was carefully considering each situation. The race, Diana made clear, was on. One baby; five couples. Too many want-to-be-mommys in the world.
I have the advantage of being chameleon-like. I can appear hard or soft, cold or warm. It’s the effect of still retaining some of my southerness, with the Yankee on top. I live in the country and work in the city. I can revert back to my old southernese way of talking, as I did when I was growing up, or can sound like a seasoned, professional New Yorker, the voice I have acquired through deliberation. The problem was, I never knew which picture would make me the most appealing to which mother.
Anyway, Diana and I got along famously from the beginning. Her southern drawl felt rich and familiar to me, and within minutes we were chatting away like old friends. “Girley-girl talk” — the kind I did all my life, and still do with my Southern girl-friends, and for which I have found no northern equivalent. Aimless, gossipy chatter — the kind you do when the days are hot and endless and the rest of the world and time stretches out like a yawn. But as Diana and I spoke, nagging questions began to surface in the back of my mind. Should I tell her the child will be sent to the best private school the largest metropolitan area in the country has to offer? Should I say that her child will be raised in the exquisite wildness of fresh air and old oaks edging the waterside of our lake home? (I actually hadn’t decided yet.) Should I tell her Oscar is a poodle, or just a cute, white fluffy dog, for fear of anti-poodlism. What if I told her I was Jewish? Or that I was a vegetarian? Should I tell her that our cats are called Big Guy and Lil’ Kit because I don’t like cats and never bothered to name them and Gregg isn’t good at names? What was going to appeal to her and what was she going to hold against me?
The first few conversations with Diana, those questions didn’t need answering. She seemed content enough to let me ask the questions. Any curiosity she may have had about me, she held in abeyance.
Then I had a dream. I dreamt that I was with a five year old boy, and he ran towards me and jumped on me, wrapping his arms around my neck and his legs around my waist. There we stayed, wrapped up in each other in symbiotic bliss, the togetherness of it feeling better than anything I could remember. I woke up feeling peaceful, happy, confident, content. I was due to call Diana at ten that night and thought about the dream and her all day. I found myself wanting so much to tell her the dream that it was hard to wait until ten that night to talk to her. In just those few days that had elapsed since her first phone call, she had become part of my life. I missed her.
I decided, too, that it was time for me to start talking to her. I knew all I was ever going to know about her, short of meeting her. She knew virtually nothing about me. That had all been deliberate. I knew her last name; she didn’t (and wouldn’t) know mine. I knew her phone number and address; she had my phone number which was unlisted and would be disconnected after I got her baby. I was, for her, untraceable. I would swoop down out of the sky, remove her baby from her breast, never to be seen or heard from again. Such is the nature of this invention called adoption.
But there were many things I could tell her. I began by telling her my dream. Then I explained that I thought the dream showed I was feeling very good about her and her baby. I needed to have this feeling in a dream rather than in waking life because I was protecting myself from getting too excited about a situation that was still unclear. I was still competing, I reminded both myself and Diana, with no evidence of whether or not I was a front-runner. But I wanted Diana to know that I, too, was discriminating. I explained to her that just as she had said to me that she “didn’t want a dawg” as the mother of her child, I didn’t want a “dawg” for a child. We laughed heartily together.
I explained to Diana that I was telling her all this because I wanted her to know that as much as she was choosing me, I was choosing her. When I had decided a few months earlier to not take the baby of the mother whose lifeless eyes would have haunted me, I realized an important insight about this process for me. I realized that I needed to have the feeling about the mother that I wanted to adopt her, the mother, in order for me to want to adopt the baby. I was telling Diana that that is how I had come to feel about her.
Maybe I wasn’t going to tell Diana my last name and my address, but I could tell her my feelings.
So having Diana’s baby was going to mean borrowing her womb for a while. It would mean borrowing her genes and the genes of a nameless man whom she planned to never see again and who didn’t even know he was going to be a father. And it would mean making this borrowed baby my own.
And then, as it turned out, after all this effort, all these thoughts and feelings stimulated, Diana’s baby was yet another miscarriage for me. I called her during a holiday week-end, and the woman with whom she had been staying told me that Diana had moved out and had signed up with an adoption agency. Good fortune for her. The agency gave her her own apartment, with television and VCR at hand, and $1000 right off the bat to buy her heart’s content of clothes. Would I have matched the bid? Absolutely. But I had followed my lawyer’s advice, insisting that Diana call the lawyers, insisting on medical reports, insisting that things be done logically and orderly before I sent her a dime. I was, in effect, asking that this impulsive, hormone-driven teenager act maturely and cooperatively before I sent her hard cash. She went for the instant cash, and I was stupid for expecting anything other than that. I’m not even sure that I blamed her.
I didn’t mourn that lost baby either. I just went into overdrive. It was ten at night, and I was a desperate woman looking for a baby — any baby now. Even Twinkies-eating-Theresa, long-now-unpregnant was looking good. I remembered that my new neighbors in my apartment building in New York had offered to put me in touch with a nice man who could get good Louisiana (just a coincidence) babies from “good Christian homes.” I never followed through because it was obvious to me that as soon as my new neighbors would learn my very Jewish-sounding last name, they would not be so eager to share this information. But a desperate woman is willing to risk even the rejection of anti- Semitism to get what she wants.
So, at 10:30 p.m., I was calling this nice man with good Louisiana babies. We had a wonderful little chat. Until it got to the part about the money. He told me it would cost me $50,000. This could not be a deal. There is no way on God’s earth that I would ever have $50,000 to buy a baby. Maybe I could raise $50,000, but the baby and I wouldn’t be eating for a few years. This nice man made some snide remark about getting what you pay for, as though you get a better baby when you pay more. Anyway, before we hung up I had the information of the name of the organization in Shreveport that he worked out of.
And then I got curious. Monday came, and I called Diana’s foster mother again. I asked the name of the organization that Diana had signed up with. It was the very same one that this nice man worked with. On Friday, when Diana and I were getting along famously, her baby was going to cost me about $12,000. Now, two days later, the same baby was going to cost me $50,000. Diana’s foster mother reassured me that I was better off without Diana’s baby anyway — that there was something wrong with Diana, maybe she was on drugs, or retarded, or something.
I was ready to quit. I was 45. I was beginning to feel too tired to continue the search and too old to be a mother. Then I heard about an unusual adoption agency which placed babies with older, single mothers. I told myself this was absolutely the last act I would do in this endeavor. If there was no baby out of this plan, then there would be no baby for me. This adoption agency was in, of all places, Louisiana. What was it about this state? It was chasing after me. I drove to Baton Rouge during one of my trips to New Orleans. The people at the adoption agency were really sweet, very southern. They didn’t discourage me. They didn’t tell me that most young mothers-to-be won’t want a psychoanalyst to raise their child because, after all, everyone knows that all children of psychoanalysts are crazy. They didn’t tell me that I am pre-menopausal and won’t be able to even pick up my own child for too many more years. They didn’t tell me that Gregg is bald and looks even older than I do. They were just plain sweet, and promised me — even gave me a legal commitment — that I would have a baby from them within two years. Less time if I was willing to take a boy. $25,000, about.
A year went by. Every year was counting preciously. I believed that this baby would never happen, but I felt good about spending every last extra dime I had to pursue the endeavor. At least I wouldn’t be able to blame myself for not trying.
The agency calls. It’s January, 1993. They have a perfect match. The mother, Shawn, is interested in me. That’s the first hurtle. They describe the mother as stunning. The father, Sid, is Indian, from India. She’s 21, and this is her third baby. (They start young in the boon-docks of Louisiana.) She’s happy that her two children are out of diapers and wants to start a less motherly life for herself. Shawn and Sid have a passionate love/hate relationship. They can’t figure out what they want to do with one another other than that they’re not ready to commit and they don’t want this baby. Everything sounds just fine to me. I like the mixed blood part of it, recalling the old-wives-tale about mixed blood being stronger. I like that Shawn has some ambition in life other than being a mother. I like that the two of them have such strong feelings for one another. I like that love is difficult for them — this means that there are lots of the feeling-chemcials floating around in that amniotic fluid. Then, they tell me Shawn smokes. Since I began my baby hunting project, I have moved from the idealism of wanting the baby of a vegetarian medical student who is a poetry-writing, piano- playing track star to tolerating a soap-opera addict who knows how to type. But smoking is beyond the pale. I will not, cannot take the baby of a smoker. The agency tries to talk me out of my decision. They tell me what a good match the mother and I make. (I think they are really telling me that no other mother will have me.) They tell me how gorgeous she is. They even tell me that she only smokes two cigarettes a day, and that she really wants to quit. But I’m emphatic and tell the agency to find me another baby.
I’m emphatic, that is, until three more months have passed, and they still have not matched me with anyone else. OK. Dammit. I will ask again about that smoking mother. Her baby is still not assigned to anyone. Apparently no one other than myself actually believes the mixed blood/stronger blood platitude, and no one wants a half Indian from India baby. OK. I’ll look at the mother’s picture.
The picture arrives, and it is a breathless revelation. One glance and I know this is the baby I have been waiting for. Staring out at me from the picture is my mother. The very refined features, delicate nose, dark hair, and a cool smile. This baby is my baby, and I am suddenly ready to fight lions and dragons and go to the far ends of the earth to get this baby.
I’m on the girl list — the long list, but I’ve become so desperate that maybe even a boy would be OK. I know nothing about boys. I just know that they grow up to be men and then break my heart. Maybe boys can be cute, but you wouldn’t know it by me. The agency tells me that the sonogram didn’t show which sex the baby was. I suspect they are lying to me, and that they know it is a boy but know that I will refuse it again if they tell the truth. It’s only a suspicion, and I’ll take the boy anyway, so I don’t confront them.
I begin the waiting process for this baby. Shawn is five months pregnant. I send money to the agency to support her so she doesn’t have to work during the pregnancy. It is so much money that I begin to wonder if she takes stretch limos to the doctor’s office. But I don’t ask any questions. I want this baby and will pay anything.
The months pass; the baby is due in mid-May, but then doesn’t arrive. Shawn is two weeks late, and a day away from being induced into labor. Now I’m going to have not only a tobacco-smelling baby, but a groggy one from the drugs. I don’t believe this baby is ever going to be born. I wonder what happens to babies who are never born. Do they just get reabsorbed? Is there a baby-land somewhere that I haven’t yet heard about that snatches babies ready to be born from the womb? Miraculously, the baby starts to want to come out. The baby is born and it’s a girl.
Next the mother and father have to sign the release papers. I find out why everything has centered around Louisiana. The parents have only four days in which they are supposed to think about it. It’s the best adoption law in the country. Four days, and then it’s over, forever. No change of mind. In those critical four days, Shawn asks to see the baby only once. That’s a good sign. Don’t want her getting too attached, or she’ll change her mind. The four days pass, and Shawn signs. Sid refuses. He says that he’s going to raise the baby. We all know he is doing this to cause trouble for Shawn. It’s part of their love/hate thing. He’s proving that he loves her because he wants the baby and that she hates him because she doesn’t. He doesn’t want to raise a baby any more than an elephant wants to be a zebra, but he gives us all manner of grief. Finally, his mother, a woman roughly my age, talks him into signing by flatly refusing to aid him in any way with this baby.
The baby has been released from the hospital and is now in foster care with Jinx, a temporary foster mother until the baby is placed. Since I never believed the baby was going to be born, I had decided to not go down for the birth. Since I never believed the papers would be signed, I had decided to not go down for those wobbly-could-go-either-way four days. This baby has already spent the first 96 hours of its life without its new mommy. Part of my so-thereness. Baby, prove it to me. Don’t expect me to come begging.
Coincidentally, Jinx has a son who has just moved to New York and she offers to deliver my baby to me. That sounds fine, and I buy her ticket. The baby is due to arrive Friday. Friday morning, 6 a.m., I get a call from Jinx. Her husband has had a mild heart attack, and they have spent the night at the hospital. Her husband’s fine, and the baby will definitely be delivered the next day. But then in the course of conversation it comes out that her niece has leukemia and has been granted a wish from the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Her wish — a piano — is arriving the next day. Would I, could I be so cruel as to tear this woman away from the arrival of her niece’s wish party? Never. I tell her to stay in Louisiana for the party and deliver the baby Sunday. I know that I am taking the coward’s way out, or opting just for convenience by not getting on the plane myself and fetching that baby. We are, after all, now 6 days into this baby’s life. But I have not one smidgin’ of feeling for her. It’s just hearsay that she exists. I can’t get myself to make the first move. Jinx has to drive from Baton Rouge to New Orleans to get the plane for New York. I ask my sister, brother, and best friend, Cynthia, to go to the airport in New Orleans to meet the baby. Everyone needs to be at the airport at 6:30 in the morning. I know they love me in that they’re all willing get up at an ungodly hour. Gregg and I, In New Jersey, need to leave our house at 9 a.m. to drive to Newark Airport. I am up at 5 a.m. waiting for a call from the New Orleans airport telling me that she is a miracle baby — that she has performed calculus already, and that every stranger happening-by stops to photograph the most beautiful child ever born on earth. No call comes in about the brilliant, amazing baby. In fact, no call comes in at all.
Gregg and I leave for the Newark airport anyway. The plane is late. I think that this plane will never arrive. I am told that the plane is circling the airport, but I still don’t believe that it will land. Whatever happens to babies who are never born is the same thing that happens to planes that never land. They all just disappear into some twilight zone, never to be seen or heard from again. The plane lands. We are told that it is on the runway coming to the gate. I am sure that the same twilight zone that has been threatening all along will eat up this plane before it arrives at the gate.
The plane arrives at the gate and all the passengers disembark. I am not in the least surprised that there is no baby. Every passenger has disembarked. The stewardesses have left the plane. Even the pilot walks off the plane, notices my crest-fallen face and asks if I’m waiting for someone. “I’m waiting for the baby.” “The baby?” I know with utmost finality that there is no baby, never was. And then I see her. One final, lone passenger — my baby’s foster mother — walks off the plane, never taking her eyes off me for the whole long walk. She knows I am this child’s next and final mother.
Jinx offers to hand me Molly, and my impulse is to decline. I feel she is the mother, I am a stranger. I don’t know this baby, and, come to think of it, I’m not even sure that I’ve ever even held a baby before. I am too embarrassed to not take the baby. If I refuse the baby, maybe everything will go into reverse and the baby will be back in the air in a plane that will never land.
And then, the world changes. For all the time of my trying to be a mother, the years of sex for the sole purpose of procreation, my sex-life gone to pot, the mid-night phone calls, my sleep-life gone to pot, the relationships with strangers half-started — during all that time I was in a state of non-feeling overdrive. Just determined. Now, at last, my child in my arms, my stoicism catches up with me in a single instant. Gregg and I are both suddenly bawling. Were anyone to ask me what I was feeling, I would have answered “Nothing, nothing at all.” Were anyone to ask me why I was crying, I would have answered that I had no idea. Were anyone to have told me two minutes before the tears started that I was going to cry, I would have told them that they were delusional.
I have decided that Jinx is indispensable to me. She has known this baby a week. At this moment, she knows this baby’s needs, this baby’s disposition better than anyone alive. I decide that I am not going to let Jinx out of my sight. I don’t tell her I’m insecure. I just tell her that I’m not sure she’s going to get to see her son very much.
This does not mean, however, that I don’t have opinions. We are riding home from the airport. Jinx takes out a bottle to feed the baby, leaving the baby in the car seat. This is, of course, the proper thing to do. The baby needs to stay in the car seat for safety. But, it means that the baby is eating without any physical contact, without a breast to snuggle up next to. It’s bad enough that I can’t breast- feed this child. If the baby keeps eating without feeling warm and cozy and safe, she will grow up frigid and non-orgasmic. I gotta’ get that baby out of the car seat when she’s eating to make a sexy woman out of her.